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Project Management          A Critical Examination Of The PPARS ProjectProject Management: A Critical Examination Of The P...
About The AuthorOlivia Moran is a leading training specialist whospecialises in E-Learning instructional design and is ace...
INTRODUCTIONIn this document the authors will give a brief introduction into projects and why they are soimportant. They w...
PRINCIPLES OF GOOD PROJECTMANAGEMENTIDENTIFICATION OF REQUIREMENTSThe first step in a project is the identification of req...
ORGANISATIONAL INTEGRATIONThe approach that a project manager adopts is dependant on the type of organisational structure....
Also, a schedule is drawn up. This indicates major milestones. A milestone is a place where certaintasks are expected to b...
It seems that little or no contingency plans were drawn up. These plans could have limited damagedone by the risk occurrin...
This same principal applies to project management. It is much easier to fix a problem when it occursrather than later. Cor...
CONSULTANCYWhen embarking on a new project that is like nothing undertaken before it may be wise to hire aconsultant. This...
IMPLEMENTATIONThe system was implemented after much debate. It was rolled out in four different places, whichcovered a wor...
BIBLIOGRAPHYBee, F. & Bee, R. (2001) Managing Information and Statistics. Chartered Institute of Personnel andDevelopment:...
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Project Management: A Critical Examination of the PPARS Project


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This document explores the different aspects of Project Management and critically examines
the management of the recent PPARS project. This was a project which involved the development of a personnel and recruitment system for the HSE in Ireland.

It will also highlight the traps and obstacles
associated with the management of this project.

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Project Management: A Critical Examination of the PPARS Project

  1. 1. Project Management A Critical Examination Of The PPARS ProjectProject Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 1
  2. 2. About The AuthorOlivia Moran is a leading training specialist whospecialises in E-Learning instructional design and is acertified Moodle expert. She has been working as atrainer and course developer for 3 years developingand delivery training courses for traditional classroom,blended learning and E-learning.WWW.OLIVIAMORAN.MECOURSES OLIVIA MORAN HAS DELIVERED:● MOS● ECDL● Internet Marketing● Social Media● Google [Getting Irish Businesses Online]● Web Design [FETAC Level 5]● Adobe Dreamweaver, Flash, Photoshop● MoodleSPECIALTIES:★Moodle [MCCC Moodle Certified Expert] ★ Web Design & Online Content Writer★ E Learning Tools/ Technologies [Commercial & ★ Adobe Dreamweaver, Flash & PhotoshopOpensource]★ Microsoft Office SpecialistProject Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 2
  3. 3. INTRODUCTIONIn this document the authors will give a brief introduction into projects and why they are soimportant. They will then look at the different aspects of Project Management and critically examinethe management of the recent PPARS project. The authors will also highlight the traps and obstaclesassociated with the management of this project.Every business wants to build a profitable and sustainable position against the competition. This isonly achieved through heavy investment in time, money and effort in a bid to formulate a winingstrategy and satisfy customer needs and requirements.Also every company at some point has undertaken some kind of project. A Project is defined by Grayand Larson (2003:5), as “a complex, non-routine, one-time effort limited by time, budget, resourcesand performance specifications designed to meet customer needs”.According to Burke (1999:3), project management is defined by the body of knowledge as, “Theapplication of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities in order to meetstakeholder’s needs and expectations from a project”.Managing a project is not a task to be taken lightly. There are as many project failures, as there aresuccesses. Project managers are involved in all kinds of activities. These range from motivating theirstaff to co-ordinating project tasks and activities. It is their job to ensure that the project is finishedon time, within the projected budget and that it satisfies the needs of the end users.Project managers are often put in a position where it is necessary to make trade-offs in terms of time,cost, scope and quality. It is their job to manage all these different trade-offs.PROJECT INITITATIONInitiation is the first stage in any project. It usually involves a formal request from management toconsider focusing on a particular problem or the possibility of improving the way things are done.Generally, during this stage a number of potential end users are involved in discussions to try anddetermine whether or not there is a need for a particular kind of system.In 1997, the Irish Health Authority (IHA) became aware of the fact that the majority of departmentsor groups in the Health Boards did not have a formal or computerised HR system in place. Most wereusing manual paper based systems. The IHA believed that these business processes could becompleted in a more efficient and effective way. Thus, the PPARS (Personnel, Payroll, Attendanceand Related Systems) project team was initiated in 1999 for the purpose of implementing the SAP(Systems Application and Products is the name of the German software company who supplied thesoftware for the PPARS project) HR management system into the Irish Health Service. The Nationalproject office is based in Sligo. Its main objectives are the development, implementation and supportof the project and the system. The project scope is wide (See Appendix 1). The SAP system iscomposed of numerous modules that carry out a specific business task.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 3
  4. 4. PRINCIPLES OF GOOD PROJECTMANAGEMENTIDENTIFICATION OF REQUIREMENTSThe first step in a project is the identification of requirements. This process is of major importanceand should be dedicated as much time as is deemed necessary. “The right approach is for the ITspecialist to spend as much time as it takes with potential users, finding out about their informationneeds” (Bee & Bee 2001:69). Employee involvement is critical at this stage. There should be extensivediscussion with perspective users regarding the requirements for the new system. These people dothe job everyday, so it makes sense that they are in the best position to identify needs andrequirements.In this way everyone gets to pitch in. This usually results in increased motivation and helps to gainemployee support of the new system. It also leads to smoother implementation. It is importanthowever not set expectations. This can lead to disappointment when the system is implemented, if itis not what the employee expected it to be.This stage involves utilising numerous research techniques. The most commonly used are interviewsto gather facts and opinions, questionnaires which are very cost effective and observation.Requirements can also be determined by examining the different procedures in place. It may bepossible to look at the problems with the existing system. Reports may also be useful.“The main deliverables from this stage are a clear and very specific statement of requirements to bemet” (Bee & Bee 2001:70). This statement is known as a system specification. From this standards forevaluation can be drawn up.This stage can be frustrating for all involved. The HSE changed their minds about what they wantedand required numerous times. The scope of the project changed regularly. A sufficient amount oftime was not spent getting this stage right. People were fussy about the objectives (See Appendix 2).This is understandable since the project encompassed many different departments and thus, it wasmore difficult to establish agreed upon requirements.It is evident that early in the project the plan was flawed. The plan was not amended as required.Deloitte, one of the consultancies used, wanted to redefine the scope of the project after pilots werecarried out to learn from them. However, the department would not wait and carried on with theplans they already had. As outlined in the VFM Report 5, (6:35), “The failure to pause after the pilotsand learn from the experience as well as bed down the new systems, militated against clear projectdefinition. A pause would have allowed for a more defined scope to be established and, potentially,for the negotiation of a fixed price contract for the subsequent agencies”.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 4
  5. 5. ORGANISATIONAL INTEGRATIONThe approach that a project manager adopts is dependant on the type of organisational structure. Anew organisational structure was a necessity in order to reform the health service in Ireland. It couldno longer withstand the increasing pressures being weighed on it. The health service consisted ofover 60 bodies and agencies, which are each responsible for a different area of the H.S.E. Themanagement of all these components was a major task. Recent studies showed that they were notbeing strategically managed. This in turn, lead to fragmentation and overlapping, leading toconfusion on who is responsible for the various services? The H.S.E structure that now exists wascreated taking many things into consideration (See Appendix 3).This new structure was only introduced after the initiation of the PPARS project. The HSE werepushing a new strategy. They believed that they could use IT to bring about this strategic change.This is a critical mistake. IT systems should only be used to compliment the business processes and theway business is done. Business processes need to be examined first. Only then can one consider usingIT to make these processes faster or easier. Management thought that they could force the changeby using a computer system like PPARS.TEAM MANAGEMENT“A work team generates positive synergy through coordinated effort. Their individual effortsresults in a level of performance that is greater than the sum of the inputs” (Robbins 2001:258).Teams are necessary for the completion of a project. By having people work together they producebetter results than working apart i.e. the concept of synergy. The sums of its parts are greater thanthe whole. A project often requires a wide mixture of talents and skills.Campion et al 1996, proposed that team effectiveness consists of 4 general categories. These includework design, composition, context and process. (See Appendix 4).The PPARS project suffered from poorly understood team roles. The team members did notunderstand what was expected of them and what work they were suppose to do. Managers failed tocheck the work that they were doing if any at all. The members were unsure as to what authoritythey had to make decisions. Therefore, they avoided making decisions causing time delays andfurther confusion.The team often suffered from low morale. Different team members had highlighted problems withthe project. However, their concerns were never taken on board.PROJECT PLANNINGA project requires a huge amount of planning if it is to run smoothly. A good plan will include anoverview that according to Mantel et al (2001:56) is a “Brief description of the project and itsdeliverables, together with a list of the major milestones or significant events in the projectschedule”.The PPARS project is the second biggest implementation of SAP in Europe. No project was everundertaken like this before. This added to its complexity, as there was nothing to compare it to. Aproject the size of PPARS required clarity regarding outcomes to ensure it aligned with strategicdirection.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 5
  6. 6. Also, a schedule is drawn up. This indicates major milestones. A milestone is a place where certaintasks are expected to be completed. Keeping to the time allocated to each milestone is veryimportant. One task may be dependent on the completion of another. The majority of the PPARSmilestones were not met on time.Management were responsible for carrying out an analysis of resources needed. Planners mustdetermine how much and what kind of resources will be required for the project. These resourcesinclude time, finance and personnel. All these should be budgeted. Management were over-optimistic. Their estimations were miles apart from the actual figures, as they had not carried out adetailed cost analysis. Many decisions were based on broad assumptions.Evaluation and assessment metrics are complied at this stage. This looks at when and how often thevarious elements of the project will be monitored. Actual performance needs to be compared to theexpected.Contingency plans need to be in place prior to the commencement of the project. The success of anyproject is dependant on its ability to adapt to changes that may occur in the internal and externalenvironment. However, Mantel et al (2001:57) point out “No amount of current planning can solvecurrent crises – but preplanning may prevent or soften the impact of some”. It seems that very littletime was spent on these particular plans. They were not amended when new information came tolight.A common vocabulary should have been complied to help clarify certain points. In this way it is clearwhat is meant by a particular term and everyone can take the same meaning out of it. Thus itreduces misunderstanding, stress and conflict.At this point all elements in the contract need to be discussed and agreed upon. Mantel et al(2001:56) reckons that a contract should include all of the following “all reporting requirements; thetechnical specifications of all deliverables; agreements on delivery dates, incentives, and penaltiesfor non-compliance; specific procedures for making changes in the deliverables; project review datesand procedures and similar agreements”.The planning stage resulted in the production of a project mission statement. “To develop a fullyintegrated Human Resource System, inclusive of payroll and attendance/ absence which would meetthe business requirements of a modern, dynamic, Human Resources Function in the Irish HealthService” ( This statement of purpose, distinguishes it from all other projects. It is shortand concise. Ideally, it prevents project team members from drifting away from the projects goalsand objectives.RISK MANAGEMENT“In a project environment, because of the essential uniqueness of projects, some uncertainty mustalways remain, and hence the emphasis of management becomes to manage the risk” (Turner1999).In 2002 the Hay document was produced. This highlighted areas for concern. The proposals set forthin the document were simply ignored. The management of the project were responsible fordetermining the possibility of these occurring, as well as the impact that they would have on theproject if they do. Management failed to put measures in place to reduce the chance of the riskoccurring.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 6
  7. 7. It seems that little or no contingency plans were drawn up. These plans could have limited damagedone by the risk occurring. Management also neglected to amend the project plans as newinformation became available. The mangers of any project should aim to eliminate, reduce or deterthe identified risks.The authors can not understand the reasoning behind ignoring the report. Risks were identified andnothing was done. If you knew a big storm was brewing, would you not board up the windows? Ifthe department intended to ignore the document and its findings, why did they have it produced inthe first place?PROJECT CONTROL“A management function that involves observing and measuring organisational performance andenvironmental activities and modifying the plans and activities of the organisation when necessary”.(O’Brien & Marakas 2006:554)Controlling involves comparing projected figures with actual results. The differences between thetwo figures should be identified. The reason for the deviation between the two results should behighlighted. The manager should aim to minimise these deviations. This may involve having toamend the project plan. The manager controls quality, human resources and finance.The quality of work done at all stages of the project is critical to satisfying customer needs. Havinggood quality controls in place ensures a more efficient project. A project must aim to stay within itsbudget. Management must have measures in place in order to monitor the activities and costs ofevery task. They also need to keep an eye on the performance levels of the employees.The PPARS project was overseen by a National Steering Committee. The chairman of this committeeis Pat Harvey, who is the CEO at the North Western Health Board. This committee represents theviews of the numerous different departments which make up the HSE. The committee was set up to“Monitor progress on the implementation on the implementation of the project at national level andacross the various agencies” ( organisation).PROJECT VISIBILITYCommunication is fundamental to any project. Specific goals and objectives should be communicatedto all team members and relevant project stakeholders. Communication will lead to a betterdesigned product that will be more easily implemented. There are numerous ways in whichmanagement can communicate effectively with all project members. These include; face to face,video conferencing, email, networks, notice boards and charts.PROJECT STATUS & CORRECTIVE ACTIONProject managers must keep a close eye on the status of the project. This can be achieved throughthe completion of a project status report. If the project status is not in line with the plan correctiveaction may be necessary. Bee & Bee (1999:47), outline the importance of taking corrective action.“When the American space shuttles have just climbed a few miles they can often be seen to makesome minor corrections to their altitude before they leave the atmosphere. This small correction atthe beginning of the flight is instrumental in them reaching the exact location where they areplanning to do their work. Leaving the altitude correction until later could require a much biggercorrection or make it impossible to reach the target position at all”.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 7
  8. 8. This same principal applies to project management. It is much easier to fix a problem when it occursrather than later. Corrective action may result in having to get team members to work longer hoursor more shifts. It may even be necessary to change leadership.Many of the problems encountered by the PPARS project were predicted some time before theiroccurrence. Management failed to take recommendations on board that would have limited theimpact of these problems or prevented them from occurring altogether. They ignored team memberswho identified problems. In June 2005 Mr John O’Brien, CEO at St. James Hospital where PPARS hadbeen piloted, wrote to the HSE highlighting his concerns, stating that the system threatened thehospital’s basic functioning. He suggested that the system should not go any further until all flawshad been sorted out. (Hunter: 2005)PROJECT LEADERSHIPLeadership involves “Motivating people to use their abilities and skills most effectively andefficiently to achieve organisational objectives. Without direction people tend to do their workaccording to their personal view of what tasks should be done, how and in what order”. (Hunger &Wheelan:143)Senior management of the HSE were responsible for choosing the project manager. The projectmanager has the overall control or leadership over the project. When selected the project managerhired other managers to look after certain aspects of the project. He had overall responsibility forthe completion of the project and reported directly to the top management.The National Project Director of the PPARS project is Anthony Reilly. He has overall leadership of theproject. All team members have to report to him. The project had a reporting system in place, whichhighlighted who reports to whom. (See Appendix 5). However, this wasn’t communicated toemployees.Lack of project leadership was very evident from examining this case. The project manager was theofficial responsible for the successful completion of the project. However, he was expected to do ajob but was not given any authority to make and implement decisions that were made. This point ishighlighted in the C & AG’s report on PPARS, where it said that neither the national project directornor the national project team had the authority to direct when or how the implementation wouldtake place in individual agencies.In some cases, individuals did not even know if they had the authority to make decisions. Thedecision making process established in this project was not very effective. It was very difficult to getall involved to agree on decisions. This was mainly due to the size and the structure of the nationalprojects board.Lack of leadership lead to increased delays, bad decision-making and poor conflict resolution. It alsoincreased the risk of failure. It is almost impossible for a project to be successful if people are notgiven the authority they need and are not held responsible for their decisions and performance.It seems as though no one has been held accountable for the poor management of the project. Theauthors feel that the Department of Children and Health should be held responsible. They were thepeople who forced the project to go ahead even though many people had voiced concerns. Theycontinued on with the project and ignored good advice.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 8
  9. 9. CONSULTANCYWhen embarking on a new project that is like nothing undertaken before it may be wise to hire aconsultant. This is a person who has expert knowledge in a particular field of study. A consultant canprovide the company with an objective view, often turning a threatening situation into one full ofopportunities.Consultants can come with years of experience. They learn through a trial and error process.According to Kent “one thing consultants are extremely good at is learning from the experiencethemselves. They will leave a programme with further insights into how companies work, and thepros and cons of taking a certain approach to instigating change”.While consultants can be a fountain of knowledge their use should be limited. They are extremelyexpensive, charging very high prices for their service. The company must be able to justify the cost.In order to do this they must in money terms measure the contribution made by the consultant. Thisis hard to do, as all inputs are not necessarily tangible.The amount of control given to the consultant should be kept to a minimum. ‚Handing over whole-scale responsibility for a change programme to a consultancy can be more problematic . . . thisapproach means the organisation losses significant control over its own change process”, arguesWhittington, professor of strategic management at oxford’s business school.The PPARS project has been criticised for its excessive use of consultants. At one stage in the project,they began hiring consultants to advise them on the use of other consultants. The total amount ofmoney spent on consultants and contractors is estimated to be in the region of €57 million. The ideaof handing off responsibility of recruiting consultants to another consultancy firm seem ludicrous.Doing this lead to a loss in control.In the VFM (report 51) ‚The principal consulting and contract payments were in respect of adviceand support from Deloitte - €38.5 million, project implementation assistance from BISL - €3.3 millionand payments to contractors to configure the system and provide technical support - €11.7 million”.The consultants that were hired should have been closely monitored, however in the case of PPARSthis was not what happened. Those in charge of the project seem as though they had no idea as towhat work the consultants were doing or not doing. The consultants often failed to reach majormilestones. No penalties were ever followed up.The PPARS project is one that is highly complex, as there is no other similar project to compare it to inEurope. The HSE did not have the expertise required to implement the SAP product. According toMary Harney, The Tanaiste ‚The health service management did not have the internal capability tomanage this complex project without an over-reliance on external consultancy resources”. (Hunter2005).Consultants with this knowledge had to be hired. One would wonder whether or not theseconsultants actually were knowledgeable in the area of SAP software. The management of themultiple contractors made the situation more complex. This was very evident in the coordination ofactivities. There were numerous hidden costs incurred from the use of consultants. There were nocontrols in place to alert management or stop over spending.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 9
  10. 10. IMPLEMENTATIONThe system was implemented after much debate. It was rolled out in four different places, whichcovered a workforce of around 37,000. Numerous flaws became apparent. Mary Harney commentedon the suspension of the rollout saying, “The extent of the incoherence was not known beforePPARS implementation work commenced”. Over 2500 variations in payment arrangements across theentire health system were discovered. With reports of one nurse in Sligo being overpaid by 1 millioneuro.Implementation did not run smoothly. The rollout of the system to other departments has now beensuspended. Another project called Financial Information Systems Project (FISP) has also been paused.Training is referred to as “the planned acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities required toperform effectively in a given role or job . . . its purpose is to improve specific skills or abilities thatwill result in better work performances (Gunningle, Hearty, Morley 2000:218).Training is a very powerful tool when it comes to implementing a new system. If employees aretrained in the skills and competencies needed to use the system, they are more likely to be committedto it.CONCLUSIONThe HSE should have incorporated a project reporting system. Regular meetings should have takenplace (with all project members) to determine reasons why goals were not being achieved).The schedules and budgets composed during the planning stage should have been adjusted ormodified.The PPARS project displays many of the characteristics associated with bad project management. Theentire project was poorly planned. Budgets and projected times were seriously underestimated.The project team lacked staff who where competent in terms of the skills and abilities required tocomplete the project. This lead to the recruitment of multiple consultants and contractors. It isevident that management had problems with managing and co-coordinating them all. This seems tohave paralyzed management’s ability to control the activities of the project.The scope of the PPARS project had been changed numerous times as the needs and requirements ofthe HSE changed. It was decided the scope of the PPARS would be widened. This resulted in reducedclarity and lead to the project becoming more complex.The amount of resources (time, money, personnel) allocated to the project where not controlled andmonitored. This resulted in the PPARS project coming in over time and budget.Lack of leadership contributed greatly to the projects failure. The project manager was expected todo a job but was not given any authority necessary to do it right.The management of the entire PPARS project has been publicly criticized. It has caused considerableembarrassment not only for the HSE but also for the Government. In the words of Enda Kenny, aFinna Gael is quoted as saying “It’s like a case study in how not to run a project”.Project Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 10
  11. 11. BIBLIOGRAPHYBee, F. & Bee, R. (2001) Managing Information and Statistics. Chartered Institute of Personnel andDevelopment: LondonBurke, R. (1999) Project Management Planning and Control Techniques, 3rd ed. West Sussex: JohnWiley & Sons LtdComptroller & Auditor General (2005) Report on Value for Money Examination, Development ofHuman Resource Management System for the Health Service (PPARS). Government of IrelandGray, C. & Larson, E. (2003) Project Management, The Managerial Process, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill IrwinGunningle, P. & Heraty, N. & Morley, M. (2002) Human Resource Management in Ireland, 2nd ed.Dublin: Gill & MacmillanHunger, D. & Wheelan, T. (2003) Essentials of Strategic Management, 3rd ed. New Jersey: PearsonEducation LimitedHunter, N. (2005) PPARS ‘Classic Mistakes’. Irish Health [online] 13 December. URL: [Date visited: 10 January 2006]Hunter, N. (2005) PPARS ‘Fall-Out Continues’. Irish Health [online] 06 October. URL: [Date visited: 10 January 2006]Kent, S. (2005) Outer Limits. Journal of People Management, Vol.11 No.13 :41 - 42Mantel, S. Jr. & Meredith, J. & Shafer, S. & Sutton, M. (2001) Project Management in Practice. NewYork: John Wiley & Sons IncO’Brien, J. & Marakas, G. (2006) Management Information Systems,7th ed. New York: Mc GrawHill/IrwinRobbins, S. (2001) Organizational Behaviour, 9th ed. New Jersey: Prentice HallSongini, M. (2005) Irish agency halts work on two SAP applications projects. Computer World [online]17 October. URL.… [Datevisited: 26 February 2006]Turner, J. (1999) The Handbook of Project Based Management, 2nd ed. Berkshire: Mc Graw HillProject Management: A Critical Examination Of The PPARS Project 11