Undergraduate Laboratories: Project Management Tools
To properly manage a project it is necessary to develop a clear and thorough plan
and carefully monitor the execution of the plan. A number of mechanisms have been
developed to aid in this process. First, it is necessary to develop the Goals, Objectives
and Tasks for the program.
A goal is a clearly defined, constructive statement of a desired direction or activity in broad, general terms.
An objective is a specific, time-oriented and realistic statement of what is to be done, for whom it is to be done, and when it will be done.
A task is one step or one specific action in the attaining of an objective. A group of tasks is a plan of action spelling out how an objective will be reached. Each task should have a deliverable that can be used to verify the task completion.
A project is normally described in terms of its Objectives and its Action Plan. The Action Plan, or list of tasks, must :
- Indicate WHAT specifically is to be done
- WHO is to do it and
- WHEN it will be completed
for each step or action in the series of steps necessary to accomplish the objective. This plan is frequently summarized in a "W3" chart indicating in columns WHAT, WHO and WHEN.
The Gantt chart is primarily designed to control the time element of a program. The chart portrays the Actions, or tasks, comprising the program, their scheduled start and finish times and their current status. Once the plan is agreed to by all parties the scheduled start and finish times should not be changed. Actual start and finish times should be indicated on the chart as the project progresses. Any changes in scheduled events should be indicated by different symbols from the originally scheduled events.
Another mechanism for monitoring a project that is very useful, especially for large, multipath projects, is the PERT Chart. A PERT chart is a network diagram showing all activities, or actions, necessary to execute a project. These activities are interrelated by tying them to appropriate event (the result of an action) nodes in the network. The PERT network allows for detailed analysis of activity/event constraints and shows clearly the relative importance of the activities. A "Critical Path" can then be determined which highlights the group of activities which determine the total program length.