Free «Evaluation of Computerized Systems for IT Project Management» Essay Paper

Evaluation of Computerized Systems for IT Project Management

Organization of project activities is performed on the basis of project management standards. These standards provide the concentration of best practices in project management, form the basis of interaction between project teams as well as lay the foundations for the certification of professionals in the field of project management. Moreover, the standards make it possible to systematize knowledge in this specific area. At the same time, project management standards normally do not contain clear definitions about the required performance of certain actions. Standards define steps that should be taken for the effective management of a project while the way of their implementation is determined in corporate documents developed on the basis of these standards. Typically, a standard captures definitions of basic concepts of the subject filed and determines current entities of project management, required knowledge and executable processes.

Thus, the essay aims at investigating PRINCE2 as a project management method, particularly, its key features, the cost of the tool and other relevant criteria. The findings of the study will help to answer the question of how organizations can justify investing in tailoring the methodology to their environment. Finally, the comparison of PRINCE2 and Microsoft Project 2010 will help to outline pros and cons of PRINCE2 as well as its effectiveness in managing projects in comparison with Microsoft Project 2010.

PRINCE2

Background Information

PRINCE2 is a proprietary project management methodology that can be implemented at all levels of operation. It provides a structured approach to management, control and organization of the project. The UK Office of Government Commerce, shortly the OGS, is the legal owner, editor in chief and the promoter of the methodology.

The Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, shortly the CCTA, issued the first edition of PRINCE2 in 1989. It was intended primarily for conducting IT projects. However, PRINCE2 was extended for the use in any projects in 1996. It has become a key common project management methodology since then. PRINCE2 was thoroughly revised in 2009.

PRINCE2 is based on a clear process divided into eight stages and 45 sub-stages. Each stage has its own set of objectives, activities as well as input and output artifacts. The criteria of qualifying the artifacts allow monitoring deviations from quality throughout the project life cycle. The main feature of the standard is its scalability. Each stage and sub-stage describes parts that can be omitted in case a project is small and does not require a gigantic scale. It is practical and has resulted in the creation of a large number of so-called Prince in name only (PINO) projects, which are not so diverse and are usually developed on the PRINCE2 methodology (Haughey).

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There are several editions of PRINCE2, which are Foundation, Practitioner and Professional at the cost of £500, £800 and £2000 accordingly. PRINCE2 is the most relevant in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and countries of the Asian region. It is widely used in government projects, financial, industrial and construction projects.

Project Management Methodology of PRINCE2

Managers and executers of a project can have different ideas about their responsibilities and authority, project timing and many other aspects without project management methodology. Projects, especially large ones, are rarely completed on time and stay within their primary investment without proper management methodology.

The project management methodology PRINCE2, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environments, is designed to manage projects and groups of projects within an organization. The PRINCE2 method determines organization, management and control over the execution of projects. The main features of PRINCE2 include division of a project into manageable and controllable stages, flexibility related to the scope of the project and a defined organizational structure required for the project management team. The main components of the method are organization, planning, control, staging, management of risks, quality, configuration and change management. The main processes are Starting up a Project, Directing a Project, Initiating a Project, Controlling a Stage, Managing Product Delivery, Managing a Stage Boundary and Closing a Project.

 
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There are the following principles underlying the PRINCE2 methodology. The first one is a continuous assessment of economic necessity, which aims at determining whether the economic benefit of the project remains unchanged throughout the project life cycle. The second principle is experimental learning. It means that the project team must constantly search for and learn from the experience of previous projects. The third principle is the definition of a role model as the project team should have a clear organizational structure and involve right people to solve relevant problems. The fourth one is management by stages that requires designing, monitoring and controlling objects at each stage of implementation. The fifth principle is management by exception. It includes determination of permissible boundaries of deviations in the project to establish the boundaries of responsibility. The sixth one is the focus on products that requires paying particular attention to the identification and achievement of the quality of products to see the outcome. The final principle is adaptation to the project environment. It requires adapting the processes and project management tools to the design requirements of the environment as well as the scope of work, complexity, importance, qualification requirements and risk (CIMA, 2006).

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The aspects of project management are areas to which attention should be paid during the entire project. Thus, the aspects of the PRINCE2 project management methodology are the project background, organization, quality, plans, risks, change and progress. Project background uncovers the value it can bring to the organization. The organizational aspect defines the distribution of roles and responsibilities between the project team members in order to effectively manage the project. The aspect of quality is responsible for the definition of the requirements and criteria of quality and the ways to ensure them. Plans are the steps required to develop a plan as well as the PRINCE2 tools that should be used. Determination of risks allows realizing the way the project management will solve the problem of uncertainty in terms of the project and the external environment. The aspect of change is responsible for the way the management of the project will assess the impact of unforeseen challenges and changes as well as the way it will respond to them. The aspect of progress contains the definition of the feasibility of the project, the implementation of plans and further development of the project.

The PRINCE2 Project Life Cycle

The PRINCE2 project life cycle consists of management stages separated by the so-called gateway. The project board members decide whether to continue the project or not based on the results of the achievement of the gateways.

The adoption of the Mandate of the project by a competent body is a kind if momentum for the launch of the project. The adoption of the Mandate allows launching a single pre-project process, which is called Starting up a Project. It establishes project objectives and an approach that allows creating a project team and a plan of the next stage of initiation. This stage requires answering such questions as whether to do the project or not, whether it will be viable and the goals attainable. Answers to these questions will help to decide on the viability of resources allocation to implement the next stages of the project. The process called Initiating a Project is launched in case of a positive decision. It includes stating a cogent reason for the launch and the preparation of the project initiation in a documented form based on economic justification. Furthermore, Starting up a Project and Initiating a Project can be combined for simple projects.

Directing a project process starts simultaneously with justification and initiation processes; it is performed throughout the project life cycle and regulates the approval of the work and resources, authorizes the start and end of the project, including its enforcement. As a result, it provides the organizational responsibility for the success of the project. The principle of management by exception forms the basis of this process.

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The Controlling a Stage process focuses on everyday project management. This process includes authorization of work packages to create or modify products and their regular monitoring and closure, problem management and change, progress reports on the project and forecasts for the firm, corrective actions to keep the project within the limits and escalation in case the limits are exceeded.

The process ‘Managing a Stage Boundary’ is responsible for a managed transition from one stage to another. It includes procedures for reporting on the results of the current management stage and assesses their impact on the project plan, risk and economic feasibility, development and approval of the next phase of the plan as well as learned lessons. The process is applicable in the event of an exceptional situation and includes analysis and creation of an exception plan.

The plan of creation and acceptance of the products of the project is described in the process ’Managing Product Delivery’. Conduction of checkpoint reports is a source informing the management about the progress of the project. This process also includes implementation of the quality review process, including specific structures, procedures and roles.

The methodology of PRINCE2 places particular impact on completion of the project managed by the process ‘Closing a Project’. This process describes preparation and holding of the formal closure of the project and consists of the following elements. These are adoption of the final product as well as a report on the closing, including confirmation of the achievement of goals and expectations that were set in the requests for a change. It also contains project assessment relating to the approved control versions and gained experience, learned lessons or a forced closure of the project in the event of loss of the relevance of its economic feasibility. Other elements of the process are planning of the post-project assessment of benefits, fixing open issues and risks as well as the development of recommendations for their closure (CIMA, 2006).

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of PRINCE2

The specifics of PRINCE2 include flexibility of application depending on the complexity of the project, a product-oriented approach to project planning, the organizational structure of the project management team, justification of the project from a business perspective and division of the project into managed and controlled stages. The method is characterized by a number of features. First, a project is an activity aimed at creating a valuable final product to perform a specific mission of the company. The second feature is the formation of innovation in the existing product or a new product or service upon a successful completion of the project. Third, the project is characterized by a temporary nature with specific start and end dates. Finally, uncertainty factors affect the project.

The advantages of the methodology are a structured approach to project management within a clearly defined structure and division of the processes into manageable steps, which enables effective management of resources. Additionally, the processes, their interaction and techniques are described in detail. This feature allows finding almost everything needed for the creation of a specific corporate standard. Another benefit of the methodology is that it is easily scalable to manage all types of projects. The shortcoming of PRINCE2 is the lack of any regulation in terms of methodological approaches to processes rendered beyond the standard. It is mainly related to administration of supply contracts, project participants and other processes (CIMA, 2006).

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Microsoft Project 2010

Microsoft Project 2010 is positioned as the next-generation project management system that consists of a variety of innovations and improvements that were present in previous releases only in embryonic form. The product is created based on completely new principles. In particular, it has been created thanks to the providing partners with access to the methodology. As a result, problems and shortcomings could be quickly eliminated. There are two versions of the method, which are Project Professional 2010 and Project Server 2010. The price cost of the project starts from $499.99.

Microsoft Project Professional is the main tool of planning for project managers. It is an advanced application compared to the previous version. It uses the ribbon interface and thus the user can feel reasonableness and rationality of instruments placement after a short period of working with this application. Groups of objects are combined into tabs while standard groups are always present on the screen. At the same time, a specialized group is highlighted additionally when selecting an object.

The planning principle has been changed in the latest version of Microsoft Project 2010. Thus, a manual or automatic planning type is highlighted with the creation of a task. The automatic method of schedule creation is inherited from its predecessor, but the manual one includes the ability to change the properties of any problems, even if there are hard links with other elements. The presentation of the project is in the form of a timely scale, which is convenient for displaying milestones, phases of the project and key objectives of the plan. By contrast, the previous version was considered limited in functionality and inconvenient tool of resource planning and tracking overloads. This disadvantage was eliminated in the 2010 version thanks to the new means of Team Planner. In particular, there has been added an opportunity to define the destination for members of the project plan. In addition to Team Planner, developers have suggested the possibility of automatic re-planning problem for load balancing of resources with regard to their availability. Microsoft Project Professional 2010 can publish tasks lists created in Windows SharePoints Services 4.0 or SharePoint Server 2010. It increases the ease of working with project teams that do not have access to Project Server 2010. It also can synchronize the project plan with the task list published on the website and create a new one simply by importing them from SharePoint.

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Project Server 2010 can describe actions at various stages of the project life using flowcharts and triggers. It also includes the means of project portfolio, which allows identifying the most effective projects. The criterion for selection is the matrix of priorities of the business drivers of the company while a table with percentage of the conformity of each project portfolio to the company’s targets is incorporated in the matrix trace.

The advantages of the Project 2010 are as follows. Although the method does not have the entire spectrum of the required tools to solve the problem, this product integrates with others, which makes it possible to build a powerful system. MS SPS and Project Server allow working with project risks. The disadvantage of the Project 2010 is that it is designed to solve a limited amount of problems (Microsoft, 2011).

The Effectiveness of the Investment

To see the effectiveness of the use of the project management methodology, it is necessary to realize the meaning of project management itself. Project management is a number of actions that are aimed at solving problems associated with the emerging changes, obstacles, delays and opportunities in the implementation of the project. It is some kind of an art of coordinating the efforts of people, using available resources as well as applying the achievements of modern technologies. Project management results in a successful implementation of the goals of the project based on cost, results, implementation time and other relevant parameters.

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Project management is used to achieve a faster, cheaper and qualitative implementation of initiatives. A world practice shows that companies that use design management generate more revenue and significantly reduce the time and costs of other projects. Project management helps to adapt the project management system to the updated strategic process.

The problem of successful implementation of the company’s strategy has existed since the beginning of the development of the strategies. Key reasons to the problem are an increasing pace of change and complexity of the environment, the absence of support measures and instruments aimed at implementing the strategy, failure to understand the connection between their activities and strategy of the company among the middle management and line personnel. Moreover, current projects may also not coincide with the approved strategy. Consequently, employees’ performance cannot lead to the implementation of the strategy in such a company.

Another problem is that the commonly used process of development and realization of a strategy, the methodological basis of which were laid in the first half of the 20th century, does not correspond to today’s world, in which the rate of change has increased many times. The world, which is extremely complex and interdependent, tends to choose simple and clear solutions and adopt them more effectively.

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Thus, there is an urgent need to make transition from the strategy, in the form of large knowledge-based presentations and a weighty file with calculations made in Excel, to a clear and simple instrument that contains a specific set of actions in a short time interval, integrated with a long-term vision of the shareholders based on flexible models and supported by easy-to-use IT-platform that includes a mobile version.

Changing the strategic process will allow of regular updates of the strategy in order to relate the hypothesis or assumptions used during the formation to intentions that can emerge during the implementation of changes both outside and inside the company. The change also allows deciding that the strategy should be adjusted to use the emerging opportunities and respond to threats. Such iteration will be a standard regulated business process, and its absence will be considered a deviation and a signal of a violation of the strategic process (Schwalbe, 2009).

 

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