Software Project Management: Creating a Project Network Diagram

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Creating a Project Network Diagram
Recall that a WBS is a topology of the project deliverables. A WBS takes the project and breaks the project down into major components. These components can then be broken down again into other components, then again into work packages, and, finally, documented with a task list that is derived from the WBS. Once the WBS has been created, the activity list can then be entered into Microsoft Project, or your favorite Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) software . Once you enter the activities into Microsoft Project, you can create a Gantt chart like the one in Figure 7-2. It shows a mapping of each of the units of work required to complete each phase of the project. Figure 7-2: A WBS decomposed the project into similar, accessible work units. The Gantt chart is ideal for simple, short-term projects. It is a timeline of the events with consideration given to tasks that can be completed concurrently within a project’s lifespan. Traditional Gantt charts have some drawbacks: •Gantt charts do not display detailed information on each work unit. (Microsoft Project does allow project managers to add task information and notes within a Gantt chart on each task.) •Gantt charts only display the order of tasks.

Gantt charts do not clearly reflect the order of tasks in multiple phases. •Gantt charts do not reflect the shortest path to completion. •Gantt charts do not reflect the best usage of resources. •To address these issues, project managers can use a Project Network Diagram (PND). PNDs are a fluid mapping of the work to be completed. Figure 7-3 is a sample of a portion of a network diagram. Incidentally, the terms “PND,” “Project Network Diagrams,” and “network diagrams” all refer to the same workflow structure—don’t let the different names confuse you. Such diagrams allow the project manager and the project team to tinker with the relationships between tasks and create alternative solutions to increase productivity, profitability, and the diligence of a project. Detailed project planning In large projects that may span several months, or even years, a network diagram is essential as it can correlate each task in relation to the project scope. Through a network diagram, the project manager, management, and the project team can see the entire project plan from a high-level view, and then zoom in on a specific portion of the project plan. •Implementation tracking As tasks are completed on time, or over time, the number of time units used can accurately display the impact on dependent tasks within the project. If you use software to track the project implementation, the reflection of the impact is automated for you. Imagine a task that has four dependencies and the task is two weeks late in completion. The failure of the task to be completed on time now pushes the dependent tasks back by two weeks. A network diagram can illustrate this impact and allow the project manager to react to the changes by adjusting resources or other dependent tasks. •Contingency plans Network diagrams allow a project manager to play out “what if?” scenarios with any work unit within the project plan. A project manager can adjust units of time to see the impact of the work units on the entire project. For example, it may be obvious to see an impact on dependent tasks when a work unit is two weeks late, but what about units that are completed early? Imagine that pay incentives are based on project completion dates—a series of work units that each have one day shaved off their target completion times may have positive impacts on all future tasks. •Resource control A network diagram shows the flow of work and the impact of the finished tasks on the rest of the project. By utilizing the Gantt chart’s assigned resources to a unit of work, a project manager can add or remove resources to a task to complete it faster or delay the completion. Resources can be both workers and physical objects such as a...
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