Project Management (Case 3)

Standard

1. What do you think must be done to prevent failure of the implementation of this system?

A project would not turn to be a failure if basic project management procedures would have been followed properly. One of its procedures is estimating the project’s cost so that thorough planning will be done by the project team and will turn out to be a success.

A well-researched and planned cost estimation and budget is necessary for the successful completion of any project. Project managers need to thoroughly scope the project in order to secure sufficient funding. Scoping involves estimating labor hours, materials, supplies and other miscellaneous expenses. Cost estimations and budgets are a work in progress and should contain room for change.

What Cost Estimates Include:

A good cost estimate is unbiased. It should not be made by someone who would over- or under-state the numbers. The cost estimate should clearly define the purpose of the project, what it will accomplish, what assumptions are made, how long the estimate is valid, and how much the project will cost. It should show all interested parties everything relevant, without holding back information. The estimate should be flexible, adaptable and provide a range of the costs involved. Cost estimates start out broad, and as various stages are completed, they are more accurately defined.

Project Management Software

An effective and simple way to estimate costs and prepare a project budget is to use project management software. Most software has features that identify the types, quantities, and phasing of different types of labor. It also has capabilities for estimating the costs for individual project pieces and adding them together to reach a project total. The pieces can differ in size and number from a few large phases of a project with known costs to hundreds or thousands of small tasks.

Accuracy

Management needs to assess the accuracy of cost estimates and budgets. Unanticipated expenses can result in the project being abandoned. Cost estimates that are overstated also have negative consequences. If they are too liberal, they can kill an otherwise viable project by making it look unaffordable. Good cost estimating requires access to a historical cost database. For example, in the software industry, there should be a cost database that contains information regarding cost per line of code, software sizing algorithms and costs for functional descriptions and tasks.

Considerations

Not scoping the project thoroughly enough, misunderstanding technical difficulties, and making changes are the most common reasons projects do not adhere to cost estimates and budgets. Cost estimates can never be too detailed. Every change should be documented thoroughly. Management should consider how changes affect other phases of the project. A simple, yet effective tool is to use a spreadsheet to prepare the cost estimate, and keep all of the important data visible in cells, instead of hidden in formulas.

Project managers often take similar approaches to estimating costs. Top-down estimates can be made by project managers by looking at similar projects already completed. It is important to identify any differences between the current project and the analogous project to fine-tune estimates. Bottom-up estimates would look at individual tasks from the WBS and attempt to assign costs to each. This procedure is more time consuming, and should include input from the team members who perform these tasks.

A special category of bottom-up estimating is parametric modeling. Parametric modeling attempts to determine the monetary rate or efficiency with which tasks will be completed, then uses these variables to estimate the total cost. For example, if a project involved collecting GIS data on 100,000 parcels to populate a geodatabase, a project manager might have an employee collect data on 10, determine how much time and associated cost was spent, and multiply results by 10,000. Here, a key assumption is that the parameters are based on a cost of a representative sample of work. Cost per line of code written, polygon digitized, or sample collected can also be parameters entered into a model. Some pilot projects are designed to define parameters for input into cost (or time) estimates for much larger projects. Pilot projects are generally completed before and smaller in scope than subsequent projects.

Cost estimates are summary figures for a project. Cost budgets allocate portions of the total to individual tasks. These tasks or work items are the output of the WBS process. Cost budgets can be used in ways that cost estimates cannot. They can identify individual tasks that are over estimates, focusing cost control management within the project. Because tasks in the WBS are also tied to a calendar, cost budgets also allow costs to be easily tracked over time. A measure of total cost of a project over time is referred to as the cost baseline.

The idea of managing a project can seem like a daunting task, however, provided with the right tools, any project can achieve success. When undertaking any type of project management, there must be a working set of guidelines andobjectives that must be followed, in order to guarantee success for that particular project. An essential element when entering into any type of project management is cost budgeting. To create an effective cost budgeting plan, a total budget for the entire project must first be established. To achieve this, each area of the project must be analyzed and given a particular cost estimate. Once that is done, the total sum of cost assessments, whether those costs are in individual projects or inwork packages, are combined to establish a certain parameter to provide a working guideline for the budget. These guidelines are set in place so that the allotted costs are divvied up amongst the appropriate project needs. This will ensure that the budget goals are being accurately met. The process of cost budgeting is a simple, yet necessary process of any successful type of project management.

When creating a budget for a job, project management must be able to engage properly in the process of cost estimating. This is a calculated projection of the cost for the materials required by the project. The materials considered in cost estimating can be any resources required for the job such as raw materials. It is critical for a true approximation of the production costs that those in project management take into account all resources which might be used. Neglecting certain materials could result in cost estimating which is too low. Accurate cost estimating by project management needs to be done often when creating a bid for the project. Too high of an estimate, and the bid could be lost to another company. A bid which is falsely low will result in unanticipated costs the client will have to pay, and that could damage the chances of future business with that customer. Knowing the true price of the project is important for anyone in management in order to create a budget for the job and to make bids.

In handling projects, there are some techniques that must be followed for easier implementations and these techniques are a big help to the team for the accomplishment of the given project.

  •  Parametric estimating is a technique that is essential for any project management team and or project management team leader to become comfortable with using, as the use of parametric estimating provides an invaluable service in the course of the project. Parametric estimating refers, primarily, to an estimation technique which utilizes the statistical relationship that exists between a series of historical data and a particular delineated list of other variables. Some examples of these variables include square footage in a contraction project, the number of lines or code that exist in a software application, and other similar variables. This information is them implemented for the purposes of calculating and demonstrating an estimate for the entity of activity parameters. One valuable aspect of parametric estimating is the higher levels of accuracy that can be built into it depending on how sophisticated the original data that was built into the estimate turns out to have been.
  •  Activity duration estimating represents the act of quantifying the amount of time that it is anticipated the activity will take to complete. This phase of the project, that which consists of the estimating of the amount of time needed to complete all individual schedule activities, typically and traditionally takes place before a project is kicked off, during the conception phase, however, it is possible for the actual activity duration estimating period to take place later, perhaps close to or even slightly after the project has officially kicked off, however, even in those cases a draft or preliminary estimation has typically been made. Estimations can be made in any calendar unit that seems appropriate, such as months, weeks, days, etc., the entirety of the activity duration estimate can be further broken down into subparts or milestones at which certain elements, or deliverables, of the activity are to have been completed in final or draft form.
  • Activity resource estimating is a process in which the project team carefully compiles a thorough listing of the resources that will be needed in completing a project. There are six inputs that are to be used in the process of activity resource estimating. Those six inputs are the activity list, the activity attributes, the organizational process assets, the enterprise environmental factors, and project management plan, and the resource availability. There are a number of tools that can also be utilized in most effectively estimating the required activity resources. Those tools include expert judgment, a complete alternatives analysis, the use of published estimating data, project management software, and the use of bottom-up estimating. The resulting outputs from this process include activity resource requirements, activity attributes updates, requested changes, a resource breakdown structure, and the development of are source calendar. The successful utilization of activity resource estimates will help assure that enough resources are acquired without waste and excessive expenditure.

In a world of limited funds, as a project manager you’re constantly deciding how to get the most return for your investment. The more accurate your estimate of project cost is, the better able you will be to manage your project’s budget. Therefore, estimating a project’s costs is important for several reasons:

  • It enables you to weigh anticipated benefits against anticipated costs to see whether the project makes sense.
  • It allows you to see whether the necessary funds are available to support the project.
  • It serves as a guideline to help ensure that you have sufficient funds to complete the project.

Although you may not develop and monitor detailed budgets for all your projects, knowing how to work with project costs can make you a better project manager and increase your chances of project success.

A project budget is a detailed, time-phased estimate of all resource costs for your project. You typically develop a budget in stages — from an initial rough estimate to a detailed estimate to a completed, approved project budget. On occasion, you may even revise your approved budget while your project is in progress.

It is the team’s responsibility if they will finish the project or just let it be a failure in the end. They should have thorough planning for it because the project’s success in their hands. Proper communication between the members and also to the hospital should have been done to prevent this kind of scenario in their project, Electronic Medical Record System. It turns out to be a big mess in the operation of the hospital because of the catastrophic failure it brings.

Everything will turn out to be a success if everyone and everything involved in the project would cooperate and will work for its accomplishment. The hospital should also help in the development of the system made by the assigned project team because their full cooperation and support are highly needed because it is for their hospital and they should also be hands-on for it. They should check for it progress for them to monitor it. Proper planning and all its components are the basic requisites for the project’s success and implementation.

2. As a project manager, how would you handle this type of project scenario?

“A successful project can be defined as one that is completed within a set budget and

schedule and that meets identified goals and objectives. But if project success can be

defined in one sentence, why do so many projects fail?”

There have been some interesting comments regarding bad PMs. One senior project manager asked “Should the project manager be held responsible for the results of a project or should the entire team be accountable, after all credit for success usually goes to the team?” Of course, whether the credit for success goes to the team or not, really depends on the organization culture and the wisdom and ethics of the PM and upper levels of management. But, that is a topic for another article.

First, let’s address the idea that there is a difference between the project team and the PM. The PM is part of the project team. Hierarchies and divisions based on roles are one of the common causes of dysfunction in projects and organizations. So, credit for the success or failure of a project does belong to the project team, unless it is hamstrung by cultural and organizational barriers to success.

When projects fail they fail for any number of reasons ranging from irrational, unclear or changing objectives to poor performance. Poor performance is the responsibility of individual performers, including project managers. But, responsibility doesn’t end there; it is shared. General management is responsible for making sure that the right resources (ones who have the capacity to perform their roles) are assigned to the project. General management and project management process owners are responsible for making sure that there is a continuously improving process, supported by effective tools and policies that enable performers to do their jobs. Remember, the best performers can be brought down by a poor process.

Individual performers (including project managers) are responsible for making the right level of effort and for making sure they have the skills that they need to perform. They cannot rely on their organizations to give them the competencies they need. It is a personal responsibility. Individual performers are also responsible for following the process and for speaking up when they realize the process is broken. They are responsible for acknowledging their errors, omissions, and weakness and doing what is needed to remediate them.

Project success is a shared responsibility among the project team which consists of all the performers, project managers, team leads, etc. from across internal organization units and partnering organizations. It is also the responsibility of sponsors, functional managers, clients, executives and senior managers, who are part of the “outer team” and who set objectives, provide resources and establish and maintain an environment that supports effective performance.

Together these stakeholders perform individual projects, assess their performance, identify the causes of both success and failure and do the ongoing work of changing the conditions that address the causes. When the concept of team is limited to what might be called the core team of performers the probability of success goes way down because those who perceive themselves as outside the team are less likely to be motivated to put out the effort to succeed and those who perceive themselves to be on the team view the others as outsiders who mostly get in the way.

Inclusivity and identification with the team promotes collaborative effort and accountability.

  1. Project Management Failure – Background

A whole discipline known as “Project Management” has evolved in the past fifty odd years.

Thousands of people have spent entire life-times pursuing project management as their career. Several trillions of dollars have been pumped into handling and managing projects “the professional way” in order to avoid Project Management failure. Standards, standards, galore – wherever the eyes can see.

Yet, at the end of the day, there is not much to report by way of success. Surveys after surveys have beamed gloomy pictures about the way projects end up – in the dust bin. Project Management Failure is more often than not the outcome.
The Standish Report does it quite elegantly: it categorizes project outcomes into three –

  • Success: a project that gets the bouquets and champagne sprays – for it is completed on time, within budget, and has met all original specs.
  • Challenged: a project that finally made to the deadline. Yet, there were cost/time overruns, and perhaps not all of original specs were met.
  • Failure: A project was abandoned or cancelled due to Project Management Failure.

Consistently, since Standish began surveying companies for their project outcomes, the percentage of category 3 (Project Management Failure) has been higher. The percentage of category 1 (Success!) has been abysmally low.

  1. Why projects fail: different perspectives

Standish group’s line of rationale, trying to explain the trillion-dollar question of why Project Management Failure occurs so often, makes insightful reading. According to them, projects that “succeed” do so due to the following reasons:

  • The end users were apparently involved right through the development of the project.
  • The project manager had full backing of the executive management. Whatever hurdles came up during the project were promptly looked into by the latter.
  • Specifications were clear-cut. This was also possible due to close-level of interaction between the end-users and the project team.
  • Expectations from the project were realistic. There was nothing overly optimistic about what could be achieved within the project’s constraints.
  • Various interest groups

According to the Standish Reports, projects slipped behind in time, or went overboard on budget, or were unable to deliver the full functionality, due to the following reasons:

  • User inputs were inadequate, or thoroughly lacking. Passive users got the chance to comment only after the project was handed over to them, neatly wrapped.
  • Project specifications were incomplete. There seemed to be an inordinate rush to jump from requirements analysis to design stage.
  • Specifications kept on changing over the period of the project execution. The project manager kept incorporating the changed specifications into the system, in order to appease stakeholders.
  • Executive management showed little or no interest in putting out any fires that flared up during the time the project was underway.
  • The project team was technically less than competent.

Finally, their reasons for why projects end up in the dustbin of history are as follows:

  • Users failed to provide complete requirements.
  • Users were not involved in the development process.
  • The project had inadequate or no resources that were vital for its completion.
  • Executive management just did not seem interested in seeing the project through.
  • Specs kept on changing during the project’s tenure.
  • Planning was a casualty.
  • The project’s scope had become outdated due to change in business environment.
  • The project team was technically incompetent.

Yet another take on the reasons why some projects succeed and a lot others fail attributes three variables whose impact on project performance is the maximum:

  • Good Planning: The more forward, future-oriented and in-detail planning, the higher the chances of success. Each and every activity that is expected down the line gets due attention. Not only is this pre-planning well-documented, but also even after the project has taken off, if things don’t exactly pan out as planned, the project manager does not hesitate to re-plan, avoiding Project Management Failure, and readily incorporates the changed circumstances in their new version, so that future events are controlled.
  • Clear responsibility and accountability: All team members have a clear understanding of their roles and duties. There is clear awareness of what exactly is expected from them.
  • Schedule control: Project managers are constantly on their toes, recording time elapsed, milestones reached, change in people/task allotments, and the like. This helps in fine-tuning the schedule on a real-time basis.

This gives them time to implement a fallback position and /or rearrange things so that the project is back on track.

While these analyses are general pointers, there is no universal diagnosis on why projects fail. Every project has its own unique complexities and its own set of players and circumstances. A project manager has to discern the uniqueness of the project that they have on hand, and keep crosschecking the project’s contours against what they have learnt in their class and on the internet.

III. Project Management failure – End word

Unlike other disciplines, project management as a formal discipline is just fifty years young. Perhaps a few more decades shall be required for sufficient knowledgebase to be built up, before the present failure rate can go down to a more comfortable level.

Project management has achieved almost universal recognition as the most effective way to ensure the success of large, complex, multidisciplinary tasks. The success of project management is based on the simple concept that the sole authority for the planning, the resource allocation, and the direction and control of a single time and budget-limited enterprise is vested in a single individual. This single-point authority and responsibility constitutes the greatest strength of project management, but it also constitutes its greatest weakness. The pressures for the completion of an often almost impossible task must of necessity be focused on how effectively the project manager carries out his or her job. Therefore, project management is not a panacea, and unfortunately it does not always work. Its use does not guarantee the success of a task; rather, it takes a great deal more. It takes great dedication and considerable effort on the part of an experienced and talented project team to ensure that a project will be a success. Determining the real or basic cause or causes of project failure can be a frustrating experience. It can be very difficult to pin down the basic causes because they are seldom simple or clear-cut. The problems will be numerous, extremely complex, very much interrelated, and often deeply hidden. It is all too easy to pick a scapegoat, and the project manager is usually the handiest person. Of course the project manager may not be at fault, but there are definitely any numbers of things that project managers can do wrong. Among the many pitfalls that the unwary or inexperienced project manager can fall into is a failure to completely understand some of the basic aspects of the job.

“If it is not documented, it doesn’t exist. As long as information is retained in someone’s head, it is vulnerable to loss.” – Louis Fried, 1992

As the saying goes, “What is not on paper has not been said”, and no more so than in projects. A scope agreement can be easily disputed if it is not documented. An estimate may become a firm quote if it is not written down. A delivery date may be changed if not recorded. You get the idea. Whatever you agree, make sure you write it down and circulate it to all relevant people.

As the project manager, I would handle the scenario doing the best that and if I still have solutions to revive its failure, I will do it. Being the project manager, I would take the full responsibility for the project because I am the one in charge of it. I am the one, to whom the client had trusted for their system. I should not fail their expectations towards my capability.

The project turns out to be a failure because there is a big lack of communication of all the persons involved in the project. Written contracts are very important in every business because it is a proof that you have such agreements between the persons involved in it and if there are some instances that a problem may arise, we can take legal actions for it.

Handling this kind of scenario is not that easy because your credibility is at stake and the client had given you the complete trust for the success of the project. Being the project manager assigned, acceptance is also needed that you had been irresponsible for the job because the project would not fail if it is well planned and all its resources including its budget is well estimated and written contracts are provided for its legality.

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