The Project Managers Role in a New IT Network

The project manager’s role in a new IT network involves defining the project to meet the objectives and then dividing it into the tasks and stages to get the finished IT network that runs smoothly and efficiently. Not only are they responsible for controlling the different stages, but they need to be able to identify financial consequences and risks involved if changes in configuration or additional equipment is needed and figure out ways to deal with them. The project manager’s role in a new IT network is to also determine each person’s role as part of the team and provide a controlled, organized and consistent approach to track the progress as the finished IT network nears completion. They are responsible for good communication between the different components of the IT network and they need to be aware of flexible decision points, to determine the best option, at the time it can still be altered. If the project manager fails to identify problems as they arrive during installation, it can cost more to correct items after the fact or it is later found out that they don’t perform the tasks expected. The primary role of the project manager is to keep the business purpose of each step in the network installation process in mind, and the involvement of management or ownership at the times where a business or financial decision is needed. The role involves coordination between departments and vendors that will be using, installing and responsible for the proper working of the IT network. Because there may be a need for coordinating telecom services, IT asset recovery companies, new computer equipment vendors for hardware, software and firewall or antivirus protections, it is essential that data is transferred, and all components of the IT network are functioning. This will ensure a smooth transition without the problem of business interruption or data loss. A good project manager should be aware of technical and logistic problems that may arise during the initial installation, setup and training on a new IT network. For large networks, where a large budget is set aside for the hardware, software and installation, it is the project manager’s role to make sure that everything is delivered, working and at the price agreed upon when installing the new IT network. With any project, it is possible to have unexpected expenses, but the project manager is to oversee the coordination to make sure that it is kept at a minimum and yet fulfills the expected needs of the business and management. Because so much business is conducted electronically, it is crucial that a new IT network is functioning in a proper and secure manner and an experienced project manager should have the knowledge both technically and operationally to make the transition run smoothly and successfully. To sum up this role the project manager in a new IT network is a coordination effort that involves all of the aspects of an important IT asset, while keeping communication, scheduling and expense in line with the budgeted plan.

Social Networking Meets Project Management?

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, allow people to communicate and share information with others based on different types of networks. These networks are typically centered on some sort of relationship type. LinkedIn, for example, focuses on building a professional network of colleagues, former co-workers, and other work-related relationships. Facebook, on the other hand, is more open and allows for the creation of a variety of networks, such as families, schools, businesses, causes, groups, cities, or some other relationship category.

Millions of people visit these social networking sites on a daily basis to see what’s new in the lives of their network friends. They post updates and photos to show others know what’s going on in their own lives, in hopes that they will receive some sort of recognition for their post. Social networkers thrive on comments, status updates, new photos, and other conversational information. They love feedback and love be recognized for their accomplishments and social networking sites allow them to do this quickly and easily. And it’s for this very reason that Facebook now surpasses Google in the number daily visits it receives.

People are good at talking about themselves and love to see others talking about them in return.

So what does all of this have to do with project management? Well, to start with, projects require project teams and teams are a form of relationship. In the same way that Facebook organizes networks on a common cause, a project organizes a team on a common cause; i.e. to complete the project. The same people that use Facebook or Twitter at home are the same team members that come to work everyday. They want to be recognized for their accomplishments, feel like their contributing to the cause, and be able to collaborate with their co-workers.

Here’s the problem. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networking sites, as great as they are, don’t provide the tools needed to effectively manage projects. Executives can’t use Facebook to organize multiple projects, identify potential risks, and manage resources. Project managers can’t simply post an update or send out a Friend Request to keep projects on time and under budget. Managers need a robust tool that allows them to plan projects, identify tasks, monitor schedules, allocate resources, manage documents, improve processes, collaborate with co-workers, and manage the thousands of other little assignments needed to successfully complete a project.

Many of the current project management tools do a good job of helping project managers, and even executives, do their job better. They provide colorful reports and dashboards, interactive Gantt charts, business case builders, and time tracking sheets. And so much more! But, they fail to involve the team member. What ends up happening is a traditional, time-consuming process of status update requests, backlogs, quality checks, manual time entry, and missed deadlines.

Project tasks are forced upon the team members, never giving them an opportunity discuss deliverables or deadlines. No recognition is given for a job well done and the communication between the project manager and the team member is lacking at best. The numbers presented in the dashboards and reports do not accurately reflect the true story. And why does this occur? It happens because the team members never use, or don’t have access to, the same software being used by the project managers. They don’t update the status of their tasks because the process is too cumbersome and doesn’t provide them with any tangible or intangible benefits. The end result is that the “real-time” status report is actually a “week-late” status report. The information presented to the Executive is not the same information being entered by the team member.

What if there was a better way to manage products? What if there was a way to involve the team member more – a way to use the ideas of social networking to help manage projects? Networks could be organized around projects and status updates and photos could be related to the project. Time could be easily entered, project status quickly reported, and everything automatically submitted to update the project schedule, executive reports, and account for the resources needed to complete the project. Project and team collaboration could be simpler and could focus on the completing the tasks at hand. Conversational information could provide additional insight into the true status of the project and team members could be recognized by their peers for a job well done.

Can the concepts of social networking be applied to project management? Is there such a thing as social project management and will it be the wave of the future? Can the two categories be blended into one? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Project Network Diagrams: Important Tool for Project Time Management

Management of a project brings about many challenges for the project manager. One of the frequently encountered challenges is in the arena of Time Management. As any practicing project manager can attest, time is one of the most important project constraints frequently encountered in practice. The other two project constraints are project budget and project scope. Time constraint can be particularly challenging when customer imposes a predetermined target completion date even before the project planning begins or is still in-progress. And to compound this further, the customer imposed target date is usually ahead of the planned completion date. So, what is a project manager supposed to do under such circumstances?

Project Time Crunch: Handling Options

Project managers must carefully consider all possible options that can assist in matching the planned project completion date to customer specified completion date when the latter date is earlier than the former date. As a starting point, project manager can determine if schedule compression techniques can help in meeting the target date, and if that doesn’t work then negotiate two possible alternatives with project sponsor(s) and key stakeholders:

Reduce number of objectives/deliverables for the project. This reduces scope which in turn assists in reducing work and thus can help to make the target date achievable, or

Negotiate to change the target completion date for the project to at least match the planned completion date.

Prior to escalating the matter to sponsor and/or key stakeholders, it is advisable to explore if schedule compression can help. Schedule compression involves two techniques-Crashing and Fast-tracking. Crashing involves assignment of additional resources to tasks in order to assist in completing them faster. Fast-tracking involves performing several tasks concurrently especially if they have no direct dependency on one another and can be done in parallel. Now, crashing does increase project cost due to the employment of additional resources and for this project manager must take into consideration the project budget along with contingency reserve to ensure project costs does not exceed available funds. Note that a project manager can employ both the techniques in the same project if necessary.

Project Network Diagrams

In order to decide on the schedule compression approach and which tasks should be brought under the purview of which schedule compression approach, project manager must use the project’s network diagram also known as Network Logic Diagram. Let’s now understand the role that Project Network Diagram (PND) or Network Logic Diagram (NLD) can play in assisting project managers undertake schedule compression. PND can be of two types: Activity-on-Arrow (AOA) and Activity-on-Node (AON). Activity-On-Node (AON) PNDs are also known as Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM). In this article, I will focus on AONs or PDMs as they are more popular and frequently used in practice and in software such as Microsoft Project.

PDM/AON & CPM: Understanding Benefits

AONs are created based on activities or tasks obtained from the project’s Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). While WBS provides several details such as which tasks when completed can provide which project deliverable, it does not incorporate relationships or dependencies between tasks. Dependencies between tasks are either graphically depicted or described in tabular format for a PND. This helps in understanding the type of relationship between tasks and in what sequence they should be performed. In addition, PNDs can have multiple task sequences and each such sequence from start of project to finish defines a specific path in the PND. The delineation and understanding of all paths in a PND are important as it lays the groundwork for determining planned duration of the project as well as those tasks which directly impact the project’s completion date and thus cannot be delayed. A very specific method called Critical Path Method (CPM) is used for PNDs like AONs in order to determine the following:

Planned project completion date
Early start and finish times for each task in the PND
Late start and finish times for each task in the PND
Available Slack or Delay time for each task and the project itself
One or more critical tasks and paths in the PND

Arming oneself with all the details above can greatly assist in determining the following:

Which tasks can be delayed and which tasks cannot be delayed
Analyze dependencies to determine which tasks can be done concurrently in order to undertake fast-tracking if necessary
What is the planned total duration of the project?

Closing Thoughts

It must not be difficult to understand now that PNDs such as AONs is an important tool in a project manager’s toolbox to use in order to handle time constraint challenges or simply undertake schedule planning for a project. Knowledge of this very important tool along with application of network analysis technique called Critical Path Method (CPM) is a required skill even when it is done using robust scheduling software like Microsoft Project. This is because the actual task dependency set up even in Microsoft Project must be done by the project manager and it is often necessary to go beyond the defaults used by the software. It is then and only then that the software’s true power of being able to generate what-if scenarios can be utilized to the max which obviously cannot be done by always relying on software defaults. In addition to task dependencies, tasks can be set to have lead or lag times as well. Lead time is when a successor task is allowed to have a head start and can begin prior to completion of the predecessor task, and Lag time allows for the successor task to be delayed from starting by a defined time after the predecessor task completes.

Besides being useful in practice, anyone who aspires to get certified as a PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) will have to know all the basics regarding PNDs and use of CPM in order to prepare well for the important Project Time Management knowledge area. In this brief article I have focused on extolling the benefits of PDMs/AONs as they can significantly aid in management of project schedule and its constraint related challenges. I would like to encourage all readers new to this topic to consult any project management book that covers the basics of this topic in a comprehensive manner, and start using them in their projects.

Jayanta K. Das Purkayastha, MA, MS, PMP, MCTS, CSM has over 15 years of Information Technology experience providing software solutions for customers in diverse industries like finance, real estate, utilities, automotive and retail. His experience runs the gamut from teaching to real-world projects in software applications. He has led and managed small to enterprise-level IT projects, and assisted organizations in implementing and streamlining processes related to Software Development and Project Management. He is the author of PMP®/CAPM® EXAM PREP: A Basic Guide to Activity-On-Node and Critical Path Method.

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Agile 101 – Define Your Technical Architecture

“Technical Architecture” refers to hardware, software, databases, connectivity, etc. Project-level architecture consists of the technology required for the project solution to run as intended. It is a key component of an IT project lifecycle. It is important that the team figure out as soon as possible the overall architecture model. For example, the team should know if the solution is a web application, a data warehouse, a mobile app, a high-transaction back-end system, etc.

The project technical architecture is developed very early – for instance in the setup sprint. On an Agile project, the architecture could be defined on a whiteboard or flipchart. It is important that the information be shared with the team for additional ideas and concerns. For example, you would need to define the following areas:

Hardware. Identify the hardware your solution will run on and any other hardware that will be needed. You will also note if your solution will interact with cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), fax machines, scanners, bar code readers, etc.
Software. Identify any software and tool requirements. This would include things like the client and server operating systems, browser type, third party software packages, etc.
Interfaces. The major interfaces should be noted. Interfaces include other applications, vendors, clients, etc. where data is being passed to and from your solution.
Network. The network that is needed to support the solution should be diagrammed. This includes modems, lines, routers, hubs, etc.
Firewall/security. If your solution needs to run outside of your internal network, you will probably need to design with a firewall. In fact, you may need two firewalls (or more) to protect company data from unauthorized outside access.
Datastores. Identify the major datastores and the specific package/vendor involved. For instance, if you utilize a database, identify the specific software (Oracle, SQL Server, etc.). Do the same for data marts, data warehouses, major files, etc.
Tiers. Many solutions are created using a two tier (client-server) or three tier approach. Web solutions, for instance, are typically designed in three tiers.

In general, the more complex your project architecture is, the more potential problems you will encounter over time. Every piece of hardware and software, and every programming connection between, is subject to failure and bugs. The best solutions for long-term stability are the simple designs that gain as much functionality using as few “moving parts” as possible.

It is important that the project technical architecture be created by experienced staff because the architecture sets far-reaching structure based on a limited amount of information. The architecture does not have to be perfect the first time. However, it is important that the architecture be close. It is also important that it be flexible. The architecture is subject to change throughout the project. However, the later in the pro

Use The Right Network Planning Software For High-Level Decision Making And Efficient Detailed Planning

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NOCPlan, a state-of-the art and innovative Network Planning Software platform to help you right through the planning process of your FTTX network: starting with the beginning of a strong business to the production of detailed roll-out plans all happens pretty smoothly. The software works very well with any engineering platform and offers a quick, precise and reasonable solution for upgrading present networks or planning brand new FTTX projects.

Network design and planning is completely an iterative process, with proper topological design, right network synthesis, and complete network realization. Besides, it is also designed to make sure that new telecom networks or services offer satisfactory results and meets the demands of the operators and subscribers. The process can, however, be made as per the requirement of each new network or service.

Forecasting plays an important role.

Did you know how?
While the process of network planning is on, estimates are made of the expected traffic load and traffic intensity that the network can expect and the load it can take at a time. In case a similar network already exists, traffic measurement of such networks can be utilized to measure the right traffic load. However, there are also cases where there are no similar networks. In such cases the network planner should use the method of telecommunication forecasting to properly estimate the probable traffic intensity. The process of forecasting involves many steps; some of them are listed below:

‚¬ Defining the problem
‚¬ Acquisition of valuable data
‚¬ The right choice of the forecasting methodology
‚¬ Forecasting or analysis
‚¬ Analysis and documentation of the final result

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All forms of data are properly prepackaged in the brands project file. The Fiber Network Planners build connection models using the right pull down menus.

2. Offers integrated solutions
The software integrates GIS and demand data seamlessly into NOCPlan. After the connected model is properly built, the software maps the demand points and also figures the layout to reach those points. Thereafter the software generates all the maps, costs, reports and revenue forecasts to support the project.

3. Offers real time data
The data you get with the help of this software is always up to date and it is also pretty easy to find out alternatives. And the data is easy to read as it is often in the form of schematics, drawings, and charts.