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The Seven Essentials of Project Management
By Russell Whitworth

Every Project Management “methodology” comprises a number of sections, chapters or knowledge areas. These are the basic building-blocks of project management excellence – the things that a PM needs to grasp firmly on a daily basis.

PMI’s PMBOK used to have 9 knowledge areas, and in the latest version it has 10. The APM Body of Knowledge has an astonishing 52. Such an extensive set has its place and its benefits, but as mental check-list it is all too much for me. I can just about commit seven items to memory, so my personal “Seven Essentials” are these:

  1. Benefits
  2. Scope and Quality
  3. Stakeholders and Communications
  4. Plan
  5. Team
  6. Suppliers
  7. Risks

It is my contention that a project manager is truly in control if they are taking care of each of these. Also, all project management knowledge and best practice can somehow be accommodated into this structure.

The order is significant. We start with benefits – the reason for doing the project. This leads to the scope – the “why?” followed by the “what?” Next the project manager needs to consider the people impacted by the project – the stakeholders – and the communications methods to engage them. Now we need a plan of how to deliver the scope to the satisfaction of the stakeholders. That leads to definition of a delivery team, and the engagement of suppliers (internal and external). Finally, consideration of risks takes into account all of the other Essentials.

The Seven Essentials can be applied in a variety of ways:

  • It is a check-list for project managers to work through, in order, when starting a project
  • As the project continues, it is the set of things that the PM needs to keep under control
  • When the project finishes, the PM should check that each of the Essentials has been closed down fully
  • It lends itself well to reporting purposes as a dashboard – for example by showing traffic-lights against each (see below)
  • This is an ideal structure for performing a Project Healthcheck
  • Should it be necessary to hand over responsibility from one PM to another, it is a useful checklist to work through.

Best of all, it is easy for a PM to memorize and apply.

In future blogs, I plan to look at each of The Seven Essentials in more detail.

Q2 Associates Managing Director, Russell Whitworth, is an experienced project/program manager and consultant who has worked in the telecommunications industry throughout his career. His employers have included a user organization, a vendor, a management consultancy, a telecommunications consultancy, and a major telecommunications operator.

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