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Tools in project
By Mariusz Zielinski

It is astonishing how much we can gain by using right tools in our projects. Generally it is obvious that better tools provide better performance and help to achieve better results. If so, ask yourself how often you calculate profitability of purchasing new tools. I suppose not so often, though we know that the total cost of development, engineers performance and the future of the organization, may sometimes depend on a single purchase / development decision.

Let’s analyze an example:

We are to realize a project based on standard components with only one new element. The new element must be developed and integrated with our regular environment. To make it easier let’s assume that the element is described by some standards and we are not able to negotiate this issue with the customer! It is a must issue and will be certified in detail.

Usually we:

  • Organize schedule in such a way as to detect possible problems related with the new element as soon as possible.
  • Allow additional time to learn the new technology and deal with potential problems
  • Manage the risk related to the development of this new element

During the project execution we usually face problems which cost us some extra work, but thanks to our plan we are able to finalize our projects within the scheduled time and budget. Then we can sit back in the armchair, and think “Success!”.

But the real success depends on the way we have selected.

Example 1: Minimum additional expenditures

“The budget is not made of rubber; it will not stretch to cover everything”. – We didn’t have enough resources to buy or create any additional tools.

  • Our project schedule has necessary buffers for surprises because we are not able to negotiate the deadline.
  • Some of our people probably had to work overtime to meet the deadline.
  • Our QA spent significant part of their time testing the new element and its surrounding.
  • Next project using this new element may still require some more testing around this area.

But well, new elements always cost more anyway.

Example 2: Budget assigned for tools

  • We are able to purchase some tools or delegate an engineer to develop the necessary tools.
  • Our people have more comfortable development environment and can identify most of the problems related with the new element very early into the project.
  • Our QA can start from very sophisticated test-cases because the new element is already almost operational.
  • Our engineers are able to quickly reproduce and analyze the issue reported by customer
  • Our people do not need to work overtime to fix all bugs related with the new element.
  • The new element easily becomes one of our strengths distinguishing us from other competitors
  • Our tools can be improved or combined with other ones and create new value for our company.

Everything depends on the concrete situation, budget, time and resources; however it is good to be aware how the tools may be essential for current and future projects. Reasonable investment in new tools may increase our competitiveness on the market, reduce cost and improve motivation of employees.

Mariusz Zielinski is a project manager at Samsung Electronics R&D. Create software for digital TV receivers (STB & PVR). Previously he co-founded SCMA Company and was the author of software for security and protection centers. He also managed a mobile robot project for Polish Astronautics Society (PTA) and led a team of developers of a computer game, “Tridonis”. Mariusz graduated with a Master of Science degree from University of Gdansk and has completed post-graduate studies for IT Project Managers at the Warsaw University of Technology.

His blog: Manage Yourself first

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