Case Study: Critical Analysis Of A Project Management Plan Essay

Question:

Case study report on critical analysis of a Project Management Plan.

Answer:

Introduction

PRINCE2 and PMBOK are two widely used methodologies for project management in practice. However, the effectiveness of the two can only be realized when a project is developed as well as planned adhering to the specified principles and best practices of the two frameworks. As project management planning is the key process that shapes up entire, the content covered in the project management plan is of great important for the success of the project. This report aims to assess a real project management plan with respect to PMBOK and PRINCE2 guide to understand how effective has the project planning being done.

To be able to assess a project management plan against various methodologies including PMBOK and PRINCE2, it is required to first explore the principles and project management plan development process of the two methodologies. Thus, while assessing each section of the chosen project management plan, principles and planning templates of PRINCE2 and PMBOK guide would be visited for assessment in this report.

A real case of Pontoon Construction project sponsored by Washington State Department of Transportation for a Design-Build Construction scenario has been taken to explore how Project Management Plan was prepared and the same would be assessed against principles and practices of PMBOK and PRINCE2 project management methodologies.

The report covers the background of the project, identification of project audience, exploration of the project management plan structure, assessment of the content covered in the selected plan and recommendations based on the assessment for producing an efficient project management plan.

Project background

The project belongs to Washington State Department of Transportation that was planning to construction a new bridge after replacing an old bridge that is facing issues. The project was planned under the bridge replacement and HOV program of DOT and the objective of the project was to replace existing traffic capacity at Evergreen Point Bridge with new facility. This project was planned in response to a catastrophe that resulted into failure of the bridge and thus, improvements were planned to be added with new construction.

The project was planned to star in February 2010 and was expected to get finished with final contract completion by March 2014. A project management plan was prepared which is presented in the appendices. Business goals of the project management plan were considered while developing the plan and these included development of effective business processes, provision of resource and various tools as required, change management process understanding, performance measure establishment, communication planning, and assurance of compliance and accountability of responsibilities assigned to project team.

The responsibility of managing the entire project was given to The Business Group (BG) who had to manage all project aspects including budgeting, risk analysis, scheduling, contracting, change management, compliances, reporting, office administration, and documentation. The plan described how each of these responsibilities was to be managed by BG. The plan contains details of team, administrative processes, responsibility assignments, risk management plan, project aspects oversight, quality management approach, construction safety planning, project transition plan, and project closure process and so on (Washington State Department of Transportation, 2010).

Audience and Structure

Audience of a project management plan can include people who are internal to the project organization such as project sponsor, top management, project manager, team members and those external to the project such as customers, collaborators, suppliers, regulators, society and public. A project management plan must make consideration for including expectations of all the audience as well as present provisions for fulfilling the same in the plan.

This would include an understanding of expectations on what each of this audience would like to know from the project. For instance, a project sponsor would like to understand costs that the project would incur, time it would take to complete, elements of success, allocation requirements of each project phase, impact of project on business and on people, and so on (Harville, 2013).

In a similar way, project manager would like to see information about his or her roles and responsibilities, contract essentials, challenges likely to be faced, deliverables, schedule, scope, communication processes, and control measures and so on from the project management plan. Thus, a project management plan should include provisions for each of these to remain effective. The plan must present ways this audience would be addressed at each of the major stages of project including starting, organizing, preparation, planning, construction, and closing (FDOT, 2012).

In the chosen project management plan, various audiences have been identified with specific of them divided into categories of state government, local government, tribal authorities, Co-lead agencies, construction coordination team, media, community groups, media and general public. From this key audience of the project, how the requirements of specific audience are being addressed in the plan are explored below:

Project Sponsor: The plan contains a section for budgeting, cost and schedule and how the costs of project would be controlled. However, the detailed cost estimated and budgeting has not been covered in this plan.

Project Manager: The project does contain specific details about the project including organizational chart, team roles and responsibilities, scheduling, change management plan, reporting structure, oversights strategies, and so on. However, the project plan does not make responsibilities of the Project manager very clear nor does it contain specific details of project progress reporting as required to be done by the project manager.

Project Team and Internal Employees: The plan contains a transition process of employees as an impact of project execution and assigned specific roles and responsibilities to the project team. However, how the project would impact employees of the organization has not been made clear except the mention of responsibilities of those involved in execution.

End Users or Public: The end users of the project would be the commuters who would be using the bridge for travel and transport. The plan identifies them as one of the key audience and considers communication with them at various stages of the project as the part of the plan. It includes public surveys, press releases, community involvement, public input into designing and so on. End users are being actively involved in the construction project planning.

Auditors: The oversights of construction project and the auditing process are detailed in the plan such that work status can be reviewed by auditors of the project. Specific methods those would be used in the audit processes are mentioned in the plan that includes independent inspections, work status reviews, design submission reviews, on-site evaluation, audit testing, fabrication inspection, non-scheduled audit management and so on (Washington State Department of Transportation, 2010).

This plan takes care of the needs of external audience or stakeholders of the project but largely fails to make considerations for the internal audience including Sponsor and Project Manager.

When considering the assessment of the structure of the project management plan, it would be worthwhile to first explore the expected structure as defined by the project management methodologies used in practice. As per PMBOK guide, a project management plan must begin with construction or rationale or goals of the project and key stakeholders must be identified immediately. Further, the plan flows from identification of organization structure, and project phases including process of acquisition, monitoring and control processes, and security requirements. Once the project phases are clear, the next step would be to specific various activities in detail through the use of a Work Break Down Structure. The success criteria of the project are required to be made clear at this stage and a communication plan is presented for the team for project progress reporting. Further sections include quality assurance, success measurements, and other reference materials.

The current construction project uses the same flow of plan as identified in the PMBOK guide beginning with definition of scope, identification of organizational structure and team, and then moving on to other aspects like control processes, communication plan, project oversight, safety and project closure. However, there are two major parts that are missing in the plan and these include Work Break Down Structure and Risk Management plan. Although, a risk register has been prepared for recording of risks occurring on the project but the plan does not already specific common risks that are likely to occur such that a response plan can be prepared in advance.

In the PRINCE2 framework, a project management plan is made for three key stages of the project beginning with initiation, controlling and closure.

Initiation: This stage requires descriptions of lessons, assumptions, monitoring and control procedures, budget, tolerance for variation, product descriptions and schedules. This also includes development of a communication plan separately containing details of procedure, tools, records, timing, stakeholder matrix, roles and responsibilities, priorities, and stakeholder analysis. Preparation of risk register, quality register and issue register is also a part of this stage but at this stage, only the formats are presented and the same are updated in the subsequent steps in the control phase. Essential elements that are included in the project plan as per PRINCE2 framework include project schedule, business case, project initiation documentation and project schedule at this stage.

Controlling: For establishing control, the plan must tell how each of the stage boundaries would be managed by the project manager. This includes plan for reviews of project progress whereby baseline measurements are provided for guidance. It also includes development of methods to be used for controlling risks and issues, measurements to be used for assessment such as earned value analysis, earned schedule analysis, and points of escalation or delegation. The project plan must include specific work packages and their defined boundaries. These stage boundaries would have specific tolerance values that would be useful in establishing control over a project.

Closure: This stage would be explained in the project plan with descriptions of the closing process. This stage involves preparation of quality register, lessons learned report and the project summary.

The current project plan under discussion does use some of the elements of the PRINCE2 planning such as quality management process, program coordination and design oversight presentation. However, most of the important elements of a project plan as defined in PRINCE 2 methodology including management of stage boundaries and inclusion of lessons learned as a part of project closure process are not been included in the plan (FDOT, 2012).

From the analysis of the construction project plan under consideration, it can be said that the plan majorly follows the PMBOK guide but also takes help from some of the principles defined in the PRINCE2 framework. However, some important considerations of the plan are missing in the structure of the plan which does not follow the standard flow of the planning process defined in the two methodologies. It does include most of the information required but the same is not presented in a very organized manner making it difficult for a project manager to discover his or her own duties and responsibilities on the project. It is also difficult to measure the success of the project considering this plan as a guide as it does not specify any measurements for assessment.

Contents of the Project Management Plan

When considering the content of the project management plan, it would be essential to understand the important content elements described in each of the methodologies so as to understand if the plan has covered the same in the process based on which framework has been followed by the project manager while preparing the plan document. As this project management plan was found to be using elements of the planning process from both the project management methodologies up to some extent, this section would explore both the methodologies for the assessment of the content of the project management plan (Koskela, L., & Howell, 2002).

First, the elements that are common in both the methodologies may be explore and the plan content may be assessed to identify if these elements are being discussed in the project management plan or not. Further, specific elements that are present in only one of the methodologies may be discussed to further explore the current plan.

Elements that are common to both project management methodologies for their inclusion in the plan document include:

  • Both methodologies suggest identification of specific audience in case of PMBOK and stakeholders in terms of PRINCE2 and development of a communication plan to involve them into the project management process. The same has been incorporated in the project management plan made for the construction project which defines methods for communication and describes how internal and external stakeholders would be communicated about the project progress. The process of communication is clear but what is to be communicated in the reporting process has not to be addressed in the plan (Ern?-Kj?lhede, 2000).
  • PMBOK and PRINCE2 methodologies stress on identification of risks and preparation of risk management plan. While PMBOK guide only identifies the important of having a risk management plan and building of response measures, PRINCE2 methodology provides specific templates for recording risks in the forms of risk register, issue register and quality register. In this document, the planner has made use of both methodologies in combination. While risks are identified and mitigation plans were suggested as per PMBOK guide, specific risk register was created for recording new risks appearing on the project (Harville, 2013).
  • Both frameworks demand inclusion of budgeting and schedule estimates which have not been addressed in this project management plan. Although, what the budget includes is briefly discussed in the plan, the details of the same are not being furnished. The PMBOK guide only demands inclusion of budget in the report; PRINCE2 goes a step forward with inclusion of a business case with calculations justifying the viability of the project at each stage. This plan neither includes details of the budget figures including how it would be utilized at stage nor does it address the viability aspect of the project as suggested in the methodologies respectively.
  • Project organization structure is to be presented in the plan as per PMBOK guide and the same is presented in the form of a team structure in terms of PRINCE2 language. The same has been furnished in the project management plan under consideration and specific people, their place in the organizational structure and their specific responsibilities are being identified. This includes information about who would be reporting to whom but does not include any information on what is to be communicated while reporting is done.

There are some essential planning elements defined in the PMBOK guide but not in PRINCE2 such as:

Figure 1: Project Milestones

  • Creation of Work breakdown structure including task durations, dependencies, resources, milestones, and deliverables altogether. This project identified broad level deliverables but no detailed WBS has been prepared with identification of tasks required to be done in detail. No clarification has been given on durations, dependencies, and resource requirements. The plan does contain some major milestones but even those do not contain any details of phases or major packages to be delivered.
  • The PMBOK guide presents all required planning details in a single document which is presented in a flow beginning with specification of goals, stakeholders, deliverables, control measures, risk management and project closure requirements. The current project management plan misses this flow but only provides a technical outline of the project.

PRINCE2 is a much detailed framework with many more elements defined in the methodology that are not presented in the PMBOK guide and how each of these elements are addressed in the project management plan for the current case is discussed below:

  • A business case is a very essential content element of a project management plan as it keeps on justifying the viability for the project throughout its life cycle. However, the same has not been provided in the current plan.
  • Identification of project phases, their boundaries and their tolerance is a control measure used on projects as per PRINCE2 framework but the same has not been furnished in the plan.
  • As the framework has not been used as primary methodology, there is no consideration of tailoring which is another essential elements of PRINCE2 plan.
  • Lessons learned are an important content to be included in a project management plan as per the framework but no consideration has been made for that in the current plan.

Conclusions

This report explored the use of project management methodologies in preparation of a project management plan. It compared the two prominent project management methodologies including PRINCE2 and PMBOK guide to understand how a project management plan is structured addressed to intended audience and how specific content is incorporated. It was found that the PMBOK methodology only serves as a guide and includes bare essential elements as the part of the plan while PRINCE2 is a detailed framework with added templates and details to be included in the plan.

The report explored a real construction project and its plan was assessed considering the two methodologies against its capability to address audience, structure and content requirements. IT was found that the plan created was made to look detailed with many pages covered with texts but major elements were not included in the plan. The plan majorly followed the PMBOK structure with some elements of PRINCE2 such as risk register and stakeholder matrix. However, the plan still lacked most elements of PRINCE2 and some of the PMBOK guide such as Work Break Down structure, Budgeting and cost estimates.

The plan that was created for the construction project lacked many important elements and information that was important for a project manager and project sponsor to manage, assess and control project. A major drawback was missing criteria for success which would have guided the reviewers in making assessment as the project progressed. Although, attempts were made to include the quality criteria and other project oversights related to environment, quality and safety but these elements were only external to the project and thus could not be used for assessing performance of the project. This external influence was also seen in the communication plan which presented methods for addressing communication needs of external stakeholders but internal stakeholders including project team, project manager and sponsor were largely ignored.

Recommendations

Based on the study above, some recommendations can be made for improving the project management plan that was assessed in the paper and these include:

  • A detailed WBS as defined in the PMBOK guide may be included defining the duration, resources and deliverables requirements for each work package assigned such that the project manager can keep track of the progress and can assess the same against the assigned WBS to understand how positively the project is progressing and if there are any variations to be addressed.
  • The understanding of the viability of the project during the life cycle is important for which either a business case may be included as suggested in the PRINCE2 framework or at least the plan could include the estimates of costs and budget forecasts such that the viability of the project can be assessed and its continuation can be justified.
  • The plan largely focuses on how to address the needs of external stakeholders including end users or customers but ignores the needs of internal stakeholders including employees, sponsor and project manager. Although, the hierarchy and roles are identified but reporting requirements, control measures, impacts of project progress on these internal stakeholders, etc., are not been included. Also, there are some more questions that these internal stakeholders may have and can be answered in an improved plan such as: What are the expected deliverables and work packages? What are the expected durations for completion of each stage? What are the resource requirements for completion of each stage or deliverables? How do we understand if the project is progressing in the right direction? When do we understand that the project is facing issues like delays in schedules, cost variations, etc.? What are the major risks that we may face on the project, how can they impact the project progress and how do we address them in case of occurrence?

References

BIS. (2010). GUIDELINES FOR MANAGING PROJECTS : How to organise, plan and control projects. Crown .

Caltrans. (2007). PROJECT COMMUNICATION HANDBOOK. Caltrans.

Ern?-Kj?lhede, E. (2000). Project Management Theory and the Management of Research Projects. Copenhagon Business School.

FDOT. (2012). Project Management Principles. DOT.

Harville, B. (2013). Managing the Project Manager. Van Mell Associates;Harville Consulting LLC.

Koskela, L., & Howell, G. (2002). Underlying theory of Project Management is Obsolete. PMI Research Conference (pp. 294-301). Finland: VTT Technical Research Center.

Rodlauer, R. (2010). Project Management Plan & Schedule . PubTrans4all .

Washington State Department of Transportation. (2010). Pontoon Construction Project Project Management plan. Washington State Department of Transportation.

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