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A Good Software Tool Can Provide Some Powerful Advantages, but Can Present its Own Challenges (#2 in the seris Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

First a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be the world’s expert on project management, and I urge anyone who is involved in or interested in project management to seek good sources of information and study, as this is a profession requiring a lot of skill and knowledge to do well. That said, I believe my decades of experience (planning projects up to 4 years in length and over $1 billion in cost) gives me some basis to write this. You may notice that I tend to focus more on the timing aspects of large scale plans. I am not ignoring the financial side of the discipline, but not stressing it either, because I have usually had a parallel financial planning effort, run by accountants and financial experts, to lean on. You may also notice that I am trying to address the realities, the impact of human nature, on the work. That said, be aware that good planning requires a focus on all three major components of business processes and projects: time, cost, and quality. I have summarized with a list of suggestions at the end, and hope you find this entry helpful.

If you have the plan logically structured in a good software tool it will recalculate the schedule when you add actual dates or change planned dates, and let you easily assess risks to the project. Unfortunately, some people will expect to see the dates of their events unchanged, and may not understand when someone else’s earlier event, that was delayed, creates a delay in their schedule. To offset this you will need to understand the details behind the change, which will require time and effort, and you should communicate the details to the stakeholders in advance of releasing the updated plan. This will potentially get you better input, avoid unpleasant surprises, and ensure the plan remains feasible. Also, senior management may not be able to follow developments closely, and may not expect dates to change without their express approval. It could be embarrassing if you show your plan before you have a consensus among the stakeholders. As a result, you may need a second copy of the plan to use to gain consensus, try out “what-if” scenarios, and develop the final changes before you release the official plan.

Timothy Prosser – Ann Arbor, MI

Timothy spent the past ten years planning vehicle development programs and tracking parts at a major auto manufacturer in the Detroit area, employed by Integrated Management Systems, Inc. of Ann Arbor, MI (www.imsi-pm.com).

Past experience, in reverse order, includes 3 years writing and supervising technical documentation at a major automotive supplier, 7.5 years engineering computer printers for Unisys Corporation, 3 years of technical work in the image processing and automatic inspection industry, 5 years of network and peripheral service work for ADP, Inc., and 3 years selling wholesale electronic parts.

Education includes an MBA from The University of Michigan (1991), a BS in Geography from Eastern Michigan University (1974), and *countless* training classes by various employers. Timothy has also taught many seminars on project management and various tools involved in the work.

Timothy is a lifetime musician (www.mandolinmaniac.com, www.martianentropyband.com), a 30-year amateur radio operator, and writes a number of blogs including www.timprosserfuturing.wordpress.com.

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