Communications Requirements Analysis


Effective & efficient communication planning is important for project’s success & its vitality can not be overstressed as considerable number of projects failed due to poor communication plan & process.

Effective communication – providing the information in the right format, at the right time, and with the right impact.

Efficient communication – providing only the information that is needed.

A crucial element of planning the project’s actual communications, therefore, is to determine and limit who will communicate with whom and who will receive what information. Thorough analysis of communication need is the first step towards better communication planning.

Communications Requirements Analysis

Objective of this tool/technique: determining information needs of the project stakeholders

It is defined by: Type, format & value of information needed

It uses:

* Stakeholder information (like stakeholder register, stakeholder management strategy)

* Roles & responsibilities of project team, internal/external stakeholders & management

* Organization Chart

* Information on the stakeholders’ location (helpful in determining communication technology/methods)

Communication channels : Communication channels are the distinct paths of communication that is possible between project stakeholders for information distribution path. Knowing complexity of communication channel gives a better control over information distribution & hence better communication planning.

The total number of potential communication channels is n(n-1)/2

where n represents the number of stakeholders.

Communication Channel

So, higher the number of stakeholders, more complex the communication channels are.

Resource Leveling


Development of schedule involves analyzing numerous options and applying different techniques to meet the project (imposed) delivery date. Various schedule network analysis techniques are used to generate project schedule. Some of them are Critical path method, critical chain method, what-if analysis and resource leveling. More than one technique can be applied on project schedule to come up with expected schedule.

Estimation of activity resource is a vital process which involves

* Determining what resources will be required (labor, equipment, material)
* What quantity for each resource will be required.
* When are resources available to perform project activities

Resource requirements by time period, often in the form of a resource histogram. Resource histogram is

* A bar chart showing the amount of time assigned to a resource for the time interval.
* Resource availability is depicted as a line for comparison purposes.
* Resources assigned more work than available hours are considered ‘over-allocated’.

If supply is sufficient to meet the demand, then projects does not have any resource allocation issues. But this may not be the case in real time scenario – Demand will exceed supply & resource scarcity arises. Project manager uses a technique called ‘Resource leveling’.

Resource Leveling is a project management technique used to examine a project for an unbalanced use of resources (usually people) over time, and smoothen distribution of resource usage by resolving over-allocations or conflicts. With this technique PM ensures resource demand does not exceed resource availability.

Resource leveling is used:-

* to address schedule activities that need to be performed to meet specified delivery dates
* to address a situation where shared or critical required resources are only available at certain times or are only available in limited quantities
* to keep selected resource usage at a constant level during specific time periods of the project work

Resource Leveling

Resource leveling is applied to a schedule model that has that has a critical path identified. In critical path method calculation, preliminary early start & late start schedule is calculated which may need more resources in different time line. After resource leveling schedule, projected start and finish dates(which may be longer than the preliminary dates) are calculated to reflect resource availability and even there could be a change in critical path. There are issues with using the simple bar chart for resource leveling as the interdependency between activities is not available in them, which may result incorrect schedule plan.

Generally, there are two approaches to leveling and smoothing the resources required:

* Time-constrained approach – In this case importance will be given on completing the project within a specified (imposed) date. This date will usually have been determined by network analysis. Changes in the duration of any activity, and the resources required at a given time, must be undertaken within the float (slack) available. Obviously there can be no adjustment of activities which are on the critical path.

* Resource-constrained approach – In this approach, the project must be completed with limited available resources even if this means extending the project duration. If the total resource demand exceeds the resource availability at any time then some of the activities must be delayed until there is sufficient resource availability.

For both of the above approaches, information regarding the earliest & the latest start times and slack will be used to level resources.

Few options that can be used in resource leveling are:

* Allocating scarce resources to critical path activities first can be used to develop a project schedule that reflects such constraints.
* Common way to bring the project back on track is resource reallocation from non-critical to critical activities. This may at least bring schedule as close as possible to its originally intended overall duration.
* Resources working extra hours , weekends, or multiple shifts by authorizing overtime to reduce the durations of critical activities.
* Adding or substituting resources of equal or greater productivity to shorten durations that have extended the preliminary project schedule.
* Last but not the least, delaying or extending critical path tasks/task duration. 😦

Other than impact in duration, some of the above options have impact on project cost & risk also.

General note on motivational theories


Motivation can be defined as a psychological process that causes the direction, and persistence of voluntary actions that are goal directed

Motivation is the Leads to —————————that results in
psychological —————> Choice of Behavior ——————> Job performance
process

As manager’s, why you need to know about motivation?

* It helps you understand your behavior and the behavior of others

* It can help a manager build and manage a “system of motivation.”

* It offers conceptual tools for analyzing motivation problems in organizations

Number of motivational theories evolved in past few decades. These theories can be classified in two different categories as Need theories, Process theories.

* Need theories – Analyzes different type of individuals needs and influence their behavior & effectiveness. Some need theories are – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzberg’s two factor theory

* Process theories – These theories understand how people think and how such thoughts influences their behaviors. Some process theories are – Vroom’s Expectancy Theory, Path – Goal Theory

Three-point estimates


As a manager, you are developing schedule for your project.

How do you specify time estimates for project activities?

From analysis,usually, single-point, most-likely estimates are used for activity duration estimating. But these estimates does not represent accurate information and it may lead to schedule overrun situation.

Project manager’s ultimate goal is to create a realistic project schedule that provides a basis for monitoring project progress for the time dimension of the project. Adapting better estimating technique is needed for project success.

Three-point estimating is one of the general estimating methods that helps project managers produce better estimates. Instead of providing discrete activity duration estimates like 3-weeks, 2-days, etc., the accuracy of it can be improved by considering the amount of risk in the original estimate.

Three-point estimates are based on determining three types of estimates: optimistic, most likely and pessimistic. (i.e. Optimistic – 2 weeks, Most Likely – 4 weeks, Pessimistic – 6 weeks)

* Most likely(approx. realistic scenario): The duration of the schedule activity, given the resources likely to be assigned, their productivity, realistic expectations of availability for the schedule activity, dependencies on other participants, and interruptions.

* Optimistic(best-case scenario): The activity duration is based on a best-case scenario of what is described in the most likely estimate.

* Pessimistic(worst-case scenario): The activity duration is based on a worst-case scenario of what is described in the most likely estimate.

An activity duration estimate can be constructed by using an average of the three estimated durations. Three-point estimates are needed for PERT estimates and Monte Carlo simulations.

The PERT is a more rudimentary approach to quantitative risk analysis. PERT applies a weighted average favoring the most likely outcome: (O + 4M + P)/6

How Agile Project Management is different from Traditional one?


There is a proverb, You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But this is not true in Project Management. Managers need to learn new techniques and adapt them as quickly as possible to bring project success.

Traditional project management methodologies widely used across different fields. It involves very disciplined and deliberate planning and control methods. The traditional PM approach, is a linear approach where you try to get it all done at one time. Everything should be planned before start executing tasks in the defined order. Traditional project management is best suited for engineering projects like construction, but it is used in all fields nowadays including IT.

The Standish Group 2006 Survey on IT projects revealed,

* 46% of projects over time or budget & 19% of projects failed;

* $80 -145 billion per year is spent on failed and canceled projects;

* Meta group estimated 60% – 80% of project failures can be attributed directly to poor requirements gathering, analysis, and management.

In today’s IT world, organizations needs improvement in performance and they expects for – rapid product delivery, increased revenue, more flexibility, coping with change, good quality. Agile Project Management(APM) meets these expectations excellently especially for IT projects.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project Management (APM) is a way of managing projects to deliver customer value via adaptive planning, rapid feedback, continuous improvement and intense human interaction and collaboration.

— Sanjiv Augustine

Agile methodologies are new approach in Project Management and it is effective for IT projects where requirements changes too often. In APM, processes are iterative & incremental. Agile Project Management is particularly appropriate for projects that have:

* clear project value

* innovative business requirements

* unstable requirements

* incremental feature-driven development

* early and active participation of stakeholders

* resources, time & budget are limited

* visual documentation

* collaborative co-located development team

References:

Sanjiv Augustine’s Web Site: http://www.sanjivaugustine.com/

Principles behind the Agile Manifesto: http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html

Contingency Plan & Fallback Plan


Generally, risks are recognized as threats to project success. But risks are also used positively by organizations for efficient, effective project success.In Risk Management processes, Risk response planning process plays important role.

Risk Response Planning is the process of developing various options, strategies and actions to enhance or exploit opportunities and to reduce or eliminate threats to project objectives.

Different risk strategies are used to reduce(or enhance) the probability/impact of the identified or even unidentified/unknown risks. In certain situations, risk management team uses acceptance strategy for known risks as the option based on analysis. As a general rule, all unknown(residual) risks follows acceptance strategy as no information available about them & team will deal with those risks as they occur.

Acceptance strategy can be either passive or active. Passive acceptance requires no action except to document the strategy, leaving the project team to deal with the threats or opportunities as they occur. The active acceptance strategy is to establish a contingency plan, contingency reserve, including amounts of time, money, or resources to handle known or even sometimes potential unknown, threats or opportunities.

Contingency plan describes various specific actions that will be taken if the opportunity or threat occurs. These actions are carried out at the time of risk occurrence. So, these options should be time bound. This is mainly created for active acceptance.

Fallback plan is important in Risk Response Planning. When the contingency plan for a risk is not fully effective, team should implement fallback plan.