Projects are complex beasts, with lots of different things all happening at once. If they’re all working in harmony, then your project’s future looks rosy. If they’re not… cue chaos.
It falls on the project manager’s shoulders to make sure things are more of the former and less the latter. As anyone who’s ever tried to multitask knows — this is no easy job. In fact, humans are generally bad at multitasking, so the more help you can have with juggling jobs, the better.
Luckily, project managers have plenty of methodologies to help them tame the to-do list and keep things running smoothly. Project integration management is one such tool. Let’s take a closer look at what this is.
What is project integration management?
Project integration management is a process for making sure every element of said project works in harmony. But it’s not just about shuffling schedules. It’s about managing priorities, stakeholder expectations, resources, budgets, processes — from initiation right the way through to final review. Basically, everything to do with the project, from start to finish.
As a process, it helps project managers make sure the project runs according to plan. There’s a handy seven-step framework PMs can follow that adds more structure and consistency to the process. And you can repeat the steps over multiple projects.
7 steps of project integration management
Project integration management is a big task, but to keep it as simple as possible, follow these seven steps and you won’t go wrong. Let’s begin.
1. Create a project charter
A project charter is a document that sets out what it is your project hopes to achieve and how it’ll do that. It usually includes a business case, the project scope statement, the project baseline, and who the project team will consist of. It might also include a list of project sponsors and stakeholders, risks, assumptions, budgets — and other pertinent information.
The project charter is a handy starting point because it sets out every element of the project in one document. This makes it easier to see how all the parts work together. That includes whether there might be any clashes before the project begins.
2. Create your project plan
If your charter is a map that shows your main highways, your project plan is one that shows all the little roads, footpaths, and buildings. Like a roadmap guiding you from start to finish, it breaks the top-level information down into detailed steps and milestones. It should explain everything that needs to happen, by when, and how.
3. Develop a process and manage work
Every day will be filled with tasks. This stage covers what those tasks will look like. That includes who will be working on them, how long they have, and which tools and processes they’ll be using. It also involves setting out contingency plans for when things go belly-up (which, as we all know, can happen). This could include making sure you have a list of freelancers on speed dial or having a spare Mac in case one of the designer’s crashes. The main thing is to keep the project running and everyone communicating and collaborating, even if in the event of a hiccup.
4. Manage project information
How will people hear client feedback or share progress? Does everyone on the team know where to access the brief? Do you have a process in place for naming document versions? Managing project information is all about making sure everyone is in the loop and knows how to access and store information to avoid misunderstandings.
5. Create a change management process (and follow it)
Changes can cause mischief (i.e., scope creep and budget issues) if they’re not managed correctly. Your change management process provides a structured framework for the team to work through changes — from requests through to review, approval, and sign-off (or rejection or deferral). Requests are typically managed through a change request form and a changelog — which the project manager is responsible for reviewing.
6. Monitor and control the project through to the end
Delays, bottlenecks, budgets creeping up — you need to keep a close eye on those project metrics, or things could turn sour. This stage is about making sure everything is as it should be, progress and budget-wise. It’s also about ensuring deadlines and goals feel achievable and ensuring team members have the tools they need to collaborate effectively. It’s something you should do from project start to finish.
7. Close the project
The deliverables have all been signed off and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. But don’t pop the cork just yet: There’s a little more work to be done. A project post mortem is a retrospective look at the project to reflect on successes and failures and talk about how you can improve project integrations. It’s also a chance to celebrate as a team. Once you’ve run your post-mortem, archive any documents, cancel recurring meetings, and make sure any loose ends are tied up. Now you can pour the bubbly.
Why is project integration management so important?
Projects are complex, with lots of moving parts that all have an impact on the others. Knowing how one thing impacts the rest is both vital and a big challenge. If one thing slips, it could set off a domino effect that leads to project failure.
For example, if an employee is off sick, it could mean you need to hire a freelancer, which means dipping into the budget. You also waste time getting the freelancer up to speed, which could mean running late on deadlines and — worst-case scenario — project failure. It could also impact other areas of the business, or the organization as a whole.
Without integration management, it’s difficult to see how all these moving parts work together, which in turn makes it hard to spot conflicts and plan ahead — which means you’ll always be on the back foot. Project integration management helps you see how every element of the project interlink.
How project management software for project integration management
Having one centralized platform for all your management tasks can be a huge help when you’ve got lots of things all happening at once. The top-down view makes it easier to see whether there are bottlenecks brewing, or whether project integrations need to be tweaked to work together more cohesively. It also saves you having to jump between documents, emails, and folders.
With Backlog, our own project management tool, you can keep track of tasks in real-time. Cloud-based Gantt charts make it easy to see team progress, while live commenting and notifications help everyone know what’s going on, 24/7. No more update emails or deadline reminders — everyone on the team can see what they need to do, and by when — as well as what their colleagues are working on and what’s required. It’s also helpful for your project post-mortem because you can review diagrams and charts, and spot where things didn’t go so well, and which things really worked without having to sift through old documents on your server.
Finally, project management software can help you keep communication channels open between everyone on the team — from stakeholders to project managers and team members. This helps to ensure relevant information is shared with the right people, dependencies are all clearly mapped out and understood, and changes and risks are all handled correctly. When all this is running as smoothly as it can, you and your project will be unstoppable.