Saturday, June 25, 2011

Project planning methods

Different methods can be used to help plan design projects.  The simplest is to arrange elements of the plan in a logical sequence.  Working from the brief, designers determine what is required to fulfill this and plan a logical sequence of events to take them through the design process to a design solution that satisfies the brief.

3.2.7.1   Backwards planning
Often, the best way to ensure that design work achieves the requirements of the brief is to start by examining the expected final products or outcomes.  These products or outcomes need to be listed and agreed.  Having considered what it is that is to be achieved, the processes or work to achieve the outcomes can be determined.  Finally, it must be decided what inputs are necessary to enable the work to be carried out successfully. (See Fig. 3.2.)


Outcomes

Processes

Inputs

Fig. 3.2 Backwards planning.

Outcomes:          The planned result of the project, equal to the aims and objectives of the project, to achieve the quality or standard required.
Processes:           The work needed to be done to achieve the output deliverables or outcomes.
Inputs:                  The resources in terms of individuals and their skills, time, materials, equipment, techniques, etc., necessary to achieve the outcomes.

For example, a designer is asked to design a range of printed curtaining fabrics.  The outcomes would be specified number of fabrics designs, with colourways, for a specific time, to sell at a specific price point.  The processes would be initial research of the market (to see what is currently selling and what the competition are doing), the formulation of initial design ideas, the development of these ideas, the selection and production of the specified number of fabric designs (with recommendations for print base fabrics) to be included in the range, colourways development and selection, and the specification of final fabrics for production.  The inputs would be the designer with the required skills and knowhow, the time they would require and the materials and equipment necessary.

3.2.7.2   Gantt charts.
A slightly more sophisticated way of planning is to use a Gantt chart.  During a design project, several, stages can be under way at the same time.  A Gantt chart is a simple horizontal bar chart that graphically displays the time relationships of the stages in a project.  Each step is represented by a line or block placed on the chart in the time period in which its is to be undertaken.  When completed, a Gantt chart shows the flow of activities in a sequence, as well as those that can be underway at the same time.  (See Appendix A.)
                Gantt charts can also be used to chart actual progress, by drawing lines in different colours to show the start and end dates of each step.  This allows easy assessment of whether or not a project is on schedule.

3.2.7.2   Network analysis
This is a generic term used for several project planning methods, of which the best known are PERT (Programme Evaluation and Review Technique) and CPA (Critical Path Analysis).  These are more sophisticated forms of planning than Gantt charts and are appropriate for projects with many interactive steps.

3.2.7.4   Projects management
Managing a project involves co-ordinating activities so that they run according to plan.  The progress of a project should be monitored and measured against the plan.  When deviations occur, corrective action should be taken.

3.2.8      Time management
All projects are time-bounded and for any practicing designer it is desirable (if not essential!) to make the best use of the time available.  Time management is simply making the best use of time to achieve what is necessary.  To effectively manage time, goals and time limits need to be set.  What is required?  What has to be achieved and when?  How efficiently do these goals have to be met?  It is only against set targets that success can be measured.
                The way any individual uses time is unique to that individual.  Some people use time as chunks into which they can fit certain activities, all neatly stacked.  Others have no clear view of time, selecting activities at random or changing priorities to suit the current crisis.  There are strengths and weaknesses in both way and it is of value to consider both because many people will alternate between the two, depending on the jobs in hand.  The way designers use their time will be different, since everyone has their own pace of work and their own rhythms, with different peaks for different activities.  Where possible, work should be done at times to suit and individual’s own speed and their own way of organizing and completing activities.
                Managing time costs time.  To sit down and plan the best use of time is an investment.  It takes time to learn to use software packages for word processing and database management but their use is a huge investment for future time management.
                The time spent on any activities should be considered afterwards and evaluated.  Can any lessons be learnt to plan more effective use of time in the future?
                The Pareto principle: 20% of what you do yields 80% of the results.
                Targets that will result in a high pay-off should be identified.  Constructive avoidance is when time is spent on work that is neither important nor urgent in preference to urgent and important work.
                Time management involves:

·         Planning tasks –
getting information, assembling relevant facts, skills, experience, resources, establishing what is known or what needs to be known, processing the information, considering options and identifying the risks involved,
·         Stating what has to done –
Scheduling what will be done, how, where, when and by whom.
·         Getting things done –
·         Doing things and monitoring progress against checkpoints/ standards, reviewing outcomes by assessing the results achieved in relation to the aims, determining if more needs to be done, analyzing successes and difficulties so as to plan for improvement.

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