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The Role of Effective Data Management in the Success of Project Management

Data management consists of conducting activities which facilitate acquiring data, processing it and distributing it. Acquisition of data is the primary function. To be useful, data should have three important characteristics timeliness, sufficiency and relevancy. Management of acquisition lies in ensuring that these are satisfied before they are stored for processing and decisions taken on the analysis. There should be data about customers, suppliers, market conditions, new technology, opportunities, human resources, economic activities, government regulations, political upheavals, all of which affect the way you function. Most of the data go on changing because the aforesaid sources have uncertainty inherent in them. So updating data is a very important aspect of their management. Storing what is relevant in a form that is available to concerned persons is also important. When a project is underway dataflow from all members of the team will be flowing with the progress of activities. The data may be about some shortfalls for which the member is seeking instructions. A project manager will have to analyse them, discover further data from other sources and see how he can use them and take decisions. Many times he will have to inform and seek sanction from top management. The management will have to study the impact on the overall organisational goals and strategies and convey their decisions to the manager for implementation. For example, Bill of Materials is a very important document in Project Management. It contains details about all materials that go into the project at various stages and has to be continuously updated as all members of the project depend upon it for providing materials for their apportioned areas of execution. Since information is shared by all members, there is an opportunity for utilising some of them when others do not need

them. To ascertain availability at some future point of time, information about orders placed, backlogs, lead times are important for all the members. A proper MIS will take care of all these aspects. ERP packages too help in integrating data from all sources and present them to individual members in the way they require. When all these are done efficiently the project will have no hold ups an assure success.

what is project management application softwareTasks or activities of project management software


[edit]Scheduling One of the most common purposes is to schedule a series of events or tasks and the complexity of the schedule can vary considerably depending on how the tool is used. Some common challenges include:

Events which depend on one another in different ways or dependencies.

Scheduling people to work on, and resources required by, the various tasks, commonly termed resource scheduling.

Dealing with uncertainties in the estimates of the duration of each task.

[edit]Providing

information

Project planning software can be expected to provide information to various people or stakeholders, and can be used to measure and justify the level of effort required to complete the project(s). Typical requirements might include:

Overview information on how long tasks will take to complete. Early warning of any risks to the project. Information on workload, for planning holidays. Evidence.

Historical information on how projects have progressed, and in particular, how actual and planned performance are related.

Optimum utilization of available resource. Cost Maintenance.

[edit]Approaches [edit]Desktop

to project management software

Project management software can be implemented as a program that runs on the desktop of each user. This typically gives the most responsive and graphically-intense style of interface. Desktop applications typically store their data in a file, although some have the ability to collaborate with other users (see below), or to store their data in a central database. Even a file-based project plan can be shared between users if it's on a networked drive and only one user accesses it at a time. Desktop applications can be written to run in a heterogeneous environment of multiple operating systems, although it's unusual. [edit]Web-based Project management software can be implemented as a Web application, accessed through an intranet, or an extranet using a web browser. This has all the usual advantages and disadvantages of web applications: Can be accessed from any type of computer without installing software on user's computer.

Ease of access-control. Naturally multi-user. Only one software version and installation to maintain. Centralized data repository. Typically slower to respond than desktop applications. Project information not available when the user (or server) is offline. Some solutions allow the user to go offline with a copy of the data.

[edit]Personal

A personal project management application is one used at home, typically to manage lifestyle or home projects. There is considerable overlap with single user systems, although personal project management software typically involves simpler interfaces. See also non-specialised tools below. [edit]Single

user

A single-user system is programmed with the assumption that only one person will ever need to edit the project plan at once. This may be used in small companies, or ones where only a few people are involved in top-down project planning. Desktop applications generally fall into this category. [edit]Collaborative A collaborative system is designed to support multiple users modifying different sections of the plan at once; for example, updating the areas they personally are responsible for such that those estimates get integrated into the overall plan. Web-based tools, including extranets, generally fall into this category, but have the limitation that they can only be used when the user has live Internet access. To address this limitation, some software tools using clientserver architecture provide a rich client that runs on users' desktop computer and replicate project and task information to other project team members through a central server when users connect periodically to the network. Some tools allow team members to check out their schedules (and others' as read only) to work on them while not on the network. When reconnecting to the database, all changes are synchronized with the other schedules. [edit]Integrated An integrated system combines project management or project planning, with many other aspects of company life. For example, projects can have bug tracking issues assigned to each project, the list of project customers becomes a customer relationship management module, and each person on the project plan has their own task lists, calendars, andmessaging functionality associated with their projects. Similarly, specialised tools like SourceForge integrate project management software with source control (CVS) software and bug-tracking software, so that each piece of information can be integrated into the same system. [edit]Non-specialised

tools

While specialised software may be common, and heavily promoted by each vendor, there are a vast range of other software (and non-software) tools used to plan and schedule projects. Calendaring software can often handle scheduling as easily as dedicated software.

Spreadsheets are very versatile, and can be used to calculate things not anticipated by the designers.

[edit]Criticisms

of project management software

The following may apply in general, or to specific products, or to some specific functions within products.

May not suit all projects

May not be derived from a sound project management method. For example, displaying the Gantt chart view by default encourages users to focus on timed task scheduling too early, rather than identifying objectives, deliverables and the imposed logical progress of events (dig the trench first to put in the drain pipe). May be inconsistent with the type of project management method. For example, traditional (e.g. Waterfall) vs. agile (e.g. Scrum).

Focuses primarily on the planning phase and does not offer enough functionality for project tracking, control and in particular plan-adjustment. There may be excessive dependency on the first paper print-out of a project plan, which is simply a snapshot at one moment in time. The plan is dynamic; as the project progresses the plan must change to accommodate tasks that are completed early, late, re-sequenced, etc. Good management software should not only facilitate this, but assist with impact assessment and communication of plan changes.

Does not make a clear distinction between the planning phase and post planning phase, leading to user confusion and frustration when the software does not behave as expected. For example, shortening the duration of a task when an additional human resource is assigned to it while the project is still being planned.

Offer complicated features to meet the needs of project management or project scheduling professionals, which must be understood in order to effectively use the product. Additional features may be so complicated as to be of no use to anyone. Complex task prioritization and resource leveling algorithms for example can produce results that make no intuitive sense, and overallocation is often more simply resolved manually.

Some people may achieve better results using simpler technique, (e.g. pen and paper), yet feel pressured into using project management software by company policy (discussion).

Similar to PowerPoint, project management software might shield the manager from important interpersonal contact.

New types of software are challenging the traditional definition of Project Management. Frequently, users of project management software are not actually managing a discrete project. For instance, managing the ongoing marketing for an already-released product is not a "project" in the traditional sense of the term; it does not involve management of discrete resources working on something with a discrete beginning/end. Groupware applications now add "project management" features that directly support this type of workflow-oriented project management. Classically-trained Project Managers may argue whether this is "sound project management." However, the endusers of such tools will refer to it as such, and the de-facto definition of the term Project Management may change.

When there are multiple larger projects, project management software can be very useful. Nevertheless, one should probably not use management software if only a single small project is involved, as management software incurs a larger time-overhead than is worthwhile.

Project Risk Management


A risk is something that may happen and if it does, will have a positive or negative impact on the project. A few points here. "That may happen" implies a probability of less then 100%. If it has a probability of 100% - in other words it will happen - it is an issue. An issue is managed differently to a risk and we will handle issue management in a later white paper. A risk must also have a probability something above 0%. It

must be a chance to happen or it is not a risk. The second thing to consider from the definition is "will have a positive or negative impact". Most people dive into the negative risks but what if something goes right? Take the example I came across recently where we identified a project finishing ahead of schedule as a risk. It might seem to be a bonus but the completion date happened to occur at the busiest time of the year for the company. The last thing they needed was a project going live in their peak period. The mitigation was that if we were ahead of schedule, we would slow the project down by reducing resources.

Risk Management Plan


There are four stages to risk management planning. They are:

Risk Identification Risks Quantification Risk Response Risk Monitoring and Control

Risk Identification
In this stage, we identify and name the risks. The best approach is a workshop with business and IT people to carry out the identification. Use a combination of brainstorming and reviewing of standard risk lists. There are different sorts of risks and we need to decide on a project by project basis what to do about each type. Business risks are ongoing risks that are best handled by the business. An example is that if the project cannot meet end of financial year deadline, the business area may need to retain their existing accounting system for another year. The response is likely to be a contingency plan developed by the business, to use the existing system for another year. Generic risks are risks to all projects. For example the risk that business users might not be available and requirements may be incomplete. Each organisation will develop standard responses to generic risks.

Risks should be defined in two parts. The first is the cause of the situation (Vendor not meeting deadline, Business users not available, etc.). The second part is the impact (Budget will be exceeded, Milestones not achieved, etc.). Hence a risk might be defined as "The vendor not meeting deadline will mean that budget will be exceeded". If this format is used, it is easy to remove duplicates, and understand the risk.

Risk Quantification
Risk need to be quantified in two dimensions. The impact of the risk needs to be assessed. The probability of the risk occurring needs to be assessed. For simplicity, rate each on a 1 to 4 scale. The larger the number, the larger the impact or probability. By using a matrix, a priority can be established.

Note that if probability is high, and impact is low, it is a Medium risk. On the other hand if impact is high, and probability low, it is High priority. A remote chance of a catastrophe warrants more attention than a high chance of a hiccup.

Risk Response
There are four things you can do about a risk. The strategies are:

Avoid the risk. Do something to remove it. Use another supplier for example. Transfer the risk. Make someone else responsible. Perhaps a Vendor can be made responsible for a particularly risky part of the project.

Mitigate the risk. Take actions to lessen the impact or chance of the risk occurring. If the risk relates to availability of resources, draw up an agreement and get sign-off for the resource to be available. Accept the risk. The risk might be so small the effort to do anything is not worth while.

A risk response plan should include the strategy and action items to address the strategy. The actions should include what needs to be done, who is doing it, and when it should be completed.

Risk Control
The final step is to continually monitor risks to identify any change in the status, or if they turn into an issue. It is best to hold regular risk reviews to identify actions outstanding, risk probability and impact, remove risks that have passed, and identify new risks.

Summary
Risk management is not a complex task. If you follow the four steps, you can put together a risk management plan for a project in a short space of time. Without a plan, the success of the project, and your reputation as a Project Manager, are on the line. Follow these steps and you will increase your chances of success.