Running head: PEAK LAN PROJECT CASE STUDY
Peak LAN Project Case Study Group Earth Kirk Baringer Meagan Beeman Allison Benton Yolanda Boyd Thomas Guess Southwestern College Joel Light, Ph. D. MGMT 505 Project Management Fundamentals February 05, 2012
PEAK LAN PROJECT
Peak Systems is a small information systems consulting firm located in Meridian, Louisiana (Larson & Gray, 2011). Peak Systems latest client is the City of Meriden’s social welfare agency. The agency is in need of a local area network (LAN). The job will be completed with one Peak Systems employee and two interns. The project is on a strict budget not to exceed 90,000 dollars. Peak Systems has to configure 20 laptop computers, two laser printers, and provide additional training for employees on the new system (Larson & Gray, 2011). The Peak associate has a tentative time line to complete the project in twenty six days. There are many technical requirements that must be met in order for the LAN to work correctly. It is essential that the team constructs an efficient system. There are also some additional continuing services of warranties and maintenance only guaranteed up to one month after the official project end date. Peak Systems and the clients have a clear understanding of the limitations and expected services which are listed in a binding contract. Risks Associated With Project To an individual project risk is any unforeseen event or condition that can have a positive or negative effect on project objectives (Larson & Gray, 2011). It is the process of risk management that attempts to identify and manage potential and unforeseen problems which might occur during the course of a given project (Larson & Gray, 2011). The risks associated with a LAN project can be as numerous as the number of keys on a keyboard. There are many factors that have to be put in place for an efficient system. The following paragraphs will discuss the most notable risks associated with the City of Meridian’s Social Service Agency’s LAN system.
PEAK LAN PROJECT
The first two notable risks identified in this project include the team size and composition. The project team currently will employ only three personnel with two of these individuals being interns from a local area university. It would be a concern to the project manager if there will be enough manpower necessary to complete the project on time. The necessary manpower required to install wires and cables, computer and printer set up, hardware and software testing, customer support, and conducting required training might exceed the limit of a three person team. There is also the possibility the interns will not be able to focus all their attention and time to the project. Their school work could distract tear them away from working on the project. There is no question on experience, since Peak Systems is an information systems consulting firm. Experience is implied in this situation. Still, the team size along with the potential loss of project team members are the first two risks that were very apparent with this project. The next risk is whether or not the budget allocated is realistic. When investing in a LAN system you do not want to cut corners on anything. The current budget for the project is $90,000. One of the most common problems with building a LAN is hardware and software compatibility. Too often companies want to keep costs low, and the hardware that is ultimately purchased is not compatible with the company’s software and lacks reliability. Peak Systems should ask the City of Meridian’s Social Service Agency if the budget is really realistic and firm. When you cut corners and try to purchase hardware based on a budget you can get hardware that is not reliable in the long run. You can stay within the required budget by purchasing cheaper hardware, but the potential loss in reliability and repair costs could outweigh the advantages of purchasing subpar hardware. The cheaper hardware might present compatibility issues when paired with security software, database software, and potential updates to software packages.
PEAK LAN PROJECT
Peak Systems needs to present a more realistic budget number if hardware reliability and compatibility is a real concern to the customer. Another risk that might present itself based on the one month expected project duration is the availability of the critical hardware and software required for the project. The project specifications call for a great deal of hardware, and the customer is very precise in what they want. This could cause a problem with locating, purchasing, and delivery of the hardware within the required time limit. If the customer is still expecting the project to remain within the $90,000 budget extra time could be required to test compatibility with software once the requested hardware arrives. Peak Systems might have to use multiple suppliers to get all the hardware delivered with enough time to complete the rest of the project. The next risk identified is the direct result of the requirement for secure external access for field workers. If this access is to be accomplished using the wireless cards multiple security issues could come into play once the project is completed and possibly during the project itself. The most secure connection is always going to be a wired connection via an Ethernet card. It would be assumed the customer will be utilizing a database system which could contain information subject to the Privacy Act of 1974. Wireless connections put the security of this information at risk no matter how secure the wireless connection is. Also, if the customer plans on using a physical database it should reexamine the type of work to be accomplished by field workers using a wireless connection. Wireless connections work best with databases which are totally internet based. You will still have the security issue mentioned earlier, but this prevents database corruption due to field workers losing connection to the actual database. Lastly, one of the milestones in the project involves setting user’s priority and authorizations. This occurs pretty early in the project and any potential risks could be caught
PEAK LAN PROJECT
early enough, but they could also lead to delays in the rest of the project. The problem associated with this milestone is data that will be provided to Peak Systems. If employees and their required roles and permissions are not listed correctly when handed over to Peak Systems employees may not be able to log onto computers, access network printers or drives, access certain database features, or accomplish their duties in general. The risks identified above are very notable and could present a burden on the project and the project team. The purpose of risk management is to identify these risks in order to make the necessary changes prior to starting the project in an attempt to reduce their impact on the project. Peak Systems will need to present the risks identified above to the City of Meridian’s Social Service Agency in order for to discuss any potential changes to the project. It will be in the best interest of both parties involved to act on this risk analysis prior to starting any project work. Risk Assessment While there can be several risks with any project, mapping them out can be beneficial and help prepare a team for what might occur. Conducting a scenario analysis is the most commonly used technique for analyzing risks (Larson & Gray, 2011). Risk assessment matrices can use any form of valuation, from very precise numbers, such as decimals, to whole numbers and sometimes even rank-order descriptors. While analyzing the risks for the Peak LAN project, rank-order descriptions were used for their simplicity to understand. When it came to the likelihood of the team size of the project being affected by a person leaving, it is highly probable, so it was given a rank of “very high.” The risk of user priorities and access not being granted is low due to the fact it is a list given to Peak Systems. To ensure the list is not without errors, it needs to be checked and double-checked before being handed over to Peak Systems.
PEAK LAN PROJECT
Figure 1: Risk Assessment Matrix
High Very High
Detection Difficulty Very Low Low
Team Size Budget Availability of hardware and software Secure external/wireless access User priorities & authorizations -can’t log on
Very High High
Impact scales can a bit more difficult to determine. The impact a risk has on a project needs to be assessed in terms of project priorities (Gray & Larson, 2011). Different risks can affect different areas of the project. For example, issues with the budget can have a serious impact on the project. If enough money is not allocated for the project it can bring work to a complete standstill. Working with a small budget can also cause compatibility issues if the project manager chose to purchase cheaper equipment. With these reasons in mind, budget was given a “very high” impact. Detection difficulty is the measure of how easy it would be to detect that an event was going to occur. Once again, rank-order descriptors were used. In determining detection difficulty for availability of hardware and software it was given a ranking of “moderate.” The ability to acquire the necessary hardware through multiple suppliers makes this risk moderate. However, as the project moves forward this ranking may be adjusted. The “when” factor in the risk assessment merely states when the risk could occur. In this scenario most of the risk is at the beginning and throughout the project.
PEAK LAN PROJECT
Figure 2: Risk Response Matrix Risk Event
Sub-contract if possible and within budget
Workload compared to timeline
Increase budget or downsize project
Negotiate with the City of Meridian
Availability of hardware and software
Send bids out to several suppliers
Secure external/wirel ess Access
Set up tests to ensure this system is working and secure
User priorities & authorization s -can’t log on
Have a standby system while transitioning to the new LAN or work weekends and off peak hours
See if extras can be placed on standby and returned if unused Have alternate ways for remote employees to access the server Have a secondary server system on standby and don’t take the entire LAN down until the new system is running
At the earliest point it becomes obvious the budget is too small From the onset of the LAN project if there are shortages
Who is Responsible Peak Project Manager working with City of Meridian City of Meridian And Peak project manager Peak project manager
At the earliest point this system can be tested and doesn’t work.
Peak Project manager
At the earliest point the LAN can be tested, run tests periodically throughout the installation to help catch glitches.
Peak Project manager
With this being such a big project with such a small team it is apparent that there may be some glaring risks before the project ever kicks off. It is very risky to use a full-time employee and two interns to install a LAN with a working government operation. It is also typical for a government organization to take the lowest bidder and for the contractor to low ball the bid in
PEAK LAN PROJECT
order to get the contract. Change orders need to be discussed along with the budget constraints long before this project gets off of the ground. Unfortunately, much of the risk mitigation and management falls squarely on the project manager, because you may presume that the only full-time employee working with the interns would be the project manager. This person will also become the primary worker and negotiator with the City of Meridian. A Monte Carlo risk simulation would be essential as it may reveal that this project could be a real problem before the project begins, and the simulation will save a lot of hassle and heartache if it can be renegotiated, re-budgeted, sub-contracted by Peak, or if Peak backs out of the contract altogether. The realization is this might be too big of a project for such a small operation like Peak Systems. Conversely, if Peak System is in a position to subcontract and work within the established budget it may be the one sacrificial contract that really allows them to “get on their feet” with contracting LAN installations. Monte Carlo Simulation Since there’s a high level of uncertainly regarding the established budget for the Peak LAN project, it will be in the best interest of all parties to run a Monte Carlo simulation to determine the probability that the project can be completed within the prescribed budget and timeframe. The Monte Carlo Simulation helps predict risk and uncertainties by using statistical data to help project managers determine trends in the data (Bowden, Lane & Martin, 2001). The Monte Carlo Simulation helps identify variables that begin to make a pattern or a norm. This simulation could also include variables associated with the other named risks: human resource capital, availability of materials, network security and user authorizations. The data is also used to make a distribution chart to help realize the trends in the data.
PEAK LAN PROJECT
The main advantage by completing a Monte Carlo analysis of potential risks is that it will provide an improved decision as to whether to move forward with the existing project scope or to negotiate with the City of Meridian for different project terms. These modified terms would include increased budget, additional team members, and more time among other things. As with any project, the basic benefits of performing a Monte Carlo simulation for the Peak LAN project can further be described as follows: Monte Carlo simulation allows for the testing of theories prior to launching the project. The relatively short time it takes to complete the simulation and affordable cost of a program to run the necessary calculations would offset additional time and money wasted on an unsuccessful project. Performing a Monte Carlo simulation for the LAN project will provide statistical validity to the city. Rather than moving forward and potentially compromising quality and or efficiency, the Peak project manager can confidently communicate the percentage probability of the project meeting its stated goals based on the existing plan. A Monte Carlo simulation will assist the project manager in communicating with the customer in regards to their expectations. The analysis will help the project manager explain how quality, efficiency and favorable cost can all be met if the project is restructured (i.e., project delivery date of 2/16/2012 has a 36.4% chance of being achieved yet a 3/01/2012 date has an 85.6% probability of being met). By reviewing certain factors within the analysis, certain actions can be compared with others from a risk perspective. Models can then be tweaked to balance risk and return in the estimate and/or plan. Monte Carlo simulations allow the project manager to see what factors are causing changes within your model. For example, they may
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learn that the larger the project team, the more unlikely it will be that the LAN project will suffer from delays (Lanza, 2009). Conclusion The Key to success of this project is to realize the difficulty of the project scope, asses the risks, and inquiring about possible solutions. It is Peak Systems specialty, but the complication of the LAN system must be addressed with number of employees and interns allocated to the project. The risk associated with the low number of personnel could cause the project to come to a standstill and affect the projected timeline, budget, and customer satisfaction. Peak Systems should use more full-time employees dedicated to the project as well as discussing if the allocated budget is reasonable. Corners should not be cut on LAN networks, because if they are done incorrectly it could affect the whole agency resulting in lower productivity. The risk assessment and risk response matrix help pinpoint the areas of concern. Also, the Monte Carlo Simulation can offer some statistical data on the risks associated with the project. Still, with the proposed changes and planning the project could be a success.
PEAK LAN PROJECT
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