Project Management

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Topics: Cost Management, New Practitioners, Teams
Cost Estimating, Project Performance and Life Cycle
Kul B. Uppal (2009) stated in today’s very competitive environment most owner companies have invested a considerable amount of time and money in tools and techniques designed to improve project performance. In general, projects are the vehicle by which we turn business opportunities into valued successful business assets. As such a project can be defined as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.

It has a definite beginning and a definite end, and it is unique in the sense that product being delivered is different in some way from the normal product that the organization delivers. Management can be defined as the process of planning, organizing, leading, and giving control or direction to an organization, its operations, and projects, working with and through others.

A system is a collection of elements that work together; therefore, we can define a management system as a collection of elements or activities working together to give direction and feedback to an organization. In other words, a management system is an approach whereby a series of components or steps are put together to solve a problem or make an improvement in internal efficiency and external effectiveness.

How is Uppal’s definition of a management system different from your own conclusions when executing the project management plan?

Uppal, K. B. (2009). Cost Estimating, project performance, and life cycle. AACE International Transactions, 3, 1-9.
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That is simply General Systems Theory dating back into at least the late '60s.

Systems may be abstracted at many different levels depending on where the boundaries are defined. When many people consider projects, the system of interest is some product delivered to an end customer customer. When the project is developing new business processes and tools to create products themselves, the system includes the people doing the work, and how well the solution fits the business needs of the organization, in addition to the end customer. What PMI calls Organization Process Assets (OPAs) are also sometimes called "enabling architecture" as they are the business/production system architecture that enables the product development.

The biggest difference between PM and systems engineering in my mind is where the practitioner defines the boundaries of the system they are managing.
Uppal's definition fits my way of thinking and general approach to management and I recognize that companies invest a considerable amount of time and money in tools and techniques designed to improve management performance. Where I have issues is when companies design approaches including tools and processes independent of project needs and then wedge the projects into those tools and processes (square pegs into round holes).

From my perspective the Project Plan should involve analysing how best to deliver the project selecting from proven and innovative processes and tools rather than "how are we going to fit this project into our preconceived management approach and/or standard operating procedures.

Now, I agree that standardization can reduce risk but it also chokes innovation. In my mind the management tools and procedures should evolve from the risk management process designed to best deliver the project.
I'm with Keith on this one. It used to be the project's "system" was bound by it's deliverables. There is an attempt to expand a project's system to also include realized benefits. The problem with this project system extension is that those benefits often take years, after project completion, before being realized. To me, benefits realization should be part of a system that is not temporary, such as the program or portfolio management system. Of course, that presumes the PgMO or PfMO live longer than their current average life span of 2-3 years.

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