A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service1 in .NET framework

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A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service1
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Using this definition, it is possible to isolate some of the important characteristics underlying projects2 Four common characteristics of projects include: 1 They are constrained by a finite budget and time frame to completion; that is, they typically have a specific budget allocated to them as well as a defined start and completion date Further, their budget may often represent a significant portion of the resources of the performing organization They comprise a set of complex and interrelated activities performed by diverse resources or organizational members that require effective coordination
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Page 36 3 They are directed toward the attainment of a clearly defined objective or set of objectives which, when achieved, mark the end of the project and the dissolution of this project team To some degree, each project is unique
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These features form the core that distinguishes project-based work from other forms of organizational activity Because they are significant and underscore the inherent challenge in managing projects, it is important that we examine each of these characteristics in more detail In addition to developing a general understanding of projects, as we discuss each of these features, we will also begin to see the roots of conflict that are embedded in the characteristics of projects themselves
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Finite Budget and Schedule Constraints
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Unlike the typical ongoing operations that occur within line or functional units of most corporations, projects are set up with two very important limits on their activities: a specified time period for completion and a limited budget Projects are temporary undertakings, intended to solve a specific problem (more on this later) They are not intended to supplant the regular functional operations of the organization but rather, operate until they have achieved the goals they set out to accomplish Once these objectives have been completed, the project ends Certainly, we should note that budget and time constraints are estimates, based on the best available (and sometimes naively optimistic) information that the organization has As a result, it is not uncommon to build in a margin for error to allow for unforeseen expenses or time slippages The key to understanding the nature of project work as opposed to, say, an assembly line production run is that, unlike the production line which can continue on into the indefinite future,
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Page 37 projects are temporary They fulfill their goals, in accordance with time and money limits, and disband Given the significant portion of an organization s budget that projects often comprise, it is clear that in making budgeting and project selection decisions, there is a strong propensity for conflict There are bound to be differences in opinion as to how scarce resources such as money and personnel are used One obvious reason is that in making such choices, we are implicitly (and many times explicitly) making trade-off decisions That is, it is impossible for me, as the manager, to give approval and funding to two competing projects Therefore, I make my decision on the basis of a number of criteria that will naturally throw the two potential projects, along with their prospective project managers, into conflict
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Complex and Interrelated Activities
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Projects typically comprise a degree of complexity that is not found to the same extent within other functional departments, often due to the cross-functional nature of the activities For example, in developing a new product, a project team may be staffed with members from a wide variety of functional backgrounds: marketing, production, finance, human resources, and so forth This crossdisciplinary nature of much project-based work adds another order of magnitude to the usual levels of complexity found within any individual department Unfortunately, the complexity and interrelatedness of projects has some unwelcome side effects: power, political processes, and conflict Political activities and power considerations abound within projects due to the unique properties that they possess as well as the multiple goals and attitudes of different members of the project team Not only are projects forced to compete with functional units for their share of a variety of scarce resources but even within the
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Page 38 project team, the almost ubiquitous nature of conflict is clearly demonstrated Members of the project team regularly experience these sources of tension and must seek a balance between dual allegiances to their functional bosses and project manager Another example of the complex and interrelated nature of projects derives from the multiple activities that are carried out, often simultaneously by different members of the project team This interrelatedness is typified by the project network diagram used in the Critical Path Method which demonstrates the sometimes bewildering array of interdependent activities performed by a project team If tasks are not performed in their correct order and within the time allotted to them, the entire project can be jeopardized Consequently, the project manager s job here is twofold: first, to establish a coherent working relationship among a number of team members from diverse functional backgrounds, and second, to create a planning, scheduling, and control system that permits the greatest level of efficiency of project activities
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