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What is quality management?

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Question 1

(a)Benchmarking

Benchmarking measures performance or quality aspects against a competitor or industry standard. For example we could benchmark the profits made on internal projects.

The importance of benchmarking is that it continuously assess the company's performance results against that of its competitors and helps implement good practices to achieve set targets, improve efficiency and to maintain competitiveness. It is also important in decreasing the risks linked with change by observing what factors contributed to the success of other companies.

(b) 7-Run Rule

The Seven Run Rule, is a technique used for quality control and its importance lies in the fact that it can be used to identify non-random problems when using control charts. It is normally an automatic process whereby alerts are generated when there is a significant variation in output. It helps by determining the non-random problems by evaluating progression of specific characters for the development of products characteristics (for e.g. the no. of defects in software) which could occur in a minimum seven time period. It allows the project manager to see the processes that are out of control, thus he is able to identify the causes of these non-random events and make adjustments to the process to correct or eliminate them

(c) International standards

There are many tools for quality management, including quality standards and models.

Some of them are:

  • ISO 9000:2008
  • Capability Maturity Model (CMM)
  • Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)
  • ISO/IEC 9126 - Software engineering
  • ISO 15504 also known as SPICE

Quality can be defined as exceeding customer needs and expectations throughout the life of a product. When we build a system, developers are looking for performance and comply with the users' requirements and how well it meets the user's needs - fitness for use. But it happens that the system developed which is in conformity to the requirements may at the end not please the customer who is becoming more conscious about the quality of the product he is paying for. Customers are more comfortable if they see that quality is being addressed during the project.

Nowadays customer's requirements/needs are very high, their quality aspects have got much better, they are more demanding now compared to some time back and that's why we have customers' issue management.

The International Standards are important because they provide rooms for performance improvement in potentially all the activities undertaken by the organization by adopting a systematic and scientific approach to managing the organisation processes/deliverables so that they consistently deliver a product/service as per customer's expectations. These processes can be quite easily managed and monitored. In return they improve and ensure that appropriate quality of service is provided to customers and as such the level of customer satisfaction automatically gets increased.

Additionally International Standards are also important in helping organisations to provide a "kitemark" seal of approval for customers and suppliers so they know that the work of the company is of a high standard.

(d) Delphi Technique

We know that the higher the number of participants in a meeting, the decision making process takes longer in terms of time due to devil's advocate. The meeting can get monopolised by the devil's advocate whose eccentric views can reach unjustified significance and prevent the group to find consensus. We also know that in a face-to-face discussion, situations of groupthink can occur. This can lead to poor decision making which in turn leads to decrease in quality. So, to avoid such negativities, the Delphi technique is used instead.

The importance of Delphi technique is that it decreases such disadvantages towards decision making in groups and creates conducive working environment whereby the probability of groupthink is zero. Anonymity allows the participants to express their opinions freely, promote frankness and avoids approving errors by reviewing earlier forecasts. Its aim is to ensure that everyone gets a fair and equitable chance to express their viewpoint, identify areas where there is agreement or disagreement and try to find consensus. It significantly improves processes of meetings to ensure the quality of deliverables and rapid decisions being taken.

Question 2

(a) Net Present Value

NPV recognises the value of a dollar received today to the value of that same dollar received in the future, taking into account all cash flows occurring over the duration of the project. Hence, it is said to be a measure of the true profitability of projects.

The importance of NPV is to help project managers in the selection of projects by evaluating and prioritising potential projects. If the NPV of a potential project is positive, it should be accepted. However, if NPV is negative, the project should probably be rejected because cash flows will also be negative.

According to the value additively principle, if we know the NPV of individual projects they can be added together and hence the value of the firm will increase by the sum of their net present values (NPVs).

(b)Return on Investment

ROI is the basic tool used to assess both profitability and performance and also to prioritise IT projects. It is calculated by dividing the net benefits of a project by the initial cost of the project. It is possible to identify the percentage return for each cost unit invested by multiplying this value by 100. For projects lasting more than a year we need to use discounted values to take account of the effect of inflation. The importance of ROI is evaluating the financial impact of a project before a project can be started. Negative ROI is bad and means that costs are larger than benefits. High positive values are good and the higher the better. ROI is also used in the project selection process, with investment made on those projects with the highest ROI.

(c) Break‐even point

The break-even point is defined as the point where sales or revenues equal expenses. There is no loss incurred or profit made at the break-even point. Break-even point is important for managers for taking the right decisions. For example it helps the management in knowing the lowest number of units that could be produced to at least earn so much to cover the cost of production without profit or loss..


It helps the management to estimate up to which level sales can be reduced but even though achieve some kind of profit from production and sales or how much costs can increase to even then company at profit point and can survive loss position.

(d) Parametric modeling

Software cost estimation is difficult, we have several methods and one of the methods is Parametric modeling which is a mathematical model using project characteristics to extrapolate from previous project data, for example in the COCOMO model the number of Lines of Code is one parameter to use when estimating the cost of a new system. It is done at the beginning of the project and is helpful to project managers who are inexperienced in software cost estimation. Parametric modeling is only as good as the model and historic data allows and requires skilled staff to apply the formulae and interpret the results. Parametric modeling also considers several aspects related to the resources required: staffing and costs related to hardware and software required.

Question 3

(a) McClelland's Acquired Needs Theory

As per McClelland our needs are categorized into three aspects:

  1. Achievement
  2. Affiliation
  3. Power

Considering my case, currently  I am working as an ICT System Support Officer at the SSR International Airport where I am required to work on shifts and have many deadlines to respect.

I can categorise my needs as follows:

Achievement

My aim is to become the company's next System Administrator who is the next post on the hierarchy and have my salary raised which is symbolise progress and achievement.

Power

I know that if I attain this post I will need to know how to deal with my co-workers and the user community. I also need to know how to use the institutional powers given to me by the management to organise the efforts, motivate, influence and manage my subordinates. This is essential for me so as to keep control of all the works and do ensure that the goals and objectives of my company are achieved.

Affiliation

Also, at this position it is going to be important for me to meet and learn from other System Administrators' know-how and experience which are indeed important through network interactions. I also know that at this position interaction with other people in the same position is important for sharing of knowledge, skills and tips.

(b) The Meyers‐Briggs Type Indicator

As per Meyers‐Briggs Type Indicator we use a four-scale structure for identifying the personality and categorising a person's behavioural preferences:

- Extrovert/Introvert

- Sensation/Intuition

- Thinking/Feeling

- Judgment/Perception

Considering my case, I categories myself as an

Extrovert/Introvert

I am an Extrovert person, I always discuss new ideas and tentative solutions to problems with my fellow colleagues before they are finalised. Another example is when I am participating in meetings with the top management, I do not hesitate to voice out my opinion or solution to a problem even if I am not sure if the solution is viable or not. But before that I will warn them that we are just suggesting and trying to come up with a fully working solution.

Sensation/Intuition

I am Intuitive, for example, where I work we have some 600 CCTV cameras which are constantly under surveillance by the Control Room Operators. Lastly we have been experiencing several slowdowns of the system and frequent problems with the workstations used by the operators. Being an intuitive person I have felt that the number of complaints has increased too much which is unacceptable. Instead of carrying a survey on the data storage capacity of our Video recorders, CPU usage, RAM usage or network bandwidth which can be done later I will try to convince the management that we urgently need to buy spare servers for our Digital Video Manager database, Access control servers, video recorders and spare workstations due to the fact theses equipments are nearing their end-of-life since they were purchased in 2006.

Thinking/Feeling

I have a preference for Thinking but sometimes I can be of the Feeling type too. It happened once where we were busy completing a project whereby we had to configure Microsoft Outlook with the new settings for some 600 users. We have stopped using Microsoft Exchange and using Google Apps instead. We had to complete this job in 10 working days with a workforce of 5 technicians.

We were on track and 3 more days left to finish the work, then 1 technician requested 2 days off since he was aggrieved over the sudden death a close family. My Thinking preference made me weigh the effect of the two days off on the schedule and the increased workload of the other 4 technicians who now has to complete the work of their colleague. I was tempted to say NO but my feeling preference made me consider the factors from other side whereby the technician's output will be affected due to his low morale; I accorded him his two days off.

Judgment/Perception

I categorise myself as a Perceiver, for example when carrying out preventive maintenance on servers I prepare a rough estimate of the time taken to accomplish this task, but I will never give to anyone the estimate. This is because you never know what incidents might happen during the maintenance; some parts might get damage during cleaning/blowing for example or I may notice the beginning of hard disk failure. Therefore the original estimate will be extended due to repair or installation of a new hard disk. I would never operate as a Judger who might see the task of replacing the hard disk as a discrete task and try to complete the maintenance according to the schedule.

(c) The Social Styles Profile

As per the Social style profile personality of people can be perceived into four zones based on three principal dimensions of Social Style—assertiveness, responsiveness, and Versatility

The four Social Styles are: Analytical, Driver, Amiable and Expressive

Considering my case, I can say that I show both the Driver Style and the Expressive Style

Driver

I can say that I am a Driver, due to the fact that I am proactive and like to take initiative, get things done and make things happen. I constantly accept challenges and am always first into solving problems. I prefer to work within time frames and like to focus on actions that will get things done and realize concrete outcomes.

Expressive

I like to work fast and I like feeling the people who work with me, I am always complimenting, applause when the team has done a good job and aacknowledge the efforts put in to complete projects on schedules. Also my priorities are the user community and the stakeholders.

(d) DISC Profiles

As per the DISC profiles, all people share these four styles in varying degrees of intensity;

  • D (Drive)
  • I (Influence)
  • S (Steadiness)
  • C (Compliance)

I am Direct and Decisive and a like to overcome obstacles and is a good problem solver. I like projects that produce tangible results. I like to discuss solutions with my team first and not afraid to speak out and is generally optimistic. I do not fear new challenges without fear. I am capable of handling several projects at the same time.

Question 4

(a) Milestones

Milestones are the diamond shapes we like to put in our Gantt charts. It is a kind of measurement that serves as tools to keep track of the progression and any deviation that may happen. Milestones is like the point of start of the next journey to the next milestone, and the time required and money needed will be estimated on the basis of how far we have progressed on the project and it is the number milestones that have been reached by the team. Milestones are simply short-term goals or the targets for the project team. Milestones help to boost the morale and confidence of the team who will enthusiast to go for the next Milestone.

(b) Critical Chain Scheduling

It is a method of scheduling that take into account the scarce resources available and which are being shared among projects when creating a project schedule. Its importance is to protect projects from the unavoidable slippages that occur in every project. It removes buffers from individual tasks by pushing them to completion in the shortest time possible and instead adds project buffer before the project scheduled completion date and feeding buffers before tasks which are on the critical path. It is a method applied to meet the tight schedule requirements that every project manager faces while, at the same time, helps companies to preserve quality and productivity.

(c) Tracking Gantt Charts

The importance of Tracking Gantt Chart is that it helps project managers to keep projects on schedule, make sure that tasks start and finish on schedule. The Tracking Gantt chart pairs the current schedule with the original schedule for each task and helps find trouble spots, tasks that vary from the baseline plan. Managers can then adjust task dependencies, reassign resources, or delete some tasks to meet your deadlines.

(d) Reality checks

Reality checks involve controlling and managing changes to the project schedule. Sometimes a task can be crushed in order to complete the project on time. Hence the importance of reality checks, it allows the project managers to know the how much buffers needs to be removed from certain tasks and redistribute it to other tasks which are lagging behind

The importance of Reality Checks are that Project Managers can review the draft schedule or estimated completion date in the project charter and prepare a more detailed schedule with the project team. Also, it helps project managers to make sure the schedule is realistic and followed. if there are schedule problems, Project managers is able to alert top management well in advance.
Question 5

(a) a critical path in a complex project

Once I worked on a project where I had to configure a Network-attached Storage (NAS) server for the backup of CCTV Recorders and the setting up of the Tape recoders. We have already received the NAS, Dell Recorders etc, but the Cabinet for housing the equipments was not delivered on schedule due to the fact that the ship transporting the Cabinets has been attacked by the Somalian pirates. This caused the project to be completed with 40 days overdue. The configuration of the NAS which became the critical path could not be split as it has to be carried out by only one guy.

(b) an effective team meeting

My manager carries weekly meetings with his staff and for me his meetings are effective in the sense that there is an agenda, there is a time limit for the meeting and the meetings starts and adjourns on time. The manager ensures that talks do not stray away from original topics. There is always someone form the team assigned to take minutes of the meeting and these are sent to all members to remind them of their tasks and responsibilities. The manager always encourages the team members to speak up their thoughts. At the end of every meeting decisions are taken and everyone knows his tasks and responsibilities. The timeline of the tasks are also known to them.

(c) risk mitigation that was found to be necessary

I was working on a project where we had lay Fiber optic cables for the CCTV system, but during the task the team identified potential risks regarding the vulnerability of the fiber cables which could be eaten by rats. They were able to work out various mitigating strategies and came up with new type fiber cable which was more resisted to rodents and installed rodents traps and covered man holes and service ducts correctly. Indeed these risk mitigating tasks involve additional costs but was worth it and necessary.

(d) crashing a task to reduce its duration

Once we had to assemble 200 computers in one week with a workforce of 5 technicians working 5 days a week. Taking into account that the technicians were working on other projects too, it was quite impossible to complete the computer assembly on schedule. The only solution was to increase the workforce with more technicians from other projects in order to meet the deadline.


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