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Exploring Project Management Industry Standards

Anyone can create a file using Microsoft Project. Organizing that file into a logical flow of work, however, requires a solid understanding of how projects should be managed and decomposed into logical units. To understand project management, one must understand the standards and methodology behind it. While Gantt Charts and other similar resources are used in almost all project management schedules, there are several different ways of using those resources. This chapter will discuss prominent industry standards that are often used to set a framework for building schedules. A variety of methodologies, team styles, and life cycles will also be explored. The approach and techniques will vary but the software can still be used to support virtually any approach to scheduling that an individual or organization chooses to use.

Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK)

The Project Management Institute, or PMI, is an internationally recognized organization that has developed standards for the domain of project management including standards for portfolio management, program management, project management, and work breakdown structures. PMI has several hundred thousand members in over 65 countries. It is widely recognized for its certification programs and continues to grow through a combination of volunteer efforts, certification programs, local chapter events, international seminars, and special interest groups.

The standards created by PMI are authored by a vast network of project management professionals who volunteer their time to create and update these standards on a regular basis. The standards groups are from many different countries across the globe; they research topics and collaborate to bring together the latest thinking and techniques from their collective experience.

The PMI standard that is of primary importance for this chapter of the book is in its third edition and is known as: "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge," also known as the PMBOK Guide. It will be discussed in some detail in this chapter to help in understanding all of the components that should be considered when creating a schedule. Because PMI is a standards and certification organization, it does not prescribe methodologies or "how to" approaches, rather it defines specific standards and offers certifications in the field of project management. The PMBOK provides a context for a way to do things, rather than the process that should be followed. Inexperienced project managers often try to make their schedules follow PMBOK as if it were a recipe for success. This can lead them into traps and complexity that is not useful in completion of their projects. Instead, they should look to the PMBOK for support of the methodology and life cycle that they choose to follow.

The PMBOK Guide has established five process groups to define the project management process. These processes are as follows:

  • Initiating Process Group—Defines and authorizes the project or a project phase
  • Planning Process Group—Defines and refines objectives, and plans the course of action required to attain the objectives and scope that the project is to address
  • Executing Process Group—Integrates people and other resources to carry out the project management plan
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group—Regularly measures and monitors progress to identify variances from the project management plan so that corrective action can be taken when necessary to meet project objectives
  • Closing Process Group—Formalizes acceptance of the product, service, or result and brings the project or a project phase to an orderly end

Projects are created and implemented in environments that are larger in scope than the projects themselves. All projects must have a beginning and an end, as shown by the Initiating and Closing Process Groups. In between, a project will be engaged continually with the other three process groups, as shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 The relationship among the PMBOK process groups (taken from Figure 3-4, PMBOK Guide, Third Edition).

The PMBOK identifies nine knowledge areas that a project manager should consider throughout the entire life cycle of a project. Knowledge areas focus on a specific aspect of the overall domain and identify the elements that need to be considered to properly manage a project.

  • Project Integration Management—This knowledge area looks at the processes and activities that are needed to identify, define, combine, unify, and coordinate the different actions within a Project Management Process Group.
  • Project Scope Management—This knowledge area handles scope planning, scope definition, creating a WBS (decomposition of the scope into smaller components), scope verification, and scope control.
  • Project Time Management—This knowledge area concerns five different steps: activity definition, activity sequencing, activity resource estimating, activity duration estimating, and schedule development.
  • Project Cost Management—This knowledge area involves planning, estimating, budgeting, and controlling costs so a project can be finished within budget.
  • Project Quality Management—This knowledge area determines policies, objectives, and responsibilities to meet a project's quality standards.
  • Project Human Resource Management—This knowledge area helps organize and manage a project's team, the people necessary for the completion of the project.
  • Project Communications Management—This knowledge area involves the processes that ensure timely generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and disposition of information.
  • Project Risk Management—This knowledge area envelopes risk management planning, identification, analysis, responses, monitoring, and controlling of a project.
  • Project Procurement Management—This knowledge area involves the processes necessary to purchase products, services, or results from outside the project team.

The nine knowledge areas are specifically designed to work with the five process groups to identify possible areas for management within the scope of the project. They are referred to here as the "5×9 checklist." When the two components are combined, they provide guidance for what elements should be considered at what time in a project. In the context of MSP desktop, the key knowledge areas are scope, time, and cost. These components will help you build the initial project schedule framework. All of the other knowledge areas will play a part in building the working baseline schedule, and it is recommended that each be considered in the context of the framework. For example, the resources to be applied to a project may involve both the Project Human Resource Management and the Project Procurement Management knowledge areas. Until you have a general idea of the scope, expected timeframes, and budget for that work, however, you will not be able to identify which area is most appropriate. The emphasis for each knowledge areas varies by phase of project; some will be more important in one phase than another, but all of the nine are used throughout the project.


PRINCE2, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environments, is a project management methodology developed by the United Kingdom government. It is in its second release and was originally known as the PRINCE technique. The first release was established in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) as a standard for information technology project management. Because of its success in IT, the methodology was republished about seven years later in a version that could be applied across many other disciplines. PRINCE2 was again updated in 2005 by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and has become the standard for project management in the UK, and is now used in 50 other countries. You can become certified in the use of PRINCE2 at either one of two levels: Foundation and Practitioner.

PRINCE2 uses a simple four-step process to explain what each project will need, as shown in Figure 3.2. This process is explained in more detail using the following eight different processes, sometimes known as the Validation, Quality, Verification, and Approval steps:

  • Start-up—This is when a project manager is chosen. Then the need for the project is defined and outlined as to how it will be executed.

  • Direction—The project manager, who reports to the Project Board, is responsible for managing the details. The Project Board is responsible for the overall success of the current project and defines the direction in which the project will be heading.

  • Initiation—The Project Initiation Document is prepared and submitted to the Project Board for approval and possible revision.

  • Stage Control—During this stage, the project is broken down into several different manageable stages. The number of stages will depend on the size and risk level of the project, and each stage must also plan for the succeeding stage. Before any new stage can begin, the current stage must be fully finished.

  • Stage Boundary Management—At this stage, the Project Board must review the current stage and then develop the process for the next stage. It is only after the approval for the execution of the current stage and the planning of the next stage that the project can continue.

  • Planning—This stage is used for deciding what products will be produced and what is required for their production. Then estimates are made for cost, time, and any other resources, plus any risk analysis, activity scheduling, and process streamlining that is necessary for the project.

  • Product Delivery Management—This is the production stage, where the project manager confirms that the right goods are being produced correctly and on schedule.

  • Closing—Once everything is finished, the project manager must perform a Post Project Review, which evaluates the outcome of the project. When this review is approved by the Project Board, the project is complete.

    Figure 3.2

    Figure 3.2 PRINCE2 four-step process.

In addition to consideration of these standards and methods, project managers need to understand the environment in which they will be working before they create a schedule. They need to be aware of the various methodologies and approaches that can be used to help them (or confuse them, if they do not understand how and when the methodologies and approaches should be applied). The following section provides an introduction to this information.

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