Information Systems and Time Frames
Project planning is a process of developing and maintaining a project plan that provides supporting details to the project definition in terms of resources, time, cost, scope and quality plan and schedules. The major input to Project planning process are:
- project scope statement,
- environmental factors analysis(political, economic, technical, social cultural and technological factors) and
- organizational process assets like policies, procedures, schedules, checklists, lessons learnt etc.
The output is the project management plan which is a tool of communication and control.
The project scope identifies the objectives of the project, what activities will be performed, and even some of the activities that are not included in the project. The scope document is used to create a master schedule that identifies important dates and activities. Even though the project plan is unique to the approach and style of the planner, methods for developing the schedule and documenting the resulting plan follow certain rules. The project team develops and tracks the project schedule and the project plan using templates, past or similar projects, and most importantly, the thoughts and plans of the project team leaders and members. It will indicate the project work breakdown structure, task relationships, estimated work packages, resources schedules, assignment and levelling of resources and project budget. The project management plan therefore shows:
- Work to be done
- why it has to be done
- how it is to be done
- who to be involved in each part of the project
- Start and finish dates
- How it has to be done
Project planning is concerned with developing a strategy that would deliver the project goals. The project team follows the plan in order to achieve the critical project objectives- cost, time, quality and scope. It is a monitoring and evaluation tool for controlling the project.
Objectives of Project Planning
- Determining the project cost/ budget.
- Listing all activities or tasks involved or necessary to be done in order to complete the whole project.
- Estimating the activity durations of all the activities listed and scheduling resources.
- Constructing network diagrams giving all the interrelationships among the activities
Qualities of a Good Project Plan
- States the current situation.
- Has a clear aim- vision and mission.
- Utilizes the resources available.
- Details the tasks to be carried out, responsibilities, priorities and deadlines.
- Details control mechanisms.
- Identifies risks and plans for contingencies
- Considers transitional arrangements- keeping things going while implementing the plan.
Setting Project Objectives
Objectives are the end results of planned activities. They state what to be accomplished by when and should be quantified if possible. The achievement of a corporation’s objectives should result in fulfilment of the corporation’s mission.
Classification of objectives
- Short range: – within one year (annual objectives)
- Intermediate: – 1-2 years
- Long – range: – more than 3 years (long term)
Objectives can also be classified according to their influence in the organization.
Long – term objectives typically involve some or all of the following areas: profitability, return or investment, competitive position, technological leadership, productivity, employee relations, social responsibility and employee development.
Annual Objectives translate long range aspirations into the current year’s budget. If annual objectives are well developed, they provide clarity which is a powerful motivating facilitator of effective strategy implementation.
Qualities of Effective Annual Objectives
Annual objectives are specific measurable statements of what an organization’s subunit is expected to achieve in contributing to the accomplishment of the business grand strategy.
The qualities are;
- Should be linked to long term objectives
- Integrated and coordinated objectives– Annual objectives provide focal point for raising and resolving conflicts between organizational subunits.
- Priorities- Should be
Benefits of Annual Objectives
- They give the managers clarity of purpose
- Through participation of lower level managers, it enhances commitment.
- They form the basis of strategic control. They are used in the development of budgets, schedules, trigger points and other mechanisms for controlling strategy.
Qualities / Characteristics of Effective Objectives
- 1. Acceptable– employee should believe in them.
- 2. Flexible – Objectives should be able to be modifiable in the event of unforeseen or extra ordinary changes in the firm’s competitive or environment.
- Clear – they state what is to be achieved.
- Motivating – they should be challenging but achievable.
- Suitable – Objectives must be suitable to the broad aims of the organization and result in attainment of overall goals.
- Understandable – should be clear in what is to be achieved.
- Achievable – they must be possible to achieve ie feasible objectives.
These are descriptions of expectations to be satisfied at successful completion of the project or one of its stages or activity, within a certain period of time and at a certain cost. Objectives state what the project will accomplish in terms of the business value to be achieved. Project
Goal vs Project Objective
While a project goal means a high-level statement describing an expected output, a project objective is a low-level statement specifying specific and tangible results. Goals provide a general description of what is to be achieved while objectives give a more detailed explanation of project results. An objective is more specific than a goal. An objective is derived from a goal, has the same intention as a goal, but it is more specific, quantifiable, and verifiable.
Objectives vs. Deliverables
While a deliverable is a tangible and measurable output, an objective is a description of that output. In other words, a project produces a deliverable that has been defined early by an appropriate objective. For example, a marketing campaign is a project. One of its deliverables may be to increase sales by 10%. Then the objective linked to this deliverable is to improve sales.
Objectives describe what a project must accomplish (e.g.: install a system) while deliverables determine the end result or product of the project (a description of products and services to be delivered by the system after successful installation).
Milestones vs Objectives
Milestones provide the opportunity for project management to focus on completing activities that will have the greatest impact on the schedule. Project team members adjust their efforts to complete the activities connected to the milestone events. Project managers who focus on milestone events create a sense of urgency to meet the milestone deadlines and spread the urgency to complete the project over the life of the project. Projects that meet milestone dates are more likely to meet project completion dates.
Role of Milestones
- To signify actualization of a particular stage in a project.
- Acts as a reference point in the progress reporting.
- Used as a monitoring tool for the project schedule and resources.
Project objectives are outlined as specific goals to be accomplished through a project. Planning becomes straightforward when objectives are defined for key areas. Objectives can be established for every aspect of the project, including scope of work, organization, management, systems, environment, safety, and overall completion of the project (i.e., final cost and schedule dates). Established objectives in the following areas facilitate detailed planning, systems development, and work performance:
- Technical objectives.
- Schedule objectives.
- Cost objectives.
- Organizational/personnel-related objectives.
- Quality objectives.
- Environmental safety and health objectives.
- Contracting/procurement objectives.
- Management systems objectives.
Well-defined objectives enhance the reliability of subsequent planning. Once objectives are stated in concise terms, they allow for the development of the project scope of work and the work breakdown structure .Project objectives are results to be produced at the successful completion of the project.
Characteristics of Effective Project Goals and Objectives
Objectives have a range of characteristics that determine their feasibility and appropriateness. They are always characterized by the following major characteristics: Clear, Short, Complete, Comprehensive, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, Time bound.
An easy way to remember the characteristics of a good objective is through the acronym, “SMART.” which stands for:
- Specific: clear about what, where, when, and how the situation will be changed;
- Measurable: able to quantify the targets and benefits;
- Achievable: able to attain the objectives (knowing the resources and capacities at the disposal of the community);
- Realistic: able to obtain the level of change reflected in the objective; and
- Time bound: stating the time period in which they will each be accomplished.
Goals/goals must call for specific actions, behaviours or events to be successfully met. Individuals must define their desired results within each goal statement using a proactive voice. For example, “I will increase my savings deposits by sh.50 per week in order to raise money for a course book for 2nd semester.” Goals/objectives should establish what, where and why. It should be phrased using action words (like “design,” “sell,” “build,” “implement,”).
Goals/objectives must be measurable to assure success, it is important to describe how each result will be measured. Our action step above involves increasing deposits by an established amount. We set measurable tracking points by establishing a weekly timeline to track progress.
Goals/ objectives must be achievable. A business cannot increase its sales if it does not have an advertising budget aligned to current resources. Skills, tools and resources needed to achieve the goal as well as its acceptability to managers and KEY stakeholders must be considered.
Goals must be realistic. Realistic goals are honest goals. Goals established thoughtfully can challenge us, but are not set beyond our natural abilities. Setting realistic goals involves asking “Is this possible?”
Successful goal setting must set forth measurable points for starting, ending, review and assessment. A successful goal has deadlines and endings. Goals and objectives should guide action. Goal or objective statements provide direction for planning, for evaluating plans and for guiding projects and actions.
Another list of criteria for evaluating project goals and objectives includes:
- Acceptable – Is the objective acceptable to managers and KEY stakeholders?
- Flexible – Is the objective adaptable to unforeseen changes in the firm’s environment?
- Measurable – Does the objective clearly state what will be achieved and when it will be achieved?
- Achievable – Is the objective achievable? Can it be reached?
- Motivating – Is the objective’s target high enough to challenge, yet realistic and achievable?
- Suitable – Does the goal/objective fit with the mission statement/purpose and with other important long-term objectives?
- Understandable – Will managers at all levels understand what senior managers are trying to accomplish and achieve by setting the specific long-term objective? A good short-run goal must be written, challenging, believable, specific, and measureable and have a specific deadline.
- Measures should be linked to the factors needed for success—key business drivers.
- Measures should be a mix of past, present, and future to ensure the organization is concerned with all three perspectives.
- Measures should be based around the needs of customers, shareholders, and other key stakeholders.
- Measures should start at the top and flow down to all levels of employees in the organization.
- Multiple indices can be combined into a single index to give a better overall assessment of performance.
- Measures should be changed or at least adjusted as the environment or strategy changes.
- Measures need to have targets or objectives established that are based on research rather than arbitrary numbers.
Goals tend to be general statements, whereas objectives are specific and time bound. Measures are the indicators used to assess achievement of the objective. Organizations should have two to seven key goals.
- guide how the firm operates
- identify which opportunities to pursue
- set priorities
- manage timing of actions, and
- even inform business exit decisions.
One of the key tests for setting goals, objectives, and measures is they provide a verified path to the achievement of a firm’s strategy, mission, and vision. The best systems track the past, present, and future. Indicators like experiencing growing sales, customer satisfaction, are most relevant to the needs of the business,
Why Set Objectives?
- Clear objectives lead to a higher rate of project success so project planning is essential.
- Effective project plans require good objectives, which are finite in scope and duration.
- They are realistic, clear, require actions to complete and have every element of being attainable if the project plan is followed.
Objectives for projects can be as simple as “develop a new software program to track expenses” or “increase profits by 20 percent in the next quarter.
Examples of Poorly Set Objectives
- Increase the number of clients our company serves.
- Make customers happy.
- Create some sort of new product.
- Achieve success.
- Find funding.
- Eliminate quality problems.
The last objective: “Eliminate quality problems.” Is very general, not specific. What kind of quality problems need to be eliminated? If the product is software, perhaps there need to be fewer bugs in the software.
The objective might, then be: Reduce the number of bugs in the software, but how much reduction is needed?
“Reduce the number of bugs in the software by 75 percent.”
What are the actions that will be taken to reduce the number of bugs? Is this a realistic figure? When will this be completed?
WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURES (WBS)
Project time management includes the following elements:
- Defining activities
- Sequencing activities
- Estimating activity resources
- Estimating activity durations
- Developing schedule
- Controlling schedule
The list of activities, their relationship to each other, and estimates of durations and required resources comprise the work breakdown structure (WBS). The project WBS is a hierarchical—classified according to criteria into successive levels—listing and grouping of the project activities required to produce the deliverables of the project. The WBS represents a breakdown of the project into components that encompass the entire scope of the project. Each level of the WBS hierarchy represents a more detailed description of the project work so that the highest level represents broad categories, and the lower levels represent increasing amounts of detail.
The size of the WBS is directly related to the amount of work on the project and how that work is divided into work packages. The WBS can be developed around the project phases or the project units or functions that will be performing the work. A WBS organized around the project phases facilitates the understanding of the amount of work required for each phase of the project. A WBS developed around the project units or functions of the project facilitates the understanding of the amount of work required for each function.
The WBS is a tool for breaking down a project into its component parts. It is the foundation of project planning and successful project management. It identifies all the tasks in the project and is sometimes simply called a task list. It turns one large, unique piece of project work into many small manageable tasks called work packages. A project can best be understood by a thorough understanding of its parts (breakdown structures).
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a deliverable–oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish project objectives and create the required deliverables. The WBS organizes and defines the total scope of the project. The lowest level of the project work is called work package and it can be scheduled, cost estimated, monitored and controlled.
The activity duration is the length of time the activity should take to complete from beginning to end. The unit of duration is typically working days but could include other units of time such as hours, weeks, or months. An important event, such as a ground-breaking ceremony or receipt of occupancy from the building inspector, is called a milestone. A milestone has no duration or resources. It is simply an indicator of an important point in the project.
After the project team has created the WBS, each activity is reviewed and evaluated to determine the duration (how long it will take to accomplish from beginning to end) and what resources (time, materials, facilities, and equipment) are needed. An estimate is an educated guess based on knowledge, experience, and inference.
The unit of time used to develop the activity duration is a function of the level of detail needed by the user of the schedule. The larger and more complex the project, the greater the need for detail, which usually translates into shorter durations for activities.
Inputs to Work Breakdown Structure
- Organizational process assets e.g. policies, procedures, checklists
- Project scope statement
- Project scope management plan
- Project team
Outputs of Work Breakdown Structure
- WBS dictionary
- Scope Baseline
- Project Scope Management Plan (updates)
- Change Requests
Importance of Work Breakdown Structure
- Provides a detailed illustration of project scope.
- Framework of Monitoring Progress.
- Creates accurate cost and schedule estimates. Used to estimate and capture costs for equipment, labour and materials for each task.
- Forms basis for building project teams.
- Provides framework for the following;
- Establishing costs and budgeting.
- Tracking time, cost and performance.
- Linking objectives to company resources in a logical manner.
- Establishing schedules and status- reporting procedures.
- Establishing network constructions and control planning.
- Establishing the assignments responsibility for each element.
- Used as framework for other project planning and scheduling tool as follows
- The Responsibility matrix
- Network scheduling
- Risk analysis
- Organizational structure
- Coordination of objectives
The following rules should be followed to ensure that projects are the correct size
- The 8/80 rule: No task should be smaller than 8 labour hours or larger than 80; it should be between 1 – 10 days long)
- The reporting period rule: No task should be longer than the distance between two status points. For example; if you hold weekly status meetings, no task should be longer than one week.
- The “if it’s useful” rule: If breaking down a task in a certain way does not make it useful – i.e it does not make it easier to estimate, assign or track – don’t break it down
Reasons for breaking down a project work
- Make them easier to estimate
- Make them easier to assign and
- Make them easier to track
Qualities of Effective Work Breakdown Structures
- Manageable, in that specific authority and responsibility can be assigned
- Independent or with minimum interfacing with and dependence on other ongoing elements
- Integratable so that the total package can be seen
- Measurable in terms of progress
Preparing Work Breakdown Structure
The first major step in the planning process after project requirements definition is the development of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS is structured in accordance with the way the work will be performed and reflects the way in which the project costs and data will be summarized and eventually reported. Preparation of the WBS also considers other areas that require structured data, such as scheduling, configuration management, contact funding, and technical performance parameters.
Levels of Project Work Breakdown
The Work Breakdown Structure acts as a vehicle for breaking the work down into smaller elements thus providing a greater probability that every major and minor activity will be accounted for. Below is the six – level indented structure:
Work breakdown structure levels
Level 1 is the total program composed of a set of projects. The summation of the activities and the costs associated with each project must be equal to the total program. Each project however, can be broken down into tasks, where the summation of all tasks equals the summation of all the projects, which in turn, comprises the total program. This subdivision of effort is simply ease of control. Program management therefore becomes synonymous with the integration of activities and the project manager acts as the integrator, using the work breakdown structure as the common framework.
Categories of tasks in work breakdown structures
There are two types of tasks on a WBS called Summary task and work packages.
Summary task is a smaller portion of the overall project created when a project is subdivided into more manageable components or pieces. Subtasks/subprojects are always represented in the work breakdown structure. Subtasks can also be referred to as a sub network in a project schedule network diagram. A work package on the other hand is a deliverable or a project work component at the lowest level of each branch of work breakdown structure. The work package includes the schedule activities and schedule milestones required to complete the work package deliverable or project work component.
A project to “Install the sprinkler system” includes several subordinate tasks for example; Digging trenches, installing pipes etc. each of these separate tasks is called a work package. Work packages are the ones that are actually executed and by performing all of the simple work packages accomplish a summary task.
The upper three levels of the WBS are normally specified by the customer as the summary levels for reporting purposes. The lower levels are generated by the contractor for in- house control. Each level serves a vital purpose: used for authorization and release of all work, budgets are prepared at Level 2, and schedules are prepared at Level 3. Certain characteristics can be generalized for these levels:
- The top three levels of WBS reflect integrated efforts and should not be related to one specific department. Effort required by departments or sections should be defined in subtasks and work packages.
- The summation of all elements in one level must be the sum of all work in the next lower level
- Each element of work should be assigned to one and only one level of effort.
The construction of the foundation of a house should be included in one project (or task); not extended over two or three. (At level 5, the work packages should be identifiable and homogeneous).
- The level at which the project is managed is generally called the work package level. Actually, the work packages can exist at any level below level one.
- The WBS must be accompanied by a description of the scope of effort required, or else only those individuals who issue the WBS have a complete understanding of what work has to be accomplished. It is common practice to reproduce the customer’s statement of work as description for the WBS.
- It is often the best policy for the project manager, regardless of his technical expertise, to allow all of the line managers to assess the risks in the SOW.
The work package is the critical level for managing a work breakdown structure. A work package is simply a low – level task or job assignment. “Work package” is the general term used in the criteria to identify discrete tasks that have definable end results. Ideal work packages are 80 hours and 2 -4 weeks. However, this may not be possible on large projects.
The work package descriptions must permit cost account managers and work package supervisors to understand and clearly distinguish one work package effort from anotherShort term work packages may help evaluate accomplishments. Work packages should be natural subdivisions of effort planned according to the way the work will be done. However, when the work packages are relatively short, little or no assessment of work-in-process is required and the evaluation of the status is possible mainly on the bases of work package completions.
Factors to Consider When Setting Work Breakdown Structure
- Clear definition of start and end dates.
- Ability of a structure to be used as communications tool in which results can be compared with expectations
- Estimating work structures on the basis of a “total” time duration, and not when the task must start or end.
- Be structured so that a minimum of project office control and documentation (i.e, forms) is necessary.
Characteristics of an effective work package
For large projects, planning will be time phased at the work package level of the WBS. The work package has the following characteristics:
- Represents units of work at the level where the work is performed
- Clearly distinguishes one work package from all others assigned to a single functional group.
- Contains clearly defined start and end dates that are representatives of physical accomplishments (This is accomplished after scheduling has been completed)
- Specifies a budget in terms of money, man-hours ot mother measurable units.
- Limits the work to be performed to relatively short periods of time to minimize the work-in-process effort.
Factors to consider when a contractor is involved in work breakdown structure
- For may programs, the work breakdown structure is established by the customer. The complexity and technical requirements of the program ( i.e, the statement of work)
- The program cost
- The timespan of the program
- The contractor’s resource requirements
- The contractor’s and customer’s internal structure for management control and reporting
- The number of subcontracts
Checklist for developing work breakdown structure
- Both the doers and the planners must be in agreement as to what is expected.
- The WBS and work description should be easy to understand
- All schedule should follow WBS
- No attempt should be made to subdivide work arbitrarily to the lowest possible level.
- Since the scope of effort can change during a program, every effort should be made to maintain flexibility in the WBS.
- The WBS can act as a list of discrete and tangible milestones so that everyone will know when the milestones are achieved.
- The WBS can be used to segregate recurring from the nonrecurring costs.
- Most WBS elements (at the lowest control level) range from 0.5 to 2.5 percent of the total project budget.
Limitations of work breakdown structure
The common pitfalls of creating a WBS include the following
- Level of work package detail
When deciding how specific and detailed to make work packages, there is temptation of getting too much details. This can lead the project manager to micromanage the project and eventually slow down project progress.
- Deliverables not activities or tasks
There is temptation of including the project specified list of activities. The WBS should contain a list of broken down deliverables. In other words, what the customer/stakeholders will get when the project is complete. It is NOT a list of specific activities and tasks used to accomplish the deliverables.
- WBS is not a plan or schedule
Many planners get tempted to treat WBS as a plan or schedule whereas its just a visual breakdown of deliverables. It cannot be used as a replacement for the project plan or schedule.
- WBS updates require change control
The WBS is a formal project document, and any changes to it require the use pf project change control process. Any changes to the WBS change the deliverables and, therefore, the scope of the project. This is an important point to help control scope creep.
A well designed WBS helps in project management in the following ways;
- Ensure proper project baselines
- Resource use
- Risk analysis