Most of the planning and the day-to-day management of projects require
use of systems. Frequently project managers misunderstand the word ˜systems'. They mistakenly believe that the systems have to be computer based. This is not true. Systems in this sense are the methodologies that enable the support of a particular process or method. They are used to improve control within a project. Some examples of simple systems discussed previously are the work package method and the macro planning process. If a project is to run smoothly, its project manager must ensure that there are appropriate and
As project managers move through the various
of a project life cycle they will assess for
which systems to
. It is likely that many of the methods described in this book will be used. The
will probably be adjusted to fit with the organization sponsoring the project. In many cases the systems will be the organization's own equivalent method and in some cases this will include computerized tools. There are three primary purposes for systems: data collection, information and information assessment.
Data collection is the gathering of statistics about events within the project. There are many data sets that a project creates as it progresses. Some obvious data sets are milestones, staff used staff skill sets, money spent, etc. Many of these data sets have already been defined in the methods described in this book. Each of these data sets, or groups, describes the results of a technique used in the management of the project. The purpose of data collection is to allow analysis of the different data sets that are available. The analysis allows forward planning to become more effective, for example analysing the planned date against the actual date for a particular milestone.
Analysis allows the project manager to assess the four fundamentals of a project, quality, resource,
and scope. By examining gathered data you should be able to determine what the status of a particular task is. If the task is slipping then you would be able to determine the
of the slip. However, this is not the main purpose of data collection. The main purpose is to enable the use of trend analysis, which allows you to predict future deliverables based on historic performance. Instead of examining only a single date for the project you should assess many dates. For example, it would be reasonable to assume that if three milestones in a row had been late then a future fourth milestone is also likely to be late. Alternatively if the milestones were delivered consistently on time they may be delivering significantly less than planned scope.
Trend analysis allows future prediction to be undertaken, and indeed programmes such as Excel allow trend lines to be
on to graphical data sets. The key to undertaking trend analysis successfully is to start data collection in a
fashion. This means that all estimation and future prediction work is based on the latest data available and therefore the data that most closely reflect the current state of play in the project. Historical data collection can be used to add additional value to data collection about a project. Historic data are data that come from other projects. These data reflect what has
in the organization. Using historical data helps to enable planning to become more accurate and more effective.
Information flow within a project is essential if quick responses are to be achieved. These quick responses will enable the delivery of the project outputs on time. Systems provide a means of enabling data information flow between different parts of the project. Information is different from data because it provides both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Data can only allow a project manager to achieve a quantitative analysis. Practically, data enable an output that can be graphed and the
analysed. A good system will allow information concerning the data (or analysing the data) to be passed in addition to the data themselves. It is essential that the information flow is rapid if action is to be swift and effective. Using systems effectively ensures that information can be available to all
of the project in a simple and rapid form.
Perhaps the most common method of providing information is through the weekly and monthly
. However, a new medium, the Internet, is now revolutionizing the information flow. The Internet allows problems and issues within a project to be published almost as soon as they happen. The provision of this information in conjunction with the data set can
invaluable. The information does not have to be in a particular program; instead it simply has to be viewable over a Web browser.
Like data analysis, information analysis relies on the use of trends. Information analysis
to uncover exceptions and problems that are occurring inside the project. It is
powerful when things go wrong within the project. Often inexperienced project managers use data analysis and information analysis solely to understand the key metrics behind a project. Frequently this means that they only analyse the scope and timescale metrics. However, information analysis can uncover other trends that can be equally important. Two trends that can be found from gathered information and data that are worth examining are motivational issues and cultural issues.
Motivational issues are often among the most difficult issues for a project manager to uncover. Staff do not like to complain
about problems they have; instead their problems are revealed when things go wrong. You can however use trend analysis to
this situation. A simple example would be a milestone trend chart. Normally there would be several levels of milestone trend
. There would be an upper level that shows the overall project, a work package level that shows the individual work package milestone and then sub-projects within each work package. This is depicted in Figure 6.15.
High-level schedule hiding problems underneath
that simply by examining the top-most level it would be
to identify any particular motivational problem. However, looking at the
-level chart it is clear that the work is consistently late and consistently failing to deliver the quality or the required functionality. Whilst this could simply be down to poor performance and an inexperienced person, it may also be down to a lack of motivation. The chart flags up that there may be some issue that needs to be examined more closely. It allows you to take action if it is required.
Cultural issues can also be identified from analysis. One of the most obvious cultural issues to be examined is the cultural issue between different organizations. When organizations work together often their cultural differences cause problems. Discovering these differences is achieved by examining charts for the work undertaken by the different organizations. For example, if there are two groups, one based in France and one based in London, undertaking work of a similar nature, examining the trend charts for those two groups can be very