Project Management Planning and Control Practices, Systems, and Tools
Practices, systems, tools, and methods for integrative and predictive project planning and control are at the heart of the project management discipline. Integrative means that all phases of the project and all the elements of information mentioned later are logically linked together. Predictive means that the system forecasts what will happen in the future based on the current plans and estimates, with the actual physical progress and reported expenditures constantly updating the schedule and cost forecasts and comparing these with the authorized baseline budgets and schedules. The goal is to predict undesirable results in sufficient time to allow corrective actions to be taken to assure that the undesirable results do not become the reality.
The state of the art today in this important aspect of project management has advanced rapidly in the past few years, capitalizing on the rapid advances in the information technology/IT industries and the Internet/World Wide Web, together with our advancing understanding of projects and of the fact that project management must be closely linked, through project portfolio management, to the strategic management of organizations.
Today's methods, systems and tools enable organizations to plan and control every project on an integrated life cycle basis:
- Including all contributing functional areas or organizations
- Through all of each project's life cycle phases: conception, definition, design, development/manufacture/construction, installation/initial use/operation, and close-out
- Including all the elements of information (schedule, resources, cost, technical, risk) pertinent to the situation, together with (1) resource allocation and management reports; and/or (2) earned value techniques (Fleming and Koppelman 2000) with cost and schedule variance reports where appropriate
- Using Web-enabled project management software systems and procedures; and
- Linking all projects within programs and project portfolios and producing the pertinent information summarized for senior executives to enable appropriate strategic direction on all projects.
Project Management Software Systems and Tools
Project management software applications are today a major market with hundreds of available, competing systems of widely varying power and capabilities. Table 5 provides a summary indication of the systems that are listed in the 1999 PMI Project Management Software Survey.
|Project Management Software Category
||PMBOK® Guide Knowledge Areas
|Project management suites (36)
Process/Scope management (19)
Schedule management (43)
Cost management (27)
Resource Management (27)
Human Resources Management
Risk Management and Assessment (15)
Communications Management (17)
Graphics Add-ons (21)
Web Publishers/Organizers (15)
Table 5: Software categories and related knowledge areas
[Summarized from PMI 1999, p 3]
The number of software application products surveyed in each category is shown in parentheses, as listed in Appendix B of the PMI Survey. The categories are not all mutually exclusive
One Integrated System
The powerful computer-supported project planning and control systems available today enable using one integrated system (usually consisting of project-oriented subsystems that are properly linked together) for each and every project within the organization, on an integrated life cycle basis, to:
- Systematically define and control the project's objectives and scope.
- Evaluate and proactively manage individual project risks together with the aggregate project portfolio risks.
- Define and control the specification, quality, configuration and quantity - in a word, scope - of intermediate and final products (or deliverables) of the project.
- Systematically define and control the project scope and the work to be carried out within each of its life cycle phases using the project/work breakdown structure (P/WBS) approach.
- Estimate the labor, material and others costs associated with (1) each project's deliverable products and related work elements, and (2) each summary element in the P/WBS.
- Plan and control the sequence and timing of the project deliverables and related work elements using a top level project master schedule plus an appropriate hierarchy of more detailed, integrated schedules.
- Authorize and control the expenditure of funds, work hours, and other resources required to execute the project.
- Provide the information - regarding both a) actual progress and expenditures and b) forecasts in the future - required by project managers, department managers, functional task leaders and work package leaders on a timely and reasonably accurate basis.
- Continually evaluate progress and predict and mitigate problems with scope, quality, cost, schedule and risk, using earned value project management methods where appropriate.
- Report to management and customers on the current status and future outlook for project scope, quality, cost and schedule completion, including post-completion reports.
When customer demands or other factors such as joint venture needs require that a specific project planning and control system be used for a particular project that is different from the corporate system, that different system can be linked with and provide summary information to the corporate system so that all project information, and particularly the time-related resource data, can be viewed on an integrated basis for the total organization.
Web-Enabled Project Management
This is one of the most significant advances in project management in recent years. Among the many advantages and efficiencies of web-enabled project management (Archibald 2003 pp 113-114, Timmons 2000) are:
- 24 hour availability of current project information and the project document repository,
- Ease of updating and exchanging current project information from any geographic location,
- Improved reporting capabilities and timeliness of information,
- Improved project baseline control,
- Ability to build virtual teams of people located anywhere in the world,
- Simplified storage and retrieval of vendor information and documents,
- Ability to create a virtual project turnover/completion (punch) list,
- Accelerated reaction to changes in risk, schedules, cost, or other factors,
- Enhanced ability to capitalize on opportunities for schedule, cost, or other improvements.
Distributed Project Management (DPM) Software
Web-enabled project management software is becoming known as distributed project management software and is a very large and rapidly growing market. "In addition to IT related organizations, users of collaboration tools [DPM software] come from a variety of non-IT companies such as those in architecture, engineering, aerospace, defense, energy, healthcare, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, telecommunications and construction industries " (Patterson 2002, p 2). The market for these specialized tools is projected to surpass US$3 billion by 2004 (Collaborative Strategies 2001).
"Definite trends are now emerging in the DPM marketplace. There is a strong movement away from complex, desktop-based applications to easy-to-use, browser-based systems even though there is an increasing shift from simple, local projects to distributed, more complex projects " (Patterson 2002, p 2).
Critical Chain Method (CCM) of Project Planning and Control
The critical chain method has emerged in the past few years and is embraced by some practitioners as a significant advance in the state of the art of project planning, scheduling and control. Others take the position that it is not significantly different from the critical path method/CPM, when that method is effectively used.
CCM builds on the familiar CPM network planning technique in the following ways:
- Resources and 'Resource Buffers': CCM focuses more intensively on resource constraints in creating the network plan logic. It identifies quantified resource buffers to assure that critical resources will be available when required to avoid project delays. Quantified resource buffers are certainly a new addition to project planning and control practices, although some would argue that they are basically the same as the 'management reserves' that have long been used in the application of CPM.
- Duration Estimates: CCM uses range estimates for activity durations, but its use of a 'mean value' is disputed by Piney (2000) as inferior to the original PERT approach to range estimates of duration. Many practitioners use range estimates with CPM as well, although this is not a formal requirement with CPM.
- Critical Chain Buffers: These are sized in CCM based on the uncertainty in the protected group of activities, and CCM proponents claim that these are different from CPM float or slack. Arguments by practitioners continue about these and related points concerning the differences between CCM and CPM. (See Archibald 2003, pp 274-275, Piney 2000, and Leach 2000 for more detail on these points.)
Reported Benefits of CCM
As an example, the U. S. Navy recently reported significant improvements when they switched from using CPM to CCM in 2002 at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard for its Fleet Maintenance Availability Project for Submarines. These include:
- Better schedule performance, with the last 13 submarines finishing on time.
- 11% more jobs done for each submarine turnaround while using 5% fewer people hours.
- 13% increase in job completions.
- Average length of repair time reduced by 5.6 days (PMI PMNetwork 2003 p 10).
The Navy says that the main reason the switch to CCM produced these improvements is because with CCM if a job finishes early the next job will start immediately, whereas with CPM the next job would not start until its original scheduled date, since the needed resource would not be available to start earlier. CCM encourages a 'relay race' behavior, they say, with workers finishing a job as quickly as possible and passing the baton without delay to the next in line. Others would argue that this type of behavior is not dependent on the planning method used.
The More Integrated Approach to Project Planning and Scheduling Developed in Russia
Methods and supporting software developed and widely used in Russia on many types and sizes of projects since about 1991 have some advantages and are more integrated compared to those commonly used in other countries. The methodology is based on the resource critical path approach (Liberzon 2001). This approach has common features with the Critical Chain Method and includes:
- Calculating the critical path taking into consideration all schedule constraints including resource and financing constraints,
- Calculating resource constrained activity floats (analogue of the CCM feeding buffers),
- Calculating resource constrained assignment floats and determining critical resources,
- Project risk simulation and calculation of the success probabilities using range duration estimates,
- Calculation and management of the contingency reserves (analogue of CCM project buffer).
"By controlling current values and trends of the project success probabilities the project managers obtain powerful tools that make project performance analysis very informative and even easier than the traditional Earned Value methods " (Liberzon and Archibald 2003, and Archibald 2003, Appendix pp 362-377).
The Russian approach often calculates activity durations based on work quantities or volumes and databases with extensive resource utilization rates that can be used for range estimates and success probability estimates.