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The Impact of Project Management in Information Systems Essay

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The explosion in the computing field in the last twenty years forced the organisations to be computerised for achieving most of their operations using Information Technology (IT) systems. The implementation of the systems requires a management program for the IS applications development. Susan Brock (2003) supports that as the data into valuable corporate information has become more viable through information technologies, the application of IT based projects has risen too (Susan Brock, 2003).

The organisations use Information System Projects for either updating, or either upgrading or changing the existing system in order to meet users or customers’ requirements. It is supposed that the tools and techniques used in such IS projects will differ independently based on the projects’ requirements. The roles and responsibilities of each contributor to the projects differ as well. The organisations responded to this new challenge by putting into place project management teams that take into account the technological and organisational complexity of their Information System Projects (Vital Roy, 2006).

The management of a software development project presents many difficulties. Most Information Systems projects are considered less than successful or many are simply cancelled. Project Management has been introduced as a major factor for controlling and tracking their projects in order to avoid these project failures. On the other hand many IS projects are successful when are completed on time, on budget, on scope and met the customers and users needs and requirements.

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This could happen by investigating and analysing the key elements of project management required for the successful implementation of these projects. 2. Project Management in IS projects As it stated above, Project Management is the most important tool for managing, tracking and controlling the projects. David Dixon (1988) defined Project Management as the management tool for estimating, planning, scheduling the activities needed to achieve the expected levels of functionality, quality and performance within the specified constraints for cost, time, schedules and resources (David Dixon, 1988).

These activities divided into different tasks which must be assigned to the project team and be controlled by the project manager. Although most of the projects are successful, delivered on time and covered the appropriate requested requirements, some of the projects are considered less than successful and many are simply challenged or cancelled. According to the study of Susan Brock (2003), projects’ failures have reduced significantly considering the number of projects has almost doubled between 1994 and 2002, however almost half of the projects remain “challenged” (Susan Brock, 2003).

During the years, IT professionals researched and studied different situations and suggest some key elements and theories for the successful implementation of IS projects such as the documentation of the Project Initiation Document (PID), the important role of the project manager, the project planning, project quality, etc. 1. Organisational Framework First of all an important section to be investigated and analysed is the organisational framework which considers the organisational structure for IS project work.

The organisational framework is established at the outset and well understood by all concerned since otherwise it will be impossible to get important decisions made and to get a clear idea about the project (James Cadle and Donald Yeates, 2001). It is very important to know the customer, sponsor and project manager of each project because they are all responsible to make the most important decisions for the project. The other various roles may be organised in different ways, depending on a number of factors including the type of the project and culture of the rganisation. The other principal roles for an IS project could be the analyst, designer, administrator, programmer, testing team and project office. The PRINCE project management method is suggested for the best organisational framework either in the start or during the process of the project. Projects in Controlled Environment (PRINCE) is a structured approach to project management developed by the UK government (James Cadle and Donald Yeates, 2001).

It was originally intended for the management of IS projects and offers a number of beneficial documents in the management of IS projects such as Project Initiation Document (PID), Risk Log Document, Project Quality Plan, Stage Plan Document, Work Plan Document, etc. 2. Project Manager Another key element, may be the most important, is the project manager. The project manager is appointed by the project board of the organisation and is responsible for the management of the project on a daily basis and for the achievement for the project objectives and expected results. . Role and Skills The project manager is totally responsible for the success or failure of the whole project. The role of the project manager is very important, serious and complicated. James Cadle and Donald Yeates (2001) believe that project manager must track, monitor and check the project every day through to completion and also has to: ? Achieve the project’s objectives on time, on cost and quality constraints imposed by the project board. ? Take or make timely decisions to assure the project’s success ? Select project team members Create the project team and be ready for any changes in the team during project process. ? Keep the project board and senior management informed of progress and alert them to problems especially if these could affect the organisations’ or business objectives. ? Recommend the termination of the project if necessary. ? Take role of the communicator between the project board, senior management and project team. ? Select, manage and control subcontractors. ? Give permissions about the internal and external resources decided to be used in the project. ? Face and solve any problems or conflicts during the project’s process

Generally, the project manager in an IS project has to create a product usually a new IS system incorporating hardware and software. As it stated above project manager should go through a difficult role to achieve the project’s objectives, however some skills are required in order to be a successful project manager such as: ^ Leadership: project managers must be able to stimulate action, progress and change. ^ Technological: project managers need to have a clear idea and accurate perception of the technical requirements of the project so that business needs are addressed and satisfied. Evaluation and decision making: project managers should have the ability to take serious decisions and evaluate alternatives.

The members should be developed from a group of individuals, each with their own interests, style and goals, into a project team that works together to achieve the project’s objectives and requirements using the each other’s strengths. The most original and useful method of team effectiveness is Belbin Test, created by Dr. Meredith Belbin, which includes questionnaires for measuring aspects of personality completed by project team’s members. The scores from the questionnaires will help the project manager to assign the team members into the eight “team roles” suggested by the Belbin Method.

According to the definitions given in the Belbin Test Document the eight project team roles are: ? Coordinator: provides consensual leadership, coordinating project team’s effort however lacking in originality. ? Shaper: A dynamic leader of the team, pushing activities forward and bringing “shape” to the team. The Shaper can be inspiring but can also be abrasive. ? Innovator: A source of original and a creative team member but sometimes forms a personal attachment to impractical ideas. Resource Investigator: Team’s link to the outside world and another source of ideas with the responsibility to identify and investigate resources that will help the team. ? Monitor/ Evaluator: Keeps the team on the right track and separates the practicable ideas from that are not, however sometimes is insensitive to the team members’ feelings. ? Team Worker: Sensitive to personal needs and upsets, works hard and maintains positive atmosphere in the team. ? Implementer/Company Worker: Takes an idea and produces a schedule.

The company worker works well with plans and milestones but can be inflexible with any project’s changes. ? Completer/Finisher: Worries about what can go wrong in a project, checks up on detail and focuses the team on project’s deadlines (Belbin Test Document, 2006). If all the key roles of the project team are filled, project team stands a very good chance of success. On the other hand if some key roles of the project team are missing, it weakens the team and may lead to failure. 4. Project Plan Another key element of the project management required for the successful implementation of an IS Project is Project Plan.

Planning is very important and essential in order to get the expected results and meet all the objectives and goals after the execution of the IS Project. It involves thinking hard about the IS project, what to achieve and how the team will go about it. The beginning for a good Project Plan is the understanding of the project’s requirements and the project manager must be sure that this is available before the start of the planning. The analysis of the work to be done has been made using the work breakdown structure or product breakdown structure.

Work breakdown structure is the method that used to break down project progressively into smaller parts until the end up with individual tasks and work packages. After that project manager may create a Gantt chart using Microsoft Project as the tool for assigning the duration, milestone, resources, cost and staff required for each tasks as identified in the Work Breakdown Structure Diagram. Dave Martin (2004) states that “Of course ‘slippage’ from the plan is ‘a normal, natural trouble’ and its importance or magnitude is measured against the schedule.

Where ‘slippage’ does occur, contingency plans are made by reference to possible implications” (Dave Martin, John Mariani and Rock Rouncefield, 2004). According to the above statement, the planning project breakdown should be revised easily especially when the project manager may need to re-estimate and reschedule some tasks in order to meet some missed requirements or to improve the progress of the project in case of ‘slippage’. Project Plan is also a way of communication between the project manager with the users, project team, project board and senior management so they can be informed anytime about project’s progress.

James Cadle and Donald Yeates (2001) are suggested that the project plan must always be in electronic version using either Microsoft Visio for the work breakdown structure or Microsoft Project for Gantt chart or network action diagram. Most of the planning tools have facilities to track progress on an IS project. The data may have to be input manually by the project manager or it may be possible to link the planning tool to a time recording system and capture the input that way (James Cadle and Donald Yeates, 2001).

The project manager will be able to compare the actual progress with the plan in order to identify where problems seem to be arising and decide how to solve them. 5. Project Risk Management Information System projects are becoming increasingly complicated and are subjects to various risks. Risks cannot be avoided at all but they can be managed in such a way that they are recognised and their impacts are avoided or reduced. First of all the team has to identify the risks of the project, however each project is unique so its risks will arise from the factors that may not have been seen before in the project.

There are a lot of project’s areas in which risk could arise and it is difficult for the project manager to be sure that all the possible risks have been identified. All risks must be highlighted even if some of them are unpopular or never arise in similar projects in the past. After the identification and analysis of each possible risk, they need to be described so that it is clear exactly what each risk is all about (Jamie Smith, 2005). Once there is a brief description of the risk, the project team is in a better position to understand its impact and what needs to be done to mitigate it.

The following list, introduced by James Cadle and Donald Yeates (2001), provides the starting point for the identification of possible risks in an IS project: ¦ The Commercial Background- it may be a new business area in which the organisation has little experience or no market research. The possible identified risk is the lack of information about the background and requirements of the projects ¦ The Contract- is the formal, legal stipulation of the responsibilities and agreement between the organisation and the project team (Dave Martin, John Mariani and Rock Rouncefield, 2004).

There may be the risk of delay or underperformance of the project, unclear terms in the contract about the payment or not linked tangible milestones. ¦ The users- may be unfamiliar with the new technology or unwillingness to change working practises to fit with the new system such as the London Ambulance System (LSA). The management of the organisation and users may hold very different view of what the system supposed to do. ¦ Acceptance Criteria – The acceptance criteria may not have been clearly defined in the contract or the customer may not accept some or all of the new system. The Project Plan- possible tight timescales, milestones may be too far apart or deliverables may not have been defined enough to work so the product is not the expected result, the project may be bigger so more staff is required than the estimation at the start of the project.

After completing the risk identification the project team should take some actions against those risks like the avoiding actions, try to prevent the risks from occurring, and the mitigation actions where the project teams try to reduce the impact of the risks if they occur. Finally the project teams register the identified risks either using the Risk Log Document which is part of the PRINCE or the risk map if they want to highlight only the very important and dangerous risks. 3. Conclusions The impact of Project Management in the Information Systems Project improved the percentages for the successful projects.

It is the management tool for planning, monitoring, tracking and controlling the whole process of the project. The IS project to be considered will be the delivery of a specified information system within given constraints of time, quality, resources and cost, however the project organisational framework is also important because the project team has the chance to get a clear understanding of who the customer, the project’s scope and the purpose of the project is. The PRINCE project management method offers an effective structure for the management of IS project.

The project manager plays the most important roles in a project team and is the main reason for the success or the failure of the project. Project manager is responsible for the build of the project teams using the most popular method of Belbin Test. Project Plan is also required in order to track, monitor, control and compare tasks with the time. The suggested tool for planning is work or product breakdown structure for break down tasks into smaller subtasks. Project Manager must take decisions about the duration, cost and resources for each task which can be presented in a Gantt chart using Microsoft Project.

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