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Six academic sources related to project management were reviewed. When searching for articles, the following three questions were kept in focus: 1. What is project management? 2. What is a project? and 3. What is the difference between Project, Program, and Portfolio Management? For each of the academic sources, a summary was written as well as a highlight on the overall take away and criticism of each article.
SOURCE #1: What is a project: Definition and key characteristics. (2019). My Management Guide. Retrieved from https://mymanagementguide.com/basics/what-is-a-project/
This article begins by emphasizing that understand what a project is extremely important. Most might think that a project is just a way to complete a task, but it is actually “an opportunity to achieve some desired result” using a systematic management process that is implemented strategically (“What is a Project”, 2019). A project implements change to solve business objectives within a company. Projects help to keep this process of change organized and increases its chances of success. Projects are not simply just tasks, but is a finite activity whose outcome is a result that is measurable under a predefined set of standards. The article “What is a Project” (2019) lists the following characteristics as a key part in defining a project:
- Unique Deliverable
- Progressive Elaboration
It is important to state that a project is temporary because every project needs to have a beginning and end defined so that it can be measured against a timeline to partially define success. The project needs to be a unique deliverable that ultimately addresses a current problem. This creates the need for the problem to be clearly defined prior to beginning the project. Progressive elaboration means that the project becomes more complex over time because it needs to be continuously evaluated and improved upon as the solution to the problem becomes more defined.
The article describes project management as an art that is used to plan, control and execute a project in way that is sets up the most desirable environment for the project to be successful. Project management is a set of complex tools that is used by most companies to deliver a set of strategic goals. Using project management is beneficial to a company in many ways. They help to create an inclusive environment for employees’ ideas to be heard, reduce the risk within the project, and help to accomplish goals that are directly related to the business strategy.
The key takeaway from this article was that a project is not just a task or job, but is a temporary and unique endeavor that is used to produce a result which solves a problem. My criticism for this article is that it jumps right into talking about project management without describing what the project management process actually consists of.
SOURCE #2: The four phases of project management. (2016, November 03). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/11/the-four-phases-of-project-management
The article from Harvard Business Review (2016) summarizes the four phases that they have identified as the main components of project management. These components consist of planning, build-up, implementation, and closeout. It is important to remember that these four phases are fluid and will sometimes change later on in the project management process when new information or resources are made known.
The project planning component is comprised of answering “what problem needs solving, who will be involved, and what will be done” (Harvard Business Review, 2016). When identifying the problem, be as specific as possible because it may be difficult to pinpoint what the true underlying issue may be that is causing a problem. Without proper identification, the success of the entire project could be compromised. To aid in this process, it is helpful to identify all of the stakeholders. Considering all of the stakeholders will help to set clear goals and objectives. It is also important to estimate what your time, quality, and cost will be when planning the project and to keep in mind that there will probably be trade-offs within these resources at some point in the project management process.
The next phase is the build-up which includes kicking off the project. You will use your estimates to create schedules and budgets to support your plan. This phase includes assembling a team and assigning responsibilities which then leads into the implementation phase. This phase is where work is actually executed and check ups are performed to ensure that your project remains on time and on budget. It is important to produce progress updates throughout the project so that the team and the stakeholders are aware of the project status.
The final phase that the Harvard Business Review (2016) mentions is the closeout which occurs once the team meets the project goals. It is mentioned that many times you will end a project and may have been over budget or off schedule, but it is still important to debrief with the team to understand the successes and failures and make improvements in the future.
The key takeaway that I got from this article was that the project management is a process that sees a project through its entire lifecycle from the initial planning stages all the way through to the closeout. My criticism for this article is that it is basically assuming that your project will be mostly successful and does not touch on how to re-evaluate your strategy if it looks like your project objectives are not going to be met.
SOURCE #3: What is project management? (2019). Association for Project Management. Retrieved from https://www.apm.org.uk/resources/what-is-project-management/
The article by the Association for Project Management (2019) begins by explaining that project management is the application of methods to meet a final deliverable within a specific set of parameters including time and budget. A project is defined as a unique undertaking to achieve a planned goal and consists of three building blocks: time, cost, and quality.
There are many core components within project management beginning with defining the underlying problem that is initiating the need for the project in the first place. Understanding the project requirements and what the expected costs are is the next crucial step. After this is done, project planning and implementation can begin. There will probably not be very many projects that go exactly as planned, so being able to manage change when knew information or requirements are added is a vital component of project management. While the project is in progress, it will need to be monitored and key stakeholders will need to be updated routinely. The final step is to close the project once it is completed.
Project management is useful when you are trying to create something new or will be complex in terms of budget, timeline, or cross-functional resources. It is also helpful when new undertakings may involve a lot of change or risk. It can be used in almost every sector of a business so any type of company would benefit from using the project management process. Investing in a project manager to handle these types of project will make your company more likely to succeed by allowing you to allocate resources efficiently.
The key takeaway from the article is that when the core components of project management are implemented properly, a company will be more successful in providing their final deliverable to its stakeholders. My criticism for this article is that it makes a case that project management will benefit a company, but does not give advice on how to implement a project management program if it is something that your company has never utilized before.
SOURCE #4 Wit, A. D. (1988). Measurement of project success. International Journal of Project Management, 6(3), 164-170. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/0263-7863(88)90043-9
The article Measurement of Project Success had a main focus that included measuring the success of a project and also touches on how it is different from the success of the project management process. A project’s objectives throughout its life cycle are the most appropriate criteria for success (Wit, 1988). If a project meets its objectives, it may be considered a success, even if it does not meet the budgeting or timeline goals that are set for it. This is why distinguishing between the success of a project versus project management is necessary. The two do not necessarily share the same objectives. According to Wit (1988), “project management has three major objectives: a project must be managed on time, within budget, and to quality/performance specifications”. Since these objectives differ from the individual project objectives, good project management does not always lead to a successful project.
Wit (1988) describes that the factors that most effect the success of a project are a clear definition of the project, efficient execution, planning efforts, and capabilities of the team. The criteria for project success are usually measured by budget and timeline performance, functionality, and client, contractor, and team satisfaction (Wit, 1988). Being able to understand what factors are at the root cause of a project’s success or failure is necessary to ensure the success of future projects. This is the reason why it is too simplistic to only consider cost, time and performance of the project to determine success. Wit explains that it is difficult know what to measurement of performance should be used as the basis for determining success so he goes on to explain three different methods that focus on different measures of success.
The takeaway from this article was that measuring the success of a project is a complex task and every project will probably have different factors that contribute to its success. My critical perspective is that when the article states that successful project management does not directly lead to success of the project, it created the incorrect idea that project management is not important in ensuring that a project is successful.
SOURCE #5: Sarmiento, A. (2019). Project management vs program management vs portfolio management. Planview Resource Center. Retrieved from https://www.planview.com/resources/articles/project-management-vs-program-management-vs-portfolio-management/
The article begins by defining what a project is according to the Project Management Institute, “a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result” (Sarmiento, 2019). I like that it is emphasized here that a project does not necessarily have to be a physical outcome, but can also include a service or result. The article defines project management as a discipline that manages a project from conception to the final delivery. The tasks within project management include defining the project objectives, scheduling tasks and managing a budget, as well as communicating with project stakeholders. There is usually a project manager that is in charge of overseeing most of these tasks, but some companies have a project management office that handles this work.
Programs are a group of related projects that can be more efficiently resourced when managed together. Since programs include multiple projects, these can be cross functional and also have business objectives in mind. According to Sarmiento (2019), program management involves transforming the strategic business objectives into actual business outcomes. A program manager has similar responsibilities as a project manager, but must take charge of the entire program that consists of multiple projects. This may require some strategic resource allocation based on the company’s priorities.
Portfolio project management is described as a more formal approach that is usually handled by the project management office. Within this function, the potential value of a project must be identified and specific projects will need to be prioritized because there are not unlimited resources. This is when the company’s strategic goals really need to come in to focus in order to effectively identify and prioritize projects within a portfolio.
The key takeaway from this article was that project, program and portfolio management are a hierarchal structure in terms of complexity, but they all involve planning and execution with the company’s strategic business goals in mind. My criticism for this article is that it didn’t give as much detail as I would have liked about the exact definition of portfolio management and how it is different from program management.
SOURCE #6: Ursulescu, C. & Popa, V. (2013). Supply chains integration for corporative strategic planning: Using portfolio, programs and project management. Valahian Journal of Economic Studies. 4(3), 7-14. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/1540957596?accountid=27203
Ursulescu & Popa (2013) begin by explaining that “governance is the act of creating and using a framework to align, organize, and execute activities in a collectively coherent and intelligible manner in order to meet goals” which are defined within the organization’s strategy. Within the governance framework, organizational governance “occurs at different decision-making levels of the organization in support of specific goals and objectives” (Ursulescu & Popa, 2013). Portfolio management, program management and project management fall within this organizational governance structure.
The following definitions are given for these three levels of management. Portfolio management “includes identifying, prioritizing, authorizing, managing, and controlling projects, programs, and other related work, to achieve specific strategic business objectives” (Urulescu & Popa, 2013). Portfolios are where the strategy is aligned, investment decisions are made, and projects are prioritzied. Program management consists of managing a group of related projects to be able to better coordinate resources which would be used inefficiently if managed individually. Urulescu & Popa (2013) state that project management is used to achieve organizational objectives and goals within the company. The hierarchal structure is interesting because portfolios can include projects and programs, while programs will only include projects, but there can also be projects that are separate from a program.
Ursulescu & Popa (2013) make it clear that within these three management levels, there must be organizational alignment to meet the company’s goals and objectives and ensure that resources are use efficiently. This can be aided by using a balanced scorecard which helps monitor performance and strategy execution.
The key takeaway from this article was that portfolio management is where the strategy and priorities are set, program management is where resources are coordinated between similar projects, and project management focus on a specific project’s goals and objectives. The only criticism that I have for this article is that although it references it, the article does not do a great job of going into detail of the key responsibilities within program and project management, but mostly focuses on explaining portfolio management.
- Ursulescu, C. & Popa, V. (2013). Supply chains integration for corporative strategic planning: Using portfolio, programs and project management. Valahian Journal of Economic Studies. 4(3), 7-14. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.libproxy.db.erau.edu/docview/1540957596?accountid=27203
- The four phases of project management. (2016, November 03). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/11/the-four-phases-of-project-management
- Sarmiento, A. (2019). Project management vs program management vs portfolio management. Planview Resource Center. Retrieved from https://www.planview.com/resources/articles/project-management-vs-program-management-vs-portfolio-management/
- Wit, A. D. (1988). Measurement of project success. International Journal of Project Management, 6(3), 164-170. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/0263-7863(88)90043-9
- What is a project: Definition and key characteristics. (2019). My Management Guide. Retrieved from https://mymanagementguide.com/basics/what-is-a-project/
- What is project management? (2019). Association for Project Management. Retrieved from https://www.apm.org.uk/resources/what-is-project-management/
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