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The primary challenge of Project Management is to achieve all of the project goals and objectives while honoring the preconceived project constraints. Typical constraints are scope, time, and budget. The secondary—and more ambitious—challenge is to optimize the allocation and integration of inputs necessary to meet pre-defined objectives.

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) is our method of planning and managing projects that puts more emphasis on the resources (physical and human) needed in order to execute project tasks. The most complex part involves professionals of different fields working together. It is an application of the Theory of Constraints (TOC) to projects.

Our goal is to increase the rate of throughput (or completion rates) of projects in an organization. Applying the first three of the five focusing steps of TOC, the system constraint for all projects is identified as are the resources. To exploit the constraint, tasks on the critical chain are given priority over all other activities.

Finally, projects are planned and managed to ensure that the resources are ready when the critical chain tasks must start, subordinating all other resources to the critical chain.

Regardless of project type, the project plan should undergo Resource Levelling, and the longest sequence of resource-constrained tasks should be identified as the critical chain. In multi-project environments, resource levelling should be performed across all projects. However, it is often enough to identify (or simply select) a single "drum" resource—a resource that acts as a constraint across projects—and stagger projects based on the availability of that single resource.

The initiation processes determines the nature and scope of the project. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business' needs. The key project controls needed here are an understanding of the business environment and making sure that all necessary controls are incorporated into the project. Any deficiencies should be reported and a recommendation should be made to correct them.

The initiation stage should include a plan that encompasses the following areas:

  • Analysing the business needs/requirements in measurable goals.

  • Reviewing of the current operations.

  • Financial analysis of the costs and benefits including a budget.

  • Stakeholder analysis, including users and support personnel for the project.

  • Project charter including costs, tasks, deliverables and a schedule.

After the initiation stage, the project is planned to an appropriate level of detail. The main purpose is to plan time, cost and resources adequately to estimate the work needed and to effectively manage risk during project execution. As with the Initiation process group, a failure to adequately plan greatly reduces the project's chances of successfully accomplishing its goals.

Project planning generally consists of:

  • determining how to plan (e.g. by level of detail or rolling wave);

  • developing the scope statement;

  • selecting the planning team;

  • identifying deliverables and creating the work breakdown structure;

  • identifying the activities needed to complete those deliverables and networking the activities in their logical sequence;

  • estimating the resource requirements for the activities;

  • estimating time and cost for activities;

  • developing the schedule;

  • developing the budget;

  • risk planning;

  • gaining formal approval to begin work.

For new product development projects, conceptual design of the operation of the final product may be performed concurrently with the project planning activities, and may help to inform the planning team when identifying deliverables and planning.

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