The interior of the room where the meeting is to take place had seen better days. The furniture is tattered, and the inspirational posters on the walls are faded. No doubt, thousands of interviews had taken place here.
It was obvious from his expression that Paul, the HR guy, is as tired as the decor. With a sigh, he scans the sheet of prescreening interview questions he holds limply in his hand. His disinterest makes me question if he even looked at my CV. Why do all interviewers take this route? Do they expect success?
Paul has a goal. He wants to find a project manager. With his black suit, power tie, and trendy haircut, he raises one eyebrow at my casual attire. I’m not looking for a job, just following a routine of probing the job market; making sure my skills are still relevant. Getting a feel for the general level of expertise required, and so on. But Paul doesn’t know that. With a formal introduction and handshake, he gets down to business.
“OK, Dmitriy,” Paul says, looking at me over the top of his checklist. “Tell me, what is the main responsibility of a project manager?”
He is actually holding a pencil in his hand and ticking the list as we run through the checklist of pre-planned questions.
My answer is quick and confident. “The main responsibility of a project manager is integration.”
I stress the last word integration and wait for Paul’s reaction. He seems surprised that I’ve hit the nail on the head with my first try.
“What do you mean by that?” Paul asks.
“To put a project into a cohesive and interrelated whole, all the effort a project manager has to spend is summed up by integration.”
“What about organizing the work, motivating people, making clients happy, and reports?” Paul rattles off the list like a mantra. He shifts in his chair and grips his pencil more tightly. It makes him uncomfortable to go off script. He is suddenly wary, wondering if I’m just spouting memorized jargon or actually know more than the average applicant?
“Sure, those are all the essential parts of integration.” I lean back in my chair, knowing I’ve gotten his attention.
Paul looks at me in a whole new way. He actually puts his checklist on the table and leans forward. “Okay,” he says, “Let’s dive deeper into this.”
Why is Integration Management Important?
Every project has a set of goals or objectives.
The crucial thing is, some goals and objectives come from both sides of the equation. The client or sponsor of the project have their objectives. These are important. However, there are also objectives necessary for the organization to conducts the project. Sometimes the client and organization are within the same company. Sometimes they are different entities. Either way, the goals from both sides need to be met in order to balance the equation.
You not only need to achieve goals for both sides, but you also need to do it predictably; in a way that is expected and predefined.
In other words, 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 within different aspects of a project.
Project Integration Management Processes
Where have we heard that before?
The 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
Sounds great as theory, but what does that all mean?
Even if you read the Guide carefully on the topic about integration, it seems to be missing the integration part of the process in terms of practical application. Let’s clear this up once and for all by explaining how it all 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.
First, 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 in every aspect of the project continually. 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 project’s set goals. You should keep it within the limits of constraints. All the information from the Project Charter should be clarified in the details. Then, you need to embed this into the Project Management Plan.
Next, you need to lead and manage the project according to the plan you created and defined.
The plan itself is critical.
If you don’t follow the plan, you cannot measure when you have deviated from it. You will never know if you are heading in the right direction or towards failure.
While you are keeping your plan in the forefront of your mind, you must also monitor and control the work you and your project team does. Make sure you never deviate too far from the plan. It is impossible to do this if you don’t have a plan in place on how to measure your success.
Now reread the last two paragraphs. Did you notice how planning and controlling activities relate to one another?
OK, what’s next?
Changes will happen. You need to ensure that they are aligned with the ideas in the Project Charter. When a change is required, make sure you integrate it into the plan. It is not a matter of 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 the PMBOK® Guide.
Level 0: Integration on an Objective Level
As we discussed earlier, there is a high level of integration. It covers every aspect of a project. The goal is to ensure that every action, every decision is relevant to achieving the project’s objectives. This intense degree of integration sharpens the focus of the project manager and key stakeholders as to what is important.
Level 1: Integration of Processes and Tools Level
At this 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 endpoint in this process chain is Project Closure.
Be sure not to confuse this level of project integration with technical aspects. In contrast, integrated tools and software are of enormous benefit. They should not prevent you from putting different processes together.
Level 2: Integration on Stakeholders Level
It is a level that uses your unique leadership style. You need to decide how to make people work by the rules while keeping them happy and motivated.
(This is the level of human relationships and interaction. But remember, it is only one of four levels. Don’t fall into a trap by putting all the efforts here.)
How you operate at this level 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 of the above knowledge and skills – and integrate them with the realities of your environment.
Your company has policies, processes, templates, and 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 concepts 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 the problem with explaining 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 basic concepts of it. Check out specific articles for a more detailed explanation.