Initiating and Planning Systems Development Projects



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 Initiating and Planning Systems Development Projects

Many activities performed during initiation and planning could also be completed during the next phase of the SDLC—systems analysis. Proper and insightful project initiation and planning, including determining project scope and identifying project activities, can reduce the time needed to complete later project phases, including systems analysis. For example, a careful feasibility analysis conducted during initiation and planning could lead to rejecting a project and saving a considerable expenditure of resources. The actual amount of time expended will be affected by the size and complexity of the project as well as by the experience of your organization in building similar systems. A rule of thumb is that between 10 and 20 percent of the entire development effort should be expended on initiation and planning. In other words, you should not be reluctant to spend considerable time and energy early in the project’s life in order to fully understand the motivation for the requested system.

Most organizations assign an experienced systems analyst, or team of analysts for large projects, to perform project initiation and planning. The analyst will work with the proposed customers—managers and users in a business unit—of the system and other technical development staff in preparing the final plan. Experienced analysts working with customers who well understand their information services needs should be able to perform a detailed analysis with relatively little effort. Less experienced analysts with customers who only vaguely understand their needs will likely expend more effort in order to be certain that the project scope and work plan are feasible. The objective of project initiation and planning is to transform a vague system request document into a tangible project description, as illustrated in Figure 4-5. Effective communication among the systems analysts, users, and management is crucial to the creation of a meaningful project plan. Getting all parties to agree on the direction of a project may be difficult for cross-department projects when different parties have different business objectives. Projects at large, complex organizations require systems analysts to take more time to analyze both the current and proposed systems. In the remainder of this chapter, we describe how a systems analyst develops a clear project description.

 The Process of Initiating and Planning Systems Development Projects

As its name implies, two major activities occur during project initiation and project planning. Project initiation focuses on activities that will help organize a team to conduct project planning. During initiation, one or more analysts are assigned to work with a customer to establish work standards and communication procedures. Table 4-3 summarizes six activities performed during project initiation.

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FIGURE 4-5 The systems analyst transforms a vague systems request into a tangible project description during project initiation and planning.

The second activity, project planning, focuses on defining clear, discrete tasks and the work needed to complete each task. The objective of the project planning process is to produce two documents: a baseline project plan (BPP) and the project scope statement (PSS). The BPP becomes the foundation for the remainder of the development project. It is an internal document used by the development team but not shared with customers. The PSS, produced by the project team, clearly outlines the objectives of the project for the customer. As with the project initiation process, the size, scope, and complexity of a project dictate the comprehensiveness of the project planning process and the resulting documents. Further, numerous assumptions about resource availability and potential problems will have to be made. Analysis of these assumptions and system costs and benefits forms a business case. Table 4-4 lists the activities performed during project planning.

 Deliverables and Outcomes

The major outcomes and deliverables from project initiation and planning are the baseline project plan and the project scope statement. The baseline project plan (BPP) contains all information collected and analyzed during the project initiation and planning activity. The plan contains the best estimate of the project’s

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 TABLE 4-3: Types of Activities Performed during Project Initiation

 TABLE 4-4: Activities Performed during Project Planning

scope, benefits, costs, risks, and resource requirements given the current understanding of the project. The BPP specifies detailed project activities for the next life cycle phase—systems analysis—and provides less detail for subsequent project phases (because these depend on the results of the analysis phase). Similarly, benefits, costs, risks, and resource requirements will become more specific and quantifiable as the project progresses. The project selection committee uses the BPP to help decide whether to continue, redirect, or cancel a project. If selected, the BPP becomes the foundation document for all subsequent SDLC activities; however, it is updated as new information is learned during subsequent SDLC activities. We explain how to construct the BPP later in the chapter.

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