This analysis is to explain in detail the process of learning which I underwent during the implementation of this project. Applied Project Management, according to me is one of the most essential parts of my MSc program. This section explains in detail the effort put by me as an individual and also as a part of a group. Reflection on this particular report, is not always bright as I had to undergo some serious times of difficulties, but the best part of the reflection is that looking back and reflecting on the report, leaves me feeling proud- as at the end of the day, it qualifies me as a Postgraduate- I would rather say a MASTER.
The topic of my dissertation is Paperless Office. I was a part of a group of six other students, who were also given the same subject. The topic being relatively new, I had a hard time in finding out the right resources to base my research upon. Though I viewed these difficulties as hindrances to my dissertation, I now realise that they were not hindrances, but hurdles after crossing which the prize is given. These hurdles have been quite beneficial in a way, by teaching me new things and to look at a problem from many views.
There were other hurdles also, in the form of group work. Since all the members of the group were eager to submit their dissertations, all of us worked over-time quite enthusiastically gathering information and pouring in ideas. As every mind think differently, we started having problems in our co-ordination. These were later creased out and the main lesson learnt from these group tasks is- team work.
Being a regular visitor of the Black Board (breo), I got to know the announcement of the AMP project. My first reaction to that was both a high and a low. It was a high, because the thought of successfully completing all the taught modules of the course and progressing this far was confidence booster. A low because the thought of entering or I would rather say researching into a new subject was a bit frightening.
At first, my mind was in a state of utter chaos, not knowing how to start or as to where to start from. At this point the classes about the introduction of the module proved to be a boon. The 1st session was on Monday the 14th of June 2010. The first session was taken my Mr. Vincent Ong, who gave as an introduction of the module, thereby throwing light on as to what we could expect in the module. The second lecture was given by Mr. Steve Briggs who is the Learning Support Tutor and he told us how to write our report. These two sessions were very informative and productive. Both these sessions on day 1 threw enough light on the module and the report writing to bring me a bit out of my chaos.
Day 2 was even more important, as two very important areas of the dissertation were being discussed - plagiarism and reflection. On Tuesday 15th June 2010, Mr JBK gave us an insight into what exactly plagiarism is and what accounts to plagiarism. This was quite informative as I got a very clear understanding as to what plagiarism is. The second lecture of the day was conducted by Mr. Rob Carman, who told us the importance of recollecting our experiences throughout the dissertation and summing it up in the Reflection part of the report.
We were then divided into groups and were given our topics and were asked to collect the handbooks for the module. After going through the handbook, everything started to fall into place.
Once all of these activities were done, I had time to sit with members of my group of 10 members and discuss the various strategies each of us had in our minds as to how we were going to implement our dissertation. All of us belonging to different nationalities took time before we plunged into our dissertation knowing each other, so that we do not have to face any hurdles or face any misunderstandings during the course of our dissertation. Working among such a diverse group of students was really beneficial as everyone contributed some new idea or the other. Moreover working in such a diverse group was an enriching experience.
After the initial two days, we had three days to sit with our respective groups and start our projects. It was then, that it really dawned upon us that the topic- "Paperless Office" is relatively new and we had no idea whatsoever, as to where to start from and how to start our research for our project. It was during these three days that our professors were there with us, helping and guiding us. When all of us got together, the first thing we did was to do the SWOT Analysis which is analysing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of and to the Paperless Office. SWOT Analysis helped us in getting a clear and better understanding of the topic, thereby showing us a direction to follow and get ahead with starting the project. After working together for three days and collecting and sharing ideas, it was time for each of us to star our individual works and get ahead with our dissertations.
The Start of my Individual Work
Having done enough assignments and varied kinds of coursework during the length of the taught module, I felt that I was aptly equipped and prepared for this phase, which is the last and final phase of my project. Thanks to all the group work done during the last three days, I was able to chalk out a path to follow and successfully complete my dissertation. The first step which I undertook was to understand what exactly Paperless Office is and how popular it is. I started acquiring enough material which throws light on what Paperless Office is. After this phase was over, I dived into the actual project, wherein I would start typing the thesis, but before this the most important step, for any project to be a success has to be taken and it was planning.
Planning is the most important part of any project. Without proper planning, I realised that I cannot move ahead with my dissertation nor will I be successful. After realising the importance of planning, I sat down and charted my plan for the entire duration of my project. When I first charted out the plan, I knew that everything would not happen exactly as planned, given the scale of the project, but I promised myself that I would try me level best to stick to my plan.
The first part of my plan was to search for material on the given topic. I knew that this part of the project was going to consume a large amount of time. The topic being new, I researched for it on Wikipedia and thought that I would gain more information from the link provided there, but this proved to be a broken thread. Though, initially I was disheartened by this, I kept searching for information over the internet. Google Scholar and the IEEE website have proved really helpful and useful in gathering the information on the subject. Working in a group has not only helped me but the other members also in gathering information. The main outcome of this exercise and working in a group to gather information was getting to know how to type a query in a search engine, so as to extract the maximum possible matching pages or websites. Had I done this part of my project alone by myself, I would not have succeeded as I have now done, because knowing how to form queries was very helpful in getting the maximum information in a little time.
After gathering the data, the next important step according to me is to arrange the data or group similar data together. In the information gathering phase, all of us ended up gathering information on all the possible topics in accordance to Paperless Office. After this was done, I had to sort out the information based on the different sub topics of Paperless Office. This was quite an elephantine task as sorting out such a big amount of data took quite some time. The best thing about this part of the dissertation knew how to research and analyse the data and group them accordingly.
While doing the project I got a better understanding as to how papers were being used in an organization. The thought that scores of trees are being felled each year just to satisfy our hunger for paper has come as a bolt from the blue to me. After sorting out the data, and going through them, I entered the last stage of the project which was typing the report. The sheer size of 15000 words to type, sank my heart within me. I must accept that I spent a few sleepless nights not knowing how to write a report of 15000 words and not just writing to meet the word limit, because I understood that writing just to meet the words limit would produce a bad dissertation or project report, which I did not want to do. This was an enormous task as well, in the sense, I had to produce in writing what I understood from the material researched and create a report in such a way as it should not be a plagiarised version of someone else's work.
Then I started writing the report. The first few sections dealt with an introduction to the Paperless Office. It was during this time when I was studying in detail about the Paperless Office, did I realise that Paperless Office means an Office set-up which uses as less paper as possible, contrary to my previous thinking of not using any paper at all.
On the Personal front
Personally, working on this project was very beneficial for me, both personally and professionally. The knowledge gained throughout the duration of this project would be immensely useful to me in the future. All the experiences during this project would equip me better to face similar situations in the real time scenarios.
Starting the project with a low self-esteem because of not having any previous experience of doing a project on such a large scale was not good. But as the time progressed, the confidence and self-esteem gained is sure to stay with me for the rest of my life. This has been gained by setting small and realistic goals during the initial stages of the project. The setting of these small goals was not only essential to complete the tasks, but also has helped me in building my self esteem, because of which I was able to set myself bigger goals towards the end of the project.
The task of having to type a report of 15000 words, at the beginning seemed impossible. The task of not only having to write 15000 words, but also to gather information, sort it out, study it and come up with an appropriate report, seemed to make the task all the more impossible. These tasks were made possible by planning initially and making sure that I stick to my plan. This is one of the most important lessons which I had learned by doing this project- STICK TO YOUR PLAN. The second lesson which I learnt was to be organized. By being organized, I was able to relieve any pressure whatsoever during the course of the project. I learnt that lack of organization leads to being stressed and a stressful mind is not capable of producing any good work. So I learnt that organization is not only essential only for the success of this project but also in different areas of one's lives.
Coming to the most important part of this experience- LEARNING. The amount of knowledge which I had gained doing this project is immense. I got a better understanding of what Paperless Office is and its advantages and disadvantages. Researching some real time scenarios like organizations both big, small and medium has given me an idea as to of how much is paper in such organizations. It gave me a better understanding as to why organizations are facing difficulties in implementing it. Though most of the companies are keen on implementing Paperless Office, to minimize the felling of trees to make paper and other environmental causes, they refrain from doing so because of various legal constraints. Doing some research for this project has given me a pretty good understanding how the law has change over the years with respect to implementing Paperless Office. I learnt that the second thing that causes a hindrance in implementing Paperless Office is the fear of change. The organizations have been following a particular model and to change from that model, are in the beginning a bit of a problem. The best thing to do to introduce a new thing into any organisation is to be prepared for the change, and being prepared for the change means to be able to work in the new environment. They realise that this change couldn't happen in a day. For this to happen, training has to be imparted to the staff who would be working on that technology. The other reason that some of the organizations are refraining from implementing the Paperless Office is due to the client's requirements. They would rather save their clients than loose them to saving trees and using lesser paper.
Group Learning and Group Dynamics
The reason why two or more people come together and form a group is to achieve a common goal, is to reach a common destination. That exactly is why we have come together as a group to achieve a common goal of completing this dissertation not only on time but also successfully. It was during the second day of the module briefing that we were divided into groups. We were grouped together based on the topic of our project. So, all the students who were given the topic of Paperless Office were grouped together. All of us had the same objective of doing a dissertation on Paperless Office.
When we first had a meeting after the briefing classes, every one of us drew a blank at the topic. That was evident from the look on our faces, though all of us drew a blank; we had a positive attitude toward the way we would get ahead with the project. The first reactions were on the topic of Paperless Office and how we would gather the data. Every member of the team put in valuable inputs and each of us contributed in a way to get started with the project. As in every team, our team also faced its set of lows, in terms of conflicting ideas and conflicts in the approach to the project. I would not view it as a setback, because of the conflict, we were keen on proving the other person wrong and worked a bit over the board in that direction, but that ultimately resulted in providing us with better results towards our common unanswered questions and doubts.
The other lesson which I have learnt by working in this group project is to never form any sub-groups within a group. This activity which I found in some places completely destroys the harmony within the group and it is very hard to regain any such harmony which has been lost due to such activities. I understood that people are grouped together because of a particular reason and that every member of the group is equally important. Not all the members of the group are suitable to lead the group and it is the responsibility of the group leader to maintain the harmony within the group by recognising and rewarding the efforts of all the other group members. This was achieved in our group by accepting what others had to share and if wrong, conveying it to the person in a mild manner, so as not to hurt him. This way the harmony within our group was maintained. The lessons learnt from this experience have made me better equipped for working within a group in the future. Our group had maintained the group dynamics very well, which means that the way everyone behaved in the group had made the group more effective.
Lessons Learnt for Future Projects
This project has helped me develop in more than one aspect. Working on this project has taught me that though, initially the task may seem impossible or you may not understand everything, with patience and perseverance even the impossible can be achieved. I learnt that by sticking to the original plan and progressing as per the schedule, success can be achieved. The art of creating well defined queries to search for a solution was one of the best things that I have learnt from this exercise. This project has made me more capable of working within a group in the future, be it academically or professionally. Working in a group and effectively contributing to its success is very important for me in the future and I have learnt this from doing this project. The art of defining a problem is another important lesson from the project as defining the problem correctly itself solves half of the problem. I must say that though this project has put me to test in many severe ways, it made me emerge from the tests, better suited for the future.