Sunday, February 12, 2012

Project Management Concepts Through Interview Questions for Project Managers - 6

The aim of this series of articles is to introduce project management concepts. Interview questions one may face for project Manager position, are used as a vehicle to introduce these concepts. This is the sixth part of the series and further concepts. The series is going to be in ten parts, and each article in the series will discuss five questions that you may get asked and explain the related questions. Concepts introduced should help you prepare for PMP certification that is often required for a Project Manager position.
Processes are important in everything that is done for a project. What does a process make sure of, then? A dictionary defines a process as "a way of systematic monitoring and evaluation of aspects of a project, service or facility to ensure that standards of quality are met." Quality of everything that goes into a project is necessary. Making sure that no mistakes are made, while making a product, is also of paramount importance. Processes can ensure these aspects and are important.
In the activity schedule diagram there will tasks whose start time and/or end times may not be very critical. The start may be delayed by a few days without affecting anything else in the schedule. Similarly the end date for an activity may slip by a few days when the subsequent activity will not be affected. These margins are called floats. Not all activities have floats. What is a critical path in the schedule network diagram? The path through the diagram where a sequence of activities do not have any associated float represent the critical path. It is critical because any delay in completion of an earlier activity will delay the subsequent one and the overall project deadline.
Sometimes it is necessary to compress the time schedule of an on-going project. That is possible only by compressing the project time schedule. What are the methods of compressing the time schedule? Fast tracking and crashing are two methods available. Fast tracking looks at opportunities of making activities speeded up by applying additional resources. Cost control is not of prime importance. If team members are to be paid more or an external consultant called in, that would be done. Shaving off time from the project schedule is more important. When cost control is more important, you try to reduce the time by minimizing the floats in the schedule network.
When a project is in execution, it needs to be monitored continuously to find if more efforts are being required or costs are exceeding budget. Effort variance is a measure of how much effort is being spent. What is effort variance, then? The variance is the difference between planned effort and the amount of work the project is actually taking. It is essential to keep measuring this at every monitoring point so that corrective actions could be taken early enough.
Earned value measurement is a means of keeping track of variances. This is done by monitoring PV or planned vale, EV or earned value and AC or the actual cost. At planning time a performance measurement baseline also is created. This PMB has all the PVs noted for every monitoring point. How does the earned value management or EMV find the effort variance? At a given monitoring point, variances from baselines are determined. There are two variance values that are calculated. One is CV or cost variance that tells you if earned value has been achieved at the budgeted cost. The other variance is the schedule variance or the SV. The SV tells you if the earned value was achieved in the planned time. If there is variance in either or both, corrective actions need to be planned.

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