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Examining The Planning Of Time Management Information Technology Essay

The organisation might require more time midway through the project. Time could also go against them due to bad or lack of planning. Planning links in to time management as in the planning process, different tasks are recorded including their start and finishing times. Time is an aspect that is highly dependent on planning and productivity.

Lack of Organisation/Planning:

With good planning comes good time management. If the project isn’t organised well then there is high chance of it failing. The planning and organisation processes are very crucial to the project’s fail rate. These aspects are the key pillars of the project and decide whether a project succeeds or fails.

Lack of Resources:

The organisation could be very limited as to what they can do and/or achieve if they have lack of resources. The resources determine what can be achieved from the organisation. If the organisation starts off with lack of resources, then resources will need to be purchased. The resources link in to the budget and planning of the project.

Low Starting Budget/Finances:

Starting off with a low budget has limitations. To expand, the organisation will need to invest on any future plans later, when they have enough finance from their income. An arguable advantage from starting off with a low budget is that there is not much at risk, so, when the project does fail, the money that was invested on building up the project wasn’t as much as if a loan was included.

One solution when starting with a low budget is that a loan is always available. Getting a loan can help start off the business so that it runs efficiently and there is also a less chance of the project failing. All finance aspects of the project like the equipment and resources, can be paid for earlier. However, if the project does somehow fail or is suspended, then there is a lot at risk.

Project Planning:

When a project is in development there are many risks involved if the project isn’t structured very well. The planning is the most important process and phase when building up a project. The planning process is often overlooked and is the key pillar of the project. If the planning stage isn’t planned, structured and organised very well, the project might collapse due to either a minor or even a major issue that has evolved from a small problem. These risks will need to be tackled beforehand so that they don’t evolve into bigger risks. Any future risks will also need to be anticipated and backup plans will need to be organised and set so that if anything does arise, they can be fixable with a pressing solution.

Lack of Staff:

If the project turns out to be huge then the organisation might need to consider recruiting more members of staff. The cause of low numbers of staff is mainly linked into the productivity/work rate of the organisation. If the organisation can’t keep up with the timetable schedules then they may need to recruit more members.

Lack of Productivity:

The productivity rate is linked into time management and numbers of staff. If the numbers of staff available find it hard to keep up with the current work, then more members of staff will need to be recruited. Some members of staff might not be able to attend some of the time due to illnesses or meetings.

Verifying Work:

During a project, any work that has been produced should always be verified and analysed to make sure that there are no mistakes as it’s natural for humans to make mistakes every now and then. Verifying work beforehand saves a lot of time when a problem arises because it would be difficult and time consuming when trying to find the root of a problem.

Structuring Work:

Work should always be organised and structured. Structuring work beforehand saves a lot of time when polishing up the project when the implementation phase comes along. Aspects like the coding can be structured to a standard so that it can be easier to read and understand for anyone who understands the coding process. It would be really difficult for another employee who has coding skills to restructure work that has only been suited for another employee. The standard method is always efficient and thus, should be implemented beforehand via such things as training or research.

Lack of Understanding:

Unclear Goals

The project might have unclear goals set. These goals might be unclear because they may have changed. Goals are very important as they provide employees with targets that they need to achieve before a specific time. Goals also allow employees to create a timetable so that they work at a steady pace. The product might be unfinished or faulty due to unclear goals.

Unclear User Requirements

The user requirements are what the user needs. If the user requirements are unclear then the end product will turn out differently to what the end user intended. The product might not meet the user’s requirements thus being rendered useless to the end user. Employees should always be reminded what their user requires from the product. The project should then be analysed and checked to see whether it meets those standards.

[P2] Describe different tools and methodologies that are available to support the project manager

There are a number of tools available for project managing. There is a wide range of project management software available. Some of these programs are open source (free) whilst others are proprietary (licenses are available for purchase). One of the most common project managing programs is MS Project.

Microsoft Project

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MS Project is a great project planning tool. MS Project has the tools and features to allow service providers to set up a scheduling and a planning process. There are two different applications included in Microsoft Office that can be used for planning. These two tools are MS Project and MS Excel. MS Excel can be used to create spreadsheets and reports. Projects can be planned using a calendar.

http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/features-of-microsoft-project-2007.html

Microsoft Project (MSP) is an application based around project management. There are a lot of features included with MS Project. Microsoft Project provides enhanced tools to help track and control project work, schedules, and finances.

Features of MS Project:

The features that are included with MS Project allow users to gain better control and visibility across all projects. MS Project also contains an enhanced decision-making process and an improved alignment with business strategies, which, in turn, increases operational efficiency. Like any other project management software, MS Project helps you plan work and manage resources effectively whilst enabling efficient communication and collaboration. In addition, it helps leverage existing data and provides quick access to information.

Effective Work Planning:

MS Project helps the user efficiently plan work ranging from small projects to large-scale operations. MS Project can be used to plan schedules, allocate resources, manage budgets, and set realistic targets and goals. Data can easily be tracked to show performance tracking, completion in percentage, estimates and to show any relations to any hypothesis.

Effective Tracking:

MS Project has tools integrated that allow users to track their data, progress, performance, projects and time/duration. Users can track their project performance during the entire duration of the project.

Effective Resource Management:

MS Project can be used to manage resources so that long-term goals can be achieved. Project resources can be assigned to tasks. Work can be allocated to teams collectively instead of work being assigned to individuals.

Effective Communication and Collaboration:

MS Project can be effectively used to efficiently communicate and collaborate with project teams. MS Project allows users to use different formats for presenting information. Projects can be formatted to be presented in the form of reports, charts, PDF documents, 1 page printable schedules and many more.

Quick Access to Information:

With MS Project information can be accessed quickly and easily. Data can be grouped predefined ensuring quick information retrieval. Changes during projects can be checked and examined with ease.

Gantt Chart:

The Gantt chart tool is found in almost all project managing applications. Similar to a bar chart, the Gantt chart displays information which is easier to read. Bar charts such as a Gantt charts are quite useful in showing how multiple tasks overlap and/or relate to each other. Schedules are very important as they monitor time management very effectively. Schedules can also help keep team members focused on specific targets as other tasks might have a higher priority and might need to be completed before a new task is started.

A Gantt chart is a type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. The Gantt chart illustrates the start and finish dates of each of the tasks that form up the project.

Task

Description

Predecessor

Est. Duration

A

Plan Primary Research

-

1 Wks

B

Prepare Mail Shot (Postal Survey)

-

3 Wks

C

Prepare Questionnaire

A

2 Wks

D

Send and Wait for Mail Shot Replies

B

3 Wks

E

Issue Questionnaire

C

3 Wks

F

Compile and Analyze Results

D & E

2 Wks

G

Plan Selling Campaign

D, E & F

2 Wks

The table above can be transformed into a Gantt chart or a Network diagram to provide more viewable additions and features. Many software management tools have a Gantt chart view and some also have a Network diagram view integrated into the application.

In MS Project, the user has to enter the data accordingly for MSP to display the correct data results. On the ‘Duration’ column the default time format is set to days, this can easily be changed by entering a value along with the week format which would be ‘wks.’

In MS Project we can also view the start and finish times of each of the tasks as well as the whole project in general. The predecessors determine the task order. The task numbers on the first column have to written on the ‘Predecessor’ column determining on the order. On a simple project, tasks are written in biological order, however, it is possible for 2 or even more tasks to start at the same time, i.e. after a task, event or a specific time.

The image above shows the Gantt chart on MS Project showing the system waterfall model. A waterfall model lists activities or tasks in their sequence of dependency or start/finish times. In a waterfall from a Gantt chart, the phases shown have been overlapped by one another.

There are many phases in a waterfall model; some include the ‘analyse,’ ‘design,’ ‘code,’ and ‘test’ attributes of the project. Waterfall models show problems that can occur within the project whether it was due to bad planning. There are also chances were solving problems tend to lead to sub-problems. However, problems are more easily solved when they are first defined.

Waterfall models can help define many things that occur during the project. The structure of the project should also be defined. For example, the coding text would be more understandable if it were structured beforehand, thus saving a lot of time when going back to for editing and finalizing during the polishing phase.

The phases that occur during a waterfall model include:

Analyse

Specify

Design

Build

Test

The testing stages include:

Analyse

Specify

Build

Prove (Test)

Design (Re-factor)

Prove

Legend:

Critical Links

Non-Critical Links

The image above shows the Network diagram in MS Project. The noncritical links are in blue whilst the critical links are in red, although this can be changed in the options menu. There is a lot of information shown in this diagram. The CPM in this diagram can be seen by the bold/think red line and red table borders.

In this diagram we can see:

The start times of each task

The finish times of each task

The task name/description

The task ID which also shows the order of each of the tasks

The duration of each task

One thing that isn’t included in this diagram is the EST and LFT. However, it does include the start and finish times of each of the tasks.

The Gantt chart from the diagram above was created using Microsoft Project (MSP). In this Gantt chart we can see that the critical path is in red. Gantt charts can show the CPM, but with Network diagrams the CPM is much more visible and easier to read and understand.

[P3] Describe typical phases of a project life cycle

Project Phases and Stages:

During the planning process of a project, there are usually 5 phases that will need to be gone through thoroughly. It is really important that these phases are gone through carefully and in detail. The planning stage will also need to be reviewed several times for any errors or mistakes.

Initiation:

During the initiation phase, team members will need to record down the user requirements and needs. In this stage, service providers will need to research on recent customer trends and jot down their research onto paper. In this phase, service providers also hand out questionnaires, surveys and/or send out mail shots to reach a wider range of audience who don’t live locally. A project-log will also need to be created. All activities, tasks, time, date and duration will all need to be logged.

The table above is a rough template of a student logbook. After the student has entered notes on his work completion there will be a deadline set for the student to hand his work, he will receive feedback from his tutor and then he will be given a final deadline to complete the given work. The tutor will then sign the log-book according to what has been finalized and completed.

During the initiation process, the theme of the project is defined. The goals and objectives are established. An objective is more of a short term achievement whilst a goal is more of a long term achievement. This is also the phase where teams are assembled and each team leader, group or individual is set tasks and is given a schedule. Team leaders then assign team members with a specific task or activity so that they can eventually report back with

their research, reports, summaries, findings and/or product testing. The initiation stage is also where the scope of the project is analysed.

Planning:

The planning stage is where specific tasks and activities are identified. It is also the feasibility study phase. There are many aspects included with feasibility. Some of these aspects like the financial budget, resources and whether the project is achievable and doable will all need to be checked carefully.

Executing:

During the execution stage, which is more or less the implementation and design of the project, service providers will need to transfer and design the system that was originally on paper to a hardware or software structure. Elements such as the main menus, reports and forms are designed. Records are then collected and then implemented into the system, but only after testing.

This is the stage where the project is built up practically. The paper work and theories are all taken care of beforehand and the system is ready to be implemented. Before the system can be implemented, however, the new system will need to be tested to make sure it meets the user requirements, needs and user standards. The system must also be functional otherwise it will be useless. The manual system is transformed into an automated new and modernised system.

Controlling:

This is the maintenance stage of the project. The system is checked and reviewed for any problems and issues. The problems and issues are corrected. Patches, fixes and solutions are integrated onto the system. The system, at this point, might get an updatable version or revision. At this stage, the schedule, expectations and/or goals are adjusted to target any risks, problems and issues concerning the new automated system. The system will need to be checked if it runs and functions correctly.

Closing:

This is the evaluation process of the project. The new system is assessed and evaluated to see if the project was successful and if the user requirements were met. Team leaders or individuals who were responsible on participating on a task would need to compose a detailed written evaluation of the events during the whole project. Improvements will need to be considered if the end-users have adjusted. The new system will need to be updated so that it adapts to their new work style. Team leaders/managers should give appraisals to fellow colleagues and team members.

Feasibility Study:

To endure that the project has a backup plan, has enough of a budget, is suitable for the service providers and last but not least, whether it is achievable or not. A feasibility report will contain the current status of the project. A project –log and a project plan will need to be created during the planning process of the project.

Requirement Analysis:

The requirement analysis is identifying and meeting the user requirements from the user inputs and outputs. As well as the user needs and user requirements, there is also hardware and software requirements which are linked into the project resources.

Design:

This phase is where the design is taken from paper and is implemented through hardware and/or software applications. If the project is a software application, the menus, forms, reports, coding and structure is all designed from scratch.

Implementation:

When the planning and design process is executed, it is then time to move onto the implementation phase. This is the stage where the new automated is implemented to replace the old and manual system.

Testing:

This is the stage where the service provider receives feedback from their customers and clients on ways of improving their system or product. The service providers will need to check for any errors or faults after the implementation process. If errors do arise then a solution will need to be implemented to make sure all of the system’s functions are working correctly and efficiently.

Maintenance:

This is the phase where the service providers keep the system up-to-date by providing updates, patches and bug-fixes. If the user requirements change it will be up to the service providers to adapt and adjust their system to suit the new user needs.

[M1] Explain, using examples, how it is possible to minimise the chances of projects failing

Risk Management:

There are many risks involved when running a project. For an organisation, minimizing the risks is one of their top priorities. There are many ways of managing and reducing the risks. One way the organisation could counter risks in to spend money on contractors who can get the job done faster. If not much time is available to complete the project, the company may decide to push back the deadline to get more time. However, with this decision, it would force the business to lose potential revenue and/or productivity loss as well as the costs associated with extending the deadline for the project.

The recovering process might be the phase that gets the project back to running. Recovering from failure can be really difficult, especially when there are borders blocking the project from moving ahead and forward. Some businesses take the route of figuring out problems and risks as they go along, but time is always of the essence, and it’s better to plan ahead of time.

Minimizing Downtime & Risks:

Risk management includes minimising the organisation’s exposure to downtime or loss of service. Risk management is more about managing projects, designing a portfolio of systems and reports in order to maximise the finances on investments. It also includes anticipating and minimizing any potential conflicts and delays that might affect the project progress.

Business impact analysis is another crucial aspect of risk management. Companies should be anticipating any incoming risks that will affect the progress of the overall project. Once the company has recognised the potential risks, it is important to evaluate how costly those risks can be. Money and time should be invested heavily onto finding a solution to the current risks. A business impact analysis helps define the outcome losses determining on the results of the risks involved.

Cost Considerations:

Once companies have determined the risks, result and outcome, they must then decide their method of addressing each risk. What is most commonly examined is the size of the risk and the outcome, i.e. consequences to the business.

There are many risks when investing into a project. The research that comes into the project is very valuable as it can allow business to predict certain events or consumer trends. Most businesses keep a safe distance, by executing a backup plan when needed. There will be a potential risk that involves estimating product sales or adding a new innovative product onto the market. There is also a risk of products such as application programs or server hosting services that might not produce as much income for the business to profit on, thus providing the business with a financial loss.

Time Considerations:

As well as cost considerations, there are also time considerations for starting off projects and meeting deadlines. A client might want the project to be successfully completed during or at, a specific time so that they can eventually set up their system just in time for specific events like holiday seasons.

Holiday seasons are a great time to put out products as it’s a holiday shopping season were employees receive their pay checks, retail prices are reduced and were individuals have more free time on their hands. Consumers tend to go out on shopping sprees during holiday seasons as there are a number of sales and offers as the competition stakes are raised.

[M2] Describe critical path analysis (CPA) and explain with an example how critical paths can be identified

The critical path analysis (CPA) or critical path method (CPM) is a process which can be done that determines which route is the best to take to finish the project on time.

To find the CPA, there are a number of methods that will need to be undertaken to successfully find the CPA. First and foremost, the list of tasks, including the task name/description and task number/letter, along with the estimated duration time followed by the order of tasks will all need to be recorded onto a table. The table below is an example.

Time is very crucial for the organisation if each task has been given an expected completion time. A Critical Path Analysis of the project will need to be completed. A CPA is requested when a new work strategy is brought up, or when a new system is implemented.

Task

Activity Description

Predecessor/Order

Expected Time

A

Plan Primary Research

-

1 Wks

B

Prepare Mail Shot (Postal Survey)

-

3 Wks

C

Prepare Questionnaire

A

2 Wks

D

Send and Wait for Mail Shot Replies

B

3 Wks

E

Issue Questionnaire

C

3 Wks

F

Compile and Analyze Results

D & E

2 Wks

G

Plan Selling Campaign

D, E & F

2 Wks

The table above, identifies the tasks and activities that will be occurring during or after another specific task has started or finished. The table also shows the expected or estimated task completion duration/time.

To transform the table above to find the CPM, a diagram like the one below will need to be drawn out. Each circle (Node) holds specific data. The annotations below explain the diagram in more detail.

Node order: The current order of the node. The node number is crucial for identifying the CPM as it helps make the diagram easier to understand.

EST: The earliest starting time the task or activity can start.

LFT: The latest finish time the task or activity can finish.

To diagram below is a simple Network diagram, they can get more advanced depending on the number of tasks. On the Network diagram below there are only two possible routes however, on a more advanced Network diagram there can be more than 6 routes depending on the amount of tasks and predecessors.

Duration: The time or duration the tasks takes to complete. The time is most notably written in the format of weeks.

Task: The identification of the task is most notably written as a number or a letter.marketing_critical_path

After drawing out the network diagram, the next step would be to identify the earliest starting time (EST) for each of the tasks. To work out the EST, we start of from ‘start’ and then we move from left to right on the diagram, calculating and adding the weeks as we go along. The task weeks are added and then written on the top right corner of a node. The diagram below shows an example:

EST from Node 5 + Task F wks (2) = EST for Node 6.

The EST of Node 5 plus the number of weeks from Task F equals the EST for Node 6.

The earliest starting time (EST)

The next step would be to work out the latest finish time (LFT) for each of the tasks. This way is similarly to the method to work out the EST, except instead of adding figures, we subtract figures and instead of working from left to right, we start off from right ‘end’ and work out way along to the left. The LFT is then written at the bottom right hand segment of the node. The diagram below shows an example:

LFT from Node 6 - Task F wks (2) = LFT for Node 5.

The LFT of Node 6 minus the number of weeks from Task F equals the LFT for Node 5.

Now that both the EST and LFT have been identified, it is now time to determine the critical path. This is easily found by recognizing the nodes where EST is equal to LFT. When the EST is equal to the LFT, then that is the critical path. The critical path is also the longest route on the diagram.

EST = LFT

(Critical path)

C

(Crcrit_path2_A

The critical path for this diagram is: A – B – D – F – G (Highlighted by the red line)

After identifying the critical path, it should then be highlighted for easier identification. The diagram above highlights the critical path using a red line (As shown by the diagram above).


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