Thursday 28 April 2022

Standardized Processes Supports Project Management Strategy

The standardized project management process provides support for the project management strategy. In other words, the standardized project management process serves as a mechanism for developing a project management strategy. To clarify this, we will suggest below:

• some empirical examples of how standardized project management provides mechanisms to support project management strategies;
• elements of the standardized project management process through which such support is provided;
• the meaning of the word "standardized";
• a way to align the standardized project management process with the project management strategy.

Let's start with examples that are empirical evidence. A recent report by the Fortune 500 Project Management Bench marking Forum states that 85% of its members use standardized approaches and procedures in project management. Similarly, many software organizations apply a capability maturity model, also seeking to execute projects through a standardized process. 

Driven by the idea of process standardization, some organizations are trying to certify their project management to the ISO 9000 standard. Finally, many companies are implementing project management maturity models to continuously improve project management through a standardized process.

Summing up, it should be said that there is considerable interest in the process of standardized project management as a mechanism for ensuring a project management strategy. Ensuring such a strategy is based on the following elements provided by the standardized management process:

  • phases of the project life cycle;
  • management and technical operations;
  • results;
  • control events.

The project life cycle is considered as a set of project phases determined by the management needs of the organization involved in the implementation of the project. As a result, today in various corporations many models of the life cycle are used. Some of these models are traditional and include phases of conception, definition, execution, and completion. However, now new models are gaining more and more popularity, which, even having lost touch with the canonical form, are more highly specialized and adapted to specific industries. One example is the process of parallel engineering, which for ease of understanding is depicted as consistent. Another example is the model of evolving outcomes in software development projects.

The phases of the project life cycle consist of logically interrelated operations, which can be divided into two groups: management and technical. Through management operations, we manage the project. Typical examples are the formation of the content of the project and the development of its schedule. These operations will be similar in projects of various types: construction, software development, marketing or financial.

The actual differences between project types begin in the area of technical operations. For example, technical operations in software development may include requirements determination or beta testing. Such operations are absent in a construction project, for which a meeting before the start of work and the compilation of a list of defects will be typical. In short, technical operations govern a project product because they are defined by the type of project and reflect the nature of that product.

Both management and technical operations usually result in the production of results— the material products of the standardized project management process. Management operations produce management outcomes (also called interim project management outcomes) such as a specific content or risk review. Technical operations result in technical results, such as product specifications, system test results, or the readiness of the production base to start production. Let's turn again note that these results are shown only in conjunction with control events indicating the end of the phase (for simplicity, management and technical operations are not included in the scheme).

If the word "standardized" is not explained in relation to the standardized project management process, it can cause confusion. What is its real meaning? If we define the standardized project management process as a standardized sequence of project operations (which leads to results), then standardization means the degree of absence of deviations in the performance of such operations. The complete variability of the project management process is an extreme case. 

In other words, the project management process is performed differently every time, not in the same way as before. Clearly, 100% variability means zero standardization. This approach is often referred to as the ad hoc approach. Another extreme case is 100% standardization of a particular process: this process is always performed in the same way. In this case, the variability is 0%. Between these two extremes lies the realm of real-world project management processes with varying values of standardization and variability.

So, the lower the variability, the higher the standardization, and vice versa – the more volatile the practical implementation of project management processes, the less standardized they are.

In practice, this means that the organization has a wide choice when developing project management processes – they can be more or less standardized. Consequently, managers must decide what level of standardization they wish to achieve and their processes. The main reason for standardization is the need to create a predictable process that would prevent the variability of management operations, reduce their dependence on a specific project, a specific manager. Simplifying, for example, the standardized management process eliminates the need to reinvent the management process in the implementation of each new project. As a result, the process becomes repeatable, despite changes in customer expectations or a change in leadership.

The decision on how much the project management process should be standardized is to establish a relationship between standardization and variability, commonly referred to as flexibility. It is determined by the project management strategy, or rather the types of sings that this strategy deals with. In general, the strategy for projects with a high degree of certainty will seek a higher level of standardization and a lower level of flexibility. According to experts, most of the projects in organizations belong to this group. The strategy for projects that are characterized by a high degree of uncertainty requires less standardization and greater flexibility. When we use the term "standardized project management process" in this book, we mean that this process is standardized by more than 50%.

We began this section with the statement that the standardized management process should support project management. For this to be possible, the process must be consistent with the project management strategy. In particular, when the strategy is focused on the schedule, cost or price-quality indicator, the standardized project management process should be guided by the same thing. This means that the totality of the ordered and interrelated phases of the process, its delivery items and control events will be focused on the schedule, cost or price-quality indicator, respectively. 

Other components of project management are closely intertwined with this process – the project organization, information technology, culture and leadership. In other words, the project management strategy is provided not only by the standardized management process, but by the entire synergistic set of project management components.

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