January 13

Project Management Processes


Project Management Processes

Project Management Processes

Explain five differences between Projects and Business as Usual.

A project introduces change into an organisation whilst the Business as Usual (BAU) manages the process. When a project delivers (or hands over) its final product, be that a new building, IT system, organisational process the business will change dramatically – a step change in the way that things are done. On the other hand BAU optimises the way things are done – the process – and any changes are introduced relatively slowly.

Projects deliver products into the business as described above, after which the project is usually disbanded. The BAU on the other hand uses the products of the project to realise the benefits.

Business As Usual (BAU)

It is unusual for projects to deliver any benefits into the organisation during their implementation (unless there is some form of phased roll-out). The task of benefits realization belongs to the BAU and it is fundamental to the success of the project that this task is given priority and that benefits are realized.

Project managers manage time whereas BAU managers optimize time. In a project the project manager has to deliver the products within an appropriate timescale and will take action to make sure the products are delivered on time – this may result in other elements of the project such as cost suffering. The BAU manager must optimise the timescale within which his/her repetitive tasks are undertaken to drive out inefficiencies within the business.

Projects are inherently risky and project managers need to be risk aware and manage the risk, reducing it to an acceptable level. No risk means “no or little change” and on occasion the project manager will take risks to get things done on time and on cost. The BAU manager on the other hand generally looks to reduce risk to its lowest practical level and is often risk averse, and limits change by concentrating on standard production techniques.

BAU often uses a process of continual improvement to increase the quality of the service or the product in question. The project manager is responsible for producing products that conform to a specified standard and whilst s/he will look to improve the quality of the process, it is the quality of the output that is the prime concern. The project manager should prevent the team from continually trying to improve the product if the customer has not specified this, whilst the BAU manager will see continual improvement as part of his/her daily routine.

Project Management Processes and Phases

Explain the correlation between project management processes and the phases of the project life cycle. Make four relevant points.

The four processes are:

  • Starting or initiation process – this establishes the outline definition and business case for the project, including the basic team design.
  • Defining and planning process – builds on the definition, establishes the scope, and produces the project management plan for approval.
  • Monitoring and control process – sending and receiving information (monitoring) and taking action/making decisions (control).
  • Learning and closing process – covers handover to the customer and operational environment, reviewing the way the project was managed and establishing any lessons for future projects (what went well, what went badly, what would you do differently).

Each of these processes is used in each phase of the life-cycle. A formal life-cycle for a project could be: concept, definition, implementation, handover and closeout.

The size of the project will define how these processes and phases are used. For example in a large project where all the phases are used each phase could be considered as a project in its own right and have four sub-phases – concept, definition, implementation, handover and closeout and in each sub-phase the processes would all be used.

If we take a larger project that incorporates a feasibility study in the definition phase then the “starting process” will form the basis for the study, establishing the team and business case for the study.

Once this has been agreed the “definition process” would start and the project management plan for the feasibility project will be prepared. Once authorised the study will start and the activities and tasks required to complete the work will be monitored and controlled. This may include a number of review points where the overall progress of the study would be checked and given the go ahead for the next stage.

This would be particularly relevant for a large study lasting over 3 months. Once the project has completed the final product – the feasibility study report – it would be closed and the “learning and closing process” would start. The aim of this process would be to handover the final report, review how well the study had been managed and establish any lessons that could be usefully applied to future projects.
In a small project the objectives and approach may be clear and it is therefore only necessary to get the work done in an efficient manner. The phases of the project now correlate to the processes – “concept/starting”, “definition/initiating”, “Implementation/monitoring and controlling” and “handover and closeout/closure”.

In “starting” the basis for the project would be agreed and the team established. Once approved the team would move into the initiation phase and, using the process, would define the project in detail, produce the project management plan and obtain the funding.

This would move the project into the “doing” phase where the work would be issued and the monitoring and controlling process would take over.

Finally, the output of the project would be handed over and the project reviewed which is the learning and closure process.

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About the Author

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of project-related downloadable video training products under the Primer and PM Mastery System brand names. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.


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