i am going to stray from the tech stuff i usually post. i recently inherited the role of IT project manager. i knew of nothing of project management before, and i know just a little bit more than that now.

i can say three things about project management

  1. its a whole lot like flossing your teeth. you need to do it, but it is no fun to do.
  2. i never want to be a full time project manager. i can barely take part time.
  3. that i could find, there was no documentation on how to manage a project, at least from a 30 thousand foot view, that could be explained in 15 minutes or less.

so, i talked to a co-worker that was PMP certified, partially read a pretty good project management book, and googled project management. what i present to you is a *very* brief how to and explanation, along with links to the docs i found useful, on project management.

let me be very clear here. i am not PMP certified, and i have barely any project management experience. that being said, i can read and hack together stuff, so you might find this useful ­čśë

one specific note to how i am applying this. because i am in a smaller company that is just getting into project management, i am not going to be as formal as the PMI stipulates. for example, you will see what i call the project charter is really 2 documents combined. this works great in our environment, but it may not in yours. ymmv.

one last point. my goal for this was to set up a functional framework on how to do small scale project management. its a little bit theory, a lot more practical. lets get started:

**some important terms to understand:

** whats a project? a project consists of a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result

whats project management? project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of specific project goals and objectives

what is a project manager? i would compare the project manager to the role of a orchestra conductor. not the one actually doing the work, but the one making sure everyone else knows what they are doing and keeping things moving in a unified direction.

what is a sponsor? in my opinion, the sponsor is the most important person in a project. i think of a sponsor as an advocate with power. ideally, they are very committed to getting the project done, will see the project through to the end, and have enough power to make things happen and help getting resources for the project.

what is a stakeholder? a stakeholder is anyone that is affected by the project. in some cases, this can be a lot of people. obviously, some stakeholders are going to be more consulted than others, but its good to know and review who will be impacted by your project. you can be the best project manager in the world, but if you get no support from management (or worse, resistance from them), your project is doomed.

so why do project management? here are some reasons i picked up project management:

  • achieve more consistent results
  • less stress (for you and everyone else)
  • roles are more clearly defined, so there is much less confusion and less “i thought they were doing that”
  • clear goals and milestones are presented, therefore people have a clearer understanding of here is where we are and here is where we are going.
  • less finger pointing. because of the clarity, you know exactly who to talk to in case there is a breakdown somewhere along the way.
  • you can do more with less
  • i was told to do it ­čśë

below is the PMI project managment process groups table. it shows a very detailed breakdown of every stage in a project. for my purposes, its way too much.

warning: this is where it gets uber-technical <– this is sarcasm, btw

after my research, here is how i break the project management process groups table down for my environment. first, i break it down into 3 main parts (instead of 5)

  1. initiate and plan stuff (the hard work)
  2. do and monitor stuff
  3. close stuff

now that i had a concept of what a project looks like from thirty thousand feet and what aspects i needed to focus on, i moved on to the functional. for example, now i know that i wanted to do a combined project charter/project managament plan, but what does that mean? and what would the document look like?

after going over my resources, i came up with the following document flow chart (explanation in table beneath the chart):

here is a description of the documents

[table id=3 /]

now that i knew what documents i wanted to use and in what order, i needed to put it all together. i ended up using a lot of documents from eric verzuh’s fast forward MBA book and a few big documents from karl wiegers projectinitiation.com site. both are great resources, i recommend both.

for copyright reasons, i can’t just post all the templates from the fast forward MBA book or the┬áprojectinitiation.com website (and that wouldn’t really be fair to the authors), but i did want to provide a portfolio of a example project i went through to learn project management. the names, numbers, dates, and data are made up, but it should give you an idea of what a finished project looks like from start to finish (at least from the point of view of which documents are being used).

click here to download my example project portfolio

closing thoughts

project management is a great, practical, and needed field (especially the larger the company). the benefits, even in a company our size, is quickly apparent.

hopefully this overview gave enough practical information for someone else to be able to quickly get a concept of what project management is and how to do it at a┬áproficient┬álevel (even if you couldn’t get your PMP from reading it ;).

i found and used four good resources for project management (and this is where i am getting my documents from).

  1. the fast forward MBA in project management by eric verzuh. very good, got great reviews on amazon, and his site (linked to above) has a lot of great templates you can use to get started.
  2. karl wiegers site, www.projectinitiation.com. the documents on this site are shareware, so if you use these documents, please donate to www.processimpact.com/norm_kerth.html per the authors requests. my company did.
  3. my PMP friend gave me some great direction and input
  4. google