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What is project and project management?

Projects are characteristic of every element of public and business life, and whatever their direction and field of implementation, projects must be managed effectively to achieve success.

In the activity of project management, there are several classifications, with projects being divided into different types and types. According to the contractors, the projects are:

Business projects are mainly undertaken by the private sector. They are very diverse in terms of results and immediate goals and relatively limited in terms of ultimate goals, among which financial results occupy an important place.

In a broader sense, business projects can also include projects to improve the quality of services provided by public institutions.

Development projects in which the leading role is played by the public sector, which provides the funds, including with the help of international financial institutions and assistance programs. Reference: “What is Project Management?”, https://stc-montreal.org/what-is-project-management/

These projects solve important problems of the socio-economic development of the respective country (community, region) and are evaluated from the point of view of benefits for society as a whole. Private business plays an important role in the implementation of development projects as a supplier of goods and services, as a contractor, or as a user of the projects.

Health projects can be in both sectors. In both cases, the project has phasing and management features that will be analyzed in the topic.

Aims and methods in project managemebt

The article aims to analyze the specifics of the projects – such as terminology and management. Given the short volume of the topic, it will not touch on a specific project but will analyze the main views of the authors related to the topic of project management.

Results

The project as an activity is associated with diverse activities such as investment, research, consulting activities, and others. These activities have common features – regardless of their different manifestations and results:

What is common is that heterogeneous activities are performed which are complex;

The activities are performed in the conditions of limited resources;
The project is preliminary or has a limited duration.

The project has the following features:

  • The project has defined objectives;
  • The project is limited in time, as it has certain phases, a beginning, and an end; Reference: “What is Project Management, definition and usual practices and methods”, https://wikipedia-lab.org/what-is-project-management-definition/
  • The project is related to the use of contractors with different qualifications and professions;
  • The project requires various resources;
  • The projects are characterized by relatively high costs;
  • Projects can be changed in terms of framework and management;

They are associated with a high degree of uncertainty.

The project is characterized by the following basic definitions:

The project is a temporary initiative aimed at the realization of a specific goal, in the form of a one-off and often unique and complex activity.

A project is a unique process consisting of a set of coordinated and controlled activities with start and end dates, undertaken to achieve a single goal, meeting specific requirements, including time, cost, and resource constraints.

The program is an undertaking with a significantly larger scope and more than one objective, including many projects as well as ongoing activities.

Projects often aim to improve or support current activity. That is why successfully implemented projects are a necessary condition for the successful implementation of any social or economic activity.

Project goals

The project is a means to achieve certain goals. The project can also be defined as a means of solving problems, a means of making changes, a vision for the future, and a way to realize it.

Each project has the following characteristics:

  • Start and end (the project is timed);
  • Predefined and measurable products (results);
  • A complex of activities for the preparation of the products (achieving the results);
  • Certain resources for the implementation of the project;
  • Organizational structure for project management;
  • It is aimed at achieving certain goals.

After all, a project is a means; it exists solely to achieve a given goal, and this is its main characteristic.

The project is a temporary structure that dissolves after its completion. Projects are usually part of a program or subprogram. In turn, several programs form a plan.

Life cycle and project management

Project management is based on its life cycle. Like any model, the project cycle is conditional, and the definition of phases stems from practical necessity – they facilitate project management, and at the end of each of them, a decision is made whether (and how) to continue the project. The cycle is closed, i.e. the last phase is related to the first because it can start a new cycle, a new project as a consequence of the one that has already ended, the phases often reflect the management methods of the institutions that invest in projects.

A characteristic of business project cycles is that they are very specific depending on the type of project. Reference: “What is the Project life cycle in project management – BVOP.org“, https://bvop.org/posts/projectlifecycle/ There is, for example, clearly expressed specificity in projects for construction, the development of pharmaceutical products, the development of software, and others.

In addition, individual authors also give their interpretation of project management phases and methodology, such as:

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), project management includes the following three phases:

Pre-investment phase (identification, pre-selection, preparation, evaluation)

Investment phase (negotiations and conclusion of contracts, preparation of engineering plans, construction, pre-production marketing, training)

Production phase (assembly and start-up, replacement and repair of equipment, expansion, and innovation).
This division of the cycle is very convenient for industrial investment projects. However, this division cannot be used as a universal model.

In development projects, the cycle is standardized, as their scope is not so private (one product) and standard procedures and an integrated management approach are used (unified analytical approach to individual phases). Reference: “Project Management and the Development life cycle”, https://phron.org/project-management-and-the-development-life-cycle/

The project cycle of the Finnish International Development Agency (FINIDA) is interesting and includes the following successive phases:

  • identification
  • wording
  • evaluation
  • decision on financing, tenders, and conclusion of contracts
  • implementation and monitoring
  • project completion

Evaluation of the results

In this model, the evaluation and the funding decision are separated into different phases, ie the determination of a project as suitable for implementation does not automatically lead to the allocation of the necessary funds.

The separation of these two phases shows the need to decide which projects to finance at a higher level and to follow certain administrative procedures. This approach reflects the perspective (and needs) of a funding institution.

The project management cycle according to the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) looks very different:

identification phase (from idea generation to goal formulation)

conceptual phase (from the formulation of objectives to the preparation of the project plan)

implementation phase (from the preparation of the project plan to the achievement of the immediate goal of the project)

Although it is maximally simplified, this cycle is logically well supported. Phases that reflect the point of view and administrative procedures solely of the financing institution are excluded from it.

The model adopted by the Commission of the European Union has six phases:

  • programming
  • identification
  • evaluation
  • financing
  • performance
  • performance evaluation

This is the cycle followed by all projects financed by the funds of the European Union. Here again, we notice phases related to the funding institution: programming and funding. Programming means that projects are developed based on a national development program.

Project Management Academy in Europe teaches that this model of project management is only in the public sector. Students on the PMA project management course (https://pma.bg/pm/) study project management in the private sector.

The financing phase also includes the organization of tenders and the awarding of contracts for the implementation of the project. The absence of a “development” or “formulation” phase is striking. It should be considered included in the identification phase.

The model of the largest institution for international development – the World Bank is the basis for many variations:

  • Identification
  • preparation
  • evaluation
  • negotiation and board approval
  • implementation and monitoring

Evaluation of the results

Here we meet as a separate phase the evaluation of the prepared project, which allows us to decide whether the project should be implemented. Insofar as the evaluation is carried out by an independent team that did not participate in the preparation of the project, and represents a key stage of the cycle, such separation is justified, and the negotiation and approval phase by the board reflects the specifics of the World Bank’s activity. Negotiations with the recipient of the loan and approval of the credit agreement by the bank’s board of directors are considered.

We can conclude that the phases on which there is consensus are identification, preparation (formulation), implementation, and evaluation of implementation. It is also justified to distinguish the assessment into a separate phase, as in the World Bank and FINIDA models. In the model of the Commission of the European Union, the assessment is also highlighted.

Project management: in summary

In summary of the above, the following general model of project management, considered acceptable, can be presented:

  • programming;
  • identification;
  • preparation;
  • evaluation;
  • performance;
  • performance evaluation

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