Introduction to Project Management

All companies and organizations need planning to steer and develop their operation and thus reach their goals and targets. The planning process is divided into three main processes, considering the time span, planning level and resources.

As seen in the overview, projects ideas are often identified in the planning process. Operatively they are activities separated from the organizations daily operation. They are used for desired or necessary additional and temporary tasks.

A project can be described as:

  • a series of planned practical activities in order to reach known, defined target(s) as a one-off work
  • with named resources in personnel, equipment and money
  • in planned time frame

This means that that a project must be planned in detail covering all needed activities, related resources and time schedules for total project and all partial activities as a whole from very beginning to the end.

It is a single workflow with own specific targets, organization, tools and budget, as well as starting and ending dates.

In short, Project Management is about doing the right things (proceeding according to the plan) and steering the process in a proper way (follow up, comparing to the project plan, checkpoints, corrective actions etc.) to reach the desired target in planned time with allocated organization, tools and budget.

When a project is needed, or should be considered or started?

Usually project is the proper way when a company or organization has need to

  • a special activity additional to and separate from the daily operation. This can be for example developing a new product, opening a new market, major change in operation or organization, investment in new machinery or premises, special personnel training etc
  • which have clearly defined target
  • to be carried out in certain time limits
  • and needs own (temporary) organization
  • and budget

How to start a development project?

An advisable way is to do a pre-study, (or feasibility study?) to have necessary basis for a decision.

  • specify and define the development aimed, what needs to be done?
  • preliminary project contents
  • results, targets
  • needed resources
  • Risks and possibilities
  • costs, financing, payback time

After the evaluation, the management takes the decision if and how to proceed

Project needs to be planned, this might be done by the management as part of general planning process, or management appoints somebody, usually the coming project manager to start the planning, At this stage it is also useful to have the basic project workgroup defined and co-operating already in the planning stage.

Project plan

  • description how to reach the desired development (or other) results
  • a tool for controlling and following the advancement of work
  • supports the development and normal operational planning

The contents of a Project plan should cover at least following areas:

1.      Description and definitions of desired project results/output
–         Background
–         Targets and major work processes
–         Project coverage and borders as well as connections to other activities or functions

2.        Project organization  
–         Organization and members
–         Defined responsibilities and decision process

3.      Project goals and time schedule
–          Different project parts and activities specified and synchronized
–         Time schedule for parts and the total project
–         Budget and costs steering methods

4.      Quality assurance of the project
–         Methods, tools and guidelines for the work
–         Methods for acceptance of different results
–         Management of possible changes during the work
–         Documentations of the work
–         Project work steering
–         Project work analysis and checks
–         Possible complementary plans, checking and updating
5.      Management of project connections
–         The project owner
–         Connected or related organizations
–         Information sources and those who need
–         Other projects

6.      Information and follow up
–         Set up meeting and procedure
–         Work locations and communication
–         Meeting, reporting and information procedures
–         Project map (all vital project documents in one place)

7.      Project ending
–         Project result, delivery, use and maintenance
–         Project documentation, saving and archive
–         Official ending of the project, ending meeting
–         Project report

Normal enclosures to the project plan are: Project setting, description, work plan, budget, organization and list of anticipated risks.

Project management in practice:

Project is not “just some task”, referring to a bit abnormal, temporary or even “subtle” undefined task. In many cases project and resources with some budget is roughly planned, but not properly managed or documented. This means no real follow up, steering and progress reports are possible. Also the targets may vary according to the progress, due to lack of clear reference material to compare with.

And when finished, how to estimate the success without a detailed plan, defined targets, time schedule and budget to compare with?

A good project management requires quite a lot planning, documentation, meetings and reports in addition to the main development work. This should not be neglected, despite maybe lack of skills or time. That would be a big loss.

The next, very simple excel-table tries to illustrate this divided in process activities and project management.

ICT-technology offers many practical software tools to make this easier and more organized. In following links you can find more information of this subject as well as links to practical software tools as an example:

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