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Project Implementation: Your Guide to What it Involves

Project Implementation: Your Guide to What it Involves

Project Implementation – also known as project delivery or execution – is where the rubber hits the road. After all your definition, scoping and planning, it’s time to make things happen.

Here’s where you implement your project, execute your plan, and deliver the benefits your sponsor commissioned. So, although I’d argue that this is the easy bit, you have to get it right.

PMI Talent Triangle - Technical Project Management

What does Project Implementation Involve?

In this guide, we’ll tell you.

  1. We’ll set out the ten critical ‘Project Heartbeat’ functions that you’ll need in any project.
  2. Then we’ll add in the more advanced thinking you’ll want if your is a formal project.
  3. Finally, we’ll discuss how the two big methodologies of PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (the PMBOK Guide) and Axelos’s PRINCE2 approach project implementation.
    1. PMBOK calls this the ‘Executing Process Group’, and
    2. PRINCE2 calls it ‘Controlling a Stage’

What is Project Implementation?

The Project Lifecycle - focusing on the Implementation Stage
The Project Lifecycle – focusing on the Implementation Stage

Project implementation is about managing your resources to deliver your products, or deliverables. Your fundamental concern is to follow your plan and to monitor and control work, ensuring that delivery is:

  • to schedule
  • on budget
  • meeting your quality standards

If these three vital parameters don’t instantly ring a bell for you, you may like our video on the Iron Triangle:

Resource Demands

Project Implementation: Your Guide to What it Involves

The lifecycle model that we illustrated at the start of this section is a representation of the resource utilization through the project. The area under the curve in each stage represents the resources the project needs, or its budget.

During the implementation stage, you will:

  • deploy the majority of your resource time,
  • use most of your consumable materials
  • and therefore, expend the bulk of your budget

As a result, changes to scope or specification will have an increasingly big effect on your ability to complete your project successfully. As each day passes, you will have a rapidly diminishing budget and capacity to implement those changes.

The consequence of this is that your change control process needs to be robust and well-managed.

Terminology

Project Implementation seems to be the most popular term for this stage, globally, judging by an assessment of Google searches and search results…

TermGoogle
Forecast Impressions
(pcm)
Google
Search Results
Project Implementation401.53 bn
Project Delivery41.49 bn
Project Execution100.27 bn

Here, at OnlinePMCourses.com, we have a mild preference for the term Project Delivery. Arguably this betrays our training in the UK. PRINCE2 uses the term. It’s the term Project Execution that is favoured by:

The Fundamental Project Implementation Tasks

There is a rhythm to the implementation stage of a well managed project. I call it the ‘Project Heartbeat’.

Project Implementation - The Ten Project Heartbeat Functions

The primary function is, without doubt, the Monitor and Control cycle.

Monitor and Control

Shift happens and things will constantly change in your project. delays will emerge, issues will arise, people will encounter problems. You need to be constantly monitoring what’s going on, and intervening to regain control.

The essential question is…

Are you cycling around the Monitor and Control Loop frequently enough to catch problems early, so you can deal with them quickly and easily?

Are you cycling around the Monitor and Control Loop frequently enough to catch problems early, so you can deal with them quickly and easily? Click To Tweet

Measure and Manage Project Performance

After monitoring and controlling, the associated task is to keep your project’s performance under review. This is a vital part of governance, and also the means by which you know what controlling actions you need to take.

For most basic projects, you’ll be checking on:

  • product delivery against specifications and quality standards
  • resource utilization against plans
  • progress against schedule
  • expenditure against budget
  • morale and individual performance

The gold standard methodology for measuring progress and expenditure is Earned Value Management. We looked at EVM in detail in a recent article, but here’s a short introduction to what EVM is.

Reporting

You will need an effective process for collecting, analyzing, and documenting project status information, and then for getting it to the people who need it quickly and in an accessible format.

Therefore, take a look at our Giant Guide to Project Reporting [How to do it well]

Risk and Issue Review

Risk Management

Your risk management process will run throughout the implementation stage of your project. But, how frequently are you reviewing outstanding risks and issues?

And how effectively are you and your team dealing with them? In addition, you will need a regular process for identifying new, emerging risks and issues. Take a look at our article, How to Build a Robust Project Risk Culture [8 Steps].

And, if you are in any doubt about the value of good risk management, we recomend you read How Project Risk Management will Make You a Better PM.

Issue Management

Issues will arise throughout the delivery stage of your project. Happily we also have a comprehensive article on Issue Management: All You Need to Know about PMBoK’s Missing Process.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control

Nobody else can take total project responsibility for the quality of your project’s products or deliverables. So you need to stay fully involved in the Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes.

And yes, if you need to know more about this, we have you covered here, too, with our article, Project Quality Management: All You Need to Know.

Team Meetings

Team working is an essential aspect of your project implementation stage. And a crucial part of this is to set up a regular cycle of team meetings and establish a suitable style, culture, and agenda for them. On a long project, review this from time-to-time, as your project’s needs are likely to change.

To help you with this, do take a look at our article: How to Run a Really Great Project Meeting

Other articles you may find helpful include:

Team Morale

Your project will cycle through its ups and downs and so will the morale of your team. For example, successes and meeting milestones will create a real boost, just as setbacks and problems will bring your team low.

Project implementation can be a roller-coaster. As the project manager, you need to work constantly to maintain morale and deal with any setbacks appropriately. That way, you can be sure your team remains resourceful when you most need it. Here are some articles that will give you plenty of ideas:

Lessons Learned

Don’t wait to the end of your project to learn its lessons. Set up a regular meeting to harvest new lessons and plan how to act on them throughout the implementation of your project. Our feature article on this topic is How to Get Your Next Lessons Learned Meeting Right.

You might also like this article: Ten Project Management Lessons I’ve Learned over the Years.

Stakeholder Engagement

Your stakeholders will determine the success, of failure, of your project

One of my 12 Project Management Rules You’d be Wise to Note

So, never let up on your focus on your stakeholders. Keep engaging with them in a positive, respectful way, to:

  • build their trust
  • win their confidence
  • benefit from their insights
  • influence their perceptions of your project.

We have lots of articles on stakeholders, but the ones most valuable during the delivery stage of your project are:

Change Control

We alluded above to the importance of a good change control process during project implementation. You need to be able to:

  • document each request for change
  • create an analysis of the pros and cons
  • get a decision from the right people
  • document that decision

You will need Change Request documentation and a Change Log. Lucky for you, we cover everything you need to know about the change control process in OnlinePMCourses Guide to Project Change Control.

The Next Bend

Project implementation is a busy, sometimes frenetic, time. It can be hard to stay on top of everything that is going on – let alone to get out ahead of events.

But that is exactly what you need to do – especially if you want to consider yourself a project leader, as well as a project manager.

So, carve out time in your busy week to do some quiet reflective thinking on your own. These are the times when you are most likely to notice the things no one has yet spotted… the opportunities or issues that are coming around the next bend.

Additional Project Implementation Tasks in Formal Projects

The ten project heartbeat functions I’ve listed above are fundamental to managing any project through the implementation stage. But more formal projects have additional requirements.

The bigger, more complex, more structured your project becomes, the more likely you are to need to put some attention into some or all of these.

Decision-making and Good Governance

If your project goes smoothly, all your governance needs will be accommodated by an effective reporting process and robust change control procedures.

However, your project may be complex and needs to accommodate changes in direction or possible choices in, for example, technology. Then, you will need to put a corresponding effort into serving good decision-making and governance. Maybe you are wondering: ‘What has Project Governance Ever Done for Us? [Ans: A Lot]‘.

To learn more about good decision-making, take a look at our twin articles:

Ongoing Scope Management

Likewise, simple projects will see little in the way of scope changes, once planning is complete. And the small changes – largely to specifications – will come under cahnge control.

But, for long and complex projects, you may need to manage significant changes in scope throughout delivery. The article you’ll need for this is Scope Management Plan: Everything You Need to Know.

Supplier Management

If your project needs to procure goods or services, then you will need to manage both the procurement processes around this and the supplier relationships.

We have you covered on this, too: Project Procurement Management [All the basics you need to know].

Benefits Management

Benefits management is a process used in more formal projects to ensure that you don’t just deliver the products you promised, to specification. Rather, what matters is that those products lead to the benefits you anticipated when you wrote your Business Case. Keep an eye out for a full article on benefits management, in the near future.

Information and Document Management

During project implementation, you will create and collect a lot of information. You’ll need to store this, make it accessible, maintain its integrity with version control, and (after project completion) archive it and make arrangements for its eventual safe destruction.

For formal projects, you’ll need an information management process to handle this. A special example is…

Knowledge Management 

This is the need to make knowledge available and ensure it gets used. Your lessons learned, reporting, and information management process will contribute to knowledge management. There are plenty of excellent tools that facilitate it, but the real challenges are behavioral:

  • getting people to recognize and record valuable information
  • ensuring people access and learn from knowledge repositories
  • leading people from learning from to using the knowledge that is available

Configuration Management 

This is largely a factor in either technology or product development projects. As the complexity of the product you are creating grows, so does the importance of actively recording and managing the configuration. This means that any changes the project team makes to the project are fully recorded.

The reasons are simple. The audit trail means:

  • Changes can be undone, if they prove detrimental
  • There is a data trail that can aid with fault diagnosis, problem-solving, and learning lessons
  • Everyone can be aware of the current state of the product
  • You have the basis for the final user documentation

PMBoK’s approach to Project Implementation

The PMBOK Guide is divided into 10 Knowledge Areas (KAs) and five Process Groups…

The PMBOK 6th Ed Process Groups
The PMBOK 6th Ed Process Groups. There is a full size version in our PMP Exam Prep Guide

The project implementation process is covered by the ‘Executing’ and ‘Monitoring and Controlling’ process groups. The way PMBok documents these process groups is little more than a series of call-backs to the processes that it covers fully in the KA sections.

You will only be interested in these sections if you are studying for your PMP or CAPM exams. We have a guide that compares the two, as well as a training program that will prepare you for either.

As a result, the most useful thing we can do is summarize these two PMBoK chapters with simple diagrams…

The Executing Process Group

PMBOK Representation of Project Implementation: Part 1 - Executing Processes

The Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

PMBOK Representation of Project Implementation: Part 2 - Monitoring and Controlling

The Project Delivery Processes: PRINCE2’s approach to Project Implementation

Just as with PMBoK, PRINCE2 spreads your project implementation responsibilities across more than one of its seven processes. In this case, four are involved;

  1. Directing a Project
  2. Controlling a Stage
  3. Managing Project Delivery
  4. Managing a Stage Boundary

The diagram below illustrates how these fit together.

PRINCE2TM Representation of Project Implementation

To learn more about PRINCE2, we have an article, PRINCE2 Certification: Everything You Need to Know, and courses that will prepare you for certification at:

What would you add to this article?

If you have any questions or suggestions for what we should have included in this article, please do let us know, in the comments below. I’ll respond to every contribution.

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 13 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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