1. Explain the term Project Context (10)? List and describe (L&D) 4 factors that can affect a project’s context (40).
Project context is the setting in which a project occurs, which a project manager should be keenly aware of as it can influence a wide range of factors that may affect the project – especially risks and opportunities – that the project manager should manage throughout the project lifecycle to ensure the successful delivery of the project. Project contexts vary from project to project and so it is especially important to consider each project in turn – lessons can be learned from similar projects, however a unique assessment is important.
1. Political – the political context in which a project is undertaken is important – this relates to both internal and external politics. Internally, the political dynamic between the project team and the organisation undertaking the project is important to ensure that the correct support is given to a project and its team. Externally, political factors can affect the project success as political will may provide either a risk or an opportunity to progress the project. For example, if building a new shopping complex in a town, the support of a local politician may affect the likelihood of carrying out the project or provide opportunities to improve the project.
2. Environmental – environmental factors will also affect a project. This may be from a regulation standpoint (touched on below) but also a case of geographic and situational context. For example, if you were building an onshore wind farm, it would be important to understand a number of environmental factors, from whether the project is located in hilly terrain with difficult access to the site, to whether there is a significant amount of wildlife in the area that might be affected by the project and needs to be managed.
3. Legal – legal factors are often more black and white than other elements of project context. Driven by the laws and regulation in the country of the project, legal factors often require strict compliance otherwise the project could suffer significantly. The legal context of a project often contributes more risks than opportunities. For example, when building a house it is important to have the correct planning permission in place and comply with this, otherwise a local planning authority may be able to suspend works on the project (causing significant delay to the schedule), require corrective action (impacting project budget) or even stopping the project completely (leading to the eventual termination of a project).
4. Technological – technological factors of project context are vital and can often provide significant opportunities for project managers to improve their projects. Technological risks also exist and should be managed, as it is important to fully understand any new technology in a project and ensure that the project manager is aware of all possible implications and risks, including health and safety. For example, when building a wind farm it would be important to consider the model of turbine you would use as this could provide opportunities to improve the amount of energy generated by the wind farm, thus affecting the business case; however if you are not familiar with a new turbine model it could cause issues during operation if technicians are not familiar with the equipment.