Wednesday 16 March 2022

Introduction to Project Management

What is a project? We are all constantly implementing projects in our daily lives. Here are simple examples: preparing for an anniversary, renovating an apartment, conducting research, writing a book... All these activities have a number of common features that make them projects:

  • they are aimed at achieving specific goals;
  • they include the coordinated execution of interrelated actions;
  • they have a limited length in time, with a certain beginning and end;
  • all of them are to some extent unique and inimitable.

In general, it is these four characteristics that distinguish projects from other activities. Each of these characteristics has an important internal meaning, and therefore we will consider them more closely.

Focus on achieving goals

Projects are aimed at obtaining certain results – in other words, they are aimed at achieving goals. It is these goals that are the driving force behind the project, and all efforts to plan and implement it are made to ensure that these goals are achieved. A project usually involves a whole set of interrelated goals. For example, the main purpose of a computer software project may be to develop an enterprise management information system. Intermediate goals (sub-goals) can be database development, development of mathematical and software, system testing. In the development of a database, in turn, lower-level goals can also be highlighted - the development of the logical structure of the database, the implementation of the database using the DBMS, data loading, and so on.

The fact that projects are goal-oriented makes a huge internal sense to manage them. First of all, it suggests that an important feature of project management is the precise definition and formulation of goals, starting at the highest level and then gradually descending to the most detailed goals and objectives. Furthermore, it follows that the project can be seen as the pursuit of carefully chosen objectives, and that moving the project forward is linked to the achievement of goals at an increasingly higher level until the final goal is achieved.

Coordinated execution of interrelated actions

Projects are inherently complex. They involve performing numerous interrelated actions. In some cases, these relationships are quite obvious (for example, technological dependencies), in other cases they are of a more subtle nature. Some intermediate jobs cannot be implemented until other jobs are completed; some jobs can only be done in parallel, and so on. If the synchronization of the execution of different tasks is broken, the entire project can be compromised. If you think a little about this characteristic of the project, it becomes obvious that the project is a system, that is, a whole that consists of interconnected parts, and the system is dynamic, and, therefore, requires special approaches to management.

Limited length in time

Projects are completed over a finite period of time. They are temporary. They have a more or less distinct beginning and an end. The project ends when its main objectives are achieved. A significant part of the effort in working with the project is aimed precisely at ensuring that the project is completed at the scheduled time. To do this, schedules are prepared that show the start and end times of the tasks included in the project.

The difference between a project and a production system is that the project is a one-time, non-cyclical activity. Serial production does not have a predetermined end in time and depends only on the availability and magnitude of demand. When demand disappears, the production cycle ends. Production cycles in their pure form are not projects. Recently, however, the project approach has been increasingly applied to processes focused on continuous production. For example, projects to increase production to a specified level within a certain period, based on a given budget, or the fulfillment of certain orders that have contractual delivery dates.

The project as a system of activity exists exactly as long as it takes to obtain the final result. The concept of the project, however, does not contradict the concept of the firm or enterprise and is quite compatible with it. On the contrary, the project often becomes the main form of activity of the firm.


Projects are events to a certain extent unique and one-time. At the same time, the degree of uniqueness can vary greatly from one project to another. If you are engaged in the construction of cottages and build the twentieth in a row of the same type of cottage, the degree of uniqueness of your project is quite small. The basic elements of this house are identical to the elements of the previous nineteen that you have already built. The main sources of uniqueness, however, can be laid in the specifics of a particular production situation - in the location of the house and the surrounding landscape, in the peculiarities of the supply of materials and components, in new subcontractors.

On the other hand, if you are developing a unique device or technology, you are certainly dealing with a task that is quite unique. You're doing something that's never been done before. And since past experience can in this case only tell you only limited what to expect when performing a project, it is full of risk and uncertainty.

Project management

Lerman's famous law states: "Any technical problem can be overcome with enough time and money," and Lerman's investigation specifies: "You will never have enough time or money." It was to overcome the problem formulated in the Lerman consequence that the methodology for managing activities based on the project was developed. And the extension of this management methodology to various fields of activity is additional evidence of its effectiveness. 


If you ask a manager to describe how he understands his main task in the implementation of the project, then most likely he will answer: "Ensure the implementation of the work." This is really the main task of the leader. But if you ask the same question to a more experienced manager, you can hear a more complete definition of the main task of the project manager: "To ensure the implementation of work on time, within the allocated funds, in accordance with the terms of reference.


" It is these three points: time, budget and quality of work that are under the constant attention of the project manager. They can also be called the main restrictions imposed on the project. Project management refers to activities aimed at implementing the project with the highest possible efficiency with specified constraints on time, money (and resources), as well as the quality of the final results of the project (documented, for example, in the terms of reference).

Over the thirty-plus years that project management technology has been used, a number of methodologies and tools have been developed to help project managers manage these constraints.

In order to cope with time constraints, methods of constructing and controlling calendar work schedules are used. To manage monetary constraints, methods of forming a financial plan (budget) of the project are used and, as the work is completed, compliance with the budget is monitored in order to prevent costs from getting out of control. To perform work, their resource support is required and there are special methods for managing human and material resources (for example, a responsibility matrix, resource load diagrams).

Of the three main constraints, it is the most difficult to control the constraints on given project outcomes. The problem is that assignments are often difficult to formulate and control. To solve these problems, in particular, methods of work quality management are used.

So, project managers are responsible for three aspects of project implementation: timing, costs and quality of the result. In accordance with the generally accepted principle of project management, it is believed that effective management of work deadlines is the key to success in all three indicators. Project time constraints are often the most critical. Where project deadlines are seriously delayed, cost overruns and insufficient quality of work are very likely consequences. Therefore, in most project management methods, the main emphasis is placed on scheduling of work and monitoring compliance with the calendar schedule.

In fact, a significant gain in time was formed from the use of accurate mathematical methods in the management of complex complexes of works, which became possible thanks to the development of computer technology. However, the first computers were expensive and available only to large organizations. Thus, historically, the first projects were grandiose in terms of the scale of work, the number of performers and investments of state programs.

Initially, large companies developed software to support their own projects, but soon the first project management systems appeared on the software market. The systems that stood at the origins of planning were developed for powerful large computers and networks of mini-computers.

The main indicators of systems of this class were their high power and, at the same time, the ability to describe projects in sufficient detail using complex network planning methods. These systems were aimed at highly professional managers managing the development of major projects, who are well acquainted with network planning algorithms and specific terminology. As a rule, the development of the project and consultations on project management were carried out by special consulting firms.

The stage of the most rapid development of systems for project management began with the advent of personal computers, when the computer became a working tool for a wide range of managers. A significant increase in the number of users of management systems gave rise to the need to create a new type of project management system, one of the most important indicators of such systems was ease of use. 


Management systems of the new generation were developed as a project management tool that is understandable to any manager, does not require special training and provides easy and quick inclusion in the work. Time Line belongs to this class of systems. Developers of new versions of systems of this class, trying to preserve the external simplicity of systems, invariably expanded their functionality and power, and at the same time kept low prices, which made the systems accessible to firms of almost any level.

Currently, the United States already has a deep tradition of using project management systems in many areas of life. Moreover, the main share among the planned projects are small projects. For example, research conducted by InfoWorld found that fifty percent of U.S. users need systems to support plans consisting of 500 to 1,000 jobs, and only 28 percent of users develop schedules containing more than 1,000 jobs. 


In terms of resources, 38 percent of users have to manage 50 to 100 types of resources within the project, and only 28 percent of users need to control more than 100 types of resources. As a result of the research, the average size of project schedules was also determined: for small projects - 81 works and 14 types of resources, for medium - 417 works and 47 types of resources, for large projects - 1,198 works and 165 types of resources. These figures can serve as a starting point for a manager considering the usefulness of switching to a project form of managing the activities of his own organization. As you can see, the application of a project management system in practice can be effective for very small projects.

Naturally, with the expansion of the circle of users of project management systems, there is an expansion of methods and techniques for their use. Western computer magazines regularly publish articles on project management systems, including advice to users of such systems and an analysis of the use of network planning techniques to solve problems in various areas of management.

Project Lifecycle

Any project goes through certain phases in its development. The stages of the project life cycle may vary depending on the field of activity and the adopted system of work organization. However, for each project, it is possible to distinguish the initial (pre-investment) stage, the stage of project implementation and the stage of completion of work on the project. This may seem obvious, but the concept of the project life cycle is one of the most important for the manager, since it is the current stage that determines the tasks and activities of the manager, the methods and tools used.

Project managers break down the life cycle of a project into phases in a variety of ways. For example, in software development projects, such stages as awareness of the need for an information system, formulation of requirements, system design, coding, testing, operational support are often distinguished. However, the most traditional is to divide the project into four major stages: project formulation, planning, implementation and completion.

Formulating a project essentially implies a project selection function. Projects are initiated because of the emergence of needs that need to be met. However, in conditions of scarcity of resources, it is impossible to meet all needs without exception. 


You have to make a choice. Some projects are chosen, others are rejected. Decisions are made on the basis of the availability of resources, and first of all financial capabilities, the relative importance of meeting some needs and ignoring others, the comparative effectiveness of projects. Decisions on the selection of projects for implementation are all the more important the larger the project is envisaged, since large projects determine the direction of activities for the future (sometimes for years) and link the available financial and labor resources.

The determining indicator here is the opportunity cost of investment. In other words, by choosing project "A" rather than project "B", the organization refuses the benefits that project "B" could bring.

For comparative analysis of projects at this stage, project analysis methods are used, including financial, economic, commercial, organizational, environmental, risk analysis and other types of project analysis. Systems for planning and managing projects at this stage are usually used in a limited form, therefore, we will not dwell on these methods in more detail in this book.

Planning. Planning in one form or another is carried out during the entire period of the project. At the very beginning of the project life cycle, an informal preliminary plan is usually developed – a rough idea of what will need to be done if the project is implemented. The decision to select a project is largely based on the estimates of the preliminary plan. Formal and detailed planning of the project begins after the decision on its implementation is made. The key points (milestones) of the project are determined, tasks (works) and their mutual dependence are formulated. It is at this stage that project management systems are used that provide the project manager with a set of tools for developing a formal plan: tools for building a hierarchical structure of work, network graphs and Gantt charts, assignment tools and resource load histograms.

As a rule, the project plan does not remain unchanged and is constantly adjusted to the current situation as the project progresses.

Implementation. After the approval of the formal plan, the manager has the task of implementing it. As the project progresses, managers are required to constantly monitor the progress of work. Control consists in collecting actual data on the progress of work and comparing them with planned ones. Unfortunately, in project management, you can be absolutely sure that deviations between planned and actual indicators always happen. Therefore, the task of the manager is to analyze the possible impact of deviations in the amount of work performed on the implementation of the project as a whole and in the development of appropriate management decisions. For example, if the backlog goes beyond an acceptable level of deviation, it may be decided to accelerate the completion of certain critical tasks by allocating more resources to them.

Completion. Sooner or later, but the projects end. The project ends when the goals set for it are achieved. Sometimes the end of a project is abrupt and premature, as in cases where a decision is made to terminate the project until it is completed on schedule. Be that as it may, but when the project ends, its head must perform a number of activities that complete the project. 


The specific nature of these responsibilities depends on the nature of the project itself. If equipment was used in the project, it is necessary to make an inventory of it and, possibly, transfer it for a new application. In the case of contract projects, it is necessary to determine whether the results satisfy the conditions of the contract or contract. It may be necessary to draw up final reports, and interim reports on the project should be organized in the form of an archive.

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