Planning for Project Dependencies & Contingencies

Planning for Project Dependencies & Contingencies
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  • 0:00 Dependencies and Contingencies
  • 1:05 Dependencies in Action
  • 2:29 Contingencies in Action
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

In most projects, there are several tasks that cannot be started or completed without other tasks being started, in-progress, or complete. This lesson will explore a project manager's options for dealing with these tasks.

Dependencies and Contingencies

Several years ago, a cardiology office in New Mexico made the decision to upgrade their paper medical records and replace them with an electronic medical record (EMR). This decision would inevitably necessitate abstracting tens of thousands of paper records and re-entering the data into the new database.

Because the scope of the project was so broad, the practice assigned a full-time project manager to the job. The EMR vendor also assigned a project manger. Unfortunately, the project was delivered late and over-budget.

When a project goes off the rails in budget and time, dependencies and contingencies are often the culprit. A dependency refers to a task that cannot be completed unless another task is started, in-progress, or completed. Contingencies are the resources assigned to a project that are not earmarked for any particular task. Instead, the resources, usually financial, are held in reserve in order to keep a project on-track even if some dependencies become unaligned and threaten the delivery date of the project.

Dependencies in Action

In the cardiology group's EMR conversion, significant dependencies included the following:

  • Abstracting (transferring data) from the paper records cannot commence until the installation of the database that will hold the new electronic health records. Therefore, the project task 'abstraction of records' is dependent on the task 'install the database.'
  • Installing the database cannot commence until the appropriate computer hardware has been configured. As a result, the project task 'install the database' is dependent on the project task 'configure the hardware'.
  • Destroying the old paper records cannot commence until the abstraction of records has been started. These project tasks will run simultaneously.
  • Testing any features of the EMR will require that the configuration of the system be in-progress.

The two most common types of dependencies are predecessors and successors. A predecessor is a task that must be completed before the next step can start. Likewise, a successor is a task that begins after the task before it has been completed.

Using the bullet list for reference, the fact that the chart abstraction cannot start until the database is installed means that installing the database is a predecessor to the chart abstraction task. In the last bullet, configuring and testing features is happening simultaneously. 'Going live' with the software would be a successor to the project task of final testing.

Contingencies in Action

In the cardiology group's EMR conversion, a few key contingencies included:

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