Issues In Project Management

This essay discusses about two major issues in projects and project management. The two major issues this essay going to discuss and analyse are the impacts of risks if they are not managed in a project and the importance of managing stakeholders in a project and project management. The essay also discusses about other issues in project management that were involved in the illustrated case studies.

Risk management is one of the crucial requirements in any projects. Projects without risk management are questionable to its success level and the aftermath can be severe if the risks are of high negative impact. Risk is something that may happen unexpectedly in a project which creates positive or negative impacts to the result of the project. The probability of risk cannot be accurately predicted and so there should be a risk management plan in every project to handle the risks which cannot be avoided. The risk management plan involves risk identification, quantifying the risk into impact and probability, planning a response which includes avoiding, transferring, mitigating and accepting the risk and the final step in risk management plan is to monitor and control the plan. (Webb, 2010)

This following section of the essay will discuss about what will happen if risks are not managed in a project with case studies. The first case study used is “Denver International Airport Baggage Handling System”. The following section explains the background of the case study followed by the issues that aroused due to poor project management which headed the project to be a complete chaos.

Denver International Airport Baggage Handling System:


The Denver International Airport (DIA) baggage handling system was to be the world’s largest automated baggage system but it became a case of technology project failure. The DIA is the largest international airport in United States covering a land area of 140km and it is the third largest international airport in the world and it can handle more than 50 million passengers annually. (Calleam Consulting, 2008)

The automated baggage system was the critical element of the plan. DIA would have been one of the competitive advantages airports providing more efficient operations by reducing the aircraft turnaround time to 30 minutes using this automated baggage system. The original plan was to make use of the automated baggage handling system all over the airport and it was more complex than what people actually believed. The system was planned to handle 88 airport gates in three concourses, seventeen miles of track and five miles of conveyor belts, 3100 standard carts, fourteen million feet of wiring, hundreds of computers connected in a network to control the flow, 5000 electric motors, 59 laser arrays, 400 radio receivers and 2700 photo cells. (Calleam Consulting, 2008). All these components explain how complex the automated baggage handler system is.

The construction work of DIA started in November 1989. United Airlines signed and planned to use “Concourse A” as a hub and it engaged BEA systems to build the “Concourse A” automated baggage handler system who was the world leader in operating, installing and supplying baggage handling equipment. The project management team of DIA approached BEA to build the baggage system for all three concourses and for the whole airport to transfer baggage automatically.


Massive problems started in building the baggage system which was very complex as they never thought of such complexity. Even though the airport was complete, it did not open as scheduled in October 1993 because of the problems in baggage system and the completed airport was idle for more than 16 months which also missed the opening dates in April and May, 1994 and the opening was delayed to March 1995. (Neufville)

The DIA airport authorities arranged a demonstration of the baggage system for the media without informing BEA. There was complete disaster in the demonstration as the bags were crushed and clothes were thrown out from the bags. This was in April, 1994 and the opening was delayed to May, 1994. BEA systems claimed that the airport staff used the system incorrectly and there was no malfunction in the system.

System testing was struggling and airport built a manual trolley system as per the log plan’s recommendation. The delays increased the cost for owners and airlines and huge amount of money was wasted due to the idle use of the airport. In August, 1994, DIA started fining BEA for further delays and not able to complete the system.

The airport was opened on 25th February, 1995 with the automated baggage system implemented in single concourse instead of implementing in all the concourses. All other part of the airport used the manual trolley system since the automated baggage was not functioning as expected. The maintenance cost for the system which was not functioning properly was one million dollar per month and so they scrapped the whole system in August 2005 and implemented the manual system in all over the airport. (Calleam Consulting, 2008)

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Risks that were involved:

There were many possibilities of risks in the above mentioned scenarios and one of the reasons why this project failed is due to ignorance of risk. The complexity of the baggage allowance system was underestimated. The project was initiated too late because of not understanding the risks involved in it and the complexity level of the system. Due to not understanding the complexity level, the project was planned to complete in two years which was insufficient to complete such a complex project and due to this the project team made lot of mistakes to meet the schedule which was impossible.

Any automated baggage handler system is subject to risk. The failure cannot be said as a bad luck or due to lack of qualifications since the system was installed by BEA systems one of the best suppliers in baggage system. This complex project should be viewed as a research project and in a research project; success cannot be expected in a short time unless it is managed well.

Although the airport project management team and BEA systems know that there is a big risk in completing the project in two years time, they started the project and they failed to identify all the major risks involved in proceeding with the complex project. Several managers of BEA advised the BEA senior management team that this complex project is a four year project and not a two year project. Both airport’s chief engineer and BEA’s senior management team ignored the advice and continued with the project.

The BEA management structure completely failed to recognize what kind of risk they were entering into by taking this project and committed to proceed with the project. If they have recognized, they would have at least taken steps to reduce the risks involved in this project and find some scope to achieve the goal of the project within the deadline.

Some of the issues were unpredictable and since the airport project management team and BEA does not plan any risk management, the unpredictable issues created many impacts on the project since they does not know how to handle the issues. The project team couldn’t manage not only the unpredictable issue, some predictable issue like major technical problem that encountered in the project was not able to be handled by the project team. This was due to lack of developing a proper risk management plan in the project.

Importance of managing Stakeholders in a project:

The other major mistake done by both airport project management team and BEA was excluding the airlines from the discussions who were the key stakeholders of this project. While making key project decisions, stakeholders should be included to produce a winning strategy. (Calleam Consulting, 2008). If the stakeholders are excluded previously and included finally, they will ask for significant changes in the project which leads to nullify the previous work done in the project. This was proved in this project when airlines asked for many changes like adding maintenance tracks and ski equipment racks; BEA and airport project management was forced to accept the changes since they initially avoided stakeholders from the negotiations although there was a term that no changes would be made.

Case study Conclusion:

The case study can be concluded from the above illustrations and discussions that the DIA baggage handling system project failed due to not understanding the complexity of the project, no risk management plan, poor stakeholder management, lack of communication, poor design and planning of the system and finally lack of management insight in the project which led Denver International Airport Baggage Handling System project to be an example for technology project failure.

The next section of the essay will discuss about another case study related to risk management. The Second case study used is “Heathrow Terminal 5 Chaos”. The following sections explains the background of the case study followed by the issues that aroused due to poor risk management which headed the project to be a complete chaos.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Chaos:


Public enquiry of Heathrow Airport fifth terminal building proposal started in May 1995 and ended in March 1999 with the longest public inquiry in British planning history costing eight million pounds in legal fees. The terminal was expected to complete by 30th, March 2008 after the approval from UK government. Three twenty million pounds were allocated for planning risks. The terminal includes everything from facilities to handle jumbo aircrafts, car parks, service tunnels, a complete transport interchange, a hotel, shops, catering, highest customer service and it can handle thirty million passengers a year. The Terminal 5 was constructed especially to concentrate by British Airways (BA) flights. (Hancock, 2009)

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The opening of Terminal 5 after fifteen years of planning and construction with spending 4.3 billion pounds should have been a great moment for British Airport Authority (BAA) and British Airways (BA) but it head to be one of the biggest chaos. The problem started when the terminal staffs couldn’t reach there in time due to difficulty in parking their cars, the staff security screening and familiarisation was delayed too, which led to accumulation of baggage. Another major reason was the collapse of state-of-art baggage handling system due to technical problems which was designed to handle 12,000 baggage per hour. (BBC News, 2008)

As a result, more than 23,000 bags were lost and 500 flights were cancelled. BA lost 16 million pounds in the first five days of operations. (Thomson, 2008). BA blamed that the staffs provided were not familiar with the new systems and only few staffs were provided to handle the baggage system. BAA said that the baggage got clogged due to few numbers of staffs from BA and not due to the baggage handler system. Later BAA spokeswoman agreed that there was some software problem in the baggage handler system and it is completely BAA’s responsibility. (Hancock, 2009)

BA claimed that it was preparing for the past three years to switch to Terminal 5 and thousands of staffs have been trained to handle the new system and they got delayed to their workstations due to the difficulty in parking their cars. (The Times, 2008). The British Airline Pilots ‘Association (BALPA) wrote a letter to the government ministers and shareholders blaming all BA executives for the Heathrow Terminal 5 chaos including the chief executive. (Milmo, 2008)

Risks that were involved:

Risk turns to be an issue if it happens. If risks are not managed even after knowing the probability and impact of the risk is high, then there will be a chaos like in this case study. The chaos in Terminal 5 was due to poor management not only for few days but from the initial stage of the project especially lacking risk management. The project would have been a big success if there was risk management for this kind of mega project.

There were already defects in the baggage handler system during the trail process before opening Terminal 5 and it was reported to BA. The simulations used a less amount of baggage, less passengers and handlers to test the system. BA management ignored the concerns. They didn’t test the system properly and they ignored to manage the risk. They blamed each other instead of solving the problems. BA’s chief executive admitted that they compromised testing due to the delays in building the terminal.

The baggage handler staff spent much time in searching for the parking place due to wrong sign boards and directions. The staffs were not trained and not familiar to handle the baggage handler system which was another risk. BA’s chief executive admitted that they didn’t train staffs and didn’t familiarize them. (Massey, 2008).

Case study Conclusion:

Although the Heathrow Terminal 5 project was completed on time and on budget, it is one of the major catastrophic disaster projects. If the systems were tested properly, staffs were trained and familiarisied and if risks have been managed properly, the Terminal 5 project would have been the most successful project. The case study can be concluded from the above illustrations and discussions that the risk management is one of the crucial requirements in project management and ignoring to manage them will lead to failure or disaster of projects like “Heathrow Terminal 5 chaos”.

Case Study: Online shopping system:

This is one of the case studies that I personally experienced while learning the module IT Project Management. This case study project was to develop a online shopping software system for the client Metro Super stores and the project was carried out with 8 project teams members including the project manager. We covered most of the issues in project management in the lecture and seminar sessions. This can be illustrated with one example about managing risk in this project. We were asked to come with the risk log for this case study and we discussed about all possibilities of risks that will affect this online shopping software development system. We created the risk log and quantified the risks using its impact on the project and probability of happening. It was a personal experience that taught me the real importance of risk management in project management. (Classroom experience, 2010)


In all the above produced case studies, the essay discussed and analysed the major issues related to project management involved within the case studies with illustrations of the issues and discussed with examples. From the case studies and illustrations, it is concluded that project management issues are vital to any kind of projects especially for mega projects like Heathrow Terminal 5 and Denver International Airport Baggage Handling System and the project would not succeed unless it is managed well.

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BBC News. (2008, March 28). Other airports’ rocky starts .

BBC News. (2008, March 30). What did go wrong at Terminal 5? .

Calleam Consulting. (2008). Denver Airport Baggage Handling System Case Study – Calleam Consulting. Retrieved December 17, 2010, from

Computerworld UK reporters. (08, March 27). Heathrow Terminal 5 chaos: RoundUp. Retrieved December 15, 2010, from

Dunn, P. (2008). Courting Disaster. Retrieved December 14, 2010, from

Experience, C. R. (2010). IT Project Management. Sheffield Hallam University.

Hancock, D. (2009, May 8). Heathrow Terminal 5 – Success or Failure? Retrieved 12 17, 2010, from

Massey, R. (2008, May 08). BA chief Willie Walsh brands Heathrow’s Terminal 5 a ‘national embarrassment’.

Milmo, D. (2008, April 8). Pilots slam BA management over Terminal 5 chaos. p. 1.

Neufville, R. d. (n.d.). THE BAGGAGE SYSTEM AT DENVER:PROSPECTS AND LESSONS. Retrieved December 18, 2010, from

The Times. (2008, March 28). Terminal 5 launch disaster brings holiday chaos.

Thomson, R. (2008, April 02). IT experts tackle baggage system problems at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Retrieved December 18, 2010, from

Webb, L. (2010). Lecture Slides. Retrieved December 16, 2010, from

Williams, C. (2010). Project Management: Risk Management. Retrieved December 15, 2010, from

Sheffield Hallam University

Faculty of Arts, Computing, Engineering and Sciences


Individual Reflection


Prasnnaa Kumar Nachimuthu


MSc Database Professional


The purpose of this essay is to write about the individual reflection of my personal experience in the module “IT Project Management” held during Sep 2010 – Dec 2010. This essay produces my learning experience and my experience of working in a team during this module which helps to reflect upon my learning experience in the module.

This module has taught me many things about project management from how to manage a project as a project manager, how to be a good team player and work in team, and most of the topics in project management. This is one of the module I really enjoyed working with my tutors and all my colleagues. The tutors were really interactive with me and everyone in the class and all of the lectures and seminars were very interactive rather than a boring session. The interest of me in this module can be proved with my presence in all the lecture and seminar session without missing a single lecture or tutorial session from the beginning to end of this module.

The beginning week of the lecture explained me about this module, project and its definition. The later seminar session involved practical teaching of knowing more about project and I was put into a group. Every week, I learnt a new topic about project management and understood how to act to issues in real time environment. For example, in one of my lecture session, I was given a case study about the problems involved in the biggest building in Sheffield.

We understood the case study and I was asked to be in a group to work as a developer of the building and come out with possible solutions to answer the problems of the buyers of the building which consist of my colleagues in another group. While working in the group like a developer, I was thinking as I am the real developer and was trying to come out with possible solutions with my other colleagues in the group. Then I, with my colleagues as developers met the buyers group and answered the possible solutions thinking them as the real buyers. After the session, I was completely satisfied that I have learnt something today.

This is one of the examples, and every week, due to working in a group, helped me to handle the issues and answer the project board as a project manager and also ask questions to project manager as a project board member.

I had the opportunity to produce the first assignment as a group work. I was the project manager in the group and had to assign the task in which I found it easy because we had breakdown the tasks, worked on it individually, discussed and produced the final document prior to the deadline.


I conclude from the above produced illustrations of my personal experience that I am completely satisfied the way the module was taught to me and I enjoyed working with my colleagues in a team. I personally thank my tutors for teaching me the project management skills in an interesting, interacting and practical way and I would definitely recommend this module to my colleagues.

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