Although projects have been managed in some fashion for thousands of years, changes in society, the workforce, and technology have sparked interest in the topic of modern project management. The Project Management Institute (PMI), a professional society with more than 100,000 members worldwide, estimates that the United States spends more than $2.3 trillion on projects every year, or one quarter of the nation’s gross domestic product (PMI, 2001a). Many of these projects involved information technology and the Internet.
What Is a Project?
To discuss project management techniques, it is important to first understand the concept of a project. A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to accomplish a unique purpose. Projects should be aligned with organizational objectives. For example, if an organization is trying to develop new products, decrease time to market, increase revenues, or cut costs, projects should be initiated to support those goals.
What Is Project Management?
Project management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet project requirements”. Project managers must not only strive to meet specific scope, time, and cost goals of projects, they must also meet quality goals and facilitate the entire process to meet the needs and expectations of the people involved in or affected by project activities.
Brief background on the project management profession
Most people in the information technology field work on projects in some capacity. Some people become project managers, at least on a part-time basis, early in their careers. Many people think one needs many years of experience and vast technical knowledge to be a project manager. Although this need for experience and knowledge might be the case for large, complex, and expensive projects, many information technology projects can be, and are, led by project managers who are just starting their careers. Project managers need some general management and technical knowledge, but they primarily need the skills and desire to be project managers. Project team members should also understand project management to contribute effectively to projects.
Key project management tools and techniques
There are many tools and techniques available to project managers and their teams to assist them in all of the knowledge areas. This section highlights just a few of them. Consult the PMBOK Guide (PMI, 2000b), Information Technology Project Management (Schwab, 2002), or other references for more detailed information.
Assigning Resources with a Responsibility Assignment Matrix
There are many tools and techniques to assist in managing people on projects. One simple yet effective tool to help clarify roles and responsibilities is the responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). A responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) is a matrix that maps the work of the project as described in the WBS to the people responsible for performing the work as described in an organizational breakdown structure (OBS).
Despite all the uncertainty in the world, one can be certain that there will continue to be a need for projects and better ways to manage them. Many organizations have improved project success rates by applying some standard project management processes and using appropriate tools and techniques. This chapter summarizes a few of the common tools and techniques used in project management.