5.2. Project Management Process Overview
Throughout the remaining chapters, we'll use a diagram (Figure 5.1) showing the project management process to help you visualize where you are. You'll be reminded of where you've been and what your next steps are by referring to this diagram, which you'll also find at the beginning of subsequent chapters. You can refer to this as you plan your project and you can download the template showing all the steps and the details of each step from www.syngress.com/solutions. It's important to understand that IT project management is an iterative process meaning you'll have to do some of the steps more than once, refining your project as you go. You usually can't just do each step once and leave it at that. While it might be nice if you could engrave your project plan in granite, it's far more likely that you'll have to re-work and revisit various project elements throughout the project planning and project management process. Expect that you'll have to do that. Don't become defensive or irritated when something needs to change. Accept that change is part of what you're managing and the better you manage change, the better you'll be able to manage your project. This is especially important in the early stages of project planning, including the stage we're going to discuss in this chapter, defining the project. If you bring your thoughts and ideas back to the project sponsor and he or she does not validate your findings, that's a good thing. It means that you have successfully rooted out assumptions or misunderstandings that later might have completely blown the project out of the water. Knowing that now rather than 10 months and $10 million later is a good thing, don't you think?
Figure 5-1. IT Project Management Process Overview
We're starting with Defining the Project. Within this section of the overall IT project management methodology, there are defined inputs, actions, and outputs. In plain English, that means that there is a specific starting point (input), specific steps we'll take (actions), and specific results of our actions. For each of the steps show in Figure 5.1, there are inputs, actions, and outputs that we'll discuss. If this language is new to you, don't be put off. It will quickly become familiar and using these concepts (input, action, and output) will help you keep track of each step in the project more easily. Figure 5.2 shows the inputs, actions, and outputs for the project definition step of IT project management. Let's quickly define a few terms before we continue.
Duration The length of time allotted for a particular task to be completed.
Effort The actual amount of time expended completing a task.
First use penalty The additional length of time (or cost) that stems from the first time something is done (cost of the learning curve).
Parametric estimating Using parameters from previous projects to develop estimates for the current project.
Project A unique solution to a problem.
Project lifecycle Each project has seven phases: define, organize, form the team, plan, manage, track, and close the project. Together, these form the project lifecycle.
Project proposal A project overview document given to you to begin project implementation. Ideally, a project proposal contains certain elements, discussed later in this chapter. A project proposal is not always required, though if one exists, it should be validated.
Proposed solution A solution to a problem that is suggested as a project or approach to the project.
Problem to be solved A problem to be solved by creating a project plan.
Project sponsor Typically the person who assigned the project to you and appointed you project manager. The project sponsor is the person to whom you must go to get formal and informal approval for project parameters such as the project proposal, the cost, time, and other details of the project.
Validated project proposal An initial project plan that defines several basic elements of a project plan.
Figure 5-2. Inputs, Actions, and Outputs for Project Definition Step
Within the project definition step or phase, there are 6 steps. Let's discuss each one briefly so the diagram will become clear if it's not already.
INPUT The input in this case is one of three things. Either you have been given a project proposal, you have been handed a proposed solution (a less defined project proposal), or you have identified a problem to be solved. We'll discuss where projects come from more in a subsequent section of this chapter.
ACTION Using one of these three inputs, you'll then go into the project validation or project definition process. This process is a defined set of steps you'll use that will result in a validated project proposal. If you were handed a project proposal, following the steps in this process will result in a proposal that has been validated by research and investigation. If you were handed a proposed solution or an identified problem, following the steps in the project validation/project definition process will result in the creation of a formal (or not-so-formal) project proposal.
OUTPUT The output from this phase or step is a validated project proposal. Notice that regardless of which of the three inputs we have, we use the same steps to validate or create the project proposal and the result is a validated project proposal. Whether this is generated from reviewing an existing proposal or from creating a new proposal from scratch, the result is the same.
CHECKPOINT In many of the steps in IT project management, there are one or more checkpoints. These are points at which you need to stop and make sure everything is on track. Within a project schedule, these are typically referred to as milestones. Outside of the project schedule, you can call them milestones, checkpoints, or input points, just as long as you have them and use them. For this step, the validated project proposal is brought to the project sponsor for approval. We'll discuss how to do this later in this chapter.
DECISION POINT Based on the response of your project sponsor, you'll either need to go back and rework parts of your project proposal or continue on to the next step, organizing your project. If the sponsor gives the proposal the go ahead, you continue. If not, you will have to address the project sponsor's specific concerns and revise the validated project proposal and submit it for approval again. This may be an iterative process where you'll need to make several revisions before the project sponsor agrees to the proposal. It's also possible that based on the information gathered thus far, the project sponsor (or project manager) recommends terminating the project. This occurs when it becomes clear that factors have changed such as the project would be too late or too costly, etc. We'll discuss this in more detail later in this chapter.
NEXT STEP Once you have approval from the project sponsor for the validated project proposal, you can continue in the project planning process and begin organizing your project. These steps are discussed in Chapter 6.