Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Project Management Constraints

b2ap3_thumbnail_constraints.pngEvery project has to manage four basic constraints; scope, schedule, budget and quality. The success of a project depends on the skills and knowledge of a project manager to take into consideration these constraints and develop the plans and processes to keep them in balance. It is not enough for a project to meet the budget targets or to show to the donor that all activities have been completed on time. Development projects need to balance all four constraints if they want to realize the full benefits of a project.

Classical project management usually considers three constrains on a project: scope, time and costs (known as the project triangle), we believe that it is important to place under this category the constraint of quality. For development projects it is not enough to deliver a project according to the scope, on time and under budget; but the project must meet the needs and expectation of the beneficiaries who are the ultimate judges of the project quality.

Managing these constrains requires careful analysis and an agreement on the priorities for the organizations, the donor and the final beneficiaries. Depending on those factors a project may place more importance to the budget and quality than to the schedule or scope; these types of decisions, early in the project, have a fundamental impact on all the project plans that will need to be designed to ensure that the project is able to manage the four constraints. Failure to do that may result in the use of resources on areas that do not contribute to the ultimate success of the project.

The definition of project management implies that projects have specific limits in scope, schedule, budget and quality.  Understanding the combination of elements will allow make better choices when the project needs to make tradeoffs. The use of a triangle helps understand these relationships, adjusting any one of these sides, the other two are affected. For example, a change in the project plan to shorten the schedule might result in an increase in costs or require a decrease in scope.


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Definitions of Project and Project Management

b2ap3_thumbnail_definitions.pngWhat is a project?

There are many definitions for what constitutes a project; some of these definitions describe the nature of a project and how it differs from other type of work, the descriptions used to define a project include the following:

• A temporary process, which has a clearly defined start and end time, a set of tasks, and a budget, that is developed to accomplish a well-defined goal or objective.

• A temporary effort of sequential activities designed to accomplish a unique purpose

• A group of inter-related activities, constrained by time, cost, and scope, designed to deliver a unique purpose

• An undertaking that encompasses a set of tasks or activities having a definable starting point and well defined objectives.

• A clear set of activities with related inputs and outputs aimed to achieve objectives and goals linked to anticipated (desired) effects and impacts in a target population

From all these descriptions, one can see that there are some specific attributes that define a project and separate it from most ordinary work:

• A project has a beginning and an end.

• A project has limited resources

• A project follows a planned, organized method to meet its objectives with specific goals of quality and performance.

• Every project is unique


What is  project management?

Here are some of the standard definitions of project management:

• According to “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMI, Third Edition”, “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project”.

• The ISO 10006, a standard for quality in project management defines it as; “Unique process consisting of a set of coordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements, including constraints of time, cost and resources”.

• PRINCE2, the UK standard for project management, has this definition: “a temporary organization that is needed to produce a unique and predefined outcome or result at a pre-specified time using predetermined resources”. I

• PMA, the International Project Management Association, defines a project as “a time and cost constrained operation to realize a set of defined deliverables up to quality standards and requirements”.

In other words, project management is the planning, implementing, and monitoring of project activities to meet project objectives, achieved by effectively controlling and balancing the constraint of time, cost, and scope in producing quality deliverables that meet or exceed the expectations of the project stakeholders.


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