The meeting room was a bit worn out. Every bit of interior shows signs for thousands of interviews they had here. HR guy, Thomas I think, asked common prescreening questions like he never saw the CV. Why would they all do it?
His out to call a project manager. He or she will cover the main part of the interview.
The project manager appears to be a man in his forties. He was in a black suit with a tie and a fresh haircut.
I saw a silent remark about my smart casual look. After a brief introduction and a handshake, he went straight to business. Paul was his name.
“OK, Dmitriy, tell me what the main responsibility of a project manager is?” Paul asked looking above a sheet of paper with a pencil in his hand at ready.
It was a checklist of short questions he wanted to run through.
“It is integration,” I said, looking at his reaction.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, that is all the efforts a project manager has to spend to put a project into a cohesive and interrelated whole.” I was not looking for a job back then. It was a part of my routine. I go to interviews at least several times a year to probe the market. What skills are relevant right now. What is the general level of expertise and so on?
“What about organizing the work, motivating people, making clients happy, and reports?” Paul asked. He felt uncomfortable and careful now. He could not understand whether I knew more than that or was blazing general terms.
“These are all the integral parts of it.”
Paul put away his checklist. “OK, Let’s dive deeper into it.”
Why is Integration Management Important?
Every project has a set of goals or objectives.
What’s crucial, there are ones that come from the client or sponsor of the project. Also, there are objectives necessary for the organization that conducts the project. Sometimes it is the same company. Sometimes these are different entities.
You need to achieve goals for both sides. And you need to do it predictably.
So, Project Integration Management helps to create links between business, project management, and people who do the work. It also makes it possible to track progress against project objectives in terms common for different aspects of a project.
Project Integration Management Processes. Do they ring a bell?
PMBOK® Guide describes seven processes in integration management:
- Develop Project Charter
- Develop Project Management Plan
- Direct and Manage Project Work
- Manage Project Knowledge
- Monitor and Control Project Work
- Perform Integrated Change Control
- Close Project or Phase
What does that all mean?
Even if you read the Guide carefully, it doesn’t show the “integration” part. So, not I’ll explain how it works together.
What is Integration Management?
Here is how I see it:
“Project Integration Management is an effort to put all aspects of a project into a cohesive whole.”
Now, let’s combine it with the PMBOK® Guide processes.
You need to create a Project Charter. Do it together with stakeholders. It includes high-level information on constraints, goals and business justification of a project.
You need to consider this information all the time. Always ask yourself this. Are my decisions and actions aligned with the Project Charter?
Then, you have to come up with a plan that will achieve the set goals. You should keep it within limits of constraints. All the information from the Project Charter should be clarified in all the details. Then, you need to embed it into the Project Management Plan.
Next, you need to lead and manage the project against the plan you created and proved.
That is critical in itself.
If you don’t follow the plan, you cannot measure your deviation. You will never know if you are heading towards failure.
All the time, you monitor and control the work you and your project team does. You need to ensure that you never deviate from the plan too far. It is impossible to do if you don’t have a plan how to measure your success.
Now reread the last two paragraphs. Did you notice how planning and controlling activities related?
OK, what’s next?
Changes will happen. You need to ensure that they are aligned with the ideas in the Project Charter. Then you need to integrate a change into the plan. Not just adding more work and moving the deadline.
All in all, you need to finish the project and prove that you delivered what was asked. Moreover, you will have to report that you did it within the limits of constraints.
That is the highest level of integration.
But it doesn’t stop here:
Levels of Integration
I see integration levels a bit different from PMBOK® Guide.
Level 0: Integration on Objective Level
It is a high-level integration as I described above. It covers every aspect of a project. The goal is to ensure that every action and decision is relevant to achieving project’s objectives. It gives a sharp focus for project manager and key stakeholders on what’s important.
Level 1: Integration on Processes and Tools Level
At these level, you need to connect all the project activities into one interrelated framework.
As a starting point, you will have project objectives. You need to build up an uninterrupted chain of processes that will support the goals. All inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques should form a workflow of information, artifacts, and deliverables.
The end point is this process chain is Project Closure.
But don’t confuse this level of project integration with technical aspects. While integrated tools and software is a huge benefit. It should not prevent you from putting different processes together.
Level 2: Integration on Stakeholders Level
It is a level of your leadership style. You need to define a way to make people work by the rules while keeping them happy and motivated.
(It is the level of human relationships and interaction. But is one of the four. Don’t fall into a trap by putting all the efforts here.)
It depends on your skills, experience, and nature of the project. The goal is the same – to integrate your project management concepts into people’s daily work.
Level 3: Integration on Environment Level
Now you need to take all the above and integrate it with the realities of your environment.
Your company has policies, processes, templates, internal stakeholders that you need to honor.
You need to ensure that your project management plan can be implemented in your company without getting into too many conflicts.
Integration Management vs Change Management
These two are usually confused.
As you already understand Change Management is a part of Project Integration Management.
You need to ensure adequate change management on all levels of integration. It is not only about changes in requirements or deadlines. You need to make changes to the tools and processes considering all possible aspects. Not only your project.
Here is a problem of explaining the Integration Management. It is either too general or too specific. Showing the details of integration means describing how different processes and tools interact. Today, you learned the concepts of it. Specifics are explained in every separate article.