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This paper evaluates the project management theory and how it is applied in real-life situations. The first part of the paper examines a broad literature on project management. This will start with the basic elements of project management and evaluate the role of project managers, phases in project management, and the critical success factors for project success. In the second part, the key theories of project management will be applied to a real-life case that hypothetically leads to building an app for a project team.
Part A: Project Management Review
At the most basic level, a project is an undertaking that requires a series of steps and the efforts of an individual or group to achieve the desired aim (Pinto, 2019). Projects refer to the design, allocation of resources, breakdown of work, and execution of tasks to achieve the overall goal. Project management is the structured way projects are executed to meet the core aim.
According to the Association for Project Management, “project management” is “the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters.” (2021). This means project management revolves around applying the most sophisticated systems, methods, skills, and processes to apply resources to achieve a project’s objectives. This involves a structured and disciplined approach that applies the most effective and efficient ways of business.
Project management is also seen as a process where a team is assembled and led to achieve project goals within a set of constraints (Heldman, 2018). This involves meeting the goals and objectives of a project by applying the documentation or terms of reference from the beginning of a project to its end. Thus, the vital documents of a project – the terms of reference become the basis for the development of the process to manage and actualize the project’s goals.
Another angle of conceptualizing project management is that it is a process that leads to the completion of the “final deliverables” within the project sponsor’s time, resource, and budget constraints (Association for Project Management, 2021). Therefore, project management revolves around applying the best practices to organize, plan, and execute processes that lead to the creation of the final deliverable within the constraints the project sponsor or owner provides.
The Project Manager
The project manager plays a “lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing projects” (Alexander, 2021). The project manager is given the power and authority to lead the project team and use the resources allocated to achieve project goals and ends. Therefore, the project manager is accountable for the project team and must use resources to achieve the elements of the project scope within the project budget (Alexander, 2021). Ultimately, the project manager is the leader and responsible for the success or failure of the project.
A project manager’s responsibility includes the day-to-day management of the project (Heldman, 2018). This means the project manager must be aware of the scope and undertake various takes, including scheduling, ensuring financing is allocated appropriately, evaluating risks, allotting resources, and monitoring or evaluating to ensure that the project meets the quality standard stipulated in the project documentation.
Skills of the Project Manager
Project management involves core abilities that the project manager must exhibit. As the leader of the project, the PM needs to be organized, knowledgeable, and capable of multitasking (Larson & Gray, 2017). The project manager must also be a problem solver and a good communicator. Some argue that the ability to communicate is the greatest strength of a project manager (Heldman, 2018).
The seven ideal standards identified to be essential skills for a project manager include:
- Effective communication
- Scheduling and time management
- Technical expertise
- Risk management
- Critical thinking and problem solving (Joubert, 2019).
Effective communication, as identified above, is a strong skill that a project manager must possess because they will be the figurehead of the project team and will need to be able to interpret the information they get, transpose it to practical ideas and instruct people they delegate authority to (Alexander, 2021). Negotiation is an important skill because a project manager’s monitoring and evaluation function has to lead with revisions and negotiations that would change and modify the way things are done.
Scheduling and time management is a skill a project manager needs to break work down and execute effectively. This requires knowledge, experience, and other important competencies. Leadership is about moving the team members and stakeholders from one point to another. It is about the ability to formulate a vision and steer people to pursue it (Daft, 2018).
Technical expertise is necessary because subject-matter knowledge is always important and can help a project to be analyzed and managed properly. Thus, a project manager who is completely ignorant about the technicalities of a job will struggle. Risk management and critical thinking are important because they focus on the ability to forecast, plan, and foresee the root of issues and problems.
The Project Management Process
The project management process includes the following:
- Monitoring and Controlling
- Closing (Miller, 2019).
Thus, the project manager starts by examining the strategic goals and ends of the project. This includes evaluating the project’s terms of reference and transposing them to a conception and idea of the final deliverables. Project initiation includes objectives and standards that are a unification of the demands and requirements of internal and external stakeholders. This leads to the formation of standards and objectives that would be used as yardsticks for developing and evaluating different aspects of a project. Objectives often result from shared expectations and gains that are put together to guide and evaluate how things are done in a given situation or setting (Miller, 2019).
After the initiation, the project manager must plan and execute the project by forming teams and a work breakdown structure that would lead to allocating work at the execution stage. Project planning includes forming practical solutions that ensure that the deliverables can be produced within the scope, cost, timelines, and risks while applying the most sophisticated and best practices to complete these tasks and goals. Thus, planning ends with creating an integrated plan that will become a roadmap and blueprint for operations and the actual activities of the project.
The project execution phase involves the implementation of the project plans and goals. This includes a collection of tasks undertaken to help meet a particular project’s core goals and ends. The key role of the project manager at this stage is to delegate authority and assign work roles to team members. Each team member will be given basic roles and tasks that will be undertaken to systematically complete different phases and components of the research. Through this, the work will be set in motion, and the project manager will have to prevent distractions, facilitate issue resolution and provide leadership and guidance to each team and individual who is given a task within the project team.
When the project begins, the project team is given monitored tasks. In the strict sense, though, monitoring in project management commences at the onset of a project (Miller, 2019). This is a specialized function that includes the planning and execution phase. Monitoring is fundamentally based on the evaluation of the progress of a project. In most projects, the ability to finish tasks on the work breakdown structure is an important aspect of the success or failure of a project. Thus, when there are any possible delays, actions can be taken. It must be further noted that, in many cases, some activities and processes in a project are interrelated. Sometimes, one activity can only start when one ends.
Thus, a failure to complete the critical path of such an important task would lead to a delay. Therefore, monitoring and evaluation involve a close and careful evaluation of such important activities so that they do not delay. Also, monitoring and evaluation involve ensuring that key milestones are met, and this would have to be done by strong monitoring and evaluation. The central element of monitoring and controlling in the project management process involves comparing actual performance against planned performance. This way, the project team can understand where they are and how well they are approaching their desired end.
When the project ends, the “closing” function of a project manager is to present the final deliverable to the project sponsor under the terms of reference initially agreed upon at the initiation stage.
The closing process is not simple, as it involves examining and evaluating the existing project to ensure there are no risks and issues with the project as it is being presented to the sponsor or project owner. In most cases, the project manager will sign off to confirm that the project is completed. When this is done, they will release resources that are not needed anymore and also evaluate the contracts with various vendors and pay invoices. As a best practice, many project managers will archive the files and other documents of the project. This is important to prove work done, and in disputes, they would have to be presented to justify activities undertaken and work done. It is also common for project managers to hold an exit conference with the project team to restate what went well and what did not go too well. This way, they can document and identify key issues and improve them.
Limitations of Project Management
The primary constraints of every project are time, scope, and costs (Larson & Gray, 2017). Ultimately, a project team does not have finite resources. They have to work within the time, scope, and resources afforded to them by the project agreement. Therefore, it is important to work within this scope. Thus, there is a project possibility limit that cannot be exceeded (Larson & Gray, 2017). When a project team gets to this project possibility limit, they cannot apply any more ideas or concepts of project management to do what they do not have the resources to exceed.
According to critics of project management, it is an immediate activity, and in many cases, project management does not encourage long-term thinking (Richardson & Jackson, 2018). Therefore, the most important and vital element of long-term solutions and results are limited when project management is undertaken. It is all about what must be done and consumed or achieved immediately.
Project management also leads to the disruption of organizations because it tends to take more attention and resources. As such, project management leads to a shift from organizational and other pertinent issues that are downplayed whenever a project management plan is presented. Project management is also criticized as limiting the development of human resources because a person with a specialized skill would ultimately be required to take up tasks that they might not be qualified or specialized in.
In some cases, project management leads to team-related conflicts that might be counterproductive (Richardson & Jackson, 2018). This is because a shroud of competition is likely to arise among team members whenever a project is launched. This is because people might want tasks that are assigned to others, and this could lead to conflicts and issues that can set the project back.
Finally, project management is unsuitable for many tasks and activities. In other words, project management does not solve all problems. It is a specialized activity and process that is highly restricted.
Why do Projects Fail?
According to some statistics, 70% of projects fail (Team Stage, 2022). This involves the inability of the project team members to achieve the project’s core goals, thereby wasting some aspects of the resources and time provided for the project. This shows clearly that the ability to meet the objectives of any project is not a simple or easy thing.
There are several reasons projects fail, including:
- Poor planning
- Inconsistencies in the definition of resources
- Unclear objectives
- Lack of detailed controls
- Lack of transparency
- Poor communication
- Change in direction
- Unrealistic expectations
- Weak monitoring and controls
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Failure to take corrective action where they are necessary
- Poorly assigned role (Sydle, 2021)
When the project team plans poorly, they are most likely to fail to meet the project’s goals. Also, when the project team is unable to identify the proper resources they need, there is likely to be a project failure. Among project leaders, when there are unclear objectives or the control standards are not laid out, a project is likely to fail. Furthermore, the lack of transparency, poor communication, and unexpected changes in direction can cause a project to fail. The lack of monitoring and controls and the failure to take remedial actions at critical stages of a project can cause it to fail.
Part B: Project Plan Development for a New Mobile App for Remote Working Project Managers
The strategic level of any project includes the ultimate plans for a project that is normally captured in terms of reference of the project (Larson & Gray, 2017). This is often evaluated and debated by the project sponsor and the project manager to formulate realistic and workable methods and processes that can be used to execute the project. For the proposed project, the hypothetical elements of the terms of reference include:
- The building of an application for project managers to work from remote locations
- The application will gather vital information for project team members.
- The client will want to use the app to bring together different project team members with communication functionality and competencies.
- The app will be linked to a database that will be incrementally improved and enhanced to convert users to long-term applicants.
- The project is to be completed in eight months at $15 million.
Application of Project Management Skills
The first thing to do is to convert these elements of the terms of reference to project management documentation. This documentation provides a clear set of goals, activities, deliverables, and milestones. Thus, the following elements are identified as useful:
- Goal: The creation of project management for over 20 million users.
- Team: The project team members will include various web development experts, from UX analysts to systems architects, software engineers, and systems analysts for testing.
- Activities: Formalize the project needs, define milestones, create a work breakdown structure, delegate work, commence work, test at milestones, present the prototype and present the final deliverable at the end of the project.
- Deliverables: Mockups, First Prototype, Final Application
- Milestones: Frontend, Backend, Final Application
These key pointers can be transposed into a logical framework analysis table as presented in the table below:
|Goal||Create an app that can be used to by third party project managers and project team members||Build a complete opensource, downloadable project management app||A bug-free application that meets all the core functions of a standard project management process.||Our app will be industry-standard for speed, functionality, and communication excellence.|
|Purposes||The client hopes to create a simple and easy app that can be used by third parties to execute their project needs and ends||Create an open-source app with premium versions and ad-supported services that project managers can use to add value to their projects||The app’s functionality must provide services that would reduce communication costs, and project failure risks.||Our app will be a one-point shop for project managers who will be able to do everything from filing their notes to documenting activities.|
|Outputs||An open-sourced downloadable app to be made available to a wide array of users||An app that can be used by over 20 million users and has the ability to store, guide and steer project teams.||The ability to monitor and evaluate the different elements and features of project management and bring results.||Users will experience significant cost reductions and enhanced project management processes and will therefore justify the use or dependence on our app.|
|Activities||(1) Build the mockups, (2) Create the front-end, (3) Create the backend, (4) Ensure joint functionality (5) Deliver app to client||Each project manager can maintain teams with up to 3 members (for free version) and unlimited numbers for paid version||The functionalities for the application are to be defined as the app is built and user experiences are upgraded||The app will be scalable and can improve its functionality over time so that new concerns and different business processes can be added.|
From the logical framework analysis table, we can infer a lot of things about the application and how it is going to be built and deployed to users. First, the app is supposed to provide a one-stop point for project managers who can coordinate affairs and execute all functions of a project manager from our app without having to go to any other point for other resources.
The app is to be a large one that can have 20 million+ users and this will ensure that it can serve a large section of the global population with a high-quality service that cannot be easily rivaled.
In building the app, we will start from the creation of the user experience (UX) and then proceed to develop the frontend and back end. From there, we will ensure that the two units work together to provide the best quality service to users. Furthermore, the app is supposed to be one that would be amenable to scaling and expansion into the foreseeable future as it is to have core functionalities and abilities that can help meet emerging needs that would come up in the project management industry.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
Based on the pointers from the LFA, a work breakdown structure can be formulated, which can help delegate key tasks to the project team members. These tasks will come with distinct deliverables that will be presented to users at different times.
The app-building process will commence with the user-experience process, which will start by identifying what project managers will expect from the app. This will be documented and used as the basis for the formation of a roadmap that will be used to build the app. Since user experience is important for the app’s success, this stage will take two months.
In the second month, the frontend design will commence since this is in conformity with the UX and will help improve the UX design process. After the second month of building the front end, the backend building will commence. This will lead to the merger of the front end and backend in Month 5.
The first prototype will be released in Month 6 and subjected to systems testing. The test will involve sending the app to the project sponsor and also testing it with other users. The bugs in the system will be documented and used to build an improved app that will be delivered to the project sponsor at the end.
- Alexander, M. (2021, July 5). What is a project manager? The lead role for project success. Retrieved from CIO: https://www.cio.com/article/230682/what-is-a-project-manager-the-lead-role-for-project-success.html#:~:text=a%20project%20manager%3F-,Project%20managers%20play%20the%20lead%20role
- Association for Project Management. (2021). APM Body of Knowledge. London: APM.
- Daft, R. (2018). The Leadership Experience (7th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage.
- Heldman, K. (2018). Project Management JumpStart. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
- Joubert, S. (2019, August 12). 7 Essential Skills for Project Managers. Retrieved from Northwestern University: https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/essential-project-management-skills/
- Larson, E., & Gray, C. (2017). Project Management: The Managerial Process. New York: McGraw Hill Education.
- Miller, K. (2019, February 4). What Does a Project Manager Do? | Roles and Responsibilities. Retrieved from Northwestern University: https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/project-manager-responsibilities/
- Pinto, J. (2019). Project Management: Achieving Competitive Advantage. New York: Pearson.
- Richardson, G., & Jackson, B. (2018). Project Management Theory and Practice. Boca Raton: Auerbach Publications.
- Sydal. (2021, September 28). 11 Reasons Why Projects Fail (And Solutions For Them). Retrieved from Sydal: https://www.sydle.com/blog/reasons-why-projects-fail–6151d64fde29ad2daaa6457e/
- Team Stage. (2022, March 18). Project Management Statistics: Trends and Common Mistakes in 2022. Retrieved from https://teamstage.io/project-management-statistics/#:~:text=1.,rate%20to%2020%25%20or%20below.