Project Management Concepts Through Interview Questions for Project Managers – 5

The aim of this series of articles is to introduce project management concepts. Interview questions one may face for a project Manager position, are used as a vehicle to introduce these concepts. This is the fifth part of the series and further concepts. The series is going to be in ten parts, and each article in the series will discuss five questions that you may get asked and explain the related questions. Concepts introduced should help you prepare for PMP certification that is often required for a Project Manager position.

There are several techniques available that can help you fix the scope of a project.

What are the techniques, then?

Product breakdown is a technique that helps define all the parts of a product that you are trying to develop. That in turn should tell the project team the activities required to develop the complete product. System engineering, systems analysis and value engineering techniques help define the necessary features and the best way to engineers those. Requirements analysis also goes a long way to identify the essential features of the project. “Alternatives analysis” lets you look at possible choice of actions and let you pick the right ones. Brain storming, lateral thinking and pair-wise comparisons, etc. are techniques that help with free-flowing idea generation.

Estimating the “activity time” associated with all the activities is an essential step in planning a project.

What techniques could be used that help this activity?

Parametric estimation is a technique is a process that can be applied, when some figure of merit estimate is available. If a cost parameter for say building a road of 1km length is known, estimates for 100 kilometers can be easily made. Three point estimates take into account a best estimate, a worst-case estimate and the most likely estimate. These three are combined to generate the task estimate. Analogous estimate is simply extending estimates of a known situation for which a value is already available.

How would one do the three-point estimate?

The formula used to create an estimate is to add the worst-case and the best-case estimates. Then 4 times the most likely value is added. When the sum is divided by 6, it yields the estimate to be used.

How would you do the task scheduling?

Sequencing the activities is an important step in getting the project done in optimal time. The time duration required to execute each task must be known. If there is a dependency involved that needs to be taken into account. For example, a particular task cannot be initiated until another has been completed. A sequential execution is forced by this dependency. There would be tasks that are not related/ dependent on each other. These could be undertaken at the same time. Scheduling must ensure that the complete project could be completed in minimal time and the given budget. When resources are unlimited and there are no availability constraints, the plan would be based only on time. However, realistic plans need to take resource constraints into account most often.

How is the project time schedule represented?

The time schedule is usually drawn up as an activity scheduling network diagram. A milestone chart often accompanies this diagram. A graphic format known as Gantt chart has become a standard tool to represent this time schedule using bars showing a task duration. This tool is able to represent the activity sequences, dependencies, overlapped activities quite well.

Part 6 will take up another five questions. 10 articles will cover 50 questions between them.