Tracking Core Knowledge Areas

The core knowledge areas in the PMBOK guide make up the triple, or quadruple, constraint in project management.


from PM Hut

Scope is all of the work involved in creating the products of the project and the processes used to create them.

Time refers to the project schedule and specifically when the project will need to be completed by.

Cost is all about the project budget.  How much will this project cost the company to complete?

Quality has been defined many different ways, one of which is the degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfill requirements

When tracking a project the project manager and everyone on the team, should be continuously asking questions throughout the project.  These questions should be focused around the four core knowledge areas:  scope, time, cost and quality.

Core knowledge area related questions:

  1. Scope – Is this in scope?
  2. Time – Is this on schedule?
  3. Quality – Does this meet the specifications?
  4. Cost – Are we under budget?

If these questions are asked continuously then issues that will throw off any of these core project areas will be found and dealt with early.  The key to good project management is to know that you are not done once you have created a project plan.  There will always be change to deal with.  This could be change from evolving customer requirements, changes in staffing, or changes in business due to changing priorities.  Since change is a constant, asking these questions throughout a project can help a team to constantly monitor and adjust for these changes and this can mean the difference between project failure and success.


4 Tips for Managing Your Time on Projects

It can be challenging to manage time on projects for multiple reasons.  There are many different people working simultaneously on a variety of activities at any given time during a project and there are any number of reasons why one or more of them might make demands on you.  Under these conditions it is easy to lose control of your time during the day only to end up working evenings and weekends just to get work done.

Here are four tips for how to get control of your time back:

Tip #1 Purge clutter

If you have piles of papers on your desk, or folders on your desktop, of documents that are a combination of relevant and irrelevant, you may find yourself spending time looking at ones that you don’t really need to deal with.  This could be due to the fact that they are from old tasks that are no longer a priority.  To help manage your time more effectively it helps to take the time to purge your work space of those documents that you don’t need to deal with.

Tip #2 Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries with others is probably the most important thing you can do to manage your time.  From that person who is always dropping by your office to just talk to you endlessly, to issues that are tossed in your lap at the last minute by someone who really should be working on it themselves.  Taking the time to set boundaries with others will help set up good habits for how people treat your time.

Tip #3 Block out working time

Block out time on your calendar for getting your work done.  This will make sure that you have the time you need to complete your work.  It also helps prevent you from becoming overbooked either from your own efforts or those of others.

Tip #4 Block out non-working time

Jennifer Whitt in a webinar from on the topic, “How to Track your Projects” suggests this one and the concept is really insightful.  She said that she often blocks out some time in the morning for things like working out, meditating and planning.  These activities make sure that she is taking care of herself and allows her to set her focus for the day.

If you’d like some more tips on time management I’d recommend watching the hour long webinar mentioned in tip #4.

How about you?  What are some tips that you use for managing your time?

Do You Have Your Blinders On?

As a project manager do you have your blinders on?  It is important when managing a project to remember that your project does not occur in a vacuum.  With everything that needs to be done on a project it is crucial that the project manager and the project team understand where their project fits into the overall business.  Throughout the project, and especially as the project gets more challenging or runs into problems, it will help to keep support for the project high if everyone understands and can communicate how the project will help the business achieve its business objectives.

It also helps to view the project in terms of how it will fit into the overall systems that make up the various business processes that keep the business running on a day to day business.  Understanding how the project will change and fit into the systems of the business will also help with understanding who the project stakeholders are, what possible risks and in evaluating the overall project value to the business.

This concept of thinking of the business in terms of its systems is called systems thinking, and it is a holistic view of carrying out the projects within the context of the organization. Systems thinking is a topic that is near and dear to my heart as Business Systems Analyst.  If you can take the time to define the scope of the system, evaluating its problems, opportunities, constraints and needs you can more easily understand the scope of your project within that system and how it will address them.

Getting Your Mind Around Your Project – The WBS

In a project of any size the sheer number of things that need to be done can be overwhelming.  One tool that a project manager can use to get their mind around their project is to create a work breakdown structure (WBS) and the corresponding WBS dictionary.  A WBS is a deliverable-oriented grouping of the work involved in a project that defines the total scope of the project.  The dictionary is a document that describes in detail the information needed for anyone to understand what each WBS item is.

There are many methods for going about the creation of a work breakdown structure including: the analogy approach, mind mapping, top down, bottom-up or just using the guidelines established by your company.

Regardless of the approach, the WBS should be created in conjunction with the team members who will be working with you to produce the project deliverables.  This may be as simple as a meeting where everyone gets a stack of post-its and contributes their knowledge of how the work gets done by writing down their tasks and sticking them to the white board.  This exercise also helps give the entire team an understanding the project purpose and scope while at the same time getting their commitment and buy-in for the work that needs to be done.

Check out this short video by Rita Mulcahy, PMP, as she addresses the concept of the WBS: