Within the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) guide, project management processes are presented as discrete components with well-defined interfaces. That’s nice in theory. However, in reality – most project managers understand that project processes, components, tasks, and deliverables actually overlap and interact in ways that are never really dealt with in the PMI standards guidebook.
Most experienced PM practitioners know there is no single way to manage a project. They apply their PM knowledge, skills, and processes in whatever way is necessary to achieve these project objectives and – ideally – finish with a successful completion of the project or projects they are managing.
Of course, the project manager has tools at their disposal to do this. Tools and templates exist for managing project budgets, capturing requirements, building test and use cases, and creating many project planning deliverables (such as design documents, communication plans, risk management plans, project charters, etc.). There are boundless ways to manage resource usages and prepare resource forecasts and there are now hundreds of project management task scheduling tools in existence – many free – so, gone are the days of being tied to Microsoft Project as the PM’s only real option for managing teams, tasks, deliverables, and the customer.
But what are we really doing? Will tools make the project manager successful at integrating all of the tasks, information, and processes within a project to arrive at a successful project deployment? No. Will PMI certification ensure that this will happen? While it may help by giving a project manager nice tools and a knowledge baseline reference to ‘get it done’ the answer is still really ‘no’. Projects don’t flow perfectly. They often aren’t well defined. It takes experience across many projects, it takes a project manager who can make good decisions on the fly, and it takes a leader who is grounded yet flexible, to successfully deliver on projects that are often subject to requirements changes, moving timelines, and pressure from outside entities that weren’t initially part of the project plan.
As stated earlier, project integration focuses on the streamlined flow of information, activities, tasks, and deliverables from phase to phase and process to process. The reality of the projects we all manage on a daily basis is that there rarely – if ever – is a streamlined flow. The challenge for the project manager then, is to manage projects with the real-world mentality and viewpoint, being able to adjust, coordinate, and control overlapping deliverables and information flows and handle competing and conflict requirements and constraints. Communication, as always, is key, and information dissemination to the team and customer is essential.