Basically, information is interpretation of data. When data are collected, they have no meaning. It is by analysing them, comparing them with other data and previous information, that data are transformed into information. This transformation (or interpretation) will depend on the purpose of information. Therefore, the same data can lead to different information.
According to the Association for Project Management : “Information management is the collection, storage, curation, dissemination, archiving and destruction of documents, images, drawings and others sources of information. Project-based working relies on accurate and timely information and data for teams and stakeholders to make informed decisions and fulfil their role in a cost-efficient and effective way. Effective information management enables project teams to use their time, resources and expertise effectively to make decisions and to fulfil their roles.”
Before planning a project, it is necessary to define the goal, the objectives, the time frame, the budget, the stakeholders, and the team of the project. Data should be collected to answer questions like: What are the needs the project aims to meet? How the project is going to meet such needs? Which is the duration of the project? What is the budget? Who are the stakeholders and what is their role in the project? What are the scope, time, and cost baselines?
When applying for funding, these considerations have to be aligned with the requirements of the call. Therefore, reading and interpreting the call requirements should be a priority.
Difficulty often arises when defining objectives. One way to help define them is to use the SMART criteria : Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound.
A plan is a guideline to execute the project and should be revised regularly. Adjustments are often needed due to unforeseen events. However, the more comprehensive a plan is, the easier it would be to adjust. Therefore, accurate information is essential at this stage – not only to build the plan itself, but also to create an information system that allows the project manager to control and monitor the project evolution.
Information systems do not necessary involve technology, although nowadays it is almost mandatory. «Computers, servers, programs, and networks do not work if there are no people using those technologies and if those people do not communicate between themselves with a purpose» (Neves, 2006). This means that an information system that effectively collects and shares information between people must be in place. Sometimes the most effective way to collect and share information is simply people talk with each other in the hallways. The project information system must have this under consideration.
One of the most crucial aspects in this stage is detailing the scope. The scope is the requirements for the project to be complete. They have to be in line with the objectives and take tasks, assumptions and constraints, risks, deliverables and milestones under consideration. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a good method to help with this. Starting with the general phase or section/department, the deliverables and tasks are broke down until reaching the work packages, which includes the work that actually gets done, i.e., the activities and the tasks and their corresponding resources – for example: Marketing (section) / Social Media campaign (specific measure) / Posting on Facebook (work package, actual work). Then, a GANTT chart and a PERT chart can be built to determine the dependencies of the tasks and the schedule of the project with the associated resources. Additionally, a risk management plan should be made.
This phase is all about executing the plan. The information system will be essential for the project manager to monitor the evolution of the plan execution and to control and correct possible deviations. The risk management plan should be at hand at all times to act on the solutions that were set. The communication should not only be between all members of the team, but also with stakeholders. Keeping them informed is paramount for the success of the execution. Regular reports from team members are also crucial, especially in milestones, to review what is going well and what is going wrong (and correct it). And, of course, sharing information is also very important. All team members should know what the others are doing. It can consolidate the team spirit and promote help between each other. Team effort is fundamental for a successful execution.
This phase is often neglected. The project is finished and all products delivered. However, assessing what went wrong and what went right can provide valuable knowledge for future endeavours. Furthermore, it is important to make sure all documentation is finalised and in order, and all contracts are closed.
Project Management Institute (2017). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide). Location: Pennsylvania
Neves, A.C.P. (2006). Enterprises and Information Systems in a Historical Perspective – the Saupiquet Factory in Setúbal (Sixties, Seventies and Eighties) [Unpublished master’s dissertation]. Universidade de Évora, Location: Portugal
«Information rules the world.» Winston Churchill