How to perform project integration management?

Today, we will talk about the subject of project integration management. This part of project management is usually most likely to be neglected, however it is also the most essential management.

Integration management is a mode of global management. It’s like standing on the top of Burj Khalifa Tower and looking down at the entire city of Dubai. That is when you find out even Dubai is not that perfect, it is not fully packed with luxury car, and not all the buildings are modern. Sometimes, all you have to do is to review the encountered problems with a higher view angle and see the global morphology, you will find that the problems are not that difficult anymore, or even realize that it does not seems to be a problem anymore. That is how we, as project manager, are able to see the challenge and opportunity when seeing things from a higher and global view.

1 Being enlightened by something my leader said

Here is a real life case:

That was the first time Mike leads a project as project manager. He leaded a big team which included more than thirty people, to perform an inspection project for a communication operator company. The duration of the project was planed to be 2 months. After project’s initiation, Mike invited some relative stakeholders and experts, with them they developed various management plans and overall budget based on the past inspection projects. Mike’s entire team, including several senior leaders, considered the plans, budget, and human-resource arrangement were all reasonable. Furthermore, the company was very supportive to the project, which made Mike very confident to deliver the project without problem.

However, it was just after two weeks when a bunch of problems had occurred. The test data was invalid due to the instability of the test equipment; various city-level operator companies raised different expectations to the project; the test environment and weather had significant impact on test equipment and staffs. A strong young man of the project team was sent to Lhasa to perform some tests, it was only a few hours after the plane landed when this young man suffer from altitude sickness. He had no choice but to get on another plane and leave Lhasa immediately.

In a word, due to various issues, the well-planed project was behind schedule and increasingly over budget. Mike was very upset, he felt like the plan would never catch up with the real life change. There would always be something unexpected in the process of project.

Then, Mike called for a project meeting. In the meeting, Mike discussed response strategies with the project team, and reported the entire project’s status to his company. That was when Mike was suddenly enlightened by something his leader said:

“First, you can evaluate the requirements of every province and every operator company to see if you could balance the interests of all parties. Then, maybe you can evaluate the project plans, and think about the overall contingency deployment of project resources. You can solve the equipment problem by finding vendors via our operator group company.”

Based on the leaders suggestions, Mike adjusted all project plans and deployed internal human resources, and communicated with every province, operator group company and equipment suppliers. And finally, the project was successfully completely, and the Mike’s company was awarded as excellent cooperative partner of the operator group.

2 The key is project integration management

Now, let’s analyze the problems and how to solve them:

The first problem, is that at the early phase of project where the project plans were firstly developed, integration management was not under Mike’s consideration.

This problem has actually been encountered by many primary project managers. When we accepted a relatively complex work, our usual method is to break down the work into smaller and manageable parts. Then we finish every part of the work, by this way the project can be finished. But meanwhile, we should also perform integration management to project work. Just like the upper case, when Mike tried to analyze requirements of various stakeholders and balance every parties’ interests from the overall point of view, the problems were solved accordingly.

The second problem is that due to issues of equipment and human-resource the project was behind schedule.

In the upper case, Mike made a wise decision by using data collection and data analysis. Mike analyzed schedule performance and human-resource status of every sub-project team, and further deployed team members and equipment among different teams accordingly, to make sure that the behindhand team gets more resource support. Meanwhile, Mike also put some pressure on equipment vendors through group company, in order to quickly deploy the necessary equipment for the project.

The last problem is that the demands of operator companies from various provinces significantly affected the performance of project.

The solution is to analyze the demands of company and various stakeholders, and try to balance all these demands and interests. Not only the operator group company is an important client of Mike’s company, but also operator companies from various provinces are long term cooperative subjects of Mike’s company. In this scenario, the key deliverables must be defined base on the various requirements, in order to manage clients’ expectation and direct the project to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile, it’s also essential for building excellent cooperative relationship with various stakeholders.

3 PM must have the vision of overall situation

Back to PMBOK, there is such a description regarding to integration management:

“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. In the project management context, integration includes characteristics of unification, consolidation, communication, and interrelationship. These actions should be applied from the start of the project through completion.”

Now, we summarize the inspiration from the upper case.

Project manager must have the vision of overall situation in the process of the entire project life cycle. Because, the responsibility of project integration management can not be transferred to someone else.

Project manager have to think about schedule management, cost management, resource management and risk management all the time. Integration management requires coordination between various management area.

As project manager, we have to negotiate with various stakeholders and balance the conflicted and competitive objectives and requirements. Just like in the upper case, the project manager have to analyze, process, and balance the interests/demands of operator group company, operator companies from various provinces and PM’s own company. The balance of these requirements of various stakeholders is the key factor of succeeding the project.

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