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Project Management Process and Results

"Things should be as simple as they can be, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein

We generally map projects with PERT (Project Evaluation and Review Technique) or CPM (Critical Path Method).

PERT (used for building the first nuclear submarine) is designed for speculative projects, and focuses on the timelines. This is because the first time a project has ever been attempted, you don't know how long the tasks will take.

Since we've been building systems awhile, we rarely get entirely speculative projects, so we usually use CPM, which focuses on the "milestones" along the road to completion.

Inhouse, we generally do rough prototyping on magnetic whiteboards with scanning software, feeding into custom tools and storyboards. For coordination with clients or subcontractors, we can use UML, CVS, PERT, CPM, MS Project, Visio, and most PMBOK tools.

Successful project management, however, is about 30% tools, and 70% people. Michelangelo's biggest project, the Vatican, was planned with pencil and paper. The Vatican is still standing.

We have no difficulty dealing with any common project management description language. Around here we tend to use our own plain English descriptions, derived from a project manager at Hughes Aircraft:

1. Describe it – map the tasks and timelines, resources, specifications, and develop a budget. Sometimes called SOW (Statement of Work).

2. Go no-go – go over the project plan and budget with the client. Sometimes it's a straight "Go." Other times we have to revise the plan to deal with budget constraints, new timelines, or shifting business strategies.

3. Gear up – choose and schedule the resources. In software this mostly means people, but some hardware may be involved.

4. Build it – do the job, test it, and debug it.

5. Clean up – test and debug it again, write the documentation.

6. Get out – hand a working system over to the client, complete with documentation.

We use plain English because software development is so complex, and already so filled with jargon, that anything we can do do simplify the process invariably improves the results.

Excess complexity tends to lead to this situation: after spending $400 million on developing a web site, the CEO of Nike recently commented: "We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and it is an oncoming freight train."

No Hastings Research client has ever had to look at an oncoming freight train.

We can also supply project managers to work with your inhouse people. We know how to get along with executives, techies, and creatives.

A recent project for a newspaper integrating their inhouse systems with the Associated Press.

Contact us at info@hastingsresearch.com

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