The management project module builds on the research methodology skills and requirements of critical debate, explored in the previous modules, to enable students to better understand project management and consulting skills and to demonstrate how critical these skills are in a business context to ensure rigorous decision-making. The course also aims to enable an evidence-based approach to problem solving within an organization, focusing on the ability of participants to manage complex projects in various dynamic business environments in entrepreneurial contexts, leadership and management of change.
While students remained engaged through the VLE discussions, the platform provided the necessary documents for the course arranged in a progressive order within 16 weeks. As part of evaluation, students were requested to act as consultant for a client project of their interest among the provided samples or to identify an area of study within their organization and then set out the report to show the objectives of the work and the way that they would suggest completing the study. Developing a consultancy bid report and a reflective portfolio were the module assessment deliverables. After examining my company needs and reflecting on my business future aspirations, I had to choose a project with similar needs, hence the choice of project 5 requesting to develop a bid proposal for conducting a scoping study that determines the necessary requirements for development and implementation of a B2B mobile application for my client, the company X. In order to meet the client requirements, I was tasked to carefully identify the client’s project aims and objectives, propose the study methods and techniques based on industrial information as supportive evidences, introduce an A3 map summarizing the problem and solution including the study Gantt Chart and finally demonstrate the contribution of my suggestions for improvement to management. As I have taken a number of steps to achieve the desired results, this experience has allowed me to accumulate a great deal of knowledge and skills in management and consulting that will be reflected in this document.
This document serves as a reflective portfolio on my learning steps, discussing the way I acted as a consultant to bid for the client project. It focuses on how the process of completing my project that included the above brief main steps will assist me to apply this knowledge to my business’ future operations as well identify how this learning process expanded my thinking as well as developed my skills as future business leader.
1.1. Learning goals and expectations
At the beginning, my major expectations were to understand step by step on how to bid and work on a client consultancy project. As much as the module outcomes were concerned, the module attracted my interests due to my enthusiasm to become a consultant, hence my learning goal was to master the principles of applied management research as well as be able to critically apply range of business related tools, frameworks and concepts in the solution of a business issue.
1.2. Learning Methodologies
Richardson (2005) discussed three types of learning approaches that are mostly applied by students: Surfaced learning where students attempt to memorize the course materials for assessment purpose; the Strategic learning approach where they focus on marking criteria with the aim to score higher in exam; and Deep learning approach that is based on understanding the course materials and seen as the most recommended. Given my curiosity in picking up the key module concepts due to its perceived importance in shaping up my career as a business consultant, I have chosen to adopt a deep learning from the beginning to the end of the module. This has been achieved by careful reading of course materials and following instructions, researching industry-related projects and reports, reading relevant studies, papers and articles as well as discussing with my peers through the USW’s VLE and other self-managed platform such as WhatsApp and Facebooks etc. Finally, I used reflective learning to internalize my learning as advised by Boxer (1978) and Mezirow, (2011, p.1) who recognizes that learning and reflecting increases professional effectiveness.
After reading the course materials available in the USW’s VLE, I clearly understood that every business has different activities, products or projects that are intended to respond to a business need. The B2B mobile app is one of the company X’s new projects, which aims to promote the visibility of the company, create a direct marketing channel, bring value to its customers, create a brand and recognition , improve customer engagement and help the company compete and cultivate customer loyalty (Dan, 2017; Rose, 2017).
In discussions with my peers in a separate WhatsApp group, one of our colleagues said that defining project requirements is the next step after setting project goals. This led us to conclude on the potential for clarity of business requirements. Our idea was completed by Stroud (2018) who points out that “One opportunity for improvement involves making reasonable estimates of how big a project is and how much it is going to cost”. Going through the readings, I realized that once company’s requirements are not clearly defined, we can spend tremendous time and resources but fail to respond to the exact business needs as argued by Faisal (2018) who claimed a risk of mismatch between what has been designed and what is actually needed.As I wish to embark on a business-consulting career, it has been very beneficial for me to note that the requirements of the clients must be clear so that I can work to meet their professional objectives. Otherwise, if the requirements are not predetermined, it is important to start by identifying them according to the goals and objectives of the company. This necessities a business analysis to identify the requirements that, when identified for the first time, are really presented as business needs, desires, suggestions or ideas, as Kupersmith et al.(2018) has pointed out.
In conducting a business analysis, I will always make sure to focus on the main categories of requirements – business requirements, stakeholder requirements, solution requirements, transition requirements, and technology requirements (Kupersmith et al., 2018).
Illustration by Wiley, Composition Services Graphics
Because these requirements are conditions or capabilities needed to achieve a business objective, to satisfy standards or to solve a problem; I learnt that it’s important to provide a documented presentation of these requirements to help analysts or stakeholders understand the requirements of the solution, as well as the components they are responsible for creating.
Insofar as the business requirements documentation details the business solution for a project, including documentation of the customer’s needs and expectations (Bia, 2018), I realized that it is potential to define the scope of activities, to evaluate the time and resources needed to complete a project. As a consultant, Thomas (2018) and Bpayne & Watt (2018) advised using collaborative discovery sessions, observations, stakeholder discussions, interviews, tangible and prioritized business / user requirements, a documented scope to prevent scope creep, a definition of target audience, use cases for solution; and finally use a series of facilitated workshops involving system stakeholders to analyze identified needs. With that in mind, I now believe I am able to identify or assume what is needed to improve a business and summarize all the necessary information.
2. ETHICS AND VALUES
A careful reading of the client project during the second week of the course helped me to better understand the purpose of the company X to create a B2B mobile app with the goal of increasing its competitive advantage by improving customer-business interactions. By understanding the aim of the client and the rationale for the project, I could then understand the project deliverables. In analyzing the client issues that need to be answered / solved, I followed Stephens’ (2018) tips to summarize the project’s objectives in several clear bullet points. The recommended requirements investigation methods were based on industrial studies and case studies.
When identifying the client requirements, I was inspired by Kahler (1975) and Marianna (2018) who discussed the key drivers and ethical conducts on the workplace, especially on a consulting project. They held me responsible for the client’s project by applying an aggressive, fast and action-oriented attitude in order to provide a perfect job within the given deadlines. The fact that I could not be satisfied with what I had already done but rather constantly reviewed in the interest of my client, this behavior contributed a lot in identifying the client objectives and requirements (Authenticity Consulting, 2018). My intention was to make enough discoveries to further investigate the problem reported by the client so that my recommendations would not cause any harm or be destructive to my client due to inadequate information-based advice. As an advisor, I knew that I could neither hide some potential discoveries for my client nor push my point of view, which goes far beyond what the evidence of the discovery process revealed in the client’s organization (Vallini, 2007). Because I was appointed to help the client, I understood that I have to keep client information confidential; hence, my bid report contained different monitoring and evaluation meetings with the Company X’s executives rather than with entry-level employees to avoid creating a climate of trust by sharing confidential impressions of what I might conclude about the CEO. In all cases, I made sure not to advise beyond my expertise/ industry evidences, avoided anything that could create conflicts of interest or create a dependency on my client or my client towards me (Vallini, 2007; Marianna, 2018; Stephens, 2018). It was therefore, believed that all the principles and values that governed my practices in order to avoid decisions that could harm the client, reflect the corporate social responsibility.
3. TIME MANAGEMENT
From the early beginning I considered my course as a new project whose activities must be completed on schedule and balanced with my normal professional activities. Despite some difficulties, I managed to devote an hour and a half a day to all school activities and to leave the rest of my time to my normal work. Failure to follow my plan has always resulted in multi-tasking and skimming which reduced my efficiency and effectiveness. This experience has taught me a lot about how important it is for project leaders to plan and schedule their activities, one major tool being a Gantt chart.Reflecting on the role of the Gantt chart, Noah (2016) inspired my thoughts: “By not getting ready, you are preparing to fail.” “A Gantt chart is an assurance that we have a plan,” he added. Taylor & McDonough (2013) and Margaret (2007) emphasized the need for a Gantt chart; pointing out that a project may have several activities and tasks spanning several months and depending on another. Since some tasks cannot start until others are completed, I learned that managers can write them down, but it can sometimes be difficult to understand the meaning of a document describing a project of this type. Therefore, using a pectoral method such as the Gantt chart to manage the project would be more efficient.Reflecting on the benefits of a project Gantt chart, I realized that it is a coordination tool, which helps to break down projects into manageable sets of tasks and reduce the potential of overburdening teams as suggested by Taylor & McDonough (2013). This saves time by replacing meetings because of the ability of the Gantt chart to provide clarity that allows team members and project stakeholders to easily understand the task progress and their role in a process, while apprehending how the independent elements work together to complete the project. On the other hand, a reflection on my previous experience with the Gantt chart reminded me of a moment when my team was disappointed due to feeling control over the plan, which led me to think that the definition of certain deadlines for future actions may have a negative impact on how to handle tasks, depending on the team. My other observation concerns the difficulty of Gantt chart to appear on a sheet of paper, the way it can become extremely complex, the size of the bar that does not indicate the amount of work and its need to be constantly updated as recommended by Tomek (2016).
In all, I found the Gantt chart as a time-saving tool because of its ability to break down activities, to indicate the sequence and duration of each task, to determine who will be responsible for each task and to visualize in advance the resource usage as well as identify problems that project team may encounter to make relevant decisions.
4. LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE AND MOVING FORWARD
At the beginning of this course, I had never submitted a bid for a consultancy work but I had worked on some consultancies such as developing a strategic plan and proposals for some organizations. Passionate about consulting, I was very happy to learn that I would act as consultant and develop a bid report, which I had never done before.
Reading the nature of the module and available course materials in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) depicted my first step into the course. However, having worked with nonprofits and being familiar with business strategies, I thought that identifying relevant need in my organization could work best for me; but given my recent commercial real estate initiative, I was advised to work on the” Client Project Five” ” so that my experience could further my future business aspirations. Discussed below is my learning experience.
4.1. Learning from experience
My chosen client project was to develop a consultation proposal for conducting an exploratory study that determines the necessary requirements for the design, development and implementation of a B2B mobile application for the client, company X. The choice of project was based on the perceived future needs of my recent entrepreneurial real estate initiative, where the current needs are to develop a mobile business application in line with the current market situation. In this regard, I needed the experience that could help me to learn more about the project requirements. I therefore noted the invaluable importance of choosing this project, which will undoubtedly contribute to my business.
Reflecting on my current business needs in relation to the client project, I have identified similar project requirements. Going through the readings, especially the software industrial case studies and research findings, I understood that I would use the same process and study method recommended in my management project report. My assertion to take the recommended process while investigating the business requirements, is based on the fact that my propositions were based on approved requirements elicitation methods that collect information from different users, customers and stakeholders by organizing meetings, interviews, questionnaires, brainstorming sessions, prototypes, etc. (Rafiq et al., 2004). Given that industry experts, such as Dunne & Brooks (2004), have advocated the use of case studies, my study will also draw on them to help me analyze and criticize in a meaningful way the problems or risks of previous projects, the analytical tools used in terms of quantity and quality, make decisions on complex situation and easily copy with ambiguity.
Furthermore, as a business consultant, bidding on client project depicts the primary step in getting a job. Stephens (2018), who highlighted the consulting steps and procedures, inspired me. In this regard, and particularly in software development, the recommended requirements elicitation methods will be central in the identification of the functional, structural and resource requirements of B2B applications. Although this is not a single answer to all the questions, I learned that all three types of requirements are important for different business analyzes and I will make sure to identify them before different undertakings.
Going back to my current business, which presents similar needs for B2B application, I was not able to understand the project requirements before and had never thought of a necessity to conduct such a scoping study. My work on the BS4D03 will now serve as a reference point in conducting a study by my own, which will help me to determine the necessary project requirements prior to hiring a software developer who will be required to definitely implement my recommendations. The clarity and similarity of our business goals as well as the requirements investigation methods approved and recommended by reputable industry experts and case studies, allow me to no longer wonder about the study methods beyond those proposed in my bid report. I will immediately conduct the study through the same process and once the requirements are determined, they should be communicated to the software developer, should we decide to hire an external freelancer.