CRICOS Provider No. 00103D 7.0 Project Planning and Management Page 1 of 5
7.0 Project Planning and Management
7.1 The Importance of Project Planning and Management in the Research
Project planning and management is a key generic/professional skill that is essential for successful research
development and management. Project management is the discipline of planning and organising a project,
and securing and managing resources to achieve the goals of the project. A research project generally
exhibits the following characteristics:
• It is unique – not a repetitive operational process.
• It has a defined timescale – deliverables must be produced by a predetermined end date.
• It has a finite budget – all deliverables must be produced within the budget.
• It has a finite amount of resources – labour, infrastructure, materials.
• It involves risk – it has a level of uncertainty.
• It achieves beneficial change.
The goal of project management is to achieve the project objectives within the constraints of scope,
resources, time and budget. The skill in project management involves optimization of resource allocation to
meet project objectives. Project management thus involves a set of skills, a suite of tools, and a series of
processes. The elements of project planning and management are thus employed in all research projects;
in many cases, researchers are project managers without realising it.
All research projects operate within a set of constraints. The “triple constraints” are:
• time = time available to complete the project
• cost = budget available to complete the project
• quality and scope = what must be done to produce the final output at the required level of quality.
These form the sides of the “project management triangle”; it is not possible to change one side of the
triangle without impacting on the other sides. The constraints within which a project takes place are
competing; for example, an increase in scope leads to an increase in time and cost and a reduction in time
might reduce possible scope but increase cost.
The successful conduct of a research project involves sound project management and much of the “front
end” of project development (scoping the research question, preparing a proposal, costing and budgeting the
project) are integral stages of the project planning process. Many researchers have an intuitive feel for
project management and are good at it; some require a more formal approach in order to better to develop
the skills needed to ensure project success. The larger and more complex the project, the greater the need
for more formal project management processes. An integral part of project management is risk assessment
and management; more complex projects with larger budgets and multiple stakeholders, involve greater
risks. The incorporation of sound project management processes into a project can reduce the risks.
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7.2 The University’s Project Management Framework
The University has a Project Management Framework Policy
and a Project Management Framework Procedure
http://policy.federation.edu.au/university/projectmgt/ch02.php in place.
The Project Management Framework Policy requires compliance for all projects that are considered to be of
“Medium” or above risk level, as defined in the University’s Risk Management Policy and Procedure. Large,
University-wide research projects (e.g. the Collaborative Research Network project) between $1 – 5 million
defined as “Low” risk should also comply with the policy. Smaller research projects should be managed
using the elements of the University Policy and Procedure as a framework. The Framework is based upon
worldwide accepted best practice as outlined in the PMBOK
guide and the PRINCE-II
objectives of the University’s Project Management Policy are to ensure that:
• Projects are effectively managed within the limitations of scope, quality, resources (including time and
budget) and risk.
• Appropriate governance is established.
• Communication, quality and risk management plans are developed and executed throughout the
• Appropriate authorisation and acceptance is established throughout the life of the project.
• Stakeholder communication is inclusive.
• Post implementation reviews are conducted and actively used to improve the conduct of project delivery.
The Project Management Framework Procedure defines the processes that are performed throughout the
life of a project to ensure the Project Management Policy is adhered to. The University provides a Project
Management Framework Form to assist project managers in ensuring project documentation is completed
so as to comply with the Project Management Policy and Procedure. The framework for Project
Management is based upon the generic process stages of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling and
Monitoring, and Closing. These generic stages are applicable to research projects.
Within the context of the University’s Project Management Policy, research projects can be seen to conform
to critical elements of the Framework. Given that research proposals should be approved by the Dean and
DVC (R), budgeted correctly using the University procedures and templates, and set up in the University
Finance System following development of contracts, then a research project can be regarded as having the
following (in accord with the wording of the Framework):
• A project charter = authorisation/project approval form.
• A project executive sponsor = Dean of School.
• A project manager = chief investigator.
• A Business Case, Project Proposal, Communication Plan, Risk Management/Assessment Plan =
Chief Investigators should develop separate Project Management and Risk Management Plans if these are
not part of the required format of the research proposal. Some Funding Bodies require the incorporation of a
risk assessment/management plan into the proposal for funding. Liaison with Research Services, the Legal
Office, and the Finance Office early in the process of project development will expedite proposal
development, reduce risk, and facilitate more effective project management.
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7.3 Project Management Stages and the Role of the Project Manager
The critical tasks undertaken during the 5 major stages of the project management sequence, as described
in the University’s Project Management Framework, are outlined below. Tasks in italics would normally be
undertaken as part of the preparation of the research project proposal. An additional 6
project review may also be included.
Planning Executing Controlling &
Prepare proposal Define activities Form, train,
Estimate costs Manage
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Chief investigators should consult the University’s Project Management Framework Policy and Procedure
and associated documents. In particular, chief investigators should review the following:
• Communication Plan Guide (with a focus on Section 3: Marketing and Communication Strategy)
• Risk Management Plan Guide (with a focus on Section 3: Risk Assessment and Management Table).
• Risk Register Guide.
• Project Management Plan Guide (if needed).
Project managers should review some of the literature listed at the end of this cha[ter to familiarise
themselves with project control systems and project planning tools (such as GANTT and PERT (Program
Evaluation and Review Technique) charts) for planning and scheduling tasks, and for monitoring project
progress. These tools are graphical representations of the duration of tasks against time and allow
assessment of how long the project will take or how long each phase will take within a predetermined
timeline. The charts lay out the order in which tasks should be carried out and help to manage the
dependencies between tasks (ie. tasks often overlap) and allow assessment of what should have been
achieved at a given point in time. Milestone points (checkpoints or interim goals) can be included.
The Role of the Project Manager
The Chief Investigator of a research project plays the role of a project manager. As such, he/she may not
participate directly in all the activities of the project producing the end result (e.g. the Chief Investigator may
not be involved in field work, conducting interviews, all phases of data analysis or report writing). The role of
the project manager is to maintain progress within the constraints outlined above. The project manager thus
manages the project “team” (but may not necessarily manage all individuals working on a large collaborative
project), manages stakeholder expectations, and manages the project budget. The project manager must
have overview and vision for the entire project and must be able to ensure that vision is realized. The chief
investigator of a research project therefore needs to be a leader, negotiator, problem solver, communicator,
and a good manager.
Leadership of a research team is a critical part of managing large research projects but is beyond the scope
of this manual. A research team needs a leader with a clearly identified planning and management role and
with clearly articulated authority. The team leader will carry the responsibility for keeping the team on track
and critical decision making. The team leader will also act as a mediator and negotiator and should have a
vision for the project and commitment to the project.
Project Management Literature
Berkun, Scott (2005). Art of Project Management. Cambridge, MA: O'Reilly Media. ISBN 0-596-00786-8.
Comninos D &, Frigenti E (2002). The Practice of Project Management - a guide to the business-focused
approach. Kogan Page. ISBN 0-7494-3694-8.
Heerkens, Gary (2001). Project Management (The Briefcase Book Series). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-137952-
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Kerzner, Harold (2003). Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and
Controlling, 8th Ed., Wiley. ISBN 0-471-22577-0.
Lewis, James (2002). Fundamentals of Project Management, 2nd ed., American Management Association.
Meredith, Jack R. and Mantel, Samuel J. (2002). Project Management : A Managerial Approach, 5th ed.,
Wiley. ISBN 0-471-07323-7.