Development and implementation of a computer system

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Many business projects contain a significant technology component that needs careful consideration based on expert opinion. Few projects, however, are "technology only". In most cases, a business person's behaviour will have to adapt if the full benefit of the change is to be realised. Consequently, the organisation structure should not be designed around the premise that any project involving technology is a technology project; it will be a shared endeavour between the technology, user and commercial stakeholders, all of whom should be represented in the project organisation structure.

In this example, a senior executive is sponsoring the project. A case has been made for new technology to be introduced in the hope that it will reduce operating costs in the administration department. The company's internal technology department will source, tailor and implement the computer system.

The senior executive should be the project sponsor and the administration department's manager should be a member of the project steering group, authorising the specification and acceptance of the system his team will have to use. The administration department manager will also be sufficiently senior to provide users to test and help implement the system.

The systems development manager will also serve on the project steering group to advise on the choice of supplier, confirm the suitability of the selected software and provide the technical resources needed to develop the system.

Given the skills, knowledge and experience required, the project manager could come from any team provided that the individual has the ability to plan, monitor and control time, cost and quality. Some knowledge of the project is always advisable, however, especially if the manager can draw on previous similar experience. With this in mind, the project sponsor could choose the candidate from:

e the administration department;

e the technology department;

e a specialist project management agency or department.

There is merit and risk in each choice. By picking a member of the administration team, the sponsor would sensibly place control of the budget and time imperatives in the hands of someone other than the project's suppliers. So the project manager would be known to the sponsor and should be motivated to achieve the organisation's aims. This does not necessarily mean, however, that the individual will have the requisite project management experience.

A member of the technology team may have carried out similar projects many times before and most of his work may have been project based. Even so, although the it component of the project will be significant, it is more than just about the development and installation of software. There will be training and induction activities, user tests to be planned and conducted, and issues arising from the working practice changes required from the administration department.

If all else fails, the candidate may be sourced from a specialised project management resource provider. The person may have little experience

Project structure for development and implementation of a computer system

of software development projects, but can draw on the competencies of colleagues to deliver the desired outcome on time and to budget.

In any of the three possible outcomes, the team is unaffected by where the project manager comes from. A structure for discussion is illustrated in Figure 4.3.

An office move

A company wants to move a team of 100 people from one building to another. The team manager has secured funding for the move, which involves participation from the technology department (which will uninstall, move and reinstall computers and printers) and the facilities department (which will prepare the new office and crate and move possessions).

The project has a champion, the team manager, who will have had to justify the move in commercial terms and so is a candidate to become the project sponsor in the project steering group. The same person may also have specified and approved the layout of the new office and will approve its suitability before the team starts to use it, which means he also represents the customer's views. Therefore, he will be responsible for not only the financial viability of the move but also the fitness for purpose of the new office, two aspects of the project that may conflict.

Two people may be able to represent the developers of the solution the

Project structure for an office move

project is to deliver. One may come from the technology department and authorise the provision of technical resources and the most appropriate strategy for delivering a suitable technology service. The other may come from the facilities department and authorise the use of suppliers to make the move and make sure it meets approved standards. Both would be the most senior people in the project to deal with technical issues that could not be resolved by anyone else.

As in the first example, there are several potential sources for the project manager:

e the team that is moving;

e the facilities department;

e the technology department;

e a specialist project management agency or department.

The strongest case may be to identify a project manager from the facilities department because its members will have carried out such projects many times and have a wealth of experience. Their work will have been project based, so they may well have the necessary project management skills. A possible structure for this project is illustrated in Figure 4.4.

A conference

A company regularly holds public conferences. Delegates are invited to hear speakers on a range of topics for which they are charged a fee. Although the commissioning and running of a conference has the characteristics of a classic project, not every conference requires a separate project steering group because managing conferences is business as usual for those involved.

There is, however, a particular risk to be addressed. Conference managers are expected to deliver a successful conference. Yet success means different things to different people. To the sales manager, it may mean making a profit. For the head of editorial, however, who decides the conference's content and speakers, success may mean a positive response from the delegates. Meanwhile, to the conference department manager, success may mean having accurate marketing materials, effective booking mechanisms and seeing everyone turn up on the day to hear speakers in the advertised order.

The risk is that with these different measures of success, the conference manager will be unable to secure an important go or no-go decision should the number of delegates be low. Should it fall to the conference manager to negotiate with a sales manager who wishes to cancel the event and the head of editorial who wants it to continue?

A single, carefully selected project steering group may be able to oversee all conference projects, providing the various conference managers with a single, consolidated source of authority, resource provision and decision-making capability to which they can turn. A possible structure for this project is illustrated in Figure 4.5.

Project structure for a conference

Project structure for a conference

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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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