This is the first in a series of articles on the full range of the major project management activities as represented by the PMI Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Knowledge Areas:

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

Taken together the knowledge areas address all processes performed in a project. Procurement management is optional - if you are not acquiring anything, you do not have to manage procurement. Whether you are taking an Agile, structured or any other approach, all the other processes are mandatory – that is, if you leave any of them out then you are not effectively planning, controlling, executing and closing your projects. Of course, the way each is performed, for example the degree of formality and detail, depends on your situation.

Integration Management
Integration Management recognizes the complex nature of projects and project management. You cannot get a complete understanding of a complex process like project management solely by breaking it apart into subject areas or any other discrete chunks. It is in the way the chunks fit together, how they influence one another and overlap, that the real nature of the process comes to light. That is what integration is about - it goes beyond coordination. It is the glue that holds the overall process together.

Integration Management is defined in the PMBOK as including "the processes and activities to identify, define, combine, unify and coordinate the various processes and project management activities with the Project Management Process Groups." . Integration Management is about the way the other subject areas are combined to create a practical approach to managing a project. It spans the entire life of the project from initiation through closing.

The Processes
Integration management consists of the following processes:

  • Project charter development
  • Project plan development
  • Directing and managing project work and knowledge
  • Monitoring and controlling project work and changes
  • Closing

Project Charter and Plan
Integration Management begins with the development of a project charter. The charter is often used to inform the decision to initiate the project. Hopefully, the decision-making involves assessing the benefits, costs and risk of the proposed project, based on a comprehensive description of the project and upon the way the project relates to other projects being planned or performed in the project environment.

The charter describes the project comprehensively, but without great detail. It identifies the project's goals and objectives, expected scope, stakeholders, impacts, costs, benefits, assumptions, risks and more. There are many templates that outline and describe the components of a project charter. {INSERT PROJECT INSIGHT SUPPORT FOR THIS}

The charter can be a living document that is updated as the project changes during its life and as more information, for example the names of stakeholders, is known.

Project planning is central to integration. While there is an emphasis on plan development early on, planning continues throughout project life in a rolling wave approach that recognizes that change is inevitable and that detailed project tasks may not be fleshed out until later in project life. The project plan should reflect the Charter and cover all aspects of project life - tasks, time estimates, costs, resource availability and usage, and the way processes like risk management, quality management and procurement management will be carried out. {INSERT PROJECT INSIGHT SUPPORT FOR THIS}

Project planning addresses the project as a whole and the individual parts that make it up, integrates scope definition, scheduling, costing and budgeting, risk assessment and planning, and procurement management.

The charter and plan provide the baseline against which the project will be executed, monitored, controlled and closed.

Execution and Control
Projects are dynamic and complex. Change is to be expected across the life of the project. The plan is a guideline rather than a script that must be followed no matter what.

Work, including the work of planning itself, must be directed and managed. The plan identifies the work to be done and the approach for doing it. Once the work starts it must be directed to make sure that it is being carried out in the most effective way.

The manager assesses project status reports, the results of tests and reviews, the frequency and type of issues, the status of the risks and assumptions, the frequency and nature of changes, conflicts and the general "flavor" of the project, including the relationships among stakeholders and the stakeholders' morale, involvement and motivation.

In addition, project knowledge is managed to make sure it is up to date and true reflection of the reality. Project knowledge is made up of the reports, time and cost data and logs that chronicle the project and the project's artifacts (requirements definitions, designs, etc.) that describe the product. It also includes the unwritten, tacit knowledge that resides in the minds of individuals.

To manage and direct, the team must have data. Projects generate data and the data is valuable. Therefore, it must be properly managed. Data allows project managers to get a sense of the health of the project, manage expectations, guard against the impact of the loss of key stakeholders and their knowledge, and learn from experience across multiple projects.

Project management tools provide templates and functions that facilitate the collection, storage, management and distribution of project data. Tools enable data to be transformed into useful information distributed in multiple levels of detail to interested stakeholders. {INSERT PROJECT INSIGHT SUPPORT FOR THIS}

Project control and, particularly, the collection and management of data requires significant effort and discipline. The thought of spending time and effort doing time keeping, accounting and writing up risks, changes and issues and documenting decisions strikes fear into the heart of many project managers and team members. It is important to find the right level of documentation and control. Overkill is costly and wasteful. Insufficiency is also costly often resulting in conflicts, rework and loss of institutional knowledge. Use the right tools and templates and make it clear that appropriate project control is a requirement for success.

The last part of Integration Management is closing the project. As with the other processes, closing addresses the project as a whole. It is the process in which decision makers use the project goals and objectives and the project documents that chronicle the project and describe the product to determine if the project is over, and how successful it was.

Closing takes place over time. Project performance assessments should be done regularly during project life. Phases of large projects are subject to formal closing, as if they were projects.

The project work ends upon acceptance of the product, the archiving of the documentation, a lessons-learned activity, and the disbanding of the team. Project success can be gauged based on meeting schedules and budgets, collective positive relations and perceptions of the stakeholders. However, since the achievement of project benefits is a significant measure of success and since the benefits are not realized until well after most projects end, monitor operational use of the product to assess whether benefits are achieved. Feeding back the results for further assessment of project success and insights into how to improve project performance in the future.

Integration is Critical to Success
Project integration is critical to project success because it provides the framework and foundation for project management. In subsequent articles we will explore the other areas of knowledge and the way they are performed in the context of initiating, planning controlling and closing projects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: George Pitagorsky, PMP, integrates core disciplines and applies mindfulness meditation and people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. George authored Managing Expectations: A Mindful Approach to Achieving Success, The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict in Projects and PM Foundation. He is a senior teacher at the NY Insight Meditation Center.

Online 8/31/2018
George Pitagorsky
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