Planning, Scheduling and Control
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Business or business organizations involve conceptualization of implementation of a specific plan designed for particular business outcomes. This particularity of business outcomes envisages putting up a well coordinated system for realization of the same. Forming a conglomeration of peoples, activities work schedules, methods, processes, all geared towards achieving a specific business objective, work or assignment, it works according to a plan to achieve the objective within a particular time-frame, with the available or additional resources. This whole process is given the generic name of "Project", and coordinating all the activities within it to achieve the desired objective to perfection within the time frame is known as "Project Management" (Heerkens; 2001). Given the generic nature of the work as well as the outcome it can be said that every activity requiring a particular work to be completed within a particular time by using a particular amount of resources takes the shape of a project. In that way every activity, be that of building a township, a bridge, a subway project, oil refinery, steel production, manufacturing facility erection or even conducting a study to seek some particular information, data or have some desired outcome, all can be termed as projects. In that way projects are distinguishable from continuing work processes like manufacturing process, routine management work or doing daily chores, which are continuing in nature, with the distinguishing factor being a specific time for start and completion of a particular work. So, essentially, time is the core element of a project. As a result the inseparable part of a project is adoption of proper management systems and processes to complete the project within the particular time and cost (Levine; 2002). For this it is imperative that there should be proper planning to execute a project within the allotted time, cost and resources for which there should be proper planning for its implementation. Project planning and implementation within the allotted time by properly organizing it to maintain quality of execution, avoid risks and adhere to the project schedule by proper utilization of resources is key to the success of a project (Hillson; 2003).
This study essentially pertains to discussing the key aspects of project planning and control activities in order to successfully complete a project by adhering to the quality of execution of projects.
Project management essentially is the process of planning, organizing and managing the allotted resources given to a project in order to successfully complete the project's objectives and program. As said, a project is one time work unlike a continuing process, and has a particular period of execution with a starting and ending time in order to meet particular goals and objectives that is aimed at bringing about a particular outcome(Kerzner; 2009). It means that the projects are different from usual business processes that have repeat value and are of permanent nature requiring routine functional work that is envisaged to produce different products and services. In actual practice, the two systems are quite different, thereby requiring the development of specific technical skills and adoption of separate management practices. Projects adhere top specific phases or stages of work processes.
According to Horine, project management process includes conducting feasibility studies, defining the project scope and objectives, planning the model to attain those objectives, implementing the plan according to design and scope, evaluating the process of implementation to ensure that the project is being implemented according to guidelines and quality along with provision of proper support and maintenance backup to protect against any hiccups in the implementation process (Horine; 2009). All these are required because project management is a meticulously planned and organized effort to attain a specific and single objective like building a flyover, implementing a software system or building a thermal power plant. It is for this reason only that the project management process includes developing a project plan, which includes defining the project goals and objectives, identifying tasks and goals to be achieved, quantifying the resources needed, and determining budgets and time period for completion and managing the implementation of the project plan, along with establishing control procedures to track the proper implementation of the project according to the objectives relative to the plan and intervene to restore the quality of implementation wherever required (Lewis; 2006). All these aspects constitute the project planning and control process.
Project Planning, Scheduling and Control:
According to Lewis, project planning and control includes developing a standardized management methodology to implement the objectives of a project that can be comfortably adapted to any project and be flexible enough to be customized for such projects but for which there should be a specific system with checks and balances to proceed with the project according to the plans and objectives (Lewis; 2005).
This means that the project management function has a specific process and stages of implementation as is given below:
Project Planning: Contents
Project Planning: Key Stages
Source: F Harrison; "Advanced Project Management: A Structured Approach"; Gower Publishing; 2004
The project planning and control process therefore pertains to defining the scope and responsibilities accruing to a project, scheduling the time and resources, estimating the cost and budget and analyzing the risks associated with the project implementation process and planning to handle those risks. Suppose there is a project to construct a new administrative building for a certain organization. In this case the management of the organization will define the scope of implementation of the building plan, estimating the time needed to complete the project and the resources in terms of materials, money and time needed for it. There would also be measures to analyze the risks that can come in the way of constructing the building in terms of escalation of costs, time, materials and inadvertent incidents that would hamper the e smooth construction of the building. For this the manager of the project will have to make a blue print and accommodate all the factors while planning the implementation of the project. In such cases the planning process is properly delineated and documented for the benefit of all the members of the project team as well as the client or the organization for whom the project is being implemented (Turner; 1998). This process also becomes beneficial in taking steps to control the project according to the requirements and preventing it from going from its planned path that would necessitate intervention in terms of cost and materials by the project manager. In order to achieve all these objectives the project management process includes key elements to the project planning process i.e. the products, activities, resources, schedule, budget, risks and assumptions. Accordingly, the project planning process determines what are the products and sub-products that a project must deliver ad what quality aspects it must adhere to, what are the activities and the resources needed to carry out the project, what is the sequence and schedule that must be followed to complete the project, what is the budget needed for implementing the project, what are the risks associated with implementing the project and what are the assumptions that are part of the project(Burke; 2003). The projects management planning process therefore incorporates all these aspects to formulate the plan of implementation. Broadly speaking the project plan includes all the aspects that are needed to properly implement a project according to the specifications of the client. Accordingly the actual requirements of a project may vary but there is no dichotomy with regards to the planning process that needs to be applied of such projects. For this the project implementation and planning process includes some fundamental principles, like breaking down the whole project into cohesive work packages, defining the desired results and encouraging the team members to work towards the plans to achieve the results (Williams et. al.; 2008). All these aspects of the planning process follow certain basic objectives of the project plan that includes ensure that all the work and products need to achieve the project objectives included in the plan. For this the project planners include a framework to integrate the key planning and control functions i.e. scope, quality, cost, time and risk at different stages of the project management and implementation stage and specify the team and the responsibilities of the team members to deliver the requirements of the project (Kendrick; 2004). In this whole planning process there includes factors such as scheduling the project to bring the desired outcome of the project.
Scheduling and Control:
Scheduling of a project essentially signifies managing the implementation of the project, keeping in view the time factor in primary sense, and adjusting the men, material and activities into the whole process (Berkun; ; 2005). This means that the project must follow a regimented routine according to daily weekly and monthly basis so that the project is effectively implemented according to the controls of its requirements and other factors. It is also important that the different activities associated with a project planning and implementation process are well coordinated so as to avoid delays and chaos in the implementation of the project that would result is costs and time overruns. A typical project schedule divides the work associated with a project into different activities all coordinated to the overall whole. In this the works are divided into areas of activities and the tine taken as well as the mode of operation is determined accordingly with the most easy path and the critical yet effective path of each activity of the path is determined with assessment as to the time lapse that can happen in the event of the time and work pace not keeping up with the allotted time schedule.
Source: : F Harrison; "Advanced Project Management: A Structured Approach"; Gower Publishing; 2004
Accordingly the project implementation stage and control stage is divided into various activities and the time allotted is measured accordingly as is shown in the diagram above. In it the works are divided into critical and non-critical activities and the milestone is to be achieved with the overall work process along with the float time that can emerge due to unavoidable time delays. Along with all these factors it is also likely that without proper scheduling of the project it may happen that it may drag along beyond the manageable limit and therefore become unviable. So, the core part of effective implementation of a project is its proper scheduling so that unnecessary delays and cost overruns area avoided and there is harmonious coordination between all aspects of the work process of the project as well as the different stakeholders and service providers associated with it.
As mentioned in the preceding scheduling of a project is done in order to achieve all the factors the project planning process breaks down the project into a particular schedule as per its desired outputs in order to facilitate the proper implementation and control as well as help in maintaining quality of implementation of the project. Accordingly the project is divided into different sub-structures and process in order to effectively maintain quality of implementation such as primary outputs of a project a supplementary outputs of a project (Berkun; 2008). Along with it the project manager needs the proper documentation and processing of the activities in order to effectively track the implementation of the project as well as communicate with the team members and the management to articulate the progress of the project, give directions to the members to work according to an accepted framework and measure the progress of the project at different stages of implementation for which there should be proper documentation of the project planning, scheduling and control process.
In the primary outputs the documentation process includes defining the product breakdown structures, product descriptions, work breakdown structures (WBS), work package descriptions (WPD), organization breakdown structure (OBS), responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) and assumptions documentation. In the secondary outputs of a project planning, implementation and control process the documentation and processing those are needed pertain to creating a product flow diagram (PFD), work flow diagram (WFD), control accounts (CA) and dependency structure matrix (DSM) (Berbee; 2009). All these aspects of the project process are properly documented in order to properly implement a project. For this the project manager establishes a proper structure and accessories for documentation as well as recruitment of relevant persons to manage such processes, which brings to the human resources aspect and the management structure of a project planning and implementation process. According to Leach, the most critical part of a project management process is the management part itself which means that if the management structure and the people manning it are not competent enough to effectively plan and implement the project than all the other factors even if they are of highest degree of quality, will fail to deliver the results (Leach; 2004). It is for this that the project planning and implementation process gives utmost importance to the management structure and team as well as the human resources aspect of the overall project structure and process.
A typical product management structure incorporates the following management structure as mentioned below, with necessary customization as per the requirements of the individual projects:
Source: Self Designed
The typical project management team therefore consists of a project head who takes part in the conceptualization planning and overall control of the project followed by a project manager who actually oversees the implementation of the project with a team that consists of technical head, operation head quality control head resource head who do the actual work of implementing the project and directly supervise the work through a team consisting of managers workers, technicians, suppliers and stakeholders along with support staff(Rothman; 2009). In the case of a building project the management would consist of a project head having wide experience in managing building projects, same is the case with the project manager who must have ample experience in managing projects associated with the construction industry. The different heads of the project should also have adequate experience in their area of activity and desirable experience in actual projects involving the construction industry. In this place it may be convenient to argue as what would happen if some people with general project management experience are taken into projects involving construction if buildings. In normal sense it would not make that much of a difference. But in actual stage of implementation and the critical factors associated with it the hands on experience of a person comes in handy. Along with it there is the factor of scheduling for efficient management of time and resources. In such a situation it if great advantage if personnel with hands on experience in specific projects are included in the project planning implementation and evaluation process rather than having general project management experience (Wong; 2007). Nonetheless the underlying spirit for proper implementation of a project is management of time and quality. Nowadays there are various technologies, tools and methods to manage project planning, implementation, quality control and delivery.
Techniques and Technologies:
The present day project management exercise is a highly technical function involving a number of complex tools and processes as well as advanced software systems to effectively implement, schedule, track and maintain the quality aspects of a project. It is immaterial whether the project is a brick and mortar concept or an academic concept, what is important is that there have emerged methods that can effectively coordinate all the activities and effectively establish communication channels between all the stakeholders of a project in order to maintain the time, quality and overall objectives of a project.
At the outset there are basic operational tools like PERT and CPM which effectively schedule the project into different activities and measure the time, cost and materials required for completing the project (Kendrick; 2009). Along with these basic tools there are some methods that quantify the time required for completing the project along with the costs required. Some allied disciplines and tools are also used like the financial forecasts, statistical measurement of lead and lag time for completing a project as well as the application of quality tools like 'six sigma' to ascertain that the project is going according to the accepted quality standards. But the most profound effect of technology on the project management discipline has been the development of various software for proper management of the overall project planning, scheduling, implementation, quality control, budgeting and assumption processes. One of such tolls is the Project Management suite developed by Microsoft that is known as MS Projects, which is a complete software package to manage the entire project management process. In it there are various functions and techniques to effectively plan, schedule monitor and implement various projects by adhering to all the functions and disciplines required for implementing a project (Microsoft Inc; 2009). Besides MS Projects there are other software applications designed to manage projects that are developed by different software companies for specific projects by different companies. Along with all these developments there have been instances where companies have developed their own software and techniques by applying a host of discrete software processes to create their own project management tools that cater to all its aspects including budgeting and quality control. In essence all these software's have made the project management with overall planning, scheduling, quality control budgeting and monitoring, a smooth and hassle fee process by which the managers can hope to achieve expected outcomes without leaving anything to chance. This goes a long way in achieving efficiency in project planning scheduling and control process as well as its proper implementation.
Project management is a complex and complicated process requiring coordination of a host of disciplines along with men, money material that are to be coordinate within a proper time frame to achieve all the objectives of a project without compromising on the quality aspect of it. In that way it becomes necessary to design proper planning, scheduling and quality control mechanisms to give proper implementation to it. In this it becomes necessary to take the help of different tools techniques, documentation processes and technologies so that the project gets implemented successfully and according to its objectives.
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