Project Management - An Introduction

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Whatever the nature of the project that you undertake - from the design and build of an exhibition stand to the generation of a new software package - it is useful to consider that all projects have the same basic structure and life cycle; they will, of course have their own idiosyncysies which will have to be dealt with but they will all pass through a number of phases in order to reach their conclusion. The project may take hours, days or indeed years to complete, but again, they are all subject to the same organisational process.

Typically a project will begin as a result of a report or feasibility study or an acceptance of a design brief. Defining the situation that the project is addressing is of the utmost importance before commencing the project.g. "We need to increase our profile within the industry" or "we need to find a more effective way to promote new products".

Once the problem has been defined, potential solutions will need to be investigated and a suitable solution identified and a decision made to implement the solution. Only then can the project life cycle begin.

The project life cycle consists of the following key phases:
Initiation
Specification
Design
Build
Installation/implementation
Operation and review

Initiation

This is the most important phase covering the setting of objectives, budgetting, getting the required approval and setting the terms of reference.

Specification

This area can be defined in character by the word WHAT? - What outcomes are required by your customer?; What equipment do they require?; What finishes are to be used?; What locations are involved?; What are the deadlines? etc.

The HOW is dealt with in the next stage?

Design

This is the stage where we start to ask HOW? Technical experts, designers, engineers, carpenters, AV consultants may need to be involved to help shape the design of the project. This phase may result in the production of a detailed specification, technical drawings, 3 dimensional visual, scale models or prototypes. It is imperative that agreement is reached with the client before moving on to the Build phase.

Build

This is where the bricks are laid, the code is written, the brochures are printed; Finally something tangible is created.

Installation/Implementation

The project has been designed and built and, hopefully, if the project has been sucessfully managed thus far, will be as specified. It is important, however, to get acceptance from your client. This may well include a period of transition - after all project management is about the management of change; It's all very well inventing an electric car, but it still needs to be maintained and owners trained to drive it and to charge it. With reference to my own industry, the design and build of exhibition stands, the implementation phase may be as simple as handing over the keys of the store to the client and showing them where the light switch is!

Operation and Review

Once your project has been in use for a period of time, you may be lucky enough to find it works perfectly and everyone is happy - in which case this section will be concluded quickly and easily. If, however, there are problems or deficiencies with the project, new requirements will need to be identified and the project cycle begins again.
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