Project Management in the Business Environment Essay

Project management is a carefully planned and organized effort to accomplish a specific goal. It includes developing a project plan and objectives, specifying tasks, preparing budgets, and timelines (http://www.mapnp.prg/library/ plan_dec/project/

project.htm). The use of project management processes can provide the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) with techniques needed to eliminate obsolete financial systems. The DFAS is responsible for reporting all finance and accounting functions for the Department of Defense (DoD).

Problem Statement

Multiple finance and accounting automated information systems have been used to maintain identical financial functions and processes in the DoD. Considerable cost has been incurred for the last two decades as a result of government agencies not optimizing resources. The Defense Departmental Reporting System-Budgetary

(DDRS-B) should be used by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to reengineer and consolidate existing processes into a standard departmental reporting system that will reduce these costs.

DDRS-B supports the DoD need for a single financial management system that standardizes financial reporting. Current systems are unable to recognize standard codes and data such as financial report formats and system interfaces. The implementation of the DDRS-B will enhance electronically generated reports and improve operational efficiencies in the DFAS environment.

Mission/Scope

DDRS-B will standardize DISA’s monthly, quarterly, and annual financial reporting processes using the United States Standard General Ledger (USSGL). This is a database application created to generate budgetary reports. In order for DDRS-B to achieve its goal of being the standard system for DISA, the scope of this project must be clear. The following business requirements should exist: reengineering, streamlining, standardizing data, strengthening internal controls, complying with regulatory guidelines, modernizing support, and security (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 6, 2004).

Reengineering multiple information systems into a single financial management system will allow DISA, as well as, DFAS to reduce cost and pass the savings to its customers. In addition to cost savings, services will be more efficient and effective. Streamlining and simplifying the business process will alleviate unnecessary edits and validations. Standardizing data architectures and core processes will ensure that only DoD approved data and equipment will be used in all business activity (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 6, 2004).

Strengthening internal controls will improve audit trails and cross-disbursing detail. The system will capture the original users identification code used to input data. The audit trail will also identify the user who modifies data within the system any time. The audit trail records will record the date and time that a user enters information into the system based on their user identification code (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 6, 2004).

The project plan will improve the financial reporting process by shortening the time it takes to input information through the use of on-line procedures. It will reduce cost by consolidating AIS and improve the quality of products and services through the use of standardized reference. The new system enables rapid data collection from numerous sources and transforms it into financial statements that are automated and improve the timeliness of financial reporting. It will also transform several of the manual processes performed into a web-based solution that promotes standardized procedures and report generation from a single database table (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 6, 2004).

Data standardization and timely business analyses reduces the costs for generating monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports. DDRS-B will be used to support the Special Operations Command reporting in the fourth quarter of FY 2004. The DDRS-B will consolidate eleven financial reporting systems: eight legacy departmental reporting systems, two major command reporting systems, and one headquarters system for the DoD (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 9, 2004).

Measure Success

To measure the success of this project DFAS will use the balanced scorecard (BSC) methodology. BSC is an execution tool used to translate the DFAS vision into performance indicators. The DFAS vision is to be a world-class provider of finance and accounting services. Accessibility to timely, useful, and accurate financial data ensures the customers’ informational needs are met. DDRS-B target performance measures are to reduce staffing levels, operating costs, and automated information systems (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 9, 2004).

According to the DFAS functional economic analysis (FEA), the overall development costs will be approximately 10 million dollars. However, these large development costs will result in significant returns on investment in the long-term usage of the DDRS-B. For example, projected manpower and system savings are estimates based on FY 2004 and FY 2005 investments. In FY 2004, there will be a cost savings of almost $500,000.00 due to an increase in timely reporting and accurate information (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 9, 2004).

The decline in cost is driven by several factors. Required resources will decline as the DDRS-B moves closer to the completion of data standardization and the streamlining of finance and accounting systems. In an effort to move towards a single departmental reporting migration system, the department will be re-engineered to use shorter cycle times through the implementation of on-line interactive processes (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 9, 2004). The costs incurred to implement and operate the functions being improved will reduce overall cost by approximately 10 percent. The existing infrastructure consists of data processing systems that are outdated and do not employ the latest in technology.

The costs consist of investment, labor, development, operating, and support. The investment and operations have been compared to consolidate the DDRS-B systems’ present and future costs such as hardware maintenance, software maintenance, and site operations. In addition, the associated estimate costs to improve productivity and reduce overall cost is preferred (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 9, 2004).

Two Project Management Practices

There are several project management practices that should be considered in the DISA DDRS-B project plan. They consist of a work plan, scope, management, risk, quality, and communication. Each of these project management processes is used to assemble resources to achieve good results. The work plan provides the step-by-step instructions needed to complete the project. It should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to determine if the project will be completed within the originally specified price and time frame. Communications is needed to collect and disseminate information to complete the project. Risk may occur that will have and adverse impact on the project.

This is sometimes due to not having the right level of expertise involved in the project (http://departmentforms.dpsk12.org/dots/smedocs/pm_best_practices.pdf).

The two project management practices that are most beneficial to the implementation of DDRS-B for DISA are communication and quality. Communication between the DISA and the DFAS is necessary in order to implement accurate beginning balances that are needed to produce timely financial statements on a monthly basis. The current communication that exists between the two agencies is inadequate and it reflects in the monthly reports being generated by a legacy system. This is due to the different methodology and techniques used by the accountants at the DISA.

The quality project management practice should be used when producing the monthly, quarterly, and annual financials. Receiving the financial data in a timely manner with accurate values will be beneficial to both the DFAS and the DISA. The presentation of the financial statements is also a critical element to consider when producing the finished product. Both of these practices enhance the DFAS mission and objectives. The DFAS mission is to provide responsive, professional finance and accounting services for the people who defend America (DFAS ePortal, personal communication, August 9, 2004).

Week One Simulation Key Learning Points

Three key learning points from the simulation that can be applied to the implementation of DDRS-B for DISA are strategic management, organizational politics, evaluation and prioritization of projects. Strategic management should relate to the DFAS mission, vision, and goals. Organizational politics ensures that the best project plan for DISA is selected. Evaluating and prioritizing funding and resource allocation will assist the DFAS in keeping the cost of converting the DISA accounting system to DDRS-B within the allocated budget.

DFAS efforts to implement DDRS-B for DISA specifically address the necessary improvements and consolidation of a standard migration system for finance and accounting procedures. DFAS will continue its effort to exercise a system modernization and improvement strategy in accordance with their overall mission strategy and goals. The DDRS-B will reduce both systems operating costs and personnel while improving business relations with customers.

Problem

The Defense Information System Agency (DISA) uses a costly inefficient finance and accounting information system to produce financial data. The project objective entails converting financial information provided by DISA to the government standardized accounting system. The Defense Departmental Reporting System – Budgetary (DDRS-B) is the standardized accounting system for the Department of Defense. The DDRS-B will standardize DISA’s monthly, quarterly, and annual financial reporting processes using the United States Standard General Ledger.

Specific Tasks and Milestones

The conversion of DISA data to the standardized accounting system will consist of tasks, which are steps that outline the phases of the project plan. It will also include milestones, which entail completion dates of major stages throughout the duration of the project (Itensil, 2004). The task for the Defense Finance and Accounting (DFAS) project team begins with a two-day meeting on August 22 and 23 with the DISA customer in Pensacola Florida to explain the project objectives, timelines, cost, and benefits of the standardized accounting system. The project team will consist of three Staff Accountants who will earn thirty dollars an hour to convert the financial data. The completion date for this project is October 1, 2004.

Two contractors at the project management office of the Department of Defense are assigned to format DISA’s financial data and input the information into the standardized financial system. Their hourly rate of pay is fifty-eight dollars per hour to assist the project team in completing this plan. The contractors will be provided with the beginning balances for DISA by the project team on August 25, 2004. In order to provide good beginning balances, the project team will have to compare the DISA field site accounts to the DFAS-Cleveland departmental level accounts. The comparison will verify that both of the accounting systems have the same beginning balances. If any discrepancies are, found the project team will prepare journal vouchers at the departmental level to correct any differences. Once the beginning balances are established, the DISA crosswalks will have to be updated and given to the contractors to put in the standardized accounting system by August 31, 2004.

The contractors at the project management office will have one week to input DISA beginning balances and crosswalk changes into the standardized accounting system beginning September 5, 2004. On September 13, 2004 the contractors will provide passwords for the project team to access the DDRS-B test region of the financial system to review and evaluate the financial statements generated with the DISA information. On September 20, 2004 the project team and contractors will have a teleconference to discuss any updates deemed necessary to the DISA information in the test region. A mock run of DISA accounting data will take place on September 29, 2004 to ensure that financial statements being produced in the test region are accurate, balanced, and in compliance with the Department of Defense financial guide lines. On October 1, 2004 the information in the test region will be placed into production by the contractors.

Five Specific Project Risks

Project risk address uncertainties that threaten the goals and timetables of a project. This may include delays in transportation of materials to meet project needs, cost over runs, and personnel changes (NASA, 2001). The risk that may hinder the conversion of DISA financial data into the Defense Departmental Reporting Budgetary – system is under staffing, increased work- load due to travel, testing, scheduling, and system problems.

Impact Assessment of Each Risk

Two of the staff accountants who are assigned to the Defense Departmental Reporting Budgetary-system for the DISA project also have to provide the customer (DISA) with year- end closing procedure training by August 31, 2004. This involves preparing informational packages and presenting a power point presentation in a three- day training exercise. The staff accountants will have to travel to Pensacola Florida to present the year-end closing training.

That will leave only one team member working on the conversion of the DISA financial information to the standardized accounting system. This will increase the workload of the project team member who has to take on added responsibility in order for the project to keep with the projected time schedule. Sometimes traveling can cause exhaustion that may require a day off from work to recuperate. A day off to rest from travel may affect the time-lines of the project completion date.

The information within the test region has to be reviewed carefully in order to determine that each line of accounting is properly and accurately presented on the financial statements. If the testing is not performed with great care the finished product will be useless and a waste of money and time. If the DFAS is unable to provide a quality product and service to the DISA customer they may take their business somewhere else.

Poor scheduling can result in the failure of the DISA conversion of financial data. The time allotted to complete this project is taking place during pre-year end closing for the Department of Defense. The project team members are on a tight schedule to meet the required deadline. A review of the scheduled due date should be performed to make sure sufficient time is being allotted to complete the project.

The DDRS-B is a web- based system that has only been in place with the government for two years. Internal problems still exist within the system. The test region of the system will sometimes shut down in the middle of a review causing the project team member to be locked out of the system until one of the contractors resets their password. This will result in a loss of time needed to review the financial data for accuracy and quality.

Mitigation Strategies Risk

Risk mitigation involves eliminating or reducing the likelihood of a risk. There are basically two strategies for mitigating risk: reduce the likelihood that the event will occur and lessen the impact that the adverse event would have on the project (University of Phoenix, Resource, MGT/573-Project Management in the Business Environment, 2003, p. 216). The project team manager could possibly avoid understaffing by allowing the team members to only work on the DISA financial system conversion until it is completed. This would allow the three project team members to only work on the DDRS-B for DISA project. Instead of one team member carrying the load while the other two travel to complete additional work assignments.

By allotting the project team an adequate timetable to complete the assigned task scheduling would not be a risk factor. The project manager can request and extended deadline for the completion of the project from upper management. In order to prevent testing from becoming a risk all questions and concerns should be addressed immediately to the project management office. This will allow the contractors time to fix any discrepancies found by the project team members. A system problem is a risk that a project managers going to have a limited amount of control over. When DDRS-B shuts down the project team has to put in a trouble ticket and wait for and e-mail from the contractor. Overtime may have to be considered to compensate for time lost while the DDRS-B is down.

Change Management Plan

The Change Management Plan involves making changes to the project’s original scope. It usually requires redefining current objectives and identifying new project deliverables (Washington State Department Of Information Services, 2004). The chance of change occurring on the DDRS-B for DISA project would happen in late September right before the completion due date. For example, it would have to be obvious to the project team and management that the conversion of DISA financial data to the standardized accounting system could not be completed by October 01, 2004.

A system change request with details of the problem will have to be completed signed, and provided to the project management office. Afterwards, the project team will have to wait for guidance that will be given by management and the contractor for DDRS-B.

Week Two Three Key Simulation Learning Points

The key learning points that apply to the DDRS-B for DISA are identification, analysis of project risk, and response. The project manager should determine risk that might affect the conversion of DISA financial data to the standardized accounting system. The project team can review the impact of risk identified and try to alleviate

the risk. By minimizing the risks the project team can complete the conversion of DISA financial data, in a timely and sufficient manner.

Communication Plan

A communication plan outlines the roles and responsibilities of individuals associated with the project in the review and approval process, events, and milestones. The plan is designed to provide pertinent, precise, and dependable information at all times. It should also be flexible enough to accommodate change as a project evolves (University of Phoenix, Resource, MGT/573-Project Management in the Business Environment, 2003). The communication plan for implementing DDRS-B for DISA begins with a DFAS meeting to discuss the importance of a single financial accounting system throughout the Department of Defense.

Weekly teleconferences between the project team members and project management contractors will be held to ensure that the times and dates for completing the project are on schedule. DFAS and DISA management will be included on e-mails and memos concerning updates to the project. Travel to the DISA will be required to train and provide passwords to the field site accountants. The final completion of the project will be communicated through a memo written by DFAS to the DISA customer.

Forecast Of Time

The time needed to implement this project plan will take six weeks. The first week of the project will start with the selection of project team members and assigning specific task to individuals involved in the project. The second week consist of meetings in Pensacola to discuss the financial accounting system and information needed from DISA. The third week entails preparing beginning balances and providing them to the project management contractors.

The financial information will be formatted and put in the DDRS-B test region by the fourth week. The contractors will provide passwords to the test region allowing the project team members to review the financial statements and make changes in the fifth week. The DISA information will be removed from the test region to production in the sixth week in which the project will be finalized.

Project Closure Process

The project closure occurs whether a project is successful or not. There are several conditions in which project closure may take place. A normal condition is when a project is completed as planned. The premature conditions arise when a project is forced to finish ahead of schedule without all of the functions in place. Perpetual closures exist when the projects are out of control. Failed projects are those that are not successfully completed. Changed priority occurs when financial or economic resources become unattainable to the project (University of Phoenix, Resource, MGT/573-Project Management in the Business Environment, 2003, p. 496).

The simplest way to close the DDRS-B for DISA project is to look at outstanding items, lessons learned, and dissolution of the project team. An outstanding item is one that does not impact the project delivery time. For example, the creation of new accounts on the financial statements can wait until the project is completed. Lessons learned should entail a meeting with project team members, DFAS management and DISA to discuss the success and failures that occurred during the project.

The outcome of this meeting should provide insight on items that need improvement regarding the DDRS-B projects in the future. The last factor to consider for project closure is the dissolution of the team. Each team member will either move on to other projects or return to their daily assigned task (Risk Management, 2003).

Project Audit Process

The project audit process entails three major tasks. One is to determine if the project delivered the expected benefits to the customer. The other two entail evaluating what contributed to the success of the project, and identifying any changes needed to enhance the delivery of future projects (University of Phoenix, Resource, MGT/573-Project Management in the Business Environment, 2003, p. 487). The project audit process will be used to determine if the DDRS-B for DISA is in alignment with the DFAS mission and goals. The audit process will check if enough people are assigned to the project and if team members are performing at a satisfactory level. The audit will also assist in determining if risk for the DDRS-B for DISA project were properly identified and evaluated.

Budget Estimates

The budget allotted for this project is $200,000.00. Budget estimates for the DDRS-B for DISA project is based on the manpower, travel expenses, and hourly wages paid to the individuals involved. The three project team members will be paid thirty dollars per hour along with the two contractors who will earn fifty-eight dollars per hour. All overtime that is worked is also factored into the estimated budget total. As each milestone within the project is reached budget estimates are reviewed to ensure that the completion of the project does not exceed the established monetary amount.

Forecasted Project Outcomes

A excel spreadsheet will be used to monitor the projected and actual time of the various task. A gantt chart will also be used to track task and milestones to make sure they are performed in a timely manner. The projected outcome of the DDRS-B for DISA is to incorporate the standard government accounting system and eliminate the legacy systems that are currently being used. DDRS-B for DISA will improve the quality of customer service and reduce the Department of Defense operating cost. DFAS has to comply with a performance measurement indicator within the balance scorecard to decrease legacy systems used to produce financial statements.

Week Five Three Key Learning Points

The three key learning points from the week five Simulation that can be applied to the DDRS-B for DISA are planning, resources, and delivery. The conversion of the DISA legacy system to the DDRS-B standardized accounting system has to be planned accordingly to provide a quality product to the customer. A sufficient number of accountants should be assigned to the project to complete task and achieve milestones in a timely fashion. Without the proper staffing resources, timing, quality, and completion of the project will be affected. The DDRS-B for DISA project will be moved from the test region to production by October 1, 2004. The customer will receive a completion notification of the project from DFAS-Cleveland.

References

NASA. (2001). Project Risk Management. Retrieved August 21, 2004 from the NASA

Web site http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/hqlibrary/ppm/Ppm22.htm

Washington State Department of Information Services. (2004). Project

Management Framework Planning. Retrieved August 21, 2004 from

http://www.disa.wa.gov/pmframwork/Planning/changemgmt.htm

University of Phoenix. (Ed.). (2003). Gray-Larson: Project Management: The

Managerial Process [University of Phoenix Custom Edition e-text]. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Retrieved July 12, 2004, from University of Phoenix, Resource, MGT/573-Project Management in the Business Environment Web site: https://ecampus.phoenix.edu/secure/resource/resource.asp

Itensil. (2004). User guide: activities, tasks and milestones. Retrieved August 21, 2004,

from Itensil Web site: http://itensil.com/dyn/book/view/39

Risk Management (2003). IT Project Closure. Retrieved September 4, 2004, from Web

Site: http://www.rmmag.com/MGTemplate.cfm?Section=RMMagazine&template

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