Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 1258
, Published on 02 January 2016
Project management tools like Gantt chart, CPM. PERT, BOSCARD, PEST analysis, Costs estimation etc are an important aspect of business. With competition on an all-time high and industries flooded with new start-ups day after day, companies seem to be overwhelmed with projects to keep the competitive spirit alive. Project Management plays a big role in sailing through these rough waters.
Project management refers to ways of planning, controlling, organizing and evaluating projects to fulfill project related requirements. It demands the use of skills and analytics by a project team which comprises of individuals having expertise in different areas of project management. A part of project management also entails managing complex tasks and people resulting in successfully meeting deadlines. A typical project (such as construction of a new highway, relief from natural calamities, initiation of new software programmes, etc.) usually comprises of the following stages in that order:
• Performance Control
However, these may vary slightly, depending on the organisation and the project type. But you may ask, how can companies manage so many projects at different stages, simultaneously? Here are some tools that aid in successful project management.
Work Structure Breakdown
This tool is a part of the Initiation and Planning stage and is extremely essential for the basic framework of a project, without which one can’t progress to further stages. Work Structure Breakdown helps project managers lay the foundation of a project by breaking down the entire project structure into manageable pieces and then looking into each part in great depth in terms of costs, schedules, resources needed and time to be invested for each work package. Work structure breakdown is generally a hierarchical breakup of the project into its elements. It is a necessary tool for the following reasons:
• Aids in accurate cost estimation for the project
• Makes sure all vital elements of the project are taken into account
• Accurate resource allocation
• Sets a benchmark for future projects
• It is ideal as a tool for solid team work and efficient brainstorming activities
A strategic planning tool, BOSCARD was founded by Capgemini, a consulting company, in the 1980s. It determines terms of reference for new assignments and hence helps gain support and approval from the organisation for any new projects, especially when projects are associated with high or medium levels of risk. BOSCARD is an acronym for background, objectives, scope, constraints, assumptions, risks and deliverables.
The reason for taking up this project and who it will benefit in the future
Project goals that are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Oriented (SMART)
The characteristics and essential features of the product, service and/or any other objects delivered through the project. This is done by conducting a SWOT ( Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the project and its features
Limitations posed by undertaking this project
Factors that are assumed to be constant only for the purpose of the planning stage
All types of risks associated with the project that could be monetary, functional, social, physical, etc.
The key elements to be produced by the project in order to achieve stated objectives
For every phase of the project, an accurate estimation of the costs incurred is a must and there are several tools to do the same in the most efficient manner. One method is using the Monte Carlo Simulation on Microsoft Excel. This is a trial and error process where project managers need to identify key variables that influence project costs and manipulate them through multiple trials to determine a range of expected values of the variables at the least possible costs.
This is a bar chart that helps in tracking tasks on a timeline. Developed in 1917, it is used extensively even today and has now been developed to not just track the tasks but also track the relationships and interdependencies among tasks. Gantt charts have now become industry standards and are effective in displaying tasks, phases, project milestones and resources, as and when needed by the project manager.
The success of any project depends on how effectively all the project activities are carried out and the timeliness of the same. This is why a logic network that provides a sequence of all project activities is needed. It is basically an order of activities over a period of time and the time each activity takes for completion. This tool is important in revealing any relevant information about project activities that may have been overlooked, as it provides project timescales and workflows.
PERT refers to Program Evaluation and Review Technique, used usually when projects are nearing completion. This tool was invented by the Defence Department, US in 1958, but is a popular project management tool even today. Similar to Logic Networks, this also analysis project tasks and activities and the timelines each follow. A difference lies in the fact that, PERT charts not just analysis the timeline needed, but also provide solutions for achieving deliverables at minimum time.
Critical Path Method or CPM was developed in the 1950s as a method to control large defence projects, but is now being widely used in other sectors as well. This tool helps in planning all the tasks that need to be managed as a part of any project. It also helps in the identification of the minimum amount of time needed in completing each stage of the project. How it works is that one has to tabulate all the activities identified as a part of the project and the time expected for their set up and completion. Then, using arrows and diagrams project managers need to link these activities with each other so as to determine how best they can be completed in tandem with each other, simultaneously or by sharing the common resources they consume.
This has been one of the oldest and most effective project management tools used till date. Its impact is very accurate and reliable for businesses all over the world. RAID refers to preparing an analysis of the Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies. While Risks and Assumptions have been listed above under BOSCARD, Issues refers to complications in the project that require efficient managing and the impact of these issues if not well looked after. Lastly, Dependencies refers to events or activities that either depend on the results of the project or those that the project results get influenced by.
This is an analysis of the environment or the system in which the project is going to take place and to establish if the system is suitable and in favour of the success of the project. Any risks associated with the project or any identification of loopholes in the project is successfully administered by project managers using the PEST Analysis. PEST stands for the Political, Social, Economic and Technological Factors that are impacting or will impact the entire or any phase of the project.
Finally, using feedback as a tool for efficient project management plays a huge role today with the omnipresence of the social media platforms that facilitate access to customer opinions and criticisms. Through these channels feedback can be given and received by project managers on a one to one basis, regularly. In this way, social media, once a communication forum has now become a project management tool for companies all over the world.
This article has been authored by Sanika Nagnur from SIBM Pune