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IT Support for Project Models

– the past, present and future

When project models seriously began to make their entry into Swedish companies in the 1990s, the need to make the documentation more accessible also arose. All the thick folders and boxes of documents sitting on the shelves at the office did not may anyone happy. It could be difficult to find the information you were looking for, and often the project model ended up not being fully used or used the wrong way. And a project model that is not used in quite the right way often has more disadvantages than advantages. As a result, the need for IT support arose.

The development of IT support for project models from the 1990s to the present.

The first online documentation for project models began to appear during the second half of the 1990s. As usual, the first versions were neither easy to understand nor to use, but with user feedback this changed, and today online documentation can offer very good support.

The characteristic feature of online documentation is that you can easily find the information you are looking for. By navigating around with the help of visual support, you can find the information on the exact topic that you are interested in. That means that by pressing on an image or an icon of the project model or the organization plan, for example, you can obtain more in-depth information.

Around the start of the new millennium, a new kind of IT support appeared on the market-project tools with integrated project models. What effect did this have on users?

  • With the documentation integrated into the project tool, the project members could access online documentation from the virtual project room. (Virtual project room = a meeting place, often on an Intranet, where project members can share information and documentation)
  • With the ability to plan the project in the tool based on the project model’s decision nodes, it became possible to use the timetable to see when the decisions should be made according to the project model. This method also marked which phases had been carried out.
  • The project’s decision nodes could be used to create a comprehensive Gantt chart for the project portfolio.
  • The phases of the project model could be used to divide the information, which means that you could view costs, resource time, and time for each phase.

By this time, companies had begun to state that more and more of their business was carried out in projects. The project working method was then used for simpler assignments as well. They also noted that projects did not necessarily need to be unique, but rather that certain types of projects recur constantly. At the same time, more in-depth support was developed for project models. People began to speak about applications and production models, which are applications of project models. A short explanation of these terms follows below:

Application – project model is adjusted based on the size of the project. This usually includes which decision nodes will be part of a large, normal, or small project. It is also possible to include the phases, roles and documents that will be a part of each application.

Production model or application in the PROPS world- the project model is adjusted based on the type of project. It describes which activities will be a part of this type of project, other than the activities that would normally be included. There are also descriptions of which specific roles and documents will be included. One example of a production model might be ‘Development’, which would describe the extra activities, roles and documents required for a development project. Descriptions might include prototypes that must be produced, which testing procedures should be included, what responsibilities a test manager has, and a template with requirement specifications.

What is available today?

 

In keeping with the development of project models, today there is advanced IT support based on the thoughts surrounding applications and production models. Now when you start a project, the project tool allows you to choose which project model, application, and production model you want to use, thereby offering increased support for planning and making check lists. That also means that template support is available for:

  • Ready-made WBSs with all of the activities that are normally included in the selected application and/or production model.
  • Ready-made calculations for all of the costs that are normally included in the selected application and/or production model.
  • Ready-made timetables with duration times and dependent on the activities that are normally included in the selected application and/or production model.
  • Resource lists of the type of roles and/or competencies that are normally included in the selected application and/or production model.

This means that more than half of the planning is already completed for many projects by the time the project gets started. And since the templates are based on the ‘Best Practice Principle’, this ensures that previous experiences are put to use. The work for a new project manager is made vastly easier, but even the experienced project manager benefits from good support such as receiving reminders about issues that s/he may have forgotten. The best part of this solution is that it truly allows you to put previous experiences to good use in your work for the first time. And in my opinion it is not a moment too soon!

What does the future look like?

For better or worse, it seems that the trend is moving towards more control. That could mean that IT support for project models could develop in the following ways:

  • A project cannot begin any phase until people with the proper access rights have approved the commencement of the phase by marking it as approved in the tool.
  • A project cannot be marked as approved for the next phase until certain criteria have been met, in other words the basic data for all decision making must be compiled and approved.

This may seem a bit alarming to some, but it supports the work of quality assurance on a project. It should not be possible to start or continue any projects without having met certain requirements and it should not be possible to carry out any projects without making use of all previous experiences. This means that the risks are minimized for the project and that there are good opportunities to continue making improvements. In other words, the work of checking to ensure that people are working correctly and with the right things is made easier by ensuring that the projects:

  • are working according to a valid project model and thus working in an integrated fashion with quality assurance and basing work on previous experiences.
  • are following the goals and strategies of the operation and thus contributing to ensuring that resources are not assigned to cases that do not belong to the operation.
  • have control of resources and costs, which makes it possible to tend to projects quickly that fall outside of predetermined limits.

So now it is up to the suppliers to ensure that the new generation of IT support is fun and easy to work with. This is very important since supervision should not be viewed as an impediment to creativity but rather as support in one’s work. What project manager would not want to put less time into administration, which results in more time to create? Certainly, it would be nice to be able to feel creative in a world that is still perceived as being controlled by management. But with good support, you can feel like a child at play, full of confidence that your parents will steer the ship safely home under calm conditions!

 

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