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Project management tools and techniques

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Project management tools and techniques are available to assist project managers and their teams in successfully delivering the project. Some popular tools in the time management knowledge area include Gantt charts, network diagrams, critical path analysis

Critical Incidence 2- Perceived Failure Of The Project

A critical incidence during the project was the perceived failure of the project by the University administration due to the amount of time it was taking to register all the students. This was 10 weeks in to the project and the university claimed that with their manual process they completed registration in 3 weeks. As the on-site member of the project team, I was responsible for utilizing all available resources to successfully complete the project within a reasonable time. The time frame was not stated and my aim daily was to register as many students as possible.

Gantt charts

Gantt Chart is one of the popular information presentation tools in a project plan for graphically scheduling and budgeting. This tool makes it possible to have a quick look at all the tasks' names and timings, and shows the current schedule status and progress. (Schwalbe 2006). It is also a good technique to identify parallel and sequential tasks, estimated time required for each task and an overall project timeline representation (McFarland   )

Schwalbe K. 2006, “Introduction to project management” Publisher: Cengage Learning

Avoiding Project Management

Pitfalls Allison J. McFarland

With the availability of various Project-Management applications, like MS Project, smartdraw-Easy Project Chart, etc., Gantt Chart can be easily made. According to Pankaja Pradeep Kumar one of the biggest problems, the project managers have to face, is project-scheduling. With Ms. Project's Gantt Chart, an effective scheduling plan can be put in place for providing the necessary information, required by the project team members, for measuring the actual performance with the planned performance. This will enable the projects to be delivered within the time constraint with pre-defined quality standard.

There are many literature and reading material available expressing the usefulness of the Gantt Chat (see appendix 1). Unfortunately Gantt charts, despite having various advantages faces various criticism. Asaravala (2006) highlights that some critics argue that Gantt Chart distracts the project manager's attention from the project and towards perfecting pretty graphs, while others argue that charts are created only to satisfy the higher-ups and act as a distraction for the project team.

Asaravala, A. 2006, “Defending the Gantt Chart”,  Resource: Academic Search Complete (EBSCO) , Citation: Software DevelopmentJan2006, Vol. 14 Issue 1, p14-15

Luz (2009) Also criticises that, besides the benefits, Gantt charts have many weakness which includes lack of details and inefficient utilization of screen space when displaying large number of parallel tasks, each of which requires its own representation space. Maylor (2001) extends the criticism and considers Gantt Chart as a “blunt instrument”, that encourages a one-step approach to planning. As a result of the presentation capabilities of modern planning packages, the visual quality of colour charts means that they gain an implicit credibility. This can result in staff being unwilling to challenge the charts, and so they gain a momentum all of their own. Furthermore Maylor (2001) states that charts obliges the project manager to over-control the project instead of delegating the project responsibilities to the team members. Increasing use of the project-management applications, project managers become not only the ‘keeper of the charts' but also a computer operator. This might lead the virtual project plan not being updated, as frequent change occurs.

Asaravala (2006) defends the charts' approach by reasoning that Gantt chart is a communication tool in helping stakeholders in understanding the tasks and the tasks relations with each other

Pritchard (2004) affirms that Gantt charts helps the stakeholder to have a good view of the project and also act as a communication tool to the project clients and the stakeholders involved. Furthermore it helps project leaders focus their attention on critical tasks and resources as the project moves forward and allow them to keep track of how the project is progressing and using its available resources.

Pritchard C. 2004, “The project management communications toolkit”, Publisher: Artech House

Asaravala (2006) concludes that one the major reasons for criticism against Gantt charts might be that project managers, most often, find it difficult to get Project Management Applications, like Microsoft Project, to do what they want it to do. This might lead to confusion in the project tasks and delays in delivering the project

Since Gantt Chart is not the only tool for time management in a project management. Literature mentions that there is an alternative approach to Time management. Therefore, Kendrick (2004) and Ribeiro (2009) suggest that an alternative to the Gantt chart would be to use a Critical Path Analysis CPA (Network Analysis) whereas Field et al. (1998), Johnson et al. (2007) and Davis T. and Pharro R. 2003 suggest Gantt Chart should be used along with Critical Path Analysis.

Critical path networks provide a powerful notation needed to show all the local interdependencies between different tasks. Furthermore, it also ensures completion of the project in a timely manner by quantifying the priorities, based on an analysis of all the task duration estimates, with efficient utilization of resources but all this depends on the accuracy of the information used. (Lock 2007)

Lock D. 2007, "The Essentials of Project Management", Edition: 3, Publisher: Gower Publishing  Ltd.

Field M. and Keller L. 1998, “Project management”, Publisher: Cengage Learning EMEA

Ribeiro J. M. 2009, “Procurement of Goods, Works and Services in Development Projects: With an Overview of Project Management”, Publisher: Presses inter Polytechnique

Johnson L. K., Luecke R. and Austin R. D. 2007, “The essentials of project management”, Publisher: Harvard Business Press

Kendrick T. 2004, “The project management tool kit: 100 tips and techniques for getting the job done right”, Publisher: AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn

for project of a long duration, or where the details associated with future stages of he project are unclear, the completion of detailed network or Gantt chart can be meaningless. An alternative approach for projects of this nature is to agree and set metilestones or target dates fro akey events some way into the future. Detailed plans are then produced on a rolling programme as work is completed. Milestone charts are a very useful way to represent the project schedule. The activities leading up to the next milestone are developed in detail (using the processes outlined above), but the future stages of the project are shown simply by apporiate milestones. The detailed activities associated with the work leading up to those future milestones are developed as the project draws near. This approach provides a realistic representation of the project as events some way into the future are inevitably less well known and clearly defined. Planning the schedule in detail as the work is approached provides more accurate detailed plans.

Davis T. and Pharro R. 2003, “The relationship manager: the next generation of project management”, Publisher Gower Publishing, Ltd

Personal Reflection

In the trans Himalayan mountain bike race project, the use of Gantt Charts for delivering the project has been empirical. For me Gantt chart acted as a key planning and controlling tool for addressing the project management in terms of time, scheduling and cost. It is easy to understand, embodies the WBS and enables monitoring the progress against projected estimation. I do not agree with Maylor (2001) criticism for considering Gantt Chart as a “blunt instrument” because it is either the project's milestones that are not executed in the way it is scheduled for or the Gantt Chart is not consistently aligned with the reality of the project. Blaming the Gantt Chart for being useless is just absurd.

I have observed that Gantt Charts are not as good as a Critical Path Analysis Flow Diagram for identifying and showing interdependent factors. Although some of the literature, as mentioned above, mentions using the Critical Path Analysis as an alternative to Gantt Chart but after experiencing and using both tools in the Himalayan mountain bike race project, made me realized their importance and compels me to agree with Field et al. (1998) and Johnson et al. (2007) CPA flow diagram should be used with the Gantt Chart as a secondary tool.

and Davis T. and Pharro R. 2003

Highlights the critical path and shows project logic (flow).

Introduction To Project Management

By Kathy Schwalbe

For this reason many good organizations stopped using chart approach to plan projects like the top level management of Hewlett Packard's UK plants uses whiteboards and Post-It notes with individual sub-project managers using the project management application at the task level Kuta points out that the key success factor for project rely on the project decisions which are based upon cost, risk, procurement and contracting, and other issues but are not addressed in the traditional Gantt Chart can oftenbe the timing and tn Although Gantt chart act as a key planning and controlling tool for addressing the project manamgent in terms of time, schecdule and cost but in support of this argument by In this argument

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