What is project integration management and what's the process of running it?
What is Project Integration?
There are many moving parts (literally and metaphorically) in projects. There is a constant need to respond to external and internal events. These external events require a response from the project, and that response will often be multifaceted.
For example, the change can impact the scope, affecting the cost and the schedule. Those immediately impacted by the change in scope may impact others in the project as they adapt to the change in circumstances. The impact of these changes, whether external or internal must be understood throughout the project team, project cost, and the project’s schedule.
External events are when our customer makes changes to the objective of the project, or perhaps the customer requires the result of the project is now desired to be delivered weeks or even months earlier than previously planned. Internal events can arise when we perform the work according to the plan and find out our plan was optimistic (perhaps even grossly so), maybe the schedule or cost estimates.
These things are discovered via measurements taken while doing the work. These are metrics. As we perform the work defined in the plan, we will compare the results against the plan. For those things that deviate from the plan, we will need to consider new actions or adjust the plan.
PMI Knowledge Areas
If you are wondering about the range of impact on a project or what we may have to consider in our response can be of enormous range. According to PMI, there are 10 knowledge management areas1 . Every one of these, to varying degrees, may be impacted by what we are learning.
- Integration Management
- Schedule Management
- Quality Management
- Communications Management
- Procurement Management
- Scope Management
Why is it important?
It is not helpful to measure everything in the project. The work requires focus, and if everything is important, then is anything important when talking about project scope? It is incumbent upon the team, project manager, and the organization at large to identify the things most important. An effective project team understands this, not just the project manager but the team. Collectively we will determine what is essential, and how to gather this data and turn it into information that allows us to predict.
This understanding and ability to expect will put us in a position to take action to remediate. We change the plan, or we change the way we approach the work.
Control system elements
We exert control in a project, ideally. That is the role of the project manager in close collaboration with the team. We identify those things that are important for this specific project. At the start of our project, we developed plans for gathering data and converting it to information and monitoring compared to the project plan, for example, the project schedule. You can tell when the control system is out of order when we are stunned when we see a scheduling failure. We are amazed at the frequency of this surprise to the project manager and executives. Some objectives and tasks are more challenging to measure and predict. From experience, those difficulties are readily identifiable.
The project charter defines the operating areas for the project. From this kick-off, we will build a plan of sufficient detail to achieve the objectives within the confines of the organization and the charter.
• Project objectives
• Team and areas of responsibility
• Monetary commitments
• Key project milestones
• Stakeholder approvals
Project Integration Management
Project Integration Management connects these project elements. It ensures a cohesive response to changes. To do that, we start at the beginning of the project. Project integration connects sampling and data, along with these external or internal changes resulting from the project work, all go into the stew that is project monitoring, adapting, and controlling. This may require changes to the project approach and the items below:
1. Charter – the charter is the seed from which strategy, tactics, and other project documents will be developed. The Charter articulates the objective, or other talent required to be successful, the spending allowed, and critical stakeholders.
2. Plan – the project plans are updated based on what we have learned while doing the work or due to external input.
3. Direct and manage work
1.3.1. Metric sampling – as our team performs the work, we measure things our team believes are helpful.
1.3.2. Turn into information – the things we measure will be turned into some information (metrics) that will help in our decision-making and ability to exert control. We may alter the metrics or how the data is gathered as we learn by doing.
4. Monitor and Control – We monitor quality and project performance metrics. We then may exert controls, for example, change sampling or metrics, change the project scope, project plan, schedule, or cost constraints associated with project areas.
5. Knowledge – Since integration management is the mechanism for project plans and strategy adaptation, it is fodder for experimentation and learning. Ideally, our organization has processes and tools for capturing, recording, and disseminating this learning to help other teams and future projects.
Integration management is how we will identify, consider, and control changes. Integration management ensures that the responses to learning and external stimuli are cohesive and connected. This provides that we have identified all project elements impacted that should have been considered, and all affected plans are updated.
Pains of unmanaged or ad hoc changes
1. Project schedule delays
2. Rework of interim rework products
3. Customer-facing product failures (functions)
4. Product recalls
5. Product system inconsistencies
Integration management is the mechanism that coordinates key project knowledge areas and controls project adaption to environmental stimulus. Integration is part of managing changes to project plans. With this control, we end up with plans and schedules coordinated with the change. We need to update elements of project documentation and project strategies and tactics. Documents and documentation are not the be-all and end-all in and of themselves; they are how we communicate project direction when our team members need to be co-located.
1 Project Management Institute. (2017). A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: (PMBOK® guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute.