Executing the Project-Managing the Information Systems Project
Executing the Project
Project execution puts the baseline project plan into action. Within the context of the SDLC, project execution occurs primarily during the analysis, design, and implementation phases. During the development of the Purchasing Fulfillment System, Chris Martin was responsible for five key activities during project execution. These activities are summarized in Figure 3-17 and are described in the remainder of this section:
1. Executing the baseline project plan. As project manager, you oversee the execution of the baseline plan: You initiate the execution of project activities, acquire and assign resources, orient and train new team members, keep the project on schedule, and ensure the quality of project deliverables. This formidable task is made much easier through the use of sound project management techniques. For example, as tasks are completed during a project, they can be “marked” as completed on the project schedule. In Figure 3-18, tasks 3 and 7 are marked as completed by showing 100 percent in the “% Complete” column. Members of the project team will come and go. You are responsible for initiating new team members by providing them with the resources they need and helping them assimilate into the team. You may want to plan social events, regular team project status meetings, team-level reviews of project deliverables, and other group events to mold the group into an effective team.
FIGURE 3-17 Five project execution activities.
2. Monitoring project progress against the baseline project plan. While you execute the baseline project plan, you should monitor your progress. If the project gets ahead of (or behind) schedule, you may have to adjust resources, activities, and budgets. Monitoring project activities can result in modifications to the current plan. Measuring the time and effort expended on each activity helps you improve the accuracy of estimations for future projects. It is possible with project schedule charts, like Gantt, to show progress against a plan; and it is easy with Network diagrams to understand the ramifications of delays in an activity. Monitoring progress also means that the team leader must evaluate and appraise each team member, occasionally change work assignments or request changes in personnel, and provide feedback to the employee’s supervisor.
3.Managing changes to the baseline project plan. You will encounter pressure to make changes to the baseline plan. At PVF, policies dictate that only approved changes to the project specification can be made, and all changes must be reflected in the baseline plan and project workbook, including all charts. For example, if Juanita suggests a significant change to the existing design of the Purchasing Fulfillment System, a formal change request must be approved by the steering committee. The request should explain why changes are desired and describe all possible impacts on prior and subsequent activities, project resources, and the overall project schedule. Chris would have to help Juanita develop such a request.
FIGURE 3-18 Gantt chart with tasks 3 and 7 completed.
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This information allows the project steering committee to more easily evaluate the costs and benefits of a significant midcourse change. In addition to changes occurring through formal request, changes may also occur because of events outside of your control. In fact, numerous events may initiate a change to the baseline project plan, including the following possibilities:
- A slipped completion date for an activity
- A bungled activity that must be redone
- The identification of a new activity that becomes evident later in the project
- An unforeseen change in personnel due to sickness, resignation, or termination
When an event occurs that delays the completion of an activity, you typically have two choices: devise a way to get back on schedule or revise the plan. Devising a way to get back on schedule is the preferred approach because no changes to the plan will have to be made. The ability to head off and smoothly work around problems is a critical skill that you need to master
As you will see later in the chapter, project schedule charts are helpful in assessing the impact of change. Using such charts, you can quickly see whether the completion time of other activities will be affected by changes in the duration of a given activity or if the whole project completion date will change. Often you will have to find a way to rearrange the activities because the ultimate project completion date may be rather fixed. The organization may even incur a penalty (even legal action) if the expected completion date is not met.
4. Maintaining the project workbook. As in all project phases, maintaining complete records of all project events is necessary. The workbook provides the documentation new team members require to assimilate project tasks quickly. It explains why design decisions were made and is a primary source of information for producing all project reports.
5. Communicating the project status. The project manager is responsible for keeping all team members—system developers, managers, and customers—abreast of the project status. Clear communication is required to create a shared understanding of the activities and goals of the project; such an understanding ensures better coordination of activities. This means that the entire project plan should be shared with the entire project team, and any revisions to the plan should be communicated to all interested parties so that everyone understands how the plan is evolving. Procedures for communicating project activities vary from formal meetings to informal hallway discussions. Some procedures are useful for informing others of project status, others for resolving issues, and others for keeping permanent records of information and events. Two types of information are routinely exchanged throughout the project: (1) work results, or the outcomes of the various tasks and activities that are performed to complete the project, and (2) the project plan, which is the formal comprehensive document used to execute the project. The project plan contains numerous items including the project charter, project schedule, budgets, risk plan, and so on. Table 3-2 lists numerous communication procedures, their level of formality, and most likely use. Whichever procedure you use, frequent communication helps to ensure project success.
This section outlined your role as the project manager during the execution of the baseline project plan. The ease with which the project can be managed is significantly influenced by the quality of prior project phases. If you develop a
TABLE 3-2: Project Team Communication Methods
high-quality project plan, it is much more likely that the project will be successfully executed. The next section describes your role during project closedown, the final phase of the project management process.