Project Management: Who is to Blame?

Written By: Dave Hoyle

Principles of project management

I came across an article about the GT Advanced Technologies bankruptcy and thought, who is actually at fault? GTAT’s position is that Apple put them out of business with burdensome demands whereas Apple’s position with GTAT remains unclear. Last year, Apple offered $578 million to assist them with setting up their facility. As a project manager, I suggest that both parties are to blame.

Many companies go after the whale only to find out that the whale ends up devouring them rather than the feast they envisioned. When companies find themselves on a fishing trip, they should remember the nine principles of project management – Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Human Resources, Communications, Risk and Procurement.

Integration

Project Integration Management includes the processes required to ensure  the various elements of the project are properly coordinated. It involves making trade-offs among competing objectives and alternatives in order to meet or exceed stake-holder needs and expectations.

Define the team and risks before accepting the challenge. Understand the expectations of each party to ensure success of the relationship. Define the execution plan to provide a road map for project success.

Scope

Project Scope Management includes the processes required to ensure the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully. It is primarily concerned with defining and controlling what is or is not included in the project.

What are the tasks required to complete the project? Dividing them into smaller and more manageable deliverables often helps. Putting everything into a document for each party to review and sign off is integral to the project success along with a scope change control system. Scope creep is inevitable when taking on large projects. Many details are often overlooked or possibly not considered.

The Triple Threat – Time, Cost and Quality

This is where the rubber meets the road as they say. These three make up the devil’s triangle. You cannot alter one of them without a direct effect on the other two. If you need more time, it will cost more if you want the same quality. If you sacrifice quality, you might be able to gain back your time and so on.

Time

Simply put, time includes the processes required to ensure timely completion of the project. 

What are the durations of the project? Are they measurable? What are the resource requirements? Creating a project timeline to review, share and update on a daily basis is a critical part of project management. Each party should be aware of the timeline and the expectations. If the schedule begins slipping, you should be prepared to explain the reasons why and the next steps required to bring the schedule back on track.

Cost

Cost includes the processes required to ensure that the project is completed within the approved budget.

The four key factors of cost control are resource planning, cost estimating, cost budgeting and most importantly daily cost control. The importance of cost control cannot be stated loudly enough. Every person involved in a project can have a dramatic effect on cost if left unchecked and uneducated. For example, limiting the number of design reviews may reduce the cost of the project at the expense of an increase in operating costs.

Quality

Project Quality Management includes the processes required to ensure the project will satisfy the needs for which it was undertaken.

It includes “all activities of the overall management function that determine the quality policy, objectives, and responsibilities and implements them by means such as quality planning, quality control, quality assurance, and quality improvement, within the quality system”.

That is a lot to take in. Identification of the quality standards required is key. After you define the standards, assuring the design meets the criteria and the control of those standards is easy.

Project quality management must also address the management of the project. Failure to meet quality requirements in either dimension can have serious negative consequences for any or all of the project stake-holders. For example:

  • Meeting customer requirements by overworking the project team may produce negative consequences in the form of increased employee turnover.
  • Meeting project schedule objectives by rushing planned quality inspections may produce negative consequences when errors go undetected.

Human Resources

Project Human Resource Management includes the processes required to make the most effective use of the people involved with the project. It includes all the project stake-holders, sponsors, customers and individual contributors.

Identifying the team! The assignment of roles and responsibilities to your team is vital to the success of your project and key to the success of your existing customers. Understanding that all of your key resources cannot be applied to one project allows you to possibly train future employees mixed with your veteran workforce. This method also allows you to keep a focus on your existing customer’s cost and quality control.

Communications

Project Communications Management includes the processes required to ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, dissemination, storage, and ultimate disposition of project information. It provides the critical links among people, ideas, and information that are necessary for success. Everyone involved in the project must be prepared to send and receive communications in the project “language” and must understand how the communications they are involved in as individuals affect the project as a whole.

I’ve often heard communicate, communicate, communicate! In my experience, one can never over-communicate. Stating that something is “just understood” is simply a lack of communication. In today’s technology world, there are several methods of communication to utilize leaving little excuse for miscommunication.

Risk

Project Risk Management includes the processes concerned with identifying, analyzing, and responding to project risk. It includes maximizing the results of positive events and minimizing the consequences of adverse events. This is possibly the most overlooked area of project management, identifying risk. It is possibly the easiest to ask, but the hardest to identify. What if? The art of identifying risk is experience and historical reference. What if the manager leaves the company, what if our supplier goes bankrupt, what if my project manager goes out on maternity leave and so on.

Risk management is a task that must be evaluated on a daily basis and discussed with the team weekly. When evaluating a project, both parties should investigate the risk areas of each other. Is this company large enough to handle our business, do they have the financial background to support our demands, do they have enough employees to handle our order, and most importantly, do they have a long-range financial plan? On the other side of the coin, can we handle this purchase order, what impact will this have to our existing clients, how fast can we ramp up, and most importantly, what happens if we lose this client?

Procurement

Procurement planning is the process of identifying which project needs can be best met by procuring products or services outside the project organization. It involves consideration of whether to procure, how to procure, what to procure, how much to procure, and when to procure it. Outsourcing can be a delicate topic. The determination of keeping things in-house (profits) and selecting outside vendors to purchase from is a challenging task. One must consider the “big picture” needs of the organization while considering the profitability of a single order.

Now that we’ve discussed the 9 principles of project management, what are your thoughts? Should Apple have known that GTAT would buckle under such a task? Should GTAT have known the whale was too large for its appetite? I am quite certain that if I were offered $578 million dollars to build a new facility and product for Apple, I would have jumped on it with little if any hesitation. As my parents often told me, don’t do as I do – do as I say!

Thanks for reading.

 

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Dave Hoyle is the Integration Manager at Bastian Solutions’ robotics division in St. Louis, MO. His focus is in industrial and manufacturing automation, with a strong emphasis on continuous improvement. He has more than twenty years of experience in distribution and manufacturing, in a variety of industries ranging from food and beverage to machine tending.

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