Relationship Between Business Objectives Information Technology Essay

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1.0 Introduction

Project management can be said to have been around for as long as human beings evolved sufficiently to plan before starting out on a task. However, it is only in the last few decades that literature on project management has increased. As projects become important contributors to the overall process of strategic management, efficient project management has grown in importance. This is because efficient project management greatly helps to ensure the success of a project.

2.0 Business Objectives, Programmes and Information Systems Projects

Kersner (2006) gives a clear overall picture of the relationship between project management, business objectives, and systems management. Project management can be considered to be applied systems management.

The rapid progress of technology means that today no organisation is isolated; every organisation employs technology in some form of the other. Similarly, the changes implemented in an organisation also incorporate or rely on technology more than ever. Changes in organisations are generally implemented in the form of projects. For example, an organisation may wish to computerise its records, and this process can be done as a project, with set goals and time frames; an organisation may wish to add capability, such as offering customers new facilities (eg. tracking their order status). New facilities are also often implemented with the help of technology. Hence a large proportion of projects that are undertaken today can be classified as computer projects, or information systems projects. However, it is important that these new projects serve a business objective. For example, the new facilities implemented must be to serve specific business objectives, and not implemented ad hoc, or for the sake of implementing. Beyond this very basic relationship dictated by common sense, Kerzner (2006) explains how project management serves different purposes in different types of organisations – manufacturing companies for example, look to project management in order to achieve efficiency and effectiveness. Slippages in schedule in these types of organisations could have a significant negative impact on cash flow. Companies that sell products or services employ project management in order to manage customer expectations, achieve competitiveness, etc. Project management is also useful for managing both internal and external projects.

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The basic premise of employing project management is that it will deliver benefits that are in line with the business objectives of the organisation. Change is inevitable in today’s business environment; the organisation that responds well to change is one that will be able to sustain itself; the organisation that keeps on top of change is one that is well-placed to develop or maintain its competitive advantage. Change in organisations today is managed by projects; projects bring together resources, skills, technology and ideas to deliver business benefits or to achieve business objectives. Good project management helps to ensure that these benefits or objectives are achieved within budget, within time and to the required quality (OGC, 2002). Different project management methodologies posit to have different relationships with the business objectives of an organisation. Figure 1 illustrates the PRINCE2 view of its relationship with projects and business.

Fig. 1 – The PRINCE2 relationship with projects and business

3.0 PPSO

The PPSO is one of the support structures that are instituted to help ensure that a project is successful. Marsh (2002) states that

“Unless an organisation only ever executes one programme or a very small number of projects, there is a vital need to establish some form of programme and / or project support office (PSO). This need increases not only with the number of programmes and projects the organisation undertakes, but also with the importance the organisation places upon them”

Current literature broadly agrees that the PPSO is a support structure. However, as Cadle and Yeates (2004) point out, the precise definition of PPSO and the specific terms used depend on the organisation within which they operate. The PRINCE2 methodology for example uses the term project support office, The ISEB (Information Sytems Examination Board, under the British Computer Society) uses the term PPSO.

3.1 Functions of PPSO

In practice, the range of functions carried out by the PPSO varies from organisation to organisation. Cadle and Yeates (2004) classify the work done by PPSO into 4 different stages:

Work carried out prior to formal initiation of project – Eg. Support activities to ensure smooth approval process, business case preparation, etc.

Work carried out as part of formal project initiation – planning, risk management, resourcing, etc.

Activities that support the main delivery phase of the project (analysis, design, build, test, implementation, etc.) – reporting, stakeholder management, time recording (keeping track of project planned schedules vs. completed timesheets and parts), provising a repository of all documentation related to the project, tracking the financial aspects of the project (man hours spent on the project and other project costs), training, mentoring, etc.

Work carried out after completion of the project – post project reviews, benefits realisation.

In the PRINCE2 methodology, a PSO (Programme Support Office) is instituted in order to make available a central pool of skilled resources to provide the roles of Project Support, such as clerical support, Configuration Librarians, etc. which can support managers in the administration of the project (OGC, 2002). A PPSO is often useful in these situations:

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Where there are resource shortages

Where the organisation has a few diverse projects

Where there is a large programme, which perhaps depends on several smaller individual projects.

(OGC, 2002).

3.2 Implementing PPSO

Section 3.1 above described the functions of a PPSO and the environments in which it would be useful. From these, it can be seen that the implementation of a PPSO cannot be done as a generic activity, in a similar manner in all organisations. This is especially true if the PPSO is to benefit all the members of the team. For example, in an organisation where there is only a small number of projects that are diverse in nature, the PPSO can be implemented to provide generic skills and functions, such as time keeping, financial recording, etc. This frees the expert project team from having to undertake these generic tasks. It also means that the PPSO personnel develop or have, expertise in these skills, resulting in better overall project management. Hence for such an organisation, a suggested implementation structure of a PPSO would be one that provides the general administrative skills for the project, such as documentation and record-keeping, time-keeping (recording timesheets, project progress, etc.), etc. PPSO personnel who provide these administrative services to the projects may therefore not be dedicated to a single project. This means that the staff member responsible for keeping track of the progress of projects and recording timesheets may be responsible for the same task for all the projects in the organisation. This provides the additional benefit of facilitating overall strategic management and planning, especially when there is an interdependency between projects.

3.2 Benefits of PPSO

The main benefits of a PPSO canbe summarised as:

Providing continuity of standards across all projects, in various aspects such as the project management method, software standards, configuration management, quality review techniques, cost-benefit analysis, etc.

Making available a central repository of documents for several projects

Providing cross-project expertise and experience (lessons learnt from one project can be transferred to other projects)

Providing oversight on planning, keeping track of progress.

Each and every team member is likely to benefit from the PPSO, directly or indirectly. Indirect benefits can be classified as those achieved when the project is successful, executed smoothly, etc. Here team members can share in the benefits of success, ensure that their responsibilities can be discharged smoothly, etc. Direct benefits to team members as a result of effective PPSO implementation are the benefits of accurate record-keeping (timesheets, for example, provide an accurate record of the contribution of each individual team member), access to relevant expertise when necessary (team members tasked with procurement for example can liase with the PPSO to obtain expert advise and knowledge from prior projects to help them find the cheapest suppliers), etc.

3.0 Prince 2 Processes and Components

The PRINCE2 processes and components are shown in Figure 2 below.

Fig. 2 – PRINCE2 processes and components

ThePRINCE2 process model has eight management processes, as shown in fig. 2. These are:

Directing a Project – this process runs throughout the project, alongside all other processes. It represents the overall managerial tasks required for the project, especially the tasks that rise by exception.

Planning –

Starting up a Project – This process ensures that the prerequisites for initiating the project are in place. It requires that a mandate for th project exists, there is a reason for the project, and an idea of the final product is already formed. During this stage, the project management team is appointed, the Project Brief is developed, the Project Approach, i.e. general description of how a solution will be provided is defined, and the quality expectations from the project is defined.

Initiating a Project – In this process, a definition of how the required product quality will be achieved is developed. The project plan and cost is determined, business case is identified and documented, the investment of time and effort is justified in light of the risks, commitment of resources is agreed upon, etc.

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Controlling a Stage – the monitoring and control activities of the Project Manager involved in allocating work, ensuring that a stage stays on course and reacts to unexpected events.

Managing Stage boundaries – This process produces the information using which the Project Board will take key decisions on whether to continue with the project or not. This process ensures that each stage is completed as defined or within set tolerance levels, records any measurements or lessons that can help later stages of this project and/or other projects, etc. It also results in several products such as the End Stage Report, Current Stage Plan actuals, showing performance against the original Stage Plan, the next Stage Plan or Exception Plan, a revised Project Plan, updated risk logs, business case, etc.

Closing a Project

Managing Product Delivery

The components of the PRINCE2 methodology are:

Business Case – to be verified by the Project Board before a project begins and at every major decision point throughout the project.

Organisation – The structure of a project management team and a definition of the responsibilities and relationships of all roles involved in the project.

Plans – Different plan levels that can be tailored to the size and needs of a project and an approach to planning based on products rather than activities

Controls – facilitate the provision of key decision-making information, allowing an organisation to pre-empt problems and make decisions on problem resolution. Controls are very important to ensure that the quality of a project is maintained. Proper planning and setting of controls will allow the project manager to ensure that the project achieves a quality standard, and make cost vs. quality trade offs.

Management of Risk -the analysis and management of risk.

Quality in a Project Environment – PRINCE2 incorporates a quality approach to the management and technical processes. This is done by by establishing the customer’s quality expectations, setting standards and quality inspection methods to be used and by checking that these are being used

Configuration Management – Tracking the components of a final product and their versions for release.

Change Control – Sepcification of a change control technique and identification of the processes that apply the change control.

4.0 Limitations of Project Management

Cleland and Ireland (2006, pg. 27) list some of the limitations of formal strategic planning, and consequently, of project management. These can be summarised as:

The environment that the enterprise faces may change more than anticipated. These changes can be brought about by a variety of factors such as natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes), man-made disasters (terrorist attacks), etc.

Resistance to change.

The high cost of project management means that some trade-offs may have to be made.

Project management takes time, and results cannot be achieved immediately.

Project management can only help ensure that new projects are implemented successfully. It cannot help resolve current difficulties.

Strategic planning and effective project management is not an exact science. It requires a lot of intuition, educated guesses, etc. to get it right. There is no guarantee of eventual success.

The project management process must be flexible, to take into account changes along the way.

Project management requires commitment of current time and resources for a goal that is to be achieved in the distant future.

6.0 Conclusion

Project management is a necessary tool for strategic planning. Project management helps ensure that an organisation can adapt to change successfully, by ensuring that the projects it undertakes are successful, and aligned with the business objectives of the organisation. The increasing importance of effective project management for the successful conduct of business is reflected in the increasing amount of attention and literature on the topic. PRINCE2 is one of the most widely used project management methodologies, and can be tailored to suit a wide variety of projects and organisations.

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