System Analysis and Design Toolkit

System Analysis and Design Toolkit Part 4 Questions/Answers – Information Systems Research (300 Level Course)

1. What is project management, and what are its main objectives?

Answer: Project Management is the process of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the development of an information system. The goal of project management is to deliver an information system that is acceptable to users and is developed on time and within budget. Acceptability, deadline, and budget criteria all must be met for a project to be considered successful.

2. What is the relationship between tasks, and events, or milestones?

Answer: Project planning takes place at the beginning and end of each SDLC phase to develop a plan and schedule for the phases that follow. This process begins with a list of tasks or activities. Tasks are defined as any work that has a beginning and an end and requires the use of company resources. Examples of tasks are conducting interviews, designing reports, and selecting software.

An event or milestone on the other hand is a recognizable reference point that can be used to monitor progress and manage the project. Examples of events are: start of user training, conversion of system data.

3. If Project A has twice as many resources as Project B, will Project A be twice as complex as Project B? Why or why not?

Answer: Project A might actually require considerably more than twice as many resources as Project B. As team sizes increase the number of interactions also increases and thus as many relationships can mean more delay, misunderstandings, and difficulty in coordinating tasks.

Also the scope of the project could vary greatly between the projects. If one project has more deliverables regardless of the team size the complexity is effected.

4. What is the difference between sequential and concurrent tasks?

Answer: Sequential tasks are considered dependent tasks because they cannot be started until one or more other tasks are completed.

5. Compare the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of a Gantt chart to a PERT/CPM chart?

Answer: Gantt charts are horizontal bar charts that represent a series of tasks. Time is generally on the horizontal axis and the activities are arranged vertically, from top to bottom, in the order of their start dates. Gantt charts are used to report progress because they present an overview of the project’s status. However, they are not an ideal tool for controlling a complex project because they do not provide enough detailed information.

The U.S. Navy developed PERT(Program Evaluation Review Technique) charts to manage very complex projects such as the construction of a submarine. At the same time a private firm developed CPM (Critical Path Method) to meet similar demands. The differences in each method have disappeared over time, and today they are synonymous. PERT/CPM is a bottom-up technique, because it analyzes a large, complex project as a series of individual tasks, called project tasks. First you identify all tasks and assign a time value to them. Next you determine the logical order for those tasks and if some tasks can be performed at the same time. Once you know the tasks, their times, and their order you know the approximate length of the project.

6. Define the following terms:

Best Case Estimate – this would be the optimistic time for a task completion.
Probable Case Estimate – most realistic time for task completion.
Worst Case Estimate – pessimistic time for a task to be completed.

How can a project manager use these concepts to estimate task duration?

Traditional PERT techniques use a weighted formula for calculating the estimated duration of each task. The PM first makes three estimates for each task: best case (b), probable (p), and worst case (w). The manager then assigns a weight to each estimate. The weight can vary, but a common approach is to use a ratio of B = 1, P = 4, and W = 1.

The expected task duration is calculated as follows:

(B + 4P + W) / 6

7. How does a project manager calculate EF, ES, LS, and LF?


EF – (earliest finish) – is the earliest time that a task can be completed. To calculate the EF, you add the task durations (T) to the ES for that task. For example, if a task has an ES of 15, and the duration (T) for the task is 3 days, then the EF will be 18.

ES – (earliest start) – The first task can begin at zero time. The next task, however, cannot begin until the first task is completed, so the ES for the following task is the EF of the preceding task.

LS – (latest start) – is the latest time that a task can begin without delaying the overall project. You must first know the LF then you subtract T (task duration) from LF in order to know when the task must start.

LF – (latest finish) – is the latest time that a task can be completed without delaying the overall project. The LF for the final task is the same as as the EF for that task, because it also represents the project’s final completion date. As you work your way left, the LS for a following task becomes the LF for the preceding task.

8. What is the critical path and why is it important to project managers?

Answer: A critical path is a series of tasks with no slack time. Slack time is the difference between a tasks EF and LF. This is important for project managers because they have the ability to find a particular task that could be days late before it would impact the overall project completion date. However, if any project on the critical path falls behind then the entire project is behind.

9. What are some project reporting and communication techniques?

Answer: The project manager first collects, verifies, organizes, and evaluates the information he or she receives from the team. Then the PM decides which information needs to be passed along, prepares a summary that can be understood easily, adds comments and explanations if needed, and submits it to management and users.

Project Status Meetings – regularly scheduled meetings with the entire project team. Each member updates the group and identifies any problems or delays.

Project Status Reports – Although progress reports might be given verbally to an immediate supervisor, reports to management and users are usually written. Gantt charts are often included in progress reports to show a graphical representation of the status.

10. What is software change control, and what are the four steps typically involved?

Answer: Software change control is the process of managing and controlling changes requested after the system requirements document has been submitted and accepted. A procedure for processing requests for changes to an information system’s requirements consists of four steps:

a. Complete a change request form by the person requesting the change.

b. Take initial action on the request form. Coordinator enters a sequential control number and the date on the change request form, reviews the specific change, and then determines if the change should be deferred or rejected. A copy of the form is sent back to the requestor.

c. Analyze the impact of the requested change. PM or a systems analyst must review the request and determine the impact of incorporating the change into the requirements.

d. Determine the disposition of the requested change. Based on the prior three conditions the change might be accepted, deferred, or rejected. In each of the cases, the project coordinator informs the requestor of the action taken.