Project Management

BWCA

Bwca Management Consulting

Abstract and Background

This model provides a basic primer or framework for planning, performing and managing projects.

This model grew out of a need to come up with another Organizational Development Model (well, hey at least I’m honest!). It is heavily influenced by work done for the Canadian Standards Association, and Westburne Industrial Enterprises Ltd.. It is also heavily influenced by previous experience using ISO 9000, Kepner-Tregoe Project Management and several other Project Management Methodologies.

The Model

The 5 Ds of Project Management

proj1

Throughout the history of Information Systems, IS specialists and management have consistently looked to the next IS Methodology to solve their problems. The feeling has been that slow delivery, low user acceptance and poorly designed systems are the result of some weakness in the way we design and build systems. So by improving the development methodology we can somehow deliver the “perfect” system.. Seat of the pants development was replaced by Structured Development. And things improved but still they weren’t right. Structured Development was replaced by Systems Engineering. And still the end user wasn’t happy. Systems Engineering was replaced by Object Oriented Techniques. And only the Methodologists were happy! As an industry we’ve tried the Waterfall Method, Rapid Prototype Evolution/Rapid Application Development, Bullpens, Joint Application Development and a whole plethora of other methodologies.

Despite the industry’s lack of success – once in a while, someone will produce a project where the users are overjoyed. The frightening part of this is that often the successful project did not use the latest methodology, and the system produced is of poor quality, impossible to maintain and generally a dog. And yet the system is a complete success!

Like many technical disciplines, IS has a tendency to focus on the details of what it does and lose track of the why. Thus its practitioners have always concentrated on improving the quality of the product. But technical methodology cannot fix the problem. Why? Because the problem does not exist in the product itself.

Total Quality Management and Sales have both identified a very important element in success. These are the concepts of “quality in fact” and “quality in perception”. “Quality in fact” is the actual quality of the product. This is what IS has traditionally concentrated on with its various methodologies. But any salesman can tell you that it doesn’t matter what the product is like, what matters is what the customer THINKS the product is like. This is “quality in perception”. And it is the strongest and most important of the types of quality.

A good Project Management Methodology will address this “quality in perception”. A good Development Methodology will address the “quality in fact”. Only if the two are married can there be a repeatably, high quality project.

So what makes up a good Project Management Methodology? There are five essential tasks that must be handled:

  1. Define
  2. Determine
  3. Decide
  4. Do
  5. Detect
Define

This is the task that IS Methodologies tend not to do very well. Before beginning a project certain things about the project need to be known. Specifically, what are we trying to accomplish, why, when and what are the limits. These questions, when answered form a project charter – or overall guiding vision of the project. In essence it will form the agreement between the end-users and the project team (which should include end user representatives, of course). Notice that we are not saying “how” we will accomplish the project – either from a macro view or a micro view. That comes later. At this point we are creating a quality definition. In essence, answering the question of what we are trying to accomplish with the project’s result and describing any constraints (money, resource or time) which we must operate under.

Determine

This is a task that IS Development Methodologies do very well. This task exists to answer the question “What are we going to do?”. The answer may be on a macro level – if the project is an analysis/design project or on a macro and micro level – if the project is an implementation. It is important to keep this step separate from the Define step. In fact one of the main reasons IS projects fail is not keeping the steps separate. The reason is simple. The Define step states the problem while the Determine step states the solution. And as we have all pointed out many times in the past, don’t confuse the problem with the solution or you’ll end up with a solution looking for a problem and a problem looking for a solution.

Decide

There are many ways to Decide how the project will be accomplished. There are many tools which exist which can be used to help plan the project. One of the best consists of the steps:

  1. Identify the tasks and sub-tasks (called a Work Breakdown Structure)
  2. Identify the resources and requirements for each core task
  3. Assign the resources and a task owner
  4. Determine how long each task will take to deliver
  5. Determine relationships (must be done before, must be done after)
  6. Determine how long the longest path will take (critical path)
  7. Identify potential problems, risk, result and response
Do

Now that the project is actually planned you need to carry out the plan. This is another stage that IS Development Methodologies handle well.

Detect

Unfortunately, the Do stage never runs smoothly. Which is why you should identify potential problems in the Decide stage. It is important to monitor the Do stage and watch for variation from the plan. If you detect variations you can then initiate a plan to overcome the result of the variation or perhaps correct the cause of the variation..

A specialized form of the Detect stage occurs after the project is complete. The purpose of that stage is to Detect ways of improving the Project or Development Methodologies.

Conclusion

Project Management is not really very difficult conceptually. However, it is important to recognize that it is a separate discipline with seperate methodologies from IS development. The first step to wisdom is to know what one does not know.

 

Copyright 1996 Bwca Management Consulting and Glen Ford – All rights reserved. The use of this model without permission is forbidden.

To discuss this model write to Glen Ford

Created: Thursday 2 May, 1996, 11:27 AM Last Updated: 1998.03.05

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