• I’ve been managing projects for quite a few years now and have often answered the question ‘Why do we need project management?’ For organizations rambling along without project management the whole discipline can be a little hard to understand. Why do we need a separate person just to keep the project on track? We have managers and implementers already!

Project management is itself a separate discipline. (Many project managers were managers and/or implementers at some point in their careers and opted for the more specialized route of project management.) By implementing project management – which implies but does not require dedicated project managers – tracking, visibility, and projections for a project are all increased. Consider it a combination of an early warning system and a Mom nagging.

Project managers typically report to a part of the organization that can be more impartial than the implementing organization. Good project management processes make it easy to see the assumptions, dependencies, and impacts of a project and components of a project. Dependencies are not only identified but are managed. With a solid project plan the goals of a project are documented, responsibilities amongst the various contributors are established and documented, and each participant can understand how what she or he does affects the project as a whole. Project management typically includes resource monitoring and balancing as part of the whole process.

One of the key responsibilities of a project manager is risk management /risk assessment. The project manager ensures that appropriate contingency is built into the project plan, especially the schedule but also other components. Constant risk assessment is performed, with small adjustments for risk management made as appropriate. Large looming risks are called out in formal risk assessments, including options and recommendations, so the project owner is aware of any potential issues and can make appropriate risk management decisions.

Project managers work early in the project to understand and document the project drivers (schedule, cost/resource, quality, scope) and ensure that the correct tradeoffs are made day to day. They report on project progress to the entire team, including the project owner and stakeholders, on a regular basis so progress can be reviewed and adjustments made as necessary.

Project management focus throughout the project looks like this:

  • ·   Establish project goals and drivers
  • ·   Document any project level assumptions and dependencies
  • ·   Ensure requirements are complete
  • ·   Obtain estimates for implementation
  • ·   Document dependencies amongst project tasks
  • ·   Ensure project is properly resourced
  • ·   Establish contingency plans for any substantial risks
  • ·   Ensure all processes pertinent to the process are created or located and adhered to throughout the project
  • ·   Track day to day progress
  • ·   Constant risk assessment
  • ·   Make minor adjustment in staffing, requirements, etc., as necessary
  • ·   Report status to project team and stakeholders on a regular basis
  • ·   Create risk assessment reports as necessary
  • ·   Beg, cajole, adjure implementors as necessary to accomplish tasks on time
  • ·   Escalate any issues or stalemates as soon as it becomes clear that the team cannot resolve within the current structure
  • ·   Trigger contingency actions as necessary
  • ·   Ensure smooth release/completion
  • ·   Hold post-release review to determine what went well, what could be improved, and set any improvement plans in motion


Generally, most of these activities really do not take place without a focus on the discipline of project management. Project management really does lower risk, raise visibility, and take the burden of day to day tracking and reaction away from team members who are more valuable focusing on their implementation or functional management tasks.