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PM Essence
StrateJect: An Interactive Game for Project Management Experiential Learning
 
- Dr. Srinivas Telukunta, Mr. Srikanth Kumar Kota, Mr. Srinivas Potti, Mr. Harsha Shashank,
  Mr. Triloknath Reddy

Project Management is inherently an experiential learning, where learning by experience and motivation to apply to actual projects are central issues. An experiential learning process for project management requires an environment where a learner can act as project manager executing a project without the costs and risks associated with an unsuccessful project delivery. This can be broadly accomplished by two education strategies- One is business simulations and the other is usage of project management games. In this article we explain the latter strategy and present a technique to provide experiential learning to project managers based on a “Board Game” design, similar to the popular game “Monopoly” (Called as “StrateJect”).

 

Some salient features of “StrateJect” include:

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  1. Multilevel game which provides inputs for application of project management concepts of PMBOK 5 to a virtual project in an industry of user choice.
  2. Creation of collaborative environment where members can network with other project managers and monitor their performances which creates a Gamification environment to create motivation for users to learn application of project management in a competitive setting.
  3. Ease of customization for application of concepts of PMBOK 5 to various Industries and different departments within the same organization to customize project learning.

 

Project management can be considered as a universal concept and is applicable to all industries and functions, but according to the software engineering literature and recent researches its adoption in software projects is still inadequate and deficient. The high number of software projects that are cancelled each year and the number of projects presenting schedule and cost overruns may be consequences of this lack of awareness of project management. It is widely accepted that experienced project managers perform better than inexperienced managers in concluding their projects successfully to evolve a project strategy as it unfolds. However, still many project managers are promoted from technical teams due to their success in previous projects without proper training and education to acquire project management skills. Thus, education strategies adopted to prepare project managers play a very important role in preventing project failures due to inadequate use of project management techniques on software projects, providing the basis to improve the present scenario of so many failed projects.

 

StrateJect is a Project Management strategy execution game - By using the game, the user is asked to act as a project manager, planning and controlling software project with success, i.e. complete within the planned schedule and budget estimates. The game construction is based on three main elements, as can be seen in Figure 1: a simulation model, a simulation machine, and a game machine, which will be detailed on the following sections.

 

The simulation model of the game represents the project management world and the aspects that will be simulated and presented to the player. Such behavior is determined by the structure of the elements that participate in the system and the relationships among them. Such structure and relationships are described in the model through mathematical equations. This separation occurs by building distinct models (namely scenario models) for each uncertain aspect that can influence a software project. These are incorporated with the help of “Risk Modeling” which are an integral part of any project management execution as shown in Figure-2. By using games, it is possible to evaluate the impacts of the desired scenarios over the expected project behavior.

 

The Game simulation machine is the element responsible for controlling simulation steps, iteratively calculating model equations to evaluate system elements' behavior, which is different from ordinary simulators. Using ordinary simulators, a learner playing the role of a manager should prepare a plan (configuring model elements and relationships) and follow it until the end of the game. This static structured simulation does not represent with confidence the reality: during a software development project, the manager makes decision all the time during the development process – not only during the planning phase – modifying the original plan (and thus, the model structure) to better control the project.
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The Game Machine

 

The game machine is the element that the player interacts with and receives visual feedback from the model game simulation. It is able to create a project life cycle technique with continuous phases. Each phase represents a separate game simulation model, configured externally in a configuration file. This flexibility allows the adoption of several different educational goals using the same game depending on the learning needs of the project team. The player starts the subsequent phase immediately after finishing the preceding one. During a phase, the project development takes place with hired team members who remain fixed during the phase of the project. The productivity and weekly salary information is presented and the user can choose the project human resources which will affect the budget and schedule of completion of the work in the phase. The various roles in the game include.
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  1. Project Manager – This is the player's role, responsible for project planning and several decision-making during the game;
  2. Project Human Resources - The team to develop the project. Each resource has different skills and characteristics such as weekly salary, productivity, specified domain expertise etc;
  3. PMO - Represents all the other project stakeholders and responsible for the project plan acceptance, providing finance during development. 

Each game phase is also divided into five steps: Begin stage, Project Planning, Planning Acceptance, Project Execution and End stage.