Expository Essay on Swanwick IT Project

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Middlebury College
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An upsurge of the demand of air services in the UKs airspace prompted the need to initiate the process of developing an integrated control information system that would meet the new safety requirements. The upgrade began with a clear definition of the scope project. The process was then divided into verifiable chronological phases with each phase assigned distinct activities and the goals of performing such activities. Notably, the process of developing a new system at Swanwick was divided into two major phases; hardware development and software development. The phase for the development of hardware was implemented within schedule, that is, in 1991.The upgrade of the systems software was completed in January 2002.This time of completion was way behind schedule since the time for full implementation of the project was set to take place in 1996. As revealed in the case study, the delay was caused by several factors associated with the complexity of managing of large IT projects.

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Evaluation of the Performance of the Project

Measurement of the performance of a project is a major source of lessons for project managers. For instance, project measurement may be used as a tool for determining the unique challenges that affect the implementation of certain projects. In this regard, some project management scholars have argued that the success or failure of a project may not be conclusively determined due to the different interpretations of the terms success and failure. Other academicians suggest that evaluation of the success or failure of a project can be determined by assessing the critical factors for successful project delivery (Elattar, 2009). To this end, various definitions emerge in regards to what actually constitutes project failure or success.

Cost, schedule and quality have been suggested as the most important factors that project managers use to measure the success or failure of a project. This criterion holds that delivering a quality project within a predetermined budget and time satisfies the goals and objectives of the project(Elattar, 2009).If the mentioned factors do not measure up to the projections envisaged at the planning stage, then the whole project may be considered as a failure. This description is critical in the sense that projects must run within budget constraints and also be delivered within the set deadlines for investors to justify the need for committing their financial resources. In the case of the Swanwick project, it is clear that elements of cost and timeline were not satisfied. For instance, the cost of the project was initially estimated at 215.5 million British pounds (based on 1989 prices).In 1991, the total budget was raised to 310.2 million pounds and further escalated to 885 million pounds by the time of its completion in November 2001.Besides, the completion time was extended from 1996 to 2002(Genus, Rigakis, & Dickson, 2003).By this criteria, the Swanwick systems development project can be termed as a failure.

Failure can also be seen in the inability of the project leaders to manage risks associated with the development of the system. Since the demand for air services in the UK air space had been expected to increase drastically by the end of the 20th century, the delay in the delivery of the system meant that aircraft risks in the UK airspace increased. For example, traffic control systems often failed due to overload and such situations led to the cancellation of flights. Also, the risks of collision increased which, in turn, diminished the safety standards of the country (Genus, Rigakis, & Dickson, 2003).As such, the delay in the delivery of the project did not mitigate the risks that it was initially intended. For this reason, it can be considered as a failure.

Despite the widespread use of cost, time, and risk mitigation as tools for evaluating project success or failure, there is a consensus among scholars that obtaining a valid measurement of project success is a challenging task considering that the concept success itself is intangible (Muller & Turner, 2007; Elattar, 2009). Although technical and financial measures are critical indicators of success or failure of projects, they only show the extent to which projects can be termed as complete. Most usually, expectations and perceptions of the contractor, client and engineers are vital indicators of the success or failure of projects (Elattar, 2009). As such, end-users can be a valuable source of information as to whether a project failed or succeeded. By the same stroke, a project may be considered as a failure in the short-term, but once users experience the technology or IT infrastructure, they may classify the project as a success. For instance, the Swanwick project may have taken six more years to accomplish and more financial resources than initially budgeted for, but evidence suggests that the outcome was of quality (Genus, Rigakis, & Dickson, 2003).Moreover, a positive assessment of the effect of the project can be a useful tool for categorizing a project as successful or failure. As such, outcomes such as the positive impact on the customer and flight control personnel, and efficiency may be good indicators of success (Elattar, 2009). Therefore, the project cannot be termed entirely as a failure.

Leadership Style

As a project manager, one needs to adopt a particular leadership style for them to motivate employees and ensure successful management of projects. According to Muller and Turner (2007), the type of the project that is being undertaken dictates the competency profiles and leadership style project managers should have for successful outcomes of project implementation. Similarly, an IT project such as the Swanwick project requires unique competencies and leadership styles.

In reference to the Swanwick project, the adoption of involving and engaging leadership styles is likely to give one of the best outcomes. A study conducted by Muller and Turner (2007) find that involving leaders are best-suited to medium complexity projects whereas engaging leaders achieve superior results in high complexity projects. Since Swanwick project is a large IT project (and entails the construction of sub-systems which can be considered as medium engagements), it is appropriate to adopt a leadership style that involves and engages employees, clients and other stakeholders in the implementation process for meaningful results to be realized.

Several studies have found that project managers who involve stakeholders in the process of project implementation find better ways of enhancing the execution project programs (Sofijanova & Zabijakin - Chatleska, 2013).Throughout the implementation phase of the project, managers need to seek the participation of teams as a way of obtaining information relating the progress of the project. In an efficient communication system, teams promptly share information and identify those areas that may require management support. Such relationship in project management avoids disruptions occasioned by the evolution of project activities. For instance, involvement enables project managers to establish support and training needs of teams. As Genus, Rigakis, and Dickson (2003) reveal, the decision to leave air traffic controllers at the initial phases of the design of the system at Swanwick denied the project managers the chance to receive the input from users, leading to several errors that eventually caused delays. Also, involvement would allow easier identification and resolution of risks since the participation of every individual in the process motivates teams to discuss issues with the managers as and when they arise (Sofijanova & Zabijakin - Chatleska, 2013; Rajablu, Marthandan, & Yusoff, 2014).

The UKs Association for Project Management (2017) describes engagement as the continuous interaction of project managers with stakeholders especially the executives of the organization that is undertaking the project. Regular updates on progress should be given to top management and any suggestions for reviews submitted in time to avoid delays that result from the lack of information on the part of the executives. This close partnership is a critical success factor in the sense that it allows sponsors to understand the active role they need to play for the desired project goals and objectives to be realized.

Muller and Turner (2007), however, note that involving and engaging leadership styles are not an end in themselves. Their study finds that such leadership styles should be complemented with personal traits such as high emotional intelligence and high sensitivity to variations of circumstances. In context, emotional resilience can allow project managers to overcome the pressure that is associated with managing complex work (such as IT projects) and large teams. On the other hand, sensitivity is crucial in complex projects since any failure identify slight variations in activities of IT projects may result in catastrophic consequences.

Benefits Management Approach at Swanwick IT Project

A majority of the project management methodologies tend to classify projects as successful when deliverables such as cost, time and quality are met. Conversely, the benefits approach defines success in terms realization of the desired objectives. The process entails definition, planning, structuring and achievement of the benefits as envisaged at the conception phase of the project (Karamitsos, Apostolopoulos, & Bugami, 2010). If for instance, the client wants to a develop a customer relations management system and expects the new system to increase company sales by 30%, then the project cannot be termed as complete before the sales rise above 30%. An achievement below this target is considered as a failure even though the customer relations system was delivered on time and also within the budget. Given these advantages, this approach is befitting in addressing the systems challenges highlighted in the Swanwick IT project.

Benefits management approach begins with benefits identification. Here, envisaged outcomes or target savings are stated. This phase underscores the reason for carrying out the project and how the business of the organization in question would be enhanced when the project is complete (Karamitsos, Apostolopoulos, & Bugami, 2010).In the context of Swanwick, failure to define the success of the project played a role in derailing it. As Genus, Rigakis, and Dickson (2003) explain, inadequate definition of the benefits makes project leaders concentrate more on deliverables than its expected benefits. And since this methodology is a continuous commitment to the benefits as opposed to systems development, implementation, and operation, the outcomes of the project may fail to meet the expectations of the users if more weight is given to deliverables.

Plan realization phase spells out the various activities that need to be done are outlined. Plans are evaluated against the goals and objectives of the project and each activity. Also, the roles and responsibilities of teams and individuals are outlined. As such, this phase provides the control mechanisms through which feedback on the progress of the project is provided to ensure the process stays in line with predetermined goals (Karamitsos, Apostolopoulos, & Bugami, 2010).Since the project at Swanwick entails three major phases, the activities of each phase should be aligned in such a way that they seek to solve the problem of heavy air traffic in the UKs airspace.

The Executive plan contains an outline of how the entire process is linked to the goals and objectives of managing the project. This plan details the interplay between systems development, implementation and opera...

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