The IT department is implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) solution to its corporate offices. The current hardware is outdated, and cannot support the new CRM application. The hardware must be replaced prior to deployment. This paper will discuss the issues related to this project.
- How do the five major variables of project management—scope, time, cost, quality, and risk—relate to this scenario?
- Scope: All work related to the hardware replacement must be correctly defined prior to purchasing any equipment. With a proper Scope of Work (SOW), each step of the project is clearly defined, and cost overruns can be limited. A SOW. Details out the project scope, that is what items are going to be installed and why, project assumptions, responsibilities for the different people, groups, or departments, criteria for the project completion, and documentation for project Change Control Management (CCM).
- Time: Businesses must ensure that the procurement timeline is well-defined, and adhered to. If the timeline is rushed, some items may not be configured correctly or fully tested. If time deadlines are not met, the project budget could be wasted needlessly.
- Cost: Cost analysis must include information beyond just the price of hardware and operating systems. Additional costs may include, but are not limited to: Server rack storage space, additional costs for data center cooling and increased power consumption. Using Microsoft CRM as an example the minimum hardware specifications include five different server platforms. Depending on the size of the company involved the capital expenditures can easily outweigh the benefits of new hardware. Consideration must also be given to secondary software applications like backup solutions and virus protection.
- Quality: Hardware replacement project needs to identify if the business will benefit from an on premise solution, or if going with a hosted or cloud solution would provide a better quality CRM environment. The project will need to identify if the hardware being purchased meets or exceeds the minimum specifications for the CRM software, and will continue to be a viable platform for an extended period of time (3 to 5 years).
- Risk: The project plan needs to identify if bringing new hardware systems into the existing environment could adversely affect the existing network infrastructure. For example: if the businesses current network environment is a Windows 2000 active directory domain, how will bringing in new servers (Windows 2008 R2) affect or even work with the existing active directory infrastructure.
- What considerations must be applied when selecting projects that deliver the best business value?
- There are many project costs and benefits considerations that must be applied to ensure that business value is enhanced, and not degraded by hardware upgrade project. Are the internal rate of return (IRR), and the return on investment (ROI) values high enough across the short-term and long-term to outweigh the capital investment for new equipment. Costs include: Implementation costs such as networking equipment, operating system licensing, and server chassis costs. Operational costs such as operating staff load with new servers to manage, hardware maintenance contracts, facility cost increases, and administrator and in the user training for the new CRM application. Tangible benefits include: increased productivity due to faster servers and improvements in CRM applications, and reduce costs in maintaining outdated server equipment. Intangible benefits include: Increased organizational flexibility, and improved operations due to the new features included in a modern CRM system.
- What factors that influence project risk? What strategies would you recommend for minimizing this project’s risks?
- Project risk is influenced by the structure of the project, the project size, and the technical expertise of the project team and IS staff (Laudon & Laudon, 2009). The larger the project, the higher the risks associated with that project. In turn, a very complex project is also a higher rate of risk than a simple project. For example, the project plan for changing brakes on a car has a much lower risk rate than the project plan for building a kit car. The skill level or technical expertise of the IT staff and project team also affect the risks in a given IT project like a CRM hardware replacement plan.
To help alleviate some of the risks associated with this project. I would recommend assigning a project manager to oversee the entire hardware purchase process. The use of a Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) chart will help ensure that the entire plan remains on task and on time. A PERT chart not only lists out the start and completion dates for assigned activities, but it also lists out the various task dependencies and how each task can be affected by the success or failure of one of the dependencies. The use of an application like Microsoft project includes tools to help automate the creation of a Gantt or PERT chart. Status updates can easily be generated from Microsoft project to help keep all of the teams involved in the hardware replacement plan informed of where the project is at any given time. Early on in the process it should be determined if having the CRM system hosted on premise makes good business sense in comparison to having the CRM hosted in the cloud.