According to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) a project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product service or result which has a definitive start and end date (Project Management Institute 2008). A program is a group of similar or related projects that are managed and controlled together to achieve a specific objective or set of goals. A portfolio is a strategic effort for leadership to manage a group of programs that may not be necessarily interdependent or interconnected in form, fit or function but provide a definitive benefit to the company in terms of strategic positioning and corporate vision. In order to provide the best environment for a project or program to succeed there must be an established and standardized form of monitoring and controlling. The monitoring and controlling process includes the areas of tracking, reviewing and governing the achievements, roadblocks, progressions and overall performance of the project. This is also the area within project management where changes to scope, project schedule and cost are governed and documented. Changes within a project can cause unnecessary delays and potentially lead to a failed project if not properly controlled. The tools and techniques associated with monitoring and controlling provide the project manager and the project team the appropriate tools to understand the overall changes to the project and provides the ability to building risk mitigation actions to alleviate potential issues that could derail the project.
Managing and controlling a program includes the same risk factors as those associated to a project but on an exponential basis. All of the risks and changes that occur in a project are then associated to the program. In the case of updating and integrating the Information Technology systems of the corporation there are conflicts between development of new projects and their prioritization as well as conflicting interests of legacy systems and their upkeep, maintenance and business requirements to run the operations. Building a consolidated, integrated and ultimately different information technology system requires prioritization, resource allocation, project/program/portfolio management and leadership support.
When building out a program schedule it is important to understand the scope of the program. The scope of the project has defined what we expect to deliver at the different tollgates defined by time parameters. This scope is the foundation of the entire project. Managing that scope and ensuring that it maintains its integrity throughout the project will not only ease the troubles faced by the project manager but will also provide a step toward a successful project. The larger the project, the more imperative it is to clearly define the scope of the project (Kanaracus 2012). The scope of changing an entire manufacturing plant over from one group of disparate systems to another is a daunting task. The scope of this project is to take the core sourcing and manufacturing activities out of the legacy systems and move them to a new business and technological solution.
After understanding the scope of the project the picture of what needs to be accomplished is better understood. This leads to prioritization of projects underneath the program. This includes providing a roadmap, which is a tool for visual awareness and schedule clarity, to show how which areas will be addressed, define deliverable due dates, assign team leads and other key members. The prioritization does not stop at the project and program level. This is critically important when it comes to implementing new software solutions enterprise wide. In most instances the business is not going to shut down their operations so that an IT solution can be implemented from cradle to grave and then have the business start fresh with the new system on day one. There will need to be multiple discussions and planning sessions between the project managers, program managers and the portfolio managers to set priority based on the needs of the business, resource constraints and maturity of the implementation. This includes the prioritization of resources to maintain legacy systems and the retirement of those systems when the new system functionality is ready and present to replace the legacy’s abilities. As project management tools and techniques advance so do the methodologies. With this type of project which includes multiple areas of responsibility and multiple implementation dates requiring differing resource levels for new implementations, support implementations and sun-setting of legacy programs the traditional waterfall project management methodology would not be the most likely methodology to use. The agile project management methodology provides a framework to implement each project and program in phases based on requirements, resource allocation and business needs. The agile project management methodology provides a highly flexible and interactive environment for development and project management (Highsmith & Highsmith 2010). This methodology is the technique that will best fit this program’s implementation.
Another area that must be tightly monitored and controlled includes delivery schedule. Utilizing the agile project management methodology there will be multiple releases providing different levels of functionality. The coordination and integration between systems must be defined as there will be new systems taking over the entire functionality of legacy systems as well as integrations and connections between new and legacy as well as reliance upon legacy systems that will not be phased out during the program’s lifecycle. Without monitoring and controlling of these deliverables there is no way to manage the project effectively. There are a couple tools that would enhance the project management methodology selected and that is the utilization of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and defining and utilizing the Critical Path Method (CPM). The WBS is a breakdown of project deliverables that help define the overall work required to perform specific functions. This allows the project/program manager to understand what is needed at each level of the project or program and then they have the information to build a delivery schedule and coordinate the releases with other program or portfolio implementations. The CPM illustrates all of the critical activities based on a WBS to include the duration or time required to complete the tasks and then add the dependencies among the activities to fully understand the project scheduling and resource allocation to achieve those requirements in the WBS.
Resource allocation is more than putting funding into a project and managing costs associated with scope changes. To supplement the agile project management methodology the program team can use Earned Value Management (EVM) as a tool to measure scope, schedule and cost to provide forecasts of the project’s performance (Fleming & Koffleman 2010). This tool also illuminates areas that are providing the appropriate level of progress for investment. EVM measures the projects performance and compares the progress that is obtained with the limited resources provided to that project or program.
Selecting the tools to monitor and control the project was not based on new trends or up and coming models and methodologies of project management. These tools are based on the needs, complexity and composition of the program which is going to be implemented. This is a software development project which includes implementing new user interfaces, system requirements, security needs, training, awareness, hardware implementation, legacy system retirement as well as continually making improvements to effectiveness and efficiency. All this is to be accomplished while making minimal impact to the business operations.
The first and most impactful technique to employ for this project is the utilization of the agile project management methodology. The basis of this methodology is to focus on iterative releases based on the needs and requirements of the business. The first step in implementing the agile methodology is to build the teams and recurring schedule for implementation. This is not the schedule for the project deliverables but the schedule for the team to follow while implementing the project and build those deliverables into the program. The agile methodology has a SCRUM master which manages the sprints or goals/objectives of each delivery timeframe. The role of the Scrum master is not the project manager role but as a communicative go-between for the development team and the management team. Their role is to also remove any roadblocks or issues that the development team may face while trying to program and develop the iterations of the IT solution (Highsmith & Highsmith 2010). The sprint as referenced earlier is fixed timeframe for development, testing and implementation of specific requirements and functionality. These sprints could be two weeks or thirty days but it is based upon how the project manager and the Scrum master develop their delivery cycles. In order to monitor and control the sprints there are meetings each day which are sometimes referred to as “stand-up meetings” in which the team literally stands to provide information on roadblocks and progress on their specific areas of the sprint. The basic foundation includes providing updates on what was accomplished the previous day, what will occur during the current day and are there any issues in achieving those goals.
With agile project management the deliverables are still outlined in an overall project schedule spanning from the beginning of the implementation to the overall launch date in which the entire project will be accomplished. That being said the agile methodology provides the flexibility to change the schedule and manipulate the requirements and scope based on the needs of the business while still delivering key functionality. The waterfall method is a big bang approach and if the requirements of the business or unforeseen risks become apparent there is a greater potential for the development to cease and the project delayed while the risks are mitigated. With agile the project or program can go back into the backlog of requirements and reallocate resources to appropriate requirements and continue providing value added systems to the business.
This technique goes hand in hand with monitoring and controlling a project which entails leads to a greater understanding and grasp on the program and portfolio management. With agile project management there is a greater reliance on communication as noted in the daily stand-up meetings. There is also a key piece for providing information on what is being delivered and when as well as what benefits the company is getting for the investment of the very limited resources they have. The first step to understanding what is being invested is to understand the delivery schedule and what it takes to provide those deliverables by the key milestones on the project schedule.
While the project will utilize the agile project management methodology there are still key milestones the project must achieve in order to meet the implementation dates imposed by leadership. These milestones could be derived from program or portfolio integration in order to meet up with other projects or programs to meet strategic business goals and objectives. An example of this would be implementing a new module that tracks and monitors invoices and payments while the implementation of a new supplier/customer module is also being implemented. The milestones for each program are dependent on the other one being ready for implementation at a certain point in time because there could be development requirements based on information transfer and interfaces between the two modules. Without the research and estimation of project duration neither team would know when to establish key milestones or project completion dates.
With the utilization of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and the Critical Path Model (CPM) the project and program teams can develop a schedule with a high confidence level. The WBS is a decomposition of a project into multiple pieces. The project is broken down into deliverables and those deliverables are broken down into what is known as work packages. These work packages could also feed into the sprints as areas that would be implemented within each sprint timeframe. The work packages are then assigned all of the steps that would be required to complete that package and a level of effort is assigned to that package. One of the governing rules around creating a WBS is that no task should take longer than two weeks of effort to complete (Miller, 2009). The rationale behind this is that if the task lasts over eighty work hours than the effort could be broken down into more manageable pieces. This allows a greater understanding of what exactly needs to be accomplished for that task and allows better insight into the resources assigned to that task.
The Critical Path Method (CPM) takes the work breakdown structure, incorporates the duration of each task and correlates the dependencies between all of the activities. This facilitates the allocation of resources as well as monitoring and controlling the inputs and outputs of the deliverables. The CPM calculations result in the longest path of activities until the projects end. The CPM also shows which activities can be manipulated and managed to proper allocate people and funding to accomplish the sprints in a timely fashion. The CPM calculations result in a schedule with a critical path of activities but it also provides the project and program manager with the information to make key project decisions such as reallocating resources to shorten key deliverable duration or remove resources from other areas that are not critical and can endure an expansion of duration (Kaufmann & Desbazielle 1969).
The final tool to monitor and control the largest areas for potential risk includes the utilization of Earned Value Management (EVM). This tool provides the monitoring and controlling aspects of managing a project or program but also provides a level of accountability for the project and program managers(Fleming & Koffleman 2010). The EVM tool allows the measurement of the three project constraints of scope, schedule and cost while analyzing the performance of the triple constraints against what is being accomplished on the project. In a complex environment such as implementing new software solution across an entire business the utilization of agile methodologies has been decided. With agile there are techniques used to provide EVM awareness and monitoring for such an implementation. The use of trending planned value (PV), or the value of work planned to be completed, versus earned value (EV), value actually accomplished in the project, allows insight into the actual work being performed against the expected results. This is also useful when visually illustrating the progress through burn down charts based on sprints, deliverable milestones and costs.
Agile project management methodology, WBS utilization, CPM incorporation and fully using the EVM tool will allow greater insight into the monitoring and controlling of projects across the board. The data gathered from each project can be rolled up into the programs they support and will lead to greater visibility into the information needed by the portfolio managers. Ultimately this type of control leads to better business decisions by the upper echelon of leadership by aligning resources to the strategic intents of the corporation.
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Kaufmann, A., & Desbazielle, G. (1969). Critical path method. New York, NY: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
Kanaracus, C. (2012). Survey finds erp software project overruns ‘distressingly common’. Retrieved from http://www.cio.com/article/710777/Survey_Finds_ERP_Software_Project_Overruns_39_distressingly_Common_39_?taxonomyId=3009
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Project Management Institute.(2008).A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Fourth Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.