Project Management and the Development life cycle

Project Management and the Development life cycle are related and important topics. There is a need for management reviews at which the progress and direction of the project can be formally assessed.

Most projects contain elements of uncertainty, which make it difficult to meet all planned targets. This uncertainty is greatest at the beginning of the project, when little may be known about detailed requirements or any novel technologies, but gradually decreases as the project progresses. This makes it difficult in the early stages to plan later phases in detail.

For example, it would be difficult at the outset for the Water Holiday Company to plan in detail the software code to be developed without a deeper understanding of the requirements of the new common booking system.

Breaking down a project into manageable units of work

For the purposes of control there is a need to break the project into manageable units of work. These are variously called stages or phases. This is similar to dividing development into processes, except that it focuses on how best to manage the project. No two projects will be broken down identically because no single project structure can provide the best management control for all projects.

In some cases – perhaps in smaller projects – two or more activities in the system development life cycle, such as design and construction, might be treated as one stage for management purposes. A larger project might split a single development activity into several management stages. For example, the construction phase might be broken into different management stages concerned with the construction of different parts of the system. At the start of a project, an initial overall plan of the work to be done will be presented with a detailed plan for the first stage.

Detailed plans for each subsequent stage will be prepared as the start of it approaches.

The end of each stage is marked by a formal review, involving the project sponsor, which assesses the work completed and outstanding, and whether the business case is still valid. The review concludes with a formal sign-off of the current stage and the project sponsor’s approval of the plan for the next stage of the project.

ELEMENTS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

As well as consolidating or splitting up development processes in consultation with the project sponsor in order to facilitate their control, the project manager tailors project management procedures to improve control over the project. Although the overall project management process remains the same, the amount of effort needed for control varies. Small projects, for example, need less formal control.

The processes that need to be tailored include:

  • planning and estimating;
  • monitoring and control;
  • issue management;
  • change control;
  • risk management;
  • project assurance;
  • project organisation;
  • business change and benefits management.

All of these will be described in greater detail in later sections of this book, but a brief overview will be useful at this point.

Planning and estimating

Good planning increases confidence within the project team. The aim is to detail the activities, the sequence in which they are carried out and the resources they need. The plan shows when activities are likely to start and finish and the estimated staff effort. An outline plan for the whole project is made initially, then a detailed plan is made for each stage nearer the start of the stage.

Monitoring and control

Tracking and control ensures that the project meets its commitments in terms of deliverables, quality, time and cost by tracking the current state of the project against the plan and identifying any need to re-plan. Chapter 3 examines project control in more detail.

Issue management

During the course of a project, obstacles will be identified which could affect the project’s success. These problems may be outside the direct control of the project manager and need escalation, that is, reference to higher authorities. An example is where a promised external resource is not delivered when promised. Issues could lead to authorised changes to the project requirements – these have their own special procedures (see Section 1.6.4). The project manager should ensure that a system is in place for recording these issues, monitoring their status and starting any actions needed.

Change control

Any project can be subject to change. A change is often the result of a modification to requirements. Any requests for change should be made through a formal change management process. Failure to incorporate necessary changes reduces the benefit obtained from the project. However, accepting changes in an uncontrolled manner can cause problems that affect the cost, time scales and overall business case. Chapter 4 examines change control and configuration management.

Risk management

All projects are subject to risk. If risks are not managed, they can have a detrimental effect. A suitable risk management process assesses and manages project risks.

Risks are different from issues. A risk is an unplanned occurrence that could happen, but has not yet done so. An issue is an unplanned occurrence which has already happened and which requires the project manager to request or initiate action. Risk management identifies and quantifies risks before they happen, and plans and implements actions to eliminate risks or reduce their probability or impact. Risk management ensures that projects are only undertaken with a full understanding of the potential implications of the risks involved. Chapter 7 deals with risk in more detail.1.6.6

Project assurance

When pressure mounts on a project to meet its deadline, it is tempting to ignore some of the checks and balances imposed by project standards and to focus exclusively on the work to be done. This lack of control can be dangerous and can lead to project failure. Project assurance is a set of procedures which ensures correct project control is maintained. This involves auditing by staff outside the project team.

Project organisation

A key factor in any project is effective project organisation, where the roles and responsibilities of all participants are clearly defined and understood.

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *