Project Management Techniques

49. Project Management: Some Practical Pointers


As is well known, every firm must create and deliver VALUE to its customers to survive and grow. In this context a project is a temporary endeavor to create a unique product or service. In case a project is mismanaged it may even spell doom for the firm due to the high stakes involved. This article seeks to simplify and outline some general pointers regards project management. It also highlights the important steps in project management. The first step is to have a clear Project Objective Statement (POS).


Q1) What is a Project Objective Statement (POS)?

Ans. The POS is a statement of intent. It states clearly the specific purpose and objective of a project. It is very important to define the POS accurately. Examples of POS are:

i)                    Introduction of a new recipe for noodles specially designed to meet tastes of Indian consumers : as in case of a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company :

ii)                   Designing and implementing systems by which annual results are publicly available within 48 hours of AGM as in case of a publicly listed Company:

iii)                 Testing and adopting an innovative construction process by which construction time is decreased by 33% as in case of an infrastructure Company :


As can be seen from these POS, all of these projects seek to add and deliver value to the final customer. Once formulated, the POS should be clearly articulated to all the departments.


Q2) Why should the POS be clearly articulated to all concerned departments?

Ans. In all probabilities the projects may cut across organizational boundaries by involving various departments. The POS should therefore be clearly articulated as it requires various resources and expertise. This will ensure that all the departments are properly aligned towards the project. It will also ensure that there is proper coordination between the various concerned departments and there will be the feeling of shared responsibility.  Once the POS is broadly defined, the statement of the scope of the project should be clearly stated.


Q3) What is the project scope statement?

Ans.  The project scope essentially outlines the end purpose of the project. For example if the project undertaken is an increase in capacity. Then the project scope statement should clearly state as: “The capacity of the project is sought to be increased from the current (say) 100 tons to (say) 700 tons. Managers are advised to devote ample time in planning and freezing the project scope statement. Also once decided and frozen, there should be minimal change in the scope of the project. This is because project creep is often the main cause of failure.


Q4) What is project creep?

Ans. As the name suggests project creep is a change in the scope of the project. In many cases, once the project is started, the scope is widened. For example in the above case of increase in capacity, the project scope could be altered to also include reduction in production time for example “The capacity of the project is to be increased from the current (say) 100 tons to (say) 700 tons and the manufacturing time reduced by 33%.” Though such changes are well intentioned, it creates disastrous results such as project cost over runs etc. After deciding the project scope the next step is to outline the WBS.


Q5) What does WBS stand for?


Ans. WBS stands for Work Breakdown Structure. A WBS divides a project into progressively smaller pieces of work. Essentially WBS decomposes project deliverables into smaller manageable components.


Considering a project of introducing a new product, a typical WBS is:

1)      Design questionnaire.

2)      Identify sample where market research is to be carried out.

3)      Carry out market research by administering questionnaire.

4)      Collate results of market survey and research.

5)      Inputs of market survey to be given to R & D and production department etc.


As can be seen WBS clearly brings out the dependencies between the various activities and their sequencing. Once WBS is drawn up, specific departments can be responsibility of them. For example in the above case, the marketing department can be given the responsibility of the above 5 tasks. It is also important to note here that each component of WBS should be such that it can be measured, executed and controlled. After the WBS is drawn up, the next step is to allocate resources.


Q6) What are the various resources allocated for a project?

Ans. Projects always consume resources. The two main resources typically utilised for a project are:

1) Financial Resources and 2) Time.

It is advisable that a budget (plan) be drawn up with regards to the cost to be incurred for and the time required for completion of the project. The project should be continually tracked with regards to these two parameters ensuring that these parameters are always within the planned budgets. It needs to be ensured that there should not be undue wastage of resources. This is exactly where milestones help.



Q7) What are milestones?

Ans. Milestones are outcomes or events. They should be measurable and should clearly specify the state and quality of achievement to be attained. For example in case of the above WBS, the milestone will be “Completion of Market Survey”. Once the milestone is precisely defined, we can allocate time and cost to the same. For example it could be stated the milestone of Completion of Market Survey to be completed in 7 weeks, cost allocated being one million. The presence of the WBS and the intermediate milestones helps in timely tracking of the progress of the projects.