Project management is about defining targets, and allocating the resources (time, money, personnel, materials, equipment etc.) required to achieve those targets in an optimal way. Planning is a critical element of project management, and will involve coordinating a number of interrelated activities that must be completed within a defined timescale (the duration of the project), which will depend on the scale of the project being undertaken. Some of the activities involved in managing a project are listed below.
- Analysis and design
- Assessing risk factors and planning for contingencies
- Estimating the time and resources required
- Planning the work
- Acquiring resources
- Assigning tasks to individuals and workgroups
- Directing and overseeing project activities
- Monitoring and reporting on progress
The timescale for the project can essentially be estimated based on the number, scale and nature of the major project tasks that must be completed. These tasks may themselves be broken down into a number of sub-tasks, each of which will take a finite amount of time and consume a specific amount of resources. Cost is to a large extent related to the overall project timescale, since one of the major cost factors will be the number of man-hours expended. Significant delays, therefore, can mean a significant increase in the overall cost of the project. It is also important to keep in mind the requirements specification for the project. There will inevitably be a trade-off between the time and resources that are made available for the project and the quality of the delivered product. The possibility of project schedule overruns are probably the most common risk factor in any project, although these can sometimes be resolved by the judicious allocation of additional resources.