It is being increasingly recognized that individual projects need to be seen as components of a programme and should be evaluated and managed as such. A programme, in this context, is a collection of projects that all contribute to the same overall organizational goals. Effective programme management requires that there is a well defined programme goal and that all the organization's projects are selected and tuned to contribute to this goal. A project must be evaluated according to how it contributes to this programme goal and its viability, timing, resourcing and final worth can be affected by the programme as a whole. It is to be expected that the value of any project is increased by the fact that it is part of a programme - the whole, as they say, being greater than the sum of the parts.
In order to carry out a successful strategic assessment of a potential project there should therefore be a strategic plan clearly defining the organization's objectives. This provides the context for defining the programme and programme goals and, hence, the context for assessing the individual project. It is likely, particularly in a large organization, that there will be an organizational structure for programme management and it will be, for example, the programme director and programme executive, rather than, say, a project manager, who will be responsible for the strategic assessment of a proposed project.
Even where there is no explicitly defined programme, any proposed project must be evaluated within the context of the organization's overall business objectives. Moreover, any potential software system will form part of the user organization's overall information system and must be evaluated within the context of the existing information system and the organization's information strategy. Table 3.1 illustrates typical issues that must be addressed as part of the strategic assessment of a project.
Typical issues and questions to be considered during strategic assessment
How will the proposed system contribute to the organization's stated objectives? How, for example, might it contribute to an increase in market share?
How does the proposed system fit into the IS plan? Which existing system(s) will it replace/interface with? How will it interact with systems proposed for later development?
What effect will the new system have on the existing departmental and organization structure? Will, for example, a new sales order processing system overlap existing sales and stock control functions?
What information will the system provide and at what levels in the organization? In what ways will it complement or enhance existing management information systems?
In what way will the proposed system affect manning levels and the existing employee skill base? What are the implications for the organization's overall policy on staff development?
What, if any, will be the effect on customers' attitudes towards the organization? Will the adoption of, say, automated systems conflict with the objectives of providing a friendly service?
Where a well-defined information systems strategy does not exist, system development and the assessment of project proposals will be based on a more piecemeal approach - each project being individually assessed early in its life cycle. In such cases it is likely that cost-benefit analysis will have more importance and some of the questions of Table 3.1 will be more difficult to answer.
Third party developers must also carry out strategic and operational assessment of project proposals.
Where an organization such as a software house is developing a software system they could be asked to carry out a strategic and operational assessment on behalf of the customer. Whether or not this should be the case, they will require an assessment of any proposed project themselves. They will need to ensure that carrying out the development of a system is consistent with their own strategic plan - it is unlikely, for example, that a software house specializing in financial and accounting systems would wish to undertake development of a factory control system unless their strategic plan placed an emphasis on diversification.
The proposed project will form part of a portfolio of ongoing and planned projects and the selection of projects must take account of the possible effects on other projects in the portfolio (competition for resources, for example) and the overall portfolio profile (for example, specialization versus diversification).
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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.