This project involves a company named A&D High Tech which operates within the computer products industry and sells computer products, accessories, and services to consumers and small businesses. The organizations found themselves at a bit of a crossroads due to the fact that they had yet to enter the ecommerce segment of their industry. After identifying this issue with the help of a consultant, A&D High Tech found their executive board pushing with a new dedication to entering this segment in the most expedient manner possible. They had already set the project in motion, however there busiest season for the organization was closing in fast and the company called upon its top project management talent to make recommendations to whether or not crashing the project was feasible.
The two primary objectives, from an organizational standpoint, that A&D is trying to achieve is increased sales and also improving organizational effectiveness. An online store would give the organization greater consumer exposure while simultaneously opening up new markets. With the online store connected to the organization's enterprise resource planning software (ERP) on the backend, the system will also act to reduce costs to the company while streamlining some of the key business objectives and increasing profit margins.
In designing the project, the company chose to build vs. buy an off the shelf platform. This decision was made for a variety of reasons however the main driver of the decision was undoubtedly customization. An off the shelf system would not of been able to accommodate all of the requirements. The original project closure date was projected to be completed sometime in May of the following year. However, since the executive directors are anxious to get the site up and running before their peak Christmas season they have put their top project manager on the case to determine whether crashing the schedule is possible to meet the new deadline. Since most of the programming is outsourced through a third party vendor it would seem reasonable to suspect that the schedule could be significantly reduced by simply putting more people to work on the project. However, this is not always the case; sometimes simply adding more people can actually extend the schedule rather than crashing it. This risk management plan will look at all the relevant potential project paths for the online store and make recommendations to its feasibility.
1.2 Company Background
A&D High Tech is in the pc industry and its primary business is selling computer products, accessories and services to consumers and small businesses. A&D's heritage begins in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Ted Walter, opened his first store in 1988. A&D's custom product line up was considered innovative in the beginning of its history. They were among the first organizations to enter into the personal computer industry. Walter stressed friendly customer service and this sentiment became part of the organizational culture. These values were also deeply entrenched in the culture of the mid-west where Walter had resided his entire life.
A&D's revenues stream developed at a consistent pace and approached $400 million for fiscal year 1998. A&D was a principally a regional player with over 90% of sales coming from customers in the regional areas. However, Walter has been strategically positioning the organization to be capable of distribution nationally. A&D sales were composed predominantly of sales stemming from retail outlets in shopping malls across the Midwest and via phone orders that were processed by its 50-person call center located in Lincoln.
Before the implementation of the organizations ERP system, sales orders at the call center were written on paper and then manually passed to order entry clerks. This added considerable time to order entry, caused delayed shipments and resulted in poor order accuracy. Subsequently, sales representatives repeatedly had to contact customers directly to correct errors or to suggest different options due to the limited availability of inventory. On average, about a third of the orders required customer callbacks, compared to an industry average that was presumably less than ten percent. In 1997, A&D implemented its first enterprise resource planning software.
The software provider that A&D chose was J.D. Edwards and the project was a success. Having the ERP system significantly reduced the operational costs and errors that occurred through order processing. It also reduced costs associated with operational efficiency since it reduced the need to staff people to do manual data entry. The same ERP system went through a variety of upgrades including a customer relationship manager (CRM) module. This system is the same system that will be tied to the backend of the online stores order processing. The executive leadership wanted the online order processing to be handled in a similar manner as all of the other order entry methods and this represented a top priority in the online store's project requirements.
1.3 Risk Planning
Risk is defined as an event that has a probability of occurring, and could have either a positive or negative impact to a project should that risk occur (Northrop Grumman Corporation, 2007). Project risk is one of the hardest project components to plan for; especially when the project is running on a significantly crashed schedule. In this case, the fundamental consideration to be made is whether the costs from crashing the project in such a significant manner exceed the benefits to be gained by having the project completion scheduled before the seasonal sales cycle (Christmas) ensues. Therefore if the project has a significant chance of being behind the crash schedule or if the costs are too great then the reduced schedule may not make financial sense. Additionally, there also exists a trade-off situation between quality and schedule that may pose significant threats to the viability of the finished product. The largest conceivable risk is that the project will increase its budget and resources significantly to try to meet the deadline and still fail. Thus the organization would have to bear both the costs of the project's crash schedule while in turn losing the revenue that would have been produced by the website being online during the peak season.
One study that surveyed over eight hundred IT project managers found that sixty two percent of software projects failed to meet the planned schedule (Asay, 2008). Other data cited suggests that:
49% suffered budget overruns
47% had higher-than-expected maintenance costs, and 41% failed to deliver the expected business value and ROI
Given the fact that the disciple of IT project management has had ample time to mature, the data presented indicates that several projects today still produce the same type of results that was presented when the profession was still in its infancy. Recent studies have indicated the of the PMBOK Guide's nine Knowledge Areas that risk planning is among the top that have the greatest impact upon effective project management (Zwikael, 2009).
Therefore, in this particular project, risk management may be the most important component of the entire project. It is critical that the project manager prepare a risk management plan that depicts the challenges faced with crashing the project as accurately as possible so that the project's champions can base their decision on the most reliable data possible. Accelerating the project's schedule will undoubtedly require significant increases in the budget and in the resources and thus an accurate estimate, including risks, is needed to compile an effective cost-benefit analysis in light of the new requirements. Obviously, if there is a reasonable amount of doubt that the project could be crashed feasibly then management may want to take a different course of action. The top rated risks identified in the literature are as follows (Tesch, Kloppenborg, Frolick, & Mark, 2007):
The scope of the risk management plan should include an analysis of all activities that could be crashed and the related costs of doing so. Not only should the costs be represented, but also the risks to the schedule and quality requirement should also be considered. Consequently, this makes for a rather complex analysis since projects can be rather dynamic in nature. Thus it is also suggested that the crash schedule include alternative scenarios that could play out. Fortunately, the previous project manager…