Project form and process


A project consists of unique time-consuming activities performed in a sequence. Each project has some definite completion time and the cost associated with all the activities of the project till its completion is called project cost. Here there are many complex tasks, involving a multi-disciplinary approach. The tasks have a deadline.

Some projects generate a product as an output like a ship or an aircraft. Here, during the transformation process, there is immobility of the product, it remaining in the fixed position. These are large-scale complex products or services which cannot be physically moved.

The project is managed by a project team. Project team allocates resources like men, materials, machines etc. to different activities. Some materials do get consumed in the process, whereas some machines and manpower are capable of being re-deployed in other project activities.

The following is an illustrative list of projects.

1. Setting up a nuclear power plant.
2. Construction of civil works like bridges, buildings, roads etc.
3. Computerization of human resources inventory.
4. Building a modern hospital or stadium for sports meets.
5. Implementation of a change due to technological advance in manufacturing, packaging, materials handling etc.
6. Competition stimulated projects related to cost reduction, productivity improvement etc.
7. Management consultancy assignments.

In other words, project form suits inter- disciplinary sets of activities to be performed under severe time and cost constraints, which may result in penalties if there is time and cost overruns with time wages of labor and jacked-up prices of equipment, project approach is finding favor all the more.

Characteristics of Project Processes

Projects have a short life-cycle with a definite beginning and a definite end. During the progress of the project resources requirements are not uniform. They may not be more in the beginning and may be much more during the build-up to leveling of slowly to the extent of cut-down towards the end. Resource allocation is one of the major challenges of project planning and controlling.

The above description makes it clear that manpower deployment is a tricky business here. The deployed manpower from other departments might lack commitments and also affects the family life of the persons. The manpower may not be cut out for the specialized tasks to be carried out for the project. Temporary manpower looks for alternative jobs when the project is nearing completion. Even during the project’s life, the manpower tries to be prepared for the next activity. All this may result into time over-run.

The matrix form of organization is suitable when multiple projects are being handled. Here, there are functional specialists who hold the resources and allow the project manager to co-ordinate these resources through his subordinates. A functional specialist coordinates with several project managers. There is therefore co-ordination across functional departments. However, the principle of unity of command is violated, and hence there is a need for a better rapport between the functional specialist and the project manager in his line capacity.

Each project consists of a cost of activities having inter- dependence. Some activities cannot start till the predecessor activities are completed. The project delayed results in cost over-run. Scheduling and controlling of project activities by OR techniques like PERT/CPM is therefore vitally important.