CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

An Investigation of Project Dependencies and Risks in Project Schedule Slippage and Effort Overrun in the Engineering Computing Organization

Date of Award

2002

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

John A. Scigliano

Committee Member

Jacques Levin

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee

Abstract

The purpose of the author in this dissertation was to investigate relationships between project dependencies and risks and the project schedule slippage and effort overrun in the Engineering Computing Organization of a leading electronic communication company. The rationale for this study was to provide a simple mechanism for the project leaders enabling them to follow their project plan more closely.

Engineering Computing (EC) provides support services for all workstations, servers, Computer Aided Design (CAD) applications, and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) applications in a leading electronic communication company. This organization is comprised of several major support groups: Service Center, Systems/Servers (USS), Network Infrastructure, Electrical/Mechanical CAD Applications, Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) Applications, Product Data Management (PDM) Tools, Web Technology, and Process Engineering teams. These teams develop, implement and maintain new computing technologies at a facility with over 3000 users. The majority of the human resources in these interdisciplinary teams are involved in project activities. At any given time, there are multiple projects in progress competing for the following shared resources: machines, equipment, and human resources. These projects often have dependencies to external Computing Technology Suppliers; that is, Network, Hardware, and software products. EC's timely delivery of the engineering systems and tools directly impacts the company's ability to succeed in reaching its cycle time reduction goals in new product development. The managers of EC have been unequivocally interested in the methods, tools and processes that help the organization to better understand and manage project schedule slippage and effort overruns.

In this dissertation, a selected sample of completed projects at EC was examined. The researcher designed a questionnaire and conducted interviews with project leaders involved in the selected sample projects. Two cause and effect diagrams were developed to present the categories of reasons associated with the project delays and effort overruns. The inferential statistics testing provided further information on the project characteristics that further exposed the projects to risk of schedule delays and effort overrun. This research study revealed that the top three high-level categories having the largest weights on the schedule delays were supplier product, managerial, and product development. The supplier category that consisted of poor supplier product quality, late delivery and inadequate support sub-categories was the dominant reason for schedule delays in the Engineering Computing projects. Twenty nine percent of the project schedule delays were resulted from having dependencies to the suppliers (external entities). The top three high-level categories of reasons having the largest weights on the effort overruns were rooted to product development, personnel, and planning and execution. Product development category consisted of the reasons resulting in effort overrun introduced during the development lifecycle and processes. The major sub-categories under product development category included scope creep, insufficient information on requirements, and design/code complexity. This category accounted for 40% of the effort overruns in the projects analyzed in this research study.

Examination of project schedule delays and effort overruns by project size, type or dependencies in this research study allowed establishing the following conclusions: software projects were exposed to risks of having significantly higher schedule slippage when compared to projects of type "installation" or "documentation", large size projects were exposed to risks of having higher schedule slippage when compared to smaller size projects, projects with dependency to external organizations were exposed to risks of having higher schedule slippage when compared to projects with no dependency to external entities, and software projects were exposed to risks of having higher effort index (cost overrun) when compared to projects of type "documentation", "evaluation", and "installation". These findings provided impetus to the project leaders to improve their project scheduling, effort estimation, risk assessment and risk management processes and practices based on the project characteristics.

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