Project Management: Definition, Benefits and Risk Assessments

The benefits of project management

According to Cleveland and Lewis, “project management is a concept that enables managers to guide a project from and do so in a way that demonstrates efficiency, cost savings, and plain ingenuity ” (122). The benefits of project management arise from its ability to enable every participant of the project to apply knowledge and techniques that help achieve the objectives of a project. The benefits of project management can be summarized as follows:

  • Enhanced effectiveness: When a team can successfully complete a project by implementing several project management strategies, they will be able to accomplish many more using the experience. The knowledge, skills and tools allow an organization accomplishes many more projects in future.
  • Better delivery of service: A clear roadmap of doing things allows a business to complete projects easily and save time. Project management allows businesses to identify bumps and hindrances towards achieving goals, and work towards eliminating them. With time, a business is able to give better goods and services through perfection.
  • Risk management: Project management provides room for risk assessment in a project. As Grey points out, “project management provides a red flag at the right time and before a project begins and before it is completed, it is possible for investors to mitigate any potential threats that may arise” (27).
  • More time and cost-saving: Experience, consistency and effectiveness make it possible for businesses to save money, time and effort. Project management also allows businesses to assess risks and manage them before they occur, or minimize damages if they do occur. Using project management allows businesses to achieve quality and save on the cost of rejected goods and services.
  • Opportunities to expand services: Greater performances allow an organization to access bigger opportunities and have better standings in the markets. A competitive edge allows a business to create more superior performance and secure available opportunities.

Roles and responsibilities

The project manager

Depending on the nature of the project, a project manager may report to different authorities. His responsibilities are outlined below.

  • The project manager is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring a project is completed and its objectives are achieved.
  • He/she is the leader of the team assigned with different responsibilities in a project
  • The project manager develops the plan and assigns responsibilities to the rest of the team
  • Accepts and approves deliverables from suppliers, donors and other stakeholders
  • He/she communicates reports, and updates the senior management on the progress of the project.
  • Manage and mitigate risks involved in the project
  • Ensure the project is completed on time and within the set budget

Project director

Many times, a project director will delegate tasks and responsibilities to different people so that he/she is not involved in the day-to-day activities of the project. A project director’s responsibilities can be summarized as follows:

  • He/she is the main decision-maker throughout the project
  • He/she does the final approval of a project’s plan
  • He/she approves changes and all the stages as the project proceeds
  • The project director is involved in the project’s policy designs and implementation
  • He/she chairs and steers different committees assigned with different responsibilities
  • He/she serves as the executive representative

Leadership and communication

As Bentley explains, “effective leadership requires a combination of soft and hard skills to provide consistency and a process that delivers value” (112). However, lack of communication between the different parties and stakeholders may render good leadership useless. A project that lacks well-organized teamwork, will not be able to accomplish different stages of the project consistently, and will not be able to measure their delivery performance. Good leadership, combined with communication, creates a healthy project environment.

Communication strategies put in place must ensure that team members can have their contributions heard and considered, teams don’t operate in isolation, there is informed decision-making, there is support for each other and, risks and issues are easily highlighted. Communication also ensures respect among the teams, honesty and openness. Good project leadership involves the ability to delegate, consistency, admitting mistakes, open communication and motivation. A good leader must have above-average personal communication skills, and be attentive to every detail of the project.

Project initiation document

“The purpose of project initiation documentation is to define the project, to form the basis for its management and an assessment of its overall success” (Bentley 145). It gives the team and stakeholders the scope and direction of the project and the expected outcome. It also gives the contract between the board and the person in charge of the project. It has three primary uses namely;

  • Act as a basis for measuring progress and developing concerns and issues such as viability
  • “Ensures that the project board, sponsors and stakeholders have a basis under which they can base their commitment” (Bentley 110)
  • Provides a single access source of reference about the project. This allows new members of the team and people joining in later to easily enlighten themselves on what the project is about and how it will be accomplished.

For it to serve its purpose, it must at any particular time reflect on the status of the project. It must also show controls and the next plan of the project. This means that it requires constant updating to show the current status of the project. However, the original project initiation documentation must always be retained to be used as the basis against which performance is measured.

PRINCE2

“Project in controlled environments (PRINCE) is a project management method covering the management, control and organization of a project” (Bentley 33). The second version of this method is referred to as PRINCE2. This method of project management is process-driven and differs from the commonly used adaptive and reactive methods. The process stages can be summarized in the diagram below:

This method of project management works with different techniques but pays more attention to product-based planning, quality review strategies and change control methods. Its advantages include its structured approach and a clearly defined framework. It has a well-defined procedure that ensures coordinated activities, people, and resources. It also provides ways through which the project can be designed, supervised and controlled. “Key inputs and outputs are well defined in PRINCE2 method, making it easier to automatically control the plan and any deviations that may occur” (Bentley 114).

Risk assessments

“Risk assessment allows project managers to measure the quantitative and qualitative value of risks involved in a project, and recognize threats before they occur” (Grey 89). Risk assessment methodologies differ with the scope of a project. Qualitative risk assessment methodologies include preliminary risk analysis, hazards and effects analysis. According to Grey, “it involves a disciplined analysis of the sequences which could transform a potential hazard into an accident” (100). The process includes identifying all the undesirable events, analyzing them individually, and coming up with possible preventive or mitigation measures.

A hazard and operability study (HAZOP) study is another significant risk assessment method. HAZOP study is done by applying a systematic examination of the project’s process and intentions, as well as all the potential deviations and consequences that come with them. For this study, it is possible to identify potential operational problems. This risk assessment method also allows a project to put in place corrective measures where potential problems have been identified. Another risk assessment method is failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA). This method is used to identify risks and problems that may arise from malfunctions of systems. Potential failure threats and consequences are identified and categorized according to their severity.

Project: How to reduce accidents involving fire service vehicles

Benefits of the project

This project is aimed at reducing accidents involving fire service vehicles. Its objectives include bringing all municipal fire services under the management of local authorities, developing training courses for municipal workers, implementing response systems and new methods of servicing the vehicles. The ultimate goal of the project is to minimize accidents involving fire service vehicles by 70% in the next 1 year.

In this specific task, project management will allow the fire department to apply knowledge and techniques that help achieve the 70% reduction. The benefits of project management in this project include enhanced effectiveness which will arise from the department’s ability to do better projects through experience. The knowledge, skills and tools, therefore, allow an organization to accomplish many more projects in the future.

The department will be able to deliver better service by minimizing accidents. Its drivers, employees and the community it is serving will benefit from reduced risks, injuries and fatalities. As explained earlier, a clear roadmap of doing things will allow the department to complete projects easily and save time. The fire department will be able to identify hindrances towards reducing accidents, and work towards eliminating them. With time, the department will be able to give better goods and services through perfection and improved safety.

Other ways through which the fire department will benefit include being able to manage risks, saving money and time, and accessing opportunities to expand services. Managing risks is one of the crucial steps towards minimizing accidents for the department. More time and cost-saving will arise from experience, consistency and effectiveness. Using project management will further enable the department to achieve quality and save on the cost of poor services, which could result in more damage. By improving the quality of its services, the fire department will also be able to expand its services and opportunities.

Project management structure

An important factor in project management is leadership, learning to be flexible and the ability to embrace change. A project’s leader must be able to identify those processes that are not working and easily redesign them. Inefficient processes can cost the project a lot of money and even drag the other processes. Once a project has base-lined stages, it should be able to identify those processes that are either not working or are taking too long and costing it too much or more than it can bear. For smaller projects or those that require a lot of investments, key processes can be implemented one at a time. This way, a project can bear the costs and management becomes easier with fewer processes being handled at one time.

In this project, the team will be comprised of the following people:

The chief project inspector

This is also project management. His roles will be as follows:

  • Making the main decisions throughout the project
  • Approving every stage of the project
  • Reviewing and approving any necessary changes as the project proceeds, Implementing the designs and plan, and steering the different committees who will be assigned different responsibilities.

The chief inspector will also serve as the executive representative, as well as being the link between the project’s team and the executive management.

The assistant project inspector

  • The assistant manager will serve the following responsibilities:
  • Establish a rapport with the project associates and sponsors
  • Delegate responsibilities to different members of the team
  • Screen applicants, should there be a need to fill new positions
  • Analyze and interpret reports before they are handed over to the senior management
  • Take corrective measures when objectives are not being met

Leadership and communication

The chief project inspector will be the head of the team. He will report directly to the senior management and will also be responsible for updating them on the progress. In his team, there will be an assistant project inspector, a quality control officer and a disaster preparedness training officer. The assistant will serve as the leader of the team when the senior inspector is absent. It is also the responsibility of the assistant project inspector to ensure that tasks delegated to different people in the team are accomplished. The Quality control officer is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring good results from the beginning to the end of the project. It will be his responsibility to research areas that need urgent attention and recommend how quality of service can be improved.

Communication in the project will be ensured through regular meetings. The team is comprised of the town mayor who will serve as the chief project inspector and the assistant town mayor, who will serve as the assistant project inspector. Since some of the team members are outsourced from different organizations, regular meetings will be important to ensure consistency. The team will also make use of available technology such as telephones and the internet to ensure everyone is constantly updated.

Another key step towards making leadership easier is automating processes where possible and making them affordable. For example, the project manager must have an automated update system that allows him to update data constantly and share it with the rest of the team automatically. Using available technology reduces chances of human error and saves the project a lot of time. Many project leaders avoid such elements due to the high costs involved without realizing that the investment will save them much more in future.

Project initiation documentation

As explained earlier, the project initiation documentation serves as a guideline towards achieving the original objectives of a project. In the PRINCE2 method of project management, it is the plan of approach. In this project, it will contain the goals, scope, project case, organization and the constraints as listed below:

Scope

This project is aimed at reducing accidents involving fire service vehicles. Its objectives include bringing all municipal’s fire services under the management of local authorities, developing training courses for municipal workers, and taking other measures that ensure safety during service delivery. The ultimate goal of the project is to minimize accidents involving fire service vehicles by 70% in the next 1 year. It is expected to cost a total of $ 65,340,000.

Goals

  • To reduce the number of accidents involving fire service vehicles by 70% by June 2012
  • To put all municipal’s fire services under the management of local authorities by June 2012.
  • Develop training courses for all municipal workers on disaster preparedness
  • To introduce new response systems for the municipal’s fire service department by June 2012.
  • To introduce a new method of servicing fire service vehicles on monthly basis by June 2012

Organization

The project team will be made of the following;

  • Chief project inspector: The town mayor
  • Assistant project inspector: Assistant town mayor
  • Quality control officer: Chief town engineer
  • Disaster management trainer:Outsourced from the Red Cross Organization
  • IT Expert: Outsourced from the ministry of information technology and communication

Constraints expected in this project include

  • Inadequate cooperation from the stakeholders such as the public
  • Inadequate funding from the government

Comparing PRINCE2 structure and others

There are different approaches to project management. They include PRINCE2, the traditional approach, the event chain methodology and the event chain methodology. PRINCE2, the chosen method for this specific project has a more structured approach to different tasks in a project. Its advantages include a clearly defined framework for different tasks. It also gives procedures that coordinate people involved in the project. PRINCE2 clearly defines the necessary steps to be taken if stages don’t develop as planned. Each process has well-defined inputs and outputs, and the controls are automated. This method’s pitfall is the fact that it cannot serve small projects. It is also not applicable when a project’s requirements and procedures keep changing. This is because of the long process of creating documents involved each time there are changes.

The traditional project management approach is the oldest and commonly used by small businesses. Its advantages include its ability to allow a project manager to deal with one stage at a time. It is therefore easy to make changes and terminate the project if there is need to do so. However, the traditional approach has a high degree of uncertainty because the development of new products often leads to the realization of new products. Using traditional approaches during project management may make it hard for the team to solve new and evolving problems.

The event chain methodology is another commonly used project management approach. It is based on the principle of the probabilistic moment of risk, critical events chains, event chain visualization and project tracking. This approach has the advantage of allowing the project team to mitigate risks ad negative impacts early. However, its uncertainty modeling and inability to schedule tasks effectively may lead to lateness.

Risk Assessment in the project

When running a project, the key processes must be few and realistic enough to allow a realization of the intended goals and objectives. Important factors in managing such a project would include technology, availability of funds, accessibility and professionalism. “Key factors and stages are many times in constant interaction with each other and therefore, they need to be planned in a way that makes interaction possible” (Kliem 20). Today, project models are constantly changing calling for very flexible locations of key processes. Since the project may have different steps being implemented at the same time, there is need for standardization to ensure a high-efficiency rate of execution.

Asimakopoulou defines risk management as the “identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control them” (13). Risk management is only possible after an assessment has been done and possible threats are identified. Risks involved in a project can be categorized into financial, logistical and construction.

In this, project undesirable events that the project needs to address to meet its objectives include road accidents, fire accidents, late response and wrong procedures.

Risks already identified are lack of enough funding from the state government, and lack of cooperation from the communities and the public in general.

There are other types of financial risks that affect the cost factor of this project. They include inflation, fluctuating tax rates, delayed payments, repatriation of funds and foreign exchange rates. To manage these risks, the team has proposed negotiations with the state government, sponsors and other stakeholders. They have also proposed a community mobilization project to appeal for the public’s support.

Even though they do not pose a major threat to the project, logistical risks arise in any type of project. Logistical risks are mainly caused by a lack of proper transportation infrastructure in a region. They include the availability of resources and timely delivery of materials. The labor market and availability of professionals can also pose a major logistical threat. The department’s lack of quality management and IT experts has been compensated by outsourcing from other organizations. Logistical risks could also arise when construction equipment, labor, fuel, and other spare parts needed to improve the safety of fire cars are not delivered on time.

Works cited

Asimakopoulou, Eleana. Advanced ICTs for Disaster Management and Threat Detection: Collaborative Frameworks. Hershey, PA: Information Science References, 2010. Print.

Bentley, Colin. Practical PRINCE2. London: TSO, 2005. Print.

Clealand, David and Lewis Ireland. Project Management: Strategic Design and Implementation. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2006. Print.

Grey, Stephen. Practical Risk Assessment for Project Management. Chichester: Wiley, 1995. Print.

Kliem, Ralph. Project Management Methodology. Washington D.C.: Business Solutions Association, 2009. Print.