Friday, March 6, 2009

Using TPM Analysis to Identify Technical Risks

Marcus, a project manager at Playerz Gaming, Limited, is working on the development of a new search and destroy mission-oriented game. The game is projected to hit store shelves within the next nine months. There is still much work to be done before the project enters the final testing stages.

Recently, Marcus discovered that a technical component of the game is not yet functional. This upset Marcus because it could mean a project delay of up to six months. How could this risk have been monitored and controlled sooner?

Technical performance measurement (TPM) is an analysis and control technique that can help identify technical risks so that action can be taken sooner rather than later. TPM compares technical accomplishments during the project to the expected accomplishments in the project plan. TPMs provide an early warning of deviations from the project plan. For example, a deviation could be a technical parameter that does not demonstrate functionality as planned. Uncontrolled deviations can affect project success.

TPMs include a variety of performance measures depending on the project's content. Performance measurements that are common to all projects include cost and schedule variances and performance indices.

There are three basic steps involved in TPM analysis.
  • Step 1: Choose technical performance parameters.
    The first step is to choose your technical performance parameters (TPP). You should choose TPPs to measure based on the risk areas of your project. More parameters should be chosen from project areas that are considered high risk than from other areas. This will ensure that these areas are being measured effectively.

    Choosing TPPs is not always an easy task. You must be careful to choose parameters that your project team can measure, but also monitor over a period. For example, the survivability of a product under adverse conditions may be a product requirement. Survivability itself is not particularly measurable, but there may be other TPPs—like product speed, weight, and power—that your team could measure to indicate the survivability of the product.

  • Step 2: Record actual performance.
    The second step of TPM is to record actual performance. The actual performance of the TPPs will be measured at specific intervals over the life of the project and will be recorded in the form of a graph. TPPs are generally measured in units such as speed, weight, size, power, or number of units completed. The risk management plan will state when you should measure the parameters and how to record the measurements.

  • Step 3: Compare actual versus expected performance.
    The third step for TPM is to compare actual versus expected performance. In order to monitor and control the technical risks, you must compare the results from the actual performance measurements to the expected results and graph the results for each TPP separately.

    To monitor the progress of TPPs, you should perform this comparison of actual versus expected performance periodically. This will allow you to take steps to control any TPPs that are deviating significantly from the expected performance.
How can you tell when a TPP is a risk? You must look at where the achieve-to-date line falls on the graph. Lines that are outside of the tolerance band are already considered risks. Lines that are inside of the tolerance band, but are moving away from the planned value line toward the outside of the tolerance band, are potential risks. Lines that are steadily within the tolerance band or are moving toward the planned value line are not considered risks.

Knowing how to interpret TPM results can help you monitor and control technical risks. This will allow you to be proactive and implement controls sooner rather than later.

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