Reasons for establishing projects

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Projects are generally established for one of two reasons.

In one case, there is an opportunity for the company. It could be an opportunity to get into a new market, to offer a better service to customers, to introduce a new capability, etc. This could be an enhancement, or something brand-new. But an opportunity exists to do something better or to do something different. We can establish a project to take advantage of this opportunity.

Or, a project might be established to solve a problem. Possibly some equipment is not meeting service requirements, or some process is not as efficient as desired, or does not produce the customer satisfaction it should. Maybe someone just cut a major backbone fibre, which now has to be repaired. Or the data collected by the billing system is not consistent with the billing in the network-provisioning database. Or the process used to assess the results of trouble reports is not providing information quickly enough to allow proactive solutions. Something is wrong and a project is established to find and implement a solution to the problem.

The Three Dimensions of any project

Time. We talked about start dates, end dates and timelines. These are obviously requirements of projects. Meeting these presents one of the biggest challenges for project managers.

Cost. Most projects are allocated some level of budget, from the beginning, and the Project Manager takes on the project knowing that he or she cannot exceed that budget. Companies don't usually mind if you come in under the budget, but you generally can't go over the budget. So we've got to be very careful that we structure the plan and the implementation in such a way that we can produce the required results within that budget. Part of Project Management is the determination of the funding required to complete the project properly. At some point, the PM needs to decide whether or not the project can be completed within the budget. If this cannot be done, the earlier the company assesses this, the better.

Then the PM must take appropriate action based on the assessment. Sometimes the project was underestimated for cost and/or time, sometimes unexpected difficulties cause the project to trend over or under budget or schedule. The project manager will discover this if he records the actual cost and schedule performance, recalculates the cost and schedule to completion, and reports any problems. . When there is bad news, the PM must take action. He might even have to go to the lengths of re-justifying the project with a new forecast, letting people know about the overruns, re-planning a smaller scope, or cancelling the project.

Scope. The project has to produce the product or service that it was set up to produce. And these must include all the required capabilities and features, meeting the level of quality that was defined for each. This is called the project scope. We need to complete the full scope of the project.

Meeting scope, time and budget then are the three main requirements of almost every project. The goal of this book is to give the reader the tools and techniques to allow these requirements to be met as consistently and painlessly as possible. We'll cover most of the PMI recommendations and relate these to the type of projects with which telecom managers are involved.

How are the main requirements of any project linked to each other?

Obviously time, cost and scope are completely interlinked. If we start running behind the schedule, there are many ways to get back on track, but most of them involve spending more money than planned, or cutting back on the project scope. We can add resources or ask people to work overtime, but either of these would cost money. We could outsource some of the work, again at a cost. If we start to go over budget, we could drop some of the deliverables, which impacts the scope. If we increase the scope to meet some new customer requests, this will probably increase both the time and the budget. Therefore it is always advisable for the project manager to insist that not all of these three factors be set in the initial project stages.

Of course, it is often not easy to allow flexibility in any of these objectives, so convincing management to allow one or more of these to be set later will often require some excellent negotiation skills. But the truth is that until much of the initial planning has been completed it is not possible to determine whether these objectives can be met. Companies, which are mature in project management, understand this and will give the PM as much flexibility as possible in the early stages. Usually at least one of the project dimensions will be non-negotiable. In a customer network installation, the due date might be controlled by their move date. Of course the customer will also have a budget figure in mind, and some real limitation on the amount that can be spent. But, if a crunch does hit, often more money can be found if it is really necessary in order to meet the date. In a research project, the budget might be limited by the level of corporate profit, or the size of a grant, and perhaps also government restrictions. In this case, perhaps the scope can be reduced to fit within the allowable budget.

There is another dimension that people sometimes build into this equation. That is quality. Quality and scope are usually considered to be linked. Why? Suppose that a project team, after much honest effort, cannot reduce the time and the cost of a project to fit the allowable limits. The only way they can save must then be related to the scope. If the company's management or the customer will not reduce the scope requirements, and the team truly wants to meet the objectives, the only recourse is to reduce the quality of some of the deliverables. Quality is very closely linked to the scope. In order to fully meet the scope, quality requirements have to be met. At some quality level an evaluator would declare that the deliverable is unsatisfactory, so in fact the scope has not been fully delivered. However, the techniques for managing quality differ from those for managing scope. These will be discussed in Chapter 5.

From the PMBOK® Guide, we can see the processes involved in project planning and integrations, as shown in Figure 1.

Project Plan Execution btt*f ration Prom»

Project Pl*n Development btt*f ration Prom»

C__Executing

Project Pl*n Development

Integrated Change Control

Figure 1

Integrated Change Control

As we progress through this book, we will look at each of the process areas that the PMBOK® Guide describes, and notice how they relate to the application area of telecommunications.

Figure 2

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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