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project management

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project management

     CHAPTER 3 SUMMARISE

    The development of a new information system to solve a problem is similar for all types organization and individuals. It involves planning, design and implementation. There are many reasons why an information system may need to change, including the introduction of new management, new technology or new products. The creation of a new information system is based on the belief that it will result in some benefits to the organization. However, in some cases the planning results in a modification of the existing information system. In a large organization the development of a new information system is the responsibility of a systems analyst or project team. Project teams consist of systems analyst, programmers and participants.

    There are different models used in the development of new information systems. It is called the system development cycle and consists of 5 broad

    stages:

    ; Understanding the problem- identifying the requirement of a system that would solve the problem

    ; Making decisions determining the feasibility of a new system to solve the problem

    ; Designing solutions-creating the new system

    ; Implementing- using the system to solve problem

    ; Testing, evaluating and maintaining- the ongoing operation of the system

    A. PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION

    A preliminary investigation determines whether a quick fix of the existing

    system will solve the problem or a new system is necessary. The fundamental operations and problems of the existing system must be understood. Each of the information processes are examined and any deficiencies in the existing system are recorded. The preliminary investigation takes into account the needs and concerns of all the participants. Participants play an important part in developing a workable system. These views are gathered using different data collection methods.

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    B. DATA COLLECTION

    Data and information are gathered throughout the system development cycle. Data is used to understand the problem and develop and appropriate solution. It is also needed to assess the feasibility of a proposal, design a new system and evaluate the system. There are several methods used for data collection, such as interviews, surveys, observations and measurements

    Data collection is very important. If the data is incorrect, the new system may not meet the needs of the participants. Data should be gathered in an organised way to ensure nothing is omitted.

    After the data is collected it must be carefully interpreted to ensure that the resulting information is valid. For example, can the results of a survey be

    generalized to a large group of people. The reliability of the data is also an issue.

    Data collected needs to be documented for it to be analysed. A diagrammatic method of documenting data is often used, such as a context diagram, data flow diagram or system flow chart.

    Interview- specific questions can be asked to determine opinions and feeling of the interviewee. Questions are carefully planned ahead of time. The three types of question are open end, closed, probe. The advantages of interview are probing is allowed, data can be obtained from all sectors, further explanations of answers are possible, greater depth of questioning. The disadvantages are it is time consuming and costly, poor questions can be asked, bias might be introduced.

    Questionnaires/surveys- used to study characteristics, attitudes, behaviors and opinions. Open and closed questions can be asked. The advantage of surveys are allowing for greater sample size and targeted area, cheap to deliver, scales can be used for quick analysis and it provide a quick means of acquiring data. The disadvantages are probes cannot be asked, the wording of questions must be carefully chosen, time-consuming produce, mailed questionnaires have low response rates and must be followed up.

    Required report

    The requirement report is a statement about the needs of a new system. It outlines the aims and objectives of the new system and how it will help the organization. The requirement report is based on data collected from the participants. It must match the goals of the organization to ensure that management are satisfied with the solution. The requirement report also

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    provides an overview of the new system in terms of the data/information to be used,, the information processes and the information technology required. The requirement report is used to develop potential solution to the problem.

    Project management is the process of planning, scheduling and controlling all the activities within each stage of the system development cycle. It aims to deliver a new system within an acceptable time frame and budget. Project management involves creating a project plam.

    A. PROJECT PLANS

    If the preliminary investigation recommends further examination of a new system, a project plan is developed for the system. A project plan organizes the

    project by specifying who, what, how and when. It includes Gantt charts, scheduling of tasks, journal and diary entries, a funding management plan and a communication management plan. The project leader starts by breaking down the development of a new system into smaller tasks. They identify all the tasks, an estimate for the cost of each task and schedule for each task.

    People working on the project should understand the need for project goals, deliverables and schedules.

    - Project goal result of the project if it is successful. Goals may be broad, such as creating a new system that works efficiently or they may be very specific

    - Deliverable a tangible item expected from a task (diagram, report, data dictionary, program or training manual)

    - Schedule the timing of major tasks and who will do the work

    INFORMATION MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

    Information management software helps individuals to manage information and

    schedule tasks. It allows email messages to be exchanged and organized. E.g. all messages from the project leader could be put into an electronic calendar. All activities for each contact are recorded to form a journal. Journal entries are organized on a timeline to quickly locate information. Tasks in the project are assigned, sorted and organized so that the progress made on a task can be seen at a glance.

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    PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

    Project management software contains most of the features of information management software. It is a tool to plan, manage and communicate information efficiently in a large project. Project management software allows projects to be joined, tasks to be split among team members, and for the project to be tracked over the Internet or via email. It provides analysis tools to assist with decision making.

    A Gantt chart is a bar chart with each bar representing a tasks or stage in the system development cycle. The vertical axis of a Gantt chart lists the tasks, and the horizontal axis shows the time frame. Gantt charts provide a quick method of determining whether the project is on schedule.

    B. COMMUNICATION SKILLS

    Communication skills incorporate a variety of strategies and techniques for dealing with other people. Good communication facilitates the sharing of information and genuine understanding. Some of the strategies for effective communication are:

    ; Active listening this is their main source of critical information

    required for a project to run smoothly. To listen well requires attention and involvement. It involved restating, reflecting and summarising the speaker’s

    major ideas and feeling. Active listeners encourage the speaker and are non-committal. Active listening is a strategy for improving listening skills- the aim being to better receive and understand the speaker’s intended message and

    importantly for the speaker to know that the listener has received and understood their message. Each of these strategies requires the listener to verbally respond using words that directly related to the speakers message. Active listening techniques include:

    i) Mirroring involves repeating back some of the speaker’s key words. This technique indicates to the speaker that you are interested and would like to know and understand more.

    ii) Paraphrasing is when the listener uses their own words to explain what they think the speaker has just said. Paraphrasing helps the speaker understand how their message sounds to others.

    iii) Summarising responses are commonly used to refocus or direct the

    speaker to some important topic or to reach agreement so the conversation can end. A summary of an important point will cause the speaker to elaborate in more detail on that point.

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    iv) Clarifying questions, this is natural as the speaker understands their

    points and can often assume the listener does also. The listener asks questions or makes statements that encourage the speaker to provide more detailed explanations.

    v) Motivational responses, the purpose is to encourage the speaker and

    reinforce in their mind that you are indeed listening and interested in what they have to say. One common technique is to use simple neutral words such as “I understand”, “that’s interesting”

    ; Conflict Resolution solves arguments and disputes. It involves listening to the other person’s view and looking at the conflict as a problem to be solved. Throughout the development of information systems decisions are constantly being made. Each decision involves a choice between different alternatives. Often different people will support different alternatives for different reasons. Understandably this is likely to cause conflict. Common areas where conflict occurs include:

    a) Allocating limited resources to development tasks. E.g. the total funds

    and time allocated to a project must be split equitably amongst each subtask. Increasing funding or time for one task often requires a corresponding reduction for other tasks. Conflict will arise as team members attempt to argue their case for a larger share of the limited resource.

    b) Different goals of team members. Individuals quite naturally formulate

    goals based on their interests, experience and area of expertise.

    c) Scheduling of tasks, during development many tasks must be

    performed in sequence. The ability to commence or complete one task relying on the completion of another task.

    d) Personal differences between people are a significant cause of conflict and can often be the most difficult to resolve effectively. Such differences

    include cultural, educational, religious, age and experience. The result being different feelings, attitudes and opinions.

    e) Internal conflict within individuals. People can have mixed feeling about

    how to perform their work or they can experience conflict between their personal and work commitments.

    To resolve conflict requires more than just a decision, it requires that the decision be accepted by each of the conflicting parties. The overriding aim of conflict resolution is for all parties and participants understand and then accept the final outcome. Some strategies that assist when resolving conflict include:

    a) U First try to define the problem and explore each person’s perception

    of the problem. Try to understand people’s point of view without judging them.

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    b) Brainstorming where each person expresses ideas as they come to mind. Not discussion takes place at this time.

    c) Mediation involves a third party who is removed from the conflict acting as a sounding board for the conflicting persons.

    d) Group problem solving requires a setting where all involved are on an equal footing and are encouraged to contribute equally. Commonly the group is arranged in a circle to promote equality.

    ; Negotiation skills involve discussing a problem and arriving at a

    consensus. They involve listening to different views and compromising to reach a solution. Negotiation should be a friendly exchange where differences are argued logically and in a reasoned manner. Successful negotiation prevents situations escalating into conflict. In general, negotiations commence with both parties arguing for more than they ultimately expect. During negotiations the parties progressively alter their positions until agreement is reached. The skills and techniques discussed previously for conflict resolution are also valuable during negotiations. However there are recognised techniques used by most skilled negotiators, such technique include:

    a) Knowing in advance all you can about the person, product, service or organisation prior to negotiations commencing can prove invaluable. When negotiating with outside organisations, research the worth or market value of the product or service they offer and assess other viable alternatives. Set limits in advance so that should the negotiations begin to break down you know in advance when to back off and reassess the situation.

    b) Consider a range of possible acceptable arrangements in advance. Try to think of options that will appeal to the other party or that they may well bring to the negotiation table. The aim is to anticipate the other party’s position and prepare a reaction in advance.it is far better to assess alternatives in advance rather than attempting making a quick decision in the heat of negotiations.

    c) Approach the other party directly to make an appointment in advance. At this time ensure the other party understands the agenda; this will ensure they are able to prepare sufficiently so that negotiation and agreement will be possible. Don’t get drawn into detailed discussion at this time, try to leave your comments for the actual appointment. The aim is to negotiate the best deal.

    d) During negotiations it is always easier to lower your expectations than it is to raise them. In general, start the negotiations at a point that exceeds your expected outcome. This improves your bargaining power as you have room to compromise during negotiation.

    e) Successful negotiators are confident and assertive, which allows them to maintain control during the negotiation process.

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    f) Establish trust and credibility before negotiations commence.

    Negotiation is largely about persuading the other party to compromise their

    position in favour of your position.

    g) A company has used the same outside contractor to install electrical

    and LAN cabling for each information system they develop. Although happy

    with quality of the contractors work, they find that quotes from competing

    contractors are significantly less expensive.

    ; Interview techniques

    Interviews are used to identify problems with existing systems, obtain feedback during development and also recruit and assess staff performance. Planning and preparation is the key to successful interviews. Questions should be formulated in advance and if a panel of interviewers is used then the questions should be shared out appropriately. One commonly used technique is to prepare pairs of questions. The first asks for specific information and often begins with words such as who, what, where, which or when. The second follow-up question is more open-ended and often asks how and why.

    When scheduling an interview the interviewee should be made aware of the purpose of the interview and they should also be given sufficient time to prepare. Interviews should be relaxed, professional and private interruption should be

    discouraged. when the interviewee arrives try to put them at ease. Commence by clearly stating the purpose of the interview and its likely duration. In a job interview a brief yet accurate description of the job and the company is worthwhile. An overview of the areas to be addressed in the interview may also be beneficial.

    There are factors that influence the success of the interview process. Most of these factors revolve around how the interviewer conducts him to her self during the interview. Following are lists of positive and negative attributes worth considering when conducting interviews:

    Positive interviewer attributes

    ; Well-prepared questions

    ; Attention and careful listening

    ; Personal warmth and an engaging manner

    ; The ability to sell ideas and communicate enthusiasm

    ; Putting the interviewee at ease

    ; Politeness and generosity

    ; Focus on the topics that need to be covered

    ; Negative interviewer attributes

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    ; lack of preparation

    ; not allowing enough time for the interview

     talking too much ;

    ; losing focus

    ; letting the interviewee direct the conversation

    ; biased towards people with similar ideas and styles to their own

    ; The tendency to remember most positively the person last interviewed.

    Team building

    A team is more than a group of people. Successful teams are able to achieve more when working together than would be possible if each member operated along, that is, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Team’s members focus on

    and are jointly responsible for achieving a shared goal. To build successful teams requires careful selection and ongoing training of people with different yet complimentary behaviour and personality traits. Clearly a team must include personnel with all the necessary skills to complete the work, however this should not be the sole selection criterion. In this section we first consider advantages of groups that function as a team and then consequences for groups that fail to function as a team, we then discuss popular techniques for building teams.

    ; Advantages of groups that function as a team

    Groups that function as a team are more productive and the systems they develop are higher quality. When team member co-operate they exchange ideas and formulate solutions together. The different skills, experiences, attitudes and behaviours of individuals complement each other rather than causing conflict. This joint sharing approach means more is achieved in less time. The team is more productive when working together than would have been the case if each member worked independently.

    There are also advantages for the individual team members. There is less conflict within a collaborative team environment and responsibility for task completion is shared. This positive atmosphere increases job satisfaction. As job satisfaction increases then so too does productivity and pride in the quality of ones work.

    Increasing job satisfaction leads to higher productivity and quality.

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    ; Consequences for groups that fail to function as a team

    Groups that fail to function as teams can result in financial loss, employment loss and missed opportunities. If a company is unable to perform it cannot compete and hence it will have difficulty attracting clients, its profits will fall and staff will need to be retrenched. Individuals also suffer when team performance is poor, teams operate cooperatively such that each member learns and grows through their interactions with other team members.

    ; Team building skills and techniques

    Tuckman describes 4 stages of team development, namely formally forming, storming, norming and performing. A brief description of each stage together with typical behaviours associated with each stage follows.

    1. Forming. This is when team members are getting to know each.

    During the forming stage managers should help team members get to know

    each other, they should set the overall purpose and goals of the team and

    set expectations.

    2. Storming. People are beginning to feel comfortable with each other.

    They now start to question issues and fight for position. Managers should

    ensure the team acknowledges this is quite normal, without ignoring

    conflicts that arise.

    3. Norming. Team members now recognise their differences. Roles

    are fairly well established and settled and the team starts to work together.

    Managers need to re-establish the teams goals, whilst accepting and

    responding to feedback.

    4. performing. the team is now operating as an effective productive

    unit. They are able to solve problems easily and even prevent problems

    arising in the first place. Performing teams require little management; they

    largely regulate the manage themselves.

    C. PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS

    Project management tools are used to document and communicate:

    ; what each task is

    ; who completes each tasks

    ; when each task is to be completed

    ; how much time is available to complete each task

    ; how much money is available to complete each task

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    ; project management document must recognise that virtually all

    projects encounter problems at some stage. As a consequence they cannot

    be static documents, they must adapt and change to reallocate tasks,

    resources, money and time in an effort to overcome problems

    ; Project managers use a variety of project management tools including

    ; Gantt charts for scheduling of tasks

    ; Journals and diaries for recording the completion of tasks and other

    detail

    ; Funding management plan for allocating money to tasks.

     Communication management plans to specify how all stakeholders will ;

    communicate with each other during the development of the new system.

    Gantt charts for scheduling of tasks

    A Gantt chart is a horizontal bar chart used to graphically schedule and track individual tasks within a project. The horizontal axis represents the total time for the project and is broken down into appropriate the time intervals. The vertical axis represents each of the project tasks. Horizontal bars of varying lengths show the sequence, timing and length of each task.

    Journals and diaries

    Journals and diaries are tools for recording the day-to-day progress and detail of completed tasks. Diaries are arranged in chronological order with a page or section for each day’s events. Meetings, appointments, tasks, and any other events that have recently occurred. After or during event diaries tend to be used to record factual information, whilst journals include a more detailed analysis and reflection on recent events. However in terms of recording past events the distinction between the two is unclear.

    Diaries are an organisational tool and a memory aid. For instance, the project manager records when meetings will occur and team member record appointments that will take them out of the office. Such information is critical if the team is to operate smoothly and effectively.

    Journals, and sometimes diaries, document work completed by team members during the projects development. As tasks are completed team members write

    down what was done and any issues they encountered. In addition such comments can include ideas and comments on possible future improvements. Project managers refer to journals as they monitor the completion of tasks and identify possible issues. Also, journals are valuable tools when evaluating a systems development. Detail of

    problems encountered and their effect on the development process can be analysed.

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