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Essential Project Manager Toolkit

While there are many facets of project management and many lessons to be learned from both troubled projects and successful projects, there is an essential set of tangible tools that any project manager needs to have to best manage any project. Table 3.2 lists these essential tools and why they are important.

The important principles to remember regarding project management tools are as follows:

  • Any planning document needs to be reviewed and agreed to by appropriate project stakeholders and team members.

  • Separate documents are not always needed. Smaller projects might combine relevant information (especially "plan" documents) into a single "grouped" document.

  • The essential tools represent the key information and thought processes that is needed to effectively manage the project.

Table 3.2 Essential Project Manager Tools





Project Charter

Authorizes project and the project manager

Provides official notice to the organization

May not always be a formal document; At a minimum, get an email notification

Project Definition Document

Defines project purpose, objectives, success criteria, and scope statement

Key for managing expectations, controlling scope, and completing other planning efforts

Core tool

Requirements Document

Defines the specifications for product/output of the project

Key for managing expectations and controlling scope

Core tool

Project Schedule

Shows all work efforts, properly estimated, with logical dependencies, assigned to responsible resources scheduled against a calendar

Key for directing all project team work efforts; Key for managing expectations; Allows for impact and what-if simulations when things change

Core tool

Status Reports

Periodic reviews of actual performance versus expected performance

Provides essential information to stakeholders; Allows for timely identification of performance variances

See Chapter 10, "Controlling a Project," and Chapter 17, "Managing Project Communications," for more details

Milestone Chart

A summary of the detailed project schedule showing progress against key milestone

Allows stakeholders to see high level project progress on one page

Detailed schedule roll-ups can be difficult to read and interpret; Incorporate into Status Report

Project Organization Chart

Shows all project stakeholders and the working relationships among them

Allows team members to get a better understanding of project project roles and organizational dynamics

On smaller projects, may be combined with project plan or project definition document

Responsibility Matrix

Defines all project roles and indicates what responsibilities each role has

Key for managing expectations; Establishes accountability

On smaller projects, may be combined with project plan or project definition document

Communication Plan

Defines the how, what, when, and who regarding the flow of project information to stakeholders

Key for managing expectations; Establishes buy-in

On smaller projects, may be combined with project plan or project definition document

Quality Management Plan

Defines the approaches and methods that will be utilized to manage the quality levels of project processes and results

Key for managing expectations regarding quality, performance, and regulatory compliance matters; Impacts work efforts and project schedule Establishes accountability

On smaller projects, may be combined with project plan or project definition document

Staffing Management Plan

Lists how project resources will be acquired, when they are needed, how much they are needed, and how long they will be needed

Key for building schedule; Key for properly managing resources

May also include role profiles, rates, training needs; On smaller projects, may be combined with project plan or project schedule

Risk Response Plan

Lists each identified risk and the planned response strategy for each

Communicates potential issues in advance Proactive measures help reduce impact to project

On smaller projects, may be combined with project plan or project definition document

Project Plan

Formal, approved document that is used to manage project execution

Includes all other supplemental planning documents; Key output of project planning

On smaller projects, may be combined with project definition document

Deliverable Summary

Defines and lists all deliverables to be produced by the project

Key to managing expectations; Ensures proper visibility, tracking, and reporting of targeted deliverables

May be combined with status reports

Project Log

Captures essential information for each project risk, issue, action item, and change request

Ensures proper visibility, tracking, and reporting of items impacting the project

Core tool

Change Request Form

Captures essential information for any requested change that impacts scope, schedule, or budget

Allows change item to be properly assessed and communicated before action is taken

Core tool

Project Notebook

Used by project manager to maintain official record of important project documents and deliverables

Part of managing project information

Electronic and/or hardcopy versions

The Absolute Minimum

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of the following:

  • What defines a successful project and why it is not always easy to measure

  • The common reasons why projects get in trouble and what you can do to avoid them

  • The key principles that serve as the foundation for most successful projects

  • The essential project management tools and why they are important

The map in Figure 3.1 summarizes the main points we reviewed in this chapter.

figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 Essential elements for any successful project overview.

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