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Project Management in Context

Project Management in Context

Author: Jeff Carroll

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Source: Image of hand and pinching fingers, microphone at presentation, Creative Commons, Kelly Eddington; Image of gears, phone, DNA, tablet computer, engine, video camera, hydro-electric dam, house, bathtub, circular arrow, sign with exclamation point, images by Video Scribe, License held by Jeff Carroll.

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Hi, I'm Jeff. And in this lesson, we'll review some of the ways project management is used in real world projects. So let's get started.

Once you're familiar with the process of project management, it's easy to see how it can be used in so many industries and situations. Every day, businesses around the world upgrade their technology and use project management to help the process go smoothly and quickly.

For example, when a business upgrades their phone system, the project manager must work with the phone system vendor, the voice mail developers, and coordinate the installation of equipment.

In research and development, there has been considerable movement of late to coordinate multiple research efforts so that information can be shared among different groups. And a project manager will help manage those groups and use the most powerful tool they have in their skill set, their ability to communicate clearly and concisely about the work to leverage what is learned.

The software and technology industry relies heavily on project management. Tablet computers have become common in all ways of life and each was developed using the management methods that we've discussed.

The development of most products requires a design and a prototype before they're implemented. A car's engine must be designed and tested in the field, for example, before it can be manufactured in mass and placed in cars. Project managers oversee this work, keeping everyone on task to a common goal.

Do you consider all the planning and management that goes into events such as sales conferences? Project managers work with hotels and conference centers, help manage the software that handles the sign-ups, and may even organize the appearance of speakers.

In the movie industry, project managers are known as producers. But their responsibilities are nearly identical. They are responsible for the budget, schedule and scope of the project, even while managing or delegating work to the creative groups responsible for the latest blockbuster.

The construction and public works industries have used project managers for a long time. If a new hydroelectric dam is going up in your area, there is at least one, and likely many, project managers helping it meet the quality and performance standards outlined in a project scope.

Community and nonprofit groups also rely on project managers. A Habitat for Humanity house will have a general contractor, which is just another word for project manager.

And even in a household, we use many of the skills and tools of a project manager. A remodel of a bathroom, for example, requires a budget and a schedule and a clear idea of what the people in the house want from that bathroom, and the work will need managed toward those goals. That is the role of a project manager.

Now we've covered quite a few of the common areas where project managers work, and there are many more. So you might understand that project managers must customize their approaches to fit the situations in which they work. A project management process might vary by industry, size of the organization, size of the project, the level of authority, or the complexity of the project itself.

For example, iterative development, which was discussed in another lesson, relies on greater communication between workers, especially at the end of an iteration cycle. If the organization is large and the workers are separated geographically, this can be more challenging. It can certainly work, but the project manager might need to combine more elements of phase-based development into the iterative process for the project to succeed.

Or if a project manager is working in an industry with high risks, such as nuclear power, the scoping and planning phase will involve a much larger set of stakeholders and a greater emphasis on the safety and performance of the final deliverables than a project manager overseeing the creation of a video game.

What we've discussed in these lessons has hopefully given you a greater appreciation for the skills of a project manager. And perhaps you've already seen places where these skills can be used in your work and personal life.

In this lesson, we reviewed some of the common areas for project management and we discussed what might make a project manager vary their approach.

Thanks for listening and have a great day.