As shown in Figure 5.2, there are four major processes in the activity of project management:
Figure 5.2. Overall project management process
Project Justification, Approval, and Review
This activity is typically undertaken by senior management. It involves the evaluation of potential projects (projects identified via the strategic planning process and new initiatives), the approval of the undertaking of a project feasibility study, the review of the project's business case (including cost “benefit), and the regular review of the progress of the project in achieving the business case. It is often called project governance.
This is a very complex process and few organizations have really managed to implement it successfully. As we discuss later, the senior management members undertaking this process are rarely educated in the management and governance of projects and, in most organizations, they lack the basic information framework to make effective decisions.
Project justification and approval are supported by the strategic planning process and by the feasibility study activity. The strategic planning process is critical in ensuring that the IT and business projects being undertaken are designed to assist the organization in achieving its desired outcomes . As detailed by Peter Keen (1991), Henry Mintzberg (1994), Michael Porter (1985), and many others, the organization's strategic plan involves analysis of the competitive, economic, social, and legislative environment and the internal capability (systems, technology, and human resources) of the organization. The strategic planning process identifies target markets, products, and services and determines major projects that are required to successfully meet these targets.
In most organizations, the strategic planning process is undertaken by business and IT people trained in strategic planning techniques such as value chain analysis, market research, information engineering, and problem-solving techniques. Given that the turbulence of the business and legislative environment is increasing, the strategic planning process has also evolved from a process undertaken yearly to an ongoing process similar to the real-time planning concept that applies to project management.
The Critical Information for Project Approval
Typically, the organization's strategic plan forms the framework within which an IT strategic plan can be developed to ensure that the requisite information systems (data and function) and IT infrastructure (technology architecture) are developed and deployed (see Figure 5.3).
Figure 5.3. Project approval: Detail
In addition, there is a policy framework, which would include new organization policy as well government regulatory changes, occupational health and safety, government and stakeholder reporting requirements, and other mandatory projects.
Finally, the executive team undertaking the project approval process should have access to a project portfolio that contains details of all current projects (e.g., resources, major events, etc.).
The projects identified in these four sets of information are as follows :
These projects must be evaluated and "ranked" using a common set of information such as the project business case. The relationship between project prioritization and project management is revisited throughout the rest of this book.
Most organizations have a senior management team that includes representatives from all major business groups and IT that drive the strategic planning process and the approval and review of major projects. The interrelationships between strategic plans, feasibility studies, and project justification are covered in more detail in the following chapters.
Project planning is the key to effective project management. Detailed and accurate planning of a project produces the managerial information that is the basis of project justification (costs, benefits, strategic impact, etc.) and the defining of the business drivers (scope, objectives) that form the context for the technical solution. In addition, project planning also produces the project schedules and resource allocations that are the framework for the other project management processes: tracking, reporting, and review.
As discussed earlier in this book, traditional project planning tended to focus on a one-off production of a project schedule. The emphasis in eXtreme project management is on the business and stakeholder issues (risk, strategy, service agreements, etc.) that provide the context for the schedule.
Project planning involves 10 interrelated activities:
These 10 activities are undertaken in a structured manner using the RAP sessions and team-driven approach introduced in the next chapter. Techniques and tips for undertaking all these planning steps are covered in following chapters.
This process involves the monitoring of project success, including actual project progress as compared to the planned progress, the collection of key project metrics (risks, costs, defect levels, etc.), and the monitoring of overall team performance.
It should be driven by the use of PC-based project management tools such as Microsoft Project coupled with task-tracking forms and quality assurance processes. This process is covered in more detail in Chapter 16, "Develop Return on Investment."
Project Reporting and Change Control
This process involves the aggregation of detailed project tracking information into the project reporting system and back into updates of the business case. This system is designed to provide project status, cost, and other relevant information to the proj ect's sponsor, stakeholders, and project managers of related projects.
The project review process also involves the approval of major deliverables and, if required, the approval for the undertaking of further planning sessions. This process is also explored in Chapter 16.
There are additional project management processes that occur at the end of the proj ect development process. Following implementation of the product, the processes of postimplementation review, benefits realization reviews, and system support reviews should be undertaken. In many organizations, these processes are not undertaken by the person who managed the development of the product, but instead by some independent team. However, the design and conduct of these reviews are critical to successful project management and are covered in Chapter 17, "Project Tracking and Reporting."
A Note on the Project Initiation and Feasibility Study
As shown in Figure 5.4, the process of project initiation is often simply the process of a person developing an idea and, with little effort, a project is started to fully develop the idea. In fact, the more senior the person is, the easier it is for him or her to be able to do this.
Figure 5.4. The initiation process
In reviewing many failed projects for clients , we have observed that there was no systematic evaluation of the failed projects before they started.
eXtreme project management requires an investment of effort before the project formally commences. Project initiation is the first filter. This process involves a fairly quick analysis of the potential project's scope, objectives, benefits, costs, and risks. Often this is a relatively informal review to eliminate obvious duds. Assuming the potential project passes this first filter, the more formal process of a feasibility study would be undertaken.
A feasibility study is a hybrid process. It is viewed by many technologists as a technical activity, but it is seen by many business people as a managerial activity. In fact, it is both technical and managerial.
The technical activities undertaken in a feasibility study would involve analysis of the current business and system environment and situation, clarification of the specific business and technical problems that the project is expected to solve, high-level specification of potential business or system solutions, and assessment of alternative technology platforms that could be used in the project.
The managerial activities would be analysis of the scope, objectives, and stakeholders of the project; identification of expected quality requirements; examination of alternative project development strategies; and, using the technical detail being produced in the feasibility study, the development of estimates, costs, risks, and benefit analyses.
In summary, the feasibility study is a critical project management process that involves technical experts (business or system analysts) working with the project manager. In many cases, it involves time, effort, and commitment from senior management.