Project Management Frameworks: Comparative Analysis: Conference Paper
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In the early stages of the project, the amount of information needed to develop a detailed budget is often missing.
To address the lack of information, the project team develops different levels of project budget estimates. The major input into the conceptual estimate is expert knowledge or past experience. A project manager who has executed a similar project in the past can use those costs to estimate the costs of the current project. Additional information such as the approximate square feet of a building, the production capacity of a plant, and the approximate number of hours needed to develop a software program can provide a basis for providing a ROM estimate.
After a project design is more complete, a project detailed estimate can be developed. A detailed estimate is not a bid. The cost of the project is tracked relative to the progress of the work and the estimate for accomplishing that work. Based on the cost estimate, the cost of the work performed is compared against the cost budgeted for that work. If the cost is significantly higher or lower, the project team explores reasons for the difference between expected costs and actual costs.
Project costs may deviate from the budget because the prices in the marketplace were different from what was expected. For example, the estimated costs for lumber on a housing project may be higher than budgeted or the hourly cost for labour may be lower than budgeted. Project costs may also deviate based on project performance.
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The project team captures the deviation between costs budgeted for work and the actual cost for work, revises the estimate as needed, and takes corrective action if the deviation appears to reflect a trend. The project manager is responsible for assuring that the project team develops cost estimates based on the best information available and revises those estimates as new or better information becomes available. The project manager is also responsible for tracking costs against the budget and conducting an analysis when project costs deviate significantly from the project estimate.
The project manager then takes appropriate corrective action to ensure that project performance matches the revised project plan. Project quality focuses on the end product or service deliverables that reflect the purpose of the project. The project manager is responsible for developing a project execution approach that provides for a clear understanding of the expected project deliverables and the quality specifications.
The project manager of a housing construction project not only needs to understand which rooms in the house will be carpeted but also what grade of carpet is needed. A room with a high volume of traffic will need a high-grade carpet. The project manager is responsible for developing a project quality plan that defines the quality expectations and ensures that the specifications and expectations are met.
Developing a good understanding of the project deliverables through documenting specifications and expectations is critical to a good quality plan. The processes for ensuring that the specifications and expectations are met are integrated into the project execution plan. Just as the project budget and completion dates may change over the life of a project, the project specifications may also change. Changes in quality specifications are typically managed in the same process as cost or schedule changes. The impact of the changes is analyzed for impact on cost and schedule, and with appropriate approvals, changes are made to the project execution plan.
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The material found in this chapter would be similar to material found in a good operational management text. Although any of the quality management techniques designed to make incremental improvement to work processes can be applied to a project work process, the character of a project unique and relatively short in duration makes small improvements less attractive on projects. Rework on projects, as with manufacturing operations, increases the cost of the product or service and often increases the time needed to complete the reworked activities. Because of the duration constraints of a project, the development of the appropriate skills, materials, and work processes early in the project is critical to project success.
On more complex projects, time is allocated to developing a plan to understand and develop the appropriate levels of skills and work processes. Project management organizations that execute several similar types of projects may find process improvement tools useful in identifying and improving the baseline processes used on their projects.
Process improvement tools may also be helpful in identifying cost and schedule improvement opportunities. Opportunities for improvement must be found quickly to influence project performance. The investment in time and resources to find improvements is greatest during the early stages of the project, when the project is in the planning stages. During later project stages, as pressures to meet project schedule goals increase, the culture of the project is less conducive to making changes in work processes. Another opportunity for applying process improvement tools is on projects that have repetitive processes.
A housing contractor that is building several identical houses may benefit from evaluating work processes in the first few houses to explore the opportunities available to improve the work processes. Staffing the project with the right skills, at the right place, and at the right time is an important responsibility of the project management team.
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The project usually has two types of team members: functional managers and process managers. The functional managers and team focus on the technology of the project. On a construction project, the functional managers would include the engineering manager and construction superintendents. On a training project, the functional manager would include the professional trainers; on an information technology project, the software development managers would be functional managers. The project management team also includes project process managers.
The project controls team would include process managers who have expertise in estimating, cost tracking, planning, and scheduling. The project manager needs functional and process expertise to plan and execute a successful project. Because projects are temporary, the staffing plan for a project typically reflects both the long-term goals of skilled team members needed for the project and short-term commitment that reflects the nature of the project.
Exact start and end dates for team members are often negotiated to best meet the needs of individuals and the project. The staffing plan is also determined by the different phases of the project. Team members needed in the early or conceptual phases of the project are often not needed during the later phases or project closeout phases. Each phase has staffing requirements, and the staffing of a complex project requires detailed planning to have the right skills, at the right place, at the right time.
Typically a core project management team is dedicated to the project from start-up to closeout. This core team would include members of the project management team: project manager, project controls, project procurement, and key members of the function management or experts in the technology of the project. Although longer projects may experience more team turnover than shorter projects, it is important on all projects to have team members who can provide continuity through the project phases.
For example, on a large commercial building project, the civil engineering team that designs the site work where the building will be constructed would make their largest contribution during the early phases of the design.
The civil engineering lead would bring on different civil engineering specialties as they were needed. As the civil engineering work is completed and the structural engineering is well underway, a large portion of the civil engineers would be released from the project. The functional managers, the engineering manager, and civil engineering lead would provide expertise during the entire length of the project, addressing technical questions that may arise and addressing change requests.
Project team members can be assigned to the project from a number of different sources. The organization that charters the project can assign talented managers and staff from functional units within the organization, contract with individuals or agencies to staff positions on the project, temporarily hire staff for the project, or use any combination of these staffing options. This staffing approach allows the project manager to create the project organizational culture. Some project cultures are more structured and detail oriented, and some are less structured with less formal roles and communication requirements.
The type of culture the project manager creates depends greatly on the type of project. Completing a complex project successfully requires teamwork, and teamwork requires good communication among team members.
Communicating can be divided into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. If all the parties to the communication are taking part in the exchange at the same time, the communication is synchronous. A telephone conference call is an example of synchronous communication. When the participants are not interacting at the same time, the communication is asynchronous. The letter a at the beginning of the word means not. Communications technologies require a variety of compatible devices, software, and service providers, and communication with a global virtual team can involve many different time zones.
Establishing effective communications requires a communications plan. Risk exists on all projects. The role of the project management team is to understand the kinds and levels of risks on the project and then to develop and implement plans to mitigate these risks.
Risk represents the likelihood that an event will happen during the life of the project that will negatively affect the achievement of project goals. The type and amount of risk varies by industry type, complexity, and phase of the project. The project risk plan will also reflect the risk profile of the project manager and key stakeholders. People have different comfort levels with risk, and some members of the project team will be more risk averse than others.
The first step in developing a risk management plan involves identifying potential project risks. Some risks are easy to identify, such as the potential for a damaging storm in the Caribbean, and some are less obvious. Many industries or companies have risk checklists developed from past experience. The Construction Industry Institute published a item risk checklist that provides examples and areas of project risks.
No risk checklist will include all potential risks. The value of a checklist is the stimulation of discussion and thought about the potential risks on a project. The project team analyzes the identified risks and estimates the likelihood of the risks occurring. The team then estimates the potential impact on project goals if the event does occur.