Week 9: Project Management

Herr Schlagwein has returned to complete the two-week series on System Development and Project Management. He begins the lecture by playing a video about Scrum, a particular method of Agile development. It’s an older version of Intro to Scrum in Under 10 Minutes, although the content hasn’t changed too much apart from the product placement. The same folks behind the video have also helpfully made this diagram:

(Picture credits to Exosoft)

There are a lot of obvious things and recaps of last week in this lecture, so here are the important (read: new) points:

  1. Portfolio Analysis. Your organisation probably has a huge list of projects it could undertake. To optimise your returns, focus on identifying and developing low-risk high-returns projects. Low-risk low-returns projects are being done as routine tasks anyway, and high-risk high-returns projects should be cautiously examined.
  2. Scoring Models. This is a list of multiple system functionalities or criteria and their relative importance. You then look at all the possible systems you could implement and give them a rating for each criteria. This provides a quantitative analysis about which candidate is the best … assuming you can estimate and quantify accurately, which is not always possible. (It’s just a tool, guys!)
  3. Tangible and intangible benefits. Tangible benefits can be immediately quantified in dollar terms (e.g. reducing labour costs or storage costs) while intangible benefits cannot be immediately quantified in the short-term but will have quantifiable long-term benefits (e.g. better customer service, increased employee job satisfaction).
  4. Change management. This is straight out of MGMT1001. A new information system will redistribute power (namely, resource power!) and thus you, the system analyst, are effectively a change agent who can expect to meet resistance. Remember that you need the support of users, developers, and management – and all these groups think differently. Communication is more important than ever.
  5. Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Risk. These are the five variables that you have to balance (a bit like how uni students balance marks, sleep, and social life). “Runaway projects” (30-40% of all IT projects) are those that exceed these variables. Remember that risk increases with project size and structure, but decreases with your experience. “Learn from your mistakes and even the mistakes of others,” DJ Danny says inspiringly.

There is also some discussion of project management tools. Everyone’s heard of Gantt charts before, but what about PERT charts? These are cool because they (geometrically!) show you which branches of the project can be delayed without pushing back the deadline, as opposed to the “critical path” which determines the deadline because it is the longest branch of the project:

(A sample from Wikipedia. Caption: “PERT chart for a project with five milestones (10 through 50) and six activities (A through F). The project has two critical paths: activities B and C, or A, D, and F – giving a minimum project time of 7 months with fast tracking. Activity E is sub-critical, and has a float of 1 month.”)

As usual, DJ Danny is quite faithful to the textbook, so reading the textbook doesn’t give you much new material. There’s a breakdown of the management perspective of project management (corporate strategic planning group, IS steering committee, project management, project team) that seems extremely bureaucratic, but I suppose bureaucracy is exactly that. Closing mentions of ergonomics and organisational impacts are quite insightful.

The case study for this week is about DST Systems, a software company that switched to a Scrum-based development cycle because it was having trouble meeting deadlines. During Tony’s Tutorial, points about having to adjust the organisation to use Scrum are made.

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