Systems analysis and design involves many different types of activities that together make up a project. The systems analyst must manage the project carefully if the project is to be successful. Project management involves the general tasks of planning and control.
Planning includes all the activities required to select a systems analysis team, assign members of the team to appropriate projects, estimate the time required to complete each task, and schedule the project so that tasks are completed in a timely fashion. Control means using feedback to monitor the project, including comparing the plan for the project with its actual evolution. In addition, control means taking appropriate action to expedite or reschedule activities to finish on time while motivating team members to complete the job properly.
Estimating Time Required
The systems analyst’s first decision is to determine the amount of detail that goes into defining activities. The lowest level of detail is the SDLC itself, whereas the highest extreme is to include every detailed step. The optimal answer to planning and scheduling lies somewhere in between.
A structured approach is useful here. In Table 1 the systems analyst beginning a project has broken the process into three major phases: analysis, design, and implementation. Then the analysis phase is further broken down into data gathering, data flow and decision analysis, and proposal preparation. Design is broken down into data entry design, input and output design, and data organization. The implementation phase is divided into implementation and evaluation.
Table 1 – Beginning to plan a project by breaking it into three major activities.
Data flow and decision analysis
|Design||Data entry design|
In subsequent steps the systems analyst needs to consider each of these tasks and break them down further so that planning and scheduling can take place. Table 2 shows how the analysis phase is described in more detail. For example, data gathering is broken down into five activities, from conducting interviews to observing reactions to the prototype. This particular project requires data flow analysis but not decision analysis, so the systems analyst has written in “analyze data flow” as the single step in the middle phase. Finally, proposal preparation is broken down into three steps: perform cost-benefit analysis, prepare proposal, and present proposal.
Table 2 – Refining the planning and scheduling of analysis activities by adding detailed tasks and establishing the time required to complete the tasks
|Activity||Detailed Activity||Weeks Required|
|Data gathering||Conduct interviews|
Read company reports
Observe reactions to prototype
|Data flow and decision analysis||Analyze data flow||8|
|Proposal preparation||Perform cost-benefit analysis|
The systems analyst, of course, has the option to break down steps further. For instance, the analyst could specify each of the persons to be interviewed. The amount of detail necessary depends on the project, but all critical steps need to appear in the plans.
Sometimes the most difficult part of project planning is the crucial step of estimating the time it takes to complete each task or activity. When quizzed about reasons for lateness on a particular project, project team members cited poor scheduling estimates that hampered the success of projects from the outset. There is no substitute for experience in estimating time requirements, and systems analysts who have had the opportunity of an apprenticeship are fortunate in this regard.
Planners have attempted to reduce the inherent uncertainty in determining time estimates by projecting most likely, pessimistic, and optimistic estimates and then using a weighted average formula to determine the expected time an activity will take. This approach offers little more in the way of confidence, however. Perhaps the best strategy for the systems analyst is to adhere to a structured approach in identifying activities and describing these activities in sufficient detail. In this manner, the systems analyst will at least be able to limit unpleasant surprises.
Using Gantt Charts for Project Scheduling
A Gantt chart is an easy way to schedule tasks. It is a chart on which bars represent each task or activity. The length of each bar represents the relative length of the task.
Figure shown below is an example of a two-dimensional Gantt chart in which time is indicated on the horizontal dimension and a description of activities makes up the vertical dimension. In this example the Gantt chart shows the analysis or information gathering phase of the project. Notice on the Gantt chart that conducting interviews will take three weeks, administering the questionnaire will take four weeks, and so on. These activities overlap part of the time. In the chart the special symbol signifies that it is week 9. The bars with color shading represent projects or parts of projects that have been completed, telling us that the systems analyst is behind in introducing prototypes but ahead in analyzing data flows. Action must be taken on introducing prototypes soon so that other activities or even the project itself will not be delayed as a result.
The main advantage of the Gantt chart is its simplicity. The systems analyst will find not only that this technique is easy to use but also that it lends itself to worthwhile communication with end users. Another advantage of using a Gantt chart is that the bars representing activities or tasks are drawn to scale; that is, the size of the bar indicates the relative length of time it will take to complete each task.
- Project Initiation
- Defining the Problem in Project Initiation
- Selection of Projects
- Feasibility Study – Determining Whether the Project is Feasible
- Technical Feasibility – Ascertaining Hardware and Software Needs
- Acquisition of Computer Equipment – Technical Feasibility
- Software Evaluation in Technical Feasibility
- Economic Feasibility – Identifying & Forecasting Costs & Benefits
- Comparing Costs and Benefits – Economic Feasibilty
- Activity Planning and Control – Project Management
- Using PERT Diagrams in Project Planning
- Managing the Project
- Managing Analysis and Design Activities
- Creating the Project Charter & Avoiding Project Failures
- Organizing the Systems Proposal
- Using Figures for Effective Communication in System Proposal