Project Management: Project Planning Tools

Introduction

A project is a set of tasks undertaken to achieve specific objectives within a precise time frame. Tasks falling under this definition existed many years ago, and they include the construction of pyramids and the great wall in Egypt and China respectively. They had timelines, goals and were temporary in nature. However, the concept of project management developed in the early 1960s as a result of USA space exploration programs. It aimed at optimizing and collaborating resources like skills, time and money to achieve predefined targets such as landing on the moon. Today, students learn project management principles, practices, techniques and tools in colleges and universities. Project management entails four processes: defining the project, planning the project, executing the plan and evaluating the project. Good projects must take into account factors such as shareholders’ interests, environmental conditions and available resources. Moreover, the objective must be clear and achievable. The project manager has the responsibility of ensuring that the project is beneficial to its intended clients. As Frame (2002) noted, “increasingly, professionals involved with project management recognized that the worst kind of failure you have is carrying out projects that do not satisfy customers” (p. 8).

Technological project planning tool

The use of technology in any business venture cannot be overemphasized. Modern technology has totally altered the way organizations do business. The future of many institutions relies on their capacity to use information and technology in operational activities such as communication and distribution of products and services (Schwalbe, 2011). In project management, all processes from conception to evaluation and termination may involve the use of technology. The institutionalized information system aids in key decision-making processes. Online database management software like Clarizen tracks all the tasks performed by different departments in organizations. It ensures the availability of information relating to resources, workforce, timelines and expenses on a real-time basis. As a result, the reduced time taken for the decision-making process promotes operational efficiency within the institution. The customized interface allows the project manager to share information and respond to issues raised by implementers.

Strategic project planning tool

The ever-changing business environment and emerging concepts like globalization require the integration of modern management practices in running organizations. Levine (2002) argued, “it is not much what we manage that is so different, but rather the way we manage and measurement and control practices involved in the task” (p. 3). Strategic project planning is widely accepted because it is result-oriented. Schmidt (2009) stated, “project management skills are valuable, but to triumph in today’s competitive arena, you must also be strategic” (p. 7). It employs the use of business management practices in managing projects. Strategy is the means to get to the desired level. Strategic planning involves the identification and assessment of strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats within an organization. Thereafter, a strategy is crafted to tackle challenges and exploit available opportunities.

Graphical project planning tool

Project managers operate under fixed time frames. They require tools that manage time limits for various activities in complex systems. The use graphical method provides a means of organizing different activities and times in a diagrammatic way. As Keoki et al (2008) noted ”a diagram of this type is a simple medium for effectively communicating complex job interdependencies.” (p. 28). The diagrammatic methods involve planning, allocation of time and monitoring. In the planning phase, activities and the ways of how to perform them are identified. Then dates and times are fixed against each task. Finally, there is a comparison between allocated time and progress time in the monitoring phase. Each task has its goals to achieve. Two commonly used charts are Gantt and Pert. Gantt is a unique bar chart with timelines on the horizontal axis and tasks arranged in order of increasing duration on the vertical axis. On the other hand, the Critical Path Method (CPM) is a table that contains task information like earlier start date, duration, type, and other dependable tasks. Therefore, it is more difficult to construct a CPM chart than a Gantt chart because of differences in the information captured.

References

Frame, Davidson. (2002). The new project management: Tools for an age of rapid change, complexity and other business realities. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Keoki, S., Hudson, R., & Sears, G. (2008). Construction project management: a practical guide to field construction. Hoboken: John Willey & Sons.

Levine, Harvey, (2002). Practical project management: Tips, tactics & tools. New York: John Willey & Sons.

Schmidt, Terry. (2009). Strategic management made simple: practical tools for leaders and teams. New York: John Willey & Sons.

Schwalbe, Kathy. (2011). Information technology project management. Florence: Cengage Learning.