We should first clarify definitions for the following: project management, tasks and frameworks; then identify tools to support managing a project.
1.1 What is project management?
Project management (PM) is the application of processes, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives (APM, 2017). A Project Manager plans, monitors and enforces tasks and their completion (Meredith & Mantel, 2011). A Programme Director is usually responsible for managing key stakeholders, sponsors and the executives who are a part of the project (Briner et al., 1996). Both positions will use PM tools.
1.2 What are some Project Management tasks?
Key PM tasks, responsibilities, and tool choices include:
- Understanding and confirming, requirements, specifications and scope
- Time, budget, resource estimations
- Building and maintaining a plan of management and control
- Interacting with various stakeholders
- Risk Assessment management
- Workflows and milestone achievements (Lakemond et al. 2017)
Three important insights emerge from the above: 1) PM is task-transactional based; 2) It relies on standards and processes and 3) Domain knowledge is essential (Kendrick, 2016).
1.3 What are some Project Management frameworks?
There are 3 popular frameworks which have tools associated with them:
- PMBOK (Project Management Body Of Knowledge) which outlines project management skills, including financial, input/output management, and KPIs.
- PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments), clarifies roles, communications, risk and cost management.
- Agile Project Management is used in complex environments and is single team based, emphasizing flexibility and fast failure (Mindtools, 2017).
1.4 What are some Project Management tools?
Based on these frameworks, some common PM tools include:
- SWOT, PESTLE, including a business case justifying the project
- Scope and the purpose of a project and how it supports strategy (Traceability matrix)
- Tools to clarify operational versus strategic projects (Shenhar & Dvir, 2008)
- Requirements clarification (Mindmapping, UML, Use Cases, Sequence diagrams)
- RACI including actors who are responsible, accountable, consulted and informed
- Gantt Charts (milestones, deadlines, key workflows)
- WBS to feed into the Gantt
- RAID (Risk Assessment) by area (finance, technical, resources, time)
- Agile tools such (Jira, Octane, Git, Bamboo, SVN, or TRAC)
- Waterfall methods
- Bottoms up design methodology
- Asana (or Software-as-a-Service/SaaS model)
- Microsoft Project Management (SaaS)
- Dropbox, Sharepoint
- Zoom, JoinMe, Webex (SaaS communication)
(OGC, 2009; ProjectManagementGuru, 2012; Martinelli & Milosovic, 2016; Kalaimani, 2015)
1.5 How PM tools can positively or negatively affect a project
Positive aspects of using PM tools would include the following:
- Clear documentation and maintenance of documents which can be verified and changed with approval
- Complete understanding of scope and requirements captured by tools and brain-storming
- Ability to map the project back to business objectives and strategy
- Better communications (SaaS, in person, shared repositories etc)
- Professional approaches to design, change management, and stakeholder input
- Tasks and work breakdown structures illustrate project progress and resources needed
- Enhanced budget control
- Human resource management and productivity (Martinelli & Milosovic, 2016)
A successful PM requires the right solution skills for the project, to select the right tools. For example, if we used Agile methods in a project that is Waterfall based, we will have a mismatch (Kerzner, 2013).
Negative aspects of using PM tools include:
1.5.9 Wrong tool choice
1.5.10 PM is not trained to use the tools
1.5.11 Tools are too expensive
1.5.12 Tools do not support the project requirements or business strategy and design
1.5.13 Tools are not transparent or shared (no SaaS)
1.5.14 Tools are static and don’t allow for changes or dynamic complexity (Kerzner, 2013; Martinelli & Milosovic, 2016)
Importantly the use tools should support constraints on budget, time and resources. For example, a PM who insists on a long ‘Bottoms Up’ design and requirements approach (Henriksen & Røstad, 2010), could face difficulty from executive sponsors due to the costs involved in resource consumption and time. Perhaps the PM and team would be better off with a high level design and then a quick ‘proof of concept’ to identify a solution (Kalaimani, 2015).
Two key tools chosen and which should be used on every project would be the RACI and its output called a RAID; along with the GANTT workflow (ProjectSmart, 2014).
The RACI is composed of the following:
- Responsibility: Identifies the person or role that performs the work
- Accountability: Person or role is held responsible for the results
- Consultation: Subject Matter Expert who needs to authorise or approve an approach before a decision is made
- Inform: People and roles who are affected by the activity and who are informed (Atkinson & Crawford, 2006; Bendoly et al. 2010)
The RACI is usually a part of a contract. It identifies functional roles of the parties involved, and provides a process flow to mitigate risk. Table 1 is an example:
|Migration of IT||Systems Integrator, Programme Director J. Smith||Systems Integrator Project Manager A. Jones||Client Programme Director B. Dale||Client PM J. Tolk, External Supplier K. Account|
RACI leads to proper risk management and assessment. The RACI is usually linked with a Risk Map called a RAID or Risk Assessment Impact Design. RACI and RAID are PM tools that needs to be given to Stakeholders (Atkinson & Ward, 2006). RAID can impact scope and the RACI.
A Gantt will outline the project management structure, including dependencies, milestones, tasks and the RAID. Gantt is detailed and links RACI with WBS. Tools should integrate WBS with the GANTT (Gantt.com, 2012). The main activities within the GANTT include:
- Dividing the project into logical-sequential steps,
- Identifying dependencies between the steps
- Identifying parallel processes which run concurrently
- Development of schedules
- Listing resource constraints (Meredith & Mantel, 2011)
Some research criticizes the GANTT as too linear (Kerzner, 2013). While such criticisms can be valid, without a GANTT chart, you cannot resource, manage, or create milestones for a project, which will likely lead to project failure (Bendoly et a. 2010).
A summary of both tools is below (Table 2) (Laslo, 2010). These dependencies inform the RACI and RAID.
|Table 2||PM tool or methodology||Strengths||Weaknesses||Best Practices|
For Governance, Workflow planning
|-Identifies, which role performs a task, and who needs to be consulted and informed
-Leads to an increase in performance and productivity
-Decreases confusion on large projects and cross functional work groups
(Meredith and Mantel, 2011)
|-C & I are difficult to determine
-Task owners need to affirm roles and buy in to their tasks
-RACI needs to be managed and aligned with project rewards
-Stakeholders not formally involved might be C or I
(Meredith and Mantel, 2011)
Does not replace a project plan, but helps construct one. C&I need to be clearly defined (Bendoly et al 2010).
|2 – related, joined||Risk, RAID ‘Map’, List
For Risk Assessment and Reduction
-Illustrates the top risks (eg if 100 risks I graph the top 25)
-Associates risks to tasks and milestones
-Easy to understand
-Provides a colour coded
(Zwickael & Globerson, 2006)
|-Risks levels need to be agreed upon
-Takes knowledge to associate risks to certain tasks
-Can be used to provide excuses for a delay
-If not assigned for ‘resolution’ can lead to project failures
(Bendoly et al, 2010)
|Integrate Stakeholder management into RACI
|Dependencies (Cause and Effect)||-Makes planning a necessity
-Feeds into RAID
-Requires a deep understanding of the steps within a project
-Leads to a proper Gantt/MSP chart
-Forewarns the PM of important tasks and milestones
(Project Management Guru, 2012)
|-If PM not foresighted will not help
-Assumes Domain and solution knowledge
-Only possible if proper documentation and audits (domain specific) are performed
(Atkinson & Ward, 2006)
|Map out the design, from the scope, before the project begins. This will give you the stages and dependencies.
|Summary of 1 + 2||Gantt (summarizes the above, a part of Microsoft Project Plan)||-Tasks, Milestones, Deadlines, Dates by ownership.
-Forces you to use Work Breakdown Structures or WBS to identify tasks, and related milestones
-Visual, clarifies the project, provides a roadmap and point of discussion
-Automated – if tasks or dimensions change, can be easily updated
|-Only as accurate as the data
-Must be enforced (Zwickael & Globerson, 2006)
|Skilled PM must know how to use a Gantt and share the information properly with the key stakeholders, or Program Director.
Project Management tools are essential for a project’s success (Kotter, 2012). Key factors in using and selecting tools include: proper scope assessment, domain knowledge; utility; mapping to business objectives; transparency; and ease of use. Importantly these tools should not only manage tasks and milestones (GANTT); or roles and responsibilities along with risk (RACI & RAID); but also assure stakeholder agreement (Friedman & Miles, 2002). RACI and GANTT are used on most projects of any size, and though there are some demerits, they are proven to be vital to promote success and best practices (Kendrick, 2016).
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