Thursday 28 April 2022

Toolbox supports the process of standardized project management


To explain in detail how the toolbox functions in the new role – supported by the standardized project management process – we will perform the following actions:

• define project management tools and a "toolbox";
• describe two ways to use the "tool box";
• explain how the standardized project management process ensures compliance (alignment) with the "tool box";
• explain the issues of standardization of the "tool box" of project management.

Define project management tools and a toolbox. Project management tools include the procedures and techniques by which management results are achieved. "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" and other sources use the term "tools and techniques" instead of what we define as project management tools. Two examples of such tools are the team charter and the Monte Carlo analysis. They differ from each other in the information processed. 

The team charter is a systematic procedure for processing qualitative information that concerns the authorization (permission) given to the team to carry out the project. On the other hand, Monte Carlo analysis is a risk planning tool that also establishes a systematic procedure, but this time performed through a numerical risk determination algorithm. 

In other words, it is a quantitative tool. A key element of both the qualitative and quantitative tools groups — and all project management tools belong to one of these groups — is the systematic procedure. We will not talk about project management software, although it is quite obvious that many of the tools discussed in the book exist in the format of software packages. However, we focus on the essence of project management tools – on their systematic procedure.

Two ways to use the tool box. We define a "toolbox" as a set of pre-selected tools that a manager is able to use in the process of standardized project management. When using such a set, there are two options: In the first case, each toolkit supports specific outcomes of management processes.


For example, the two tools indicated in Fig. 1.1, like S.1, is the SDR (Structural Breakdown of Works) and the description of the content. They support obtaining a control result such as a specific content, called S.1 (in this figure, all tools from the "toolbox" and the management results they support are numbered accordingly). 

In addition, the "box" is designed to include all the tools that may be needed to practically implement the process of standardized project management and obtain a set of its results.

In the second case, the idea is to replace the results of the "tool box" control. 

In the case, this means the withdrawal of management results and their replacement with a "tool box". Here, individual tools of the set should be considered as substitutes for management results. Take, for example, such a result as a developed schedule. 


It can be replaced by a specific tool , a Gantt chart, or a control event diagram. Or consider another result, the selected project. Instead, it is acceptable to use a calculation model tool that organizes, ranks, and selects new projects. Obviously, the second choice requires that we analyze project management tools in a completely different way. 


Instead of focusing on the process of applying a tool, as has traditionally been done, we focus on using it to achieve the final result, which, in fact, is the result of the project. Thus, each tool in the set can be represented as a result. 


Similarly, the entire set of tools can be regarded as a set of management results in the process of standardized project management. The first benefit we get is to simplify the process by removing one of its layers, the management results layer. At the same time, the project manager and his team are still checked against the "road map" (that is, a systematic procedure), with the help of which a complete set of management results will be created.

Pair the standardized project management process with a toolbox. In the real world, companies use the toolkit in both ways, with the former being more common. However, whichever method is used, the toolkit should be consistent with the standardized project management process. 


As depicted, the focus of the management strategy should coincide with the chosen competitive strategy. Since the standardized project management process is one component of this framework, it is logical to assume that the toolkit should have the same emphasis. In particular, if the project management process pays special attention to the schedule, cost or price-quality indicator, the "tool box" should also focus on the schedule, cost or price-quality indicator, respectively.

Comparison of the benefits provided by the "one tool at a time" method and the "tool box" method. Regardless of the chosen strategy, those companies that are the executors of projects are faced with the reality of competition – their customers are involved in the matter. Customers tell companies what they want, when they want it (as quickly as possible – a high-speed requirement), in what capacity they want it (as best as possible – a requirement of higher quality and customer satisfaction) and how much they are willing to pay for it (as little as possible – a low cost requirement). 


And managers are listening to these demands, as satisfied customers are extremely important for the economic success of the company. In 1997, the share price of companies whose customers were particularly satisfied with was more than 100% higher than the share price of other firms. 


We can say that there is no such thing as a "customer". There is the concept of "this customer" – that is, such a customer who (at this particular moment) uses his power and ability to demand. To meet these requirements, leading companies aim to create a standardized management process that can provide for ongoing projects:

  • Speed;
  • Repeatability;
  • Parallelism.


A set of project management tools plays a critical role here. Below we will consider the above parameters in more detail.

Speed is an organization's ability to deliver a project quickly. Although the meaning that different customers put in the concept of "fast" can change, in any case, fast is competitive. For example, in some case, "fast" may mean that the duration of the cycle in the organization should be reduced from 18 months to 9, otherwise the company will not withstand competition. For this to be possible, many components of the standardized project management process must be available. For example, there should be an overlap of project operations both within phases and between phases, all operations that do not add speed should be eliminated, as well as all other excesses, etc. Essentially, this means having a project management process streamlined enough to provide the necessary speed of response to customer requirements.

Repeatability. Fast implementation of the project is not enough if the achieved result cannot be repeated. The organization must have the ability to consistently execute a stream of sequential projects at any time at the request of the customer. 


We call this longitudinal repeatability. If the customer's requirement is speed, projects should be implemented equally quickly. If the projects are repeatable, this minimizes deviations in the process of their implementation, which increases the speed of implementation and improves their quality. Improving quality leads to lower costs because it requires fewer rework, fewer errors, fewer delays and downtime, and a rational use of time. By achieving greater speed, higher quality and lower project cost, the organization will be able to better respond to customer requirements, achieving its satisfaction.

Parallelism. In addition to speed and repeatability in the execution of successive projects, responding to customer requirements also implies the ability to simultaneously carry out a set of projects, usually independent of each other. We call this transverse repeatability, and it is different from longitudinal repeatability. The fact is that some projects are small, while others are large. 


Because they are independent and share a single pool of resources, the challenge is to run them in parallel, in a consistent group. Deviations in the implementation of any project are not allowed, each project must be carried out with the right speed and quality - otherwise, it is possible to postpone the deadlines for the completion of certain projects, increase the cost, disappointment of the customer. As in the case of longitudinal repeatability, minimizing deviations during the implementation of projects will improve characteristics such as speed and quality, which, in turn, will lead to lower costs and – again – will serve to meet the requirements and satisfy the customer.

To achieve such indicators of speed, repeatability and parallelism, you can not gather the best people, allocate them all the necessary resources and wait for them to create a great project. On the contrary, a solid standardized project management process is needed, supported by an appropriate set of tools. There is already empirical evidence that management tools affect the success of the project. The problem arises when the manager has a project management process at his disposal, complicated by finding which tool and how to use to support this process.

Choosing a one-at-one-time approach requires significant resources and expertise. There is no reason to believe that every project manager – especially a not very experienced one (and most managers are) – has the resources and experience to quickly, systematically and uniformly select the right set of tools for themselves. What's more, such project managers are usually struggling to find the necessary tools and learn how to use them, introducing deviations into the standardized miscalculation management process. Such behavior can slow down the execution of projects, as well as worsen their repetition and parallelism.


On the contrary, managers who have both the project management process and the appropriate set of tools at their disposal know exactly which tool and how to use to maintain this process. In other words, they have at their disposal a standardized "toolbox" capable of supporting the standardized project management process with minimal variability. As a result, the projects under their supervision will be executed faster, with a greater degree of repeatability and parallelism.
Standardization of the "tool box". Project managers often assume that a once-created "toolbox" is easy to apply to any project. Of course, this is incorrect. A "box" can be of any size, shape, or composition, as we will show in Chapter 16. This issue is related to the standardized management process and the types of projects it serves. Since the toolbox is aligned with the project management process, it is clear that the level of standardization of the process affects the level of standardization of the "box". For example, a process that has a high degree of standardization is highly likely to receive support from a highly standardized set of tools, and vice versa.

Concluding remarks

Project management tools play two roles in supporting the standardized project management process: first, the traditional one, as a means of facilitating the results of the process; and secondly, a new one, acting as the basic blocks from which to build a "toolbox" that provides support for the project management process.

Many organizations rely on the project management process to form a management strategy. This process is a standardized ordered and interrelated set of phases, delivery items (intermediate results) and control events through which each project passes. Other components of project management are also closely intertwined with the process, in particular the project organization, information technology, culture and leadership. 


Working together, they help shape and execute a project management strategy.

A project management strategy is critical to support an organization's competitive strategy. In fact, the management strategy is carefully developed and brought into line with the specific type of competitive strategy of the company. The purpose of this is to provide a desired and effective project management strategy – focused on schedule, cost or price-quality. Thus, when combined with other business strategies, project management has become the business strategy that corporations choose today.
In a world of fierce competition, you need to have certain advantages to win. 


These benefits can be different. Some of them are called the advantages of quick entry into the market. Others are the advantages of low cost. Still others are at the lowest cost for a certain level of quality. However, no advantage appears spontaneously. On the contrary, it becomes the result of the organization's conduct of its competitive strategy. In general, the role of the "tool box" is to support standardized project management processes that help shape and implement a management strategy. A project management strategy by supporting a competitive strategy helps create a company's competitive advantage.

The ability to develop a "toolbox" is closely related to knowledge of individual project management tools. To help the reader improve their level of knowledge, in the following chapters we will look at all these tools in detail, and then in Chapter 16 we will propose a methodology for developing a "tool box".

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