The business environment today is increasingly becoming challenging as new firms continue to come up targeting the same markets and emerging trends bring about the need to constantly change operational strategies. Firms are keen on protecting their market share, and that means that they have to produce quality products at competitive prices. In such a challenging business environment, project management is becoming a popular tool for managing competition. Instead of having a continuous production as used to be the case traditionally, firms are now breaking their operational activities into specific projects with clear timeline and goals. In each project, the top management is interested in ensuring that the desired goal is achieved in the best way possible. That is why the project life cycle and schedule delay analysis have become relevant in the modern business environment. In this paper, the researcher seeks to explain different project life cycles and schedule delay analysis.
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Project Life Cycle
Understanding the Concept of a Project
According to Shermon and Gilmour (2017), the term project refers to “a piece of planned activities that should be completed within a specified period at a given budget, and meant to achieve a specific goal.” A project brings together individuals who share skills to pool their effort in achieving the desired objective within an organization. The project manager is expected to supervise such activities and to make sure that the materials needed are made available as may be desirable (Shermon & Gilmour (2017).
Application of Different Project Life Cycles
Project life cycle refers to different phases that a project always goes through, from the time of its initiation to the time of its completion (Syed, 2012). Different projects may have different life cycle depending on their nature, size, and many other factors. Scholars and project management experts have come up with three categories of project life cycle. The three include predictive, iterative and incremental, and adaptive project life cycles. It is important to discuss each of these project life cycles in details.
According to Cox (2013), predictive life cycle, sometimes called full plan-driven, is a case where all the major project constraints- scope, cost, and time- are predetermined before the initiation stage. Such a project can be broken down into phases, which may be overlapping or sequential. In such cases, detailed planning is often done at the onset of the project and the stakeholders fully informed of what is expected of them and the outcome of such projects (Cox, 2013). Predictive life cycle should be used when undertaking capital-intensive projects that have a significant impact on an organization’s success. Such projects are always expected to be completed within a given time, at a pre-determined cost, and its outcome should be what is desired. A good example of such a project would be a construction of a new cancer unit at a local healthcare center. In such an involving project, the scope, cost, and time needed to complete the project must be predetermined so that the stakeholders can understand the relevance of the project, its needs, and the expected benefits upon its completion.
Iterative and Incremental
In iterative (incremental) life cycle, the project is often broken into different phases based on the goal desired by an organization (Warburton, 2013). The project team will then address each phase of the project independently without worrying about the constraints of the next phase of the project. At the beginning of each phase, the project members and other relevant stakeholders- specifically the donors- will define activities, which are necessary and the inputs needed to complete the stage. Once one phase is completed, the same process will be followed to complete the next phase until such a time that the whole project will be completed. This project life cycle is often used when undertaking large projects that may take a long time to complete, and may be affected by the changing environmental forces, making it impossible and undesirable to make all the predictions at the beginning. An example of such a project is managing communicable diseases within a given region. Every time there is an outbreak of a communicable disease, a team doctors, nurses, and other clinical officers will be assembled and assigned the task of dealing with that specific problem. Once they complete their task, they may be assembled once again to address another outbreak with the primary goal of ensuring that people within that region lead a healthy life.
The adaptive, also known as change driven life cycle, may be sequential or overlapping in nature, but majorly focuses on introducing change, which sometimes may be sudden (Syed, 2012). Adaptive life cycle is common when handling projects focused on introducing continuous change in an organization. Like in the iterative life cycle, the adaptive life cycle is often addressed phase after phase, because it is not easy to predict the possible future requirements that change may bring. A good example of a project that would need adaptive life cycle is introducing emerging technologies in the sales department of a leading retail store. The management must appreciate that as technology keeps changing, it is necessary to embrace new methods of serving customers. Projects undertaken in such areas must focus on introducing change in a seamless manner and with minimal resistance if any. It must also be appreciated that the new methods embraced today may need to be overhauled in the future when emerging technologies introduce better methods.
Schedule Delay Analysis Techniques in Industry & Research
Project management is increasingly becoming an important topic in the modern business environment where firms have been forced to re-strategize their operations to manage competition and other emerging market challenges. One of the common concerns among project managers and sponsors is schedule delays. When a project fails to start at schedule time or the completion date is passed, then a series of undesirable outcomes may emerge that may affect the project itself, other related projects, and the organization. Some delays are excusable- especially those caused by market forces or natural events- while others are not. Some delays are critical in terms of their impact while others are not. It is important to understand the nature and possible causes of these delays, then come up with a plan on how to manage them.
When undertaking various projects, it is important to appreciate that various risks may occur that may affect the expected outcome. One of the common risks when undertaking a project is the possibility of delays. Delays often have a major disruption on project costs and the outcome, especially if it was expected to start giving returns after a specific period. When scheduling projects, it is always the expectation of the stakeholders- especially the owners- that after the stated time, the activities will be completed and the benefits shall be enjoyed as planned (Spencer, 2012). However, when that fails to happen, issues may arise that may have a devastating impact on various parties involved. It is important to understand types of project delays, possible causes, and the impact that they may have, which is the focus of this section of the research project.
Schedule delay in the project is a concern that has attracted the attention of many scholars and experts in different industries not only in the United Arab Emirates but also in other parts of the world. Scholars have conducted extensive research to help explain possible causes of project delays, different types of delays, and their impact (Sergeant & Wieliczko, 2014). In this section, the researcher will review what other scholars have found out in their previous studies.
According to Shermon and Gilmour (2017), project delay refers to a situation where a project is not completed in time as per the schedule provided during the planning stage. In the construction industry, project delays are very common. The problem is also common in various other industries, based on various factors. Vanhoucke (2012) says that whenever a delay occurs, one of the most common outcomes is the cost overrun. Once the scheduled date is passed, such a project may be prone to adverse effects such as inflation, increasing the cost of managing the employees, and keeping the raw materials flowing. Project delays often cause a strained relationship between the contractor and the employer, especially when the contractor is an independent entity hired to complete the specified activities. As such, it is an undesirable occurrence should be avoided at all costs. First, it is important to look at the common types of delays.
Types of Delays
Delays in project schedule can be categorized into four main classes. One of the common classifications of project delays is a critical and non-critical category. When a delay has a direct impact on the scheduled delivery date, then it is considered a critical delay. Critical delays may arise because of a number of reasons, and as Kloppenborg (2015) notes, they are undesirable because of their impact. Failure to control these critical delays may not just have an impact on the delivery date of a project but also on its cost and the possible outcome. On the other hand, if a delay has no effect on the delivery date, which means that it does not affect activities on a project’s critical path, it will be classified as a non-critical delay (Information Resources Management Association, 2015).
It may not warrant much attention because of its less significant impact on the overall outcome of the project. The excusable and non-excusable delay is another important classification of schedule delays. When a delay is caused by forces outside the control of the contractor, such as delayed approval by the client, terror attack, political or social unrest, and natural calamities, then it will be considered excusable. In many cases, the contractor may be justified to have an extension of time and sometimes, additional compensation (Shermon & Gilmour, 2017). On the other hand, when a delay arises from mistakes of the contractor such, as poor planning and delayed procurement, they are considered inexcusable. The contractor may be liable for the arising additional costs based on the conditions set in the contract.
Another class of schedule delay is concurrent and non-concurrent. When a delay in the completion of one project affects the completion of other projects, then it is classified as a concurrent delay. On the other hand, when the delay of a single project does not overlap and affect the completion of other projects, then it is considered a non-concurrent delay. The last class of schedule delay looked at in this paper is compensable or non-compensable delays. According to Shermon and Gilmour (2017), cases where the contractor is entitled to additional compensation and time extension is considered compensable delays. It is understood that they are not to blame for the delays. However, delays where they cannot be granted time extension or an additional benefit is classified as non-compensable.
Reasons for Delays
Schedule delays may be causes by a number of factors. According to AbouRizk (2010), reasons for the delays can broadly be classified as internal or external causes from the perspective of the contractor. Internal reasons for project delays are within the direct control of the project manager or the contractor. They fall under the non-excusable delays. They include poor planning or scheduling, delayed procurement, delay in submitting important documents, poor mobilization, and failure by the contractor to include critical events or activities when signing the contract. On the other hand, external reasons for delays are beyond the control of the contactor. They include cases of a terror attack, natural calamities, political and social unrest, and failure of the client to deliver the needed resources or make approvals as stated in the contract.
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Impact of the Delays
It is important to appreciate that delays in the completion of projects may have various impacts, most of which are undesirable. Cost and time overruns are the most common outcomes of a delayed project. Sometimes the inflated cost can be so high that the donors may opt to abandon the project. In such eventualities, the owners of the project may consider a lawsuit against the contractor, especially when it is established that causes of the delays were inexcusable. In other cases, the affected parties may consider negotiation as a way of addressing the dispute. The figure below summarizes the possible impact of delays.
When conducting research, Pica (2015) says that it is advisable to come up with clear research objectives that will guide the entire process. The objectives act as a guide to a researcher, pointing out clearly what needs to be achieved and how it can be achieved through the study. In this research project, it was considered necessary to define the research objective that guided the process of conducting the research as follows:
- To explain various categories of project life cycle and explore types, reasons, and impact of project delays in various industries.
Schedule Delay Analysis in Industry
According to Anderson, Anderson, and Parker (2013), once a project has been approved, it is always the expectation of all the stakeholders that it will be completed within the specified time using the assigned resources. However, cases often occur when the scheduled project fails to take off at the required time because of a number of issues. Delay in starting a project is a critical problem because it may have a direct impact on the outcome. The problem is not unique to any particular industry within the United Arab Emirates. It affects almost every single industry because of various reasons. One of the main reasons, as shown in table 1 below, is the delay in payments. In case the donors fail to avail the needed resources in time, it may not be easy to complete the given project within the desired time (Pica, 2015).
The materials and construction industry is one of the worst affected when it comes to project delays. Pica (2015) says that delays are common in the construction industry because of the highly involving activities, which are often subject to changing environmental forces. These projects are easily affected by nature such as unpredicted heavy rains. Fluctuation in the market price of the materials needed for such projects may also affect the ability to complete the project in time because it will be necessary to halt the project to address fundamental issues. IT & electronics and the petrochemical industries are also prone to project delays. Other vulnerable industries include food, general trading, and the chemical industries. Table 1 below compares the delays by industry in the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Schedule Delay Analysis in Research
Project management experts and scholars are currently working tirelessly to find ways of eliminating cases of project delays in various industries. The best way of solving this problem is to come up with a comprehensive research on how this issue can be addressed. Lock (2014) says that although each industry may have unique factors that cause delays, most of the reasons why projects are not completed in time are rather universal. It means that it is possible to come up with a universal solution that only needs to be modified based on the industry in which one is operating. When conducting the research, the focus should be on understanding the primary causes of project delays.
Blanton (2015) says that one must appreciate that with the changes happening in various fields, especially in communication and technology, some of these causes of delays continue to change. Improved technology means improved accuracy in the construction sector hence reduced chances of possible delays. However, one must appreciate that even as the world embraced improved technology; new challenges arise that did not exist before such as cybercrime. It means that the method used in collecting data must emphasize on both primary and secondary information. Secondary data such as published sources may help in understanding the traditional problems. On the other hand, primary data collected from the players in these industries will help in understanding the emerging problems. Having such integrated information will enable the researcher to come up with a comprehensive plan on how to address the problem.
Schedule delays in project management are common problems that affect various projects irrespective of the industry. Their occurrences are undesirable because of the impact in terms of costs, benefits, and the ripple effect it may have on other projects. Some delays are more critical than others are in an organizational setting. Other delays are excusable while others are not based on their causes. Understanding the nature and causes of the delays makes it easy to plan on how to manage them. As discussed in this paper, some of these delays are caused by forces of nature or market trends, which are out of control of a firm. The most important thing is to understand how to deal with them in case they occur to minimize their impact on a project and the organization involved.
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