By Steve Czerniak, Subject Matter Expert, SCORE of Southeast Michigan

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as:

“a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.”

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Some examples of projects include: a) building a new facility, b) the activities to design and deliver a website for a client, or c) improving an internal process.

Scope, schedule, cost, and risk. It’s a mantra that successful project managers will tell you they think about day and night during the planning and execution of their project. In fact, many managers won’t even discuss a creative idea if those items haven’t been thought through and documented in a project plan. They demand detail to ensure that they are completely aimed at delivering quality products.


DESCRIPTION or OVERVIEW: This is usually a fairly high level and short description of the purpose and outcome of the project.

SCOPE OF WORK (SOW): The SOW is a detailed breakdown of the project into logical and discrete sections. There should be a cross-reference with the WBS.

WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE (WBS): The WBS is a decomposition of the project scope with an orientation on the work required for discrete deliverables. The WBS is usually accompanied by a “dictionary” to define the parts of the WBS.

ASSUMPTIONS: Everybody makes assumptions. It can be about the availability of a facility or key people to participate in the project. Good project managers document their assumptions.

DELIVERABLES: What will be delivered as a result of this project? When will it be delivered? To whom? How?

TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS: A technical requirements document focuses on the required performance of the finished product, resulting from the work scope.

SUPPLIERS and SUBCONTRACTORS: Will suppliers or subcontractors be used? For what? What kind of relationship is being formed with them (i.e., Purchase, Alliance, Partnership)?

HUMAN RESOURCES: What is the project organization? Is it team based? Who is responsible for what?

COMMUNICATIONS: How will the project team communicate? Will they be co-located?

MANAGING STAKEHOLDERS: There are many people who “have skin in the game” when it comes to executing the project and delivering the products. Who are they? How do they need to be involved?


NOTE: Every item on the schedule or logic diagram should be cross-referenced to the WBS.

TIME-PHASED: A schedule is a depiction of the work to be done, related to time.  PERT or GANTT format can be used, depending on the culture of the organization.

INTER-DEPENDENCIES: Very frequently, the ability to start one task is dependent on the completion of the previous task.  These need to be shown on the schedule.

RECEIPT OF DELIVERABLES (from Suppliers, Subcontractors and Customers): The receipt of purchased items, whether raw materials or purchased finished, are required to start work, in many cases. Sometimes customers have to send you something to build from.

CRITICAL REVIEWS: When will the project team and key leaders pause to look at how the project is proceeding?

DELIVERIES: Put milestones on the schedule to indicate key deliveries.


RESOURCES REQUIRED: Including Labor (by SOW item; by work unit); Material; Equipment; Travel; Facilities; Consumables; Overhead (e.g., Material Related Overhead)

WORK DESCRIPTIONS: These are individual documents that constitute subproject to the main one. The scope, schedule and cost are allocated to them.

COST OF RESOURCES: The most obvious part of cost is to assign a dollar value to each resource used. Labor hours get converted to dollars using labor rates. Consult with your finance department since labor rates carry the burden of benefits and a whole range of related costs.


LIKELIHOOD OF OCCURRENCE: Lots of things could happen. We need to focus our efforts on identifying the ones that are most likely to happen. This includes risk items from suppliers and subcontractors.

SEVERITY OF CONSEQUENCES: The other things on which to focus are the risk items that have the most severe consequences. If there is something that his fairly likely to happen and could have a devastating effect on the success of the project, actions should be taken to avoid of mitigate it. Consequences can be the inability to meet required product performance, schedule slip, and cost overruns.

ACTION(s) TO BE TAKEN: What needs to be done to deal with identified risk items?

EFFECT OF THE ACTIONS: What will be the effects of the planned actions?  Will the risk be maintained or reduced?

Looking for More?

The Project Management Institute defines the five groups of PM processes as 1) Initiating, 2) Planning, 3) Executing, 4) Monitoring and Controlling, and 5) Closing.

PMI calls out 10 knowledge areas for successful project management including: 1) Integration, 2) Scope, 3) Time, 4) Cost, 5) Quality, 6) Procurement, 7) Human resources, 8) Communications, 9) Risk management, and 10) Stakeholder management.

NOTE: The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a great source of standards and training on project management. Look for them at

About the Author

Steve Czerniak retired after a successful 37-year career as a leader and innovator. The last fifteen years were a series of opportunities that honed his skills as an internal consultant and “change agent.” In retirement, he is a volunteer consultant and a SCORE Subject Matter Expert for the Southeast Michigan chapter. His personal volunteer objective is to “derive personal satisfaction from helping others, and the organizations they operate, to develop and prosper.”

How Can Project Management Help My Business?