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11:43

PROJECT MANAGEMENT PHASES

This chapter provides a sketch of the traditional method of project management. The model that is discussed here forms the basis for all methods of project management. Later chapters go into more depth regarding a model that is particularly appropriate for IT-related projects.

Dividing a project into phases makes it possible to lead it in the best possible direction. Through this organisation into phases, the total work load of a project is divided into smaller components, thus making it easier to monitor.

The following paragraphs describe a phasing model that has been useful in practice. It includes six phases:
Initiation phase
Definition phase
Design phase
Development phase
Implementation phase
Follow-up phase


Initiation phase
The initiation phase is the beginning of the project. In this phase, the idea for the project is explored and elaborated. The goal of this phase is to examine the feasibility of the project. In addition, decisions are made concerning who is to carry out the project, which party (or parties) will be involved and whether the project has an adequate base of support among those who are involved.
In this phase, the current or prospective project leader writes a proposal, which contains a description of the above-mentioned matters. Examples of this type of project proposal include business plans and grant applications. The prospective sponsors of the project evaluate the proposal and, upon approval, provide the necessary financing. The project officially begins at the time of approval.

Questions to be answered in the initiation phase include the following:
Why this project?
Is it feasible?
Who are possible partners in this project?
What should the results be?
What are the boundaries of this project (what is outside the scope of the project)?

The ability to say no is an important quality in a project leader. Projects tend to expand once people have become excited about them. The underlying thought is, While were at it, we might as well Projects to which people keep adding objectives and projects that keep expanding are nearly certain to go off schedule, and they are unlikely to achieve their original goals.

In the initiation phase, the project partners enter a (temporary) relationship with each other. To prevent the development of false expectations concerning the results of the project, it makes sense to explicitly agree on the type of project that is being started:
a research and development project;
a project that will deliver a prototype or ‘proof of concept’;
a project that will deliver a working product.

The choice for a particular type of project largely determines its results. For example, a research and development project delivers a report that examines the technological feasibility of an application. A project in which a prototype is developed delivers all of the functionalities of an application, but they need not be suitable for use in a particular context (e.g. by hundreds of users). A project that delivers a working product must also consider matters of maintenance, instructions and the operational management of the application.

Many misunderstandings and conflicts arise because the parties that are involved in a project are not clear on these matters. Customers may expect a working product, while the members of the project team think they are developing a prototype. A sponsor may think that the project will produce a working piece of software, while the members of the project team must first examine whether the idea itself is technically feasible.

Definition phase

After the project plan (which was developed in the initiation phase) has been approved, the project enters the second phase: the definition phase. In this phase, the requirements that are associated with a project result are specified as clearly as possible. This involves identifying the expectations that all of the involved parties have with regard to the project result. How many files are to be archived? Should the metadata conform to the Data Documentation Initiative format, or will the Dublin Core (DC) format suffice? May files be deposited in their original format, or will only those that conform to the Preferred Standards be accepted? Must the depositor of a dataset ensure that it has been processed adequately in the archive, or is this the responsibility of the archivist? Which guarantees will be made on the results of the project? The list of questions goes on and on.


It is important to identify the requirements as early in the process as possible. Wijnen (2004) distinguishes several categories of project requirements that can serve as a memory aid:
Preconditions
Functional requirements
Operational requirements
Design limitations

Preconditions form the context within which the project must be conducted. Examples include legislation, working-condition regulations and approval requirements. These requirements cannot be influenced from within the project. Functional requirements are requirements that have to do with the quality of the project result (e.g. how energy-efficient must an automobile be or how many rooms must a new building have?). Operational requirements involve the use of the project result. For example, after a software project has been realised, the number of malfunctions that occur must be reduced by ninety per cent. Finally, design limitations are requirements that involve the actual realisation of the project. For example, the project cannot involve the use of toxic materials or international partners for whom it is unclear whether they use child labour.

During the definition phase of a project that involved developing a web application for a consortium of large organisations, no agreements were made concerning the browser that would be supported by the application. The consortium assumed that it would be Microsoft Explorer, because it was the browser that everyone used. The programmers created the application in Firefox, because they worked with the browser themselves and because it had a number of functions that were particularly useful during the development. Because most of the websites that are made for Firefox also look good in Explorer, the difference was initially not noticeable. Near the end of the project, however, the customer began to complain that the website didn’t look good. The programmers, who had been opening the site in Firefox, did not understand the complaint.

When the problem of the two browsers became clear, the programmers reacted defensively, Can’t they just install Firefox? After all, it is free. The organisations, however, were bound to the bureaucratic-minded system administrators who, for some possibly justified reason, refused to install Firefox in addition to Explorer. Even if they had wanted to install it, it would have involved a lengthy process, and there would have been extra costs for the time that the system administrators would have to spend on the task. It was ultimately decided that the application would have to be made suitable for Explorer. That involved considerable extra work, whereby the project ran even more behind schedule than it already had, and it was necessary to negotiate the extra costs. It was later discovered that the various organisations were working with different versions of Microsoft Explorer.

It is very important that all parties that are involved in the project are able to collaborate during the definition phase, particularly the end users who will be using the project result. The fact that end users are often not the ones that order the project perhaps explains why they are often ignored. The client, who pays for the project, is indeed invited to collaborate on the requirements during the definition phase. Nonetheless, the project result benefits when its future users are also invited. As a point of departure, it is helpful to make a habit of organising meetings with all concerned parties during the definition phase of a project.

During the development of an educational video game, the users (young people) were involved in the project only at a later stage. When the game was nearly completed, a group of young people was asked to test the game. Their initial assessments appeared mild and friendly. When pressed, however, they admitted that they had actually found the game extremely boring and that they would certainly not play it themselves. Had these young people been involved in the project earlier, the game would probably have been a success. As it stands, the game remains nearly unused on an Internet website.
The result of the definition phase is a list of requirements from the various parties who are involved in the project. Every requirement obviously has a reverse side. The more elaborate the project becomes, the more time and money it will cost. In addition, some requirements may conflict with others. New copy machines are supposed to have less environmental impact; they must also meet requirements for fire safety. The fire-safety regulations require the use of flame-retardant materials, which are less environmentally friendly. As this illustration shows, some requirements must be negotiated.

Ultimately, a list of definitive requirements is developed and presented for the approval of the projects decision-makers. Once the list has been approved, the design phase can begin. At the close of the definition phase, most of the agreements between the customer and the project team have been established. The list of requirements specifies the guidelines that the project must adhere to. The project team is evaluated according to this list. After the definition phase, therefore, the customer can add no new requirements.

A part of a new exhibit in a museum was comprised of a computer installation, the creation of which had been project-based. Because there had been no definition phase in the project, no clear agreements between the museum and those responsible for building the installation had been made. When the computer for the installation broke down halfway through the exhibit, the museum assumed that it would be covered by the projects guarantee. The project team had a different opinion. Negotiations between the directors were necessary in order to arrive at an appropriate solution.

Design phase

The list of requirements that is developed in the definition phase can be used to make design choices. In the design phase, one or more designs are developed, with which the project result can apparently be achieved. Depending on the subject of the project, the products of the design phase can include dioramas, sketches, flow charts, site trees, HTML screen designs, prototypes, photo impressions and UML schemas. The project supervisors use these designs to choose the definitive design that will be produced in the project. This is followed by the development phase. As in the definition phase, once the design has been chosen, it cannot be changed in a later stage of the project.

In a young, very informal company, the design department was run by an artist. The term design department was not accurate in this case; it was more a group of designers who were working together. In addition, everyone was much too busy, including the head of the department.
One project involved producing a number of designs, which were quite important to the success of the project. A young designer on the project team created the designs. Although the head of the design department had ultimate responsibility for the designs, he never attended the meetings of the project team when the designs were to be discussed. The project leader always invited him, and sent him e-mails containing his young colleagues sketches, but the e-mails remained unanswered. The project leader and the young designer erroneously assumed that the department head had approved the designs. The implementation phase began. When the project was nearly finished, the result was presented to the department head, who became furious and demanded that it be completely redone. The budget, however, was almost exhausted.

Development phase

During the development phase, everything that will be needed to implement the project is arranged. Potential suppliers or subcontractors are brought in, a schedule is made, materials and tools are ordered, instructions are given to the personnel and so forth. The development phase is complete when implementation is ready to start. All matters must be clear for the parties that will carry out the implementation.
In some projects, particularly smaller ones, a formal development phase is probably not necessary. The important point is that it must be clear what must be done in the implementation phase, by whom and when.

Implementation phase

The project takes shape during the implementation phase. This phase involves the construction of the actual project result. Programmers are occupied with encoding, designers are involved in developing graphic material, contractors are building, the actual reorganisation takes place. It is during this phase that the project becomes visible to outsiders, to whom it may appear that the project has just begun. The implementation phase is the doing phase, and it is important to maintain the momentum.

In one project, it had escaped the project teams attention that one of the most important team members was expecting to become a father at any moment and would thereafter be completely unavailable for about a month. When the time came, an external specialist was brought in to take over his work, in order to keep the team from grinding to a halt. Although the team was able to proceed, the external expertise put a considerable dent in the budget.

At the end of the implementation phase, the result is evaluated according to the list of requirements that was created in the definition phase. It is also evaluated according to the designs. For example, tests may be conducted to determine whether the web application does indeed support Explorer 5 and Firefox 1.0 and higher. It may be determined whether the trim on the building has been made according to the agreement, or whether the materials that were used were indeed those that had been specified in the definition phase. This phase is complete when all of the requirements have been met and when the result corresponds to the design.

Those who are involved in a project should keep in mind that it is hardly ever possible to achieve a project result that precisely meets all of the requirements that were originally specified in the definition phase. Unexpected events or advancing insight sometimes require a project team to deviate from the original list of requirements or other design documents during the implementation of the project. This is a potential source of conflict, particularly if an external customer has ordered the project result. In such cases, the customer can appeal to the agreements that were made during the definition phase.

As a rule, the requirements cannot be changed after the end of the definition phase. This also applies to designs: the design may not be changed after the design phase has been completed. Should this nonetheless be necessary (which does sometimes occur), the project leader should ensure that the changes are discussed with those involved (particularly the decision-makers or customers) as soon as possible. It is also important that the changes that have been chosen are well documented, in order to prevent later misunderstandings.

Follow up phase

Although it is extremely important, the follow-up phase is often neglected. During this phase, everything is arranged that is necessary to bring the project to a successful completion. Examples of activities in the follow-up phase include writing handbooks, providing instruction and training for users, setting up a help desk, maintaining the result, evaluating the project itself, writing the project report, holding a party to celebrate the result that has been achieved, transferring to the directors and dismantling the project team.

The central question in the follow-up phase concerns when and where the project ends. Project leaders often joke among themselves that the first ninety per cent of a project proceeds quickly and that the final ten per cent can take years. The boundaries of the project should be considered in the beginning of a project, so that the project can be closed in the follow-up phase, once it has reached these boundaries.

It is sometimes unclear for those concerned whether the project result is to be a prototype or a working product. This is particularly common in innovative projects in which the outcome is not certain. Customers may expect to receive a product, while the project team assumes that it is building a prototype. Such situations are particularly likely to manifest themselves in the follow-up phase.

Consider the case of a software project to test a very new concept.
There was some anxiety concerning whether any results would be produced at all. The project eventually produced good results. The team delivered a piece of software that worked well, at least within the testing context. The customer, who did not know much about IT, thought that he had received a working product. After all, it had worked on his office computer. The software did indeed work, but when it was installed on the computers of fifty employees, the prototype began to have problems, and it was sometimes instable.

Although the programmers would have been able to repair the software, they had no time, as they were already involved in the next project. Furthermore, they had no interest in patching up something that they considered a trial piece. Several months later, when Microsoft released its Service Pack 2 for Windows, the software completely stopped functioning. The customer was angry that the product once again did not work. Because the customer was important, the project leader tried to persuade the programmers to make a few repairs. The programmers were resistant, however, as repairing the bugs would cause too much disruption in their new project. Furthermore, they perceived the software as a prototype. Making it suitable for large-scale use would require changing the entire architectural structure. They wondered if the stream of complaints from the customer would ever stop.

The motto, Think before you act is at the heart of the six-phase model. Each phase has its own work package. Each work package has its own aspects that should be the focus of concentration. It is therefore unnecessary to continue discussing what is to be made during the implementation phase. If all has gone well, this was already determined in the definition phase and the design phase.


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11:34

Project Managenment

Management is the process of getting activities completed efficiently and effectively with and through other people. The term Management has different meaning in different perspective.
This tutorial has been designed to give you a quick idea about most demanding managerial concepts in simple and easy steps.

Audience

If you are an aspiring project manager or project leader, then definitely this tutorial is for you which will take you through almost all the important management concepts one by one using a simply easy learning approach.

Prerequisites

You do not need any prior project management experience to understand the given project management concepts.






16:36

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18:37

AIR QUALITY


MAINTAINING HEALTHY INDOOR AIR QUALITY

We spend an average of 90% of our time indoors, where air is usually 3 to 4 times more polluted than outside air. Building practices and building materials can lead a building up of VOCs, chemicals, mould and mildew in our homes.

Mould

Outside of roof leaks and other building envelope failures, mold and mildew in homes develops in conditions of high humidity, most often in bathrooms, kitchens and basements. Along with affecting the durability of your home, mold and mildew can cause or aggravate allergies, asthma and respiratory illnesses.

Watch around the edge of bathtubs, showers and sinks for discoloration, and many basements finished or not can have a distinct musty smell that indicates a problem.

It’s important to determine the source of moisture so that the problem can be addressed. It can often be due to insufficient insulation resulting in condensation, improper vapour seals, or water in bathrooms and kitchens not being contained.

Along with proper design and keeping problem areas clean and dry, it is important to ensure bathroom fans, kitchen stove hoods and dryer vents are properly vented to the outside. If vents go up through your attic, be sure they aren't leaking, or more importantly that they aren't simply vented into the attic space, which does happen.

Basement mould and mildew

That musty smell in basements that is all too familiar is due to either poorly installed insulation, or having no insulation at all. Building below grade presents much greater challenges than above grade as walls cannot dry to the outside. Please see our pages on basement insulation to further understand this and work on a solution.

Dehumidifiers are a quick and easy solution to persistent humidity problems, it's a matter of a couple of hundred dollars to buy one and plug it in. Make sure to get one that is rated for the size of space you have, they aren't all the same.

You should also see this as an energy saving solution, not something that will cost you more money. A dehumidifier will cost maybe $10 or $15 a month to operate, but it will likely offer you more than that in savings as it takes less energy to heat and cool dry air than humid air.

If you have a mold problem, clean it with detergent. But mold will always come back unless you address the issue that caused it. See our pages on ventilation and air exchangers for more information on home humidity.

VOCs

Volatile organic compounds form a large part of household chemical pollutants. Formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, alcohols and mineral spirits are the most commonly found VOCs in our homes. They can cause many adverse health effects including dizziness, nausea, fatigue, respiratory illnesses, and cause damage to your kidneys, liver and nervous system.

VOCs are commonly found in furniture, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, paints, household products, drapes, carpets and electronics.

The Asthma Society of Canada says that the number of asthma cases being diagnosed world-wide increases by approximately 50% per decade. At present 3 million Canadians suffer from asthma, a rate that has seen a significant rise in the last 20 years.

Though researchers have yet to determine the exact cause of the increase in asthma rates, symptoms are brought on by chemical pollutants, air pollution, dust, pollen and pet dander. So it only makes sense that we pay attention to the air quality in our homes.

Where most people have heard the term VOCs is in regards to paint. There are many safer alternatives on the market now than the toxic paints we used to apply to our walls. For more information see our pages on safer paints.

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is one of the more commonly found contaminants in homes, and is used in the production of most particle board, plywood, furniture, drywall, and electronic equipment.

When new materials are introduced into a home, the odours that accompany them are quite noticeable at first. This can be anything from furniture, mattresses, cabinets, and even electronic devices like televisions and computers.

After a few days or weeks you may not notice the smell as much, but these contaminants can continue to be released for many years afterwards.

According to Health Canada, formaldehyde is a probable carcinogen over extended exposure. While no level is truly safe, at 30 ppb (parts per billion) children’s lung capacity will be affected, and homes showing formaldehyde rates of between 60 and 120ppb had higher rates of bronchitis and asthma among children. At around 100ppb most adults will begin to notice throat irritations.

New homes will often measure as much as 300ppb or more, over 10 times the amount that has been determined to be unsafe, and formaldehyde is only one of approximately 80,000 chemicals commonly found in household items.

There are non-toxic alternatives to many of the products we allow into our homes, that will facilitate much cleaner indoor air, and improved health. It's very difficult in the modern age to create a home free of contaminants while keeping the amenities we are accustomed too, but look at it as a cumulative effect. You will be exposed everywhere you go, so try to keep your home air as clean as you can.

Carbon monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is often called the silent killer, as it is a colourless and odourless gas. Symptoms of exposure to high levels include headaches, nausea, fatigue, and disorientation. One of the reasons why it’s so dangerous is that people often think they’re sick, and instead of leaving the house, they go lie down, which can be fatal.

Carbon monoxide can find its way into your home by many means:

Gas or oil furnaces in poor condition

Poorly maintained chimneys

Open fire places

Leaking wood stoves

Improperly sealed garages attached to homes
Make sure any combustible appliances are well maintained, install CO detectors on each floor of your house, and if possible avoid attached garages. If you have an attached garage, check to see that it is well sealed on the common wall with your house.

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs)

There is pretty much no escaping electromagnetic exposure in modern society, we are surrounded by it inside and outside our homes. Like so many other health concerns, it's just important to be aware of what the risks and concerns are so you can take the action you feel is necessary.

Whether or not EMFs are a health risk is continually being debated. In May of 2011 the World Health Organization recognized potential links between EMFs and cancer, but scientific research has shown no consensus either way.

Health Canada has no guidelines for safe exposure, and while acknowledging potential links to cancer, their scientists have found no conclusive evidence and also point out that 'potential' links to cancer is a title that has been applied to many common substances.

This is meant neither to dismiss EMFs nor instill panic, but rather to tell you the issue is out there, and to help you make your own decisions. Humans have a long history of unknowingly exposing themselves to some pretty nasty things only to find out later how dangerous they are.

Some people believe they personally are strongly affected by EMFs and take significant steps to minimize exposure, including putting kill switches in all rooms to shut down currents running through walls.

If you are concerned, some simple actions you can take are:

Not putting clock radios right beside your head when you sleep.

Keeping your distance from active microwave ovens.

Shutting off wireless routers when not in use.

Limiting the length of cell phone calls.

Not purchasing a home directly under high voltage lines.

Keeping entertainment systems on a power bar you can easily shut off. There is a power draw through many appliances even when you are not using them. Many run warm even when not in use, and that ends up on your bill.
Levels of electromagnetism fall off exponentially over distance, so proximity is where the threat and solution would be. Whether you believe it to be a threat or not, a watched pot will never boil, so to be safe, don't press your face against the window of the microwave, it won't get you popcorn any sooner.

Flame retardants

Made from the chemical compounds chlorine or bromine, flame retardants have without a doubt saved lives by giving us valuable time to exit burning buildings, but those same chemicals are finding their way into our water, air and food chain.

Flame retardants are chemicals that have been added to home furnishings that slow the spread of fire. They can be found in almost all foam cushions of couches, beds, pillows, cars and baby strollers, as well as in electronic equipment like computers and television sets.

Due to health concerns there have been restrictions on brominated flame retardants (PBDEs), which has caused an increase in chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs), which may be safer but come with their own health risks, being a known carcinogen.

Health effects of PBDEs include links to reproductive disorders, complications during pregnancy and birth, behavioural development, attention deficit disorder and nervous system disorders.

Reducing your exposure:Flame retardants will build up in household dust, so try to keep your home clean, and use a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arresting) vacuum filter. Avoid carpet under pads, and ensure that older foam cushions are well covered and not deteriorating.

While it is really not easy, you can try shopping for safer alternatives. They do exist, but you will probably have to do some leg work to find them.

Like so many other toxins, flame retardants build up in fatty tissue. Consequently, predators higher on the food chain can have dangerously high levels, which in some cases includes humans. Air and water currents moving north have led to alarmingly high levels of flame retardants in polar bears, as well as people living in northern communities.





18:12

DESIGN ENVIRONMENT

The main principles of green building:


A high performance, energy efficient home may include features like geothermal heating, wind power and solar panels, but these are not the defining features of green living. They come in second, and some you can even do without. A green home starts with being well-designed, well-insulated, and if possible, has glazing oriented to the south for passive heat gain.

Energy efficiency, insulation and orientation:

An efficient and resilient home is one that uses minimal energy to heat, light and run appliances. The biggest draw is almost always heating, so reducing heat requirements is the best way to reduce operational costs.

A house with 60% of its windows facing south (passive solar) may have its heating requirements reduced by as much as 25% for virtually no cost. It is important that it be properly-designed to avoid overheating though, or you will negate any heat savings with air conditioning in the summer.

A well-insulated, well-sealed building envelope is imperative to the performance of your home. No amount of solar panels will compensate for windows and walls that leak heat and moisture.

A reasonably-sized house:

One just can’t stress this enough — a smaller house is a more efficient house. A smaller house means less land to excavate, less materials to manufacture and ship, less space to heat, less space to cool, less taxes to pay, less to clean. And they are always cheaper to buy or build.

It is not suggested you live in a matchbox, but one can easily reduce the national square foot average per person (presently 700) and still live quite comfortably.


A flexible h​ouse:

Our family size will change throughout our lives, and a flexible house is one that has been designed to accomodate that change with as little cost and disruption as possible.You can reduce both the financial and environmental costs of a big renovation by anticipating and designing for that moment right now.

Think about potential layout changes or where a future granny suite would be, and during your build you can run the necessary plumbing and wiring, along with framing future door openings. So when that day comes, rather than a major disruptive renovation, you already have the infrastructure in place to create a new bathroom and kitchen.

This can also be an excellent resale feature, by making it easier for future owners to make those changes themselves.

Using reclaimed and local materials:

By re-using existing building materials and buying locally, you just became part of the green building trend. As we have said, green building starts at the design phase, so you can incorporate these materials into your future build.

Knowing what materials you will use ahead of time can save you some headaches, since you can make any necessary adjustments right away. If you have plans to use old doors for example, or some specific flooring material, you many need to adjust framing or floor heights. Old doors don’t always meet the standard openings and its best to know the exact sizes before you start building.

Designing your green home:

Whether you are designing your home yourself, or having a professional do it, remember the principles we’ve outlined above. Be sure to find a designer or architect that shares your vision, or that will at least allow you to direct the process.

Mechanical systems:

Sadly, a typical sacrifice in home construction is quality mechanical systems. Purchase and install usually come towards the end of construction, and if you're over budget there is a strong temptation to look towards downgrades when you really shouldn't. Your heating and cooling equipment is your comfort delivery system, this is not the place to try and save a dollar. And doing so will also probably cost you more in the long run by being less efficient, and you being less comfortable.

An additional tip - don't have your systems designed by a heating and cooling contractor, have it done by an engineer. Heating contractors typically install over-sized systems to protect themselves from complaints of insufficient heat. The result is a system that starts and stops more frequently, so it never runs at its most efficient rate. Think of that in terms of a car starting and stopping at series of red lights compared to a car that gets all the green lights and goes further at cruising speed - which one uses more gas? And who has the more enjoyable ride? Exactly.

Appliances and electrical:

Don't underestimate the amount of energy that will be consumed by appliances, electronics and lighting. Read the tags on appliances to see what they consume, and look for those that are ENERGY STAR certified. LED lights will save electricity and money, they will also help keep your house cooler in the summer. Incandescent bulbs convert 80% of their energy to heat, so turning on eight 100 watt bulbs is like turning on an 800 watt heater.

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