Programme and project management tools and techniques

There are a wide variety of techniques which can be used to help develop ideas and thinking in a programme or project management environment. Many of these tools have been around for a long time and originated in areas not directly related to PPM.

Tools and techniques

Some of the tools and techniques that can be used in programme and project management are outlined below.

SWOT - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

 

Compares the effects of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on the potential outcome.
SWOT analysis diagram

 

A SWOT analysis can be used to draw out the threats and opportunities facing a programme or project. It has the advantage of being quick to implement and is readily understood. Analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats brings together the results of internal business analysis and external environmental analysis. Common and beneficial applications of SWOT are gaining a greater understanding and insight into competitors and market position.

A similar and related form of analysis is known as PEST - examining Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors.

RACI - Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed

Table comparing tasks with roles to show those responsible, accountable, consulted and informed
  Role 1 Role 2 Role 3 Role 4 Role 5 Role 6
Task A C C I     A, R
Task B A   C I R  
Task C     A R   I
Task D R C     A  
Task E     R A    
Task F A R     C I

A RACI diagram is used to describe the roles and responsibilities of the participants in a business or project activity in terms of producing predetermined deliverables. RACI is an acronym formed from the four participatory roles which are:

  • responsible - those who undertake the activity or the resources
  • accountable - those who take the credit for success or accountability for failure or the activity manager; and there must be at least one for each activity
  • consulted - those whose opinions are sought
  • informed - those who are kept advised of progress

An expanded version, RACI-VS, can also be used, adding the roles of:

  • verifies - the party who checks whether the product meets the quality criteria set out in the product description
  • signs off - the party who approves the verification decision and authorises the product handover

Stakeholder matrix

Compares level of power against level of interest to determine action to be taken
Stakeholder matrix

A stakeholder matrix is used to map stakeholders in terms of their importance and potential impact on programme or project activity. Stakeholders are the individuals or groups who will be affected by an activity, programme or project. They could include:

  • senior managers whose business areas are directly or indirectly involved
  • end-users including customers outside the organisation
  • suppliers and partners

Effective management of the stakeholders’ interests includes the resolution of conflicting objectives and representation of end-users who may not be directly involved in the activity. Stakeholders’ interests can be managed through stakeholder meetings and specific user panels providing input to a requirement specification. The key objective is to capture, align, record, sign off and deliver stakeholder objectives. One way of prioritising this activity is to use a stakeholder matrix.

Cause and effect diagram

A cause and effect diagram compares potential impacts on the successful delivery of a programme or project.
Cause and effect diagram

Also known as fish-bone diagram, a cause and effect diagram can be used to represent event causes and potential impacts. It is a graphical representation of the causes of various events that lead to one or more impacts. Each diagram may possess several start points (A points) and one or more end points (B points).

Construction of the diagram may begin from an A point and work towards a B point or extrapolate backwards from a B point. This is largely a matter of preference.

Risk map

Risk map providing analysis of the impact and likelihood of a risk occurring.
Risk map with RAG status

This is a simple representation of risk in terms of likelihood and impact. It requires that the probability of a risk occurring is classified as low, medium or high - with a similar classification for the impact if the risk materialises.

A combined risk classification of high probability and high impact if the risk occurs is clearly an important risk. The classification can be extended to include very low and very high.

Summary risk profile

Image showing red, amber, green and blue risks and the risk tolerance line.
Summary risk profile

A summary risk profile is a simple mechanism to increase the visibility of risks. It is a graphical representation of information normally found on an existing risk register. In some industry sectors it is referred to as a risk map.

The project manager or risk manager needs to update the risk register on a regular basis and then regenerate the graph, showing risks in terms of probability and impact with the effects of mitigating action taken into account. It is essential for the graph to reflect current information as documented in the risk register. The profile must be used with extreme care and should not mislead the reader. If an activity has over 200 risks it will be impractical to illustrate all of the risks - it will be more appropriate to illustrate the top 20 risks, for example, making it clear what is and is not illustrated.

A key feature is the risk tolerance line. It shows the overall level of risk that the organisation is prepared to tolerate in a given situation. If exposure to risk is above this line, managers can see that they must take prompt action. Setting the risk tolerance line is a task for experienced risk managers. It reflects the organisation’s attitudes to risk in general and to a specific set of risks within a particular project. The parameters of the risk tolerance line should be agreed at the outset of an activity and regularly reviewed.

The use of RAGB  (red, amber, green, blue) status can be useful for incorporating the status reporting from risk registers into risk profiles, and can provide a quick and effective means of monitoring.

Decision tree

Decision tree showing how decisions and chance events can affect an outcome.
Example of a simple decision tree

A decision tree is a useful tool for enabling choice between several courses of action. It provides a highly effective structure within which options can be explored and possible outcomes can be investigated. It also helps to form a balanced picture of the risks and rewards associated with each possible course of action.

A decision tree is particularly useful when choosing between different strategies, projects or investment opportunities - particularly when resources are scarce.

Radar chart

Radar chart showing risks associated with six different projects.
An example of a radar chart

Also known as a spider chart, a radar chart is a diagram that is used to show the number of risks that different projects are exposed to. Initially, the data is placed in a table that is subsequently converted into a chart. In a radar chart, a point close to the centre on any axis indicates a low value and a point near the edge is a high value.

Further information

For more information on any of these techniques please contact the Centre of Expertise for Programme and Project Management.

 

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