Avoiding Headaches for Projects?


I found this cartoon had a clever and funny way to depict the stages of a project.  In thinking back to our class activities and assignments, including this past week (Project Network with Post-Its, Identifying Critical Path with Rock ‘N Bands), it is proven that there is more than one way to think about the same project. Can we take the questions from the cartoon and relate them to the class so far?

Will it work?  For the sake of discussion, let’s assume “it” is a project itself.  Asking a question about whether a project will work or not begins with knowing what the project is and defining how you know it worked.  This sounds similar to the Request for Idea and Implementation Plan assignments.  In class, we learned it is important to know what the measures of success are in order to understand if the plan was completed accordingly, and to consider project scope at all times.

What if it doesn’t?  When the project does not go as planned, is there something to do?  After the Implementation Plan is set, the next step we learned is to consider what happens when something does not go as planned.  The question begins with “What if,” which is a perfect way to think about risks in a project.  There can be a long list of “What if” statements, but identifying these risks was part of the assignment of the Risk Analysis.  It was also important to discuss the contingency plans for when “it doesn’t” work.

Who can we blame?  This particular question seems harsh at first, but consider more of the class assignments and the reason for them.  We have heard a few times that “if ‘team’ is assigned to a task, then no one will do it.”  The Work Breakdown Structure was completed for the purpose of knowing which team member would work on a task, and subsequently, who to follow-up with.  It would be inappropriate per the cartoon to blame one team member or other source for the entire success of a project, but it should not be taken lightly either the impact one member can have on the rest of the group.

Can you keep a secret?  Following the preceding question, the cartoon wants to suggest to keep any failures of the project a secret.  This question may have been better phrased as “do you want to keep a secret?”  The intent of the projects in class is to learn about project management through our successes and provide insight on what we can improve upon.  It is important to provide a focused summary of how the project was completed, so by omission there may be some “secrets” on the blog.  Overall, it is best to share with the class about what worked and what did not.

What do these questions mean to you?  Did you find a different way to relate them to our class assignments or activities?


Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

Last Thursday (September 18), Larry Ellison, the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Oracle Corporation, announced that he would be stepping down from his position as CEO to become the company’s new Executive Chairman. So who is replacing Ellison as the new Chief Executive Officer? A woman. Well, not quite. Safra Catz, the Chief Financial Officer for Oracle Corporation, has been named co-CEO alongside Mark Hurd.1

Safra Catz, a Chi Omega Fraternity alumna, first joined Oracle Corporation in 1999 as a Senior Vice President. Since her time at Oracle, Safra Catz has risen through the corporate ranks to become one of the most powerful women in business – number fourteen according to Forbes. Catz has served as an Executive Vice President, an interim Chief Financial Officer, a full-time Chief Financial Officer, co-president of Oracle, as well as a member of the board. In 2013, Catz was named as the highest paid executive woman, earning more than $44 million! So why was Safra Catz only promoted to co-Chief Executive Officer?

Since Larry Ellison was known for his “aggressive” business tactics and will power, it will be interesting to see how Safra Catz adopts her own management style.1 In her new position as co-CEO, Catz will be responsible for overseeing all manufacturing, financial, and legal aspects of Oracle Corporation.2 These responsibilities are not unlike what a project manager faces in his or her occupation. Project managers are responsible for many things:

  • Making sure that all activities (especially critical activities) are finished in their order of precedence and on time;
  • Overseeing that the project is completed within budget;
  • Establishing that the project meets its quality goals; and
  • Ensuring that the people assigned to the project receive the motivation, direction, and information needed to complete their jobs.3

Additionally, a project manager knows that project planning is essential for the efficiency of a project. Organizing and planning a project is helpful when:

  • Work tasks are specifically defined and have clear deadlines;
  • The job is somewhat unique to the organization;
  • The work within the project contains complex and interrelated tasks requiring specialized skills, perhaps from various departments;
  • The project is critical to the organization; and
  • The project cuts across organizational lines.3

As co-Chief Executive Officer, Safra Catz will take on many responsibilities, many of which are very similar to what a project manager has to do. As an executive suite-level manager, Catz has cross-functional expertise, is able to lead, negotiate, and reach goals, have the necessary political skills to deal with stockholders, stakeholders, etc., and be able to maintain the perception of her company.4 Project managers, like CEOs, must be able to lead members of their teams, some of which consist of members of various departments (like a matrix project). Project managers must also be able to give the proper motivation and leadership for their team members, as well as provide logistical information. While Safra Catz (and Mark Hurd) may not be as hands-on as a regular project manager, CEOs share many common skills and characteristics of project managers.


1) http://fortune.com/2014/09/18/larry-ellison-to-step-down-as-ceo-of-oracle/

2) http://www.businessinsider.com/oracles-new-co-ceo-is-safra-catz-2014-9

3) Principles of Operations Management: Sustainability and Supply Chain Management (class text)

4) http://www.pmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Next-CEO.aspx

Which software would you use in OM?

Which software would you use in OM?

We knew so far many software packages that can be used in operations management.
So far we learned Managing Projects. We know that Gantt charts used to schedule resources and allocate time. We learned that PERT and CPM techniques can help operations managers schedule, monitor, control, an crashing large and complex projects. We got know that PERT/CPM reports and charts are widely available today on personal computers. Some of the most popular programs are Primavera (by Primavera Systems Inc.), Mac Project (by Apple computer Corp.), Time Line (by Semantic Corp.) , and Microsoft Project (by Microsoft Corp.).

We learned Forecasting. We learned different kinds of forecasting approaches, qualitative and quantitative methods. We know that most operations managers turn to software packages such as Forecast Pro, SAP, AFS, SPSS, or Excel.
We learned Quality Management. we learned seven new concepts in quality management and seven different tools and statistical process control (SPC) and Control chart to control the product and service quality. We learned to use Excel to do the task.
I did realize that my company actually used many of these software packages.  Every department had their own desktop software, decentralized data , and no backup.  When we got certified from ISO 9001: 2008, we had revisited our plans and checked the operations with a complete set of documentation for all procedures, systems and activities. Why should we used different software from different vendors?
Why should we have different employee skills and different training? Why should we have different helpdesk and support? Why should we have decentralized database and different backup systems?

We tried to solve this discrepancies and we brainstormed the efficient way to integrate all departments data in one single server and using limited numbers of software from one vendor if possible.

In our case we have Oracle E-business suite, we found “Oracle Crystal Ball” the best software that can do all in one. Now, all the company departments are using Oracle Crystal Ball for Project Management, Forecasting, Projection, Quality control, Risk Analysis, Inventory Management, Loan Management … etc. This software is customizable, you can build your own model using data from the centralized database, integrated with any relational database. Crystal Ball is fully integrated with MS Excel, MS Project so you can download your data to your personal computer and doing your calculations if needed and re import back to the database.  I found the oracle website http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/crystalball/index.html that relate to what I present here. The link showed that Oracle offers classroom edition and With over 4,000 customers worldwide, including 85% of the Fortune 500, Crystal Ball is used by customers from a broad range of industries, such as aerospace, financial services, manufacturing, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and utilities.

By now we have one helpdesk. Would you use Oracle Crystal Ball or Excel? But remember that it is integrated to Excel. Would you recommend this software for your organization?