A project is a short term activity that has a definite start and end date that is used by an individual or an organization to meet certain goals and objectives that have been set to bring about some defined change. A project differs from the overall activities of the organization in that business operations are more permanent and long term in nature and they have a specific style of management that is meant to ensure the overall utilisation of resources to produce goods or services. Project management requires the utilisation of specific technical skills to ensure that the short term nature of the project has been met successfully. Project management involves the use of planning, controlling and managing activities to ensure that the project has been conducted in an effective and efficient way.
Projects and project management are not new concepts as they have been practiced since the beginning of early civilization and the industrial revolution. Historical structures and monuments in existence today have testified to the fact that project management played an important role in the creation and design of these structures. Up until the 1900s, projects were mostly managed by architects and engineers such as Sir Christopher Wren between 1632 and 1723, Thomas Telford (1757-1834) and Isambard Brunel (1806-1859). The concept began to take more shape in the 1950s when most companies decided to start applying project management tools and approaches to complex technical projects as well as engineering exercises. The field of project management was generally derived from civil engineering and construction disciplines as well as from military and defence projects because these activities incorporated the use of planning, monitoring and control during the project activities (Lock 2007).
Difference between Project Management and Operations Management
Operations management is the systematic approach that is used in the conversion of raw materials into usable and revenue generating outputs during the transformation process. It involves understanding the various issues that might arise during the transformation process by providing the appropriate measures to deal with these issues. Such measures include collecting the relevant data that is related to these issues through the use of scientific tools and approaches after which appropriate methodologies are incorporated in analysing the situation. The primary focus of operations management us to identify and develop appropriate approaches that will be used to analyse the various problems that arise during the transformation process (Mahadevan 2010).
The main goal of conducting operations management within an organization is to ensure that the operating costs have been maintained at a minimum and the organization is able to obtain revenues and profits in excess of the various costs incurred during the business operations of the company. Operations management entails the development of performance evaluation systems that will be used by an organization to improve its operating systems and processes. An operating system is defined as a structure that incorporates the use if various process that are necessary in the conversion of raw inputs into finished products and commodities. Operating systems mostly incorporate the use of transformation processes that are used in converting inputs into useful outputs. The focus on operations management under such systems is to address the design, planning and control of the transformation process (Mahadevan 2010).
The major differences between operations management and project management usually emerge when analysing the various processes of an organization. One major difference between operations management and project management is the duration of the project activities. Activities that fall under operations management are more permanent in nature while those that fall under project management are short term or temporary in nature. The general view of projects is that they are temporary in nature while operations that fall under business activities are more permanent and repetitive in nature (Tonchia and Cozzi 2008).
Operations management establishes standard time durations for every business operation undertaken by a company and it also defines customer delivery times that are used by the company to deliver goods and services to the various consumer markets. Project management focuses on the duration of the project’s activities by setting definite time periods that will be used to complete the various stages of the project. Because the activities that are involved in project management are short term in nature, the time frame or duration is liable to changes depending on the project resources. The availability of capital as well as human resources determines whether the project will be completed within the defined time frame (Tonchia and Cozzi 2008). Another major difference is that project management deals with the maintenance of a specific project that has a definite start and end date as well as pre-defined tasks and resources that need to be utilised within that time duration. Operations management on the other hand deals with ongoing process management activities that are performed on a daily basis during the course of an organization’s operations. Activities that fall under operations management include technical support, trouble shooting and network management. Operations management ensures that the operations of the company are running smoothly while project management ensures that activities of the project are being performed appropriately (Tonchia and Cozzi 2008)
Another difference is the amount of resources that are used in both activities. The traditional view of project management is that the project has to utilise all the resources that have been allocated to ensure that it is completed within the prescribed time frame. Project managers are required to stick to the budget without going over or under the budget allocations. Operations management on the other hand has to ensure that the operations of the business have met specific profit margins. This will involve improving the business operations of the company to achieve revenue returns and higher profit margins (Meredith and Mantel 2009). For example Toyota would conduct an operations management on its car production unit to ensure the car models being produced are of a high quality and they are able to return a higher profit than the initial investment of the company.
Another difference between project management and operations management is that the scope of the activities that fall under project management are productive in nature while those that are incorporated in operations management are creative in nature. Project management aims to produce a certain result at the end of the time duration while operations management aims to create processes and operations that will see the transformation processes of a business undergoing some improvements. Cost performance is another difference that exists between project and operations management. The cost performance of operations management is usually evaluated by determining whether standard costs have been met. These standard costs do not however exist in project management as the only cost performance measure that exists within projects is the budget allocations. The feedback that exists in operations management is usually actual in nature while the feedback in project management is usually forecasted or projected in nature (Meredith and Mantel 2009).
For example a marketing company might decide to change its operating systems and its business operations to improve on its current performance and efficiency. This would involve conducting operations management activities because the nature of the activity is long term in nature and the activity itself is complex as this would mean changing all of the work activities within the organization. An example of project management is when a company decides to purchase a new building as part of its expansion plan. The company will incorporate project management in its purchase decision to cover aspects such as budgeting, the amount of money it will take to buy the building and whether any redesign or reengineering work needs to be done on the building. This project is deemed to be short term in nature because once the building meets all of the project’s criteria it is ready to be operationalised.
Important issues in Project Management Research
Research in any discipline or field is usually focused on discovering new information that was not originally available. Research is deemed to be an important activity as it ensures that new, important and relevant information is discovered to explain new concepts and theories. Research in project management is an important activity as it ensures that information and knowledge that is necessary in conducting project management activities is discovered and utilised. The traditional models of project management have viewed the activities that are undertaken in projects to be performed in a sequence of developmental phases which involve planning, controlling, monitoring and evaluating. These models follow a formal approach that incorporates minimal or no research into how the activities of the project will conducted or managed. The areas that are usually covered in project management include performance of the project’s activities, maturity models in projects, project finance, cost engineering, risk and performance management and economic, government issues (Pinto et al 2002).
The issues that exist in project management research include the theory of project management, what knowledge project managers are required to have, the competencies of project management staff and what core competencies are needed to perform the tasks of the project, the measures of project success and the critical factors that are required to make a project successful, the contribution of project management to the overall performance of the business, the life cycle of the project as well as life cycle costs that are used in the optimization of the projects resources, the difference between project management and portfolio management, the role of procurement and procurement strategies in project management, governance and finance in project management, performance and risk management (Pinto et al 2002).
BAT plans to launch a new cigarette line in the expanding tobacco industry. It has decided to conduct project management research on the various issues that should be considered in project management activities. The company has decided to focus on project management research that deals with the measures of the project’s success, the life cycle costs of the project, key competencies that are needed to perform the project, procurement strategies for acquiring the necessary raw materials (tobacco) and financial, risk and portfolio management of the project.
Standards, Methodologies and Bodies of Knowledge
The key project management practices that are used to assess the importance of project management practices include project standards, methodologies and bodies of knowledge that exist on project management. Project activities incorporate the use of various methodologies, bodies of knowledge and project management standards. Project management standards are important in projects as they ensure proper protocols and procedures have been followed when processing project requests, review project activities and approving budget and resource allocations to be used in the completion of the project (Lock 2007).
Project management standards are usually designed to reflect an organization’s goals, objectives and vision as well as the characteristics of the project. Project management standards are usually of various types which include quality assurance standards, project planning standards, configuration management standards and risk management standards. Quality assurance standards are important in project management as they ensure that project risks are identified and managed appropriately to ensure that the project achieves its purpose. Quality assurance standards address aspects such as commitment of all project members, the completeness of all quality assurance programs with the project life cycle, the scalability of the project and the measurability of the project where activities are measured against organizational expectations and metrics (Lock 2007).
An example of a quality assurance standard in project management is that all senior managers should show their commitment towards the project by participating in follow up sessions and project member meetings. Project planning standards are important in project management as they ensure project plans have been developed according to the various activities of the project. An example of a project planning standard in project management is to develop a plan that explains to project team members the goals and objectives of the plan as well as explains the risk management procedures and testing procedures to ensure that the team members accomplish the project’s tasks enabling the project to meet its desired expectations (Lock 2007).
Configuration management standards are important in project management as they ensure that changes to the project are controlled. These standards are important as they minimize project disruptions and ensure that the goals or objectives of the project have been achieved. An example of a configuration standard in project management is when a manager runs an analysis of all the hardware that is being used by the company in its business operations. Risk management standards are also important in projects especially complex and critical projects as they ensure that project risks have been minimised and eliminated.
Risk management involves analysing the accuracy of the project assessment as well as establishing contingency plans that will bee used in the event any of the project activities become difficult to perform. An example of a risk management standard is that all project managers and project team members should ensure that all project risks have been identified and assessed after which they are communicated to the relevant team members for action. They should also ensure that the risks are constantly monitored and reported to ensure they are effectively managed as the project is being undertaken (Lock 2007).
The most important standards to a project manager are the project planning standards. These standards are important when compared to the risk, quality assurance and configuration standards as they provide the proper guidelines that will be used in formulating these standards and procedures. Project planning standards ensure quality assurance standards are designed that will ensure the project meets the goals and objectives that have been set out. Project planning standards ensure that the other standards needed to carry out the project have been formulated appropriately. Once the project planning standards have been formulated, the quality assurance standards can be drawn up for the project plan and these standards will be used as guidelines for formulating the risk management standards as well as the configuration standards.
Quality assurance standards are different from risk management standards in that they stipulate the various characteristics and risks of the project. These project characteristics and risks are then used to develop the risk management standards that are used to detect and monitor the project. Quality assurance standards are also used in formulating the configuration standards by stipulating the various software and hardware functions that the company should have to ensure that the project runs smoothly. While these standards vary in performance, they bear similar characteristics and features as they are designed for project management activities (Maylor 2005).
Project methodologies are important for organizations as they provide guidelines and checklists that are used in ensuring that project management practices have been followed appropriately. Project methodologies are the tools that are used in managing the activities of a project and the most common methodologies that are used are the Gantt charts or program evaluation and review techniques (PERT), critical path methods (CPM) and PRINCE2. Organizations that decide to undertake projects usually develop their own methodologies that are usually based on project management bodies of knowledge. The bodies of knowledge cover aspects such as scope, time, cost, and quality of the project as well as key project personnel and procurement activities (Burke 2006).
PRINCE2 is a well known project management technique that incorporates the use of structured activities during the performance of the project. This method of project management incorporates the use of clearly defined frameworks that are used to coordinate the various activities in the project as well as the tasks performed by the project team members. PRINCE2 enables a project manager to design and supervise a project as well as to determine what needs to be done if the project plan needs to be changed or adjusted. Every activity under the PRINCE2 approach is minimised and grouped according to the key inputs and outputs that have been used to formulate the projects goals and objectives. This ensures that any deviations in the project’s plan have been appropriately controlled (Burke 2006).
CPMs are important approaches because they ensure that all the activities of the project have been performed within the determined time frame. A CPM model involves listing all the activities that are important in completing the project as well as the amount of time that will be needed in completing each activity. The CPM model also focuses on the dependencies that exist between the various activities of the project. Once these values have been considered, the CPM model calculates the longest and shortest path that will be used in performing the projects activities (Maylor 2005).
The CPM model identifies the activities that are critical in a project and which path will be used to complete these activities. Program evaluation and review techniques (PERT) or Gantt charts are approaches that are used simplify the planning and scheduling of project activities. PERT approaches are commonly used with critical path methods especially in complex or large projects. The PERT technique identifies the shortest amount of time that will be needed to complete a particular project (Maylor 2005). Out of the three methodologies, the most commonly used project management approach is the CPM. The CPM is also used with the PERT or Gantt charts especially in projects that are complex in nature. Companies in the construction industry commonly use both the critical path method and PERT when conducting construction projects which are deemed to be complex in nature. The two methods are also commonly used because they are simple and easy to understand when compared to the PRINCE2.
The project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) guide describes the various processes that are used during the project management process. The PMBOK guide offers 42 project management processes that have been incorporated into nine knowledge areas of project management and these include project integration, scope, time and cost management, quality assurance, personnel management, risk management and procurement strategies and communication management. The PMBOK is meant to provide a guideline to project managers when it comes to managing projects. The association of project management body of knowledge (APMBOK) describes the various areas of knowledge that are required to manage any type of project (Maylor 2005).
The bodies of knowledge, project management methodologies and project standards are applicable at the initiation of the project. Once an idea for a project is proposed and accepted, the various standards of project management as well as the methodologies used in project managements should be applied. The different project management methodologies can be used depending on the type and size of project that is being undertaken. If a company’s project is large in nature, then the project will have more standards and it will involve the use of many project management approaches (Maylor 2005). The construction industry for example incorporates the use of both the critical path method and the Gantt charts when planning for its project activities which might include the construction of buildings. This is because there are many activities that fall under construction with some being very complex and large in nature. The bodies of knowledge in a project are normally used when the company initiating a project lacks the technical know how of performing a project. Bodies of knowledge are commonly used by companies that decide to perform their projects in house without any outside help. These bodies of knowledge help the in house project manager to plan properly for the project undertaking by assessing the project management guidelines outlined by the PMBOK and the AMBOK.
Important issues that are considered when undertaking a Project
The major issues or factors that are usually considered before and when undertaking a project include the cost of the whole exercise, time scheduling; resources such as raw materials and personnel that are needed to perform the project’s activities. Cost involves the amount of money that will be used to start and complete the project within the given time duration. Time scheduling involves developing the necessary time scales that will be used to complete the various stages of the project while resources are the components and tools that will be used to complete a project. The ideas used in developing a project define what the outcome of the project will be during the project’s performance as well as after it has been completed. The major issues that need to be considered before the undertaking of a project include explicitly defining the purpose and scope of the project (Burke 2006).
This will involve identifying what the project is expected to achieve once it is completed as well as what activities will be needed to achieve the goals and objectives of the project. Benchmarks need to be developed to assess the quality of the project’s outcomes once it is completed. Other aspects that need to be considered when undertaking a project include developing processes that will be used in defining project objectives that need to be achieved. This will involve conducting a variety of tasks as well as producing various products during the project. The project also needs to be classified according to its complexity and its size. Small projects have a time frame of 3 to 20 days while large projects have a time frame of four to nine months (Maylor 2005). Baseline magazine conducted a survey on its 1,440 readers asking them to identify the most important issues that are considered by companies when conducting IT projects. The readers responded and the following were identified as important issues; outsourcing of the IT projects to outside companies, consideration of voice-over-IP (VOIP) technology within the project’s activities, collaboration between companies that are looking for cheaper and faster ways to perform their activities, data networking where company operations are being driven by the need for greater bandwidths, supply chain management, desktop upgrades, compliance tracking of a better way to perform IT functions and the application of performance management (Baseline 2010)
Application of Project Management Methodologies
The two most commonly used project management methodologies are the critical path methods and PERT or Gantt charts. These methodologies are preferable and appropriate when compared to the other project management methodologies because they track the progress of a project by assessing the time needed to conduct these projects in an effective and efficient way. Since their introduction in the 1950s, Gantt charts and critical path methods have expanded in use to incorporate other aspects of project management which include budgeting, resource management and quality assurance control. Apart from being used in organizational projects, the CPM and PERT approaches to project management have also been incorporated in other activities (Meredith and Mantel 2009). These two methods of project management are also suitable because they can be changed to suit the needs of the project’s activities. For example the critical path method for a marketing company can be changed to cover aspects of accounting or financial projects. The PERT or Gantt charts are also suitable for project management activities as they outline the various steps of the project and how long it will take to perform that project. Gantt charts are appropriate for project management activities as they provide the project manager with the shortest and simplest paths that will be used in completing the project within the given time (Meredith and Mantel 2009).
An example of the use of CPM in the world today is in trial scheduling which is done to reduce the backlog of cases in court houses and court rooms. Critical path methods are used in determining the best time to present the testimony of the expert witness based on the analysis and testimony of other witnesses involved in the trial. Experience has shown that the effective placement of an expert’s testimony is usually at the end of the case after the testimony of other witnesses. CPM ensures that the expert’s testimony has been delivered at the appropriate time during the court’s proceedings. The role of the expert witness in the CPM analysis therefore becomes to establish credibility of the schedule and the importance of the sequence of events that led to the court trial. An example of a case that incorporated the use of the CPM trial scheduling procedure was the case between Fortec Constructors v. United States where CPM was used in evaluating delays presented in the court case (Livengood et al 2005).
The use of critical path methods in trial scheduling has become important in the recent past as it allows the prosecution or defence attorneys in criminal cases to know what the best time to bring in the expert witness during a case is. Critical path methods allow case attorneys to schedule the appearance of an expert witness based on whether their testimony will support their case or not. CPM is an appropriate method in trial scheduling as it allows case attorneys to facilitate the testimony of other witnesses in the case who will support the evidence of the expert witness. It allows for actual timing of testimonies which will allow the attorney to prepare the timing of the expert witness’ testimony based on the other witnesses (Livengood et al 2005).
An example of the use of PERT or Gantt charts in the real world is in health care institutions where doctors and nurses use Gantt charts in developing treatment plans for their patients. The charts are used for chronically ill patients or patients who need to take intravenous medication every day of the week. The charts act as a guideline for the doctors/nurses on when they should administer medication to their patients. The charts are used to monitor the progress of the patient as the various treatments are administered during the defined time frame. The Gantt charts are also used in formulating duty rosters for nurses and other health care workers especially in public hospitals where the number of patients is high at a given time in one day (Maylor 2005).
Gantt charts are appropriate for health care institutions as they ensure that the treatment plans for the patients have been followed properly. Gantt charts also ensure that any changes to the treatment plans are appropriately adapted. Doctors or health care workers who treat patients for HIV/AIDS use Gantt charts to mark the progress of their patients and in the event they become ill, the Gantt charts are used to change the treatment plan to ensure that the patients continue taking their ARV medication as well as medication to treat the illness. Gantt charts are appropriate for duty rosters in public hospitals as they ensure that there is a nurse on the floor at all times. Due to the high demand in the public health hospitals, nurses are needed on a longer hourly basis which means that there has to be a certain number of nurses on the floor at all times.
Project management is an important activity for organizations as it ensures that the necessary activities of the project have been undertaken within the given time frame and through the optimal use of the allocated resources. Project management is important as it ensures that the goals and objectives of the project have been met. It also ensures that the allocated resources for the project have been utilised properly. Project management methodologies are important in projects as they ensure that the projects activities are conducted within an appropriate time frame and with the appropriate resources. Methodologies are also important as they can be designed to suit the particular project needs of a company. Project management approaches such as the critical path method can be used in designing the shortest and simplest path that can be used in completing a project within a given time. Project management theory and research practices are important to all project managers as they ensure that the appropriate practices and procedures have been followed while conducting the project. Project management research is important as it ensures that the various issues that arise during a project are addressed according to the various types of research work that has been conducted on how to perform a project effectively. Project management theories are important as they provide project managers with a foundation on how to plan, manage and control the activities of the project. The provide project managers with the best methodologies and bodies of knowledge that will be suitable for a particular project.
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