Information systems implementation
This assignment covers the essential qualities, experiences and methodologies that a project manager should possess in order to plan execute and close a project. It also covers the challenges faced and the the techniques needs to resolve those challenges.
Project management is the process by which projects are defined, planned, monitored, controlled and delivered such that the agreed benefits are realised.
(Association of project management)
It is the term used to describe the application of knowledge, skills, tool and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder’s needs and expectations from the project.
Is the individual in charge of the progress and performance of the project, on behalf of the owner of the project.
A project manager is a professional in the field of project management. Project managers are responsible for planning, execution, controlling and closing of the projects; typically relating to IT, construction, computer networking, telecommunications and software development.
Following are some of the essential qualities that a project manager should possess in order to manage a project successfully. And the details of the methodologies and experiences used by successful project managers in achieving the desired results from a project. Without having these qualities, experiences and applying these methods the desired objectives of the projects are not likely to be achieved.
Ability to communicate
A project manager must be a good communicator, without effective and on time communication of the tasks with the team members, suppliers, subcontractors, top-management, clients and other stakeholders the project is bound to fall behind schedule. Effective and timely communication is a key to teamwork, if the tasks are not agreed and assigned to team members, and time to time assistance is not provided the project is likely to take longer time to complete.
A high level of communication is crucial at the early stage of the project to establish good working relationship within the team as well as setting and agreeing the expectations with the client. Project manager can involve the team members in decision making to ensure that they own the decisions and give their best to make the project work as per plan. (Management-Hub, 2011)
Communication is vital for the progression of the project, identification of potential problem, generating solutions, keeping up to date with the customer requirements and perceptions of the team.
All these tasks require good amount of oral communication that is why good managers spend more time on listening than talking. A good project manager should visit all the individuals at work in the team; discuss any ideas or suggestions that they have in their mind on how the performance can be improved and how efficiently the project is moving forward.
Attention to details
A good project manager should have attention to details, as without having a detailed knowledge and understanding of the project, costly mistakes are likely to happen. As every project is unique in terms of its requirements, if the managers do not have attention to details, any slight miscalculation may cause the project to delay on scheduled time. That may mean that the project would cost more than what was originally budgeted for.
For example in most of the web based projects, the clients are required to provide data. If the project manager just keeps the item as just “client have to provide product data” it would not be enough. The manager would have to keep the details of type, structure and volume etc. of the data. If the project manager does not keep these details when the data arrives it will cause delays in the project time and hence my cause the delay of the whole project. This is just one example of how the absence of details can cause delay, if the details are missing it will cost time and eventually more cost, as the longer the project takes to complete the more it will cost.
Ideally a project manager has to have all the details upfront of the events to deal with the project. If the project manager relies on team members, and do not keep an eye on details him and the team members do not remind the project leader of those critical events the project is bound to go beyond the scheduled time. So to avoid any delay in time and extra costs the project manager has to keep the details of the project. (martin bauer, 2008)
Negotiation is a process of satisfying a projects needs by reaching an agreement with stakeholders. Project manager will have to negotiate on a variety of project issues including availability and level of resources, priorities, schedule, cost, procedures, and quality and people issues.
The project manager may have to negotiate with someone who has no direct authority over him/her (e.g. customer) or with someone who he/she has no direct control over (e.g. consultants). The project manager should have the ability to manage the outcome of a negotiation so that the differences of each side can be kept to minimum and the conflict can be avoided.
Leadership is the ability to get results from others through personal directions and influences. In project management it means influencing others through personality or actions of the project manager. Project manager alone cannot finish the whole project; it is the project team who completes the project. A project manager should have the ability to motivate and persuade the project team to create a team objective that they want to be a part of.
A good project manager would have the ability to participate as well as provide consultation to the team members. A project manager should provide overall direction but should not be prescriptive or autocratic in their approach. A project manager should have skills to empower the project team members, empowerment gives them a feel that they are part of the project, and it helps keep them motivated and perform their part of the project at their best.
A good project manager would have the ability to delegate tasks to team members to ease the stress created by deadlines. As delegation is based on trust, if the manager delegates the task to team members, they would know that the manager have a faith in them. It will not only make them feel motivated but also more responsible for the outcome of the project. (Buzzle, 2011)
Problem solving ability
Project managers inevitably face numerous problems, but a good project manager would have the ability to tackle these problems well. The project manager would encourage the team members to find out problems within their tasks on their own and try to solve them on their own. However if the problems are crucial and large the team members should report it to the project manager. The project manager then can lead the problem solving process.
Effective team member would help finding out the problem and suggest the possible solutions. However being on the optimum position, the project manager would have through understanding of the ‘big picture’ that how it will affect the final outcome of the project.
One thing is certain in every project, and that is change. Change may be requested by the customer, project team, caused by unexpected events during the performance of the project, or required by the users of the final project. Therefore it is crucial that the project manager has the ability to manage and control the change.
The project manager would have the quality to keep the effect of the change on the final results of the project to minimum. Generally it depends on the time in the project life cycle when the change is identified. Later the change is identified it is likely to have more impact on achieving the project objectives successfully. Project budget and timescales are most likely to be affected by the change.
If the customer demands change the manager would contact the relevant individual in the team to estimate the impact of the change on schedule and budget. Project manager then would present these estimates to the customer for approval prior to implementation of the change.
Some changes are necessary as a result of unexpected events, for example material shortage or loss of a key member of team. The manager would require changing the plan to incorporate any such change.
Project may need some changes as a result of final user requirements. In many projects for example in IT related projects, the project manager is not only responsible for designing, development and implementation of the new system, but also that the user accepts the final outcome of the project. This will require project manager to regularly communicate with the final user of the project during the entire project life cycle.
System development life cycle
System development life cycle is a conceptual framework use in project management; that describes the different stages involved in the information systems development, from initial feasibility study through to maintenance of the final outcome of the project. (SDLC, 2011)
Below are the systems development life cycle stages:
Feasibility: this stage decides on whether the project should go ahead or not. If the project should go ahead, then this stage will provide the plan for future stages.
Requirement analysis and design: on this stage the requirements of the system are specified, so that a design for the development can be created. Managers on this stage analyse the requirements realistically, and engage all the stakeholders in specifying the design of the system.
Implementation: once the design is decided upon the system can then be implemented. On this stage the designs are designed into codes, computer programmes are written using the coding language. High level programming like C++ and Java are used for programming on this stage. With respect to the type of application, right type of language is chosen.
Testing: on this stage the programmes are tested. Programmes are written as a series of individual modules. Each module on this state is tested to ensure that they are error free before making it part of the whole programme. Then finally the system is tested as a whole, this insures that the interfaces between systems works, and the system fulfils the user requirements.
Maintenance: software’s inevitably need change; once the system is delivered the system will definitely need some changes. The system should be developed to accommodate the change that is inevitable after the delivery of the system.
PRINCE2 is an acronym for projects in controlled environment. It’s a project management method that managers use to execute projects efficiently and effectively.
Control in this context is any mechanism that is designed to ensure that the project meets its objectives. Prince2 contains a large number of control elements. Although initially it was intended to manage IT projects it can be applied to all kind of projects of all sizes.
The main reason why the managers use this model is that it delivers a successful project. That is the delivery of the agreed outcome, on time, within budget and conforming to the quality standards. Below are the main features of PRINCE2.
It enforces a clear structure of authority and responsibility on the project team. The structure of reporting and supervision ensures that each party has clear objectives and they are supported in achieving those objectives.
It ensures the production of a number of management products associated with the management and control of the project. These include project initiation document, budget of the project, project plan and other progress reports.
It includes a number of different types of plans, ensuring that all the participants in the project have a clear understanding of the tasks to be completed, the relationship between them and their roles in the task’s completion.
It also provides managers with several quality controls, such as clearly defined and documented technical and management procedures. These ensure that the project tasks are completed on time and at the appropriate quality standards. (Field, 1998)
Prince2 is relatively simple project management methodology in practice; following are the benefits of using prince2
It provides managers the consistency of approach
Prince2 focuses on business justification
It enables managers a greater control over plan by regularly reviewing the progress of the project
Prince2 helps managers in engaging the stakeholders in before it is too late
It helps managers as well as team members continually improve their work through sharing the lessons learned
Prince2 helps establishing the competencies that are required to perform the project
The process steps go by the acronym DMAIC-S which stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, control and when it is finished Synergize through the organisation.
Six sigma projects can be defined as the process through with the companies can reduce defects and improve the quality of their processes. It is a process improvement and defect control methodology that has its roots in improving manufacturing and product development processes.
Six-sigma is used by the project managers to improve business performance and obtain measurable financial results.
For achieving organisational objective now a days projects managers use quality improvement methodologies like Total Quality Management, Total Quality Control and six-sigma across all functions throughout the project.
Motorola is known for the invention and use of six-sigma, who has attained the top quality of just 3.4 defects per million in its production line. Allied signal and general electrics have also been known for the use of six sigma in their production processes, to bring the dramatic quality improvements in their operations. Six sigma helps managers improve on quality and reduce defects in the projects.
Challenges and techniques
Often project deadlines are set on faulty or unrealistic assumptions. Unrealistic deadlines cause stress to the managers to find the alternative ways to complete the tasks on time. This could happen mainly if the project manager is not involved in setting the delivery date of the project. Unrealistic deadlines do not only stresses the participants but also demotivates the team when they know that the deadlines cannot actually be met. (project management course, 2011)
Techniques: The project manager can manage the stress through creative planning, search for the alternative ways to perform the task, and by communicating the reality to the participants of the project. An activity based technique model can be used by the manager to realistically draw up the whole lot of activities graphically. The manager would also find out what tasks are more critical for the success of the project, so that more resources and attention can be put into those tasks.
Failure to manage risks
Often in project plans, a list of risks is included. If these risks are not further investigated and worked on, they may become a real challenge when the risk arises. IT projects are more vulnerable to risks. Security of data, storage and integrity of data are the real challenges. If these risks are not considered fully, and the steps to control these risks are not taken the projects are likely to fail.
Techniques: once the project risks are known, the project team can either make a plan of action to reduce the chances of their occurrence. Or alternatively a reactive plan can be made to deal with the consequences if the risk arises. It depends mainly on the probability and the impact it may have on the outcome of the project. If both the probability and consequences are high, the project team may choose to plan how to deal with its consequences. (project management course, 2011)
Insufficient team skills
In many projects most of the team members are assigned the tasks based on their availability. If this is the case they would lack the proper knowledge and skills to perform these tasks successfully. They may not even inform the project manager because of their ego that they don’t have the necessary skills to perform these tasks. And the project may suffer delay or even failure due to lack of skills in the team members.
Techniques: the whole lot of skills needed for the project should be enlisted. And the team members as well as manager should be tested against that check list, to ensure that the manager and the team have the necessary skills, to perform the project tasks successfully.
If some key skills are missing in the team members, the manager can send the individuals on training course or alternatively an external advisor can be hired to train a number of team member.
If the skills required are one off and exceptional, the project manager may decide to buy the services of subcontractors.
Unclear goals and objectives
Projects often fail because of unclear goals and objective. If the project manager does not clearly communicate the goals and objectives to the team members, they would not be certain about what they are supposed to achieve. It would not only make the team members feel less motivated, but also cause the project fail to achieve its objectives. (Pmis, 2011)
Techniques: it is the duty of the project manager to explain the project objectives and goals to the team. He/ she should demonstrate the importance and the benefits that the project’s success would have for the organisation and team members. This should happen at the first project meeting, and the manager should make sure that the whole team understands the project objectives.
The manager can discuss with the team which parts they did not understood, so that he/she can explain it to them and make things clear.
Many projects fail due to lack of communication, project managers and team members often do not provide enough information to enough people. Project managers often fail to call regular meetings with team members and other stakeholders due to work load and busy schedule. This eventually leaves team members with insufficient information to perform their tasks successfully.
Techniques: Project documents, such as plans and budgets must be kept up to date and circulated to the team members regularly. A proper communication flow to all the participants of the project should be set including the reports status feeds etc. The project manager should also encourage open and frank discussion amongst the participants of the project both formally and informally.
Lack of customer and end-user involvement
Often the project team member and managers get hooked on meeting the internal deadlines, deliverables and processes but the customer and end users are left out. This leaves no input from them on the critical phases of the project. If the customers say is not involved in the project, the final outcome is likely to fail to fulfil its objectives.
Techniques: the manager should arrange regular meetings with all the participants of the project including customers and end users. Regular briefings, status updates can also provide them with the information they need, so that they can give their input/feedback in the on-going planning of the project. The end users can also be invited to visit the site and request their input in the project, to ensure that the final project meets the needs of the customers and end-users. (project management course, 2011)
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