Project Definition the What When and Constraints

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Planning of a project should start only once it has been redefined in specific terms.

The Project Team Manager and members having been assigned to the project, their first task is to carry out a complete definition of the project. The team will know the overall goal of the project but its purpose and objectives will need to be clarified and redefined in more specific terms of deliverables, assumptions and constraints. Project definition enables all the stakeholders, both internal and external, to understand and agree upon the goals, responsibilities, assumptions and success criteria to be used. The planning of the project and the allocation of resources should only start once this has been done.

The redefinition of the project involves listing the deliverables of the project. These include the performance requirements of the product, process or service, the overall cost of the project and the time frame for its completion. Using these factors a statement can be written which defines the objective of the project. A typical example of a project statement would be:

To develop and establish in two years time a new process for the manufacture of Product X, operating in a modified plant, to double the current production to 500 tonnes per year, the manufacturing cost to be 20% lower than at present, whilst the capital expenditure must not exceed 4 million euros.

This statement of the overall objective covers the WHAT, the WHEN and the CONSTRAINTS of the project.


To develop and establish a new process for the manufacture of Product X to produce 500 tonnes per year at 20% less than the current cost.


In two years time.


The existing plant to be used and capital expenditure on modifications must not exceed 4 million euros.

Using this structured statement of its overall aims, the team is able to define the specific objectives and to refine and explore the other constraints of the project. A good way of looking at this is to consider what will have been delivered at the end of the project. At the same time any other objectives and constraints not covered in the general project statement, should be explored.

Applying this method to the example of the manufacture of Product X, the constraints are expanded to cover other aspects of HSE, personnel, time and money.

1. A new process for Product X

2. The ability to make 500 tonnes per year

3. The cost of manufacture 20% lower than previously

4. Use of clean technology with waste minimised

5. A safe process, with no impact on the work force

6. A process suitable for even larger scale manufacture

7. The potential for further cost reduction

8. The generation of intellectual property rights on the process

9. The work to be complete in under two years

10. The existing plant to be modified

11. The use of current plant items to be maximised

12. The capital expenditure on new items not to exceed 4 million euros

13. The disturbance to other manufactures to be minimised

14. The work to be completed with existing staff

15. The total revenue costs not to exceed 1,2 million euros

The Project Manager needs to check and agree the list of objectives with the sponsoring manager, and all other parties who are involved or have an interest in the project (the stakeholders).

Subsequently, the team will use the list of deliverables to determine the work to be done to achieve these goals. Several techniques can be used to carryout this process, the classical one is called the work breakdown structure (WBS), which was originally developed by the US defense establishment. "A work breakdown structure is a product-oriented family tree composed of hardware, software, services, data and facilities [it] displays and defines the product(s) to be developed and/or produced and relates the elements of work to be accomplished to each other and to the end product(s) [D-22]."

The work breakdown structure is therefore a method of describing the work to be done in the project in terms of deliverables and the tasks to be accomplished. It involves defining major deliverables and accomplishments during the project and listing a hierarchy of sub-deliverables and accomplishments. The deliverables and accomplishments are a sum of their sub components and the WBS is a sum of all the elements. A more detailed description of this can be found in any ofthe general books on Project Management [D-13].

Continuing with the Product X example, the headline activities in the WBS are:

1. Process development completed 1.1 Laboratory process developed

1.1.1 Alternatives routes evaluated

1.1.2 Manufacturing suitability confirmed

1.1.3 Costing done

1.1.3 Product quality checked

1.4 Hazard studies completed

1.4.1 Chemical reaction hazards evaluated

1.4.2 Plant operational hazards evaluated

1.5 Patents filed

1.5.1 Prior art checked

1.5.2 Specification drafted

2. Plant modifications completed.

2.1 Modifications designed

2.1.1 Changes determined

2.1.2 Alternative items identified

2.1.3 Plant layout drawn

2.2 Equipment obtained

2.2.1 Suppliers evaluated

2.2.2 Equipment ordered

2.3 Plant items installed

2.3.1 Pipe work installed

2.3.2 Reactor installed

2.4 Trials completed

2.4.1 Water trials completed

2.4.2 Instruments checked

3. Initial manufacture completed

3.1 Process operated

3.1.1 Plant Process written

3.1.2 Computer controls modified

3.1.3 Campaign carried out

3.1.4 Cost and output rate estimated

3.2 Planning complete

3.2.1 Time slot identified

3.2.2 Operatives trained

3.2.3 Plant technical team chosen

3.3 Materials delivered

3.3.1 Materials ordered

3.3.2 Quality checked

3.4 Product cleared for sale

3.4.1 Quality cleared

3.4.2 Packed into sales containers

There are three main reasons for carrying out this part of the process:

1. To define the resources that will be required

2. To assign the responsibilities within the project team

3. To help in the planning stage

In drawing up a WBS care has to be taken not to make it just a long hierarchical list of things to do, including non-essential elements, so that the process becomes extended in time, which defeats the object.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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