As technology advances and the span of online courses give individuals the opportunities for to advance their education it has become important for Arden University to stay ahead of its competition and on the heels of its success they have been able to offer a fully comprehensive online university model. Lessons are given through a variety of media and include live and recorded sessions for students. This has allowed the university to become a leader in full online learning. It’s with this success that the university’s comprehensive model has developed a term known as e-university. As stated by Safieddine, Ismail and Kulaki (2017 cited by Bacsich, 2004, p.1), E university is defined as ‘virtual university’, an educational institution that carries out its teaching at a distance from the learner; and it said that E- universities need to have put in place strategies that exploits underused capacities of technologies to enable better student engagement, motivation and higher order thinking skills by Safieddine, Ismail and Kulaki (2017 cited by Hedberg, 2006; Laurillard, 2008).
Arden’s vision and mission is to be a leader and pioneer in advances in educational development.
It is with this vision and mission that the university must take into consideration that research should be done to recognize the challenges associated with distance learning. Research can be done to understand the learning styles of the students that take courses online. Phipps and Merisotis (1999) cited by Islam, Beer and Slack (2015) has recommended that there needs to be emphasis on student differences in regards to an individual’s age, educational experience, motivation and learning style. In an attempt to do carry out research and development to continue to adequately meet the needs of students, the university has decided to upgrade their portfolio with a grant given for funding to carry out such.
Current Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) sites pose a threat to the university as these sites are able to reach a wide array of students and offers a wide variety of courses online. These sites include but are not limited to Edx and Coursera (Nguyen, 2015) who in addition to offering paid for courses offer a widespread collection of free courses that persons can undertake and also take these courses streamlined at their own pace.
In an attempt to increase motivation of students and cater to their learning styles it is important for the project manager to offer a new medium for accessing coursework on platforms such as the Google app store, Apple store or Amazon app store.
It also proves effective to have research done on the benefits of increasing their ability to offer adequate online courses and investing in such research that would enable them to gather data and find ways to offer the best online modules to students. The basis of this case study would be on the effectiveness of such research.
Project Management is defined as the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives (APM, 2018) whilst Portfolio Management is defined as the selection, prioritization and control of an organization’s projects and programmess in line with its strategic objectives and capacity to deliver. The goal is to balance change initiatives and business-as-usual while optimizing return on investment (APM, 2018)
The strategic objective stated by Arden University is why research on the deliverability of programmes and coursework through the implementation of mobile phone platforms is an attempt to reach students in a way that they would not have considered before. Would this medium have a positive impact on online students? Within Portfolio management and Project Management are planning and control principles that can guide the project manager in the development of research that can aid in this initiative while at the same time ensuring that the money that was granted is utiltized and value to the organization must be evaluated. These tools are identified as work scheduling and work breakdown structure.
When planning for the success of the project it is always important during your evaluation to base the portfolio and project on the benefits that would arise from the implementation of a new project, in this case the introduction of app based accessibility of modules. In addition to this, the project manager can incorporate within the software to be developed, interactive features which allow students to communicate in real time with fellow students, student support and instructors.
(Harsasi ; Surawijaya, 2018), suggests that student satisfaction is important in the evaluation of distance learning as it is related to the quality of online learning and student performance. With proper planning the quality of material set out on mobile platforms can meet the needs of a diverse number of potential students. The first step in planning the steps to fulfill the vision of the university is to set up work scheduling. Work scheduling, according to (APM, 2018), “is the process of developing, maintaining and communicating schedules for time and resource and shows how the work will progress over a period of time and takes into account factors such as limited resources and estimating uncertainty”. Although there may be uncertainty with the implementation of such a project, the scheduling of tasks can set out clear guidelines as to what the main goal is to be achieved. Work scheduling works in tandem with the work breakdown structure which is “a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. It organizes and defines the total scope of the project.” (PMI, 2018). In an attempt to clearly list out what needs to be done and the process in which the work will be carried out, the work breakdown structure would facilitate outlining the steps and processes needed to carry out the project while at the same time lessen the probability of ambiguity.
Within the work breakdown structure, task will be divided listing out the needed steps to create the new modes of accessing school and programme information from the app. Broken down into sections the IT project team can conduct testing of each part of the app being developed to ensure that it offers as much information as would the website. These measures will ensure that tasks are monitored and controlled to test for quality of the final product being created. Design of the project tasks could be set up through the use of a project network diagram which would show what tasks start or finish at any given time throughout the project and which tasks cannot be started on the task and the assessment of the design and layout of each task before the project is written off as completed and ready for availability to students and university staff. Tasks can be laid out using a Gantt chart or critical path chart to help in setting out the goals to be accomplished.
Taking into consideration the competition that Arden University needs to prepare for, strategies and management methodologies need to be put in place to help in the procurement of the project to be undertaken.
An effective methodology within project management that can assist in the effectiveness of the initiative of the project is the use of the Prince2 methodology, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environment is structured by the projects business case and has processes clearly defined allowing it to stay within time and cost. It is a linear form of agile project management that “is about starting the project, initiating it, continuing the management process with the given guidelines, and finally finishing the project” (KnowledgeHut Editor, 2018).
Recognizing that a venture such as app applications not only creates opportunities to widen the universities market to deliver online education to persons around the world and that this new project can also allow for an increase in revenue to the university; it is very important in the planning to ensure that the financial planning which included cost and budget for such a venture is clearly laid out. (Grundy, 2001), describes strategic project management as, “the process of managing complex projects by combining business analysis and project management techniques in order to implement the business strategy and to deliver organizational breakthroughs.’ It is within these breakthroughs that the projects financial planning takes place and along with the processes, including the work breakdown structure being defined, timelines are set up, costs per task are identified and the project manager must ensure that there isn’t any infringement on any intellectual property rights of the university or any governing bodies.
Within the financial planning of the project, is a budget that is allocated for the new task that is being undertaken. (Wilson & Schwartz, 2011), suggests that, “The key to managing the cost side of the cost/benefit equation is to be transparent about what is being managed and having the appropriate mechanisms in place to plan, track, and report expenditures over the life of the effort.” Quantitative measurement tools that can be used, to assess the cost and benefits to the project that’s about to take place include the return on investment. Return on investment (ROI) is defined by (Brown, 2007) as a “calculation of the rate of return for a given investment for a given period of time.”, it is during this time that the university and the IT project manager can decide if the apps created would be offered free of purchase to students or if a small fee would be charged in an attempt to recoup some of the money invested to create this new means of online learning. At this same time within the financial planning the payback period analysis can also be assessed. Payback period is defined as the “measure of time until the total cash or benefits received for the project equal or exceed the total costs” (Brown, 2007). The project manager may not be fully equipped with the analytical skills to calculate these two financial measurements and can at this time make the decision if assistance is needed from a financial professional to ensure the accuracy in spending and profit.
Corporate governance relates to “how a corporation is directed (by processes, policies, laws, and institutions) and to how different stakeholders (directors, managers, shareholders, staff, suppliers, and customers) work with each other to achieve corporate goals” (Sharma et al., 2009) cited by (Too, et al., 2017). Within this article it also states that a correlation between governance can lead to project success and it is this success that can help in Arden University thriving throughout the competition that could occur from the online university sites that were mentioned earlier.
In addition, one way of protecting the university, is the copyrighting any of the designs and features of the app created, this in turn can aid in the university being an innovator in the concepts they’ve created for online or e- learning. A copyright gives the university the right to own the system they create and in a first mover approach can offer a return on their investment if another university wishes to offer a similar model for reaching students.
It is important for a project manager facilitating any task be able to relay a sense of openness to his/ her team while at the same time being the leader of the task set out. The implementation of a new medium designed to expand the possibilities with that of online learning efficiently offered by Arden University while at the same time staying true to the vision and mission and staying within budget means that the project manager must have the competencies and skills needed to motivate the workforce that would be instrumental in the design, testing and launch of the apps. Interpersonal skills, is explained by (Investopedia, 2018) as “the skills used by a person to interact with others properly.” It goes on to further state that, ‘in the business domain, the term generally refers to an employee’s ability to get along with others while getting the job done…and include everything from communication and listening skills to attitude and behavior.”
Katz suggests that managers and leaders must have a level of skills and competencies to be an efficient leader, these skills include technical, human and conceptual skills. Human skills are categorized people skills and are “the abilities that help a leader to work effectively with followers, peers, and superiors to accomplish the organization’s goals
While human skills focuses on the person to person relationship, technical skills are involved with “knowledge about and proficiency in a specific type of work or activity. It includes competencies in a specialized area, analytical ability, and the ability to use appropriate tools and techniques cited by (Northouse, 2016) in Katz, 1955) with this the IT project manager has the skills needed to create the software needed to outperform other competitors.
Critical interpersonal skills a project would need to have in order to commence this project include, communication, leadership and conflict management, just to name a few.
Communication is a necessary skill needed by the project manager as he must be able to relay information and receive information for his team with the progress and stages of completion of the project. According to (APM, 2018) delegation is such that “by distributing work, it is also a tool for motivating and training teams and individuals to realize their full potential. By delegating task to different team members, each person involved gains a sense of importance as their task determines the success or failure of the project and through motivation carried out by the interpersonal skill of leadership the project manager can ensure that guidance and support is giving along the projects cycle.
Leadership is defined as “the ability to establish vision and direction, to influence and align others towards a common purpose, and to empower and inspire people to achieve success” (APM, 2018). Leadership can be broken down into two categories, a transformational leader or a transactional leader. A transformational leader is often described as charismatic and as such involves “assessing followers’ motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full human beings” (Northouse, 2016). This type of leadership has the propensity to encourage team members to go above what is expected of them. On the other hand, a transactional leader is one who conducts his leadership in the form of an exchange, if you do or complete a specific task, you will be rewarded and it is said that “Transactional leaders are influential because it is in the best interest of followers for them to do what the leader wants (Kuhnert & Lewis, 1987 cited by Northouse, 2016). Towards the project’s success these interpersonal skills alongside a transformational leader can achieve a well streamlined team that work towards project accomplishment.
In an effort to show the processes that will take place there must be a scheduling of tasks involved in the development and application launch, the IT project manager must create a Gantt chart which represents actives against a calendar, the length of the bar represents the activity duration with links between the bars (Association for Project Management, 2006). In the Gantt chart, processes and steps are laid out that the project team uses to guide them. The chart helps create a yard stick and would ensure that the project is not carried out unsystematically. It starts with the data gathering and the design of the database and continues on through the testing and launch of the app. It is said that in the Prince2 methodology, planning is an important and focuses on the product that is to be delivered and its quality is configured through a Gantt chart and project network diagram.
In the Gantt chart, the steps that would assist with the implementation and launch of the apps include:
1. Planning – Collect Data
2. Design Database
3. Design Software
4. Outline Sources from University
5. Outline Courses from University
6. Outline App Interface
7. Create and Analyze Specifications
8. Development of Modules
9. Integrate Modules and Resource Centers
10. Integrate Modules and Support Center
11. Integrate Modules and Adobe Connect
12. Perform Testing
13. Test Functionality of App Against Website
14. Functionality Testing and Maintenance
15. Implementation- Launch App
Another tool that is used in the planning and scheduling of the project is a project network diagram. (Wysocki, 2009), states that a “network diagram provides a visual layout of the sequence in which project work flows.” He further states that it “includes detailed information and serves as an analytical tool for project scheduling and resource management problems as they arise during the life of the project. The network diagram enables computing the earliest time at which the project can be completed”. Each step has dependencies which are relationships between specific tasks, which are finish-to-start, start-to-start, start-to-finish and finish-to-finish.
Information that would be entered in the network diagram:
1. Gathering Information
2. Gathering requirements
3. Determine Information for App
4. Create Processes
5. Design Interface
6. Design Platform
7. Develop Modules
8. Test Modules
9. Design Coursework
10. Test Modules and Coursework with interface
11. Test with university team
12. Sign off on accuracy
(See Appendix for diagrams)
It is imperative for a project manager to monitor and control the projects implementation and to ensure that the project is meeting the scope, budget, and is on schedule with the timelines that were set up in the initial planning of the project. Consideration must be taken into change management and control, and is “the process that ensures that all changes made to the projects scope, time, cost and quality objectives are identified, approved, rejected or defined” (APM, 2018). Change for instance could involve the university making a decision to add a new feature to the app being created such as a virtual reality. This change could be desirable but must be deemed necessary or unnecessary to the project and if these changes are indeed needed, they must be properly controlled and formally requested and evaluated, to analyze the benefits, the cost and the time it would additionally take to have this implementation into the project. If this has been approved the new addition must be scheduled. This scheduling must be added to the Gantt chart and a timeline for completion must be added.
Qualitative control comprises of three processes, planning, assurance and control. By going through these processes, the project manager can validate that the project is effectively meeting the university’s vision and mission, is being delivered on time, within budget, and according to specifications given. This can be cross referenced against the Gantt chart. Gantt charts are a great way of monitoring the project as it illustrates if a project is meeting its timelines and is an effective reporting tool that can be shown to the university management team.
A project manager must monitor and control the tasks that would lead to the project’s success and at the same time guarantee that there is no issues with the project. Within Prince2, any issues are documented in an issue log which once listed these issues can be taken care of so that they don’t impede on the project’s success.
The project manager can then formulate their report that would be given to the university’s team keeping them up to date with the status of the project, and included in the project manager’s report would also be the earned value management analysis and milestone trend charts.
An earned value management analysis is a method used to illustrate a projects performance. As a technique that can be used to monitor and control the projects performance, it shows actual work and is compared against planned and budgeted work expressed in equivalents. The earned value technique is illustrated using an S curve and is a “graphic display of cumulative costs, labour hours, percentage of work, or other quantities, plotted against time” (Association for Project Management, 2006). The earned value management technique is aligned with schedule performance index which is a measure of how close the project is to performing work as it was actually scheduled and cost performance index which is a is a measure of how close the project is to spending on the work performed to what was planned to have been spent (Wysocki, 2009).
Monitoring and controlling of the project is an important factor as it “… can help to produce updated pictures of how the project is progressing in terms of completion of activities, consumption of resources, delays, to improve and/or correct initial estimates adopted from the scheduling phase” (Cristóbal, 2017). This is effectively shown in the Prince2 methodology as the use of graphs and qualitative measures can aid in effective monitoring control and is a better format of ensuring the project is being carried out successfully.
According to (Tesch, et al., 2007) project risk, “involves understanding the potential for problems as they might impede project success.” Understanding the importance of this project to the university, the project manager within the Prince2 structure must create a risk management plan that identifies risks that could occur and opportunities to mitigate these risks.
Area Hazard/Risk Person at Risk Risk Level Precautions in Place Comments
Communication risk Goals not clearly communicated Project Team
University High 1. Communication to the team on the overall vision and mission of the university
2. Receive feedback from the team on the steps in creating the project
3. Through the Prince2 methodology a project charter can be created which would encompass the project’s vision, scope and end product in as much detailed information as is necessary Although risk is inevitable, the project manager must ensure that the project charter is created to afford opportunities to mitigate the risk from occurring.
Cost of projecct Inadequately budgeting the project Project Team
University High 1. The project manager must ensure that at each phase of the project there is a review that facilitates ensuring that the project is still within the budget laid out in the planning stage.
2. In the planning stage the university heads and the project manager must clearly discuss the cost of the project which would be described in the business case.
3. Mitigating the risk of budgeting can also be curtailed by making provisions within the business case should any risks occur, there is a cost associated that would allow for the mitigating the risk without hampering the continuity and completion of the project. Prince2 model ensures that within the business case is a clearly defined cost to undertake the project and as a rigid model should ensure that the cost associated would not be underestimated.
2. Assessments done at every stage of the project this risk should not affect the timeliness of the project.
Launch of project Network Failure upon launch Project Team
University Team High 1. Ensuring that the servers are working efficiently before the launch of the app.
2. Having server backups and loops in the event of any network failure on the day of launch.
3. Through testing before the official launch the probability of network failure can be mitigated There is any issue that can go wrong when it comes to IT systems but it is vitally important that an the IT team and the project team are always in communication with each other ensuring that the app being created works perfectly on the network and that there are no lags and downtime that could disrupt students and their learning.
Skillset of the project team 1. Inefficiency with hiring the right persons that would form a part of the project team
2. Not enough skilled personnel working on the project.
Project Team Medium 1. Ensuring that the team selected has the ability to create, design and implement software catering to the needs of the university.
2. Interviewing persons before hiring, allowing them to describe previous projects that they would have been a part of and how they dealt with risks that occurred during that project.
3. Ensuring that the skilled personnel are able to work in a team and are able to assist their team mates if the needs occur for them to rectify an issue that could harm the launch of the project.
4. Document any staffing needs not fulfilled
5. Replace any member of the team who are not performing By determining the project needs and the skills needed by the members of the team that would be hired for each phase of the production of the app development project. The project manager is able to mitigate any flaws that could occur in the development of the apps that would be used by students and staff of the university. The project manager needs to ensure that the members selected work well together and where one person may fall short, other persons can assist or are able to be cross trained to aid in the continuous productivity reducing any halt times that could affect the timeliness of the completion of the project.
Within my organization at the Antigua Public Utilities Authority, IT projects have changed the way business operates moving away from paper use to relay information throughout departments to the use of computer software that can do such. This change in business process was met by a lot of stigma as persons have grown accustom to pen and paper and books to input their data and it was hard to deviate persons from the use of such, up to this day. The use of a computer system software to facilitate most of the work led persons to believe that their use within the organization was no longer needed, I can even recall a senior member of customer service leaving months after the new billing software was implemented. Another example is the issuance of landline numbers that was initially given by a team who would go through a book and select a number to give a customer; the introduction of the new software allows CSR’s to be able to pull available numbers from the system. In an effort to get employees to be welcoming and understanding to the functionalities and ease of operations, it took significant training and a great deal of interpersonal skills such as listening, negotiation, and persuading through the presentations given in the training sessions to have this new system be a part of the day to day operations.
Within the development of the new software, input from different members of staff needed to be incorporated. Listening to the views of these persons enabled the software to be designed to meet the needs of varying persons at varying levels of the organization and could brought about better data collection and retrieval of their day to day operations and tasks. While the project manager listens to the views and concerns of members of staff (the stakeholders), some level of negotiation would take place as there a new steps and methods of carrying out work that persons need to understand. Negotiation is described as seeking acceptance, consensus and alignment of views (APM, 2018) they further go on to state that ” a project has constraints such as time, cost and quality, and areas such as scope, requirements and technical discussions where people may have different agendas and interests and need to negotiate to reach agreement”. It’s these very constraints that assisted the development of the new software to be launched, it afforded the IT team to be able to group and create the landline and even internet rate plans correctly and offered a wide variety of new tools to employees that they never had before. Also, within the training period the information given helps to amend any parts within the software that can assist our various stakeholders.
Negotiation takes place where the project manager has to now train and persuade members of staff from the university on the benefits of this new method of conducting studies and how students can now be contacted or kept informed via their instructors. The same can be said about persuading or influencing members of staff of the benefits of using the new software introduced to the company. I can recall on the launch of the new telecoms business system how much we had to encourage and persuade persons to move away from using pen and paper to write up work orders for installation of new services and even disconnection of services. It took a lot of reiterating and training of staff members as well as emails to supervisors about the importance of the use of the automated work order processes. Through the use of this tool information flows quicker through departments as the business unit does not operate from one central location and the time it would take to carry or send information via a messenger to the relevant departments was made easier through the use of this new billing system.
From doing this assignment, it has taught me that it takes continuative and thorough planning to effectively execute a project. If the opportunity to redo the implementation would arise I would ensure that a project management life cycle plan is properly laid out and incorporate some form of project management methodology such as Prince2 or an Adaptive method. I would also suggest to the project manager and emphasize on the importance of planning for risks that could occur that would lessen the problems we had with the project, and still have up to this day. This assignment has made me knowledgeable of the importance of project and portfolio management and how properly executed leads to effective project success.