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List and describe five ways in which a software tool can help in planning a project.
Five ways in which a software tool can help in planning a project are:
continually recalculate plan
helps look at 'what if' scenarios
organisation can customise
wise range of reports available
interface with other systems
A software tool allows a project manager to continually recalculate the project plan and schedule as the project progresses and circumstances change. For example, if a work package is finished sooner than anticipated, or is delayed, software tools help the project manager to quickly and easily update the project schedule to allow for this change. This is important as it means the project manager has a clear view on the project schedule and can communicate this effectively to the project teak and stakeholders.
Software tools also help a project manager to look at 'what if' scenarios. Given the ease with which they can be used the project manager can model various scenarios, for example, what would happen with different levels of resource availability, and what effect this would have on the project schedule. This is important because it helsp the project manager to prepare for various different scenarios.
Organisations are able to customise software tools meaning that they can better confirm to the organisation's project framework. They have the flexibility to be adaptable to a corporations' need while still maintaining certain standards. This means all projects will be run to the same agreed tried and tested standards increasing the change of project success.
Software tools tend to have a wide range of reports and displays available. This means the project manager can choose the appropriate medium to clearly communicate their project to the project team and stakeholders. This also means that regular reports can be generated quickly, easily and consistently.
Software tools can also be integrated with other pieces of software within an organisation. For example, they can be integrated with the organisation's financial systems. This allows information to flow freely and accurately up and down within the organisation, keeping all parties accurately informed of the current status of the projects.
Explain how total float is calculated.
Explain why it is important to understand the projects critical path and how this knowledge might be used when running a project.
Explain the importance of understanding the free float associated with tasks and how this knowledge might be used when running a project.
Analyse the following network and determine the following:
a) The earliest finish of the project.
b) The total float for task D
c) The free float for task B
d) The critical path
Total float is calculated by subtracting the earliest finish of a task from the latest finish. This gives the total float which is the length of time a given task can move within the project before it affects the end date of the project.
The critical path of a project is vitally important as understanding this means that the project manager is aware of the key tasks which cannot slip in time for the project to maintain the planned end date. They can use knowledge of this critical path and the tasks on it to focus their attention and, if required, resources to ensure they remain on target.
Free float is important because it determines how much a given task can slip by in time before it affects the start date of a subsequent task. Movement within free float does not effect the overall end date of the project. It is important to understand the free float available because the project manager can utilise it by moving resources to other critical tasks without delaying the project as a while.
The earliest finish is period 15
The total float for task D is 3
The free float for task B is 0
The critical path is tasks A, C, E and F
Explain what is meant by the term 'resource management'.
From the Gantt chart provided below draw a resource histogram.
Resource management is the proactive management by the project manager of the resources available to them for the completion of the project. The project manager must use the research available to them, such as the people, equipment, materials, property and technology, in the most efficient way possible to complete the project. They must be aware of what can be replenished and ensure supplies are available when needed and must also be prepared to redeploy resources when necessary. This is a key aspect of project management as, without the effective management of resources, tasks can be delayed, as can the project overall.
Histogram – would be drawn as below
period 1 – 2
period 2 – 3
period 3 – 3
period 4 – 4
period 5 – 2
period 6 – 2
period 7 - 1
period 8 – 1
period 9 – 2
period 10 – 2
period 11 - 1
Explain the terms 'resource levelling' and 'resource smoothing'.
List and describe three implications of splitting tasks.
Resource levelling is the process by which the project manager moves resources to different tasks when the relevant resources aren't available. This is the process used when no free float is available. For example, if three software developers are required on a project for two weeks (six man weeks) but only two developers are available the project manager can level the resources by allocating two developers over three weeks. However, doing so will delay the project delivery date because that task will be delayed.
Resource smoothing is the process used when free float is available for a task, and the project manager can reallocate existing resources to different tasks by using up some of this free float. Because resource smoothing utilises free float (for example by extending a task by a week) the overall project end date is not delayed.
Three implications of splitting tasks are:
demobilisation and remobilisation costs
??? - couldn't think of a third implication?
Splitting a task will lead to increased costs as there will be demobilisation and remobilisation costs. Wherever a task starts and ends there are costs associated with these processes and splitting the task will therefore lead to an increased cost in these processes.
Splitting a task also increases the risk of delay to a project. For example, splitting the task will add time, which may not be a problem if the task originally had free float, but may become one if it takes longer than envisaged. Risk will also increase as people have to pick up where they left off and therefore remind themselves of what has gone before.
List and describe five things a project manager might do to manage costs.
Five things a project manager might do to manage costs are:
prepare a budget or cumulative cost curve
prepare a cash flow
allow for accruals
One use of a resource histogram is to use this to generate a cumulative cost curve, or budget, for the project. This is done by taking the resource histogram or resource curve and multiplying the resources by their costs and then plotting these costs cumulatively over the course of the project. This enables the project manager to be aware of what funds will be used over the project life cycle as a whole, and provides a baseline for the project manager to compare against during the project. It is also an effective tool with which to communicate with stakeholders.
Project managers must also be aware of committed costs to enable them to manage costs effectively. These are costs legally committed over the course of the project, such as rent or contract costs, which are unavoidable but not yet expended. They must be considered as no longer available funds even when not yet spent as they must legally be paid when due. Over the course of the project the legal commitment will reduce as payments are made. Project managers must make stakeholders aware of these committed costs and must also be aware of them as abortive costs should a project be stopped.
A cash flow is a useful tool for a project manager as it allows them to see what funds they will require when, therefore allowing them to make sure they have the necessary funds available when required. It can be communicated to stakeholders, so they are similarly aware.
When reporting costs a project manager should make allowance for accruals. This is when a cost incurred but not yet invoiced or paid for is included in the costs for the period it was incurred. This gives a more accurate picture of costs incurred to date on a project than if only those costs invoiced are allowed for. As the project progresses these accruals should be replaced with actual costs as they are invoiced to provide the most accurate costs and allow the project manager the most control of costs.
Forecasts are also an important way that project managers can be aware of and therefore control costs. It is key to be aware of where the project costs are headed as, without this awareness, it is almost impossible to manage them well. Forecasting is also a useful reporting tool for the project manager to keep stakeholders aware of progress.
State a definition of the term 'earned value'.
State a definition of the term 'budget at completion'.
From the data supplied below, determining the SPI, CPI, estimated price at completion and actual time at completion for the project where the project budget at completion is £11,000 and overall planned project duration is 7 weeks. Did refer back to the book for the formulas - I'll only attempt a question this if I'm 100% sure of them!
From the data in part (c) explain two reasons why the project may be exhibiting these figures.
Earned value is the value placed on products produced by the project to date which cannot be taken away. It is calculated by multiplying the budget at completion for the project or a work package by the percentage the project or work package is complete.
Budget at completion is the budget that was allocated to a work package for all work within that work package to be completed. Alternatively, it is the sum of all work package budgets at completion to provide one for the overall project.
SPI = 5900/11000 = 0.54
CPI = 5900/7500 = 0.79
Estimated price at Completion = 11000/(5900/7500) = £13,924
Actual time at completion = 7/(5900/11000) = 12.96
The project is currently running late and over budget according to what has been produced so far.
This could be due to inaccurate initial estimates. If the initial estimate were inaccurate the project may be proceeding well but not in line with expectations and therefore the earned value casts the project in a negative light.
Another reason could be the inefficient work of the project team. If they are not working well tasks, and the project will be delayed. The project manager should use these earned value calculations to look at which tasks seem to be suffering the most and consider redeploying resources to assist or perhaps offering training to the team.
Explain the primary use of earned value.
Explain two advantages of using earned value analysis technique.
Explain two disadvantages of using earned value analysis technique.
Earned value is a calculation used to determine how the project is proceeding in relation to the expected progress at a given time. It allows the calculation of the difference between the planned spend, actual spend and the value of items done to date.
One advantage of this technique is that it provides an index by which to measure the project's progress which is clear and can be reported on. This makes the progress clear to all involved and ensures everyone knows how the project is progressing.
The earned value model also checks the project's progress against expectation and enables the project manager to see where issues may be occurring and where their attention may be required.
One disadvantage of this model is the reliance on the percentage complete of a given task. While this is relatively straightforward where a physical product is being produced it is much more difficult where the product is not as clearly defined. This percentage has huge input in the calculation and accuracy is therefore important.
Earned value also requires a clearly defined baseline from which the calculations will be made – without this the wrong result would mean the wrong impression of the project is given.