This means developing and maintaining a shared understanding of the requirements for the project. Initially, high-level requirements of a project emerge from key stakeholders. These generic high-level requirements will then have to be realized by the project team.
Consolidating these initial high-level requirements through knowledge sharing enables the development of a project charter, which authorizes the project. These knowledge sharing sessions shall also serve to integrate expertise available in order to achieve a common purpose.
This is followed by the development of a Project Management Plan, which integrates all subsidiary plans of a project into a consolidated plan. Integrating these plans, with the associated baselines, enables a shared understanding of the overall requirements to be achieved.
A process is a combination of different activities undertaken for a specific purpose. For example, activities undertaken to plan a project are designated as ‘planning processes’, whilst activities undertaken to complete a project are called ‘execution processes’.
When these processes are linked together and are able to flow uninterrupted, they contribute towards the completion of a project. What is planned has to be done, what is done has to lead towards achieving project objectives.
This uninterrupted flow of processes occur when a mechanism to integrate these planning and execution processes is developed. This mechanism includes developing a system of tracking, reviewing and reporting data to ensure compliance to what was initially planned. It also involves reviewing, managing and communicating changes during execution, in order to ensure the effective integration of changes into projects by relevant stakeholders.
Therefore, process integration involves developing a suitable system capable of monitoring the status of the project as well as undertaking controls needed so that the project plan is executed as intended. By doing so, the planning and execution processes are integrated to deliver the project as well as meet project objectives set.
A project is a unique undertaking, with unique sets of challenges. Therefore, it is critical to closely scrutinize the environment, in order to detect changes within which may affect the project.
Continual adaptation requires an ability to tailor the needs of the project to the changing environment in which the project is being undertaken. Being aware of changing situations, and adapting to these changes as and when necessary, is referred to as contextual integration.
Project complexity increases with its degree of uniqueness, its interdependency with other projects, and the sophistication of technologies involved. As a project becomes increasingly complex, the level of cognitive integration, process integration as well as contextual integration needs to increase proportionately as well.
This requires considerable effort by the project team to develop a deeper and more accurate understanding of project requirements, optimise the process of knowledge sharing & develop even more sophisticated monitoring and control mechanisms, in order better adapt to the complexities faced. As complexity increases, the level of cognitive, process and contextual integration increases correspondingly.
In summary, project managers must be effective integrators. They have to integrate all available requirements in order to ensure a shared understanding is developed and sustained. They have to actively seek to integrate what is planned with what is being done. This has to be done irrespective of the environment in which projects are undertaken. As projects increase in complexity, the ability to engage in cognitive, process & contextual integration has to increase accordingly.
By focussing on the above, the project manager fulfils its duties in managing integration by keeping all stakeholders focussed on achieving the project objective, irrespective of the context or the complexity of the project in question.
Dr Rumesh Kumar PMP
Sharma Management International