The project office is the office or department responsible for establishing, maintaining, and enforcing project management processes, procedures, and standards. It provides services, support, and certification for project managers [web definition]. In a broader sense, if an organization undertakes one or two project at any given time, it may able to easily implement project management discipline. However, the larger an organization gets, and the more projects that are executed at one time, the more difficult it becomes to develop a comprehensive methodology, train everyone and enforce the consistent use of the technology on all projects. Without this consistency, the full value of implementing a common value of a project management methodology is not reached (TenStep, Inc).
There are many organizations that have started realizing the potential value of establishing a Project Management Office to strengthen their competitive advantage. The PMO structures project management into an organized, systematic approach that includes the following goals (Engle, 2005):
1. Project Definition: Goals and objectives, organization charts, and roles and responsibilities are documented. Some companies adopt a charter that lays out every aspect of the project before the first dollar is spent.
2. Project planning and control: The charter documents what is to be done, and the project plan lays out how it will be accomplished. The project plan includes the schedule, required resources, and budget.
3. Issue Management: Management must identify and address unforeseen issues in a timely manner. Issues in this sense are mainly the issues that need to be addressed in the application that just developed.
4. Risk Management: Risks are identified and monitored at the beginning of the project and alternatives are developed to mitigate them.
5. Change/Scope Management: Few Projects are completed without changes. Changes must be addressed quickly and honestly, with minimal impact to the schedule, staffing and budget.
6. Reporting and Communications: The PMO typically reports on the project each week and identifies significant issues frequently. These reports typically focus on schedule, budget, and resources.
7. Quality Management: Quality management seeks to identify gaps during the project so that they can be addressed quickly
8. Financial Management: The PMO develops and administers the project budget. Reports are prepared weekly that compare actual expenditures to the budget in order to identify the issues before they can impact the project.
Overview of ABC Technologies, Inc
ABC Technologies is a leading international system integration consultancy with superior value-priced services for both private and government sector clients. ABC Technologies offers services on a project or strategic staffing basis, in both custom and enterprise resource planning (ERP) package environments, and across all technology platforms, operating systems and infrastructures.
ABC Technologies has earned a reputation as a unique firm in a fast-paced marketplace. ABC Technologies collaborates with customers to consistently and cost-effectively plan, execute and deliver high-quality services and results.
ABC Technologies is currently persuading more project contracts than Time and Material contracts. As a result there are many different projects that are being developed simultaneously under different Project Managers. Each project has its own processes of which some are shared among different projects and others are project based. There are enterprise-wide processes that can be used across many projects. In this paper the issues are identified, categorized and discussed based on Project Management Functions outlined above.
Issue #1, Project Planning and Control:
Project planning is the key element in project control. It helps to direct and guide the project in the right direction and thereby assists in completing the project on schedule. Project planning is the essential part of good project management (Giridhar, 1998). The Project Directors and Project Managers develop project planning using Microsoft Project for individual projects and upload them in the project intranet website. But still the managers and directors at ABC Technologies plan their project by conventional methods such as known facts, historical data, and in the absence of former, best educated guesses. Thus, the estimates takes the form dictated by history of experience and are generally based on previous successes and measures used to evaluate them (Hartman, Jergeas, 1996).
Issue #2, Issues Management:
ABC Technologies currently uses a vendor product to log and track issues. This software does not integrate with Change Control software, Risk Management software. If an issue is entered and the developer or architect determines that the issue opens up a change process the issue is closed in the software and separate process is started in the change control. Some issues identified may even affect the project planning and delivery process. The project managers will only come to know if QA personnel who logged the issue send the report to the project manager. The software that is currently being used does not create any alert to the concerned members of the team other than notifying that an issue has been entered.
ABC Technologies inputs far less effort to objective setting for Issues Management. Objective setting for issue management has unique requirements which distinguish it from broader corporate planning processes (Jaques, 2005). The software that the ABC Technologies uses does not address the strategic process of Issues Management.
Issue #3, Change/Scope Management
A project is a moving target and things change on a regular basis. Currently ABC Technologies put a change control process in place and but varies from project to project. The Project Managers fills up a long form on an intranet site created exclusively for each project to initiate the change control process. The process does not get input from any other modules or software other than manual input from project managers. As a result it is time consuming process for the project manager to initiate a change control process. The Project manager is the admin for the site who can provide or deny access to the site. This one long form gets the input from various quarters such as clients, developers, QAs and others.
Controlling “Change” is a key factor to a successfully managed project. Implementing a good change control procedure will have a significant impact on the project’s bottom line (Chen, 1992). With the current process, the project managers tend to create only scope creep because many of the developers are not even aware of change control process. I heard the project manager complain that we changed the design of the product for the client free of cost.
Issue #4, Reporting and Communications:
The project status reports are the one that most of the software developers fail to produce in time because of their other engagements. It is learnt that very few project managers at ABC Technologies insist on weekly project status report and while others use their judgment and oral communications to write their report for their bosses. There is absolutely no automated report generator at ABC Technologies that the project team can use. Project Managers walk a fine line when it comes to requesting (and actually getting) status reports from team members. The team members have to maintain their own status reports on their computers in case of reviewing or tracking back.
Although the project managers regularly schedule the meeting on a weekly basis there is absolutely no record of discussions. Sometimes it leads event to pointing fingers in the event of something goes wrong. There is proper documentation other than the email sent after the meeting about the discussions held during the meeting hours.
Issue #5, Risk Management:
IT projects are renowned for their high failure rate. Risk management is an essential process for the successful delivery of IT projects. The top five risks, in order, are: personnel shortfalls, unreasonable project schedule and budget, unrealistic expectations, incomplete requirements, and diminished window of opportunity due to late delivery of software (Baccarini, Salm, Love, 2004). Since ABC Technologies is service oriented company, the project managers face the above mentioned five risks in their day-to-day project activities. Sometimes because of the nature of the economy, the companies such as ABC Technologies are compelled to venture into risky contracts. On top of already known risks, some more risks are added as the project progresses. This is due to lack to process in place. Sometimes the project managers and team members fail to identify and resolve the issues in a timely manner that may turn into risks.
Issue #1, Project Planning and Control:
The enterprise solution will have a module for project planning and control. The project planning and control module is divided into two sub modules: time scheduling, and resource scheduling. The module will use PERT and CPM network methods to plan the project. The managers and directors will provide the necessary information to the system. The system should also support the data entered in Microsoft Project and do necessary calculations. The module should be designed to include the following requirements (Giridhar, 1998): Listing activities with durations, complying with WBS, complying with working days and holidays in organization, assigning resources required for each activity, defining resource availability, optimization of resource requirements, monitoring progress, controlling and forecasting problems, reporting the status of the project, and comparison of present status versus the original schedules.
Issue #2, Issues Management:
The proposed solution includes the module for handling Issues Management. The module will help the project team to go through the four important steps prescribed to Issues Management by Howard Chase: Define the problem, analyze strengths and weaknesses of solutions as related to the problem, set priority on proposed solutions to the problem, and use the mechanisms of your trade to solve the problem (Chase, 1999)
The module will address the primary goal of Issue Management Plan – Issues are identified and assigned to appropriate project team member, issues determined to impact the scope, schedule, or quality of the project will be inputted into change management process automatically, resolutions or decisions are documented and communicated to all affected parties, generate reports on timely manner such as weekly, monthly, or quarterly set by the project manager.
Issue# 3, Change/Scope Management:
The proposed solution will have a Change/Scope management module that provides access to required personals to view all changes in one place. The module will show cumulative impact in time and dollars of changes. The module will force the team members to think through the impact of the changes. The module will automatically generate the change requests approval. This module should be able to be fed directly from the Issues Management module proposed earlier and feed the same and generate the necessary alerts to the project managers on impacting the triple constraints of the project – time, cost, and performance. This module should allow managers to trace the impact of changes and defects on a project’s requirements, while allowing testers to link test plans and results to business and functional requirements (Compuware, 2000).
Issue #4, Reporting and Communications:
The system must be able to link to and extract information from the proper sources and present this information in an appropriate format for a decision making process (Paterson, 1966). The proposed solution will integrate the time entry software into the reporting module whereby the team members are required to enter the description for each time entry. Thus the team members do not need to spend extra time to write the report to their managers and instead the managers should be able to generate the report in a timely manner. The module should be able to support the attachments from Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. The module also should be able to handle XML formats.
Issue #5, Risk management:
One of the key challenges in implementing the risk management process is the quantification of benefits (Noor, Joyner, Martin Jr., 2002). One metric that is used to quantify the benefit of the risk management is the ROI calculation. The system should be able to provide this calculation when the project managers provide mitigation cost, mitigation effectiveness (ME) and risk impact($). Risk management and Issues Management modules should be able to exchange the data between themselves. The module should be able to export the data into other applications such as spreadsheets. The module should provide report generator that allows defining reports. The module must perform qualitative and quantitative risk management. The managers should be able to view the impact of uncertainties either as cost or time.
The proposed solution integrates the five different modules mentioned above into one enterprise system. The solution will be developed as web-based application but run as windows applications. The UI elements will be developed using Microsoft Windows Forms in .NET framework. ABC Technologies have recently developed and successfully implemented enterprise solution using the same architecture. Thus ABC Technologies can leverage the expertise and experience into this new venture.
Proposed Infrastructure (Hardware, and Software)
ABC Technologies is required to have one web server and one database server. The web server will host the web services that interact with the Database server. The web services will be developed in VB .NET. The database server will have one instance of SQL Server 2000. The web server is firewall protected so no outsiders who don’t have access can talk to the web server. The web and database servers will run on Windows Server 2003 operating system. The Client PCs must be installed with .NET Framework 1.1.
The application should be available connected as well as disconnected. In case of internet shut down, the clients (remote) should be able to use application. In order to facilitate this environment the client PCs must be installed with Microsoft SQLServer Desktop Engine (MSDE). Similarly for the disconnected environment the web services are all available as standalone libraries.
ABC Technologies will decide on providing access to external clients on signing the contract. The new clients should be able to download the application to their PCs by clicking on the link provided at the time of granting access. Thus ABC Technologies can maintain their list of clients who have access to their application outside their firewall.
ABC Technologies will develop a web based training material and every employee will have to spend at least an hour a day for a week to go through the training material prior to the implementation. Web based training is more appropriate than Instructor-led training because as ABC Technologies acquires new contracts, it helps the new clients to go through the training in similar manner.
Implementation, Support and Upgrade
The solution is deployed to the client PCs through the internet. The application is available on the internet. The users will have to go to the web site and click on the URL. The application then gets downloaded to the client PCs. ABC Technologies will also upgrade the application in an acceptable frequency and instruct the current users via E-Mail that an upgrade is available.
Since ABC Technologies is service based company, it will be expensive to keep a dedicated team to support the application. ABC Technologies will have to rotate the support personnel to maintain the application.
Time and Cost
The total time required to design, develop, and implement the solution is four months – one month to design, two months for coding and another one month for QA. ABC Technologies will incur the cost of only two servers – Database and Web Servers. The PCs were already bought and in use. The networks are also already in place. The ABC Technologies has already bought MSDN subscriptions for other projects. The cost for the resources is also very minimal because the ABC technologies will use the personnel who are available on bench and have experience in .NET Framework. ABC Technologies does not have to hire any new consultants to venture into this project. ABC technologies can keep the cost down through rotation by making use of the consultants who come on bench.
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