The Pros And Cons Of Each Approach

The project management team at Parallel Services is having a debate about how to define tasks in the work breakdown structure used to construct a Gantt chart. Ann, the project manager, wants to break tasks down into the smallest possible units. For example, she objected to a broad task statement called Develop a training schedule. Instead, she suggested three subtasks: (1) Determine availability of training room, (2) Determine availability of attendees, and (3) Select specific dates and training times.

Karen, another project team member, disagrees. She feels that the broader task statement is better, because it allows more flexibility and will produce the same result. Karen says that if you break tasks into pieces that are too small, you risk over-managing the work and spending more time on monitoring than actually performing the tasks.

(a) Discuss the pros and cons of each approach.

Breaking down tasks into smaller and manageable units, makes the inter relationship between those units clearer, effectively helps the planning process, easier to revise and update plans when needed, assign work packages to appropriate skill groups, which makes it easier for the project manager to macro manage the project. Tracking the progress of work packages is more accurate because the timeline feature of Gantt chart carries over to WBS.

Smaller tasks also carry some disadvantages like need for excessive communication, unending status reporting, loss of productivity and more.

For example, the below figure shows that a project that is twice as large will be much more than twice as complex. Only one interaction among team members exists in Project A. In Project B, as many as six different interactions can take place. Unless carefully coordinated, multiple interactions can lead to misunderstanding and delays.

Large work packages (Broader tasks) can be unclear as team members may not be sure of what they are supposed to do. There are chances that your team members could assure you about meeting the delivery date of the large chunk of work and approach you for schedule extension just when you thought the work would have been done. In addition below are some more disadvantages of large/broader tasks.

You receive less feedback – to overcome this, smaller tasks are better because people can learn sooner if the tasks are smaller and provide better feedback.

Work might expand after the initiation of a project. Large tasks usually have long due times. Hence there might be no sense of urgency which leads to low motivation.

Tasks fail if they are big – After spending half of the budget, you discover that resources are not enough to finish the task on time. The only solution would be fight with neighbor projects to find more resources which is again expensive because you cannot just cancel the project after spending half of the budget. So, your task would drag on forever, and consume even more resources.

(b) Explain which approach you would advocate and justify why.

I would like to support smaller tasks. Project manager plans, monitors and tracks the work done by the team members, so tasks should be small and manageable. Trying to manage a project as one large task would be impossible. Instead, i would like to break the project down into many smaller tasks that can be easily managed. People who procrastinate often comment that when they wait to the last minute to complete a project, they often feel overwhelmed, and the task seems insurmountable. Breaking the task into smaller units and setting priorities, the work would be more manageable and less intimidating.

Finding the correct size for the work packages is very important when planning on work breakdown, not too big, not too small, but just correct size. If the tasks were smaller we always have option to increase it later if needed. However the opposite is always not possible.

Work breakdown structure would help assigning tasks to individuals, monitor the work status on a regular basis and also hold people accountable for the work assigned to them. Preparing the work breakdown structure properly, you can easily maintain your schedule and people will be responsible for their part of work (tasks assigned to them). A project task can be represented by one or several team members. In a workgroup, to complete a task, the workgroup leader should consult with the workers in order to develop the task list. A task should be broken down in to a level where an individual is able to do a task without further breaking it down into smaller units. The project task list does not necessarily describe task sequence, but the task leaders will often think in these terms. It is important for the project manager to keep in mind that these tasks must be broken down into smaller, discreet, independent work units, and that none are left out. Breakdown is satisfactory when individuals are identified who can determine exactly what has to be done, how long it will take, and who will do it. If, on one unit of effort, several groups are each working independently of each other, the unit needs even further breakdown. Each autonomous team should have its own task. Below is a simple example of work breakdown structure.

Question 2

Point value: 10

Many companies are undergoing server virtualization. This is the concept of putting multiple virtual servers on to one physical device. The payoffs can be significant: fewer servers, lower electricity and cooling costs, lower infrastructure and administrative costs, increased flexibility, more effective use of space, and lower maintenance costs. The costs of doing so include licensing virtualization software, labor costs in establishing the virtual servers on to a physical device, costs of updating tables, and access. However, determining return on investment can be a challenge. Some companies have lost money, while others claim that they have gained a positive return on investment.

(a) Suggest ways in which a company could determine its actual return on investment from server virtualization and how this would be accomplished.

Server virtualization increases the rate of investment for an organization. Below are some of the ways in which server virtualization can help the organization to increase their ROI.

1. Reducing server maintenance, storage and networking costs

2. Reducing growing power, cooling and costs pertaining to facilities

3. Increased IT productivity

4. Reduce business risks

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Server virtualization allows an organization to save money on hardware, floor space and resources. Virtualization uses existing servers to provide better performance without adding additional capacity, which results in savings from hardware. For example, deploy three virtual servers on one physical machine and it saves the need to buy three separate machines, which may be used less frequently that too at full capacity. When the physical number of servers in an organization is decreased, this means less storage space is required. Office rents are a major expense for any business, so less space is definitely a plus. It is necessary to calculate the money to be spent on the licenses for virtualization products. Buying more RAM and software licenses are more feasible than buying new machines. In the long run virtualization can save money because it reduces energy consumption.

Server virtualization makes an organization more effective by making use of the existing infrastructure in a better way. Migration is easier in virtualized environment.

With virtualization we can just deploy an image of the existing or a new system or solution on the present server without a need for a new server deployment.

(b) Discuss whether this is a type of project in which a systems analyst would become involved and why.

A systems analyst would be involved in this type of project. Though server virtualization is a great choice there are factors to consider prior to the implementation of product. The analysis and planning phase should be done properly to avoid any type of virtualization failure. A systems analyst should have better understanding of server virtualization concepts before trying to implement it in an organization. The leading virtualization solutions are easy to deploy and user friendly however might require close inspection based on the requirements of the organization. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider virtualization, but you should look carefully at the numbers and run a test bed before committing to the idea. Below are some of the notable factors that a systems analyst needs to consider before deciding on server virtualization idea.

Single point of failure – When failures occur on a server on which all the virtualization solutions are hosted and running, when the virtualization solution itself fails, the system crashes.

Need for powerful machines – Virtual servers demand powerful hardware. It is still possible to deploy virtualization solutions with less powerful systems; however the performance decreases greatly if there is no sufficient RAM and CPU power on the main system.

Lower performance Issues – Problems show up after the application has been virtualized. Application performance would differ when it experiences lot of stress from different processes running on the same server. Performance issues cannot be predicted in advance.

Not always possible – There are applications where virtualization is not possible or not feasible. One practical example is database, since databases require frequent disk read and write operations, virtualization, which takes time to perform is not at all suitable for the database environment.

Security – Security configurations and concerns must also be considered when analyzing a virtualization solution.

It is the job of systems analyst to carefully weigh the pros and cons while considering to go for a virtualization solution.

Question 3

Point value: 15

The vice president of accounting says to you, the IT director, “This systems development life cycle stuff takes too long.” She tells you that her people know what they are doing and that all systems requests coming from her department are necessary and important to the organization. She suggests that the IT department bypass the initial steps for any accounting department request and immediately get to work at the solution.

(a) Justify your department’s use of the SDLC and the consequences of omitting stages of the lifecycle in systems analysis.

The Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a conceptual model that describes the stages involved in a system development project starting from Identifying problems, opportunities and objectives through maintenance of the application. There are several models developed to guide the process involved. Documentation is crucial regardless of the type of model chosen for any application and is usually done in parallel with the development process. Success of a project depends on how closely the plan was followed and implemented throughout the project development. During the initial phases, systems analyst is concerned with correctly identifying the problems, opportunities and objectives. The success of the rest of the project depends on this because if the problem is not identified correctly at the initial stages or skip this stage then the rest of the team would be addressing the wrong problem. The cost of fixing a defect in the early stages of the project is very less when compared to fixing a defect at later stages of the project development because it would cost a lot to fix the defect when project is in production stage. Below is a simple graph of cost and time graph that can explain the cost of change as we progress in the project.

http://www.ambysoft.com/artwork/costOfChangeCurve.jpg

(b) Explain to her the alternative design methodologies used in systems analysis, how they are similar to and how they differ from the SDLC, and the appropriateness of each for different types of projects.

Agile methodology and object oriented methodology are the other two alternative methodologies used in systems analysis. Agile methodology is an approach based on values, principles and core practices. Agile methodology not only reduces the risk of misunderstanding, it also minimizes the cost of addressing any defect. Object oriented best suits situations where complex systems undergo continuous maintenance, adaptation and redesign. Understanding the organization, budgeting time and resources, developing a project proposal, gathering information and sampling data from existing reports are the activities that are common in all the three methodologies (SDLC, Agile and Object Oriented methodologies). SDLC and object -oriented approaches require extensive planning and diagramming. The Agile and object-oriented approach allow subsystems to be build one at a time until the entire system is complete. The agile and SDLC approaches are concerned about the way data logically moves through the system. SDLC approach can be used when there are adequate resources and time to complete the full SDLC. Agile methodologies can be used when applications need to be developed quickly in response to a dynamic environment. Object-Oriented methodologies can be used when organization supports the UML learning and when systems can be added gradually, one subsystem at a time.

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Question 4

Point value: 20 points

FlexTime is a regional chain of fitness centers that provides workout facilities as well as a variety of fitness classes to its members such as aerobics, martial arts, yoga, Zumba, and kickboxing. The chain has 50 facilities located in the northeastern region of the United States. Each facility employs approximately 80 individuals including managers, personal fitness trainers, fitness instructors, receptionists, on-site physical therapists, and maintenance personnel. The owners of the chain would like to replace their antiquated database system with an integrated system that keeps track of payroll, employee and class scheduling, inventory, and membership dues at each of its facilities. They have asked your systems analysis team to conduct a feasibility analysis and to develop the system for them, assuming that it is feasible.

(a) Explain how you would conduct the feasibility analysis for FlexTime.

I would start with defining the potential impact of the integrated system which can help decision makers to determine whether or not to replace their antiquated database system with an integrated system. Feasibility study report should be prepared in such a way that FlexTime can decide about cost estimation, funding and important decisions which are very essential for them to be stable and run profitably. Systems analyst should analyze the current system with the proposed integrated system and prepare detailed report that contains information related to technical, economic and operational impact and will also include both pros and cons of both the current system and proposed system. Interviewing managers, personal fitness trainers, fitness instructors, receptionists, on-site physical therapists, and maintenance personnel, developing and managing questionnaires to interested sponsors, such as potential users of the information system, monitoring users of the current system and determine their requirements as well as their like and dislike with the current system, gathering, investigating, and analyzing documents, specifications, reports, procedures, user guides, and any other documentation relating to the operations of the current system, modeling, detecting, and simulating the tasks of the current system are some various methods a systems analyst can use to collect data. It pursues to determine the resources required to develop an information systems solution which includes the cost and benefits and the feasibility of the new solution

(b) Provide three examples of why this project might lack technical feasibility.

This project may lack Technical feasibility because Flextime doesn’t have enough information technology staff to execute the project. The existing resources (hardware or software) might not be able to support the business needs. Lacks financial resources to support the proposed system. The organization might lack the expertise, time or personnel required to implement the new project.

(c) Provide three examples of why this project might lack operational feasibility.

This project is not adequate in terms of operational feasibility because the project might not be easy to operate. The users (managers, personal fitness trainers, fitness instructors, receptionists, on-site physical therapists, and maintenance personnel) of the project lack proper training or knowledge of the system. The project procedures might be too complex for the personnel as the system has integrations with multiple applications.

(d) Provide three examples of why this project might lack economic feasibility.

This project might lack economic feasibility because they might lack the finances required to wait for return on investment, so the project implementation might halt due to longer payback period. They can use the profits gained with this and reinvest in other technology. In addition, benefits and costs can both be intangible, hidden and/or hard to estimate. Alternative financing arrangements like renting or leasing or purchasing required hardware or software. When compared to existing system the proposed system would be integrated with many other applications, the organization may want to invest more on labor. Costs may have been underestimated (However, we did compare our costs to a comparable service’s startup costs). Furthermore, although we hoped to exhaust the potential list of project costs, there will likely be items that we must purchase.

(e) Explain which of the systems development methodologies discussed in the text would you choose to use to develop the system for FlexTime and why.

I would like to use SDLC to develop the system for FlexTime. SDLC model can answer questions like ‘Do we have the hardware or software to handle the system?’, ‘Do our computers have enough memory?’, ‘Does the new proposed system do what it is supposed to do?’ and many more. SDLC is used to identify the need for the system initiation, ship out the new system to the user(implementation), and de support when no longer needed(Disposition) because if we don’t have a clear plan for doing all these, then it can become an expensive mistake. As each phase of SDLC requires documentation, reporting and approval, it assures that a project does not go out of hand either by changing the direction or becoming a financial black hole. There will not be any surprises when the system is shipped to the user because the management is aware of every step and it is documented. In short because of the planning, approval, testing and documentation activities SDLC can assure that the system can, and will work as expected.

Question 5

Point value: 45 points

City College is considering introducing a new online system through which faculty and students will place textbook orders which will be implemented in fall 2011. As the systems analyst assigned to this project, you have been asked to obtain information from different user groups who will be using the new system.

(a) Identify the different user groups that you would want to gather information from, and explain why.

Administrators – They are responsible for setup and maintaining user accounts, maintaining system, verifying whether all the hardware and software used are working properly, monitor system performance, creating backup and recovery policy to use whenever there is a disaster, setup security policies for users, monitor network communication.

Librarians – It is always important to collect information from librarians because they create records for library catalogs, process library materials for collection, assist users in locating materials, circulate library materials and handle overdue processes, managing user records, operating customer service points, in fact librarian is the person who would have knowledge of everything in the library.

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Students – They use library more than any other user groups identified in this case so it is very important to gather information from students to build the new online system.

Faculty/Reviewers/Evaluators/Teaching Assistants – As most of these people use library for traditional printed resources, inter-library loan, electronic journals, and electronic databases/article indexes. Gathering information from them would help developing online system and provide all options they need.

(b) Develop an interview protocol that you would use to interview members of the user groups. In doing so, identify the types of questions that you might ask as well as the appropriate structure for conducting the interview.

When interviewing administrators and librarians I would like to follow the protocols that include open ended questions and then move on to closed ended questions to be more focused with the interview and finally with some open ended questions and appreciate the interviewee for taking time out of his/her schedule. I might even use general probes in interviews to enable the user being interviewed to be as informative as possible in their responses. I might ask questions like “Is there anything else you would like to add?”. I would like to use diamond structure for conducting the interview as this structure combines the strengths of the both pyramid and funnel structure.

When interviewing students and faculty I would like to start with open ended questions and then narrow the possible responses by using closed ended questions. I might ask questions like “How do you use the library resources?”. I feel funnel structure best suits to conduct the interview for this users group.

(c) Make a case for or against the use of joint application design (JAD) sessions to gather information.

Joint application design (JAD) sessions to gather information would not suit because

JAD sessions require commitment of a large block of time from all participants, JAD requires minimum of two to four day commitment where participants may not do any other activities concurrently.

Inadequate JAD session preparations in any regard or if the follow-up report and documentation of specifications is incomplete.

The necessary organizational skills may not be sufficiently developed to enable the concerted effort required to be productive in a JAD session.

JAD may not be possible in our case as students may have their classes/exams going on or faculty may be busy teaching in class at the time of JAD schedules.

(d) Develop a questionnaire that you would use to elicit information from members of each user group.

Students Group

Which Department are you in?

What courses are you taking?

What types of books are required for your course?

What authors books do you prefer or are preferred by your instructors?

Any specific publications?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Faculty Group

Which Department are you in?

What courses are you teaching?

What type of books do you propose to the students?

Any specific authors?

Any specific publications?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Librarians Group

Library catalogs?

Any library material for collection?

Any overdue processes?

What books do you see students using/requesting most?

Any new journals/magazines required?

Any editions of books to be updated?

What type of user records?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Administrators Group

Types of user accounts?

What type of tools required to upgrade the search capabilities in the online library system?

System performance monitoring options?

What type of security policies?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

(e) Explain how the questionnaire might be distributed to members of each user group. Make sure to describe the benefits and drawbacks of each distribution method that you suggest, and provide a final recommendation with justification.

I think we can distribute questionnaire to users in all groups via email and web survey because we can reach the users quickly. Cost of taking opinions from the groups with paper is completely reduced since the surveys are taken electronically and email is free, user privacy is maintained. Responses can be automatically collected and stored electronically at user’s convenience. Reminders can be sent easily and are inexpensive via email and by using software we can turn email data into data tables for use in spreadsheet.

(f) Determine what sampling methodology you would use to distribute the questionnaire. Justify your selection.

I would use stratified sampling methodology to distribute the questionnaire. To develop an online system for text book orders the data gathered should be effective and stratified sampling methodology is often essential in such cases. Using this sampling methodology a systems analyst can gather information from different group of users/people say for example you may want to use a survey to gather data from students, faculty but you might prefer to use personal interviews to gather similar data librarians and administrators.

(g) Suggest a strategy for analyzing any existing documents that are used in the textbook ordering process. Explain why you would choose this strategy and why you would select certain documents (You can be general in specifying the types of documents.)

Systems analysts should consider both quantitative and qualitative documents for analyzing. Quantitative documents include analyzing reports, records and forms to determine where the organization stands currently and what the vision for the proposed system is. Qualitative documents include email messages, memos, web pages, procedure manuals and policies because they contain details of the expectations of behavior, the ways in which users expect to interact with information technologies. Systems analysts can take help of guidelines to systematically approach to this sort of analysis. The focus of the document analysis should be a critical investigation, rather than a mere description, of the documents. The analysis should include questions about the educational purpose of the document; how librarians, faculty and students are using it, and how it is contributing to learning. Records provide periodic updates of what is occurring in the business, it can provide much useful information to the analyst. Systems analyst should make a note of performance measurement. This measurement can help analyzing the actual and intended performance of the system. Analyzing policies allows the systems analyst to gain an awareness of the values, attitudes and beliefs guiding the organization.

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