Frequently Asked Questions

What is a project?

A project is generally defined as a programme of work to bring about a beneficial change and which has:-
  • a start and an end
  • a multi-disciplinary team brought together for the project
  • constraints of cost, time and quality
  • a scope of work that is unique and involves uncertainty
The main characteristics of a project are:
  • It is a temporary endeavor
  • It has fixed start and end dates
  • It is unique – no two projects are exactly the same, and it is not a routine operation
  • It is performed by a team of people - teams are temporary in nature. Will be dispersed at the end of the project.
  • It has a defined budget.
  • It has a sponsor - someone who wants the project done and will guide and fight for it.
  • It has a defined objective/endpoint such that you can measure when it is complete.
What is project management?

Project Management is a set of coordinated activities that involves the following:
  • Obtaining feasibility report for the desired project,
  • Arranging preliminary / detailed land survey and soil investigation at site,
  • Preparation of Detailed Brief for the preparation of concept proposals by the architect,
  • Preparing Preliminary Cost Estimates / Block Estimates for the total construction work,
  • Co-ordination of design work between different consultants,
  • Monitoring the receipt of all the pre-construction NOCs, clearances permissions, sanctions from corporation, storm water, sewerage, electrical, garden, civil aviation, ULC, road and traffic dept. etc.,
  • Finalizing the specifications for different items of work,
  • Preparation/Review/Finalization of Bill of Quantities for different items of work in respect of the trades,
  • Preparation/ Review / Finalization of Detailed Tender Documents for all the trades,
  • Short listing / prequalifying the contractors and vendors for various trades,
  • Invitation of tenders, scrutiny of clarification of queries, making comparative statements, negotiations with bidders, evaluation of prices and finalizing contracts for all the trades,
  • Preparation of contract documents and execution of the same by the contractors,
  • Preparing schedules of materials in respect of items proposed to be procured by the employer / supplied to the contractors,
  • Managing procurement of the above stated materials, cement, steel, tiles, any other materials required to be issued to the contractors, including inviting quotations, negotiations, finalization of rate contracts, placement of purchase orders, inspection of materials and settling the bills of the suppliers,
  • Monitoring / expediting the progress of contractors through project management techniques,
  • Preparation of progress reports,
  • Implementing Quality Audit Systems / ISO.
How is a project different to any other work?

A continuous process is not a project. The development of a new rent or lettings policy is a project but the subsequent day to day operation of that policy is a continuous process that is usually managed by an individual or a department.

Is Project Management relevant to me?

If you have been given a specific job to complete then you should consider using the principles of project management if it has the following features:-
  • A defined goal
  • Time, cost and quality (or functionality) constraints
  • Requires expertise and support from other functions
  • Involves a unique (to you or the organisation) scope of work
Using a project team approach will help you to achieve the beneficial gain in a structured, controlled and cost effective way.

What is a program?

Activities executed together in such a way that the cumulative benefit is higher than when they are executed one at a time.

What is program management?

Overall management of a program and is not the individual management of the constituent projects in the program. The focus is on the program objectives achievement, rather than individual project progress.

What is an operation?

An operation is also performed by people. The major difference between an operation and a project is that , operations are repetitive in nature, where as projects are temporary in nature.

What are the similarities between a project and an operation?

  • Both are performed by people
  • Both have deliverables
  • Both have limited resources
  • Both are Planned, Executed and Controlled
What are the differences between a project and an operation?

  • Project is temporary in nature , whereas an operation is ongoing
  • Projects have temporary teams , whereas operations have permanent teams (relatively)
  • Each project is unique in nature, whereas operation steps are identical
  • Who is a stakeholder?

    Any person , community impacted by the project execution or project outcome or by non-execution of the project.

    Why Project Management is the best method of implementing change?

    Although change occurs continuously in the world and in our daily lives it is rarely implemented that way in organisations but rather as a series of steps; a ladder of change.

    A new piece of legislation, market imperatives, management initiatives and new technology create projects that need to be managed, often across departmental or disciplinary lines. Project Management is a methodology and a discipline which can bring significant benefits to organisations by:-

    • Ensuring limited resources are used on the right projects
    • Harnessing the energy of staff in achieving beneficial change
    • Managing complex changes in an organised way
    • Assessing risks, defining goals and key success areas and setting quality objectives.

    However, every organisation has finite resources and, therefore, a limit to the number of projects it can initiate and control. Pushing too many projects through a resource limited organisation causes gridlock and stress. Managing the project portfolio efficiently is a fundamental principle of good project management.

    Because most projects involve new ideas and learning (a project to build houses or flats involves new materials or unusual soil conditions or new initiative for tenant selection or co-ownership schemes etc. etc.) project management has evolved a discipline to manage the new and unusual. Its objective is to:
    • define the project
    • reduce it to a set of manageable tasks
    • obtain appropriate and necessary resources
    • build a team or teams to perform the project work
    • plan the work and allocate the resources to the tasks
    • monitor and control the work
    • report progress to senior management and/or the project sponsor
    • close down the project when completed
    • review it to ensure the lessons are learnt and widely understood.

    It is this structured approach that makes project management the best method for change management.

    What is the Project Management Methodology?

    If a project has a beginning and an end, what is its life cycle and how is it managed?

    To be effective and workable project methodologies should be appropriate to the task and the organisation.

    For simple projects in a small organisation, agreed milestones, a few checklists and someone to steer the project are all that are required.

    For complex projects in a large organisation a more structured approach is needed, to set up and approve the project, monitor and guides its progress, solve its problems, deliver the end product (or gain) and close it down.

    In order to understand the methodology we need to look at the project life cycle. The detailed life cycle will be dependent upon the size and type of organisation and the size and type of the project. However, in outline they all have very similar elements.

    The Project Life Cycle


    A typical methodology would involve a number of stages and activities which occur at different parts of the life cycle.

    • The preparation stage involves the project manager and sponsor in the preparation and approval of an outline project justification, plan and project budget.
    • The start-up stage involves the selection and briefing of the project team and some discussion on the roles and organisation.
    • The Feasibility or Research stage will establish whether the project is feasible and establish the risks and key success measures. Unless the organisation undertakes research or new product development, feasibility often means ‘can this process or technology be cost effectively applied to the organisation or department’, rather than is it generally feasible. It may include the identification of external resources such as specialist consultants or product and service providers who may wish to tender goods, software or services for the project.
    • The work will be undertaken by the team (which may include external consultants) and co-ordinated by the project manager. This team should consist of the key users or main beneficiaries of the beneficial change the project is delivering (hence the term ‘project deliverables’ or ‘products’. They may be line managers, supervisors or staff with particular skills. They must be the best people available and never those ‘who can be spared’ because they have difficult or awkward personalities. The object is to build a team that is better than the sum of the individuals.
    • Defining and planning the project in more detail by writing and publishing a full definition of the project and determining a project plan. This work is undertaken by the team and co-ordinated by the project manager. Both should be communicated widely to ensure maximum understanding of the project’s objectives by all staff who will be affected by the project. Now is the time to ensure their input to minimise surprises at a later stage.
    • The implementation stage involves the execution of the project as agreed, whilst carefully monitoring progress and managing changes. The team may need to be expanded at this stage to resource all the tasks. If so, it is essential they are fully briefed and feel ‘included’ as part of the team.

      When project management is not an integrated part of an organisation’s culture it is a very good idea to undertake some team building events that allow the team to work together in a competitive but non-threatening environment. As people get used to forming and dissolving teams the need for and style of such team building events will be decided by the team.
    • The close down stage involves the satisfactory delivery (satisfactory to the project ‘customer’ that is) of the products or services that achieve the beneficial gain. A project review should be held to learn the lessons. These should be formally documented and published ‘warts and all’.
    So what does a Project Manager do?
    • Plan the Work
      Before the first nail is hammered, the PM must plan the work that his or her crew will actually do.
      The PM looks over a proposed project to determine how and when the work will be performed, including prep work that must be completed before the building starts. The PM's cost estimate is important because it determines the price at which the PM's company will bid its services. The PM also develops a deliverables schedule to provide a road map that the construction team must stick to in order to finish the job in a timely and cost-effective manner (two other PM responsibilities). And the construction manager must review the project in depth in order to be prepared to handle tasks that come up along the way.
    • Hire, Fire, Supervise
      Who's out of line today? The PM has to be on the case.
      On a construction site, the PM is the boss.
      The construction project manager is not only responsible for planning the work and making sure it gets done, but also supervising the hard hats who do it. That means coordinating and directing the efforts of construction workers. It also means hiring, disciplining and perhaps even firing those who step out of line.
      In other words, it's the PM's job to get the work done through other people. In this and in many other ways, the PM is no different than a manager in any other job field, whether it's the Circus or a paper clip sales outfit in a Shopping Mall.
    • Get Equipment and Materials
      The people the PM oversees are worthless without the proper tools. The PM must obtain the equipment and supplies -- from nails to bulldozers -- necessary to complete the project, not to mention find a place to store it and implement a method for tracking inventory. It's important that the PM be thorough in this aspect of the job, keeping costs within budget while also ensuring that no time will be lost waiting on additional equipment or repairs once construction begins.
    • Set Goals
      The PM determines the cost and time goals as well as "micro-goals" for the different phases of construction.
      A construction PM may not be the one drilling holes, turning screws and hammering nails, but it's his or her responsibility to make sure that all of the work is done properly, on time and within the projected cost.
      The PM typically sets specific project goals after the contract with the owner (client) is signed. The PM reviews the contractual conditions of performance - requirements and deliverables - to determine precisely the work that must be accomplished in order to satisfy the contract. He or she then determines cost and time goals as well as "micro-goals" for accomplishing different phases of the construction. Based on these goals, the PM sets out the number of workers and types of supplies and materials necessary to reach them.
    • Stay on Time
      A particular job typically comes with a very specific set of objectives and constraints, where the time in which it should be completed is a key goal. The time period is important because the construction contract often includes money penalties against the builder in the event the project runs late. Time, indeed, is money.
      In order to meet an overall construction deadline, the PM must set a specific schedule with a number of deadlines for the various projects that must be completed. The PM must also review the work on a daily basis to ensure that it's timely progressing. If there's a slowdown - whether because of weather, an accident or simply a task that takes longer than expected - the PM must make changes to get the job back on track.
    • Stay Under Budget
      Developed by General Electric during World War II, value engineering is a technique used in a wide variety of industries to cut costs and increase productivity. The method focuses on "function" - the purposes served by each individual tool or task - requiring a PM to consider all possible alternatives, weighing the function and cost of each particular option.
      That brand spankin' new strip mall may be one fine sight, but it's unlikely that a gaggle of construction workers put their blood, sweat and tears into building the joint out of some deep- rooted artistic or creative passion for raising single level shopping centers. A construction project is usually a commercial endeavor. Thus, the PM must keep money in mind while overseeing the work.
      Before the work begins, the PM runs cost estimates - considering wages, equipment and materials - to help establish a budget. Cost-projection is a crucial aspect of construction project management because it determines the parameters under which not only the work will be done, but also on which the project's financial success will be determined.
      Once the project begins, the PM must ensure that his crew doesn't overrun the budget. Thus, he or she oversees costs on a daily or at least weekly basis, comparing costs incurred to the estimates and limiting or eliminating costs as necessary to stay under budget.
    • Keep Client (and Boss) in the Loop
      On a construction site, the PM may be the boss, but he serves two masters: the construction company that employs him and the client for whom a particular project is being built.
      The PM is expected to keep both of these parties informed as to the ongoing process and any hiccups that come along across the way. This is typically done by preparing a variety of internal and external reports pertaining to job status, equipment, policies and procedures along with a host of other issues. If an issue arises that will cause the construction schedule to change, for example, the PM must inform the client of the situation, projecting how it is expected to affect timing and costs and specifying any planned adjustments to be made.
    • Dispute Management
      Many construction contracts call for "alternative" resolution in the event that a dispute arises between builder and client. This typically refers to arbitration -- in which a neutral arbitrator reviews the dispute and hears arguments on both sides before rendering a decision that the parties must abide by - or mediation, where a mediator simply tries to help the parties reach an agreement, but does not issue a binding judgment
      The PM role often also requires a project manager to don an imaginary referee shirt and whistle, resolving a variety of disputes. Whether it's between fellow construction workers or with subcontractors or the client, an unresolved dispute can throw a rod in the smooth running engine that is the PM's construction project.
      When handling disputes among employees, the key to successful resolution is to nip a disagreement in the bud. This requires clear preventive measures and effective mechanisms for resolving conflicts that inevitably arise.
      Disputes with clients, which can spring up over schedule targets, performance guarantees or deviations from the original contract terms, must be handled carefully to ensure a smooth working relationship throughout the life of the project. An unresolved dispute can result in significant legal costs and slow down a project by taking employees away from the task at hand to focus on resolving the dispute. In addressing these conflicts, a PM should seek to resolve them quickly and informally - getting the proper technical input if necessary - and keep the job moving.
    • Draft Contracts
      The contract between the owner and builder typically spells out all the work to be done and it is therefore imperative that the PM be involved in drafting it and be intimately familiar with the requirements in order to ensure that they're met.
      But this isn't the only agreement that a PM must manage to make sure the project goes off without a hitch. There are also architects, materials suppliers and subcontractors (electricians, carpenters and heating and cooling professionals, for example) to be located and brought into the fold. The PM must monitor agreements with each of these parties covering the various pieces of the building project puzzle that they will complete.
    • Manage Risk
      Be careful where you put that finger! The PM has to be on top of safety issues.
      An essential component of troubleshooting is risk management; that is, limiting the amount of trouble that will need to be "shot." A wide variety of factors present potential risk in a construction project: site conditions; design assumptions; public regulations; worker safety; and environmental concerns and regulation, to name a few. As a result of the increasing number of risks, owners have taken to sharing it by requiring that a builder be at least partially liable in the event of a loss due to these factors.
      It is therefore the PM's job to analyze risks going into the project so that both the builder and the client are aware of them and can reach a mutual agreement on how the risk will be shared. Once construction is underway, the PM must try to mitigate the risks by carefully selecting materials and equipment and closely monitoring the work being performed.
    What skills does a project manager need?

    Very broad skills and a deal of experience are needed to manage a large project successfully. They include business knowledge, technical skills and individual and team leadership skills.

    Individual Skills

    The personal skills are likely to include good presentation and persuasive skills, good written skills but allied to goal orientation, high energy and credibility.
    N.B. Having high energy does not mean you play squash five times a week but that you have the intellectual energy and commitment to deliver the project with a positive ‘we can do it’ team approach. Good project managers know their own strengths and weaknesses and will compensate for these in selecting the team.

    Team Skills

    They will appreciate the differing needs of both individuals and the project team at different stages of the project. They will be aware of different team types.

    Technical Skills

    They will have technical skills in setting objectives, planning complex tasks, negotiating resource, financial planning, contract management, monitoring skills, managing creative thinking and problem solving, as well as their own specialist topic.

    What tools and techniques are used?

    Project managers use a number of tools and techniques during a project life cycle such as:-

    Verifiable objective setting

    This ensures that the objectives for the project can be measured and verified to ensure that they have been met.

    Brain storming

    This technique is used at all stages of the project to encourage creative thinking and solve problems

    Work Breakdown Structures

    This is a technique to analyse the content of work and cost by breaking it down into its component parts. It is produced by :-
    • Identifying the key elements
    • Breaking each element down into component parts
    • Continuing to breakdown until manageable work packages have been identified. These can then be allocated to the appropriate person.
    Precedence Diagraming Method (PDM)

    PDM is used in conjunction with PERT analysis to identify the tasks that are critical in determining the overall duration of the project.

    Milestone Planning

    Milestone planning is used to show the major steps that are needed to reach the goal on time. When several tasks have been completed the milestone is reached. It is often used at senior manager reviews.

    What are Milestones? Why are they called Milestones?

    Imagine you are walking along the road and you see a milestone that says 20 miles to London so you keep walking and later you see one that says 10 miles to London. Now you know that you are going in the right direction and you have made some progress. That is the principle of project milestones. For example, if the project is to build a house then completing each significant chunk of work could be considered a milestone on the road to building the house. For example the milestones might be:-
    • Planning permission granted
    • Foundations laid
    • Walls constructed
    • Roof built
    • Fixtures, fittings and services completed
    • Garden landscaped
    • House inspected and approved
    • House sold
    For simple projects, a milestone plan may be the only plan required.

    Accrued cost and earned value analysis

    These measures enable the progress of the project to be monitored in financial terms.

    Gantt charts

    Gantt charts (named after the inventor) or bar charts, as they are sometimes called, are used to display and communicate the results of PERT and Critical Path analysis in a simple bar chart format that can be readily understood by those not involved in the detail of the project.

    Who else would be involved and what would they do?

    A number of people may be involved depending on the size of the project. They fall into a number of groups.

    The Project Sponsor

    The project sponsor should be a senior person in the organisation who has the most to gain from the project’s success and the most to lose if it fails.

    The Steering Team

    The steering team may only be one person on a small project (perhaps the project sponsor) who meets informally with the project manager. On a large project a formal cross functional senior team will be set up to meet regularly to review progress and provide strategic guidance.

    Functional or line managers

    The line manager of each team member will want to be kept informed about the progress of the project and be involved in setting of individual objectives.

    The project customer

    The project ‘customer’ should either be a member of the steering team or represented on that team.

    What are the main roles and responsibilities?

    There are three key roles in the management of projects whether they are service development projects, organisational change projects, TQM projects, or facilities projects.

    Top Management

    Setting the conditions and culture such that the business can select and implement appropriate projects to support the business.

    Middle management

    Ensuring that all projects are selected, allocated, steered and closed down satisfactorily. Ensure that projects that are not approved are not worked on.

    Operational staff

    To use the tools and techniques to manage projects effectively.

    How do I get started?

    As with most other things in life, good preparation is essential to success. In practice this requires that you spend time discussing agreeing and then approving:-

    • The overall aim of the project and the benefit of doing it
    • The scope (or terms of reference) of the project
    • The key objectives project
    • The specific deliverables
    • The resources available to the project
    • Roles and responsibilities within the project
    Often it is not possible to define the overall requirements until some feasibility work has been done, in which case a short feasibility study may be required. Once feasibility has been established and approved then the work may be planned in the appropriate detail. This process of planning will help the team to understand its mission better and resolve outstanding research questions. The next stage is to implement the plans and monitor progress continuously until the goal is achieved. The final stage is to close down and review the project so that the lessons learnt are passed on to the next project.

    Where can I get help?

    Source of Help is:

    Programme Management Consultant: email: sangampc.ashwini@gmail.com

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    • E-mail: sangampc@vsnl.com