Monday, June 11, 2012

Project Management Research Paper

Project Management Research Paper

When starting a new project, a manager needs a list of diverse components that should lead him and his team to success. These components include personnel, resources, data, personal leadership characteristics, and many more. Similar situation appears in the given scenario of new product launch. In order to analyze it objectively, I would like to arrange the facts first.

A manufacturing company is about to use the first mover advantage and expand into a new market with a unique offer. The given project is assigned by the Head of Marketing to the top salesman in the company called Bob. His responsibilities include supervising technical steps in production of the product. The first Bob’s mission is to develop the plan for production and present it to the board of directors. After the presentation to the board, one of its members, the Head Operations Officer, requires Bob to report to him, so that he becomes an intermediary between Bob and the executive board in decision making and expense allocation.

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Some points from the case are already striking:
- Why should the salesman supervise the production process?
- Who gave the power to the Head of Marketing to assign people on global missions?
- Is Bob really acquainted with budgeting and scheduling, and even with the product in whole?
- Whose decision is to make the Head Operations Officer the intermediary to the board of directors?

To observe the situation correctly, I will apply the theory of Project Management and its principles, look at the roles and responsibilities of the participants in the given case, and try to make an adequate conclusion.

Team and Relationships
Every project starts with building a team (Chapman, 2001; Anderson, 2010, p.60). For a new product expansion, such a team could be formed of Marketing department and Sales department. One should not also forget the other departments in terms of a company’s value chain - those responsible for manufacturing, logistics, HR, etc. What we see in the scenario is that the Head of Marketing assigns one of the key employees in Sales to continue with project managing. It is an interesting fact that nothing is said about the interaction between Bob and the Marketing team in terms of the product launch. Supposedly, Bob and the Marketing department work on different goals for the same project. Here is an omission in scenario: communication should occur “both within the team as well as with those affected by the team’s output” (Anderson, 2010, p.60). Bob’s output goes directly to the board of directors. But there is no proof that the board or any of its members, even including the Head Operations Officer, is in charge of what Bob is preparing. The board will supposedly receive the final outcome, and even if the changes take place, the time for their implementation may be lost. When launching a new product, a deadline is an extremely important parameter. Negotiation may take too much time and effort, especially when negotiating sides view the project from different perspectives, or at least having no uniform structure of the project plan that is available to both. The project plan, says Pershing (2006, p.945), should be detailed and precise.

In order to be on time, correspond to expectations, and be aware of possible problems and delays, Chapman (2001) suggests checking the aforementioned parameters with other individuals and groups involved. In the case, it is not mentioned that Bob has ever consulted anyone concerning his work. The first communication appears to be only at the end, when the project is presented to the board. Wideman (2000) suggests on the opposite: “A single channel of communication must exist between the project sponsor and the project team leader for all decision affecting the product of the project”. The sponsor of the product appears to be board, while the leader of the project is Bob. Bob should try to speak with the managers or colleagues responsible for the project as soon as possible, because otherwise the gap of communication may become obvious too late (Williams, 2008, p.14).

Besides, no testing of the project has occurred. In this case, if I were Bob, I would take care not only about the image of the project itself but also about own image as a person and a specialist, because the attitude of the board may be crucial for career growth, job promotions or just lead to penalties or even firing. It is obvious that complex and serious projects not only allow but also require teamwork. “Project management is not personal productivity” (Williams, 2008, p.8). The Head of Marketing may not feel the necessity of working in a team with Bob or assigning some of his employees to help Bob, but Bob should not be too ambitious to handle the project on his own. Such egoistic deeds lead to failures of the project, worsening of company’s image as a result.

Area of Responsibility
A valuable comment on defining the responsibilities is obtained from Chapman (2001). Bob is a salesman employee and his goal is production planning for a new product. Are the duties for the new mission similar to his usual duties at the working place? Supposedly, not. Is it a risk for the success of a huge project? Yes, definitely. I may suppose that Bob is not enough qualified to deal with the launch of a new product taking into consideration his position and area of occupation at the working place.

Bob’s duties for the assigned project include preparing of the budget and the schedule for the product launch. Budget for the project is built by predicting the allocation of available resources when meeting the project requirements (Umbach, 2009). According to Chapman (2001), the best results are achieved when the authors and developers of the project also participate in preparing a plan. According to the given scenario, only Bob is mentioned as the author of the plan. If Bob does not possess enough information from the departments on the launch of a product, estimates, human resource policies, and a list of other more or less important input data, then his plan is not a sound (Greer, 2009). Team work is a must in such type of projects. Another explanation for this is the Success Principle from the work of Wideman (2000), who says: “There have been many projects that have been ‘On time and within budget’ but the product has not been successful”. Proceeding from a principle of a good team management (Anderson, 2010, p.60), I will suggest that the planning of the given project is also poor.

R. Max Wideman (2000) outlines the so-called Process Principle. The principle itself concerns the skills widely applied in management and serves best in assigning tasks and responsibilities, managing schedules, controlling expenditures and processing the production steps. In our case, Bob is responsible for the process of production and is in charge of budgeting and scheduling. The primary authority for him is the Head of Marketing, though the roles do not seem here to be adequately delegated. If to observe the launch of a new product as a mission for the whole company, then rather the CEO or exactly the executive board should assign the project group. In the case, there is no mentioning of CEO and the board appears only as evaluators of the project results.

After all, there is no necessity to stress on the importance of an adequate timing for a project. Greer (2009), Chapman (2001), Wideman (2000), Williams (2008, p.2-3) emphasize on the setting the deadlines which allow brainstorming, coming up with the results and forecasts for the project, and finally testing it. One week, the time frame that Bob had, is far not enough for such a huge project. Analysis usually takes up months, so planning in one week appears to be too compressed. Such spontaneous decisions and compact timings will lead only to the failure of the product launch. Besides, even with an adequate timing, one should never forget about the possible ‘milestones’ which postpone the final outcome (Wideman, 2000).

Interest of the Board 
Anyway, there are certain advantages of assigning Bob for the position of a Project Manager for the new product launch. Being a salesman, he may be the right person to promote and sell the project to the board of directors, who are primarily interested in profit accumulation and maximization but not in the details how the business is supposed to work. One of the principles of Project Management is creation of a project that can be sold (Greer, 2009).

Supposedly, Bob was not assigned occasionally for the project. If the company comes up with a new innovative product, this usually means that the market is ready to obtain it, but the competitors still lack resources and capabilities. If the thorough analysis shows that the project is about to fulfill the need of customers, then the project is worth launching (Greer, 2009; Chapman, 2001).

In whole, the idea to report to the Head Operations Officer is ineffective. Operations and project management differ from each other in a way the project is observed, so preparing the project and animating the project are completely diverse missions. “Project management is not operations or service management” (Williams, 2008, p.9).

From the other point of view, the delegation of reporting function may imply the idea of filtering the information before it reaches all the members of the board. The Head Operations Officer can be chosen to sort the information according to the direct needs of the directors so that they can easily access it on the certain basis. This implementation can prove its effectiveness from the structural point of view. The choice then will fall to the Head of Operations lot because the company is the manufacturing one, and many issues depend on the technical facilities and the process establishment. Otherwise, there is no sense to complicate the structure of reporting for the project.

As far as I see, there is no uniformity of a team decision. The question arises: Are the other members of the board aware of the proposition that the Head of Operations made to Bob? If they are, is the proposition really made not in public? If they are not, what goals does the Head Operations Officer pursue? His actions can even contradict the company’s policy and undermine his authority as a consequence. If such things have chance to occur, the new product launch can enter the market with a huge scandal. Anyway, it is hard to call the Head of Operations the one who actively participates in the project on a comparative basis: the managerial authority should be established at the very beginning of the project (Greer, 2009) but not at the moment of the product launch.

To start with a conclusion, I would like to mention that each company has its own way of maintaining tasks, setting objectives, allocating resources, and assigning personnel. It is hard to search for obvious disadvantages in the scenario, as well as to outline strengths which identify the new product launch. Many parameters are still not specified: how the working process is arranged, what environment Bob faces, what his commitment is, and what the commitment of his managers use to be.

In order to succeed in this project, Bob should certainly ask for assistance from most of the departments, especially those dealing with marketing and manufacturing, ask for an extension of the deadline, try to make an appointment with the executive board before presenting the readymade project in order to understand the interest of the directors, work closely to the Head of Operations, negotiate about the time frame for analyzing and testing. Before composing the schedule and the budget, Bob should obtain information about the product, sales estimates, marketing research statistics on the prospective area of the product launch, estimates for the costs of production and distribution, data on plant capacity, etc. It could also help him, if he could get some input data from the board like the spending limit for the project or the expectations of directors.
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