Project Management

Algorithmic BrAInProject Management

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Project management is an art and a science that strives to make sure that a project and its component work packages and tasks are completed successfully, on time, within budget and in accordance with the project’s quality and design criteria. It is a systematic approach to planning, scheduling and controlling the work involved in completing a project.

According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements”, a process of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling an endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service in order to meet specific goals. A “project” may be one end-product of many processes or other projects, such as research & development projects or software development efforts, or it may be the result of a few.

Project Management is becoming increasingly important in today’s business world owing to the fact that many managers are required to plan, schedule and control projects with limited resources and very tight deadlines. Luckily for project managers, the power and sophistication of tools that can be used for managing projects has also improved drastically over the past two decades. Some of the most popular tools include Microsoft Project, MS Excel, MS Visio, Atlassian JIRA, Oracle Project Management and several others which despite their lower uptake still offer interesting options and functionalities.

Commonly-deployed conceptual tools, on the other hand, include:

    • Gantt charts, which are similar to other bar-chart schedules but have some unique features. The left side of a Gantt chart is called the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Each task in a Gantt chart is represented by a bar and shows the duration of the task, as well as its current completion rate. The time scale on all Gantt charts is always linear, as opposed to logarithmic (as in the case of some pom-charts, for example). Most Gantt charts also include some sort of legend to indicate which colours and shapes on the chart represent which elements.
    • Critical Path Method (CPM) charts, which use durations and dependencies between activities to build a network diagram representing all tasks involved in completing the overall project with tasks where any delays will result in cascading delays throughout the other project tasks and ultimately on the project itself. The CPM chart is useful for visualising activity interdependencies. However, it does not provide any information about resource requirements or capability constraints such as capacity.
    • PERT diagrams, with PERT standing for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. This is a family of network diagramming techniques used to estimate and schedule projects using probabilistic methods. It was developed by the US Navy in the 1950s, but has since been adopted widely in project management.PERT diagrams describe a project as a sequence of tasks that need to be completed, along with estimates of how long each task will take. The timescale on these diagrams tends to use “critical path” terminology – so individual tasks are described as being within or outside the critical path, which is the sequence of tasks that must all be completed before any further progress can be made on a project. PERT diagrams show how much you can reduce your risk if you delay a particular activity, which is referred to as float.Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) is a commonly-used activity risk analysis method. PERT activities have three different time estimates, namely the optimistic, most-likely and pessimistic estimates. The expected value of each activity is computed as a weighted average of these three values. There are several methods for computing these weights and which one is deployed in a particular case will depend on the circumstances at hand.
        The PERT technique is particularly useful for:

      1. Projecting activity completion times and identifying tasks that are likely to delay the project; and
      2. Identifying activities or tasks that will significantly affect the project outcome. This information can be used to help identify potential delays or problems before they become critical, and plan strategies to avoid them.
        The PERT technique has several drawbacks, namely:

      1. there are no standards for estimating the optimistic, most likely and pessimistic activity times. This makes it difficult to compare the results of different analyses;
      2. PERT estimates can be overly optimistic because they do not account for risk factors that will lengthen time estimates (e.g. activities requiring special knowledge or skills that are difficult to find); and
      3. PERT assumes that all activities occur in series. There are no provisions for backtracking or parallel activities, which may be common on large projects.
    • Critical Chain Method (CCM) is one of the most powerful and useful lean tools in Project Management. It is a method for scheduling tasks to be done in an optimal sequence. As such, it is a tool that helps keep the work flow smooth while avoiding unnecessary bottlenecks, delays, or idle time. The Critical Chain Method can be used as a stand-alone method or together with a kanban system. Critical Chain combines many of the advantages of both Lean and Agile methods into one framework. It is a very simple, intuitive method and therefore easy to understand and use. As an iterative, evolutionary approach, it produces incremental improvements over time. It makes it possible to plan and measure progress with more confidence than other lean methods such as Lean Thinking or Lean Production System and provides a robust framework for managing change.Critical Chain focuses on the workflow rather than individual tasks or people. In this sense it differs from agile methodologies which focus on individuals and small teams rather than the organisation of the workflow as a whole. Critical chain tends to be less prescriptive than other lean methods; it relies on management’s ability to monitor and measure performance in order to make informed decisions about scheduling future actions. This presents many challenges, but also opportunities for improvements in decision-making based on real data collected during implementation instead of wishful thinking or belief-based planning tactics used by several organisations today when they are trying to achieve their strategic goals.

A practitioner of project management is called a “project manager”, in pretty much the same way that a developer of software products is called an “application programmer”, with which project management incidentally shares several similarities. Like programmers, project managers must have at least an understanding of business processes and how such processes can be improved by using technology. However, different industries will require different technical skills from their project managers to manage effectively. Project manager is not a job title, or at least not a job title alone. It is above all a role that requires a very specific set of skills and comes with a set of responsibilities.

A project manager must possess leadership as well as communication and technical skills to be able to carry out a project effectively and to be able to guide team members and serve as a point of reference for them on project management issues that might arise during the execution of a project. Project managers have a number of responsibilities. One of the primary roles of the project manager is to schedule resources to achieve the project’s objectives and milestones. Project managers are often required to be able to reduce scope or time for an effort when necessary, as well as being familiar with various techniques used in this regard (like, for example, fast tracking). Project scheduling can be complex and requires careful planning, especially where projects have multiple interdependent tasks and challenging deadlines.

Project managers are generally retained by organisations carrying out projects for their own benefit or the benefit of their constituents. Project managers work in fields like construction, logistics, health, infrastructure, and information technology, where they support large-scale implementations that require careful planning to ensure that the systems are implemented correctly without disrupting the services used by the customers who depend on them, or at least while keeping such disruptions to a bare minimum.

Projects have unique aspects: they are temporary in duration but often have long lead times; they involve temporary organisation structures (though many still live with flat hierarchies); some can be very complex; all must deliver tangible results; and there is a tendency to manage them as if they were going to last forever when in fact most don’t make it past six months without being replaced by another project.

Successful project management thus has unique challenges compared to managing more permanent business operations. Project managers are required “to do more with less” than leaders in other roles since the nature of a specific project means that oftentimes team members will be hired from outside the organisation and then returned back to their home base once the task at hand is completed, leaving behind only an audit trail rather than a lasting legacy within the organisation’s structure.

Every aspect of a well-managed project has the potential of becoming critical since no one task might have more priority over another and all must succeed if any one is expected to succeed at all. This characteristic makes it difficult for traditional organisations’ employees to be assigned temporarily into “project roles” while working on routine tasks due to lack of time, understanding or experience with such roles. The route adopted by several organisations is thus to provide training that takes place while work is ongoing on other tasks, or to outsource the project management activity in its entirety. And this is exactly where we come in.

Services Offered

  • Project Management training;
  • Microsoft Project training;
  • Atlassian JIRA training;
  • Project planning and scheduling;
  • Project Management SOPs;
  • Project cost estimation and budgeting;
  • Risk assessments and management;
  • Materials purchasing and procurement;
  • Outsourced Project Management;
  • Project monitoring; and
  • Project closure and knowledge management.

Our project management services are supported by an extensive range of consulting services including business planning, implementation support, technology selection, enterprise architecture and knowledge management.

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