The objectives of activity planning

Chapter 11 discusses motivation in more detail.

This co-ordination will normally form part of Programme Management.

In addition to providing project and resource schedules, activity planning aims to achieve a number of other objectives which may be summarized as follows.

• Feasibility assessment Is the project possible within required timescales and resource constraints? It is not until we have constructed a detailed plan that we can forecast a completion date with any reasonable knowledge of its achievability. The fact that a project may have been estimated as requiring two work-years effort might not mean that it would be feasible to complete it within, say, three months were eight people to work on it - that will depend upon the availability of staff and the degree to which activities may be undertaken in parallel.

• Resource allocation What are the most effective ways of allocating resources to the project and when should they be available? The project plan allows us to investigate the relationship between timescales and resource availability (in general, allocating additional resources to a project shortens its duration) and the efficacy of additional spending on resource procurement.

• Detailed costing How much will the project cost and when is that expenditure likely to take place? After producing an activity plan and allocating specific resources, we can obtain more detailed estimates of costs and their timing.

• Motivation Providing targets and being seen to monitor achievement against targets is an effective way of motivating staff, particularly where they have been involved in setting those targets in the first place.

• Co-ordination When do the staff in different departments need to be available to work on a particular project and when do staff need to be transferred between projects? The project plan, particularly with large projects involving more than a single project team, provides an effective vehicle for communication and co-ordination among teams. In situations where staff may need to be transferred between project teams (or work concurrently on more than one project), a set of integrated project schedules should ensure that such staff are available when required and do not suffer periods of enforced idleness.

Activity planning and scheduling techniques place an emphasis on completing the project in a minimum time at an acceptable cost or, alternatively, meeting an arbitrarily set target date at minimum cost. These are not, in themselves, concerned with meeting quality targets, which generally impose constraints on the scheduling process.

One effective way of shortening project durations is to carry out activities in parallel. Clearly we cannot undertake all the activities at the same time - some require the completion of others before they can start and there are likely to be resource constraints limiting how much may be done simultaneously. Activity scheduling will, however, give us an indication of the cost of these constraints in terms of lengthening timescales and provide us with an indication of how timescales may be shortened by relaxing those constraints. It is up to us, if we try relaxing precedence constraints by, for example, allowing a program coding task to commence before the design has been completed, to ensure that we are clear about the potential effects on product quality

In Chapter 2 we saw that Amanda's wish to check that four module specifications were correct, while increasing the likely quality of the product, created a constraint that could potentially delay the next stage of the project.

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