Most Project Managers want to be in control of their own destiny and do not want their plan/schedule to automatically move as result of a fixed external dependency, as this may have a knock-on effect on agreed milestones, billing, resourcing, costs etc. They may instead prefer to deal with this external change manually, after appropriate deliberations with the project delivery team. The key requirement here is collaboration between the PMs! They want to be armed with appropriate external change information i.e. notification of change so they can manage their project schedules effectively; either working from or to an external dependent project milestone/deliverable.
In contrast to fixed dependencies, 'soft' dependencies can be created across multiple projects. This is done in Microsoft EPM by using the Deliverable feature. Deliverables is a new feature in Project Server 2007/2010, which uses extended capabilities of SharePoint. It allows you to create list items that might be common to multiple projects, and then use those items as logical connectors among other project schedules. These connectors are called Dependencies.
This new feature allows owners of one project to expose key deliverables to their associated workspace, which is then consumed by other Project(s). The dependencies set up on these exposed deliverables are 'soft' and only show as indicators in the other projects, i.e. slippages on the deliverables from one project will not automatically move dependencies created on these deliverable in other project(s). This gives Project Managers/Owners of the other Projects more control over their Project schedules. They can adjust their schedules to meet the deliverable dependency dates as necessary.
See concept illustrated below:
(click picture to enlarge)
The executives can also view the Project Workspace showing the deliverables and subscribe to alerts and notification of changes. Different views in the project workspace can be created to show the deliverables as Gantt chart view or simple tabular view etc. Also, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be created to easily identify the slippages on dependent deliverables.
It is recommended that an appropriate task naming convention (say including keywords of the originating project) is used to easily identify the deliverables in other project schedules. later in the series, further information will be provided on the use of Deliverables functionality.
In part 5, we will look at best practices, based on real-world field experience, for Managing Programs/Master Projects within EPM. Then, comes the interesting part…..getting practical with exercises.