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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The technical definition of project management is,” the discipline of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve specific goals and meet specific success criteria”. ‘Project' and ‘Project Management' are two terms which continues to grow in the society we live in and its organizations. One can achieve goals through product management which are usually difficult to achieve by the traditional methods. Knowing that project management has existed since a very long time but has started gaining popularity only in the early 1960s.A project put the Indian- American astronaut Kalpana Chawla in the space. A project made ‘Star Citizen' a successful videogame and there are many more successful projects whose example can be given. Thus, project management helps to accomplish various aims of society's varied organisation in order to grow continuously and progressively.

Many organizations usually use project management to achieve different aims with finite resources under definite time period. In the tertiary sector of the economy, one using project management in order to accomplish an organization's aims is very normal. Promotional drives, advertisement of a product, political struggle etc., all are various examples of projects.  There is comparatively more scope of the using project management in order to complete projects of an organization rather than using traditional methods resulting in a rapid increase in the number of companies using it. Also, it has been marked over a decade that project management acts as a mean by which an organization achieves their objectives. Also, it is a perplexing task loaded with convoluted responsibilities.   

According to Project Management Institute, a project is defined as “A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service”. There are many societies all over the world which has a rich diversity of project in them but then, many argue about the creation of these projects at the very first place. For example, the creation of Tower of Babel or the Egyptian pyramids is still a hot topic of argument for many. However, it is believed that the modern project management begun with this huge project of ‘Manhattan city' which was quite huge and difficult.

Since the techniques of project management was mainly developed by the military forces, its usage began to spread all over the world. It was well noticed by everyone that project management worked best on small projects such as construction of a granary or building a villa etc. Many of the automobile companies started using project management for the development of new automobile models. Also, many companies used it for the development of jet aircraft engines for the Air Force as well as for different commercial airlines. It has also come to notice recently that project management is growing rapidly within the international organizations and also, in the organizations which produce services rather than the products.

Some attributes of project are:

1. Importance

The utmost important characteristic of a project is that it should be significant enough for the high ranking management to substantiate in setting up a distinct body division somewhere outside the repetitive arrangement of the organization. Also, it is seen that if less importance is given to the suspects, or even the organization minds then, the project usually tends to fail miserably. There are numerous reasons for a failure of a project and it can be anything ranging from handing the project to a wrong person to failing to provide the required resources and so on.

2. Performance

A project is generally defined a temporary endeavor taken to accomplish a common aim with finite set of sources. The whole task can be divided into sub parts in order to achieve goals set in a project by an organization. Also, dividing the project into sub parts makes the task easier and faster.

3. Uniqueness

Every project has some unique elements in them which leads the desired end results to be unique too. No two projects are exactly alike. Also, this characteristic makes it clear that projects cannot be totally condensed to routine.

4. Life cycle with a Finite Due Date

Projects have life cycles just like any other organic entities. They first tend to grow in size, then peak, start to decline and then terminate finally.

5. Interdependencies

Often different projects carried out by the same organization have to compete with each other for finite sources available to them. They interact so that they could cope up with the standards of the parent organization. They are many factors which play an important role in it. Marketing and Finance plays an important role in the starting and the ending of the project while Manufacturing plays a major role throughout it.

6. Resources

As mentioned earlier, projects have limited funds for personal as well as for other assets and very often, the budgets are disguised rather than detailed. Any attempt to attain extra resources leads to conflicts.

7. Conflict

The Project Manager lives in a world of conflict and should excel in conflict resolution unlike other managers. Most of the projects contest with operative subdivisions for the capitals and personnel. With the rapid increase in numbers of projects, there is a rise in competition between different projects for funds within the same organizations. There is a constant pressure on the members of the project to get the funds as well as the leadership roles in solving the problems faced in a project.

Now that we have discussed in detail what ‘project' and ‘project management' means and its attributes. It is important for us to know the answer of this question,” why project management?”.

A simple purpose for introducing a project is to achieve certain goals defined by the organization. The plain reason for categorizing a task into a project is to prioritise the responsibility and rights in order to fulfil the aims set on a small group or maybe an individual. Even though the project manager plays an important role in a project but it is the manager who is required and supposed to coordinate and incorporate all the actions in order to accomplish the project's goal. The manager is expected to be receptive to:

i. The customer and its surroundings

ii. Learn and rectify the problem at its primary stage

iii. Make appropriate decisions in order to solve the conflict between two projects

iv. Establish that the managers from two individual tasks give their best without optimising the performance of each other.

A notable amount of users has reported that project management leads to lower costs, better quality and reliability, shorter periods to develop and higher profit margins compared to others. Also, it ensures better coordination between different departments involved in the project, higher team spirit and sharper attitude towards the result.

Let's consider a case study to understand project management (PM) better. The case study taken is here is about,” Mr. Infrastructure Man of India: Anil Manibhai Naik”.

Mr. Anil Manibhai Naik is the Chairman and Managing Director of Larsen & Tourbo also known as, L&T. The company has used project management as one of its effective technique tool which has helped it in maintaining a leadership position as well as supporting a regular development, expansion, and productivity. He was awarded with the 3rd highest civilian award called the, ‘Padma Bhushan' on 26 January, 2009. He also received the “Economic Times Business Leader Award” in 2008 which is considered to be one of the most prestigious award.

Mr. Naik joined Larsen & Tourbo as a junior engineer in 1996 and became its General Manager in 1985. He became a Member of Board in 1989, President(Operations) in 1995, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director in 1999, and finally the chairman on 30 December, 2003. His growth has now become an inspiration to all the maturing projects and to the operation managers.

The company has seen an impressive growth in the past years and its tribute goes to Mr. Naik. It has built the world's longest pipeline from western to northern India, the highest bridge in the north of India, and world's longest conveyor system to carry limestone from north of India to Bangladesh. The best of project management capability is the main reason for the achievement of L&T and it requires time, cost and quality management of huge size projects. India has always banked on L&T for constructing nuclear power generation plants, enormous railways, airports, metro, defence projects and port projects.

The project Life Cycle

One common goal that project manager and the project team share is to carry out the project in the best possible way in order to meet the project's objective. Every project taken has a beginning, a middle stage and a successful or unsuccessful ending. A typical project has four main stages:

i. Initiation or Conception

ii. Development

iii. Execution

iv. Transfer or Closure

These four stages together show the path taken by a project from its beginning to its ending is called “life cycle of a project”.

i. INITIATION OR CONCEPTION PHASE

It is the first phase of the project life cycle and its objective is to identify the requirement or the need of the project. Followed by, collecting the suitable data for the goal to be achieved and then recommending suitable solutions for it and choosing the best out of them. It ensures that the solution chose is practical and economical. Once the best solution is approved by the organisation, the project is started and a project manager is hired. The project manager then appoints a project team which starts working on the work in hand to give its best. Also, an attempt is made to use minimal resources to achieve the set target. They re-assess the risks to be taken in the project and if they find it suitable, they go ahead with it.

ii. DEVELOPMENTAL PHASE

It is the second phase of project life cycle which is also called the planning phase, is where the project solution opted in the above phase is developed in detail and necessary steps are taken to meet the project's demand.  In this phase, the project team identifies and divides all the work done and makes a rough sketch for it. The sketch created for the project recapitulates the tasks, reliance, activities and the lapse of time. The project manager manages the project budget by creating a cost estimation for the material, workforce and the materialistic cost.

iii. EXECUTION PHASE

It is the third phase of project life cycle in which the project scheme is put in motion and the work required for the project is started. It is very important to uphold control and communicate during the operation. Development in the project is continuously observed and suitable modifications are made. If any issues occur, they are resolved as soon as possible without wasting time. The project manager ensures that the progress is made and its information is reported when the regular team meetings are held and uses this information to keep control over the track of project by studying the progress reports to measure the team performance.   

iv. TRANSFER PHASE

It is the final phase of project life cycle which is also called the closure phase. During this phase, importance is given on releasing the final results to the client by passing on the credentials for business purposes. Further, reviews are collected and all accounts are settled. All the lessons learned during the project completion are archived by every individual working on it and all records are closed.  The last step is to analyse and inspect what went well and what didn't go well during the whole process.

NETWORK TECHNIQUES:

The most common network techniques used in a project completion are Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), Critical Path Method(CPM) and Gantt Charts are described in detail below:

Program Evaluation and Review Technique(PERT):

It is a network technique used to schedule, organize and organize tasks involved in a project. It is a method used to analyse a task given in a project and involves various steps in it. PERT is a methodology which was developed by the U.S Navy in collaboration with BoozAllen Hamilton and the Lockheed Corporation for the Polaris submarine project in early 1958. PERT was mainly developed for “research” side of the R&D projects but it is more commonly used for the “development” side and it is probabilistic instead of deterministic. It was designed to handle risk and uncertainty. It has been used for almost fifty years in project management but in 2005, its name was switched to Arrow Diagram Method(ADM). ADM refers to the network of activities which are represented by arrows and thus, called Activity On Arrow(AOA).

PERT involves following steps described below:

I. Identification of the specific activities and milestones- the activities refers to the task given in a project while the milestones refer to the beginning and ending of one or more than one activities in a project.

II. Construct a correct network structure-  we used the activity sequence determined to construct a network diagram to show the parallel and serial activities. The activities are represented by a node while the arrows show the relation between each activities.

III. Time estimation for each activity- the unit commonly used for estimation of time is weeks but any unit which represents time can be used. The feature which separates PERT from any other network technique is its ability to deal with the uncertainty in activity completion time.

It assumes a beta probability distribution for the estimation of time and the expected time can be estimated using the following formula.

   Expected time= (optimistic +4 x Most Likely + Doubtful) / 6

    Where,

    Optimistic time- shortest time taken to complete an activity.

    Most likely time- completion time of a project having a high probability.

    Doubtful time- longest duration which an activity might take to get completed.

The variance for an activity is calculated as:

     [(doubtful – optimistic) / 6]2

 Over the years, the features which distinguished between PERT from CPM have diminished and thus, we just use the term CPM these days.

Critical Path Method(CPM):

CPM is a methodology which is used for planning a project which is a combination of several individual activities. It was developed by Morgan R. Walker of DuPont and James E. Kelley in the early 1950s. It was mainly designed for construction purposes and was used by construction industry. CPM is deterministic instead of probabilistic and is more concerned with trade-off between cost and time. CPM is now called Precedence Diagram Method(PDM) which refers to a network in which the activities are represented by nodes and thus, called Activity of Nodes(AON). Before we proceed, it's very important to understand some terms which are used in CPM:

i. Activity- “portions of task which is required by project, uses up resource and consumes time and may involve labor, power, machines and tools”.

ii. Event or Nodes- “is the beginning and ending points of one or more activities”

iii. network- “combination of all the activities and events in a project   

iv. First Antecedent- “activities that, when completed, enable the start of the activity in question”.  

v. Arcs- “indicates project activities”

Dummy activities also called dummies are used to represent complex activities in a project. The main use of dummy activity is to recognize the first antecedent relationships in a network and to disregard the likely confusion between the activities starting from the same point and ending at the same point. Dummies have zero duration and do not show the actual work done in the project. Generally, they show the interdependence of one activity on other. These activities have no resources i.e., labour, tools, machines or power as their main function is to preserve logic in a network. Also, dummies are represented by dotted lines and not by gradient or solid lines.

Ways to use dummy activity while solving CPM/PERT problems-

Slack    

Slack, also called float shows the amount of flexibility available by an activity to accomplish its goal without delaying the estimated completion time of the project. It shows how much time the project can be delayed to the: (i) subsequent tasks (free float) and (ii) project completion date (total float). It is usually determined as the difference between the late start time (LST) and early start time (EST). Also, it calculates the free time available for starting and ending an activity in a network. Float is one of the core element of critical path method (CPM) with the total floats of uncritical activities key to calculating the critical path time of an activity, i.e., the extra amount of time it is taking for completing a project.

These are the following steps used in CPM:

I. Single out a particular activity that is to be done in the project and approximate how much time it will take to complete the activity singled: we look at the information in hand and then, identify the activities and the duration it takes

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