ProjectDSM is based on the Dependency Structure Matrix methodology (DSM methodology). It is often also called Design Structure Modelling. This powerful method allows you to uncover a specific class of dependencies between project tasks that cannot be made visible using conventional PERT and CPM based project planning tools.

Especially innovation and New Product Development (NPD) projectsare rich in this type ofdependencieswhich may account for up to 60% of all project information.  Conventional project management software does not make this type of dependencies visible to the project manager.

Project risks based on ignoring this class of dependenciesat the project planning stage will inevitably surface during the course of the project and then lead to crisis management at best and project failure at worst.

The DSM methodology is a tool for uncovering and managing complexity in a project by focusing on the interdependencies and information flows between project elements regardless of the targeted/anticipated start and completion dependencies .

DSM can be used for planning and managing task-based projects, for analyzing the interactions between system components in system architecture or product design projects and it can be used to redesign services, processes or workflows.

Conventional software ignores the interdependent or coupled project elements

The DSM methodology accounts for all three types of dependencies between project elements:

1. Serial tasks or system components where B depends on the completion or delivery of outputs from the previous element A.

2. Parallel tasks or system components which are not dependent on the outputs of each other. These can be run or operate concurrently without influence on each other.

3. Coupled or interdependent tasks or system components which depend on each other to deliver an outcome. In order to complete A you need to know something about B and vice versa. These are “chicken and egg” scenarios that in complex projects can amount to more than 50% of project tasks or elements.

It is usually very difficult to work out which of the elements in a project plan might be coupled because interdependencies can occur between two elements that are not at all close to each other in the sequence of events and therefore do not appear to be dependent on each other. The dependencies of the visible activity or workflow in a project may not account for all the information flow interdependencies that exist in a project.

Accounting only for the serial and parallel dependencies but ignoring the coupled dependencies can lead to substantial rework and uncontrolled project overruns in terms of effort and cost. These interdependencies also represent project risks if they are not identified and actively managed during the course of the project.

You can identify all types of dependencies in your project

The ProjectDSM Dependency wizard allows you to define all the dependencies for each of the project elements and it creates a clear and compact matrix representation of these interdependencies, interactions, interfaces and feedback information flows in a project.

The matrix is automatically optimized to represent the project’s task flow as a sequence in time based on their dependencies. Parallel and serial dependencies are shown as colored cells under the matrix diagonal and the interdependent or “chicken and egg” dependencies as colored cells above the matrix diagonal. Colored cells under the diagonal represent forward flow of information or system element interaction, colored cells above the diagonal represent information feedback flow from a later (downstream element or task) to an earlier (upstream) element or task. This means that the earlier element will need to be redesigned or an earlier task and all subsequent tasks repeated if the information output from the downstream task is late, incorrect or doesn’t meet prior expectations.

You can quantify project rework impact and manage assumptions

Project DSM identifies those elements that are involved in information flow feedback cycles and potential rework and it will guide you through a structured assumption planning process to progressively optimize the project element sequence.

You will be able to make assumptions about the expected outputs and impacts of downstream elements on upstream elements and the project outcome. These assumptions can be proactively addressed in the most appropriate order, by for example reducing the most significant barriers to project success first or by leaving the most expensive project task until the substantial project risks have been eliminated. This may require adding specific sub-projects or tasks to the project plan that are designed to verify assumptions or reduce risk. You therefore have many options to optimize your project plan and come up with a balanced project with a specific critical path that meets more than just cost or effort requirements and provides high situational awareness at any stage of the project.

Project Schedule, Gantt Chart and Linchpin Tasks

The ProjectDSM software tool allows you to create a schedule and Gantt chart only after you have optimised the project in terms of its dependency structure.  It shows you then the made assumptions, assumption verification tasks, the Gantt chart with potential iteration tasks and a list of linchpin tasks that are the potential worst case scenario fail points.