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You might have been anxious to try out the new Microsoft Project software ”to get your hands on the keyboard and mouse and to see how it all works. So, you dove right in and now you're looking for additional help. That's perfectly understandable, because becoming a confident user of Microsoft Project is not easy, especially if you don't have a project management background. There are many special terms to learn (such as critical path , task dependencies , and leveling resources ), and most of the screens in Project are unlike any you've seen in Word or Excel. You will learn faster if you start with some understanding of the special requirements of project management. So, unless you're an old hand at project management, take the time to browse through this chapter.
Project management differs from conventional management in that managing a project is more limited and narrowly focused than managing an enterprise or even managing a small department within an organization. Traditional management functions are concerned with managing the ongoing operations of an organization, to ensure its long- term success and survival. In contrast, project management is concerned with goals that can be said to be temporary . They have a definite end point and do not continue for the life of the organization.
Projects Are Temporary
A project is a temporary assignment relative to the life of the organization ” lasting only until the project's stated objectives are achieved. A project involves a one-time goal, produces a unique product or outcome, and has defined start and finish dates. Defining projects and project management by using the term temporary is relative. A sales project might have a life of two weeks and a project to build a nuclear power plant might have a life of 20 years . But both are shorter than the life span of the organization; both are temporary in that sense.
Project Objectives Are Specific and Measurable
Project goals are stated in terms of specific performance objectives. Vague generalities that call for unspecified improvements won't provide the focus needed for a project. You can measure the success or failure of a project by the degree to which the measured performance satisfies the objectives set out in the goal.
Projects Are Constrained by Time, Cost, and Scope and Quality
Scholarly project management studies usually define a project as a collection of activities or tasks designed to achieve a unique short-term goal of the organization, with specific performance requirements, and subject to time and cost constraints. In other words, a project exists to deliver a specific performance objective, and the quality of the performance must be satisfactory while staying within the time allowed and without going over the budget.
These constraints are first apparent when you're planning a project. Usually, either the project start or finish date (or both) must meet some time requirement. Individual tasks of the project might also be subject to time constraints. Projects are subject to resource or cost constraints because there is always a limit to how much money you can spend to achieve a project's objectives. The minimal acceptable quality and scope of the deliverables are also constraints. These three constraints ”scope and quality (performance expectations), time, and cost ”are also interrelated when changes are requested in the project plan:
The constraints imposed by scope and quality, time, and cost are often illustrated by the triple constraint diagram, also called the constraint triangle. See Figure 1.1.
Figure 1.1. The project manager must work within the constraints of time, cost, and scope and quality.
For an authoritative survey of the full scope of project management get a copy of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge . This manual (which is the standard reference in the project management industry), affectionately called the PMBOK Guide , is available from the Web site of the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org). PMI is the premier professional organization for project managers in general, and the PMI Web site is the single most important site for project management information. PMI is also the organization that administers the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam.
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