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Intro To Project Management for Entrepreneurs

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One of the greatest benefits of projects in an organisational context is their ability and effectiveness in the achievement of goals.

The success or failure of projects is largely related to the way that managers develop tactics or plans for the projects and how these plans can be effectively monitored and controlled through the various stages of the project lifecycle. It is a basic premise that the successful implementation of a project requires the development of a set of action plans together with subsequent tactics by the project manager.

The planning stage of the project will define issues such as the project goal, targets and other milestones, as well as the establishment of a relationship with the clients or stakeholders of the project. The tactical aspects of the projects will include activities such as verifying the projects technical abilities, resources needed such as personnel and equipment and putting systems in place for the monitoring and control of the project. Although these planning and tactical activities are carried out through the duration of the project careful attention should also be given to the human issues and its influence on the project.

More and more organisations are using a project management approach for the effective execution of critical operations. Projects are often carried out in four phases, namely the defining, planning, executing and delivering of the project.

How do I get started on learning how to manage projects? It is important to take part in the exercises that are given here. Many of us read trough modules like these as an overview without going through the practicality of it. Its all in the doing. Watching someone having a great experience on the television, or reading about it in a book is not the same as being there ourselves.

Although some project managers use a five step model for the managing of projects, our project model have four steps.

Step 1 Get clear about your project (conceptual planning phase)

The conceptual planning process aims to define the project as accurately as possible. The phase starts of by identifying the needs of those whom initiated the project, which are usually a client, management or stakeholders. This process determines not only the customer’s criteria for acceptance of the final outcome, i.e., one of the project’s success measures, but also identifies the starting point for the planning and performance of future activities. The company’s main business objectives and strategies need to be identified and understood so that the project goals can be in line with them. Depending on the size of the business, the organisation may appoint a high-level executive who serves as a champion for the project. The project manager can use this person as a resource, coach, advocate, or sounding board during the project.

During this initial phase, the planning team, once appointed identifies risks associated with the whole project and how to respond to them. Conceptualising often involves an initial feasibility decision requiring management to answer questions such as, what is the problem, and what are the alternative solutions or projects? Selection techniques or decision-making procedures should ideally be put in place for the making of difficult decisions. Typical questions to be asked may include, what are the specific goals of the project? How do these goals match with the organisational mission? How do they meet the users’ requirements? What is the general level of resource required? Are these resources available or must they be acquired? What are the technical requirements of the project? All these questions need to be addressed when evaluating and selecting a project’s undertakings. Milestones should be identified by which progress can be monitored. Informed estimates of time, cost and performance expectations can now be made. The project team will use these estimates to determine whether the project is, feasible and should continue, or impractical and be discontinued. The steps to be followed in the first phase could be as follows. It may vary from one project to another.

Convene a meeting with the author of the Request for Proposal or the customer who requested the project.

Gather additional information and identify proposed solutions.

Assign a project manager to assist in proposal development.

Identify potential team members required to support the proposed solution.

Convene a proposal review meeting with potential team members to identify: proposed creative approach; scope of work, potential number of effort days; resource requirements; technical requirements; and other issues to be addressed in the proposal.

Produce a work breakdown diagram, proposed budget and resource requirements list.

Produce a draft proposal that will be forwarded to the author of the Request for Proposal for review.

Convene a proposal review meeting to finalize or adjust the proposal.

This phase is extremely important. A good carpenter always measures twice and cut once. This step is about specifying what the measures will be.

Step 2 Project Organising

Ensuing the conceptual planning phase, the second stage aims to accomplish two main types of activities, those dealing with detail planning and those dealing with the project team. Some of the well- known planning functions of this phase are the construction of a network diagram, selection of project personnel, determining the availability of resources and selecting contractors if needed, making project location decisions, and determining budgets.

The decisions made in the first stage together with the work breakdown diagram, act as a guideline for this phase. A detailed activity plan or network diagram is the first to be compiled. Information is gathered from the work breakdown diagram and the graphic flow chart of the project plan. The network lays out the logical sequence of activities to be completed together with the start and finish times of each activity. The following steps can be taken during this phase, although, once again they may vary depending on the project. Form the project team.

Create team member work plans.

Produce Statements of Work and sub-contracts for sub-contractors.

Produce a detailed project management plan which includes a detailed schedule, resource requirements, budget, quality assurance methods, communications, administrative procedures, reporting, project change process and other details needed to effectively initiate and manage the project in accordance with the approved proposal and contract.

Assess potential risks and produce risk management plan.

Procure required resources and personnel requirements.

Review draft project management plan with the project steak holders.

Conduct project kick-off meeting and sign-off the approved Project Management Plan.

Meet with the customer’s subject-matter-experts, and other participants to gather all relevant data.

(As required) Train or provide detailed briefings to members of the project team and supporting customer personnel.

Finalize all contractor agreements with all sub-contractors.

Form and brief the project team about their work packages.

Step 3 Implementation and Control

The main activities of this stage include securing the necessary resources to perform the project work, executing the activities identified in the project planning, monitoring and reporting on project progress, and re-planing if needed. This phase will normally require the most time and effort. The project team will often acquire resources from outside the organisation to facilitate the timely completion of the project. Performance capabilities are continually tested to ensure that the project is carried out as intended. Management may be faced with important decisions such as equipment selection, project management software selection, choosing among various project compressing/crashing options if there is a need to finish earlier or overcome a delay related to for instance the installation of telephones. Alternative solutions to possible project problems or challenges also need to be in place.

Regular progress evaluations and reports are key to this phase. For this purpose, information and knowledge about the project progress were continuously circulated to the various project constituents. Accurate measures needed to be developed to track progress. Change control processes were to put in place to handle any requests for change. All requests for change might not be accepted and it is up to the project manager to make a decision taking resources and time constraints into consideration together with the overall impact on the success of the project. The steps to be followed in the first phase could be as follows. It may vary from one project to another.

The project team produces the products in accordance with the Project Management Plan and Quality Assurance Plan.

A process to track and report the completion of all scheduled tasks and the achievement of the planned milestones to the customer on a monthly basis is created.

Ensure the effective and timely use of all resources.

Control the expenditures of all budgeted funds.

Proactively measure the identified risks to the project and in conjunction with the project team and customer, produce plans to eliminate or reduce the identified risk.

Recommend to the customer and effectively execute all approved changes to the project objectives, plans, schedule, resources, and budgets.

Ensure products and services meet or exceed all quality standards as defined in step one.

This stage is concluded when the customer formally accepts the output from the project.

Step 4 Project Evaluating and System Improving

Last but not least, the final stage is a valuable yet underused project stage.

The project review should look at the processes used in the project, the outputs from the project, and the work performed by the team members and other individuals. Important decision analyses in this phase include project audits and evaluations, personnel appraisal, and feedback from stakeholders. Both the project management system and people involved can be improved by the lessons learned. Resources that were secured for the project are now released, and the project is transferred to its intended users. The final evaluation report is seen as the closure document for this phase sometimes be called the project history should completed as thoroughly as possible and kept for future reference and projects.

The Closing Phase normally takes a few days. During the Closing Phase the project manager will ensure the following tasks are completed:

Review the original contract and supporting documents to ensure all contract items and product specifications have been completed.

Deliver all final products to the customer.

Conduct a project close-out meeting with the customer, stakeholders and team members.

Update and close-off the final master project schedule.

Archive all project materials including deliverables, files, the Project Book, reference materials and other supporting documents.

Backup up and electronically archive all project electronic files.

Debrief all team members and contractors about their performance assessments.

Document the project team lessons learned.

Produce a final project report.

Celebrate the success of the project with team members.

Learn more at http://www.my1stbusiness.com
Ben Botes MSc. MBA, is an Entrepreneur, Speaker, Writer, Coach
and academic. He is the founder of My1stBusiness.com, South
African Business Hubs, Business support Hubs and incubators
for the new breed of South African Entrepreneurs.

Join the My1stbusiness.com Reseller Program and earn
40% referral commission http://www.my1stbusiness.com/affiliate

Read Ben’s Blog at http://www.my1stbusiness.com/weblog

Intro To Project Management for Entrepreneurs
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