Today’s projects are often incredibly challenging, spread across different geographies and time zones, and with requirements that are volatile and unpredictable. As technologies advance, competition skyrockets and customer expectations keep increasing, project management has become more complex than ever before.
As a result, a project manager is required to wear multiple hats, and juggle them all with ease! They must follow a systematic and well-structured project management plan to ensure that goals and objectives are met, on time and within budget. To stay on top of processes and synchronize all the elements involved, project managers turn to one of the key best practices in the rule book: Project Integration Management.
“Project Integration Management includes the processes and activities to identify, define, combine, unify, and coordinate the various processes and project management activities within the Project Management Process Groups.”- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK 6)
In other words, project integration management is an organized approach that ensures all processes within a project are synchronized and executed efficiently, and resources remain on track to achieve the project goals. It helps project managers to balance stakeholder expectations and customer needs while optimizing tasks and resources, steering the project toward success.
Project managers who have to align the work of cross functional teams in accordance with dependencies, manage schedules and track resources, will benefit from this unified approach.
A project manager is required to oversee many components of the project, such as scope, schedules, costs, and resources. He or she must avert risk and facilitate smooth communication. Quality must be ensured, and clients and stakeholders must be appeased!
With the right integration management strategy, all these diverse elements can be tracked, and balanced against each other to achieve the desired outcomes. For instance, the project scope might suddenly change, necessitating a course correction which will lead to delays in the schedule, as well as cost overruns. Without an integration strategy in place, things could get out of hand very quickly.
Here’s what can be achieved through integration management:
A well formulated integration plan can make sure that all project components are in order to improve efficiency and, therefore, boost productivity.
The seven important steps in project integration management are:
Every project starts with creating a project charter or a project document. This document will mention all the key stakeholders involved and the necessary points of contact. This is an official document that covers the project goals, timelines, budget, deliverables, and processes. Hence, this written blueprint will act as a backbone to the managers to lead the project from the beginning till the end.
The next step of the process is to create a master plan, determining the deliverables of the project, significant benchmarks, timelines, and other necessary information for evaluating success. This is also the stage where project managers and team leaders divide the project into smaller milestones or steps, giving it a work-breakdown structure, hence making it an essential resource for decision making and risk management to control the project.
In the process of project execution, the team executes the project plan by following the functions and performing tasks to achieve results on time and on budget. Here, managers participate in task management, implementation of stakeholder meetings, communication and coordination, analysis of updates and reports, and resource management, hence, contributing to the successful integration of project functions. The goal of project execution is that every resource in the project plan and service description is efficient and productive, and teamwork is the most important.
In this process, managers utilize the existing information and acquire new or additional information to achieve the set business goals. This process in the integration ensures that every member of the team knows what they need to know and when they need to know it.
The expertise newly acquired during the implementation of the project will expand the company's intellectual wealth. It increases the value of knowledge exchange and stimulates innovation within the organization.
Project integration management tries to make sure there is harmony in all the areas of the project such as communication, time, scope, budget, quality, personnel, risk, procurement, and stakeholders. The project work must be carefully monitored and directed to ensure compliance with the project management plan. Managers regularly perform earned value analysis to determine the budget and schedule of the project. If these are monitored and comply with the project charter, the project will remain operational.
There is nothing more exasperating than project changes. Therefore, managers must ensure that any change request in terms of budget, term, resources, and so on are curbed to the extent possible. The changes control board must evaluate the changes to determine alternatives and solutions. They should also evaluate how a single change can affect your project. The integration of changes with the ongoing activities of a project is fundamental for positive delivery to customers.
Once the project work is completed and the results are finally accepted by the client, it is time to conclude the project. There are always many things to do to complete a phase or project. The team leaders and managers first conduct a formal review of the entire project. This will define project successes, problems and lessons learned to improve future opportunities. The completion of the project provides a reference for the implementation of subsequent projects and the rationalization of the integrated project management system.
Project managers already have their hands full, but project integration management should always be a top priority. To be able to elicit the best results, they should possess the right technical and professional skills, and be well versed at people management.
Some of the additional roles that project managers play in integrated management are:
Projects are usually managed through a series of project management processes and are always interrelated. Managers must track resources and tasks that move parallel to these processes and align with project goals. Project owners use defined key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure process performance. In addition, they have the intuitive ability to identify risks at an early stage and deal with them as required. By accessing reliable data, they can deal with integrated management in a better way.
Project managers must be very good at managing people and maintaining relationships, and this plays a large part in effective handling of teams. The role of the project manager is to let resources understand their roles, responsibilities, goals, and deadlines. The points of integration and core dependencies between resources should also be determined so that the workflow can run smoothly. Information exchange between resources is encouraged, and communication lines should be kept open at all times.
An important aspect that project managers must keep in mind is the necessity of maintaining a healthy relationship with stakeholders. This includes understanding their expectations and developing appropriate strategies to achieve them. The project manager should be able to successfully deal with stakeholder influences as well as conflicts of interest. They can do this by involving stakeholders in key project decisions.
To succeed at project integration management is not easy; it comes with experience and requires a project manager with the ability to drive results on even the most complicated projects. This is why project managers must have a combination of soft and hard skills including Planning, Communication, Relationship Management, Leadership, Critical Thinking Skills, Data Analysis, Budgeting, Change Management, Risk Management and so on.
Establishing open communication channels with the team is important to ensure that information is shared on time. Appropriate impact assessments need to be performed periodically to determine integration points or dependencies. Using integrated management software or tools can also increase the chances of project success.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), from the Project Management Institute (PMI)®, now in its seventh edition, has undergone a shift in emphasis from processes to performance. While Integration management was the first of the 10 key Knowledge Areas under PMBOK 6, PMBOK 7 is focused on 8 Performance Domains, with integration between components as a key element that is woven into each of these domains.
The PMBOK 6 defines Integration Management as “the processes and activities to identify, define, combine, unify, and coordinate the various processes and project management activities within the Project Management Process Groups.”
In contrast, the PMBOK 7 mentions that “Product management involves the integration of people, data, processes, and business systems to create, maintain and develop a product or service throughout its lifecycle.”
Throughout this article, we have referred to Integration Management as outlined in the PMBOK 6, which still continues to be a valuable reference both for project management practices as well as the 2021 PMP exam.
Every project is built around multiple tasks, activities and processes that must be coordinated perfectly to ensure success. Project integration management makes this happen, by piecing together the parts, much like bits of a jigsaw puzzle, to create a cohesive whole. When each element through the project lifecycle is smoothly integrated with the other—and processes and knowledge are aligned with people and resources— the project is likely to progress well and have a favorable outcome.
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