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Sample Question In Section 3, Feedback Would Be Appreciated

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 29th December 2014

Hi Paul,

Just started going through the book etc and reading the various posts, noticed a lot of feedback regarding the content of the answers so would appreciate some feed back on the first sample question in the book from section 3.1, Contexts and Environments. 

List and describe five key attributes of project and how they differ from business as usual? 

Five key attributes of a project are: 

  1. Projects seek to introduce change into an organisation.
  2. Projects are constrained by time.
  3. Projects produce one off, unique deliverables.
  4. Projects have a defined budget.
  5. Projects engage temporary specialist teams working with project specific plans and risks. 

Differences between project attributes and how they differ from the business as usual operations would be. 

  1. Projects seek to introduce change into an organisation to realise commercial benefits, this may be the building of a new airport terminal that is more energy efficient, has greater floor space than older terminals and better commercial opportunities. Business as usual seeks to maintain standard operational procedures to manage the day to day running of the new terminal such as maintenance and cleaning operations.
  2. Projects are constrained by time in so much that the product that they are delivering needs to be completed and put into service at some point to allow the benefits to be realised by the end user. Business as usual would then manage the new airport terminal through repetitive operational procedures continuously for the next 50 years.
  3. Projects produce a one off, unique deliverable such as the new airport terminal. Business as usual provides the same deliverable repeatedly on a daily basis throughout the life cycle of the building e.g. maintaining and cleaning the terminal.
  4. Projects have an agreed and defined budget to allow delivery of the unique product, business as usual have operational costs which may include staff wages, consumables, equipment and furniture which are all covered from a operational budgets and are all ongoing lifecycle costs.
  5. Projects engage temporary, specialist teams to deliver specific parts of the project which may include specialist trades people, schedulers, risk managers, costs managers and project managers, all who are only engaged as long as the project requires their specific skills. Business as usual employs specialist staff but on a permanent basis to allow them to manage a new airport terminal for the lifecycle of the building.

 

 

  1. Student says:

    Answer to Question 1 Section 3.8.

    1] List and describe five ways in which the project manager would make sure health, safety and environment was dealt with correctly on the project?

    The project manager would ensure that HSE was dealt with correctly on their project by ensuring the following:

    1.Risk assessments are carried out, properly recorded and any resultant actions completed:
    2.Ensure that the project team are properly trained for the works they are about to undertake:
    3.Regular reviews are undertaken:
    4.Awareness of stress:
    5.Proper safety equipment is provided:

    A detailed description of these points would be as follows:

    1.Risk assessments: the project manager must ensure that these are carried out by suitably skilled persons, that they are done for all relevant tasks which may vary from heavy lifting activities on a construction site that ensures that the correct training is in place, the correct lifting equipment is used and has been properly tested prior to works taking place. To an office workstation risk assessment that assesses office staffs seating position, lumbar support, screen position etc. for someone who spends all day sitting in front of a computer. Both of these are equally important in ensuring the health and safety of the project staff. The results must be properly recorded and any resultant actions completed. i.e. foot rests for staff, further training for site staff for slinging of heavy loads. These must also be revisited whenever there are major changes or after certain periods to ensure they are still relevant and being adhered to.

    2.Proper training for project team is essential to ensure any task that they are undertaking is done so safely so there are no accidents, damage to equipment or property, lost time and additional costs to the project. This would include works both in the office environment and out on site, works that they may be undertaking directly such as simply moving office furniture, lifting boxes of paper from a store cupboard to a printer, works that they may be supervising on site such as confined space works where an understanding of what training needs to be in place, what safe guards are required prior to operatives entering the confined space and what equipment should be used, or even reviewing risk assessments for works where a technical training requirement is essential for ensuring the author has considered all the risks and accounted for them. Training is not just for site operatives carrying out physical works.

    3.Regular reviews need to be undertaken where a particular environment has been occupied for some time and changes may have occurred from the initial reviews. This could major changes on a construction site where a greenfield site has developed into a large building, which in turn is progressed internally with multiple rooms, corridors, access, and egress routes may change daily, lighting and particularly escape lighting needs to be constantly monitored as areas begin to get closed off. Site inductions may need to be amended and the site team re-inducted, risk assessments for the same tasks need to be reviewed as the environment that the works are executed in have changed, the same task needs to be carried out at height rather than low level, busier site conditions, vehicle movement around sites change. Site office layouts change as the site progresses, vehicle routes around the site change and the interface with pedestrian routes needs to be monitored and changes notified to everyone on site.

    4.Awareness of stress as a potential HSE issue: as projects progress, deadlines get stricter, issues arise on site, resource shortages due to an over demand, these all place the team under pressure to deliver with the potential for staff to suffer from stress greatly increased. The project manager should ensure that his team are not working unreasonable hours (including themselves) and that there are proper facilities that allow the team to take a break and relax, the team should be consulted on the load sharing of work activities so they can ensure they have a chance to vocalise their concerns and ensure they are not overburdened. Access to occupational health professionals during work hours will allow the team to get regular health checks and talk over their issues with non-biased professionals who can then provide advice.

    5.Proper safety equipment is provided: the project manager must ensure that the correct personal protective equipment is available for all staff, that it is appropriate for the works being carried out and does not hinder the work activity which can cause it not to be worn as it is uncomfortable. Many organisations have a minimum 5 pieces of PPE that must be worn but the risk assessments must clearly identify specific PPE requirements, gloves may need to be cut resistant for works using knives, goggles may need to be worn in place of safety glasses where stone cutting is taking place, when face masks are identified, the correct level of protection needs to be identified and a face fit assessment needs to be undertaken to ensure the effectiveness of the mask, beards usually render a face mask useless for example. Office environment may also require PPE, changing toner in a photocopier should be undertaken with protective gloves and safety glasses.

  2. Student says:

    Answer to Section 3.6/3.7.

    Describe the term project context and explain four contextual factors affecting a project giving examples.

    The term project context refers to the environment that a particular project has to operate under and constraints placed on the delivery of the project. It is essential that the project manager understands the project they are undertaking but also which environment that they are delivering within. The context of differing projects can vary greatly and will impact the execution of the project, it’s outcome and acceptance. A construction project to deliver a 3rd runway at Heathrow operates within a different environment than the delivery of new accountancy software system within even the same business. The use of the tool, PESTLE for analysing and understanding your particular project contexts is advocated by the APM as this allows you to identify the Political, Economical, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental constraints.

    Four of these contextual factors that affect projects are:

    1.Political: This could be both Political factors such as the national and local Politics involved in public funded projects such as a 3rd runway at Heathrow, the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, both these have national and local political stakeholders who need to be identified and managed. There is also internal political factors that will affect some projects, a new software system being rolled out across a large corporation will need to bring together different departments, again identifying these stakeholders and managing them will be essential to the delivery of the project.

    2.Economic: funding large public projects like Hinkley Point power station will depend upon public finance initiatives or private partnerships, long term projects will be affected by changes and uncertainty around interest rates, international projects will need to be aware of the affects of exchange rate fluctuations. Corporations carrying out internal IT projects may find that the benefits of the project are less measurable not occurring until well into the future, costs will need to be offset against a more intangible business case, understanding these eligible but soft potentential benefits will allow the project manager to ensure they are assessed as valid results and outcomes.

    3.Sociological: the affects that a project has on society must be understood, a 3rd runway at Heathrow will have a negative impact on a proportion of the local people that live near the airport, the benefits to the business community in the UK and the overall prosperity of the nation will have a positive impact. A new project for faster broadband across the country will need to understand the interaction between users of the system and the system itself, understanding the needs of society means more attention to ease of use and accessibility.

    4.Environmental: waste disposal from construction sites is heavily regulated, understanding the restrictions around the location and type of works being undertaking is essential, a city centre site that has minimal space may need to consider sorting it’s waste offsite, this may require greater logistical costs than a site with enough space for multiple ships where it can be sorted as it’s generated so no double handling reduces the costs. A new data centre needs to consider the power consumption created by the new equipment, utilising more expensive cooling equipment with a much lower power consumption may be required to meet regulatory requirements.

  3. Paul says:

    Henry all the answers on this page are fine, they include enough detail to show that you understand the topic. Ten like this and you should pass.

  4. Student says:

    Hi Paul,

    When you get a chance I would appreciate it if you could give some feed back, don’t know if I’m rambling and overthinking the answers!

    Section 3.2-3.5 Sample questions.

    Section 3.2 -3.5 Question 1:

    List and describe 5 key benefits of using a programme management approach?

    5 key benefits would be:

    1.Able to initiate, define, accelerate or terminate the projects in the programme.
    2.Improve the management of project interdependencies and impacts on business as usual.
    3.Manage and share available resources and conflicting demands from the business.
    4.Able to manage risk, issues and change across the programme.
    5.Focus on the definition and management of strategic benefits.

    The benefits of using the programme management approach would be:

    1.Able to initiate, define, accelerate or terminate the projects in the programme; programmes are made up of interdependent multiple projects that must all contribute to the fundamental achievement of the strategic benefits of the organisation. Projects contained within the programme will deliver different benefits, initiating those projects that deliver these early to suit the business requirements or in the multi-year programmes being able to redefine a projects scope, accelerate or terminate projects will allow the programme to deliver the organisation’s vision as it develops and matures to meet the most relevant strategic direction of the business. For example, the building of an new airport terminal included multiple areas for an airline, they were taken over by another airline who operated from another terminal, the areas had to be re-designed and developed and new tenants found. This required the build project and the commercial project associated with letting the areas to be altered well into the schedule to suit the changes.

    2.Improve the management of project interdependencies and impacts on business as usual: the multiple projects making up the programme need to be delivered in the correct order, delivering the correct products and transitioned properly into business as usual activities. The Programme Manager has an overall view of these interdependencies and can better understand the risks, allowing better planning and delivery of the projects and the products that they deliver, whether delivering benefits for another project in the programme and/or products directly into business as usual. For example, a project to build a new airport Terminal delivers a new facility into the business but needs to be aligned with the projects to deliver/install all the new furniture, IT hardware, training and operational readiness.

    3.Manage and share available resources and conflicting demands from the business: multiple projects in a programme of varying sizes may compete for the same resource. They require specialised support but at different times and to smaller degrees than the programme. A programme could utilise the business HR department, cost management, procurement and risk managers, sharing resources across the projects, better able to relocate valuable resource so that delays and issues on one project causing under utilization can be diverted elsewhere. For example, a new build project may discover archeological ruins while clearing the site for piling. This could bring the project to a halt; resource can be reassigned to other projects quickly keeping downtime and costs down.

    4.Able to manage risk, issues and change across the programme: by having an overview of the whole workload, programmes can coordinate all the projects, enabling a better flow of risk information between projects and senior management in both directions. Contingencies can be transferred, providing efficient use of funds and resources, allowing the overall risk profile to be understood and managed accordingly. Issues arising are communicated and understood across all projects allowing impacts to be reduced or removed through lessons learnt communications and changes to have minimal impact but greater efficiency across the programme. An example could be that a frame work supplier being engaged across multiple projects within the programme is found to be over engaged and falling behind schedule, other projects could engage alternative framework suppliers before they start, saving lost time on the schedule, cost savings and allowing the supplier to better deploy his scarce resource.

    5.Focus on the definition and management of strategic benefits: programmes are associated with the vision of the organisation, which defines the projects within the programme required to deliver the strategic benefits associated with this vision. Projects are solely focused on delivering a product as per their scope, which is part of the vision and will deliver some of the strategic benefits of that vision. The programme has a holistic view of the strategic benefits delivered by each project and the interdependencies of each to the overall outcome and benefits to be derived by the organisation. Multi-year programmes may also not have certainty over the outcomes and need to adopt a flexible evolutionary model that allows them to adapt the definition of the project outcomes to meet the organisational intent. The programme is better placed to deliver these benefits into business as usual as it has much clearer visibility of the benefits and the impact these will have to the business and may also have a lot of them within it’s own scope. An example could be that new baggage handling technology is available but the project to provide a building for the old technology needs to alter dramatically to suit this new requirement, the build project is focused on delivering the build as per the scope, it has no visibility of the equipment to be installed once completed. The programme sees the whole picture and knows that the definition of the build and its initial strategic benefits must change to suit this new requirement, as must the baggage project.

    Section 3.2 -3.5 Question 2:

    List and describe five benefits of running projects as part of programmes instead of unconnected activities.

    5 benefits would be:
    1.Better focus on the achievement of collective benefits.
    2.Strategic in nature, tackling large change at an organisational level.
    3.Prioritise projects to make sure they are optimized in terms of available resource and return on investment.
    4.Standardisation and consistency of approach so common methods and tools can be established, avoiding duplication and confusion.
    5.Delivery of benefits to business as usual.

    The benefits of running projects as part of programmes instead of unconnected activities are:

    1.Better focus on the achievement of collective benefits: projects are constrained by specific objectives, delivering outputs and subsequently benefits associated with those specific objectives. Programmes have sight of the organisations overall vision, the multiple projects each delivering specific objectives that collectively deliver the benefits required to meet the vision. It is only by having sight of each of these project objectives and control over each of the projects that the programme can ensure that each individual project continues to deliver into a set of collective benefits. An example would be the 2012 Olympics, a programme made up of a number of projects, the stadium, swimming pool, cycle track, security, etc. all these projects were focused on delivering a specific objective related to the project, what is important is that the programme had sight of what needed to be delivered and when to the collective benefit of the “best games ever” vision.

    2.Strategic in nature, tackling large change at an organisational level: projects deliver single, defined solutions to a single requirement that may feed in an overall strategy but as the programme is strategic in nature, they are flexible and can adapt to changes in the organisations vision, deliver requirements in tranches with objectives continually evolving to meet the vision. An example could be a company merger where there are multiple projects required to deliver outcomes at specific times in specific order, the project to merge systems must be delivered prior to the project to reorganise and merge departments, with staff being relocated or made redundant.

    3.Prioritise projects to make sure they are optimised in terms of available resource and return on investment: an organisation may be delivering hundreds of projects, all of which may require the same specialists that exist within the programme but to a much smaller degree. The programme can deliver IT and HR from the programme team across a number of projects ensuring that valuable resource is optimised and costs reduced.

    4.Standardisation and consistency of approach so common methods and tools can be established, avoiding duplication and confusion: a programme will have standardised processes in place to ensure consistency across projects, this ensures that every one is doing the same thing across the projects, delivering the same information, the same working practices to give the same outcomes. This allows a consistent approach across the programme, rather than individual projects using different approaches to the same issues, resulting in conflicting information, delivered differently. An example would be a health and safety policy, a standardised delivery ensures that the multiple projects all deliver the same message and training, crucial when people move from one project to the next, they do not get conflicting messages and lives are saved.

    5.Delivery of benefits to business as usual: both projects and programmes deliver products into the business and proper transition arrangements need to be made. The programme with it’s clearer visibility of all the projects and their relationships with business as usual is much better placed at ensuring the products are delivered at the right time, in the right order to ensure a smooth transition into business as usual and the realisation of benefits to the business. This could be delivery of new software to align with the new IT system for a new large call centre building. All are essential but they must be delivered in the correct order to be effective to the business.

  5. Paul says:

    Henry These are really good answers for your first attempts, you have got the idea of structuring answers very quickly. Ten more like this and you should do very well in the exam. Try a few more advanced questions such as say the benefits of governance.

  6. Student says:

    Paul,

    Second question answers below, again would appreciate feedback.

    All the best for the New Year.

    List and describe five difficulties a project manager may encounter when running a project in a well established operational business.

    Five difficulties could include those listed below:

    1.An operational business would have a requirement to work to strict but slow operational processes.
    2.Operational business teams not used to exposure and management of risks.
    3.Operational business teams have fixed permanent teams with long term relationships not transient temporary teams.
    4.Operation business used to delivering repetitive products, consistently with slow incremental change.
    5.Operational business teams may well have other permanent roles within the business and other permanent line managers over and above the project manager.

    Description of the difficulties the project manager could encounter may be:

    1.An operational business may have strict standard operational processes that the project manager may be forced to adhere to such as HR policies on the hiring of people. This may work well operationally when hiring permanent long term personnel but the project may require specialists at short notice to react to a specific issue and require them quickly.
    2.Projects due to their uniqueness and unknowns have an inherent high level of risk, this needs a team experienced in not only recognising risks but with the ability to manage them and react accordingly when they arise. Operational businesses delivering known deliverables, consistently regardless of the complexity of the deliverable will not have the experience and abilities to deal with the project risks.
    3.Operational business teams will generally have been working together for some time and have built up relationships over this time period. They will be unused to the transient nature of the project teams with people appearing and disappearing after short periods, with very little notice and may struggle to build these short-term relationships and therefore struggle to work well together for the duration of the project.
    4.Operational business are used to delivering the same product repeatedly, are comfortable with what they are expected to deliver, knowing their place in that process and what is expected from them. Projects deliver a one off, unique product with many unknowns, making quick changes as the project progresses with regard to both how they deliver and what the team members are expected to deliver.
    5.Operational business teams may well have another permanent role within the business and be answerable to another line manager as well as any role they have in the project and the project manager. As their loyalty lies with their permanent line manager and those permanent deliverables they will give these priority over any requirement the project manager may have of them. This may be an HR manager who gives priority to the hiring of permanent staff over the project managers requirement for temporary staff, the project needs these team members at short notice for short periods which conflicts with the project needs.

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