The Different Phases of Project Management
By: Bryan Hermann, PMO Director
Shaw follows the Project Management Institute standards of practice as a guideline. Shaw operates as a matrixed organization which means that we have a cross-functional work team that brings together individuals from different functional departments and product departments to accomplish a specific goal.
There are two different types of methodologies of project management in – agile and waterfall.
The Agile approach to project management aims for early, measurable ROI through defined, iterative delivery of software product increments. The agile approach features continuous involvement of the customer throughout the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Agile equates to a multi-phase project. A simple way to think of agile is many waterfall projects within a larger project. The advantage to the agile methodology is fast method to get product to market. This typically results in requirements being left for future developments. The disadvantage is this method utilizes more resources. This typically results in a higher financial cost. Some of the falsehoods associated with Agile is that projects are more nimble, higher quality, and lower cost. Many will even state that the Agile methodology is more advanced and far superior to the Waterfall methodology. The misunderstanding lies in the 2 methodologies are designed for very different purposes.
The waterfall model is a sequential design process, used most projects in most industries. The Waterfall approach features continuous involvement of the customer throughout the System Development Life Cycle (SDLC). The progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance. The Waterfall development model originated in the manufacturing and construction industries. Waterfall equates to the single phase. The advantage to the Waterfall methodology is the utilization of less resources and it typically results in a higher quality product at less financial cost. The falsehoods associated with Waterfall is that many it is slow and cumbersome. The misunderstanding is that without a structured project cost and scope creep run out of control.
Each methodology has its benefits and uses although both are very misunderstood due to industry catch phrases. They do have some commonalities though. The initiating and closing process of every project are the same. So it’s safe to say two-thirds of every project is identical regardless of methodology and industry.
The purpose for project management is to ensure we’re within our margins for cost scope, budget, and time. A large part of project management is done through forecast and re-forecasting the end of the project. The next largest purpose for project management is coordination and looking at the project holistically. One of the most important tools for controlling a project are Change Orders (CO) to take out or add scope, budget, or time. This relies on all stakeholders coming to an agreement before we change anything.
Three Phases of Project Management
Initiation/Planning Phase – The planning phase is the creation and setup of a project. This is the same for any project regardless of methodology. Since Shaw Systems PMO operates as a matrixed organization, we must assign resources to each project from different departments within Shaw Systems. We allow 30 days at the beginning of each project to get people, plans, and the project documents together.
Once we get the requirements together we review them with the client. This requirements review occurs within the first 30 days. Two weeks after the requirements review we will create a change order to contracture-baseline the project with an updated project plan, and requirements. If for whatever reason a project is put on hold for any length of time resources may be released and reassigned so they are not idle.
Execution Phase – The execution phase is the iterative process within the meat of a project. This is tailored to the type of project and project methodology. This includes the initial development/planning phase tightening requirements in a cyclic pattern as depicted in the diagram below. If we need to add scope, budget, or time then we go back to the planning phase and update documents and plans before we start the work. We want to make sure everyone understands the impact to the projects scope, budget, and time to determine if the request is realistic with an ROI. Essentially we plan and execute and plan and execute, until we’re ready to close out the project.
What are the critical path items during the execution phase? – For any database migration project the data conversion itself is the critical path item. Most of Shaw Systems implementation projects are essentially database migration projects. There are two major parts: configuring the software to how the client wants it to respond and the database conversion itself. The conversion consists of taking the data from the client’s old system and migrating into the Shaw software. The team maps the client data from their system into the Shaw system. Database tables are typically not be the same between different database systems and that’s where database migration projects can run into problems. Simple example of a problematic field is a name field, which order is it first name, last name, middle name. Another example is a data field that has been repurposed over time. The examples get much more complex from there. The Shaw Project Team works with the client to make sure correct data maps to the right place. Sometimes this process goes smoothly in as few as 6 iterations while other times they may go many more.
Close Out Phase – When a project has met the all obtainable project objectives it moves to the close out phase. This phase is often most forgotten or treated as unimportant. This is phase collects all the artifacts for archival purposes for use in estimating and planning future projects. This is also the time when the team creates lessons learned and performs a final analysis of the project. The final analysis is what determines was this a successful project or a failure form the view of scope, budget, and time.
Single Phase vs. Multi-Phase Projects
In short think of a multi-phase project as a precursor to the agile methodology. While not quite the same Agile does have its roots in the thought process that created multi-phase waterfall projects.
This in no way implies that a multi-phase waterfall project is considered an agile project. That comes back to the purposeful design of an agile project being rooted in software development. While Waterfall projects are necessary for the physical world.
The following diagram is an example of a multi-phase waterfall project depicting the overlapping components that most probably has dependencies for one component to be complete prior to the execution of another component. Example a datacenter can be designed and built while the racks and computer hardware are being designed and built. Each has dependencies on the other while work progresses concurrently. Some may use the term work stream when referring to a multi-phase waterfall project. Again not the same as Agile which is specific to software development.
Bryan Hermann, PMO Director
Bryan Hermann is the director of Shaw Systems Project Management Office. Bryan has a very diverse background that ranges from running for State Senate to becoming a Massage Therapist. He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he received a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Studies with minors in Computer Science and Psychology. He also has a license in massage therapy, a certification in IT infrastructure library, a Project Management professional certification, and Microsoft Office specialist certification.