The Project Charter – Overview

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When I teach Project Management the Project Charter is one of my “points of emphasis”. I state that if they only do one of the things I teach, then the Project Charter is it. All of your planning and execution will be based on the elements contained in there.

The Project Charter is important enough that I will be dedicating the upcoming blog posts to examine the contents in detail and include examples. Here are the sections:

  • Business Objectives
  • Project Objectives
  • Scope
  • Timeline
  • Stakeholders
  • Risks and Assumptions
  • Issues
  • Constraints
  • Dependencies
  • Sign off
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What is a Project?

Project_Management_Knowledge_Areas

Many in the working world, who are not Project Managers by trade, manage projects. In many cases, they do not recognize they are managing a project and treat it as just another task assignment without applying project management disciplines. This can be very stressful as projects can descend into chaos without proper management.

If you are given a goal and it has a due date you now have a project. It can range from the trivial (“let’s go out to lunch Friday”) to the very complex (“we need a new payroll system”). There is a tipping point where you need to start applying project management discipline, with the depth varying with the complexity.

If you are the person responsible for meeting the goal and the date, then congratulations, you’re the Project Manager, whether that is your formal title or not. Recognizing that is your role is the first step to improving your chances of success. There are many more ways to fail than to succeed. By applying fundamentals, you eliminate ways to fail.

In future blog posts I will introduce you to fundamentals that will help you succeed in your job and your life.

Building Blocks of a Successful Project Part 4 – Human Resources

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The first step in obtaining your project’s human resource needs is to create a “Roles/Responsibilities” matrix. In the first column, you define the project roles required. For example “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, “Subject Matter Experts”. These are not job titles but roles defined for the needs of the project. The second column describes the scope of responsibilities for that role. The third column is the name or names of those people assigned to that role. The rest of the columns contain contact information, and the assignee’s department and manager.

The next step is obtaining the commitments for these resources to work on the project. I have seen many projects given the approval to begin without the commitment (or even awareness) of key stakeholders (business units that will have project task assignments). This leaves the Project Manager in the position of negotiating with the business units for resource time and priority. This is typically the result of lack of Project Portfolio Management and control of the project intake process, especially in regard to resource capacity.

A best practice in Project Management is to secure the resource commitments prior to the approval of the Business Case. This means doing a thorough stakeholder analysis of all of the roles and responsibilities needed for the project. A brainstorming session with those having a broad knowledge of the business functions can help identify key stakeholders.

The Executive Sponsor (with support from the Project Manager) is responsible for communicating with the affected business units and securing the commitments. If these commitments have not been made and the project is directed to proceed, then this must be handled using formal Risk Management (which will be addressed in a future post).

In addition to having committed resources, they must also be the right resources. They must have skills that match the assigned roles. If they don’t and you have no resource alternatives then your project must include a plan for skills development and your task estimates must take into account the skill levels of the task assignee.

For your “core” team (the small group that attends almost all meetings and contribute to planning) you must make sure they are empowered as decision makers. If your team is constantly saying “I have to get my manager’s approval”, your schedule may be significantly impacted.

Building Blocks of a Successful Project Part 3 – Executive Commitment

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If your company actively manages its Project Portfolio, then this building block should already be in place. However, many companies begin new projects without any consideration of the impacts to projects already in progress or in the “pending” queue. This is the single biggest root cause to the Project Manager’s #1 headache: resource contention.

Before projects can begin, you should have satisfactory answers to the following questions:

  1. Are any existing projects competing for the same resources?
  2. If so, do these resources have the availability required for the new project?
  3. Where does this new project rank in the corporate priority?
  4. Is there a process in place to prevent the next new project from interfering with this one?

The answers to the above will tell you if you have Executive commitment for your project. Without it you will every day be at risk of losing key resources and jeopardizing your schedule.