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Write it as if you were writing to the sponsor (Director of Business School). So set it out as a professional report, perhaps with a table of contents but don’t waste words on an executive summary or abstract.

Project Management L5 Assignment – Notes for Students

Roehampton University and Partners, Spring 2021

The assignment this year is based on a fictitious case study (choose one from four different options) and students are required to develop some sample documentation typical of that which would be produced by a real project manager. This document is intended to ensure that as many questions as possible are answered and that there is consistency across all teams and locations delivering the module. If you have further questions you should contact your seminar tutor in the first instance.

Overall

We want to measure and mark on learning outcomes documented in your module specifications so, aside from the specifics of the task, your main aim is to demonstrate real understanding by doing what has been asked of you.  If you do that, then by definition you will at least get a pass.  If your work demonstrates some mature insight and perceptiveness beyond that which we reasonably expect for a pass level answer then clearly you get higher marks.

  • The requirements must be met in order to maximise your marks. So, for example, if you are asked for ten risks and you produce a fantastic risk register with, perhaps, additional commentary and lots of references, but only provide eight risks, we cannot mark it as highly as we would like.  It will still be recognised that, overall, you have demonstrated depth of understanding, albeit marks will be reduced to reflect failure to deliver all that was required.
  • Conversely, if a piece of work includes ten risks, but they are either ridiculously unrealistic or all the same (e.g. ten different members of the project team all getting ill!), or contain little in the way of additional information (scoring, mitigating and contingency actions, etc.), then you will have been deemed to have missed the basic requirements of the brief.  Hence clearly you will fail.

You do not need technical knowledge to do this well. We want you to show you can follow process regardless of the project case study you choose.  For example, for the refurbishment of Chapman Hall we don’t need to know details of, say, steel substructures supporting tiered seating for an adaptable and flexible lecture theatre. All we need to know is that you have recognised that tiered seating will need to be designed and installed by specialists. That might include ripping up the existing floor but it might not. We don’t know because we are not experts, so you decide one way or another and state that as an assumption.  It’s applied common sense all the way through and nothing else.  As another example, we don’t expect you to have medical knowledge of what vaccinations would be required for a trip to Uganda (although you can look it up if you wish). What we do expect you to realise is that some form of medical planning process is required, that some students will need more jabs than others (as they may have had some already), etc.  You will need to allow a budget for that and build it into the planning process so perhaps there needs to be a ‘medical’ section for that case study’s WBS?  Just a thought!

Referencing: This is crucial and we DO expect this stuff to be referenced thoroughly, using Harvard-style in-text citations and not just a bibliography at the end of the document. Just because it is a fictitious example doesn’t mean no references are required. For example, references for the PID or risk register formats and structures used should be given – you must have got the ideas from somewhere so where do they come from (even if it is just the lecture notes)?  If you have used other documents to understand this case then reference those as well. You might, for example, have found risk registers or discussions relating to other launch events and you should provide those with the associated task. Hence the risk register might have a reference underneath it saying, “Derived from ….. (reference here)” but an individual risk line item might also be referenced within the risk register showing where you got the idea for the risk and how to manage it. Such a reference should be cited in the correct place in the risk register text just as you would any citation in body text. This applies to all tasks. If you have not referenced it we will assume you have completely made it up out of thin air with no inspiration from any other sources and your marks will be low at best or may fail.

Word count: This seems to cause issues every year so I am going to clarify as far as possible.  The university requires all module tasks to have a word count and actually there is QAA national guidance on this and not just our own local rules.  However, clearly word count is more relevant to an essay discussing something like socialist ideals represented in the novels of Charles Dickens than it is for a series of project planning tasks for this module, some of which may be diagrammatic. Hence, word count as provided in the assignment is a GUIDE ONLY.  Specifically, the word count required for the PID is deliberately designed to get you to think about producing a concise document – probably the PID needs to be about one to two pages and the stakeholder analysis could also be a page or two.  I know that the full rules about word count exclude stuff in tables and diagrams but whether or not you put the PID and stakeholder analysis in as tables and diagrams or as paragraphs (like this document) it still needs to be approx. the right number of words otherwise it fundamentally fails to fulfil the requirement of a PID, which, by definition, is a concise, summary document.

The other tasks should cause less issues about word count. I’m not going to define how many words go into a risk register with ten risks, and how ‘wordy’ you make your WBS is up to you but we do expect you to take some notice of the guidelines around the additional narrative stuff – such as ‘a paragraph’ (which probably means about 5-15 lines, as in the paragraphs in this document you are reading now), or the guidance for the report to sponsor (assignment 2).

Note also that this 2021 delivery of the module splits the work up into two separate assignments to be submitted at two points in the semester.  Regardless of which fictitious case you choose, the tasks are the same for all cases and you absolutely do not need to have any technical knowledge at all of construction, events management, app development or travel organisation in order to be able to get 100% in all tasks. It is all about applied common sense and using standard Project Management tools, techniques and processes.

What now follows is an attempt to provide additional information for each task.

Assginment 1 part 1 – PID and Stakeholder Analysis

We teach you that a typical PID (also known as a Project Charter or Terms of Reference) is simply a short summary document, usually produced at the beginning of a project, which can be circulated to anyone who wants/needs to know to give an idea of the overall concept and major parameters. The lecture slides are very clear about what is usually contained within one. The example in the lecture slides is very good as it is short and sweet and clearly differentiates between approach and objective, something that students often get wrong.

Crucially important: We don’t really care too much about the specific details (e.g. whether a specific item costs £2,000 or £4,000) within it but we do care about how you derived them.   For example, if you are planning an event and there will be catering you might choose to say that the total budget is split across, say, four key areas, one of which is catering. You could just put a number in – for example £10,000. However, where do you get that number? You could say it is for 1,000 people at £10/head but even that is just a guess isn’t it?   Max marks will be given to those who have done a little research and referenced some pricing for catering and shown what one gets for £10k or whatever you choose to spend. Does that include drink? How many are you catering for? Are there several sub-events? Don’t go into too much detail as that is not what a PID is for but give the reader a sense of what the project is going to consist of, how the budget is allocated and, as appropriate, show us how and why you came up with those numbers.

Maybe the detail should be put in an appendix?  It’s up to you but does need planning and you should not just completely guess everything! Within the PID itself we have set a limit of ten lines of information about budget (so nothing more than a simple summary breakdown) but if you wish to add more detail then attach that in an appendix and refer to it in the PID.  As a guide here remember what a PID is for – it’s mostly to give a short summary of your proposed project to someone else (typically senior) so what do they want to know? They probably want some sort of awareness of how your money is going to be spent but the sponsor (and us) doesn’t care about the specific price of, say, hiring a marquee for an event or painting a wall in Chapman Hall.  I therefore recommend some simplistic level of breakdown of costs but not in too much detail. However, all that is up to you to show you understand the point of a PID and can best decide what needs to go in this one!

We strongly encourage you to make sensible assumptions and put all that in an Appendix and refer to it in the main body of the document. For example, next to the budget in the PID you might use the ‘footnote’ function in Word like this: For detailed budget breakdown see Appendix A[1] (see the bottom of this page for how that looks – it’s just an example but I am suggesting it as a way of laying this all out clearly).

The same should apply to timescales so feel free to explain any assumptions you are making – common sense is the order of the day here – but the headline dates, etc. are in the brief anyway.  BUT what about some of the preliminary stuff that could be done in advance in terms of early planning, prep, purchasing, etc.?  That might affect exactly when you say the project starts.

Objectives (WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO DO?) These are fairly easy but think about what those might be. An objective is a business goal. The objective is NOT to have a sports event or take people on a trip or refurb a space!  WHY are you actually bothiring to do this?  Think about multiple objectives. Think in terms of marketing goals, competitive positioning, attracting students, supporting staff, improving the student experience, etc. etc.

Approach (HOW ARE WE TRYING TO DO IT?) is probably the part of the PID that you might struggle with most and what we are looking for here is a logical high level approach to achieving the above objectives (there needs to be connection between objective and approach).  It’s all applied common sense so think about how you would go about it. Let’s think about the Chapman Hall refurbishment idea.  What else has the university done that might be similar? Who did they use for the work? What do staff and students think is needed?  What might a specialist lecture theatre architect recommend?  Clearly you do not know so to answer that you would have to find them and ask them. So maybe part of your approach section might be to identify experienced suppliers. Maybe you will use some of your budget to buy in specialist design expertise. Maybe that already exists in the uni – say in the Facilities Management department. That’s an assumption you have a right to make but you need to state it so we know where you are going with your logic.

If you are going to use another university department to help then that becomes a part of your approach – a part of the story of how you intend to make this project a success.  Who is going to provide the seating, redecorate the hall, install new AV equipment? When do you do it to minimise disruption to teaching sessions? How do you ensure parking for the workers doing the work? We don’t need names but clearly the process of finding and selecting such resources and solving these problems is a part of your approach to delivering this project successfully. None of that is beyond any student to come up with and document in a few simple bullet points as per the example in the lecture slides. Note that the example in the slides does not give lots of detail but makes five powerful and useful statements about the process the team is going to go through to make a success of the project. That’s what we need from you too.  Also remember to reference!

Stakeholder analysis should include a list of key stakeholders covering examples of everything from advocates to blockers and all points in between as far as you can think of them.  BUT it must be so much more than a list – it’s an ANALYSIS!. To make it an analysis you need to explain the significance of each stakeholder and something about their likely attitude AND what this analysis means to the project manager. In other words why do we care about this stakeholder (e.g. existing students or local residents or builders or staff or other universities, etc.) and what are we going to do about them, if anything? It’s all about how stakeholders impact the project management process and if you miss that then you have failed to achieve the learning for that part. It is suggested you take a version of the example in the lecture slides week 3 and adapt that for this specific project. This is what makes the difference between pass work and good work – the application. A list of stakeholders is of marginal value. An analysis that shows why they are important and how you are going to manage them is of great value – hence far more marks.

Assignment 1 part 2 – WBS

If you have done all the above well then the WBS should reflect that and hence be good. Too many students just list everything in chronological order and you have a totally serial WBS which is frankly useless and not realistic. We need to see the same logic I describe above applied to a task schedule, showing where things can be done in parallel and where there are real and sensible dependencies and that your WBS reflects the timescales defined in the PID and the tasks reflect your approach.  I suggest you do NOT produce a full Gantt chart as it is extra work and you will not get more marks for it but if you are familiar with MS Project then you are free to use that tool to produce your WBS and in which case it will generate a Gantt chart for you anyway.  Include a few sensibly chosen milestones and discuss the concept and importance of critical path. I strongly suggest you use a format similar to the example given in the lecture slides.  The assignment spec asks you to set your WBS out as a diagram (as per the examples in the seminars) but we will accept a correctly structured WBS based around levels of indented bullets as shown in the Gantt chart example in the lecture slides.  There are many similar examples available online and in text books so use one and make sure you reference your source. Don’t forget to do some research and reading around this so you can write the commentary paragraphs required. Add loads of useful references to show where you got everything.

Assignment 2 – Report to Sponsor – A) Risk Register

Write it as if you were writing to the sponsor (Director of Business School). So set it out as a professional report, perhaps with a table of contents but don’t waste words on an executive summary or abstract.

Again, as with the rest of the module work, this is all about applied common sense and note that we have asked you to supply an example risk register (that does not mean covering every risk you can think of) that again shows you understand the principles.  We want at least ten specific example risks and they need to be a range of risks from the mundane (e.g. project manager gets sick) to the extreme (e.g. terrorist attack or dangerous pandemic!). We want to see you cover different types of issues using examples from the lecture and seminar activity and anything else you think of.  The point is that again you need to demonstrate understanding. Be specific. Do not have a risk that is simply ‘run out of money’ or ‘sickness’. That’s too generalist. You are giving examples so give an example risk such as ‘Project Manager goes on long term sick leave’.   If you can produce suggested actions to mitigate these or contingency actions in case they happen anyway then you will be getting there and we can give solid marks. The scoring needs to make sense (no point in scoring the terrorist attack as high likelihood but low impact!) and something about post-mitigation/contingency scores would be good to include as well. Remember again to produce a short discussion of a paragraph or so with some additional references to demonstrate understanding.  You’ll need to do a bit of research for that bit.

Assignment 2 – Report to Sponsor – B) Project closure and C) Methodologies

This report to the sponsor needs to say something like “You need to make sure the project is deliberately finished well and does not just fizzle out otherwise…” All we then want is a persuasive argument showing why it is important and what it means to finish your project in a deliberate and planned manner.  The lecture week on this topic will give you everything you need but you MUST apply the general theory and principles to your specific chosen case. What do you need to do to close your particular project correctly and gain maximum benefit?  Use examples and reference them well. Better students will reference every few sentences in this so use referenced examples throughout to illustrate your points. The same then applies to methodologies but there is absolutely no right or wrong answer here. All methodologies have their strengths and weaknesses so be aware that we do not have a hidden agenda that you have to work out or guess. We simply need you to write a persuasive argument one way or another. That means you will have to research, cite correctly and demonstrate understanding of the strengths and weakness of PRINCE2, Waterfall and Agile and come up with some sort of a final recommendation.  Don’t miss one out – you will lose marks. Make sure you spend time on applied recommendations. Give good, project-specific reasons as to why this is your choice.  You will not get max marks if your answer here is entirely generic and could apply to any project. Specific application to your case moves your marks from ordinary to good or very good.

Tim Hill, December 2020


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