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Generally, a project management cycle is composed of phases that include initiation, planning, monitoring and control and, finally, closure. Each of the phases is made up of ordered steps that are required to be completed.
During project initiation, a business case is developed through a proposal detailing a suggested solution to a defined problem. The proposal document should contain the results of the research that has been carried out and which led to the identification of an opportunity or problem. The various alternative solutions that are available should also be identified at this stage. The benefits that are expected as a result of undertaking the project should be spelt out as well as the costs that are projected to be incurred. In addition, a recommendation should be provided with regards to the best actions to take while identifying the risks that may accompany the implementation of the project. Finally, the solution should be thoroughly presented to stake holders or decision makers for consideration and approval. In addition, during initiation the scope of the project should be defined. This involves setting out the vision and objectives so as to determine the parameters that will guide the implementation of the project. The duties and responsibilities of the project manager should be clearly defined at this stage. This includes how the performance of the manager will be evaluated in terms of achieving set targets as well as the responsibilities of the other members of the project team and the reporting structure. A suitably qualified project team is also identified at this stage.
The tools and equipment that will be used to carry out the project should also be defined during initiation including processes and standards. This should be done methodically so as to ensure that all the requirements are addressed adequately. Finally, the initiation phase should be reviewed in order to establish whether everything is in place. This includes whether the budget allocated is sufficient, whether all significant issues were identified at the outset as well as whether proper mitigation measures were identified to address the anticipated risks. The results of the review should be properly documented and communicated to the decision makers where approval for the next stage is sought.
Problems encountered during the project initiation include setting of improper or unrealistic objectives as well as failure to identify an appropriate project manager. Failure to identify risks is also a problem as this will present difficulties in the subsequent steps of a project.
After the project has been defined and project team appointed, the planning of the project can begin. This will involve the creation of documentation that will serve as a guideline through the whole process until completion. The phases, tasks and activities are identified while allocating the effort needed to accomplish each of them. The interdependencies between various activities should be defined, as well as constraints and assumptions. Delivery dates for targeted milestoes are also developed during the planning stage. This stage provides the project manager with roadmap so as to constantly evaluate whether everything is on track. Resources are also allocated at this stage. A quality control plan, which will be used to enforce quality assurance throughout the term of the project, is also developed. This involves the schedule of the quality control and assurance activities. This is achieved by identifying the requirements of the customers, as well as developing quality criterion for all deliverables. Quality planning aids in monitoring and control of the level of quality realized so as to ensure targets.
Preventative measures against the identified risks are also established together with contingencies for reducing the impact in case the risks manifest during the project. Risk management actions should be scheduled within a time frame. Each of the risks should be monitored at every stage of the project.
It is necessary to prepare a plan of how all the necessary products and services will be procured from the external suppliers. This is made so as to ensure that the right provisions are obtained at the right price and at the right time. All requirements are identified. The procurement plan should be robust as requirements may change during the term of the project.
Problems that may encounter during the planning phase include improper definition and allocation of responsibilities. Improper procurement practices may lead to sourcing of products and services that are inappropriate to the requirements of the project. All in all, project planners should be properly equipped with skills and tools as planning cannot be perfect, as well as knowledge about the future cannot be projected to the exact details.
After all the project plans have been completed, the execution phase can now be addressed. This phase involves the physical delivery of targets for the intended customer. While each of the activities is carried out, the host of management processes are instituted the delivery of outputs. Time, quality, change, issues, risks, customers, suppliers and communication have to be managed. A process to be used in recording time within the project is developed where time sheets are used to monitor the time that the project staff spend on each activity. Time management issues should be identified and resolved as soon as possible so as to keep the project on track.
All expenses and costs are recorded and presented to the project manager for review and approval. A central record of all costs should be maintained so as to identify budget overruns, as well as where budgets need to be reviewed as a result of inadequacies or over provisions. The project cost management procedure will enable the project manager to monitor and control all costs during each stage of the project. Change management is also important during the execution of a project as there will be requests for changes where the feasibility should be assessed before a change is undertaken. Every step of the change process should be defined as welll as the responsibilities of the change agents or managers. The process should be reviewed before approval.
A communication process is established during project execution so as to make sure the right information reaches the project team and decision makers at the right time. All the messages that require to be transmitted are identified, as well as the target audience. Feedback should be gathered after communication. This can be done through meetings, emails, as well as status reports. This will ensure that the project is accorded the necessary support from the significant stakeholders.
Project execution requires attention to details without which targets in terms of time allocation may not be achieved. Here again, the skills of the project manager are crucial and members of the project will follow the lead of the manager. If the project manager does not have the necessary leadership skills, then the execution of the project will be flawed. In addition, time schedules may not be realized, but what is crucial, is whether the project team can develop solutions in due time. Another problem that could be encountered is differing interpretations of the specifics between members of the project team leading to unmatched results from one activity to another leading to bottlenecks in the process.
Monitoring and controlling a project is crucial. It significantly contributes to the overall success of a project. This is done so as to understand and communicate progress to stakeholders and also identify significant deviations. This should be followed by the development of appropriate corrective measures as well as preventative actions to reduce further deviations. It is the responsibility of the project manager to make sure that the monitoring and control process is executed effectively and in due time.
In monitoring and controlling, if inappropriate measures are used, they will not address the issues properly, thereby, leading to miscommunications and improper corrective measures. Failure to identify deviations in time may threaten the overall project. Monitoring and control should be done in time to ensure that corrections are made in time.
The final stage is closure, which is done by releasing all the final deliverables to the decision makers detailing how the set targets were achieved. The project is handed over, supplier contracts are terminated, and project resources are released as some of them, including the project team, may have been people who were formerly involved in other aspects of the business. All stakeholders are properly furnished with the results. The last stage of the closure process involves post implementation review with an aim of identifying how much the project was successful, as well as any lessons learnt for use in any future projects. During the project closure, stakeholders may feel that the objective of the project or the execution of the project was not done as specified. This may lead to an understanding that resources have not been properly utilized and solutions have not been developed adequately.