The normal life cycle of a project involves various milestones that identify vital stages in the process. Even though the particulars of different business projects vary, many of the significant stages tend to be alike. This similarity is visible whether constructing a building or handling the development of innovation in the information technology. These checkpoints in the execution, control, and closure phases assist the project manager in determining if the entire course is on track.
Purpose and identification of milestones
All successful projects have a work frame that stipulates the particular steps and activities that are essential for accomplishment. When a project manager specifies phases in a plan as the major milestones, s/he is in a position to monitor the progress towards closure. Even though the closure date might be predetermined or predictable, it is necessary to track the progress since some stages might take more or lesser time than expected.
Allocating defined closure dates for every milestone assists project managers to establish if they are keeping track to beat the deadline. When milestones are missing in a business project, it may be hard to realize when a project is running out of time, and it may not be accomplished within the assigned time (Gálvez & Capuz-Rizo, 2016). A business project that is well planned is self-explanatory, and identifying milestones is simplified. The closures of every phase of the project develop natural milestones for monitoring purposes. For instance, a database development project entails planning, developing, and executing the database.
The closure of every phase identifies the direction for the next phase of the project. Besides, major milestones can be identified by evaluating the plan to establish what activities are essential before embarking on the next phase. For example, it is evident that on a construction project the foundation precedes the pillars. In other words, milestones are the inevitable steps that play a pivotal role in ensuring a balanced life cycle of a project.
The major project milestones
In an effort to identify the key milestones, it is essential to restate the purpose of the project. The purpose is to develop a database of individuals who are interested in contributing to the construction of vacation property. VacayAway construction project will offer the clients with records of available properties spread in the country in a self-explanatory database. The milestones include
- Concept approval by 30th May;
- Review of the requirements by 3rd May;
- Review the layout design by 4th May;
- Test plan reviews by 15th May;
- Review the system by 22nd May;
- Operational efficiency reviews by 30th May;
- Product efficiency by 15th June;
- Commence operations by July 1st.
These milestones are very significant for the project in several ways. The goal of the concept approval that is to be attained by the end of May is to ensure that the management approves the feasibility studies and key system plans. The management provides the green light for the progress of this project to the next level. The review of the requirements seeks to ensure that all the needed specifications are availed, precise, and appropriate for input into the project. Review of the layout design entails confirming if the architectural model meets all standards and then approved as appropriate for input into the project design.
Test plan review is essential to ensure all product features to meet the standards and suitable for inclusion in the creation of test cases. This phase also gives the test team an opportunity to evaluate if the software is appropriate for integration. System test review ensures that the software product meets the standards for input into the project design. Product efficiency is determined after the acceptance testing and is necessary to determine the operational readiness for the project. The last phase is the actual operations whereby the database is put into use under its planned operational environment.
These milestones are essential to identify what is to be completed. Milestones entail segmenting a project into various decision points and tracking the completion of each of the segmentations to ascertain that project objectives meet the project timeframe (Atkinson, Crawford, & Ward, 2006). The second factor entails what has been completed. In the course of the project development, the project leader records the group accomplishments such as the milestones achieved.
This step is essential to compare what has been achieved with what was intended to be achieved by that time. Any variance between the planned activity end dates and the real work status is a manifestation of the potential change in project risk either positive or negative. In other words, a failure to accomplish milestones is an indication that a project might fail to meet deadline or budget. The third aspect addresses the question when work will be completed. The project team reviews significant variances related to immature milestones to factor out reasons that real outcome exceeds or lies below planned outcome. This aspect helps in the development of remedies by revising the project schedule.
Main assumptions and exclusions
Every database system is founded on certain assumptions. These assumptions can only be ruled to be true or wrong once the project is complete and operational. False assumptions do not necessary build a negative effect on the project progress since they can help the database designer in seeking alternative means to improve the entire project. The exclusions will include entertainment facilities, conference services, sound systems, and internet servers. However, willing clients will be informed of the exclusions before starting a partnership.
Any successful project is subject to a wide scope of risks. However, risk management entails choosing ways that help optimize chances of project success. Optimizing chances of project success can be achieved by establishing risks early and designing how to mitigate them. Some of the main risks entail financial risk, scope, and change management. The executive support is very critical in the completion of any project by monitoring the financial breakdown (Atkinson et al., 2006).
The project team relies on the financial support to commence a certain project. When the financial support is compromised, the project might fail to materialize. The project team should review a similar project if accessible and utilize its design to inform the budgeting process. Besides, it is necessary to undertake a sensitivity analysis to cater for variations in the assumptions made about costs of the project.
A major risk arises when the scope is poorly defined. Unforeseen changes often affect the project flow since they are not catered in the original design. In some cases, the estimates may be inaccurate thus affecting the project timing and budget. Some projects might suffer because of an activity missing from the scope. The third risk is change management. During a project life cycle, a large number of change requests might be presented. These changes increase the complexity of the project and affect resource allocation. Change requests may arise from the stakeholders or the management.
However, it is difficult to ignore a change request since it might create the perception that a project failed due to the rejection of change. On the other hand, accepting change might create the perception that a project failed because of changes (Gálvez & Capuz-Rizo, 2016). Besides, high profile distortions may create the perception that a project is doomed to fail. Similarly, when the timeframe and the budget are continually adjusted, the stakeholders may conclude that the project has missed its primary objective.
Strategies to manage risks
Mitigating risk entails setting preventive measures such as familiarizing with the risk to reduce the chances of the risk occurring. Mitigation may not decrease the probability of risk occurrence but reduces the magnitude of the damage. Familiarizing with the different types of risks sets the way towards mitigating financial risk. Financial risk can be either systematic or non-systematic. The systematic risk might be difficult to control since they influence the entire economy. For example, losses incurred because of a recession. Non-systematic risks differ between businesses. Thus, these risks can be reduced via careful planning. Since a business cannot fail to take risks, careful planning is essential to determine how much risk an enterprise can manage (Atkinson et al., 2006).
Risk avoidance is a strategy for addressing an adverse risk situation. Response to an established threat seeks to control the damages and any threatening scenario. The chance of the risk recurring is reduced to zero. In other words, avoiding a risk can lead to a change of plan in an effort to change the track of the current process. Risk avoidance is a suitable strategy when the risk has a huge potential to affect the project negatively. For instance, a business may avoid training its staff on new management techniques in December when workers are very busy. There is a huge risk that the workers will not be able to adapt to new processes. Therefore, the training can be transferred to January when workers have more free time.
Risk can also be managed through risk transfer. Transferring risk entails contracting another entity to insure against possible adverse effects of the risk. Risk transfer is a suitable control strategy involving the contractual shifting of potential risk from an enterprise to other entities such as insurance firms. For instance, a business may decide to buy an insurance policy to shift a particular risk from the policyholder to the insurer.
The technology industry has unique exposures thus when managing risk it is necessary to hire a team that has the expertise to detect, prioritize and handle risk. A comprehensive assurance and reliable control strategies will reduce risk and ensure business growth stays on track. Besides, to ensure swift progress, business solutions have to be tailored to fit the purpose regardless of the selection to mitigate, avoid, accept, or transfer risk.
The last risk management method is acceptance. This aspect entails simply acknowledging that negative event may happen, but no measures are taken to contain the situation. This strategy can be applied when faced with small risks. For instance, a business may find that the cost of preventing certain damage is high, and thus, it is advisable to ignore such risks.
Reducing project duration
Various reasons cause the need to reduce project duration such as predetermined end dates, time-to-market factors, major resource needs, and potential delays. One of the most claims that project managers complain about is unrealistic deadlines. In some cases, it is possible to find workers idling as they wait for a work mate to accomplish so s/he can commence his/her task. In such as a situation, the project manager has to revisit the project schedule. Given that time is constrained in most projects, the manager’s goal should be to develop the shortest period possible without interfering with its coverage and quality. The techniques to reduce the project time include understanding the critical path, crashing, and fast tracking.
Understanding the critical path helps estimate a project end date. If the critical path is understood, the duration is reduced, and the project is accomplished early without compromising its scope and quality. On the other hand, failure to understand the critical path leads to delays then the project fails to meet the deadline. However, project managers should be keen on tasks that define the critical path. Factors that influence the determination of the critical path include identifying the task dependencies, most tasks or milestones in a project cannot begin unless prior tasks are completed (Kapogiannis, Gaterell, & Oulasoglou, 2015).
For instance, during a construction project, one cannot install pillars over a house without a foundation. Second, it is important for the project manager to approximate the tasks carefully. The critical path should state the estimates based on the effort required to complete the project. However, some tasks are not part of the critical path thus slight changes have to be expected in the course of the project.
Crashing defines the act of fine-tuning a task schedule to reduce the closure dates. This technique is used when stakeholders request for a quicker delivery while wishing to maintain the project scope and quality (Gálvez & Capuz-Rizo, 2016). Crushing simply reduces time on the events in the critical path. Reducing time on non-vital events may not influence the delivery time. There are various ways to introduce crushing while maintaining quality and scope. Project managers can allow two events to run concurrently and have two milestones achieved in half the normal time. Alternatively, experienced experts can be assigned a task with the intention to accomplish it earlier. However, it is necessary to understand that some tasks have to wait for prior tasks to end before they start.
Techniques applicable for this project
When creating a database, critical path method is the most applicable. Crashing might not be effective since fewer tasks if any can be done concurrently when developing a database. Therefore, having a critical plan helps managers to visualize and schedule end dates accordingly. Setting a critical path for this project has various benefits. First, critical path helps in predicting the duration each event will cover and provide a timeframe for the customer. Second, critical path helps understand how every milestone is vital to the development of the rest of the design. Third, critical path helps factor out the right team to carry out certain tasks.
Control process and steps
Project control process is the way of obtaining data and managing processes deployed to predict and influence the duration and budgets of a program. This goal can be achieved via communicating in ways that promote proper decision-making and management. The control process entails scheduling and helping project managers to maximize outcomes. Ideally, the control process emphasizes on the people, processes, and strategies employed in planning, executing, and mitigating schedules and budgets.
Steps in project control process include project planning, execution, and evaluation. Project planning defines the nature of the project design based on schedule, budget, and scope. Planning also involves network analysis, approximating cost and designing the control budget. Project execution is the real operations intended by the project. At this phase, data on real cost, time taken and real achievements are compared with the initial estimates.
Progress and financial reports can be availed at this phase for auditing purposes. The project evaluation phase involves evaluation of performance, results and budget overruns. Evaluation entails the overall assessment of the life cycle of the project. Such assessments help to determine when actual costs exceed the initial budget and if the project attained its goals.
The Earned Value (EV) system is used to control the project and develop appropriate decisions. The baseline plan entails determining data accuracy and efficiency. The EV System offers the basis to track milestones against the initial plan. EV System offers valid and auditable information for the reliable decision-making process. When EV System is developed and implemented on a project, there are profound advantages to the project manager as well as the client. Project manager benefits involve increased visibility and control to react swiftly and proactively to issues that facilitate meeting project deadline, budget, analysis, and technical milestones.
Client benefits involve trust in the project manager’s capability to control the project, establish stabling blocks early, and offer objective, rather than subjective, contract budget analysis and timeframe status. EV Systems introduce new terms such as cost variance and schedule variance as discussed in the next section.
Cost variance and schedule variance
Cost variance is the total difference between actual expenses and the planned amount. For instance, if the current project is accomplished with actual expenses worth $ 165,000 but the planned amount was $ 160,000, then VacayAway experiences a cost variance of $ 5,000. This aspect means that cost variance can be negative for tasks that are over budget. Tracking project cost is important to ensuring the project is closed on the budget.
Thus, employing a realistic critical path is essential to ensure significant cost variance is not experienced. Schedule variance is attained by finding the difference between earned value and planned value. If the results are positive it implies the project is successful while a negative result implies that the project has failed to attain the scope and quality within the planned timeframe (Kapogiannis et al., 2015).
Closure is the last milestone in any project. This phase starts after the accomplishment of all project goals. Closure includes gathering, completion, and storing of all project data or products. Closure states the issues encountered during the project coupled with how they are tackled. Effective closure is supported by documentation, and it enables future project managers to carry out similar projects with ease and reduced costs. The major considerations for this report will be to conduct a post-project review and evaluation. The closure will also entail reporting and communicating the results of the project to the relevant stakeholders.
The successful performance of any project relies on effective planning by following the right critical path and crashing when applicable. Critical path defines the technique that can be used by VacayAway to reduce the project duration without affecting the scope and quality. Project control process and steps are an inevitable part of the task management effort. While risk management is a difficult endeavor that cannot be avoided, project progress is achievable when all measures are addressed accordingly.
Atkinson, R., Crawford, L., & Ward, S. (2006). Fundamental uncertainties in projects and the scope of project management. International Journal of Project Management, 24(8), 687-98.
Gálvez, E., & Capuz-Rizo, S. (2016). Assessment of global sensitivity analysis methods for project scheduling. Computers & Industrial Engineering, 93(2), 110-120.
Kapogiannis, G., Gaterell, M., & Oulasoglou, E. (2015). Identifying uncertainties toward sustainable projects. Procedia Engineering, 118(1), 1077-1085.