Project management is the process of managing a major undertaking and the resources (money, personnel, or equipment) needed to accomplish it.
There are four general phases in the project management cycle: project viability, project approach, project implementation, and follow-through and evaluation. In each phase, the needs of a project must be matched to available resources. If needs and resources are not well matched throughout the process, the outcome of a project will be compromised.
Viability means “capable of living; practicable, workable; having the ability to grow, expand, and develop.” A project must be viable to succeed. In a turbulent corporate environment, viability is a very real issue. In simpler times, project survival was rarely questioned; if it was approved, it would proceed and survive in one form or another.
Viability amounts to balancing the organizational generators of a project with the organization’s abilities to support it. (Can it be done in the time available with the funding available? Is the customer asking for more than it can afford? If the forces that generate a project exceed the resources available to implement it, the project will flounder.) This phase begins with envisioning the project and ends when enough information has been gathered to prepare a realistic strategic plan.
To determine viability, available resources must be analyzed and compared to the project needs. Is the project as envisioned consistent with the company’s overall corporate vision and business objectives? Does it have the right sponsors and constituencies to succeed? To answer these questions, needs and resources must reflect a project’s goals and objectives and the support it will receive from senior management. If the project is deemed viable, the project scope is created.
Knowing which projects will thrive and which will not is the essence of viability. Having SMART goals is a critical factor of a project.
Project tactics, or approach, involve unifying two apparently opposite needs:
- the need to make decisions about project direction
- the need to postpone decisions as long as possible to maintain flexibility in case changes become necessary
For example, what will happen if something does not go according to plan? Suppose the space set aside for the project is taken over by another office? When can a company afford to be locked in on certain decisions such as signing a lease? The project approach phase begins with the development of tactics. It ends when enough decisions have been made to prepare detailed project schedules and tasks.
Once the resources are lined up, is the project ready to be executed? Many people believe so. However, if they think they are prepared, they have completely overlooked the need for a specific approach. If no strategy is developed, a plan of action will leave no room for options, contingencies, or escape routes. If a project implementation plan provides only one way to solve the problems at hand, the plan will be useless when needs or circumstances change. Poor planning does not usually mean that a problem is solved badly; it means that the wrong problem was solved.
Implementation involves getting the project designed, built, and occupied. To fully involve the customer, large amounts of technical detail must be put in understandable terms in order to communicate a project’s status to the end users and stakeholders—other departments with an interest in the project. For example, when analyzing data on project needs, what is the best way to keep users focused on the overall goals? Do they understand the cause-and-effect relationship between what they put into a project and how it will turn out? Implementation includes project design and administration, as well as execution, getting it built, delivered, and installed. At its conclusion, the project is ready to turn over to the end user.
Implementation is the most visible aspect of any project to an organization—the installation, physical reconfiguration, or relocation (or all three) that put the project in place and make it operational. Successful management integrates the coordination of the logistical details with the communication required to keep the user informed and the project on schedule.
Coordination is the needs aspect of project implementation. The following coordinating tasks are second nature to facilities managers:
- details pertaining to services
- site logistics
- adjusting schedules for slippage
- arranging specialized installations
- clearing projects with union representatives
- securing building permits and inspections
- coordinating with internal groups for certain installations (for example, telecommunications systems)
- dealing with contractors
Communication with project team members (including end users) provides the resources needed during this phase: workshops for users, tours and walk-throughs, status reports for management, and well-organized channels of communicating to affected groups. Communication is vital to the success of a project. It provides information to all parties and eliminates doubts and uncertainty by clearly stating roles and responsibilities. It also forms the legal documentation needed when disputes arise. Good coordination keeps a project on track; good communication keeps the affected groups on track.
Follow-through and Evaluation
The final phase of project delivery is follow-through and evaluation. After the confusion of the initial occupancy of a project subsides, the follow-through phase is the time to attend to minor details and deficiencies such as missing pieces, paint smudges, and missing boxes. A post-occupancy survey may be conducted—not immediately, but a few months later to allow the people to live in the space in order to get the true picture. In a larger sense, the task remains of facilitating both the reconciliation of the end users with their new surroundings and the acknowledgment of both successes and failures of the experience. Follow-through begins with the actual installation and ends with an evaluation of the whole process.
The evaluation of one project sets up the approach to the next one, enabling the cycle to repeat and begin envisioning again.
Follow-through enables end users to adjust to the finished project and encourages corporate-level management to identify the successes and shortcomings of the project. When these two tasks are combined, the company can determine what changes should be made for delivery of future projects. (Were the goals met? Was it worth it? What can be done differently the next time?) This phase provides the opportunity to learn more about how the overall project delivery process could be improved. Evaluation can occur as a culminating activity, or if a more extensive and ongoing evaluation is required, a fifth and more extensive evaluation phase can be implemented.
Of all the phases involved in project implementation, evaluation is sometimes given short treatment. This happens because when one project is finally completed, it is immediately time to rush off to a meeting on the next project.
If loose ends are not resolved, however, an endless and steadily growing collection of issues accumulates for customers to complain about, first to the facilities manager, then, eventually, to other customers. This may even ultimately escalate to reach senior management. It is therefore crucial to address the small details and to get each job truly completed in the minds of customers.
This article is adapted from BOMI International’s course Facilities Planning and Project Management, part of the FMA designation program. More information regarding this course or the new High-Performance certificate courses is available by calling 1-800-235-2664. Visit BOMI International’s website, www.bomi.org.