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The Three Types of Projects

The Three Types of Projects
By William R. Duncan

There are three major types of projects:

  1. New product development projects

    The justification for these projects is to develop something that will be sold: they are undertaken to solve someone else’s problem. The product of the project is the thing that will be sold. The product might be software, an airplane engine, the airplane itself, a camera, a training program, whatever. From a financial perspective, the profit to be generated from the product is a key decision in project selection decisions.

  2. Project-is-the-product projects

    There is no direct justification for these projects: they are undertaken to provide support to someone else’s project. The product of the project is the work of the project. Most consulting (including construction) projects fall into this category as do non-profit fund-raisers. From a financial perspective, the profitability of the project itself is a key decision in project selection decisions.

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The Basic Principles of Project Management

The Basic Principles of Project Management
By William R. Duncan

Introduction

Project management principles are the foundation on which the profession of project management is built. Conformance to these principles is a prerequisite for successful project management.

Definitions

  • Principle. A basic truth, law, or assumption; a rule or standard, especially of good behavior; a basic or essential quality or element determining intrinsic nature or characteristic behavior. American Heritage Dictionary
  • Project. A unique, temporary endeavor undertaken to create a product or service.

  • Project management. The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations from a project. (PMBoK Guide, first edition)

  • Stakeholders. Individuals or organizations who may help or harm the project.

Project Management Principles

  • There must be a project. Project management is best applied to the management of a project, and all projects should be managed with project management. The usefulness of some project management tools and techniques outside the project context does not mean that project management is a substitute for general management.
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Fundamentals of Range Estimating in Project Management

Fundamentals of Range Estimating
By William R. Duncan

Few project management terms are as misunderstood and misused as “estimate.” In the following paragraphs, we address some common misconceptions about this vital subject.

What exactly is an estimate?

A project estimate is an informed assessment of the likely project cost or duration. Informed means that you have an identified basis for the estimate. Likely focuses on the inherent uncertainty of the estimate: every estimate is but one of many possible outcomes. Cost or duration refers to the two major categories of estimates.

What should I use as the basis for my estimates?

The first step is to define the project scope. In the absence of a defined scope, you should not estimate anything other than the cost of defining the scope. Once you have the scope defined, you can rely upon the fact that similar scopes tend to have similar results, so most of the time you will use historical information as the basis for your estimate. Read the Complete Article

Critical Chain Project Management: History and Value

Critical Chain Project Management: History and Value
By William R. Duncan

Are there some good ideas being put forth by the advocates of CCPM? Yes. Are they new and innovative ideas? Not as far as I can tell.

CCPM has its antecedents in something called the Theory of Constraints (TOC). TOC borrows heavily from systems dynamics (developed by Jay Forrester at MIT in the 1950s) and from statistical process control (which dates back to World War II). The two key tenets — think in terms of systems with complex interactions rather than in terms of unidirectional flows, and find and fix the big problems first — are absolutely the right approach, but they are also old news to experienced project managers.

In applying TOC to project management, CCPM follows the same trend — some good ideas presented as new insights. Here are a few of the good ideas:

  • Make sure your schedule reflects resource availability and not just activity dependencies.
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Planning Is Not A Project Life-cycle Phase

Planning Is Not A Project Life-cycle Phase
By William R. Duncan

Planning is not a project life-cycle phase. Planning is an ongoing activity throughout the project. The only time planning looks even a little bit like a phase is when you are managing a single phase of the project and someone else is defining scope for you. The classic example is “construction” which is really just one phase of an asset development project. If you manage single phase projects, you can use planning as a phase name, and you can also stop reading now. The rest of this rant does not apply to you.

If your project life-cycle uses planning as a phase, toss your life-cycle and start over again. If your project life-cycle uses planning as a phase, you probably also use initiating, executing, and closing. Someone in your organization decided to use the process groups from the PMBoK Guide as life-cycle phases. Read the Complete Article

How Many Projects Can a Project Manager Handle Simultaneously?

How Many Projects Can a Project Manager Handle Simultaneously?
By William R. Duncan

There is a simple answer to this question: project managers can handle as many projects as they are capable of managing successfully. Don’t even consider increasing their workload unless all of their projects — that is all, as in every one — are being finished on time, within budget, according to spec, and with the stakeholders satisfied.

I don’t believe that there is a single, reliable, numerical answer to the question “how many can one person handle?” that will be correct for all or even most organizations. But you can start to develop an answer for your organization by answering one key question first: what is the project manager supposed to do?

Once you know that, then (and only then) should you look at other factors which may affect the range of performance:

  • How much support will be provided?
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The Importance of Capturing Lessons Learned in Project Management

The Importance of Capturing Lessons Learned in Project Management
By William R. Duncan

Lessons learned should be captured:

  • As part of the ongoing change management process.
  • At the end of each project phase.

Why Capture Lessons Learned?

Let’s start this article the way we would start a project — by documenting why we would want to capture lessons learned. The rationale is driven by the nature of projects: projects are undertaken to create a unique product, service, outcome, or result. Since each project is unique, it is impossible to predict the exact course of the project with precision. Each project can be expected to face a unique set of challenges. But while the set of challenges is unique, individual challenges recur. By documenting the causes of variances and the thinking behind the corrective action we enhance our ability to respond to future project challenges. We enhance our ability to deliver every project on time, within budget, according to spec, and with a satisfied customer. Read the Complete Article

Defining and Measuring Project Success

Defining and Measuring Project Success
By William R. Duncan

Most people have an intuitive appreciation for what success is, but defining it and measuring it is a bit tougher. If you’re from Arkansas, Success is a small town not far from the Missouri border. If you’re an actor, Tom Hanks is a success while Tom Arnold is not … or is he?

If we define acting success in terms of critical acclaim, Tom Hanks wins over Tom Arnold every time. If we define acting success as steady, above average pay for work that you enjoy, then Tom Arnold is quite successful.

Projects are not so very different from actors. In order to measure success, we must first define it.

But how should we define it? To the extent that the project management literature of the 1960s and 1970s dealt with project success at all, the definition was usually limited to meeting cost, schedule, and scope objectives – was the project finished within budget, on time, and according to the specifications? Read the Complete Article

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