Optimizing information and communication technology (ICT) project life cycles (PLC) in developed countries with a focus on Qatar and the middle east – Part 5

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2.5. Saved Projects

Using Extreme Programming (XP)

XP is management method which can be used from the beginning or during a crisis in a project; every team member constantly shares feedback and adds their knowledge so that the integration of team member’s input is an ongoing process.

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Extreme Programming is a discipline of software development based on values of simplicity, communication, feedback, and courage. It works by bringing the whole team together in the presence of simple practices, with enough feedback to enable the team to see where they are and to tune the practices to their unique situation. (Jeffries 2001)

XP is a collaborative approach to problem solving between the team members, the sponsor and the stakeholders. Good communication is essential so weekly meetings with feedback from the team members are key. Jeffries (2001) describes the key to XP success (a) release planning and (b) iteration planning. Release Planning must necessarily start with an inaccurate plan; but something must be presented in order to start making decisions. For the first step the Customer presents what they want ideally so the programmers have a chance to determine the amount of difficulty in reaching a deliverable. The release plan must be updated and revised regularly Iteration planning requires building software to run by the end of two weeks. The customer then presents new expectations so the programmers can set their tasks and cost can be assessed. As the number of iterations increase the accuracy increases. Most importantly Jeffries points out that since each two weeks require programmers and customers to interact about the process there are few questions about “how far along” the project has come. (Jeffries 2001)

Poole (2002) has used XP with great success. He has worked as an independent software developer, training coach, and has been using XP management methodology to turn failing projects into successes. In his blog post ‘Project Turnaround: XP to the Rescue?’ Poole has described a failing project which had been rigidly planned. No consensus existed between the team members existed on what need to be done. Also the project had missed two deadlines plus the team’s morale was very low. Poole (2002) initiated the following changes along with the team members. (a) Monday morning breakfast meetings were used as a forum to share team member’s goals for the week and request any help they needed to meet the goal. (b) A Wiki page was set up by Poole describing his goals and in this way he received help from the XP community through the use of the Internet. (c) A customer was invited to stay onsite and work with two team members in “a Requirements Coordination Group which went through the backlog of unanswered questions and published the results on a web page” (Poole 2002). (d) A Planning Game was used to reveal information unknown to developers, priorities were set and a realistic finish date was established. (Poole 2002) (e) Poole and other team members developed a plan for their first iteration, Unit Tests and Refactoring continued working, and some voluntary Pair Programming formed to correct each other’s code. (Poole 2002) The changes may have seemed radical in the beginning but the result was a deliverable that satisfied the customer. Based on this assumption Flynn and Mangione (2008) have offered a plan for “creating strategic groups” in order to “increase efficiency (and) decrease costs.”

Agile process

Agile project management has been designed mainly because so many projects with rigid planning and no flexibility end up in failure. Agile character traits in a PM and a team include flexibility and adaptability. Martin Fowler (2000) had been involved with Extreme Programming at Chrysler Company. He felt that the XP methodology was not a good fit so he became one of the proponents of Agile programming along with his former co-programmer as Chrysler Company, Don Wells. The reality of running a project has always been a challenge due such things as changes in resources. Wells (2009) has explained that “The processes we describe as Agile are environments for a team to learn how to be Agile” (agile-process.org). Fowler (2000) has stated that the two key points about Agile are that (a) “Agile methods are adaptive rather than predictive,” and (b) “Agile methods are people-oriented rather than process-oriented” (martinfowler.org).

2.6. Project Management Institute (PMI)

PMBOK® and PRINCE2® (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) are project management methods in the public domain. Siegelaub (2009) explains that although PRINCE2® in a “non-proprietary best-practice guidance on project management” it “is supported by the by a rigorous accreditation process, including accreditation of training organizations, trainers, practitioners and consultants” (1). The difference between PRINCE2 and earlier methods is “the emphasis on information and communication” rather than following any rigid project management methodology (Siegelaub, 2009, 1). PMBOK® and PRINCE2® have been used together successfully to reach project goals. According to Siegelaub (2009) the success that can be reached by used the two management methods together is because one complements the other. The difference between PMBOK® and PRINCE2® lies in the basic, general suggestions in the first whereas the second has more defined areas of expertise to offer a PM. Inexperienced project managers can use one or the other for best results both can be used as guidance in managing projects. But more experienced PMs should be comfortable using PRINCE2® alone. Also some of the definitions have specific meanings such as ‘outputs’ refers to the project’s goals which are the deliverables produced within the project. ‘Outcomes’ this refers to the changes, which will be desired to be benefits, that will be provide or (be incurred in a negative sense) by the outputs when they will be used. ‘Benefits’ are defined clearly as the positive improvements resulting from the use of the deliverables. The ‘benefits’ must be measureable variables.

PRINCE2® has flexibility in terms of the project environment and the organization’s traits. Flexibility is also inherent in the methodology for the content and the size of different projects. These characteristics give the PM plenty of room to construct the methodology to fit each unique project. The main purpose of the methodology is to offer a different choice rather than a rigid regime for PMs. If a PM must spend too much filling out paperwork then the project itself is often neglected. The themes and processes can be made to fit individual projects and also to fit the constraints of the organization which is producing the project. PRINCE2® has two main foundational pieces to offer PMs; those are communication and information.

There are seven principles incorporated within the methodology; these seven principles also define whether or not the methodology is, in fact PRINCE2® or not. The seven principles are “(a) Business Case: Continued Business Justification, (b) Organization: Learn from Experience, (c) Plans: Defined Roles and Responsibilities, (d) Progress: Mange by Stages, (e) Risk: Manage by exception, (f) Quality: Focus on Products, and (g) Change: Tailor to Suit the Project Environment. Change is regarded as that ability to tailor the project to fit the situation or, in other words, change is “compromising configuration management and change control” (Siegelaub, 2009, 2). The six ingredients of the hexagonal configuration are similar to the principles of PRINCE2®. Scope, time and cost are considered the “combined processes and themes, change” (Siegelaub, 2009, Exhibit 1). Quality has the added characteristic of Change in reference to Configuration Management. Resources are considered as the Human Factor and can limit (or constrain) the project. Risk is considered the same in both PMBOK® and PRINCE2®.

The PRINCE2® principles can be used by the PM in the following ways. The Business Case is the justification for the project; this is the main requirement of the method. Each task and/or decision when finished must have the signature of the Business Board. The purpose of the Business Board is to guarantee that the project is proceeding in a way that will assure the benefits expected from the deliverables (the project goal). Throughout the project the Business Board acts as the oversight portion for the duration of the project. This is different than other methodologies that have different stakeholders signing off on different parts of the project. This is also different because the oversight does not lie in the hands of one person, the Sponsor who is someone in upper management who the PM is accountable.

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2.7. Conclusion

This chapter has offered a solid basis for understanding the strategies for communication and information sharing available across the spectrum of the business world. The focus of the literature review has been to evaluate the reasons that IT projects fail. In order to understand failure one must understand success so successful projects, saved projects and failed projects were discussed. The main causes for project failures were considered to be (a) poor communication, (b) delays, (c) changes in the scope, and (d) overlooking risk management opportunities. The project manager (PM) is a pivotal figure in the success of a project so the role of a PM was discussed. The reasons for the success or failure of projects were evaluated. The use of Extreme Programming (XP) to save projects on the verge of failure was discussed. The main tool was accepting Agile processes as part of the XP process. Then the PMI methods of PMBOK® and PRINCE® were discussed in terms of their ability to act as good foundations from which to launch successful projects.

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