Iterations Methodology - A Process and Algorithm to Accommodate Date-driven Projects
Original Publication Date: 2008-Oct-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2008-Oct-31
All too often the only thing that is seemingly cast in stone when an information technology project starts is the project’s target completion date. The project may also begin with a defined scope and a monetary budget but changes to the scope and the budget are normally applied ahead of any change to the target end date. While the project’s scope and budget are readily negotiable, the target end date is often only modified as a last resort. An information technology project plan is created by a project manager to show what needs to be done when and to allocate funds and human resource as appropriate. Under normal circumstances, the target end date is derived as a result of all other activities and resource availability having been specified in the project plan. A project plan is expressed as a work breakdown structure which can be detailed and complex; sometimes spanning thousands of lines. Having to go back and force fit activities to meet the target end date can be a time consuming and confusing activity for the project manager, what to tweak where and when. Known Solutions A normal project planning tool such as Microsoft Project does not provision a means for a project manager to play "what-if" scenarios during the tweaking process to help determine the appropriate means by which to make the project fit the target end date. Our method provides a means for a project manager to create a project plan that orients the target end date as the focal point for determining the duration and available resources for each project deliverable. Our method provides the means by which a project manager can generate a project plan from a set of project plan templates that can meet the desired target end date of a project. In addition to the created project plan, our method produces an optional risk report that can alert the project manager as to how realistic the project plan in terms of meeting the target end date. When a project manager uses our method to choose a target end date, a natural end date is also produced. Our method always computes all natural dates when the target end date is specified by the project manager. As our method has both sets of dates, a level of project risk is able to be associated with given activities are unrealistic in their duration. We can use a common analogy to explain the difference between a target end date and a natural end date: if an individual woman can give birth in nine months (a natural end date) then nine women should be able to give birth to one child in one month (one month being the target end date). The analogy highlights the unrealistic or impossible aspects that can be placed on some project deliverables. Our method is capable of surfacing these scenarios. The speed in which project plans can be produced by our method, allow the project manager to explore various combinations of arranging the work breakdown structure before settling on a preferred approach. If the target end date set for the project is deemed unrealistic, it can now be broached early on in the project lifecycle and sufficient documentation is produced to help the project manager explain why the date cannot be realistically attained.
Iterations Methodology - A Process and Algorithm to Accommodate Date -driven Projects
Our method to work with end date oriented projects is used in conjunction with a project planning tool such as Microsoft Project. The project manager or user of the project planning tool accesses our method via a custom toolbar.
The project manager would begin by launching our method's interface from the toolbar inside of the project planning tool. The project manager is presented with a series of options to select and specify regarding the criteria of the project.
Within the interface, the primary aspect of interest to the project manager working with end date oriented projects is to select whether they want the project plan generated with a natural end date or a targeted end date. If the project manager chooses the targeted end date option, the initial date presented uses the following algorithm:
* The Gregorian date from the computer is obtained
* The Gregorian date of the following Monday is determined * Four months are added to the determined date
The project manager is free to leave the default target end date or to select a custom target end date of their own choosing.
Next, the project manager selects whether or not they want to generate a costing report in addition to the generated project plan. The costing report contains a section on risk to alert the project manager as to the
probability of the project time frame being achieved.
While navigating the interface, the project manager chooses templated project plans and arranges them in peer, linear, and sub-project plan dependency sequences. Within the template each deliverable is associated to a factor that can be used to help derive the amount of time that should be taken to prepare the deliverable.
Associated with the factor is a warning threshold that can assist the method's algorithm in calibrating how realistic is the time allotted to a deliverable - the level of risk.
Example of Risk
The idea of the desired end date is to be date driven - potentially at the expense of scope and monetary cost.. In fact, under certain arrangements, the scope and/or monetary cost could increase. For example, if one programmer is tasked to write five programs. Each program has to be written in a linear manner. If however the project was arranged th...