Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, managing, leading, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.
The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived constraints. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary —and more ambitious— challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet pre-defined objectives.
The project development stages
Traditionally, project management includes a number of elements: four to five process groups, and a control system. Regardless of the methodology or terminology used, the same basic project management processes will be used. Major process groups generally include:
- planning or design
- production or execution
- monitoring and controlling
In project environments with a significant exploratory element (e.g., research and development), these stages may be supplemented with decision points (go/no go decisions) at which the project's continuation is debated and decided. An example is the Phase–gate model.
Initiating process group processes
The initiating processes determine the nature and scope of the project. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’ needs. The key project controls needed here are an understanding of the business environment and making sure that all necessary controls are incorporated into the project. Any deficiencies should be reported and a recommendation should be made to fix them.
The initiating stage should include a plan that encompasses the following areas:
- analyzing the business needs/requirements in measurable goals
- reviewing of the current operations
- financial analysis of the costs and benefits including a budget
- stakeholder analysis, including users, and support personnel for the project
- project charter including costs, tasks, deliverables, and schedule
Planning and design
After the initiation stage, the project is planned to an appropriate level of detail (see example of a flow-chart). The main purpose is to plan time, cost and resources adequately to estimate the work needed and to effectively manage risk during project execution. As with the Initiation process group, a failure to adequately plan greatly reduces the project's chances of successfully accomplishing its goals.
Project planning generally consists of
- determining how to plan (e.g. by level of detail or rolling wave);
- developing the scope statement;
- selecting the planning team;
- identifying deliverables and creating the work breakdown structure;
- identifying the activities needed to complete those deliverables and networking the activities in their logical sequence;
- estimating the resource requirements for the activities;
- estimating time and cost for activities;
- developing the schedule;
- developing the budget;
- risk planning;
- gaining formal approval to begin work.
Additional processes, such as planning for communications and for scope management, identifying roles and responsibilities, determining what to purchase for the project and holding a kick-off meeting are also generally advisable.
For new product development projects, conceptual design of the operation of the final product may be performed concurrent with the project planning activities, and may help to inform the planning team when identifying deliverables and planning activities.
Executing process group processes
Executing consists of the processes used to complete the work defined in the project plan to accomplish the project's requirements. Execution process involves coordinating people and resources, as well as integrating and performing the activities of the project in accordance with the project management plan. The deliverables are produced as outputs from the processes performed as defined in the project management plan and other frameworks that might be applicable to the type of project at hand.
Monitoring and controlling
Monitoring and controlling process group processes
Monitoring and controlling consists of those processes performed to observe project execution so that potential problems can be identified in a timely manner and corrective action can be taken, when necessary, to control the execution of the project. The key benefit is that project performance is observed and measured regularly to identify variances from the project management plan.
Monitoring and controlling includes:
- Measuring the ongoing project activities ('where we are');
- Monitoring the project variables (cost, effort, scope, etc.) against the project management plan and the project performance baseline (where we should be);
- Identify corrective actions to address issues and risks properly (How can we get on track again);
- Influencing the factors that could circumvent integrated change control so only approved changes are implemented.
In multi-phase projects, the monitoring and control process also provides feedback between project phases, in order to implement corrective or preventive actions to bring the project into compliance with the project management plan.
Project maintenance is an ongoing process, and it includes:
- Continuing support of end-users
- Correction of errors
- Updates of the software over time
Monitoring and controlling cycle
In this stage, auditors should pay attention to how effectively and quickly user problems are resolved.
Over the course of any construction project, the work scope may change. Change is a normal and expected part of the construction process. Changes can be the result of necessary design modifications, differing site conditions, material availability, contractor-requested changes, value engineering and impacts from third parties, to name a few. Beyond executing the change in the field, the change normally needs to be documented to show what was actually constructed. This is referred to as change management. Hence, the owner usually requires a final record to show all changes or, more specifically, any change that modifies the tangible portions of the finished work. The record is made on the contract documents – usually, but not necessarily limited to, the design drawings. The end product of this effort is what the industry terms as-built drawings, or more simply, “as built.” The requirement for providing them is a norm in construction contracts.
When changes are introduced to the project, the viability of the project has to be re-assessed. It is important not to lose sight of the initial goals and targets of the projects. When the changes accumulate, the forecasted result may not justify the original proposed investment in the project.
Closing process group processes.
Closing includes the formal acceptance of the project and the ending thereof. Administrative activities include the archiving of the files and documenting lessons learned.
This phase consists of:
- Project close: Finalize all activities across all of the process groups to formally close the project or a project phase
- Contract closure: Complete and settle each contract (including the resolution of any open items) and close each contract applicable to the project or project phase.
Project controlling and project control systems
Project controlling should be established as an independent function in project management. It implements verification and controlling function during the processing of a project in order to reinforce the defined performance and formal goals. The tasks of project controlling are also:
- the creation of infrastructure for the supply of the right information and its update
- the establishment of a way to communicate disparities of project parameters
- the development of project information technology based on an intranet or the determination of a project key performance index system (KPI)
- divergence analyses and generation of proposals for potential project regulations
- the establishment of methods to accomplish an appropriate the project structure, project workflow organization, project control and governance
- creation of transparency among the project parameters
Fulfillment and implementation of these tasks can be achieved by applying specific methods and instruments of project controlling. The following methods of project controlling can be applied:
- investment analysis
- cost–benefit analyses
- value benefit Analysis
- expert surveys
- simulation calculations
- risk-profile analyses
- surcharge calculations
- milestone trend analysis
- cost trend analysis
Project control is that element of a project that keeps it on-track, on-time and within budget. Project control begins early in the project with planning and ends late in the project with post-implementation review, having a thorough involvement of each step in the process. Each project should be assessed for the appropriate level of control needed: too much control is too time consuming, too little control is very risky. If project control is not implemented correctly, the cost to the business should be clarified in terms of errors, fixes, and additional audit fees.
Control systems are needed for cost, risk, quality, communication, time, change, procurement, and human resources. In addition, auditors should consider how important the projects are to the financial statements, how reliant the stakeholders are on controls, and how many controls exist. Auditors should review the development process and procedures for how they are implemented. The process of development and the quality of the final product may also be assessed if needed or requested. A business may want the auditing firm to be involved throughout the process to catch problems earlier on so that they can be fixed more easily. An auditor can serve as a controls consultant as part of the development team or as an independent auditor as part of an audit.
Businesses sometimes use formal systems development processes. These help assure that systems are developed successfully. A formal process is more effective in creating strong controls, and auditors should review this process to confirm that it is well designed and is followed in practice. A good formal systems development plan outlines:
- A strategy to align development with the organization’s broader objectives
- Standards for new systems
- Project management policies for timing and budgeting
- Procedures describing the process
- Evaluation of quality of change