The first phase of the proposed project is the discovery phase. In any projects, it is primarily necessary to identify problems or issues that the project will address. Apart from the initial reason for which the project team decides to engage in specific activities and chooses the organization, group of people, or phenomenon to be addressed, there is also the background that needs to be explored before project activities are planned and approached. Therefore, research is a crucial element of the discovery phase. Various potential sources of information can be considered, but the selected sources will necessarily include those initiated and managed by the selected company itself (such as the company’s website and profiles in social networking services) and those created by external authors. The latter category will feature academic publications and research findings of studies that focused on JCPenney.
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Key activities of this phase are the collection of relevant information and its analysis. Information will be accessed online, both via the company’s official channels and via services that allow searching for academic papers (such as Google Scholar). It is not expected that any additional software or technology will be needed during the discovery phase. Participation in the phase will require the members of the project team to initially divide responsibilities and later exchange the results of their work: it is needed to ensure that time and efforts are not wasted (e.g., if two participants search for the same information) and to establish a proper pattern of cooperation. The latter skill will be needed further in the project, virtually in every phase. The results of this discovery process will be a well-formulated and specific problem statement and a certain amount of collected and processed background information that can be used in the next phase. It is expected that the discovery phase will fit into Week 1 (see Schedule).
The next step is to plan the project based on the discovered information. In this regard, it is important to adopt the strategic approach, in which “a clear connection between a project charter and the enterprise mission…must be made stronger and much more explicit” (Patanakul and Shenhar 17). It means that, rather than addressing a specific issue in the form of reacting to particular problematic circumstances, the strategic approach addresses such issues in the larger context of pursuing general goals. The advantage of the approach is that, in the long term, it allows obtaining additional benefits apart from specific improvements pursued in a given project. Therefore, the strategy design phase of the proposed project should be viewed as the process of planning project activities in the context of the identified problem and in the context of general project goals that may not be specific to JCPenney.
First of all, it is necessary to set objectives, translate them into project activities, and reinforce the action plan created as a result of such translation by developing a schedule. Technology is an important consideration because the members of the project team will not always be able to work on the project in the same physical setting; therefore, they will exchange messages by texting one another, using instant messengers, email services, and, possibly, video conferences. Therefore, participants’ written communication skills will play a significant role in ensuring effective cooperation, and the participants will be required to exchange ideas and messages in the form of well-written texts that normally can be accessed by any other member of the project team. As a result, the project plan and schedule will be designed. The strategy development stage is scheduled for Week 2.
By the time of the implementation phase of the proposed project, all the activities should be planned and described; also, different functions and responsibilities of the project team members should be defined and properly distributed. However, it is important to ensure that the initial plan is flexible enough to allow corrections and modification during the process of implementing project activities (Hasibuan and Dantes 12). It may turn out during this process that certain measures need to be taken that had not been initially planned but were further identified as necessary for the achievement of project goals. Therefore, changes in the project plan during the implementation phase should not be perceived as signs of the unsuccessfulness of the project strategy. Such changes are acceptable as soon as their connection to project goals is established and recognized by the participants.
Particular project activities will largely depend on the problem statement and will be described in the project plan. They will be primarily related to the company’s current operation and public relations efforts, such as ongoing and planned campaigns. It is acknowledged by researchers that JCPenney went through a transformation in terms of its internal and external policies and practices, and the transformation was mainly associated with the way public relations activities were performed (Tincher 1). If it is decided to implement the proposed project in the area of public relations, the implementation stage will include launching a new campaign or testing a new strategy. Internet technologies will be involved because the Internet is the channel through which public relations messages will be conveyed. The participants will be required to approach implementation with professionalism, commitment to initial plans, but also critical thinking that may suggest changing initial plans. The implementation phase will be performed in Weeks 3 to 6.
Evaluation and Reporting
Evaluation is the key aspect of the project approach because it allows determining whether initial goals were achieved in a project. It is important that evaluation is planned before the implementation phase; i.e., the criteria, based on which the successfulness of the proposed project will be assessed, should be defined in the project plan during the strategy design phase. Also, evaluation is ongoing and should not be overlooked during the implementation phase. Evaluation of a project should be focused on the way project implementers convert outputs, such as services provided in the framework of the project, into outcomes, such as desired change (“7. Project Evaluation”). During the evaluation stage, the outcomes are compared to initial predictions and goals set before the implementation, and this is how the project team can confirm or disconfirm the effectiveness of project activities.
In the proposed project, the evaluation will be based on quantitative as well as qualitative measures. In terms of the former, it is possible to identify benefits for JCPenney based on the company’s increased sales and the number of new and loyal customers. Additionally, since the project will be Internet-based, it is possible to measure its effects by quantifying the response to public relations campaigns. Such response can be expressed in targets’ activities in social networking services, such as “liking” certain content or sharing it with their subscribers (which may be also known as “friends” or “followers” in different social media). Concerning qualitative measurements, it is possible to collect feedback from targets (and from the company) and analyze it in terms of perceived effectiveness and helpfulness of the project. Certain project team members (capable of performing such research) will be assigned to evaluation. The results—effectiveness assessment and recommendations for future projects—will be reported during the last week of the project schedule.
|Week 1||Discovery phase: Finding relevant data, composing the problem statement, and collecting background information|
|Week 2||Strategy phase: Designing the project plan, scheduling future activities, and establishing evaluation criteria that will be used after the implementation|
|Week 3||Implementation phase: Instructing the company’s employees whose responsibilities are related to the scope of the proposed project on how the project will be implemented and what their role in it will be|
|Week 4||Implementation phase: Launching the proposed campaigns, collecting feedback, and tracking quantitative measures that will be used further for evaluation|
|Week 5||Implementation phase: Continuing the campaigns and assessing the progress of the project; if it is revealed that the activities do not contribute to the achievement of the project goals, necessary changes in the project plan should be made|
|Week 6||Implementation phase: Gaining the employees’ and the managers’ perspectives on how the project is going and how effective it is in terms of achieving its initial goals|
|Week 7||Evaluation and Reporting phase: Comparing the results to the criteria established in the Strategy phase, developing recommendations for future projects, and analyzing feedback received both from the implementers (the project team and JCPenney) and from the targets (current and potential customers)|
“7. Project Evaluation.” ILO, Web.
Hasibuan, Zainal Arifin, and Gede Rasben Dantes. “Priority of Key Success Factors (KSFS) on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System Implementation Life Cycle.” Journal of Enterprise Resource Planning Studies, vol. 2012, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-15.
Patanakul, Peerasit, and Aaron J. Shenhar. “What Project Strategy Really Is: The Fundamental Building Block in Strategic Project Management.” Project Management Journal, vol. 43, no. 1, 2012, pp. 4-20.
Tincher, Jennifer L. America’s Favorite Store? A Case Study of the Public Relations Strategies Adopted by the JCPenney Company. Dissertation, Eastern Kentucky University, 2013. Honors Theses, 2013.