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Practices And Methodology Brochure
Importance of Best Practices
Schwalbe (2009) defines best practices as solid recommendations that have been subjected to trials and tests. Collective wisdom is a term that is often used to define best practices. Best practices result from various deployments that have occurred or are occurring in various parts of the world, and are not based on theories, but, rather, expertise. In general, best practices are categorized in three standard groups: people, technology, and process. Best practices evolve and mature over time.
They are improved continually to reflect capabilities of new technology and new customer demands. Therefore, best practices give project managers the benefit of lessons learned from different experiences (Thomas, 2000). In order to facilitate a successful implementation of resource management systems, organizational aspects including change considerations, data quality issues, and aspects of maintenance ought to be addressed before moving to higher-level, automated project management processes (Thomas, 2000). Hence, a reasonable point to begin is to enhance both the representation of resource supply and resource forecasting capabilities.
Best Practices in Resource Management
In terms of resource management, the solid, tried, and tested recommendations or best practices require project managers to
• Improve the accuracy of resource planning
• Plan the portfolio with increased accuracy by balancing the supply and demand for resources
• Reduce project schedule and budget deviations resulting from resource mismanagement
• Increase the efficiency of resource management functions
• Increase the utilization of resources for higher-value work
• Predict and plan for future resource needs
• Launch high-value low-risk projects
• Communicate to all stakeholders effectively
Tools and Management Techniques, and Methodologies
There are tools and techniques that have been developed to help teams involved in the project portfolio and multiple-project management perform a variety of tasks, with great efficiency and effectiveness (Schwalbe, 2009). Sample techniques and tools that have been designed for project planning, organizing, monitoring, and evaluation are
1. Gantt charts
2. Critical chain scheduling
3. Cost estimates
4. Critical chain analysis
5. Project network diagrams
6. Resource leveling
7. Resource loading
These tools are able to assign resources based on available skills, cost and material reserves, simulate project risks and uncertainties, and calculate resource critical path and feasible time. They supply top management and management teams with integrated data that show project status information and also trends of multiple-project and portfolio performance, which is essential for timely decision making and keeping project and portfolio history. Systems of organizational project management have specific needs that are essential for success in the execution of projects. The primary elements of any project administration model or tool are project activities and dependencies, resources, costs, calendars, work, resource and cost breakdown structures.
Project Planning and Organizing
Project management is a complex endeavor for organizational managers (Unger, Gemunden, & Aubry, 2012). The difficulty may increase manifold especially when the portfolio comprises various types of projects. The result is that keeping track of budgets, communicating with colleagues and clients, handling resources, sharing project information in a protected way and generating accurate reports is an enormous challenge. Hence, it is imperative that portfolio managers and multiple-project managers adopt solutions that provide effective project planning, efficient resource management, full control of expenses, active collaboration in multi-project management, and safe and secure management of documents. There are several software solutions that have been designed and introduced for project management with capabilities to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness, in the above mentioned areas of project management.
General Recommendations: Tools and Techniques
Item Portfolio Management Multiple Project Management
Scope Choose or select projects whose scope reflects organizational goals Manage or control the scope against requirements specific to projects
Time Monitor project timelines against short- and long-term project goals Control task due-dates and dependencies to ensure timely project delivery
Tools Employ PPM applications, dashboards, resource leveling, etc. Use project plans, budget spreadsheets project charters, etc.
Resources Control and monitor resource utilization across the portfolio Ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the use of allocated resources
Organizations purchase and create tools and systems that support and ensure automation of project management processes (Schwalbe, 2009). In many instances, a great deal of losses of money is incurred on systems and tools that are subsequently not utilized owing to the fact that they do not have the efficiency or effectiveness required for complex project management operations. Hence, improved project management should ensure efficiencies in project areas of management including the scope, time, tools, and resources. Best practices provide managers the benefit of lessons that have been learned from a variety of project planning, implementation, and management situations. The complex modern project environments require that project portfolio and multiple-project managers employ or implement recommendations that have been tested and identified as the best solutions for performing project management functions with great efficiency and effectiveness.
PART II: SUMMARY
Human resources management, information technology, and financial industries are superb examples of sectors where best practices in the project portfolio and multiple-project management have been identified and implemented. The summary section of this paper provides a detailed assessment, analysis, and rational for the methodologies, practices, tools, and techniques outlined in the brochure. Specific tools, techniques, and methods are discussed for each best practice.
Tools and Techniques based on Function
According to Kathy Schwalbe (2009), project management tools have been designed based on the various functions or knowledge areas involved in project management. These areas include integration management, quality management, scope management, cost management, communications management, risk management, human resource management, and procurement management. The table below, adapted from Chapter 1 of Schwalbe (2009) provides examples of tools and techniques that are recommended for the various functions of project managers.
Knowledge Category Tools/Techniques
Integration Management Project charters, stakeholder analyses, change control boards, project preview meetings, lessons-learned reports
Time Management Gantt charts, critical path analysis, schedule performance measurements, project network diagrams
Scope management scope management plans, scope change controls, mind maps, scope statements, scope verification techniques
Quality management Checklists, quality metrics, maturity models, Pareto diagrams, statistical methods, fishbone diagrams
Cost management Payback analysis, return on investment, net present value, cost estimates, cost baselines, project portfolio management, cost management plans
Communications management Kick off meetings, templates, project websites, virtual communications, status and progress reports
Human resource management Project organizational charts, responsibility assignment metrics, ERP, resource histograms
Procurement management Contracts, supplier evaluation matrices, requests for proposals, source selections
Risk management Risk registers, risk rankings, risk management plans, risk impact charts
Best Practices and Relevant Tools and Techniques
1. Improve the accuracy of resource planning
Enterprise Resource Planning
The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is an example method that has been implemented to facilitate the realization of increased accuracy in resource planning, a best practice that has been identified for multiple project management (Umble, Haft, & Umble, 2003). As organizations move closer toward a completely collaborative model, and, as competitor organizations upgrade their capabilities, competitiveness requires that organizations improve their procedures and practices. Organizations ought to share the once critically protected in-house information with their customers, suppliers, and distributors. Therefore, organizations must enhance their systems so as to generate and share accurate and timely information with the mentioned agents. In order to realize this objective, organizations have turned to systems that facilitate enterprise resource planning.
ERP provides project managers two principal benefits that, otherwise, cannot be realized in organizations whose departmental systems are non-integrated. First, ERP provides a unified view of the organization including all departments and functions. Second, it provides an enterprise database in which all the organization’s activities are entered, stored, processed, managed, and shared. The unified view of the organization raises the requirement for and scope of interdepartmental coordination and cooperation. It facilitates the achievement of the organization’s objective of enhanced communication, information sharing, and responsiveness to all agents that can be defined as stakeholders. ERP supports accurate planning as relates to human resources, finances, sales, operations, and logistics. For example, it facilitates human resources planning, in terms of conducting personnel planning, payroll, human resource time accounting, and travel expenses.
2. Plan the portfolio with increased accuracy by balancing the supply and demand for resources
The Critical Chain Scheduling
The critical chain is a method of task scheduling based on work estimates, date constraints, and task dependencies (Schwalbe, 2009). It is an enhanced form of the critical path method. The critical path method does not capture the impact that resources have on the schedule. The critical chain scheduling does this. It focuses on how assigned resources, especially over-allocated resources, impact the schedule’s critical path. In addition, this project management method adds shared time buffers to sequences of tasks and projects. The critical chain is a resource-constrained path that occurs when resource availability is factored into the schedule. Stated differently, it is the product of eliminating or reducing resources over-allocations. There are three features of the critical chain method. These are scheduling from the finish date, balancing the most constrained resources and adding resource flags, and time buffers. Time buffers are time periods added to the end of a critical chain to protect the target finish date of the project from slippage. Flags, often placed on the critical chain, are alerts that inform resources that they will be needed for an upcoming task along the critical chain.
3. Reduce project budget and schedule deviations resulting from resource mismanagement
Financial management is required at both portfolio and project levels (Jonas, 2010). At the project level, financial management involves the estimation of benefits and costs, and the tracking expenditures against the budget for the project. At the level of the portfolio, financial management involves gaining insight into the committed, planned, and discretionary budget, and tracking the overall budget of the project portfolio. Depending on the nature of projects, measures of project success include profitability, delivery of benefits, return on investment, and taking advantage of windows of opportunity. For example, organizations are interested in projects that provide the best utilization of cash and human resources to maximize the achievement of financial and non-financial objectives. They are interested in considering how individual projects support strategic organizational objectives. Therefore, tools that provide cost estimates for projects and tasks are fundamental to project management.
4. Increase the efficiency of resource management functions
GANTT chart is one of the tools identified in the brochure as facilitative of the implementation of best practices particularly as relates to planning and scheduling team projects. The endeavor of planning and scheduling projects in a portfolio is like juggling a dozen balls at once. A person doing it needs to keep an eye on each of the ball so as to know when to catch each one. If the person loses sight of just one, the whole performance is spoiled. The challenging nature of this task is similar to project management. To achieve effective management of multiple projects and portfolios of projects, a project manager must control a large number of projects and associated activities. The idea or objective is to ensure that the activities and projects are completed on schedule. The Gantt chart conveys or displays every activity that needs to be done.
It provides an outline of all tasks involved in a project including their order of completion, depicted against a time schedule. The tool provides the project manager an instant overview of the project, associated tasks, and the time when each task needs to be completed. The tool is useful in organizing projects and keeping members of the project team informed about the status of progress. In developing a Gantt chart, the project manager identifies essential tasks, identifies task relationships, and inputs activities into templates or software. The advantage of using software packages such as Microsoft Project is that they are embrace cloud computing, which facilitates simultaneous access from different locations.
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