What is a Project Management System?
The term “project management system” is widely used to describe two major pieces of the overall project management puzzle. The first piece is essentially an approach to getting work done. The second piece refers to various tools and technologies that help drive this approach. In this article, we will explore both aspects that combine to create a solid, fundamental project management system definition.
Project Management System as an Approach
In terms of an approach to getting work done, a project management system refers to the integration of seven integrated subsystems that establish and support project management across the organization. These subsystems include: project team structure; project planning; project control; project reporting; methodologies and techniques; worker engagement; and tools and technologies. Each of these respective subsystems is briefly described below.
Project Team Structure Subsystem
The project team structure subsystem governs how project teams are organized into hierarchies. Generally, there are four types of structures:
- Functional, in which projects are launched and executed by divisional managers who continue to perform their respective functional roles.
- Project-oriented, in which project managers focus exclusively on projects (typically one large project or multiple smaller projects).
- Matrix, which is a balance between functional and project-oriented. Most organizations use this structure.
- Composite, which supports both a distinct functional structure and a distinct project-oriented structure, and both structures report to a central executive. This structure is not common, but can be found in some organizations that have both a national and regional footprint (e.g. government agencies).
Project Planning Subsystem
The project planning subsystem governs all aspects of project planning across the portfolio. This includes project selection, identifying business goals, resource allocation, and developing strategies for how business goals will be achieved.
Project Control Subsystem
The project control subsystem governs all of the processes, protocols and procedures that are necessary to control projects at each stage of the lifecycle. It also focuses on establishing the performance standards by which schedules, budgets, and productivity will be monitored and measured.
Project Reporting Subsystem
The project reporting subsystem governs all of the informal channels (e.g. conversations and chats) and formal channels (e.g. meetings and conferences) that relate to how project teams gather intelligence on an ongoing basis, and use it to execute and control projects.
Project Methodologies and Techniques Subsystem
The project methodologies and techniques subsystem governs the range of approaches that are used to manage projects. Examples include: Critical Path Method (CPM), Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, Integrated Project Management (IPM), Projects integration Sustainable Methods (PRiSM), Projects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2), and several others.
Worker Engagement Subsystem
The worker engagement subsystem governs the various tactics, strategies, programs and methods to foster engagement and morale across the workforce. Research has found that companies with high levels of worker engagement report 22% greater productivity compared to companies with low levels of worker engagement.
Project Tools and Technologies Subsystem
The project tools and technologies subsystem governs the solutions that are used to initiate, plan, execute, monitor and close projects, and essentially drive all of the other subsystems discussed above. Most organizations (and virtually all larger enterprises) establish and manage this subsystem through online project management software, which brings us to the other piece of the puzzle.
Project Management System as a Software Solution
In the context of a software solution, a project management system establishes a centralized single-source-of-truth that integrates project information across the enterprise. Ultimately, the best project management system is based in the cloud, maximizes productivity, increases visibility, and drives adaptability.
Maximizing productivity means significantly and sustainably reducing costs, while enabling teams to make every second of work count by:
- Automating tedious and repetitive task, supporting multiple work preferences and styles.
- Connecting formerly teams to align communications and drive collaboration.
- Keeping customers, partners, suppliers, vendors and other external stakeholders “in the loop”.
- Evaluating project success by tracking relevant metrics and key performance indicators.
Increasing visibility means establishing effortless transparency to enable fast, accurate decision making by:
- Centralizing access to real-time data across all resources and workstreams, and for all kinds of work and methodologies.
- Giving teams access to all of the updated information they need in real-time.
- Supporting business health.
- Support contingency planning.
- Enabling decision-makers (e.g. the PMO) to see the big picture, so they can allocate and optimize resources.
Driving adaptability means having the capacity to pivot due to changing circumstances or opportunities, in order to:
- Maximize revenue opportunities.
- Identify emerging market trends.
- Align/re-align work based on shifting business objectives and priorities.
- Efficiently implement new processes and workflows.
- Continuously deliver value to meet new market needs.
Other Key Online Project Management System Features
In addition, an effective cloud project management system should have various features that support:
- Out-of-the-box readiness
- Quick and easy onboarding
- Flexible customization at all levels
- Robust information security (both data transfer and data-at-rest)
It should also offer comprehensive vendor support, including user training, on-demand learning resources, and additional professional services to accelerate time-to-value and maximize ROI.
The Final Word
It is important to reiterate that while we have looked at two aspects of a project management system – a suite of subsystems, and online project management software – they are not distinct entities. They are integrated and influence each other.
For this reason, it is extremely important for organizations to choose an enterprise-grade project management software solution that meets all of their current needs, and also has the capacity to adapt with their business into the future. This will ensure that the project management system overall (composed of both pieces of the puzzle) will help projects reach the finish line on time, within budget, and after having achieved all required business objectives. And really, that is what good project management is all about!