Critical path method, Project Management

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HyperAV is a Manchester based company which is a retailer of home cinema equipment. They sell a variety of products including speakers, amplifiers, Blu-ray/DVD players and cables. The company has its head office in Manchester but also has 4 shops around the UK (in London, York, Cardiff and Newcastle) and a large warehouse in Birmingham where stock is received from suppliers and sent in the company's own vans to the shops. Most of the current sales are made in the shops which also have demonstration facilities. However, the shops can also take orders over the telephone.

The company's buyer and stock controller are based in Manchester and work together to ensure that each branch has an adequate stock level of fast-selling items. If a shop takes an order for a product that it does not hold in stock, payment is taken and the product is either sent via the vans to the shops, or dispatched directly to the customer from the warehouse via courier, depending on the customer's preference. If the warehouse does not have a product in stock, it is ordered from the supplier by the buyer.

The company already has a working database driven IT system which keeps track of stock levels, stores customer details, and keeps records of customer orders, their payment details and orders to suppliers. Every shop has at least one PC which can access the system, allowing shop staff to check the level of stock at all shops and the warehouse, and to record details of customers and their orders. The warehouse uses the system to extract customer and order information to send out goods and to prepare for shipments from suppliers. Head office staff use the system to keep track of sales and stock levels in order to place appropriate orders to suppliers.

The managing director of the company has seen the potential for expansion and wants to open a new shop in Manchester and to start trading via e-commerce by selling products on-line via a new website. The new shop must be connected to the IT system in the same way as the other branches. The website must also be connected to the existing system so that stock figures are accurate, and so that customer, payment and order details can automatically be processed. All sales from the website will be processed by the warehouse and dispatched by courier.


HyperAV's managing director wants you to manage the IT project. He has given you the task of developing a project plan which specifies the cost and time details of the project. You must create a plan that includes the design, implementation and testing of the necessary hardware and software for both the new Manchester shop, and the new website.

At present the new Manchester premises have been purchased and retail staff is being interviewed. You are therefore not required to include any work on the premises or retail staff as part of the plan. You should instead focus on the development of the new IT systems.

Your plan must detail the installation of the required IT infrastructure for the new branch (including integration with the existing system), and the website (including a new web server to be based at the head office). This includes purchasing the necessary hardware and developing the website using the in-house development staff. A budget of £80,000 has been allocated for the project which includes £4000 for the new hardware. The managing director would like the project to be completed by the end of January 2011.


 You have 7 members of staff which have been allocated to work on the project. Each member of staff has a certain set of circumstances which may affect their availability.

The 7 people involved in the development are:

 Code                Description                  Availability       Quantity           Cost (£ per day)

AD                   Analyst             developer         5 day week       3                      225




DE                   Data Entry                    3 day week       2                      150



TS                    Tester                           2 day week       1                      150


USER               HyperAV Staff              5 day week       2                         0



Notes on staff

  • The analyst developers conduct all the analysis, design and development work. They have a good knowledge of web development and systems integration.
  • Data entry staff enter data into the database and web site where appropriate
  • The tester writes test plans and conducts testing on the system
  • Users are seconded by HyperAV to help with the project and have no cost.

The availability of the staff given above is an indication of the maximum number of days in a given week that you can expect to be able to use any given member of the team to work on the project. For example, the data entry staff are always involved on other projects. There are additional limits on staff availability given below. The staff costs include all additional costs such as premises, national insurance and employer tax contributions.

Staff Availability

Staff are not available on bank holidays (30 August, 27,28 December 2010, 3 January 2011).  All staff work a 7.5 hour day. All dates are inclusive. The analyst developers are happy to work an extra two hours per day overtime on any day at twice the normal hourly rate, but never at weekends: no-one else does overtime. One of the ADs (Sam) is on holiday from 7 August - 5 September.  The second AD (Rohit) is leaving to take up another job from 15 November. The third (Imran) is working on another project for the whole of the whole of August and will also be on holiday from 15-19 November. The first data entry staff (Alex) is working on another project for the whole of July. The second (Tom) is available as necessary. The tester (Paul) is limited to 2 days per week to this project owing to his involvement in other projects for the company. The first User (Amy) is never available on Mondays, and the second (Jeff) is never available on Fridays.


a) Construct a Work Breakdown Structure diagram for the project to allow you to break it down into more manageable activities. ( This should be done by June 28th)

b) Create an activity table and add time scales and precedents to each activity. From this table, draw a CPM (Critical Path Method) network diagram and identify the critical path using the technique described in the lectures.

c) Enter your defined activities into Microsoft Project and allocate staff resources as describe above. Estimate the total cost of the project, the finish date, and the total number of person days labour involved. If you have made any other assumptions you may include these in your report.

d) Analyse and discuss your project plan. In particular, consider what could be done to reduce the cost of the project and what could be done to bring the end date of the project forward? Credit will be given for a discussion of alternatives.

e) Identify an open source project management tool that could be used as an alternative to Microsoft Project. Try to schedule the project within this assignment using this tool and as a result provide a critical comparison of the two tools.  The comparison must be directly concerned with the case study involved in this assignment.

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