Back To Blog Archive

Search Blog

Categories

Archive

RSS RSS Feed

Brighton School of Business and Management July 2011 Student Newsletter

Welcome from Brighton School of Business and Management

Contributions from you, our students, are very welcome if you have information, advice, website links, or ideas, that may be of help to other students, please send them to us.

Personal & Career Development  Tip of the Month

In line with this month’s theme of Project Management, our tip of the month is to view your professional development as a long-term project, and apply basic project management tools and techniques to the management of that project – your future.

Project Management

No apologies for returning to this subject so soon – we are constantly seeing increasing amounts of evidence that employers in all commercial and non-profit sectors are looking for specialists and managers who have project management qualifications and skills in addition to the core experience and qualifications needed for key posts. This applies to specialists in support roles, such as HR, Marketing, Finance, IT, and Supply Chain Management, as well as to front-line Operational roles and Middle and Senior Management roles.Our own students frequently return to us to study for Project Management qualifications due to this development, as they learn that much of their workplace activity is in effect project driven and structured, and as they see that knowledge and understanding of project management tools and techniques is highly valued in their organisations.It seems clear now that, after 30 years, the predictions of the management gurus Michael Porter and Peter Drucker who said in the early 1980’s that the manager of the 21st Century will be a project manager, has come true.In many parts of the world, such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America, this has been the case for at least a decade, and now it is being acknowledged and acted upon by organisations and governments in Europe and North America as well.In the light of this it is now certain that holding a recognised Project Management specialist qualification adds considerably to your value in the eyes of employers.

What is a “Project Management” Approach?

Project Management is a well-established approach to managing and controlling the introduction of new initiatives or organizational changes. Projects are finite in length, usually one-time pieces of work involving a number of activities that must be completed within a given time frame, and often on a fixed budget. Common examples of projects range from the construction of a building, introduction of a new product, installation of a new piece of machinery in a manufacturing plant, creation of a new software tool, the design and launch of a new advertising campaign, an office relocation, or the implementation of a training and development programme. While the very simplest projects can be managed easily by applying common sense and just getting on with things, projects that are more complex need a great deal of planning, and benefit from a formal, disciplined management approach. From making sure that activities will actually meet the specified need, to devising a workable schedule, developing systems for reporting progress, and managing requests for changes – all of these issues require thoughtful consideration. Managing projects well requires a great deal of time, skill, and finesse. There are many sides to project management and this is what makes it so interesting and demanding. Project managers are expected to take an uncertain event and make a certain promise to deliver. They are also expected to do this within a specified time and within a limited budget. Team Leaders and Managers at all levels should make it a habit to plan for and manage complex series of activities using project management techniques.

Projects Small and Large – Timing and Sequence of Activities

Can you imagine starting a long car trip to an unfamiliar destination without a map or navigation system? You’re pretty sure you have to make some turns here and there, but you have no idea when or where, or how long it will take to get there. You may arrive eventually, but you run the risk of getting lost, and feeling frustrated, along the way. Essentially, driving without any idea of how you’re going to get there is the same as working on a project without a schedule. No matter the size or scope of your project, the schedule is a key part of project management. The schedule tells you when each activity should be done, what has already been completed, and the sequence in which things need to be finished. Luckily, drivers have fairly accurate tools they can use. Scheduling, on the other hand, is not an exact process. It’s part estimation, part prediction, and part ‘educated guessing.’ Because of the uncertainty involved, the schedule is reviewed regularly, and it is often revised while the project is in progress. It continues to develop as the project moves forward, changes arise, risks come and go, and new risks are identified. The schedule essentially transforms the project from a vision to a time-based plan.

Schedules also help you do the following:

They provide a basis for you to monitor and control project activities.

They help you determine how best to allocate resources so you can achieve the project goal.

They help you assess how time delays will impact the project.

You can figure out where excess resources are available to allocate to other projects.

They provide a basis to help you track project progress.

With that in mind, what’s the best way of building an accurate and effective schedule for your next project? Managers have a variety of tools to develop a project schedule – from the relatively simple process of action planning for small projects, to use of Gantt Charts and Network Analysis for large projects. Here, we outline the key tools you will need for schedule development.

Schedule Inputs

You need several types of inputs to create a project schedule: Personal and project calendars – Understanding working days, shifts, and resource availability is critical to completing a project schedule. Description of project scope – From this, you can determine key start and end dates, major assumptions behind the plan, and key constraints and restrictions. You can also include stakeholder expectations, which will often determine project milestones. Project risks – You need to understand these to make sure there’s enough extra time to deal with identified risks – and with unidentified risks (risks are identified with thorough Risk Analysis). Lists of activities and resource requirements – Again, it’s important to determine if there are other constraints to consider when developing the schedule. Understanding the resource capabilities and experience you have available – as well as company holidays and staff vacations – will affect the schedule. A project manager should be aware of deadlines and resource availability issues that may make the schedule less flexible.

Scheduling Tools

Here are some tools and techniques for combining these inputs to develop the schedule: Schedule Network Analysis – This is a graphic representation of the project’s activities, the time it takes to complete them, and the sequence in which they must be done. Project management software is typically used to create these analyses – Gantt charts and PERT Charts are common formats. Critical Path Analysis – This is the process of looking at all of the activities that must be completed, and calculating the ‘best line’ – or critical path – to take so that you’ll complete the project in the minimum amount of time. The method calculates the earliest and latest possible start and finish times for project activities, and it estimates the dependencies among them to create a schedule of critical activities and dates. Schedule Compression – This tool helps shorten the total duration of a project by decreasing the time allotted for certain activities. It’s done so that you can meet time constraints, and still keep the original scope of the project. You can use two methods here:

Crashing – This is where you assign more resources to an activity, thus decreasing the time it takes to complete it. This is based on the assumption that the time you save will offset the added resource costs.

Fast-Tracking – This involves rearranging activities to allow more parallel work. This means that things you would normally do one after another are now done at the same time. However, do bear in mind that this approach increases the risk that you’ll miss things, or fail to address changes.

Use of Project Stages:One of the biggest reasons that projects over-run is that the ‘final’ polishing and error-correction takes very much longer than anticipated. In this way, projects can seem to be ‘80% complete’ for 80% of the time! What’s worse, these projects can seem to be on schedule until, all of a sudden, they over-run radically. A good way of avoiding this is to schedule projects in distinct stages, where final quality, finished components are delivered at the end of each stage. This way, quality problems can be identified early on, and rectified before they seriously threaten the project schedule.

Project Review

Once you have outlined the basic schedule, you need to review it to make sure that the timing for each activity is aligned with the necessary resources. Here are tools commonly used to do this: ‘What if’ scenario analysis – This method compares and measures the effects of different scenarios on a project. You use simulations to determine the effects of various adverse, or harmful, assumptions – such as resources not being available on time, or delays in other areas of the project. You can then measure and plan for the risks posed in these scenarios. Resource leveling – Here, you rearrange the sequence of activities to address the possibility of unavailable resources, and to make sure that excessive demand is not put on resources at any point in time. If resources are available only in limited quantities, then you change the timing of activities so that the most critical activities have enough resources. Critical chain method – This also addresses resource availability. You plan activities using their latest possible start and finish dates. This adds extra time between activities, which you can then use to manage work disruptions. Risk multipliers – Risk is inevitable, so you need to prepare for its impact. Adding extra time to high-risk activities is one strategy. Another is to add a time multiplier to certain tasks or certain resources to offset overly optimistic time estimation. After the initial schedule has been reviewed, and adjustments made, it’s a good idea to have other members of the team review it as well. Include people who will be doing the work – their insights and assumptions are likely to be particularly accurate and relevant.

Summary

Scheduling aims to predict the future, and it has to consider many uncertainties and assumptions. As a result, many people believe it’s more of an art than a science.But whether you’re planning an office re-organisation, recruiting for a key post, or leading a multimillion-dollar IT project, the schedule is a critical part of your efforts. It identifies and organizes tasks into a sequence of events that create the plan. A variety of inputs and tools are used in the scheduling process, all of which are designed to help you understand your resources, your constraints, and your risks. The end result is a plan that links events in the best way to complete the project efficiently. * from a series of articles on www.mindtools.com

Complex Projects – Management Phases and Processes

Structuring your project

For all but the smallest projects, experienced managers use a range of well-established project management methodologies. These approaches have some differences in emphasis, and they tend to use slightly different terminology, but they generally share two key features: projects are delivered in stages, and certain common project management processes run across these stages.

Project Phases

Phases, or stages, are very important for project managers. By thinking in terms of phases, you can ensure that the deliverables produced at the end of each phase meet their purpose, and that project team members (or sub-teams) are properly prepared for the next phase. You identify the required deliverables for each phase from the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for it. The WBS is drafted as part of your preparation activities, and then validated by the rest of the project team. At the end of each phase, someone signs off on the deliverables from that phase. (In your preparation phase, think through who needs to approve each deliverable. Approvers may include the project board, project sponsor, or key stakeholders.) Once the deliverables are approved, the phase is completed and the project team can pass through the “gate” to the next phase. This is why the term “stage/gate” is used so often in project management.The exact phases, and the order in which they’re completed, may vary slightly, depending on what you need to achieve with your project.

The phases are as follows:

·         Project strategy and business case.

·         Preparation.

·         Design.

·         Development and testing.

·         Training and business readiness.

·         Support and benefits realization.

·         Project close.

Let’s explore each phase in more detail Project strategy and business case – In this phase, you define the overall project business requirement, and propose the approach or methodology that you want to use to address it. The gate at the end of this phase is the approval of your high-level project proposal and of the business case that validates the approach you want to use. You must also show that you can achieve the project’s goal within the required timelines and budget. Preparation – Here, you work with key stakeholders and project team members who have already been identified to establish and start the project.

Complete a high-level Work Breakdown Structure.

Determine the project’s high-level plan at the milestone level. (Work with appropriate project team members to produce detailed plans at each subsequent phase. This ensures that they have a sense of ownership of these plans.) Identify and recruit project members. Produce the Project Initiation Document. Select third parties to use in the early project phases (for example, IT subcontractors or partners).Put actions in place to secure key resources. (For example, reserve rooms for the training phase, and allocate desks and PCs/printers for the project team.) Design – Start the work involved with creating the project’s deliverables, using the project strategy, business case, and Project Initiation Document as your starting point. Then work with relevant stakeholders to develop the designs of the main deliverables. In larger projects, you may use business analysts to help you with this. You probably have a project board or project sponsor who is responsible for signing off the overall design, but make sure you also get input from other stakeholders as well. This helps build business ownership of the project deliverables. If changes to processes are required, use a Flow Chart or Swim Lane Diagram to create a detailed map of how things will work. At this stage, you must do everything you can to think through and deal with project issues before you start to build project deliverables – problems are almost always easier and cheaper to fix at design stage than they are once the detailed work of implementation has started.Select stakeholders carefully for the detailed design phase. A good detailed design is more likely to lead to a good project deliverable. If the detailed design is poor, the project deliverables are much less likely to meet requirements! Development and testing – With all of the planning and designing complete, the project team can now start to develop and build the components of the project output – whether it’s a piece of software, a bridge, or a business process. As part of this phase, you need to test these components thoroughly to confirm that they work as they should. Training and business readiness – This stage is all about preparing for the project launch or “go live.” Do the following things during this phase:

Train users.

Put in place ongoing support.

Transfer data to new systems.

Identify what’s required for the project to be effective from the launch date, and ensure that you adequately address this.

Support and benefits realization – Make sure you provide transitional support to the business after the project is launched, and consider what’s required before your team members are reassigned. Project teams are often assigned to other work too soon after the project has gone “live”, meaning that project benefits are often not fully realized. Monitor the delivery of project benefits. You can use this to promote your project or to give you information about other actions needed to ensure that the project is successful.  You can monitor benefits as part of “business as usual” activities, and you should (ideally) continue to do so after the project is closed.Project close – Closing a project is not the most exciting part of the project lifecycle, but, if you don’t do it properly, you may obstruct the ongoing delivery of benefits to the organization. Make sure you do the following:

·         Complete and store documentation.

·         Carry out a Post-Implementation Review, so that you and your colleagues can use the experience you’ve gained in future projects.

·         Use your business connections to reassign project team members to appropriate roles in the organization. You don’t want to lose the experience and knowledge that they’ve gained from working on the project.

Project Management Processes

The key project management processes, which run though all of these phases, are:

·         Phase management.

·         Planning.

·         Control.

·         Team management.

·         Communication.

·         Procurement.

·         Integration.

Let’s look at each process in more detail.

Phase management – Here, you ensure that you adequately satisfy the conditions for completing each phase, and for starting the next one. To do this, make sure that you fully understand the “gates”, or deliverables that must be completed and approved by the appropriate stakeholders before you can exit a phase. Deliverables and sign-off requirements are usually identified in the Project Initiation Document, so review this appropriately during the project.

Planning – Carry out high-level planning for the whole project at the start of the project, then do more detailed planning for each phase at the start of each phase. Ensure that you have the right people, resources, methodologies, and supporting tools in place for each planning phase, so that you can deliver the project on time, on budget, and to appropriate quality standards.

Control – It’s essential to control scope, cost, and issues; and to manage time, risks, and benefits effectively. Create reports that contain the information you need to create an accurate picture of how things are proceeding. A common way of doing this is to use a Project Dashboard.

Team management – As project manager, you are responsible for managing the project team. Working on a project is often different from most “business as usual” activities, and project work may require a different approach and set of skills. As such, you’ll probably need specific project management training and support. And there are additional complexities in managing team members who have project responsibilities as well as other roles at the same time.

Communication – Make sure that you’re clear about who is responsible for communicating to team members, the project board, the different stakeholders within the business, and relevant third parties. Inadequate communication is a frequent problem area for projects, and it needs considerable attention to communicate well.

Procurement – This is a specialist area. Many projects hire third parties to manage purchasing, particularly when it involves IT systems. Managing these third parties is often the role of the project manager.

Integration – Many projects do not stand on their own within an organization – they often impact other areas of the business. Make sure that you consider how your project will interface with other projects or functions.

Summary

Formal project management involves following an established project management methodology. In turn, most of these methodologies follow a set of common project phases, with common processes that run across each phase.* from a series of articles on www.mindtools.com

The Essential Project Management Tools

Work Breakdown Structure

This is a technique to analyse the content of work and cost by breaking it down into its component parts.A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a chart in which the critical work elements, called tasks, of a project are illustrated to portray their relationships to each other and to the project as a whole. The graphical nature of the WBS can help a project manager predict outcomes based on various scenarios, which can ensure that optimum decisions are made about whether or not to adopt suggested procedures or changes. When creating a WBS, the project manager defines the key objectives first and then identifies the tasks required to reach those goals. A WBS takes the form of a tree diagram with the “trunk” at the top and the “branches” below. The primary requirement or objective is shown at the top, with increasingly specific details shown as the observer reads down. When completed, a well-structured WBS resembles a flowchart in which all elements are logically connected, redundancy is avoided and no critical elements are left out. Elements can be rendered as plain text or as text within boxes. The elements at the bottom of the diagram represent tasks small enough to be easily understood and carried out. Interactions are shown as lines connecting the elements. A change in one of the critical elements may affect one or more of the others. If necessary, these lines can include arrowheads to indicate time progression or cause-and-effect.A well-organized, detailed WBS can assist key personnel in the effective allocation of resources, project budgeting, procurement management, scheduling, quality assurance, quality control, risk management, product delivery and service oriented management.

Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT)

Network analysis or PERT is used to analyse the inter-relationships between the tasks identified by the work breakdown structure and to define the dependencies of each task. Whilst laying out a PERT chart it is often possible to see that assumptions for the order of work are not logical or could be achieved more cost effectively by re-ordering them.

This is particularly true whilst allocating resources; it may become self evident that two tasks cannot be completed at the same time by the same person due to lack of working hours or, conversely, that by adding an extra person to the project team several tasks can be done in parallel thus shortening the length of the project.

Critical path analysis (CPA)

CPA is used in conjunction with PERT analysis to identify the tasks that are critical in determining the overall duration of the project. In the example above the critical path is shown by the tasks with heavy outline boxes.

Milestone Planning

Milestone planning is used to show the major steps that are needed to reach the goal on time. When several tasks have been completed the milestone is reached. It is often used at senior manager reviews.

What are Milestones? Why are they called Milestones?

Imagine you are walking along the road and you see a milestone that says 20 miles to London so you keep walking and later you see one that says 10 miles to London. Now you know that you are going in the right direction and you have made some progress. That is the principle of project milestones. For example, if the project is to build a house then completing each significant chunk of work could be considered a milestone on the road to building the house. For example the milestones might be:

·         Planning permission granted

·         Foundations laid

·         Walls constructed

·         Roof built

·         Fixtures, fittings and services completed

·         Garden landscaped

·         House inspected and approved

·         House sold

For simple projects, a Milestone Plan may be the only plan required.

Gantt charts

Gantt charts (named after the inventor) or bar charts, as they are sometimes called, are used to display and communicate the results of PERT and Critical Path analysis in a simple bar chart format that can be readily understood by those not involved in the detail of the project. * extract from http://www.spottydog.u-net.com/guides/faq/faq.html

Study Resources of the Month

Books

Barker, Cole – Brilliant Project Management (Prentice Hall 2009) ISBN: 9780273722328

Nokes, Kelly – The Definitive Guide to Project Management (FT-Prentice Hall 2007) ISBN: 9780273710974

Vicky Bellingham – Project Management: How to Deliver a Successful Project – (Studymates 2008) ISBN: 9781842851302

Student Recommended Resources

www.mindtools.com huge amounts – all useful ” our thanks to Yesena

www.projectconnections.com helped me with the assignments our thanks to Amit

www.method123.com you were right – good information on project techniques our thanks to Daniel

Quotes from the Gurus

Operations keep the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management the train engine that moves the organization forward. Joy Gumz

By taking into account the favourable factors, the plan looks feasible; by taking into account the unfavourable factors, the difficulties can be forecast and removed.translation from Sun Tzu

A project is completed when it starts working for you, rather than you working on it.Scott Allen

One characteristic of winners is that they always see themselves as a do-it-yourself project.

Denis Waitley

Useful Study Links

Each of the websites listed here have a range of articles, reports, case studies, discussions, best practice checklists, and links to other sites

www.mindtools.com

www.projectconnections.com

www.method123.com

www.searchsoftwarequality.com

www.pmstudent.com

www.projectmanageradvice.com

Responsive website designed & developed by
×

Company Registered in the United Kingdom.
No: 5919690 ~ VAT No: 899935332 ~ All fees exclusive of VAT
See more here

Responsive website designed & developed by