4 Dimensions of Project Management

4DimensionThere are 4D’s of any software project management. Any successful or efficient Project Managers uses these 4D’s as a trade-offs or leveraging techniques when dealing with the management. The 4D’s of project management namely – Duration, Cost, Scope and Risk are used by Project Managers to handle any change requests while maintaining the feasibility of the projects.

Scenario 1 – Project Managers with only 1 dimension: Duration

The PM presents the plan and schedule to the management and is inevitably asked the question which is always asked:” How can we make this faster?”

PM response: The PM slumps in his chair and starts stuttering, “We can’t change anything, this is the only way of doing it and changing anything at this stage will lead to disaster.”

Management response: They go ahead anyway and slash the duration to what they want and ask the PM to do it anyway. Please note, management relishes the opportunity to take strategic decisions based on data and they don’t respond too well to vague terms like disaster or no change.

Here the project manager was caught in a typical 1-Dimension situation wherein the only option or alternative that he was able to give to the management was Duration. He was either unprepared or unwilling to give any alternatives or trade-offs options to the management and that led to a disastrous scenario. So now the PM is stuck with a shorter duration with no increase in the budget and no reduction in scope of the project.

A different outcome could have been accomplished if the PM would have come up with multiple Duration and Costs options. If faced with the inevitable question of “How can we do it faster?” the better response to the management is sure we can do it faster and we can do it cheaper too. I have these options which you can take a look at and then make an informed decision. I have this option 1 which will complete the project in 6 months at a cost of half a million dollars. I have another option in which we can complete the project in 4 months only but in that scenario I will have to hire a Graphics designer and an extra developer which will add a cost of 60 thousand dollar to the project.

What is the immediate effect of the presentation of these multiple options to the management? The management starts giving respect to the PM and he is being perceived as somebody who is intelligent and knows what he is doing. In short, they become aware of the fact that they are dealing with somebody who cannot be bulldozed with statements like “This is when i want the things to complete and please make sure that it is done.” Secondly Management is happy that they are being asked to make a strategic decision based on some data instead of vague threats like disaster.

There is a high possibility that even after being presented with the multiple options and various dimensions the management still goes ahead and start playing 1-Dimension card. This is when the PM has to be intelligent and ready enough to take out the 3rd dimension that is the Scope card.

“Sure if you still want the duration of the project to be shorter at no additional cost then i will have to reduce the scope of the project to achieve them and here are the options for them.”

There is very high probability that even after playing all the 3 dimensions of the project management, the PM might not get everything that he desired but we will surely be able to negotiate something and at least come out of the meeting with a feasible project. Last but not the least the PM would have gained the respect and credibility of the management which would go a long way in maintaining the sanity of the project as the project goes along. The trade-offs (Duration, Cost, Scope and Risk) are very effective tools that needs to be presented to the decision-makers so that they can take realistic decisions. To be able to present these trade-offs , the PM should be able to quantify each of these trade-offs and present as many as options to the executives.

One – Dimension Projects : Most of the internal applications that are developed in an organization are one dimensional. The only tangible option that the executives have are the duration. There is no explicit project budget and there is no assessment of risks that are done. Not surprisingly, most of the discussions and decisions are around the duration of the project as that is the only measurable entity that is before the management. Scope creep, bloated budget and slipped deadlines are common in one-dimension projects.

Two – Dimension projects :  Some organizations do add a second dimension to their plans – Duration and Cost. The benefits of adding this dimension is tremendous as now the management understands that adding a new feature or changing a feature is not “free” anymore. There is a cost involved. Even if the Cost of the project might not be paid by the end client, the management now becomes aware of the Scope creep and the cost involved with it. This knowledge is a major step forward and helps tremendously in controlling the scope creep.

Three – Dimension projects : Things get much better if the PM adds the third dimension and is able to quantify the scope of the project. By decomposing and quantifying the scope of the project, the management now has a measurable view of each of the feature sets and their impact on the business results. This trade-off becomes more powerful when it is complemented with the two dimensions mentioned above – Duration and Cost. Consider these two options and one will realize the effect of presenting this dimension with the other two dimensions.

Option 1: “Develop this particular feature capable of serving 90000 users at a cost of 100000 dollars in 6 months.”

Option 2: “Develop this particular feature capable of service 50000 users at a cost of 60000 dollars in 4 months.”

Now the management directly sees the desired business result that they are going to get and at what cost and duration.

Four – Dimension Projects: The fourth dimensions adds the assessment of risks to the projects. When this dimension is added to the project management, this gives the ability to the management to see at what level of certainty they want to achieve in the project and at what cost and duration. When the management listens to “We can deliver the agreed scope of the application with 60 % confidence at a cost of 1 million in 6 months”, they are more confident of taking the decision and are vary of creeping of the scope as they are now aware that any change request will affect all the duration, cost and Risk.

 

About Abhinav Ranjan

Technologist | Strategist
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