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3 Author s Preface The Medialogist s Guide to Project Time Management is developed in compliance with the 9 th semester Medialogy report The Medialogist s Guide to Project Time Management Introducing professional project time management tools and techniques to Medialogy students (Møller, 2009). The Project Management Institute s globally recognized standard A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (PMI, 2008), has supplied the primary theoretical basis for this study. For more elaborated information on the topic, I refer to said sources. The Medialogist s Guide to Project Time Management constitutes the curriculum for supplemental teachings in project time management tools and techniques including practical exercises and an introduction to the project management software MS Project. 3

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5 Table of Contents Author s Preface... 3 Table of Contents... 5 Introduction... 6 Step 1: Define Activities... 7 Identify deliverables and decompose project into smaller work packages... 7 Create an activity list with attributes for each work package... 9 Create a milestone list... 9 Step 2: Sequence Activities Update activity attributes Create a project schedule network diagram Step 3: Estimate Activity Resources Determine and describe the needed resources Assign group members to each activity Step 4: Estimate Activity Durations Use estimation techniques to approximate activity durations Analogous Estimating Parametric Estimating Three-Point Estimates Update activity attributes Update project schedule network diagram Step 5: Develop Schedule Determine the critical path Create Gantt chart Step 6: Control Schedule Set schedule baseline Determine actual progress, perform corrective actions and update schedule Keep updated with regular group meetings References

6 Introduction Project time management is a project management knowledge area that includes six overall steps required to successfully manage timely completion of a project. The six steps are: Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Resources, Estimate Activity Durations, Develop Schedule and Control Schedule. (PMI, 2008) Figure 1 Overview of the six steps included in the Project Time Management knowledge area. If we consider these six steps in the light of a standard Medialogy semester project, which is a project of smaller scope, they are very tightly linked and can altogether be viewed as one single process to be performed by one group member over a relatively short period of time. Nevertheless, the following outlines each of the six steps distinctly since the techniques and tools for each are different. The six project time management steps are outlined and discussed solely with respect to what is relevant in relation to a Medialogy semester project and everything that is irrelevant will simply be disregarded. Parallels are drawn between the outlined project time management tools and techniques and standard Medialogy projects; and relevant examples are presented to connect the two areas. The six steps encompassed by the project time management knowledge area can be accomplished both sequentially as well as concurrently. Either way, each step must undergo a certain amount of iterations in accordance with project updates. 6

7 Step 1: Define Activities Identify deliverables and decompose project into smaller work packages The project can be decomposed into multiple work packages (see Figure 2). Each work package has its own project deliverable which is any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that must be produced to complete a process, phase, or project (PMI, 2008 p. 432). In order to produce a project deliverable, all activities within the work package must be completed. So, the first step is to identify all project deliverables and decompose their work packages into clearly defined project activities. A Medialogy project usually has two overall deliverables a report and a product which involves two overall work packages with various activities. One can of course further elaborate and say that the appendix constitutes a deliverable in itself. Moreover, work packages can also refer to the interviewing of subjects, carrying out preliminary- and final user- and product tests, procuring the needed hard- and soft ware etc. Figure 2 Decomposition of project deliverables into smaller amenable low level work packages with a series of activities. Each deliverable has a number of activities, that is, a component of work performed during the project. A deliverable such as a Medialogy semester report naturally includes the overall report parts Formalities, Research, Development, Concluding and Extra as presented in the report structure in Figure 3; and the corresponding sub activities include the respective headlines and subtitles within each of the overall report parts. 7

8 Figure 3 Advisory report structure for a standard Medialogy semester project. (Reng, 2008) When the deliverables have been identified, work packages are defined by the subordinate activities. These project activities provide the foundation for estimating, scheduling and monitoring & controlling the project work. (PMI, 2008 p. 133) Figure 4 illustrates the decomposition of a Medialogy report (deliverable). Depending on the level of decomposition, the five overall activities (Formalities, Research, Development, Concluding and Extra) can each be considered as work packages. Figure 4 Example of a deliverable (Medialogy Report) and its subordinate activities constituting a work package. The activities are the ones required to produce the deliverables of the work package. (PMI, 2008 p. 134) All group members should be involved in the decomposition to achieve better and more accurate results. 8

9 Create an activity list with attributes for each work package An activity list is a detailed list of schedule activities required on the project including activity name and/or ID. Activity attributes elaborate on the description of the activity by identifying different components connected with it. One such attribute includes a detailed description for each activity. This description ensures that project group members comprehend the work that needs to be done. Other attributes include dependants (predecessor activities) and estimated time duration. Both of these attributes can be added later on during Step 2: Sequence Activities. For now, the only attribute to include is the activity descriptions which must be constantly updated while the project progresses. Activity List Activity Attributes Activity ID Activity Name Activity Description A Brainstorm Detailed activity description B Analysis Detailed activity description C Design game interface Detailed activity description D Design alternative controllers Detailed activity description E Pilot test Detailed activity description F Implement game interface Detailed activity description G Implement alternative controllers Detailed activity description H Usability Test Detailed activity description Table 1 Example of a simple activity list including activity ID and name; and activity attributes including activity description. The activity list including the activity attributes can be used for schedule development and for sorting and selecting planned schedule activities. Table 1 displays an activity list and attributes based on rough segments of a stereotypical Medialogy semester project example. Please note that this example will be used and elaborated on to illustrate several tools and techniques throughout the remaining part of this Guide. Create a milestone list A milestone is defined as a significant point or event in the project (PMI, 2008 p. 136). Sequentially or concurrently with the development of the activity list, a milestone list can be devised which identifies all mandatory milestones required. The milestones mark the completion of work packages with deliverables or significant activities within work packages. Through milestones, project group members can determine whether or not the project is on schedule. Besides signifying key phases in a project, they can also lead to major changes since key decisions made at milestones, can change the entire direction of the project. A milestone list is therefore highly important when developing the project schedule. (PMI, 2008 p. 136) Typical examples of Medialogy project milestones include (but are not limited to) completion of preanalysis, completion of analysis, completion of design and implementation chapter, completion of test chapter and finally the completion of report and product. 9

10 Step 2: Sequence Activities Update activity attributes After defining the project activities, the next step is to sequence them in the right order. All milestones and activities except the first and last are connected with at least one predecessor and successor. When the order of the project activities has been determined, the activity attributes can be updated to include all dependants (or predecessors). Activity List Activity Attributes Activity ID Activity Name Activity Description Dependants (predecessors) A Brainstorm Detailed description None B Analysis Detailed description A C Design game interface Detailed description B D Design alternative controllers Detailed description B E Pilot test Detailed description C and D F Implement game interface Detailed description E G Implement alternative controllers Detailed description E H Usability Test Detailed description F and G Table 2 Updating the activity attributes. An extra column Dependants (predecessors) is added to the right on the list of activity attributes. Create a project schedule network diagram When the order of the activities has been determined and documented as activity attributes, the precedence diagram method can be applied as a means of visualizing the activities and their relationships. The precedence diagram method is a useful way of constructing a project schedule network diagram using boxes (nodes) to represent the project activities and arrows to indicate their dependencies among one another. (PMI, 2008 p. 138) Figure 5 The precedence diagram method: A simple project schedule network diagram illustrating the sequence and the dependants of all project activities from A (brainstorm) to H (usability test). The project network diagram should be constantly updated when activity changes are made. The estimated durations are added to the network diagram during Step 4: Estimate Activity Durations. 10

11 Step 3: Estimate Activity Resources Determine and describe the needed resources This step includes the estimation and description of the required resources including the type and quantities of equipment, material and people needed to accomplish each activity in a work package. It determines all resources needed and describes the resources for each activity, the basis of estimate for each resource, their quantities, their availability as well as the considerations made when determining the types of resources. The resource description also includes the group members qualifications and interests to ease the subsequent process of assigning group members to activities. The resource description for each activity can be listed as an activity attribute or noted down in a separate document. After determining the needed resources (people, equipment and material), it is important to specify and document when and for how long specific project resources are available throughout the project period. By doing so, it will not come as a surprise, if a group member is on vacation one week or another group member has scheduled activities (e.g. work outside the university) on specific days of the week. Furthermore, it is important to note if the availability of e.g. crucial IT-equipment (borrowed from the University s IT-department) is limited, since it might influence the estimated duration and the scheduled initiation of certain activities. Assign group members to each activity When the required resources have been determined, the project activities can be assigned to group members. A Medialogy project group consisting of 5-7 members, often have widespread interests and qualifications. One group member might want to focus on writing and analyzing, another member might have interests in graphic design, a third in test and a fourth in programming. It is important that each of the qualifications and interests are utilized to their full potential. The resource descriptions (including group members qualifications and interests) can therefore be used as a reference when assigning group members to activities. Based on their availability, interests and qualifications, group members can now be assigned to specific activities after which the activity durations can be estimated. Step 4: Estimate Activity Durations Use estimation techniques to approximate activity durations At this point, the estimated resources have been assigned to the sequenced project activities and it is now possible to approximate the duration of each activity. The estimates of activity durations are progressively elaborated. (PMI, 2008 p. 146) For instance, as the project evolves the data becomes more detailed and precise resulting in more accurate estimations of activity durations. 11

12 The following outlines three activity estimation techniques. Note that said techniques can be applied in conjunction with each other. Analogous Estimating Analogous estimating is a rough estimation technique that uses parameters from previous projects such as duration, complexity, cost etc to estimate the same parameters for current/future projects. When applying this technique for estimating activity durations, the estimation of the current project activities durations is based on actual durations of previous similar project activities. Analogous estimating is a less time consuming technique compared to others, but it is also usually less accurate. It is most reliable when previous project activities are very similar. (PMI, 2008 p. 149) Previous Medialogy project schedules can come in very handy when applying this technique. Parametric Estimating Parametric estimating is a quantitative technique that can determine activity durations by multiplying the quantity of work to be performed with the working hours per unit of work. For instance, the duration of a chapter in a report can be estimated by multiplying the estimated amount of pages with the amount of working hours per page. Depending on the level of sophistication, the parametric estimating technique is by reference more accurate than the analogous estimating technique. (PMI, 2008 p. 150) Three-Point Estimates Another way of improving the accuracy of activity duration estimates is to apply the three-point estimates technique. This technique uses three estimates to approximate an activity s duration: (PMI, 2008 p. 150) 1. Most likely (t M ) The activity duration is based on the resources likely to be assigned their realistic expectations of availability, their productivity and interruptions and their dependencies on other resources. 2. Optimistic (t O ) The duration of the activity is based on analysis of the activity s best-case scenario. 3. Pessimistic (t P ) The duration of the activity is based on analysis of the activity s worst-case scenario. The three-point estimate technique calculates the Expected (t E ) duration of the activity using a weighted average of the estimates:

13 Update activity attributes After having estimated the individual activities durations, the activity attributes can be updated by inserting a column with the estimated durations. Activity List Activity Attributes Activity ID Activity Name Activity Dependants Description (predecessors) Duration A Brainstorm Description None 2 weeks B Analysis Description A 4 weeks C Design game interface Description B 5 weeks D Design alternative controllers Description B 6 weeks E Pilot test Description C and D 1 week F Implement game interface Description E 6 weeks G Implement alternative controllers Description E 8 weeks H Usability Test Description F and G 1 week Table 3 Updating the activity attributes. An extra column Duration is added to the right on the list of activity attributes. Update project schedule network diagram The schedule network diagram can also be updated with the addition of activity duration estimates. By doing so, the network diagram visually displays all activities and their durations after which the total project duration, the contingency reserves and the critical path can be calculated in Step 5: Develop Schedule. Firstly, the earliest start and earliest completion dates are typed in based on the estimated duration of the activity; from this, the latest start and latest completion dates are calculated backwards starting from the last activity in the diagram. This technique, referred to as a forward and backward pass analysis, is based on the critical path method which is described in the following section, Step 5: Develop Schedule. (PMI, 2008 p. 154) Figure 6 Updating the project schedule network diagram by including the estimated activity durations plus the earliest and latest start and completion dates. 13

14 Step 5: Develop Schedule Determine the critical path When developing a schedule, several schedule network analysis techniques can be applied to calculate the earliest and latest start and finish dates for the uncompleted project activities. A commonly applied schedule analysis technique is the critical path method. The critical path method uses a forward and backward pass analysis (as described in Step 4: Estimate Activity Durations ) to theoretically calculate the earliest and latest start and finish dates for all project activities, without regard for resource limitations. The calculation of earliest and latest start dates and finish dates does not constitute the schedule, but rather indicate periods of time within which the project activity can be scheduled. When the activity durations have been estimated, the contingency reserves (also referred to as time reserves or buffers) can be calculated to account for schedule uncertainty. The contingency reserves are the amounts of time needed above the estimate to reduce time limit overruns of both individual activities as well as the entire project. (PMI, 2008 p. 429) The contingency reserves include the total float and the free float. Total Float The total float (also referred to as total slack) is the amount of time a schedule activity can be delayed from its earliest start date without delaying the project deadline. The total float indicates schedule flexibility by the positive difference between earliest and latest start dates. It can either be positive, negative or zero. (PMI, 2008 p. 451) The total float is calculated using the following formula: Free Float The free float (also referred to as free slack) is the amount of time a schedule activity may be delayed without delaying the earliest start date of the following activities. (PMI, 2008 p. 435) The free float can be calculated using the following formula: 14

15 Table 4 below, illustrates the calculated contingency reserves based on the previous example presented in Figure 6: Activity ID Contingency Reserves Total Float Free Float A 0 0 B 0 0 C 1 1 D 0 0 E 0 0 F 2 2 G 0 0 H 0 0 Table 4 Calculated contingency reserves based on the activity durations presented in the schedule network diagram in Figure 6. The critical path is characterized by either a zero or a negative total float. It is the sequence of activities determining the duration of the project. It is hereby the longest path through the project, consisting of the critical activities which are the ones that tolerate no delay, if the project is to finish on time. (PMI, 2008 p. 431) As indicated in Table 4 above, the zeroes represent the critical path ABDEGH which is also indicated by the red arrows in Figure 7 below. Thus, the total duration of the project, that is, the total duration of all critical activities in this example is ( ) 22 weeks (110 days). Figure 7 Schedule network diagram. The critical path ABDEGH is indicated by the red arrows. In order to produce a network path with either a zero or positive total float, it can be necessary to adjust activity durations. Create Gantt chart During the Develop Schedule step, a project schedule is created through analysis of activity durations and sequences and resource requirements. By entering these durations, sequences and resources into a scheduling tool, a schedule is generated with planned start and finish dates for the project activities. The project schedule must as a minimum include a planned start and finish date for each activity. It is important to acknowledge that the development of a project schedule is an iterative process, as it constantly needs to be updated while the project progresses. (PMI, 2008 p. 152) 15

16 Besides using the previously presented schedule format project schedule network diagram the project activities can also be presented in a time-scaled network diagram format referred to as a logic bar chart. A Gantt chart is an easy-to-read logic bar chart that illustrates the project schedule. It is frequently used in management presentations since it gives an overview of all project activities and lays out the order in which they need to be initiated. Figure 8 below illustrates a Gant chart based on a slightly elaborated version of the previously used project example including both work packages and milestones. As it appears, the columns to the left can among other things list project activities, activity durations, predecessors and resources; whereas the horizontal axis to the right represents the total time span of the project. (Heurlén, 2009 s. 54) Figure 8 Gantt chart in MS Project. The red activities are the critical ones whereas the blue are the ones with free floats. Step 6: Control Schedule Set schedule baseline When the project schedule has been developed, a schedule baseline is set. A schedule baseline is a [...] specific version of the schedule model used to compare actual results to the plan to determine if preventive or corrective action is needed to meet the project objectives (PMI, 2008 p. 447). When the baseline is set, the schedule is fixed and can be compared with the actual progress of the project. The stability of the baseline is necessary since it serves as a primary metric for performance evaluation of the project progress. The schedule baseline should not be changed unless it is rendered completely useless due to major project changes. 16

17 Determine actual progress, perform corrective actions and update schedule Controlling the project schedule is [...] the process of monitoring the status of the project to update project progress and managing changes to the schedule baseline (PMI, 2008 p. 430). When controlling a Medialogy project schedule, there are three overall steps consider: 1. Analyze the schedule and determine which areas may need corrective actions. 2. Determine which corrective actions to perform. 3. Perform corrective actions and update the schedule. Examples of frequently used corrective actions include crashing and fast tracking which are both schedule compression techniques applied to catch up with time: (PMI, 2008 pp ) Crashing Crashing is a schedule compression technique that involves adding more resources to a project activity to reduce the duration. Examples of crashing could include adding extra human resources to certain activities, or working overtime. If two people can finish an activity in six days, four people can finish the same activity in three days. Adding resources to an activity is not a particularly reliable way of shortening the duration. Fast tracking Fast tracking is also a risky yet more effective schedule compression technique in which project activities normally performed in sequence are instead performed at the same time. An example is the commencement of implementation, before the design is finished. Once the corrective actions have been performed and the schedule has been updated, it can be compared with the schedule baseline and analyzed for deviations to determine whether or not the project is kept within the time frame. The three schedule control steps must be repeated until the corrective actions result in an acceptable schedule. The key to successful schedule control is to measure project progress and compare it with the planned progress (schedule baseline) on a regular basis and perform the needed corrective actions immediately. The amount of time a task has been delayed from the schedule baseline is referred to as slippage. The slippage is found by comparing the baseline start and finish dates with the actual start and finish dates. Figure 9 below illustrates how the project progress can be efficiently tracked using the Tracking Gantt Chart in MS Project. For each activity, the chart displays two activity bars, one on top of the other. The lower grey bar indicates the start and finish dates of the schedule baseline, whereas the upper blue bar indicates the actual start and finish dates. In this way, it is easy to see the difference between the baseline dates and the actual dates. 17

18 Figure 9 Tracking project progress in MS Project. The Tracking Gantt Chart illustrates the difference between the schedule baseline dates (grey bars) and the actual dates (blue and red bars). The vertical black line indicates the current data date. As it appears in the example, the analysis took longer than expected but the design phase was completed earlier. As a result, the new estimated project duration is 102 days instead of 110 days. Keep updated with regular group meetings Track the project activities by exchanging information about activity status with group members. Subsequently, newly updated information can be incorporated into the project schedule. If any activities, resources or schedule information has been changed, everyone in the group has to be informed. From a Medialogy student s perspective, a particularly important aspect of schedule control is thereby the mutual communication within the group and making sure that everyone is constantly updated. Therefore, regular group meetings are of utmost importance to report actual progress and compare it with planned progress. Reporting may be weekly in busy project periods. The primary information to be shared at the group meetings include: Information on actual performance Information on any project schedule changes By presenting the status and results at each group meeting, the importance of progress and delivery is emphasized. A good idea is to make group meetings exception oriented.. By doing so, the focus will be on significant variances and the impact that they might have on future milestones or activities performed by others. Nevertheless, it is important not to turn the exception oriented meetings into a witch hunt. Attack problems instead of group members and propose actions to catch up with the time schedule. 18

19 References CIO Office of the Schedule Control - Activity Definition // Project Management Framework. - [s.l.] : Ohio State University, Heurlén Bent Compendium - Project Managment // The compendium for the Project Management free study activity at AAUK october Møller Michael Labovic The Medialogist s Guide to Project Time Management Introducing professional project time management tools and techniques to Medialogy students [Report]. - Ballerup : [s.n.], PMI A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) [Book]. - Newton Square, Pennsylvania : The Project Management Institute, Vol. 4th Edition. Reng Lars Writing a problem based report // slideshow from the 5th Medialogy semester PBL course

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