When it comes to project management, the same old strategies and approaches that were appropriate and relevant even as little as a few years ago have now become obsolete.
Today’s project managers are forced to conduct business and meet expectations across not only different time zones, but often different countries.
With global partnerships becoming more and more common, and technology advancing at lightning speeds, project management has become more demanding and complex than ever before.
This puts a lot of added stress on a project manager. Successful completion of project work requires you to juggle tasks and wear many different hats, almost seamlessly.
It requires you to be able to recognize pitfalls and quickly pivot to avoid them. But, we’re not just talking about one pitfall or one person on a team being able to change course rapidly. You have to be able to make it happen across the board to multiple participants, yesterday, over the phone, and at no charge.
Just kidding, obviously.
This can be an astronomical task for even the most seasoned project manager, let alone newbies. In order to synchronize all the moving parts, stay on task, and deliver stellar results on time, many innovative project managers are turning to what is coined “project integration management.”
What is Project Integration Management?
Project integration management is an organized and streamlined approach that helps to ensure that all the key stakeholders involved are synchronized across the project. This means they’re cohesive in their methods, understanding, and execution of all the necessary processes that are required to achieve prime and timely completion of a project plan.
“Project Integration Management includes the processes and activities to identify, define, combine, unify, and coordinate the various processes and project management activities within the Project Management Process Groups.”- A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK 6)
It is imperative for the timely meeting of project objectives that project goals, project knowledge, project integration, and all project work must be aligned across all teams, time zones, companies, and countries.
Why is Project Integration Management Important?
Project integration management helps project managers oversee all the moving parts of a large, sometimes daunting task. It helps them not only oversee those parts, but keep them well-oiled and functioning smoothly.
It allows a project manager to handle schedules, costs, resources, risk, scope, and expectations by facilitating smooth and continuous communication between clients, employees, upper management, and stakeholders.
A solid integration management plan tracks and balances all these diverse and demanding elements. If there’s a delay, cost increase, change in demand, or other unforeseen circumstances, a proper project management plan and the integration of it ensures that the project team is able to quickly and efficiently pivot to stay on track.
Basically, proper project integration management keeps what could otherwise be a crazy train on the tracks.
If you or your organization wants:
- Efficient work with a concise project charter that is adopted freely by all teams
- Each team member to have a clear understanding of their role and importance in project work
- Measurable and identifiable milestones and tasks
- Balanced and fair resource management and allotment
Then you need successful project integration management.
Properly integrated project management improves efficiency and productivity across the board.
Who Needs Project Integration Management?
Any person or persons in charge of multiple facets of a project, whether it’s different teams, departments, companies, stakeholders, or managers, needs a way to integrate and communicate project expectations, deadlines, and tasks.
In other words, EVERYONE needs project integration management.
Project managers can track virtually any detail with a properly integrated project management plan. Project knowledge and project goals are not some formless concepts floating just out of reach. They’re measurable, understandable, and attainable by every person involved in the project team.
If you’re a project manager who wants to minimize the risk of outstripping your allotted project costs, straining finite resources, shoddy quality control, poor time management, and limited communication during project execution, you want strong project integration management.
If you’re a project manager who wants to improve efficiency and job satisfaction amongst team members, proactively allot shared resources, effectively balance overlapping schedules, and seamlessly integrate project work across varying time zones and countries, integration management is for you.
Integration Management vs. Change Management
Project integration management should not be confused with change management. Integration management is the execution of activities in order to achieve a desired outcome or change.
Change management is balancing the emotions of team members who are going from a comfortable or familiar state to a (potentially daunting) state of unknown, as smoothly and peacefully as possible.
The two terms often become confused, and we would argue that proper integration management can lead to effective change management, but not vice versa.
Integration management deals with activities, while change management deals with emotions.
7 Processes in Project Integration Management
To help you implement a successful project, download our free Project Integration Management Checklist and follow along as we break down each section.
1. Create a Project Charter
Most project integration management begins with having a solid project charter. This is essentially a short document that outlines the project, its purpose, and who will be involved at a high level. A project charter should include the following:
- Scope (both in-scope and out-of-scope elements)
- Project team members
- Business Case / Problem Statement
- Goal statement (why is the project necessary)
- Objectives, and key deliverables (what does the project intend to accomplish)
- Project risks and assumptions
A good project charter is the foundation of a project, and should be used to guide the project throughout its lifecycle. It not only helps you move forward efficiently but also allows you to gain buy-in from stakeholders and team members.
2. Develop Project Management Plan
Now it’s time to hash out a detailed project plan. It outlines the project deliverables, tasks and durations, milestones, and resource assignments that you will use to evaluate the progress and, ultimately, the success of the project. Most importantly, it should do this in a way that your team both understands and can commit to. That means keeping tasks concise and avoiding specialty-specific or unit-specific jargon, and most importantly, has REALISTIC durations that are informed by the team members that are asked to do the work.
Follow these steps to design an effective project management plan:
- Create a work breakdown structure that aligns with the deliverables defined in the project charter. Identify tasks and subtasks needed to create the deliverable (we recommend most tasks be broken down into 5-10 business day chunks). Responsibilities can then be delegated in a strategic way.
- Identify key project milestone deadlines and tie tasks to those milestones via dependencies.
- Plan activities that help mitigate the risks identified in the charter.
- Develop a scorecard that shows progress with respect to the plan on a weekly basis.
- Develop an issue escalation and resolution plan.
We’ve got an excellent project planning template if you need help with this process.
3. Direct and Manage Project Work
Project integration management helps exponentially with the day-to-day details and activities that occur during project execution.
Measure progress against the tasks in the project plan regularly (at least weekly). Actively identify and quickly resolve any issues that may come up. This is where the issue escalation and resolution plan comes into play. Regularly communicate project status with team members, cross-functional stakeholders, and leadership.
All these project execution routines are vital to ensuring that all tasks are being completed efficiently, goals are being met effectively, and any necessary changing or pivoting in approaches happens quickly in order to maintain project momentum and timelines.
4. Manage Project Knowledge
The next step in proper integration management involves taking existing knowledge or information and obtaining new or additional information that can then be used to reach project goals in the most efficient and effective way possible. This could be as simple as an organized online drive (e.g., MS Teams Drive, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.) with easy-to-follow folders and files or a more robust intranet page where team members can access all associated project information.
It helps to ensure that all team members have the required knowledge and resources they need to meet project deadlines and produce the required project deliverables.
Additionally, it serves as a great way to expand the company’s business knowledge post-project close-out.
5. Monitor Project Work
Project integration management enables a good project manager to navigate the complexities of intertwined processes and tasks, and expertly avoid – or deal with – the hiccups that happen en route, while continuing to drive the project toward timely completion.
As with most aspects of project management, there are different ways to approach said hiccups.
Actions that are designed to reduce the possible negative impacts on overall project health and completion.
Actions designed to correct the course before the ship deviates from its destination.
Actions designed to get the train back on the tracks with minimal damage and downtime.
Preparing for all three can make all the difference. There are a number of tasks we recommend a project manager completes to ensure they are ready for all eventualities, including:
Tracking task completion progress in 20% increments (e.g. 0%, 20%, 40%, etc.) This should then be compared to the planned progress completion percentage to understand if the anticipated completion is on track.
Managing the total slack of each task and focusing on tasks that are on the critical path, ensuring they are completed on time.
Having an auto-generated task status indicator of green (on-track), yellow (delayed or coming due), red (past due), and blue (complete).
6. Perform Integrated Change Control
With most projects, changes to timelines, budgets, resources, and team members are pretty much unavoidable. That’s where integrated change control comes in. Don’t confuse this with change management.
What can be avoided is how stressful these changes are and whether or not they stymie project momentum.
Proper integrated change control will help ensure that unexpected changes don’t negatively affect or exceed the project scope. It helps to quickly identify viable alternatives in order to avoid scope creep, which essentially refers to increased requirements during a project’s lifecycle.
Many organizations will employ a dedicated project change control board that reviews and approves, or denies requested changes based on how those changes will affect a project’s bottom line. The board will also come up with alternative solutions in order to keep a project on track.
It’s a good idea for the board to use a change request log in order to document all requested changes and whether they were approved or denied. Necessary changes to resources and costs should also be documented here.
If you’d like to understand more about preparing for hiccups or changes to the plan, reach out to us. A One TEAM expert will happily chat it through with you (they’re nerdy like that).
7. Close Out the Project
Ah, sweet release. All project work is complete. Deliverables are delivered. The stakeholders are thrilled. It’s time to close it down.
This usually involves several steps, including conducting a thorough project review, holding a final stakeholder meeting, getting project closure approval, archiving project materials, and conducting lessons learned (although we recommend doing this throughout the project).
Closing the project properly is an important step that can be used to gain valuable insight into what went right and what could be improved upon during a project’s execution. This vital assessment can then be used for improvement on future projects. For that reason, it shouldn’t be overlooked in our haste to move on to the next project.
Take time to enjoy the much-earned and well-deserved sense of accomplishment and a job well done before just plunging right back into the waters for another swim.
Responsibilities of Project Managers
For any project manager, they may be in charge of keeping the following balls in the air:
- Cost management
- Issue management
- Project execution risk management
- Time management
- Scope management
- Human resource management
- Stakeholder management
- Change management
- Communication management
While these are all measurable items, arguably, the most important responsibility of any good project integration management specialist is an immeasurable skill. The ability to lead people and positively influence them without formal authority may be the greatest attribute of excellent project managers.
Getting people to move cohesively toward a common, accepted objective is imperative to successful and timely project completion, and it’s the ultimate goal of a project integration management system.
How to Implement Successful Integration Management Processes
If you or your organization is new to the concept of project integration management, where to begin can seem like an impossibly daunting task. It’s definitely not easy, that’s for sure.
To succeed in project integration management, it usually takes experience or mentoring from project managers who have proven track records of delivering stellar results in some of the most complicated scenarios.
It takes a combination of skills, both tangible and intangible. You need to be well versed in effective communication, thorough planning, critical thinking, problem-solving, analyzing data, budget management, relationship nurturing, risk assessment, and leadership in order to see a multi-faceted, complex project to completion.
To help you get started, you’re welcome to download our free Project Integration Management Checklist, which is designed to help give you much-needed clarity and set jumping-off points.
As always, you’re also welcome to reach out to us directly for tailored and personalized insights, advice, and tactics that are relevant to your specific needs and organizational niche.