2010 Semester 1 in review

Finally, I’ve put down my pen for the last time for Semester 1, 2010; now I can relax and enjoy a few weeks of holidays. Before I archive my uni stuff, I thought I would do a short review on each of the units I have taken this semester.

CLS3000

My lone arts subject this semester, Introduction to Critical Theory was the unit I chose because I could do it at third year level without any pre-requisites, I need a certain number of third-year points to graduate. I also could count CLS3000 as an elective for my Spanish Major. There is a lot of reading in this subject, but it’s really interesting stuff. Sometimes it was a bit hard to grasp the ideas, but the class discussions were always fun. I really enjoyed writing my final essay. At first this subject seemed really difficult, but in the end it was one of my favourite units.

FIT2001

My last-ever second year level unit, Systems Analysis and Design is probably the best unit I have taken so far in terms of student support. The resources available in the forums, Moodle site, Study Guides, Lecture slides, podcasts of lectures and podcasts of interviews, chat rooms and more! were made even more useful by the active involvement of Peter O’Donnel (aka POD), the Caulfield lecturer and chief examiner for the unit. Being friendly with the students over twitter, we could ask quick questions very easily. Sometimes the topics covered were pretty boring, but POD fought hard to make the lectures, tutorials and assignments interesting. I found that the best way to tackle the assignments was to have a go, then get the tutor to tell you what was wrong with your diagrams. My tutor was very helpful. Rocking up at the student consultation sessions was well worth it. A helpful tutor is basically giving you free marks when you ask questions! In the end, I think I know that a career as a Systems Analyst isn’t really what I’d like to pursue, but I wish more subjects were like FIT2001. Even having lecturers and tutors hang out in the forums before an assignment is due or before the exam would be a good first step. Speaking of the exam, the format of this subject’s exam was great. A good mix of confidence building easy questions and questions that stretched you.

FIT3084

In contrast to FIT2001, Multimedia Programming for the WWW was extremely interesting to me. We talked about HTML, PHP, JavaScript, Perl, CGI, CSS, colours, images, and good design concepts. The lectures were very good and enjoyable. I took lots of notes. However this subject was let down by the way it was run. This was an elective counting towards my computer science degree, not a common core unit so it was a fairly small class. The lack of an online community was a bit ironic considering that this was an Internet subject, and this led to the lecturer being flooded with emails just before the exam

The project was to create a design document for a website and then build it. This was worth 30% of the mark, which makes sense because it was group work. 30% is understandable as you don’t want to be pulled down too much if you’re lumped with a bad group. I found working in a group frustrating but we got it done. The assignment marking system was interesting, with a system of ranking by peers. I think this was useful to see what everyone else was doing.

The low 30% assignment mark made the exam a scary 70% of the mark. Due to the really broad nature of the subject, the exam was hard to study for and required lots of memorisation. The format of the exam was also annoying, with heavy black lines ruled through the question answering space. I prefer either thin lines (like in the separate answer book) or no lines (like the FIT2001 exam), not lines that cramp my writing. I also was annoyed that “look up in your own time” stuff was examinable, so you had no idea what really was going to be on the exam. Part of good exam revision is preparing for the exam format as well as for the kinds of questions, so the sample exam wasn’t as useful in that regard. The exam was out of 145 marks, not 100, which is a bit weird and awkward for time planning.

The tutorials were optional, and were like Q&A sessions, and could have been vastly improved if they had been held in a computer lab. The exercises provided were good, but there was no real incentive to try them. Having a piece of code on a screen to say: “it’s supposed to do this, but it does this” is better than having to demonstrate your code projected on the wall!

To improve this subject, I would make the exam worth 60% of the final mark, the two group assignments out of 30% and add a 10% tutorial component. Basically an easy 10% where you would get marks full marks for completing the exercise, half marks for attempting the exercise, and one mark for turning up.

FIT3086

Project Management. Before starting this subject I thought it would be pretty ordinary, but the first lecture got me interested. I really enjoyed some of the exercises: crashing networks is like a sudoku puzzle. However, the lectures soon became incredibly difficult to sit through. The tutorials were good, my tutor was really professional and helpful. The second assignment was pretty ordinary and annoying. Being forced to wrestle with Microsoft Project was pretty annoying also. The exam was ok, I hadn’t reviewed ROI but overall the exam was ok. It could have been made a bit clearer and less ambiguous- I’m sure language and learning would have been able to help. This subject has great potential, but it falls short. Because it has the potential to be so good, it’s sad that it’s terrible. I’ve heard that you can knock this subject over in two weeks during the summer semester.

Next Semester

Next semester I’ll be taking:

But for now I’m going to enjoy a well earned break!

June 30, 2010 | Leave a Comment |

FIT3086 debrief: post exam.

So! I survived the exam even though I was writing to the last minute! Here are my thoughts about the exam.

The Part B case studies were identical to the 2009 exams.
Part A was pretty similar to the past exams and wasn’t too worrying.

Part C!
I was surprised and a bit stumped by the ROI question. I didn’t really review ROI. I had to come back to that question at the end and had to keep writing until the last minute- I think I got everything though.
There wasn’t a question asking us to do a full crash of a network diagram, which surprised me. The crash question was simpler than in past exams. It was a bit odd having a risk management question in part C which required writing and not number crunching! It was also not really fair teaching us the EV, PV notation and then having BCWP / BCWS etc on the exam. Easy enough to work out but might throw someone. The NPV question was fairly easy to work out but the ROI threw me a bit and the bit where we had to adjust our recommendations due to an adjustment in cost was confusing: there was a 5,000 addition to the costs for one project, then the next project “has no benefits in year 5″ confusion.

I wish units had to send through their exams to Language and Learning or something. Confusing questions aren’t fun.

Over all I think I did ok, how did you go?

PS sorry to the person searching for FIT2002, the second year version of FIT3086, I hope you found something useful here.

June 23, 2010 | Leave a Comment |

FIT3086 exam revision: the writing bits

Reminder: 40% of the exam is writing/discussion type questions. In this blog post I’ll go over some of the key terms involved in the past exam questions.

Risk Management

The exam question in the semester 2 exam asks us to identify what risk management strategy is used in each scenario given. The risk management strategies to choose from are:

(Definitions gleaned from Wikipedia)

Project Charter

What we wrote for Assignment 1. The Project charter is an important document, basically specifying what the project will achieve and who is responsible for the work and how much money it’s going to cost. It is useful to hold the different parties accountable to their obligations.

Milestones

In Australia, we measure road distances in kilometres (km), but miles are used in countries like the USA, and used to be used in Britain. Along the road, milestones would mark each mile so you knew your progress as you were travelling. Even though we now have road signs instead of milestones, we still use the word milestone in project management to refer to events/goals that will mark the project progress. A Milestone may be getting the Project charter signed off on, or getting the design documents approved, or presenting a prototype.

Sponsor

The Project sponsor is a person who is high up the company hierarchy, and basically is “your friend in high places” who has the authority and connections to negotiate with the company for your Project. They are also a mentor for the Project Manager. As the project progresses, they are less and less involved, but are very important at the beginning of the project.

Scope Creep

Scope creep happens when the client (most likely the client, could be the analyst, or even the project manager!) requests more and more features. Perhaps they think that “hey, feature A could easily be stretched to include feature B” but the Project Manager needs to be clear on how much a new feature or function is going to cost (in both time and resources) so that the client can make an informed decision.

Another kind of scope creep is where your company has under-quoted for the Project and needs to add more features so you can charge more and break even. This is (in my opinion) unethical (dishonest) and should not happen. In practice, it often happens with government sponsored projects.

Scope Management

A WBS is a Work Breakdown Structure. It helps us see what work needs to happen and who needs to complete that work. We can see what needs to happen sequentially (for example, we need to buy the rose bushes before we can plant them) and what we can run in parallel (at the same time) so we can save time.

Iterations of a project plan might be needed so that the Plan meets the customer’s expectations for the project. Each time you present the new plan to them, they might see something else that needs changing… hopefully you will only have a few iterations of the project plan.

Organisational structure

In companies there are often many different different departments with hierarchies under the broad hierarchy of the company. In project managing, it’s important to have the authority to be able to talk to the other departments without being held back by the hierarchy.

Project Termination

You don’t want projects to hang around (they might start to go mouldy ;) ) so it’s important to finish them. Projects can be closed as successes, as failures, or as complete, but over time, budget, or reduced quality. Once a project is finished it’s a good idea to throw a party to boost staff morale for the next project.

Intangible Benefits

Sometimes a project might improve or deliver something that isn’t reflected in the accountant’s books. When comparing projects we can assign “weights” and “scores” to different aspects of the project to decide if it is the project we want. An example of an intangible benefit would be a project that improves the building facilities that improve staff morale. Happier staff might work harder, but that is something hard to measure and attach a monetary value to.

Project Management Software

We used Microsoft Project for this course, but there are cheaper alternatives out there. You can always grab a pen and some paper and sketch stuff out, but software makes it easier. You just need to input the data and the software draws and adjusts all the charts and graphs. The software makes a nice professional looking object to present to customers and management. They probably wouldn’t take you seriously if you presented all your doodles and drafts as a finished product.


Those are my thoughts, do you have any to add? Leave a comment, your contributions could be very useful!

June 22, 2010 | 2 Comments |

FIT3086 exam revision: NPV

The question I’m tackling now from the semester 1 2009 exam is the one about NPV. (Page 5). We covered NPV (Net Present Value) in week 6, ha, no wonder my mind is a bit fuzzy about it.

On an exam-taking note, it is important to make sure you don’t mix up the two projects, but work through each one in turn. This might be difficult in a stressful exam situation, but it’s important to take a deep breath and do things carefully.

Special thanks to Sam from the Muso forum for working through this one.
What you need to do is take the net flow (cash flow): which is benefit-cost and use it in the formula.

Formula: Netflow/(1+ discount factor 10% from exam)year ie, 1 for first year

Do this for each year you have data for. Sum these and you have your NPV.

Comparing by Weights
The exam commits a sin: the weights don’t add to 100%. (it only gets to 90%.) However, we can still use the table. Basically we take the score for each section and multiply it by how important it is to us. Then we sum these modified scores to get our result.

From the exam:

  1. Enhances new product development is 10% important, so for Project 1 we multiply 10 * 0.10 = 1.
  2. Streamlines operations is worth 30% so Project 1 we multiply 30 * 0.30 = 9
  3. Has good NPV is worth 50% so we multiply 90 * 0.50 = 45
  4. The total of this is 55

For Project 2:

  1. Enhances new product development is 10% important 50 * 0.10 = 5 (great!)
  2. Streamlines operations 30% 50 * 0.30 = 15 (really good!)
  3. Has good NPV 50% = 30 * 0.50 = 15 (not so good)
  4. Total: 35

So we can see that even though Project 2 is way better in the Product development and in Streamlining operations, it doesn’t have a good NPV. Project 1 will make more money. Interestingly at year 2 Project 1 and Project 2 would have made the same overall net flow of 100,000. I don’t think it’s a great way to handle a question where one project has three years, and the other has two. Even though the question is pretty ordinary, the answer is still Project 1.

June 21, 2010 | 1 Comment |

FIT3086 exam revision: Cost Control

The abbreviation meanings are not given in the sample paper, so I’m going to memorise what they mean.

From the exam question, the formula not given was EV (earned value) which is percent complete (was given in question, 80%) times Planned Value (budgeted value?).

Any trained thing (computer/monkey/etc) can follow a formula guide and churn numbers, so what is more important here is the bit that says:

For each of these variables [SV, CV, SPI CPI] give your interpretation of its value with regards to the budget and schedule of the work package.

June 21, 2010 | Leave a Comment |

FIT3086 exam revision #2 crashing

[ crash test dummies ]

So, on the Past exam from Semester one, 2009, there is a question about project crashing. What is Project crashing? Well, you have specified a network diagram with the tasks, the times they need to be completed, any float times and the different costs involved. You can now see how many days are required in order to complete the project. However, maybe the project needs to be completed sooner than you originally thought, so you need to compress the network diagram, or Crash it.

Here are some rules for crashing:

[ network diagram notation ]

The first step (and the first sub question) is to draw the network diagram from the table given in the question, making sure that you lay out the tasks so that the tasks dependent on the completion of other tasks happen after those tasks finish. I like sketching out a simple diagram to make sure I’ve got the flow right before I commit to a more complex diagram.

A---->B---------->E
\---->C---->D-----^
             \----->F 

I’m double checking whether it’s cool for me to publish my solutions to these questions, but until then:
I crashed A, then E, then B. This meant that the project was able to be completed in 20 days, at a cost of $6390, $190 more than the original cost of $6200.

From Glenn, via twitter:

One additional thing about crashing, you can use float as a check. Float should always reduce/disappear.

Images from:

June 19, 2010 | Leave a Comment |

FIT3086 exam revision #1

I found blogging really helpful when studying for the FIT2001 exam so I’m going to blog for my FIT3086 Project Management Exam as well. I think this works because it forces me to compose my thoughts for “the reading public” (hello out there, who ever you are!) even though I’m the only one who is probably going to benefit from these notes.

Project Management has kind of disappointed me as a subject: the idea of project management is really interesting and could be something that I am involved with in the future; but the lectures were not that great, and hard to apply. The tutorials were good, but the assignments were really boring and unpleasant to do. So I guess I have to force myself to study for this exam.

The Exam Structure, from the week 13 lecture

Looks like the first two will require us to have read the notes and know the concepts and be able to apply them to the situations presented. I don’t think these two sections should be too difficult, looking at the past exams. Where the mark will be built is in the Problem solving section, which is the critical path crashing stuff we did. I plan on spending some time looking at the exercises both from the past exams and the tutorials in preparation for this.

June 18, 2010 | 1 Comment |