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The Management Of Systems Development Projects Information Technology Essay

Project management has evolved to the point where the complexities and diversities of planning, coordination and management can be successfully monitored to limit the risk of a project failing (Lock, p.1). All projects, be it systems development or otherwise are all based upon new ideas which enable an individual or group of individuals to pursue new endeavours.

Numerous project management methodologies [i] are in use with some more widespread than others. Such examples of established methodologies include the Waterfall Model and the industrial standard version of this model, the 'V' Model. Each process is broken up into a series of phases, each one autonomous to the next (Zhu software design methodology,2005, p. 55). These methodologies rely heavily on one process being completed before the other can begin (Pearman et al, p.3). Both methodologies are sequential in nature meaning overlapping between phases can only take place on a minor scale. Figures 1 and 2 (see appendix A) illustrate how each model would be used in a real world situation. However, both methodologies are traditional in their approach, that is, they are heavily reliant on documentation and planning rather than design and implementation. Within these models all documentation is subject to a scrupulous review process which dominates any project, particularly one focused on developing software. (Bernstein et al, Trustworthy systems through quantitative software engineering Volume 1 of Quantitative software engineering series, John Wiley and Sons, 2005).

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In the area of systems (software) development it is imperative that the model used allows for adaptability during the design process. Several factors can lead to the need for change including client feedback, the future needs of the system and coding errors. With the constant need to complete a software development project to meet market demands more organisations are moving to Agile methods, one of notability being SCRUM and structured methods such as PRINCE2.

This report focuses on the aforementioned methods, Prince2 and SCRUM. Firstly, the report will provide background information concerning the challenges faced with managing a systems development project as well as the need for a method. Each method will then be defined and discussed, drawing upon their advantages and disadvantages in relation to systems development. Each method is then evaluated and compared to understand how well each method can support systems development.


2.1 The management of systems development projects

The area of software development is fast paced and changes at a rapid rate due to constant changes in technology. Due to the rapid growth of technology businesses have to adapt quickly to meet the needs of the market and their clients. More often than not teams have to deal with several factors including a lack of technical ability due to emerging technologies, time restraints due to the demand for software in business and outsider competition. As Bittner and Spence note business success rests on software success (p. 15, Managing iterative software development projects, Addison-Wesley, 2007). Therefore, accountability for a project is paramount. Management of the project involves ensuring a timely and agile system coupled with cooperation from all involved and at the same time allowing for originality to flourish whilst still maintaining governance over the project. All factors considered, managing a systems development project is no easy task and choosing the wrong approach for the project could lead to project failure.

2.2 The need for a project management method

The rate at which a project fails or does not reach completion is all too common. What causes a project to fail can be seen as simple or complex and can involve one or several different elements dependent entirely upon the type of project undertaken. In short, projects are seen as unsuccessful if they do not meet initial schedule (time), resources (cost), functionality (scope) and quality criteria. As figure 3 illustrates, these factors are mutually dependent on one another, if one were to change the others would be effected (Morris et. Al, p.66).

Figure 3. "The Iron Triangle" represents how a project operates in its basic form. For example, if a project has to be completed quickly then time is the major factor meaning resources or quality will have to be adjusted accordingly.

If a project were to be undertaken without a project management method in place it could fail. Without a basic idea of the resources needed, the scope of the project and a realistic timeline in place to complete the project it could become time consuming and costly. Beyond these fundamental factors a lack of conformity between those who assign, supervise and implement a project could lead to disastrous results. Each member will have different ideas as to how the project is to be completed including which member is responsible for each aspect of the project. Without a clear framework dictating who has accountability, authority and responsibility the project can become perplexing which can lead to failure.


SCRUM and PRINCE2 - an overview

Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE) is a structured methodology which was established in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA). The method originated from PROMPTII which it eventually overtook as the standard used in government IS projects. PRINCE was originally developed to meet the needs of IT projects but as the requirements of users changed, the method evolved to become PRINCE II which lends itself to the management of all types of projects. The framework has become the de facto management standard in the UK and is adopted by both the private and public sectors.

Alternatively, SCRUM is an agile methodology, software-centric in nature which ensures systems developers a flexible and adaptable approach allowing teams to organise themselves according to the tasks to be undertaken.

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