Key Elements of Project Management

What is Project Management ?

To get the most out of Microsoft Project we need to first understand some common terms because ambiguity can cause confusion later as we move through how to use Microsoft Project.

Ambiguity is perhaps one of the greatest causes of failure of projects. Ambiguity causes scope creep, missed deadlines, run-away costs, under/over utilization of resources, and others. It’s your job as project manager to identify and eliminate ambiguities, otherwise your project plan is nothing more than a guess.

Let’s first look at what is and what is not a project.  We’ll use the definition of project from the Project Management Institute, which is:

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.

A project is consider temporary since once the projects objectives are met, the project team will break-up and go onto other projects. The goal of a project is to create something new, or unique.

Elements of Project Management

All projects have three basic elements: tasks, resources and time. These are interrelated and any change in one has an effect on the other two. This is one area where Microsoft Project excels. Whenever you make any changes, the affect of those changes will become instantly visible through Microsoft Project’s graphical presentation of your project.

Project--Management - Tasks Resources Time Triangle

Think of tasks as individual pieces of work which need to be done. Some typical tasks may include:

  • Reports to management
  • Pieces of code for an application
  • Project definition documents
  • Any small (or large) item that contributes to reaching the state goal of the project

Resources are anything used to meet the stated goals of the project:

  • People
  • Machinery
  • Money

For time you originally start with an estimate (also know as a guess) on how long it may take to reach the stated goal of the project. As the project progresses, the time estimate becomes more solid as each piece of the project is examined and a more firm estimate as to how long it’ll take to produce the individual pieces.

These three pieces are interrelated. If you think of the three as a triangle, in order for the triangle to remain balanced, any change on one side required changes on the other two. For example, if a new task is added to the project, you’ll need a  resources to work on this new task, and the new task may (or may not) affect the time side of the triangle .

It is within this area, the management of tasks, resources and time, that Microsoft Project excels and will help you to successfully manage your project…

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