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  1. 1. Project Planning and Timetabling 1 Overview The following lecture will provide knowledge on how to apply basic project management techniques to help plan a dissertation project. Planning is important as it helps us • Predict the start or end of a project • Communicate what we intend to do in our project and how we intend to do it • Highlight any problems at an early stage • Manage risk 2 MS-Project MS-Project is a widely used tool from Microsoft to help plan projects. This tool has much more functionality than you’ll ever need for your project but contains one key function – Gantt Charts. 2.1 Gantt Charts Gantt Charts are named after Henry Gantt and have been around since the 1st World War. They are the commonest graphical representation of plans. Here’s an example: Figure 1 - A Gantt chart in MS-Project They are easy for novices to construct and interpret and they also show the critical path (see below) for a project but they are not great at showing precedence. MS-project provides other charts and views to represent your project but none are more commonly used than the Gantt chart.
  2. 2. For help getting to grip with Gantt charts go to Microsoft’s website at: http://office.microsoft.com and click on the “Training” link in the top left hand corner. Figure 2 - Website Alternatively, some older versions of MS-Project may have built in tutorials under the Help > Getting Started menu. Figure 3 - MS-Project help 3 Tasks The first challenge in project planning is identifying tasks. The first thing you need to do is:
  3. 3. • Brainstorm main tasks, e.g. o Literature review o Hand in portfolio o Design experiments 3.1 Durations Estimating task durations can prove tricky so here is a hint to help you: • Once you have identified the main tasks try to subdivide them until each is about 1 to 2 weeks in duration o If you can get down to days then great, but beware of the need for contingencies (see later) 3.2 Dependency/Precedence Relationships Dependency and precedence relationships between tasks describe what activities must be done before another activity can take place, e.g. • Boil the kettle before adding water to the cup • Pick up hand set before dialling number • Buy computer system before installing it • Write dissertation before submitting it Once you have identified tasks and durations, add dependency/precedence relationships between them where required. 4 Time Management Managing your time on a project is critical to its success. This section outlines some concepts to help you manage your time. 4.1 The Critical Path The critical path is a chain of sequential activities that determine the minimum time required for the project. The critical path passes through activities with the least float (see below). • If you mess with critical tasks (tasks on the critical path) you mess with the project’s end date!! • You might wish to show your critical path on your Gantt chart. MS-Project can help you with this. 4.2 Float (Slack) Float represents the spare time available for your use throughout the project. There are two different types of float. • Total Float o Total float is the amount of time a task can be delayed without affecting the end date of the project
  4. 4. o Critical paths have zero total float, i.e. no spare time available between tasks – individual tasks must meet deadlines or you could risk not meeting the deadline for the entire project. • Free Float o Free float is the amount of time a task can be delayed before affecting the next task. o Free float is used for managing resources without impacting on future tasks. 5 Project Management (PM) Tips Don’t feel too daunted by the idea of project management. There is one person who can provide valuable help in this area – your supervisor. 5.1 Meetings with your supervisor Meetings with your supervisor provide valuable project management opportunities. You could: • Check your progress • Make decisions • Agree changes to your plan Make good use of meetings with your supervisor as they have good experience of managing projects such as yours. But remember: • Don’t schedule supervisor meetings into your plan unless you have agreed on them with your supervisor. • The frequency and duration of supervisor meeting will vary from supervisor to supervisor and student to student. Their duration will also change as your project progresses. 5.2 Pragmatic Realities of PM • All projects are unique • No project will run exactly to plan – so don’t worry if yours doesn’t • All involve people • PM involves change and decision making – people like neither • A structured approach to PM and tools (MS-Project) will help to make things easier • Do not be a slave to your plans o They should be living artefacts o Change them as necessary • All projects have an element of risk 6 Risk Management We may have created a project plan but there are events beyond our control, or simply events we haven’t foreseen. It is impossible to
  5. 5. eliminate risk from our projects completely, risk taking is in human nature but what is risk? • Risk is the chance of adverse consequences occurring o It is inherent and inevitable o The degree of risk varies widely However, we can attempt to minimise any risk in our projects. Firstly we need to answer these questions: • What risks are there in the project? • How likely are they to occur? • What will their impact be on the project if they do occur? • What can we do to minimise their occurrence? 6.1 Consequences of Risk If we do not try to remove risk from our projects, we could end up suffering the some of the following consequences: • Lack of time to fix problems, investigate issues, develop solutions, etc. • Grumpy supervisors • Lower marks than expected • Stress, heroics and late nights 6.2 Prediction, Evaluation and Control We should attempt to predict any risks and control them. But how do we do this? • Predicting Risk We can draw on various sources of knowledge and techniques to predict risk: o Your experience - you may have experienced risk before on a similar project o Your supervisor’s experience – your supervisor will have supervised many projects over the years similar to yours therefore they are a very important source of knowledge on what risks may occur. o Simulations o Experiments – prototypes may help predict risks during early stages o Planning - Work through each activity and try to identify what could go wrong and what the consequences would be. • Evaluating Risk Once you have predicted possible risks in your project you should perform a risk evaluation. This will help you to quantify their potential effects. There are various techniques for doing this: o Risk Maps - By plotting the probability of a risk occurring against the impact of the risk the Risk Map helps us determine how to handle the risk.
  6. 6. Figure 4 - Risk Map o Risk Matrix – Another common approach is to construct a project risk matrix utilising a checklist of possible risks and to classify each risk according to its relative importance and likelihood. Figure 5 - Risk Matrix • Controlling Risk Once you have predicted possible risks in your project you can attempt to control them through: o Contingencies – Plan B’s in case your main plan goes wrong. Often each risk will have an associated contingency plan.
  7. 7. o Planning – By being prepared for risks in advance you can minimise their impact. 6.3 Risks to Watch Out for… • New technology – you may not understand how to use it properly and tasks will take longer than expected • New processes • New domain • Lack of customer/user involvement • Overestimating productivity • Unspecified qualitative requirements • Growing feature/bug list. “If a project has no risks, don’t do it” “Risk management is project management for adults” o De Marco and Lister 7 ToDo • You are required to produce a project plan using MS-Project • This plan should include a Gantt chart o You can experiment with other views if you like (e.g. PERT), but make sure you have the Gantt view in your plan. • You should provide a discussion of the plan including consideration of risk management.

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