Data Perturbation Analysis for IS Project Management Based on a Single Time Estimate

Data Perturbation Analysis for IS Project Management Based on a Single Time Estimate

Hossein Arsham (Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/jeis.2012100104

Abstract

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is the most widely used tool for project management; however, it requires three estimates for the duration of each activity as its input. This is too much uncertain input requirement from the managers, making the critical path (CP) unstable causing major difficulties for the manager. A linear programming formulation of the project network is proposed for determining a CP, based on making one estimate for the duration of each activity. Upon finding the CP, data perturbation analysis (DPA) is performed using the constraints of the dual problem. This DPA set of uncertainties provides the manager with a tool to deal with the simultaneous, independent, or dependent changes of the input estimates that will preserve the current CP. The proposed procedure is easy to understand, easy to implement, and provides useful information for the manager. A numerical example illustrates the process.
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Introduction And Motivations

Project management is one of the fastest growing career fields in business today. Most of the growth in this field is in the information systems area, where there are widespread reports about most projects being late, many over budget, and all too often not satisfying design specifications. This paper is about information systems project management, although the principles apply to projects in any field. When proposing a new information system, the systems analyst will be confronted with many questions from top management, in particular “How much will it cost? And “When will it be done?” As many project managers know, these two questions are difficult to answer correctly.

A project involves getting a new, complex activity accomplished. Projects are purposeful, in that they are designed to accomplish something for the organization undertaking them. Because projects involve new activities, they typically involve high levels of uncertainty and risk. It is very difficult to predict what problems are going to occur in system development. There have been runaway information system projects. Barki, Rivard, and Talbot (1993) cited runaway information system project examples. In 1982, a major insurance company began development of an $8 million computer system from a major software provider. This system was intended to serve all of the computing needs of the insurance company and was due to be completed in 1987. However, a number of problems were encountered resulting in delays of completion until 1993, with a new estimated cost of $100 million. Pirdashti, Mohammadi, Rahimpour, and Kennedy (2008) used Delphi technique to elicit expert opinions about criteria for evaluating the network locations for a network design project.

Projects are systems consisting of interrelated parts working together to accomplish project objectives. There are a number of important roles within information systems projects. Project managers have to balance technical understanding with the ability to motivate diverse groups of people (the project team) brought together on a temporary basis. Projects are collections of activities. If one activity is late, other activities are delayed. If an activity is ahead of schedule, workers tend to slow down to meet the original completion date. Information systems projects have many similarities to generic projects. They consist of activities, each with durations, predecessor relationships, and resource requirements. They involve high levels of uncertainty and often suffer from time and cost overruns, while rarely experiencing time and cost under runs. However, information systems projects are different from generic projects in some aspects. While each project is unique, there are usually many, many replications of information systems project types. Most are served by a standard methodology, with the need to identify user requirements, followed by design of a system, production of the system, testing of the system, training and implementation, and, ultimately, maintenance of the system. These steps are not always serial; there are often many loops back to prior stages.

Defining project success is in itself difficult. There are many views of what makes a project successful. Successful implementation has been found to require mastery of the technical aspects of systems, along with understanding key organizational and behavioral dynamics. There has been a great deal of research into information systems project failure. Failure can occur when design objectives are not met. The difference between successful and failed information systems projects often lies in planning and implementation. A great deal of research has been performed to identify factors that lead to project success. These factors include planning, user involvement, and good communication. Additional factors that are reported as important in information systems project success repeatedly include top management support and clear statement of project objectives.

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