Exercising Control

Introduction

Having studied the various ways by which the progress of a project can be monitored, it is important to note that monitoring is by itself not management, and finding out how the project is progressing is quite meaningless unless corrective measures can be taken when something is amiss with the project.

There has been a common trend for project managers to sit at their computers all day, going through the project data while the project is spiraling out of control, a management method christened ‘management by spreadsheet’. Frequently, this management method is ineffectual and calls for an improved method for exercising control that entails a proactive management process (Cadle and Yeates, p. 207).

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Elements of Exercising Control

Exercising control consists of four elements. The first step involves an evaluation of the current situation, then an evaluation on the various strategies that could be used. The third stage involves the selection and implementation of one of strategies identified in the second stage while the final stage links back into the monitoring process because of the need to check that the control action has had the desired corrective action on the project.

Evaluating the Current Situation

This stage starts from the information gathered through monitoring processes. These may include the timesheet information showing the current phase of the project, quality review data indicating whether the deliverables are meeting their quality criteria, and financial information that shows the current accrued expenditure and future forecasts for the same (Cadle and Yeates, p. 208). The information obtained at this stage is compared with the various plans to find out if there is an anomaly and, if so, its magnitude.

For instance, if the project is behind schedule, is it on a critical path? If it is not, can the situation be arrested? Arresting the situation may entail directing more resources, such as manpower and financial resources. If additional resources are used, can the extra costs be compensated by using lower quality materials? The three variables of time, cost, and quality should be balanced to ensure that the projects meets, or comes close to meeting the initial project details.

Possible Corrective Measures

Some of the most common project management corrective measures to problems encountered on IS projects are listed below, however, caution should be taken not to forget the great influence that the project team members have on the success of the project.

Doing Nothing

This should always be the first option as it provides a benchmark against which to assess all other possibilities and it may turn out to be the solution. Doing nothing does not mean failing to act, rather, it means that the manager assesses all the other corrective measures and then decides that leaving things as they are is the best option.

This option provides two pitfalls: first, the manager may opt for this strategy when in fact a more vigorous action is required, and secondly, the desire to be seen to be doing something may cause the project manager to take action that could worsen the situation. Hence, this option requires the manager to honest with himself and be able to withstand the pressure of doing nothing.

Adding more Staff

This option can be used if the project is behind schedule. However, this option will only work if the task can be partitioned, otherwise there will be a lot of staff and coordination will be a problem, and even if the task is partitioned, each partition must have existing staff to brief and guide the new staff. On the downside, adding more staff may actually make the project take longer time than if the existing workers had pushed on with it.

Adding Different Skills

This is an alternative to adding more staff and involves adding people with different, or greater skills. There is a clear difference in productivity between new and current staff, therefore, adding more experience is a perfect way of improving the team efficiency and effectiveness.

Using Overtime

This is the cheapest way of injecting additional effort into the project team. It is cheap because the manager does not have to pay for additional overheads such as insurance, pension, office space, etc. This strategy works well if it is used for a short-term crisis, another strategy is required if a permanent of long-term measure is required.

Reassigning Tasks

An improved productivity or better quality work can be realized if tasks are switched among the existing employees. Different employees have different abilities and if they are assigned the tasks they are proficient, the project can benefit a great deal from their strengths.

Increasing Individual Supervision

If member of the team experiences productivity or quality problems with tasks assigned to them, a solution can be to partition the task into smaller deliverable portions, so that quality control can be exercised more often.

Decreasing Individual Supervision

This option can be used if an opposite situation arises, where an experienced employee resents to the constant surveillance and consequently gives up any interest in producing a high quality work. Job interest, motivation, and productivity can be enhanced by giving such employees a greater job responsibility. This strategy also benefits the supervisor in way of reduced work (Cadle and Yeates, p. 211).

Finding Improved Methods of Working

The manager must ensure that the methods used in the project are up to date and suitable for the work at hand to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the project team.

Streamlining the Process

Procedure that have been defined for tasks such as quality control may turn out to be bureaucratic and lengthy, therefore, a less rigorous and clear approach that focuses on the most critical parts should be adopted.

Changing Resource Priorities

It may happen that access to the development machine is restricted. More likely, the project team will only have occasional access to the production environment. If such occurrences are creating a hurdle for the success of the project, the manger has to negotiate for increased access to the production environment, or examine the critical path for the project and use it to choose who should use the critical resource first on the available time.

Replanning the Project

An assessment may reveal that the project suffers from some basic flaws in planning, this situation normally occurs after the project has begun. Even though some sections may be faultless, a replanning of the project while taking into consideration the risks or flaws encountered in the old project will yield better results than continuing with the old project.

Changing the Phasing of Deliverables

Apart from replanning the project, a similarly effective solution can be achieved by altering the phasing of deliverables. This can be achieved by focusing efforts on the most urgent requirements. However, a proper risk analysis of the options must be considered to make the decisions.

Decreasing the Number of Inspections

This strategy can be considered as a corrective measure for a project that is falling behind schedule, but should only be used if the inspections are detecting a considerably low number of defects.

Increasing the Number of Inspections

This option can be used if the inspections are uncovering a very high level of defects on completed large tasks. This process ensures faults are detected earlier when they easier to rectify.

Encouraging the Team

In a long project, exhaustion sets in and this can lead to lower productivity, increased absenteeism, resignations, and so on. This can have a dire effect on the project, and can be corrected by motivating the team through a number of incentive-oriented activities such as team building, redistribution of work, reducing the size of deliverables, focusing on the team’s success to date, etc.

Introducing incentives

Incentives are meant to improve performance and can be financial or non-financial incentives such as lunches or recognizing employee efforts.

Subcontracting Parts of Work

If most of the corrective measures are failing, then the manager should consider subcontracting some tasks to one or two companies specializing in the skills required. Caution should be taken to ensure that subcontractors’ work meets the required standards.

Negotiating Changes in the Specification

If all else fails, the manager can go back to the customer and negotiate for changes in the projects specifications. These negotiations could include phased deliveries or budgetary revisions.

Implementing Corrective Actions

Whatever the measure that the management takes, the project team must be informed of it and how it affects the project as a whole, besides, a monitoring program must be instituted to evaluate the success of the project.

Change Control

During the project life cycle, change is inevitable. Project changes may arise from factors such as change in the customer’s business environment, new personnel coming up with different views, revised user ideas of the project, proposals from the development team, availability of new technologies, and new or revised legislation, and so on.

To reduce the number of these changes, structural analysis methods such as SSADM, that use diagrammatic methods rather than written specifications, can be used. However, this does not totally eliminate project changes. Before making a decision on project changes, a thorough investigation must be conducted based on various aspects of the project.

Change Control and Configuration Management

Change control ensures that changes are made after their effects are considered while configuration management ensures that if changes are implemented, then amendments to each of the affected deliverables are correctly controlled and recorded.

Work Cited

Cadle, James, and Yeates Donald. Project Management for Information Systems (5th

Edition). Essex: Pearson/ Prentice Hall, 2008. Print.