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Project Optimization, Capstone Project Example

Pages: 29

Words: 8070

Capstone Project

Abstract

Project management incorporates many tools and techniques to facilitate the opportunity for the success of a project implementation.  When developing a project there are three areas of concern including scope, schedule and cost of the project. By utilizing the best practice framework outlined by the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) the project team will have the best environment to adhere to the client’s requirements while also meeting the time and cost demands.  This project is going to incorporate best practices to ensure that the optimization is achieved through efficiencies, effectiveness and the ability to execute to a specific scope, timeline and budget.  The project will span the five process areas and nine knowledge areas specifically focusing on the key deliverables for each area including but not limited to the project schedule and key overviews of how the project will be monitored and controlled using project management tools such as Earned Value Management and risk management techniques.

Project: Optimization

The primary objective of this section of the capstone project is to identify is to optimize the project through the project management best practices associated with the project management lifecycle and processes.  The first area which the project will start in terms of optimization is gaining an understanding of the tools, techniques, processes and activities that can be utilized to optimize the project (Highsmith & Highsmith, 2010).  In order to do this there must be a period of research and learning.  This is done by conducting a thorough, effective and efficient search on the keywords for this type of activity.  The keyword attributes that would start this research would focus around the activities associated with the project optimization.  These include:

  • Project Optimization
  • Project Selection
  • Cost/Benefit Analysis
  • Earned Value Management
  • Project Crashing
  • Project Fast Tracking
  • Scope Creep
  • Resource Allocation
  • Priority
  • Risk Matrix
  • RACI

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.  Each of the keywords held define what is needed for monitoring and controlling a project or program based upon the schedule, scope and cost of the project/program.

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 (Miller, 2009).  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 (Kaufmann & Desbazielle, 1969).

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 project management lifecycle goes through definitive phases in order to accomplish the overall objectives and requirements of the project.  The project progresses through five phases of the project with corresponding process areas of that lifecycle.  This is a key aspect of adherence to the best practices framework for implementing the optimization project.  Each area has key entry and exit criteria that ensure successful transition from one phase to the next.  This project encompasses a primary search for knowledge based upon a research project.  The lifecycle and processes also encompass the nine knowledge areas. Each area has a set of core competencies that provide the basic foundation of understanding for project work.  These areas are outlined below.

Project Lifecycle

  • Project Initiation
  • Project Planning
  • Project Execution
  • Project Monitoring and Controlling
  • Project Closure

Project Management Processes

  • Initiating Process
  • Planning Process
  • Execution Process
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process
  • Closing Process

Project Management Knowledge Areas

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope Management
  • Project Time Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project HR Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management

Project Lifecycle

Background

The overall objective of the research of this project is to extend the ability to communicate and garner feedback from a source of experts that are in the professional community.  In order to achieve a high level of success there is a necessary dependence upon the tools that are utilized in project management.  These tools include the best practice framework provided by the Project Management Book of Knowledge as well as other tools such as the Earned Value Management tool, Critical Path Method, balanced scorecard, lean management, brainstorming techniques, flow diagrams and Gantt charts.  In order to receive the best available feedback for the use an implementation of these tools we can seek out the guidance and expertise of the Project Management Institute and its members.  Each member of the PMI is dedicated to professional development of project management skills, ensuring the practices and standards are met in project management and encompass an environment of learning and knowledge transfer through experience, meetings, and online resources. This concentrated level of experience and professional make them a target audience that would have the key skill traits and experience to provide feedback on the tools and techniques necessary to optimize the project.

The operational objectives for this project include:

  • Create a Survey based on Key Indicators
    • Tools
    • Techniques
    • Best Practice Framework
  • Optimization Opportunities
    • Develop Optimization Plan based on Tools
    • Imbed Continual Process Improvement
  • Implement Framework

Project Scope

A project is by definition a temporary endeavor to produce a unique deliverable at the conclusion of the endeavor (PMI, 2008).  Just as the foundation of a house supports the entire home to stand the test of time the definition of the scope of a project establishes the entire trajectory of the project and determines what resources and schedule will be needed to accomplish all of the requirements that constitute the scope.  The planning phase of project management includes developing the project management plan, collecting the requirements, defining the scope, assigning resources in a work breakdown structure and defining the activities.  Planning in a project establishes the ground work for the entire project’s lifecycle and will inherently become the foundation for success or failure when the project comes to a close.  In order to understand what is to be delivered at the end of a project there must be boundaries and guidelines established to set the parameters or scope of the project.  Planning a project revolves around defining what needs to be accomplished and how it will be accomplished.  Defining scope is the process of determining a common understanding of what the project will include in or exclude out of the final deliverable (Magal and Word, 2011).

The key factors that are determining the triple constraints of this project include the cost of the project and the schedule of the project and the rough outline of the requirements.  This includes optimizing the project to ensure effectiveness and efficiencies are increases while also implementing best practices throughout.  The responsibility for increasing the efficiencies will be leveraged off of the project management’s expertise and execution of the project.  The biggest risk of this project is not having defined deliverables.  These deliverables need to have specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based objectives in order to create an environment where the success of the project is bolstered.  While there are many risks to the project they gravitate toward the management of the requirements and ultimately the scope of the project.  Scope management is a key success factor in completing any project.  If scope is not managed correctly, the requirements and deliverables may fluctuate so much that the original intent of the project may never be met and could result in a failed project attempt.  As any project progresses through the phases, the intricacies and details of the project gain clarity.  This is where the art of project management dances with the scientific project management methodology to build and execute a project.  The planning phase in project management establishes not only the framework but also how the framework will be followed, funded and communicated.  These established baselines create the launching pad formulating the trajectory of the project.  While the project manager can make adjustments throughout the project there will always be a tradeoff between the triple constraints including cost, schedule and quality (Cooper, Grey, Raymond & Walker, 2005).  Proper project planning will promote the rate for success in any project.

Risk in project management is the perceived implications of an uncertain event impacting the project or the organization as a result of the project’s deliverables.  Within each of the risks there are varying degrees in which the impact, severity and likelihood will occur.  Each of these factors plays a role into the risk mitigation plan of the organization.  These risk mitigation actions incorporate the risk itself as well as the tolerance of the organization and the benefits of accepting certain risk models to achieve certain objectives (Cooper, Grey, Raymond, and Walker, 2005).  The risk adversity or risk acceptance of the organization is interdependent with the goals and objectives that the organization wants to achieve as well as the activities that are necessary to achieve those deliverables.

The risk management process according to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) includes six processes that encapsulate how risk is managed and mitigated within a project.  This includes plan risk management, risk identification, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, risk responses and monitoring and controlling of the risks (PMBOK, 2008).  Each of these areas plays a critical role in identifying, understanding, mitigating and sustaining risk mitigation activities.  Within every project there are many risk factors that can have a potential impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of completing the project within schedule, budget and achieving the quality of the deliverables outlined in the scope document.

Project risk is based on the uncertainty in projects and those risks come in the form of known risks and unknown risks.  The known risks can be identified, analyzed and a risk mitigation plan can be formulated around these risks.  The unknown risks do not have the same luxury regarding proactivity in mitigation and these types of risks are the basis for contingency plans that are built into the project by the project team.

The trade-offs in this project could encourage the change in requirements throughout the optimization project.  With many tools available to manage a project there are many opportunities to change throughout.  With each change there is also the risk of negating the potential benefits from the optimization project.  While changing to better the project or to mitigate potential failure is necessary, each change would need to go through a tollgate or change advisor board to ensure the change does not interfere with the strategic intent of the optimization project.  In order to manage the requirements of the project the best area to ensure is solidified is the communication between the project management team, implementation task force and the leadership of the organization.  Project management meetings reporting on key metrics for project success, schedule deviations, both positive and negative, as well as costs and expenditures will allow for the teams on both sides of the project are abreast of the challenges and success of the project.

Scope Changes and Risk Mitigation

The scope of the project has the tendency to changes as the project progresses through the project’s lifecycle.  Defining the scope of a project does not make it a success.  The project must have a set of achievable goals and provide a benefit to those with a stake in the outcome of the project.  Providing validity and clearly stating why a project is important to the stakeholders allows the purpose to be highly visible and not come into question later in the project.  As more information becomes apparent within the development of the project the more opportunity for scope creep to take place.  The expansion or change of the scope can derail a project that is on a successful project path and lead to a project that is over budget and behind schedule.  One of the roles of the project manager is to manage the relationship of the stakeholders and their expectations of the project.  The clear definition of the scope statement and a charter as outlined in the planning phase of the project become essential milestones the project manager can refer to in times of critical decision points in which a trade-off scenario presents itself.

The project manager has multiple tasks when it comes to managing a project.  These project management activities involve driving changes, managing schedules, briefing key stakeholders and a multitude of other tasks to manage a project.  There are also more tasks that involve more insight and leadership skills that require information that can be used as a tool to make better decisions.  Some key decisions on determining resource allocation and prioritization of requirements require the qualitative and quantitative research and analysis of the inputs into the project’s achievements as well as how well those inputs are being utilized.  The tools and techniques a project manager uses to decipher data and add value to the interpretation of that data can provide the advantage needed to successfully complete a project.

Constraints

A project manager faces a continual force in project management called the triple constraints.  These constraints limit the ability for the project manager to manipulate and change the variables within a project to meet everyone’s needs or expectations.  These constraints are cost, schedule and quality.  The cost of the project includes the resources needed to manage and implement the project and could range from hired expertise to manage the project or hardware and software requirements for a new information technology system implementation.  This also includes hired resources to come in and provide the extra labor efforts required to shorten the length of a project or build up the needed labor base for a product launch.  The schedule is the time it takes to complete the tasks within the project plan.  The last constraint is quality which reflects on the requirements of the project and to what level they are completed to meet the objectives of the project’s scope.

Within all three of these areas there are decisions that can be made to decrease the cost at the expense of quality or decrease the schedule with an increase of cost (Dobson, 2004).  In order to decrease the schedule some activities could be crashed on the critical path by assigning more resources to complete the activities of the milestones on the plan.  While this increases the cost of the project it could have been vital to the business to hit a key timeline for implementation and the trade-off was justified by the benefits received by shortening the schedule.

Research Methodology and Sampling

There are multiple facets of a research project and each section has its own pitfalls and potential challenges.  While researching a project it is best to limit the amount of potential input outside catalysts have on the research project unless they naturally are needed to produce the results.  Preconceived notions and opinions should be limited and avoided in order to obtain the fouled or tainted results desired from a research project.  Preconceived information may impact the results of the experiment.  Our own experience may subconsciously lead our results toward an end state that may or may not reflect the actual results.  If the experimentation or research was done previously it may or may not have the same results depending on the assumptions and other environmental factors.  Just because a research project was completely in the past it does not mean that the same inputs were used to create the same response.  The personal experience of those performing the research project may impact the results by allowing the actions taken previously to impact the potential results.  Also, while completing a research project, the notion about what the research presumes will happen could sway the results.  It is best to go into a research project and let the results speak for themselves.  The research should provide clean, clear and focused data points that have as little as possible influence from uncontrolled or extraneous variables.  Ultimately the research project needs to have the methodology and focus to provide the deliverables outlined by the researchers or stakeholders of the research project.

When researching a project there needs to be as many static inputs into the research equation as possible.  When driving toward a result the less amount of changing variables will help determine what the end result is.  The least amount of uncertainty and flux in the inputs of the research project allows the resulting output to be known and why it has the result.

Dynamic inputs have the inherent ability to change.  These changes could force the research into different outcomes depending on how critical the catalysts are that change.  It is important to know which inputs are dynamic and which are static.  Dynamic inputs should be limited and noted and never mistaken for static inputs.  Static inputs are stable and should be seen as inputs that do not need to be monitored as closely as the dynamic and fragile aspects of the research project. If the assumptions are not documented and controlled, inputs not monitored and the information persuaded by personal judgment the results are in jeopardy and would not be repeatable.  A research project needs to investigate how a system, environment or reaction interact without the interference or input from an outside system.  By viewing the environment without interaction will allow the research to remain untainted and produce the best results.  With the wrong assumptions the entire research project could fall like a house of cards.

In order to conduct a sampling to optimize the project, the project team will utilize a survey to conduct a systematic sampling approach. The method of research and sampling technique for this project takes into account the framework of successful research methodology and utilizes a primary research methodology implementing a survey tool and an interview process with those participants that are engaged in the local Project Management Institute chapter.  This information was located on the Project Management Institute website for the local chapter.  The key contact information for the points of contact is available.  This would provide an epicenter of information for the information gathering.  The research data gathering technique used is the survey tool.  The survey tool is used to gather data so that the information can be compiled and analyzed by the researchers.  This information will provide a framework to shed light on the objectives of the project.  The reason for choosing the survey lies in the fact that the objectives of the project require information gathering from a large and generally decentralized population which includes not only directly corollary information about the skills necessary to be successful in project optimization but also key information on demographics, experience, level of progression in project management and other key attributes of the project.  The information gathered will help create the picture needed to determine the right core competencies, skills, tools and techniques necessary to optimize a project.  The survey will be inclusive of the types of variables that are introduced into the research project and will allow a quantitative value to be assigned to the variable.

The survey tool used is a web based program that allows users to login and generate their survey on the user’s time table.  This is important because the person taking the survey must have enough time to take the survey and should be able to have access to take the survey at their convenience.  Having web-based option available allows the user to select their optimal location and time to complete the required information.  The users taking the survey are a representation of the current Project Management Institute participant.

Collecting Demographics

Throughout the research project it is deemed important to collect demographics of those who are participating in the project.  The reason for this is to understand the full gamut of users, participants and subject matter experts.  The research will focus on the best and most trusted methods for project optimization.  By understanding the experience levels, industries, credentials, education and other variables in project management.  The insight into the demographics will allow for a better picture and understanding of who is providing the information as well as the person’s credibility within the project management knowledge area.

The demographics would include:

  • Work Years
  • Project Management Experience (Years)
  • Current Role
  • PMP Certification and Year
  • Other Certifications
  • Education
  • Industry
  • Affiliation with PMI
  • Preferred Optimization Tools

Sample Size

The sample size of the research will focus on the primary members of the local chapter of the Project Management Institute.  The core membership is approximately 40-60 members.  This will be the initial sample size of the project’s research.  The reason for this is the centralized experience with project optimization as well as the accessibility through the monthly PM meetings that will provide our research the opportunity for multiple touch points over the course of the project.  If there is a need for a larger sample size the initial contact with the local PMI will facilitate the relationship on a larger level if needed.  The initial group of 40-60 PMI members will provide the potential for quality information that is required for this project.

Result Implementation

The project’s research provided guidance into the tools and techniques that are utilized within project management by those that incorporate those tools into their own professions.  The key feedback that is obtained includes establishing the framework for project management and following the project management book of knowledge.  This key step establishes the foundation for the project and provides the guidance required to successful implement the project.  As the framework pertains to the project it aligns with the best practices and is outlined in the five stages of the project.  The frame work coupled with the outlined tools for monitoring and controlling the project will ultimately create an environment that is conducive to successful project launch.  By gathering this information, the risk of utilizing tools and techniques that would not be best suited for the optimization project is limited and the knowledge and guidance of project management professionals can be infused within the project’s implementation.

The results of the survey provided key guidance on the tools and techniques needed to create a successful optimization project using the appropriate project management tools.  Below are the results:

tools for optimizing projects

These results show a direct reflection of the project management institute members and the affinity toward promoting and utilizing the Project Management Book of Knowledge as the source of guidance and standards for implementing projects.  The next area that the PMI members referenced was that of the Earned Value Management tool.  This tool allows for insight into the cost that is associated with the project in terms of how the project is achieving its objectives.  This tool enables the project manager to have greater command and control over the resources and how they are deployed within the project.

command and control

This area of the survey focused on the importance of the key project factors as according to the PMI members.  The first three areas encapsulated the triple constraints of any project.  This included the cost, as the primary driver of the critical focus, schedule and scope.  The other areas that were critical aspects of the optimization project were focused on the implementation of the project as a whole and the acceptance of the project by the business and stakeholders.

Project Initiation

The five process areas of in the project’s lifecycle including initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and finally closing.  There are key deliverables in each of these phases and each of these deliverables provides key decision input for the entire project.  During the project’s initiation the project team will create the project charter and identify the key stakeholders.  The project kickoff meeting will officially start the project and will outline how the project is going to be handled, reporting parameters, outline risks and how stakeholders will be engaged throughout the project.  These types of areas must be addressed early especially for a project that is only expected to encompass thirty days.  One example of a key point that would be brought up in a project kickoff meeting includes the requirements.  The clarity of the requirements will make the difference between a project’s success and its failure.  Clarification outlines what is needed by the clients and what they see as success for the project.  Some areas of the project’s delivery requirements may seem obvious such as the amount of servers, negotiated outage time and the amount of labor hours required but there are other areas that are vague or that can be misinterpreted by either side of the project team.  During the kickoff the timing should be discussed to provide the baseline on how the project’s schedule will be developed.  The expectations of the organization on schedule need to be addressed.  These key points of the project include managing the time that is expected from each person.  If the project has a duration of a year the expectations need to be understood around what the work hours are per day, week, month, quarter and/or year including holidays and vacations.

Project initiation provides the groundwork for the project including developing the project charter and identifying the stakeholders.  This piece of the process defines the project and will set the tone for the entire optimization project.  The initial scope of the project is defined and the backing of the stakeholders is garnered.  This is a critical piece to the optimization because the financial commitment to execute the project is committed.  This financial commitment will determine if the project is successful or not.  The reason for this is based on the type of project that is going to be implemented.  Within the optimization project, the ability to provide the efficiency or effectiveness capability is only relevant based on a specific cost.  If the cost of the project exceeds the benefit the project would be a failure to the business.  The correlation between the project management actions and the value of the project will need to be measure.  This will take place with the implementation of the Earned Value Management tool used during the monitoring and controlling phase.

This needs to be established so that assumptions are not made on either side of the project team.  Not only does this facilitate clarity among the project members it also facilitates the use of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) within the project.  The other requirements will be addressed and if questions on definition of metrics are needed it will also be brought up in the meeting and documented.  One key example of clarification would be the definition of “significant downtime” or what constitutes an optimization.  These key performance indicators may adjust due to the optimization of the project.  As increased capabilities occur the need to reassess and adjust the process metrics would also occur..  The reason this is a critical aspect is for the project planning piece of the project.  Downtime must be planned in order to take those critical steps are taken to ensure data validity, integrity and availability during the cutover planning sessions.

Project Planning

During project planning phase the key deliverables are aligned with the project’s phase as well as the knowledge areas in the PMBOK.  Planning within the project allows for the entire scope of the project to be defined including establishing and refining the objectives of the project.  Not only is defining the project’s goals and objectives critical to the optimization project the development of the plan of actions to achieve those requirements is important.  Throughout the project lifecycle if the project’s scope or deliverables change it is imperative to revisited the key activities within the project planning phase.  During this phase the project management plan is first developed and used.

Developing the project management plan will allow the documentation of all the actions necessary to execute the project.  The project management plan is a living document that will be updated throughout the project.  To get the project management plan started, the charter is required as an input.  The charter was the result of the project integration management knowledge area (PMBOK, 2008).  The project plan is a key deliverable that provides the visual cues to the project team whether they are on track with the project or if they need to take specific project management activities to bring the schedule in or spend more time on other areas of the project.  Below is a visual depiction of the project as whole.  This type of project schedule would be used at the very beginning of the project and would outline a few key points of the project.  The first is that there is a defined project outline and each area falls into the PMBOK phases of project management.

vision of scope

The next area is the level of effort that is required by the project team and the parent organization during the project.  There will also be multiple types of effort require regarding closing the old facility and opening the new facility.  After the project plan is created and an associated work breakdown structure is in place the management of effort will become clearer and each individual will know what they have to accomplish and when it needs to be done.  By tying these together in a project schedule the person that is dependent upon another task completion will know where a focus of resources needs to occur.  This will make the critical path clear to the users and will allow the appropriate level of resources to be assigned.

The detailed project plan will show the entire during of the project in days/weeks/months of effort and each activity will be assigned a specific completion date as well as the dependencies for each task.  The project schedule will have high level milestones that will have an associated WBS assigned.

Implementation of the project

With the actions on paper and the project team managing the project based on the project management plant the next are is the execution of the project.  Project execution is where the rubber meets the road and the tangible tasks are being completed.  The project schedule is defined.  The requirements are aligned with the needs of the company and the schedule is aligned with the timeline set by organization’s leadership requiring the optimization.

Monitor and Control

There is a distinct cause-effect relationship between monitoring and procurement management in impacting EVM calculations and the project budget.   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).  Earned value management is a tool used to measure the performance of a project and how well the resources are being utilized to achieve certain goals, objectives and milestones.  With this tool, monitoring and controlling vital and limited resources becomes possible at the project manager level.  The planning and controlling of the project is highly impacted by the use the EVM tool and allows the reallocation, constriction or expansion of resources on certain activities to ensure critical deliverables are accomplished.  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.

With resource allocation there is also the need to monitor and control cost of the project.  If the costs of the optimization exceed the budget the potential gains from the optimization would be lost. Throughout the project, cost management will need to be taken into consideration.  During the current planning phase both cost estimating and cost budgeting activities will occur.  There are multiple tools and techniques for estimating the project costs.  The tools will be examined and applied as needed to result in the cost estimation for the project.  The processes for implementing an effective and accurate cost estimate will include estimating costs, determining budget and controlling the costs (Bloucher, Stout & Cokins, 2009).  All three areas are imperative to project execution and cost management.  The budget of the project is provided by the key stakeholders and must be tightly controlled as to fully enjoy the benefits of the optimization project.

In cost management, the first area is to estimate the costs of each individual activity of the project.  This allows for a more focus approach and enables a concentrated effort to produce accurate and reliable estimates.  While the goal is to fully understand the costs associated with a project it is important to note that these estimates are occurring during the early planning stage of the project and not actual costs.  There are multiple techniques to estimate costs for a project.  For example, there is analogous estimating, parametric modeling and bottom-up estimation.  In analogous estimating, the estimate is derived from comparisons to other projects that are similar in nature to the project under current implementation.  In the case of the optimization implementation, the only other project close in nature is those of the competitors and information is scarce and has a high likelihood of unreliability.  This method would provide a generalized cost estimate but would not provide the level of detail that would instill confidence leadership would require for such a project.  The next method called parametric modeling could be used to determine the cost of the project.  This model used statistics and mathematical formulas to determine costs of the project.  This is normally done using regression analysis or other statistical model to extrapolate the costs.  The downside of this method in the case of the optimization project implementation is the estimates derived would only be as good as the assumptions and inputs made by the project team to determine the costs.  Since the team has not worked on a project like this in the past and do not have any data available for calculation this method does not necessarily fit the requirements to produce the most accurate estimate as possible with the given information.  The bottom-up estimation could potentially work as the method to estimate the costs of the project (Bloucher, Stout & Cokins, 2009).  This method involves breaking down the activities needed to complete the project and assign a cost to each activity.

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 an optimization of a large and established operation which would include implementing new tools for current business processes, potentially new measurement activities and increasing the knowledge base on how to operate.  These types of changes could engage multiple areas of the organization and involve many areas that require funding to execute their objectives.  Each would have a specific cost that must be monitored, controlled and understood in order to ensure the project is successful.

During the course of the project there are certain inputs that go into completing tasks along the project schedule.  The project manager can utilize certain tools to understand how much cost and effort is required to accomplish the tasks and also understand if the costs inputted into the project are providing the rate of return needed to meet the schedule.  Ultimately the project manager needs to know if the resources allocated to the project are being fully utilized and returning favorable results.  The tool that could provide the most insight and clarification on this would be the Earned Value Management (EVM), tool.  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.  Within the project management framework, 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.

The EVM tool will establish a base-line cost and measure the capital and operating spends according to the value of the work that is being performed.  EVM will be used to compare work performed with expected work perform and the associated costs with each deliverable area.  The reason EVM will be used is for the simple fact that it has the ability to combine the areas of scope, schedule and cost, all of which the project manager is ultimately responsible (Budd & Budd, 2009).  The earned value of the project is a calculation of the planned value versus the earned value and that is well suited for the type of project implementation the project team is looking to utilize.

Successful projects incorporate the best practices framework as well as the tools and resources that are gathered and utilized throughout a project manager’s career.  The project scope must align with the expectations of the stakeholders as well as the cost estimates, established budget and the proposed schedule of the project.  The project manager garners sign off on the project charter and scope statement at the beginning of the project but once that task is accomplished it becomes the project manager’s responsibility to manage the changes in the scope, the progress achieved through the resource allocation and ultimately the successful accomplishment of the milestones along the path of the project’s lifecycle.  This is achieved through monitoring and controlling techniques as well as the utilization of tools such as the EVM tool.  These tools and techniques provide the project manager the timely and accurate information to make project management decisions while taking the appropriate project actions to meet the expectations of the stakeholders while delivering the requirements on time, on schedule and on budget.

Closure

As stated earlier, a project has a beginning and an end.  Without a formal closure the project is never completely done and an increase in the scope is inevitable.  The key activities that occur during closing are just as important as other activities throughout the duration of the project.  These activities include obtaining acceptance from the stakeholders, conducting the post-implementation review, documenting the lessons learned and closeout open items.  If these activities are not completed the project will never cease to live and increased scope, cost and schedule would continue.

Throughout the project the project manager is holding tight to the requirements and managing the scope creep as the project closure nears he will be able to sign off with the organization’s stakeholders to complete the project.  This will be done by walking through the requirements documents as well as the charter to finally verify what was agreed to has been complete.  The sponsor of the project will have to formally approve of the project prior to signoff.  Once the project is signed off the project team can conduct a post-implementation review to determine what went correctly during the project and where there is room for improvement.  During the same timeframe as the post-implementation review there could be a need to administratively close the project.  This includes closing the contracts, reassigning the resources to other projects and performing any audits required by the project management company.

Once the project is closed there is a need for a post-implementation review to go back over the project and create lessons learned.  By completing the project and moving on directly the organization will lose the potential benefits of completing the project.  While the project will meet the requirements and benefits outlined in the project management documentation there is still a need for the project team to compile the knowledge learned from the implementation. Ensuring openness and candidness is critical when performing the post-implementation review.  The post-implementation review focuses on gaps in the process or project, successful achievement of goals, stakeholder satisfaction, costs/benefit analysis, future opportunities and sustainability.  All of these areas focus on providing insight into the project’s execution directly from those that implemented the project.

Discussion

Utilizing the available resources within the project management community, there is an opportunity to gather specific insight into using the best available resources for specific purposes.  Within project management there are certain foundational efforts that need to take place in order to ensure the proper framework is laid, tools are implemented and actions taken.  Within the efforts to optimize an already existing operation it is paramount to leverage the project management framework outline in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).  This framework establishes the project activities, tollgates and milestones required for the project team.  The guide is a framework for the standard operating procedures that are needed for the project.  This framework is the baseline methods, processes, procedures and activities required to perform the project management activities to be successful and eliminate potential extraneous utilization of resources to figure out what is required.  The key concepts, standards, processes, inputs, outputs and lifecycle actions are defined in the guide.  This is the reason why the project managers and the Project Management Institute base their foundation on this guide and ingrain the guide into their culture.  The PMBOK also provides a common language within the project management community and helps promote the commonality between project managers regardless of their industry or project type.  This allows for knowledge transfer between project managers, projects, programs and portfolios.  When talking with other members of the project management community the baseline of vocabulary promotes the opportunity for continually improving.

The optimization of the program takes not only the utilization of the PMBOK’s common knowledge but also ensuring each of the milestones is completed with their entry and exit criteria.  The reason the project management framework improves the opportunity for success is that it provides the measurable activities that can infuse accountability within the project.  The five phases of the project including initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and finally closing, all have defined activities within the phase and critical activities that must be initiated, completed or reviewed in order to move from one phase to the next.  The key to optimizing the project is to ensure the appropriate tools are used at the right time, right place and with the desired results.  This optimization project has specific requirements that must be met to ensure it is successfully launched.  To successfully launch the project, the processes and procedures outlined in the project management book of knowledge should be followed.  Coupled with those best practices there are tools and techniques that can provide greater insight into project performance and key project actions.  The Earned Value Management (EVM) tool allows for the project team to focus the limited resources on the appropriate areas to achieve the maximum return on investment.  The last key areas that project managers emphasize is the using the critical path method when appropriate.  This technique creates the necessary accountability on the critical areas within the project.  By doing so, the key activities receive the appropriate level of expertise and project management governance.  All of these frameworks, tools, techniques and resources are used during the optimization project to manage the schedule, cost and scope in the most effective and efficient way.

References

Budd, C. I., & Budd, C. S. (2009). Earned value project management. (2nd ed.). Vienna, VA: ManagementConcepts.

Cooper, D. F., Grey, S., Raymond, G., & Walker, P. (2005). Project risk management guidelines, managing risk in large projects and complex procurements. John Wiley & Sons

Dobson, M. (2004). The triple constraints in project management. Vienna, VA: ManagementConcepts.

Fleming, Q. W., & Koffleman, J. M. (2010). Earned value project management. Project Management Institute.

Highsmith, J. A., & Highsmith, J. (2010). Agile project management, creating innovative products. Addison-Wesley Professional.

Kaufmann, A., & Desbazielle, G. (1969). Critical path method. New York, NY: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.

Leach, L. P. (2005). Critical chain project management. Norwood, MA: Artech House, INC.

Magal, S. R., & Word, J. (2011). Integrated business processes with erp systems. RRD/Jefferson City: Wiley.

Miller, D. (2009). Building a project work breakdown structure: visualizing objectives, deliverables, activities, and schedules (esi international project management series). Boca Raton, Fl: Auerbach Publications.

Project Management Institute. (2008).A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Fourth Edition. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

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