Project management may sound familiar to many of us. A project, after all, can be as simple as buying a piece of furniture for your household, as much as it can refer to a fundraising event for an organization, involving operations that are markedly more complex.
However, in the recent decades, project management has developed into a discipline in itself. As such, it offers tools and methodologies for a systematic accomplishment of various types of objectives.
This month’s Fellows’ Night featured Universitas’ very own Chief Media Officer (CMO) Jubert Maquiling whose talk gave the V Fellows and guests a glimpse into the world of project management, a world that is as much science as it is art.
A Project Management Professional (PMP) certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI), CMO Jubert has been involved for over a decade in direct/indirect management of technology projects in the banking and finance industry in the Philippines, Asia Pacific and other parts of the globe. Jubert’s passion has mainly been in developing solutions and implementing technologies geared towards financial inclusion.
The triple constraints: Time, Cost and Scope
Jubert began his talk by examining the concept of a project. What, indeed, is a project? A technical definition which Jubert borrowed from PMI considers a project “any temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” Hence, a project can be any activity, whether it be installing an office equipment, creating a software, or simply baking a cake for an upcoming celebration.
Jubert emphasized the idea that a project is temporary by nature–i.e., it has a beginning and an end. This sets it apart from the permanent or semi-permanent operations of an organization or company. Hence, Project management, as defined by PMI, is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
In this field of profession, according to Jubert, there are many methodologies catering to different needs and situations. His talk, however, mainly focused on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), a methodology designed by PMI which applies universal standards towards project management.
Under this methodology, project management is treated as one composed of five process groups: first, there is an initiation stage, to be followed by planning, and later on, by the execution of the plan. This would then be succeeded by the monitoring and controlling stage; and finally, consistent with the temporary nature of a project, there would be closure.
At the end of every project (or at any of its stages for that matter) an inevitable question would always come up: is the project successful? And in conjunction with this, is the project management effective?
Jubert named a number of factors that make up an effective project management, such as meeting the business objectives, satisfaction of stakeholders’ expectations, and optimization of the use of organizational resources. But he focused on one factor that plays a central part in the job of a project manager, namely, the management of constraints.
Each project, Jubert noted, is bounded by many constraints. Of these constraints, he mentioned three (what he calls the ‘Triple Constraints’) which have significant impact on a project: namely, time, cost and scope.
The quality of a project can be seen as an outcome of the balancing between these three factors. When we embark on a project, we normally want it to be fast (consuming as little time as possible), cheap (without involving too much cost), and good (taking within its scope as much of the necessary details and specifications as it can).
However, in real life, the combination of these three factors may bring about conditions that are far from the ideal. A project that is good and cheap would most likely take too much time. Conversely, a project that is good and does not take too much time is very often costly. Finally, a project that is cheap and fast more often than not produces an output with substandard quality.
These three factors are the constraints that a project manager encounters on a regular basis. Thus, a project manager would often need to decide whether any adjustment in the time, scope or cost of the project would ultimately lead to a beneficial outcome.
In the end, however, the final say on how to direct the project vis-a-vis these constraints still lies in the hands of the stakeholders. The project manager’s job is to inform the stakeholders of their options and the facts that would help them come up with a reasonable business judgment.
The Life of a Project Manager
While talking about the life of a project manager, Jubert shared in his slide presentation a comic strip which shows a conversation between a project manager and his boss.
The boss orders the project manager to have a project finished within two weeks. However, overwhelmed with the order, the project manager says that it would be impossible to execute the request. To prove his point, he dials one of the stakeholders, but the only response he gets is a voicemail saying there is no way that the stakeholder can ever be reached, ending with the line “despair is your only option”.
The comic strip is a humorous depiction of the inconvenient spot that project managers are often put in in real life.
Jubert emphasized that the involvement and investment of the stakeholders are crucial. They are, after all, the ones who stand to benefit from the project, and on the flipside, bear the risk of loss.
“If a project is ‘turning red’– for instance, when the scope, time or cost are out of proportion–and nobody seems to pay any attention to it, then, perhaps it’s a sign that the project is not really important.” When it comes to such situations, he said, the wisest thing to do is sometimes to simply close the project and prevent the company from further incurring losses.
Jubert wanted to underscore the need to always reflect on why a project is important. As a project manager, one must always keep in mind the purpose behind the project, and to assess, in the light of that purpose, the measures that need to be done in any given situation.
Becoming a Project Management Professional
Although project management is not everyone’s cup of tea, Jubert encouraged those who are interested to pursue a career in this field to apply for a certification as a Project Management Professional. The certification, he noted, is not necessary in order for one to manage projects; however, such certification is a widely-recognized badge establishing one’s credibility and qualification to manage projects professionally.
In addition to certain educational attainments, the eligibility requirements for the application include 4,500 hours spent leading and directing projects as well as a minimum of three years or 36 months of unique non-overlapping professional project management experience. (See more on the PMI website) Jubert explained that the reason for these requirements is that project management, more than technical knowledge, requires wisdom and maturity, which are only obtained through time and experience.
New and familiar faces came and listened to the talk, a good number of whom are the officers and managers of Universitas who found the topic relevant to their own experience of managing the activities, projects and programs of the Foundation. With the practical insights shared by sir Jubert, this month’s UFN is a testament to the Foundation’s commitment to form the country’s future leaders not only in character and conscience, but also in competence, an essential component of their calling to serve.
V Fellows and guests bond and share light snacks after the talk
NOTA BENE: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and the speakers mentioned in the article, and not necessarily to the Foundation.
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