Many times when Project management is discussed, it is discussed as a means to an end such as landing the next big promotion at work, but beyond the certification that comes with taking project management courses, the knowledge of project management can be very beneficial to you as an entrepreneur running a business. This is because your business success is ultimately tied to a continuous chain of successful projects regardless of whether you offer a product or service.
Projects Vs Operations Management
Projects are different from your business operations. In simple terms, a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique service, product or result. A project is always temporary because it has defined timelines, scope and resources and it is described as unique because it is not a routine operation, which consists of repetitive activities that form part of a going concern aimed at achieving repetitive goals, but a specific set of activities designed to accomplish unique one-off goals. Bearing this in mind, Project Management can thus be described as the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to accomplish project goals.
Say for instance you are planning a wedding â Your project goal in this case is a successful wedding ceremony. It is temporary because you have a definite timeline to plan for the wedding and it is unique because it is not routine, you donât get married every day. Now to achieve a successful wedding, a number of tasks need to be accomplished such as sorting the venue, the dÃ©cor, the catering, the guests, the wedding outfits, the sound, etc. â these are the specific set of activities that need to be carried out to achieve the project goal. Now applying knowledge, skills and techniques to ensure that all of these operations are carried out efficiently for the realization of a beautiful wedding is simply Project Management.
Project management and Business Strategy Execution
Now that we have established that Project Management is applicable in everyday life, how is it applicable to your business? If you consider the initiatives within your business strategy, you will identify a number of unique one-off ones aimed at enabling your business to develop a new capability for improved business outcomes. These new capabilities may enable for example:
- An innovative product or service, or
- An old product re-imagined to meet new needs.
- A new process for delivering your old services or product at an improved efficiency.
- Rebranding your business or products to appeal to a younger generation.
Whichever is the case, bringing this capabilities into place for the first time is a unique one-off set of activities, which may be carried out in phases, and are best executed as projects for effective and timely realization of business objectives. And even though the project itself is temporary, the end product may sometimes be expected to continue into perpetuity.
Therefore, since a business sustains itself and grows continually by achieving one successful strategic initiative after the other, it implies that the business must make a habit of delivering successful projects. Hence, the need for project management competencies for business strategy execution. Thus every business consists of both Operational activities (routine, repetitive processes) and Project activities (temporary, time-bound processes).
Project Management Process Groups
Project Management processes fall into five groups namely; Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing, which can be incorporated into your business management systems:
- Initiating: This is the first and a vital set of processes in Project Management. The project initiating processes involve defining the objectives and purpose as well as high-level scope and deliverables for the new project you are embarking on. Say for instance, you have observed a gap in the market where your business operates and you have a brilliant idea to introduce a product or service to fill the gap these would be your project goal. Your purpose for introducing this new product/service may be market positioning or increased revenue, your scope will include all the features of the product or service i.e. the product scope, and all the work or deliverables required to create this product scope and complete the project successfully. The project objective is usually refined throughout the life of the project to ensure alignment with the business case or market drivers for your project and could be for instance 2 or more geographical locations you hope to introduce your product/service, a target revenue and or number of clients gained or products sold within the first 3 months of project launch. Project Initiating processes answer the What, Why and Where aspects of your projects
- Planning: Project Planning involves outlining action steps, resources required, estimated time and a framework for management review and control. The project Plan clearly shows how the project will be executed, team members involved, monitoring and controlling processes and how the project will be closed. Using our previous example, your project plan will show implementation/marketing strategies for your product/service, resources required, monitoring/controlling processes and process of closing the project when goals are attained. Planning takes the high-level project scope developed at project initiation and breaks them down to detailed deliverables (each work product required to meet the identified requirements that fulfills the business need), required duration for each deliverable and the cost estimates as well as other resources needed to achieve them. Planning answers the How, when, who and How much aspects of your project.
- Executing: In the Execution phase, the project plan is officially underway and all the strategies and tasks agreed upon in the planning phase are put into action. Still using our example, the execution phase is where your strategies for product development and marketing are implemented.
- Monitoring and Controlling: According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), âthe Monitoring and Control Process Group consists of those processes performed to observe project execution so that potential problems can be identified in a timely manner and corrective action can be taken, when necessary, to Control the execution of the project.â With monitoring and control, you can determine if the marketing strategy for the newly introduced product/service is yielding desired results or not and adapt where necessary.
- Closing: Project closing is the last group of processes in the Project Management Process which many overlook and consider unimportant but which signifies the official end of a project. Project closure involves handing over deliverables to the customer, passing documentation to the business, closing supplier contracts, releasing staff and equipment, and/or informing stakeholders of the completion of the project. For larger or more complex projects broken into phases, project phase closure will include decision to move on to the next phase of the project or to terminate the project if the business case is no longer realizable or has lost market relevance.
It is important to note that in a business, the close of one project signifies the beginning of the next. It is not unusual that when a product or service is successfully introduced, it causes new needs to arise and consequently, new goals which will create the objectives for the next project. Every successful project carried out within your business undoubtedly contributes to business success and this is the dream of every business man or woman.
By Emmanuel Williams
By Emmanuel Williams