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3.9.3 Project Management Practices

 

Objective:

Project management plans will document how to manage resources, monitor, and take action during project activities and tasks so that the goals and objectives of the project are met. Project management practices will plan, execute, monitor, intervene, and learn from the project activities of each project participant with the goal of completing all project objectives on time, within budget, and to stakeholder satisfaction.

Description:

Project management includes the following practices:

  • Plan coordination with all project participants, develops and documents the project's plan [task description, budget, and schedule] for all necessary project activities
  • Execute plans and actions, coordinating people and other resources to carry out the project's activities
  • Monitor results to measure the progress of each project activity according to the plan
  • Intervene in the execution of an activity to ensure that it continues to support the overall progress of the project
  • Communicate to the project team, the goals, objectives, and vision of the project.
  • Learn from results and adjust project management practices based on the experience of previous tasks

Effective communication [written, in meetings, and with individual participants] is key to ensuring that project participants are sharing their objectives, status, problems, and fixes.

Good project management practices must be married with good management skills. These skills include leading [establishing direction, aligning people to that direction and motivating people to overcome obstacles], communicating and stimulating communications among others, negotiating with others on what they need to do, and problem solving with the personnel performing the activity and with their management.

Project management inputs are project goals and objectives and stakeholder expectations. Enablers are risk management and decision gates. System owner policy and procedures and project plans are constraints. Outputs are the completed project, on time, within budget, and to the stakeholder's satisfaction.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Inputs:

Project goals and objectives as defined during the initiation of the project by such activities as planning, by the regional ITS architecture and other project studies.

Stakeholder expectations as expressed by management, funding providers, plus internal and external organizations, such as engineering, operations, and maintenance.

Control:

System's owner Policy and Procedures will provide valuable and sometimes mandatory guidance from the agency.

Project Plan & SEMP are prepared during the planning phase of this process and are the basis for management during the remainder of the project.

Enablers:

Risk management is used to analyze the viability of the project and stay ahead of the inevitable problems.

Control gates help management measure and ensure progress on the project.

Outputs:

Project completed is the desired outcome of this process; specifically, a project completed on schedule, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the stakeholders. Note: a too perfect record in this area is prime evidence of undershooting estimates. Or, to put it colloquially, padding the plan.

Process Activities:

Plan

Planning performs the following activities:

  • define major tasks: the necessary project activities, including: WBS, a task description, a budget, and a schedule is covered in another chapter[3.4.1, Project Planning]
  • identify needed resources [e.g., people, stakeholders, and facilities]
  • estimate the amount of work to be done so a budget and schedule can be derived
  • identify the risk areas to determine if anything should be included in the plan to mitigate those risks

Execute

Execution is putting the Project Plan /SEMP into motion and ensuring each activity in the plan is set up to accomplish its assigned tasks. Execution has to do with anticipating the needs for each activity. Execution ensures that the activities do not run into problems which will need after-the-fact intervention.

Monitor

Monitoring involves measuring the progress of each activity to assess its progress according to the plan. In general, activities can be measured by their products, by their expenditures, and by their performance according to the schedule. Expenditures and time are direct measures. More difficult is measuring the progress on products, but if a product can be broken down into parts, then overall progress can be measured by assessing the incremental completion of the parts. Interactive communication with the team is often the best way to get a feel for their progress.

Intervene

When monitoring indicates a problem, project management must act to control and rectify the situation. Intervention most often involves the adjustment of activities based on the affect of the problem.

Communicate

Provides the team continuous feedback and information on progress, issues, goals, objectives and vision of the project. Keeping the team informed and up-to-date and progress.

Learn

The Project Plan/SEMP must be considered "living" documents. Progress on the project activities will never go exactly as planned. The experiences of the preceding activities must be used to modify remaining activities.

Where does Project Management take place in the project timeline?

Where does Project Management take place in the project timeline?

Is there a policy or standard which includes Project Management? [Reference: PMI: BOK]

FHWA Final Rule does not specifically mention general project management practices to be followed. CMMI and PMI provide best practices in this area.

Which activities are critical for the system's owner to do?

In general, project management cannot be delegated to others. Of course, contractors will be required to have their own project management [which must be defined in their own Project Plan or equivalent]. Even then the system's owner must still manage the activities of the contractor. Major project management activities include:

  • Planning of all project activities along with task description, performing, organization, budget, and schedule
  • Facilitating the execution of each activity, especially by ensuring that all inputs are available and sufficient
  • Facilitating the execution of each activity by maintaining open communications between project management, and the performing organization of related activities
  • Monitoring the execution of each activity and intervening in that execution if necessary
  • Modifying not only the schedule and budget but the very processes of each activity based on the success of previous activities and encountered risks

How do I fit these activities to my project? [Tailoring]

Project planning is one of the most highly tailored of all the project processes. In fact, the purpose of the planning step is to tailor the agency's project management practices to the specifics of the project.

It is not uncommon for newer project managers to either over-plan or under-plan their project. With experience, it will become easier to develop project plans that are commensurate to the scope of the project. A plan that matches the scope will also maximize the usefulness of the information contained in the plan. A few guidelines are:

  • Some activities will be routine to the personnel performing the activity and some will be new. In general, it is best to use existing and familiar processes for the routine activities because the organization will be more comfortable and more efficient doing things the way they always have. For instance, an organization may have their customary processes for managing configuration control of their products. It is generally better to let them use those familiar processes than trying to force them to use new techniques or tools of dubious value. Of course, project management must make sure they will do configuration management when it is necessary. Utilization of tools/techniques SME and a change agent is advised here
  • The need for detail in the project's plan will increase for activities that involve or impact larger numbers of people, especially people from different organizations with different management structures. For a small team of only a few people, the need for detail of the processes in the plan can be minimal, as long as they understand the products they must produce
  • One area not to skimp on is detail on the deliverables of an activity. These need to be clear to the personnel performing the activity
  • The activities covered in the Project Plan/SEMP must align to the technical scope of the project. For ITS, this is especially true for projects needing custom software development. Ensure the plan is developed by people who have experience with the processes needed for each type of product. If the product is software code, software engineers must be involved in the planning
  • In preparing the project schedule, a careful analysis of each activity's outputs and inputs is necessary to refine the sequence of the activities. Obviously, if an activity needs a certain input, it must be an output from some previous task. However, it is often possible to initiate an activity before a needed output of another activity is completely finished. In addition to the inevitable start-up tasks, experienced personnel can judge what parts of the previous activity are solid enough to work with
  • A Work Breakdown Structure [see Chapter 3.4.1] is a very useful project management tool to ensure that all tasks have been identified

What should I track in this process step to reduce project risks and get what is expected? [Metrics]

On the technical side:

Progress in the preparation of activity deliverables and the analysis needed to prepare those deliverables

On the project management side:

  • Budget expenditure profiles and the relationship between work accomplished and budget expended
  • Task schedules and the similar relationship between work accomplished and time expended

Checklist: Are all the bases covered?

check Are the project's goals and objectives clear? Are they defined sufficiently to support project planning?
check Are the task descriptions, as well as the identification of inputs and outputs prepared for the project activities?
check Are the task descriptions, as well as the cost and time estimates being prepared by people familiar with the underlying processes?
check Are the task descriptions, budget, and schedule accepted by the performing organizations?
check Do the financial tracking processes provide accurate and timely information on team expenditures?
check Are regular, periodic [usually weekly] meetings being held with each active task team?
check Do these meetings review progress on the activity by looking at the preparation of products [outputs], expenditures, and progress relative to the schedule?
check When a problem is encountered, are intervening actions done in a timely and effective manner?

 

Checklist  
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