ESD.36 | Fall 2012 | Graduate

System Project Management



The project assignment will allow you to directly apply one or more of the advanced methods such as CPM/PERT, DSM or System Dynamics (SD) to a system/product development situation at your company. Alternatively, you may want to analyze in-depth the reasons for failure or success of a past or ongoing complex system/product development project. The objective of the project is for you to leverage the theory presented in class in a practical setting and to improve the way projects are managed in your organization. It is also a vehicle to learn from the project management experiences of your peers.


The intent of the class term project is to allow you to explore one particular aspect of SPM indepth in the context of your organization or a general industrial setting. There is relatively large freedom in the selection of topic, choice of research method and team composition. Some categories of acceptable topics are given below.

This list is not meant to be comprehensive. We are open to other types of projects, provided that there is a clear link to the SPM class objective and content.

As a guideline, your project will generally fall into one of the following categories:

DSM Project

Create and analyze a DSM model of a product development project of your choosing. You must identify a project to study, collect the data, conduct the analysis, and suggest ways that the process can be improved based on your findings.

SD Project

Identify the dynamics and drivers of a real or hypothetical project. Build a system dynamics model of the project including causal loop diagrams and governing equations. Quantitatively simulate the evolution of the project and explore “what-if” scenarios. This SD model has to be different from the one used in homeworks.

Survey of Methods and Tools

Conduct a survey of professed and actually used methods and tools (software) in system project management in your organization. Compare advantages and disadvantages of these methods and distill lessons learned.

Success and Failure of a Past Project

Analyze in-depth the preparation, planning andexecution of a large-scale past (or ongoing) development project. Study historical data and conduct stakeholder interviews. Assess the degree of project success or failure against the original project objectives and identify key success factors.

A list of project topics from previous years is included in Appendix.



  • The project is expected to require approximately 40 hours of cumulative work per person, distributed over the entire semester.
  • Since you will learn about project management techniques, we hope that you will apply these to your own project. Don’t procrastinate until the day before a deadline.
  • This project assignment will be handed out during the first class.
  • Teams must be formed by the second week and be indicated on the project proposal. The nominal team size is four (4) students. Exceptions can be granted by the instructors.

Project Proposal

  • A two page project proposal (pdf) is due at the beginning of the third week.
  • Upload to your team’s folder in the class site.
  • Avoid doing a project that would be competition sensitive or company proprietary
  • It is better to be somewhat narrow and well focused than too broad
  • The proposal should be carefully written and contain the following information:

Names and contact information of the team (maximum 4 per team) (who?)

Project Title (under which category does the project fall, see Section 2?)

Project Sponsor (identify a company individual who will sponsor you)

Project Objective (what do you want to accomplish?)

Motivation (why do you think this is a worthwhile class project?)

Research Approach (how will you go about gathering and analyzing data?)

Work Breakdown Structure (what tasks and who will do them)

Risk Management (what is your backup plan if you can’t get the data?)

  • Faculty feedback and approval of the course proposals will occur via email.

Project Update

  • A written project update (min 500 words in pdf) must be uploaded to your team folder on the class site, send email copy to TA.
  • You may structure the update as you wish, but focus on work accomplished to date and remaining tasks.
  • Let the faculty/staff know if you need assistance or guidance.
  • Include your preference for a time slot for your final presentation.

Project Presentation

  • The final project deliverable is the set of annotated viewgraphs used during the final presentation, no written report is required. Use the “Notes” section in PowerPoint.
  • The final presentations will be 15–20 minutes + 5 minutes of Q&A per team
  • Project grades are based on the quality of the proposal, mid-term update, in-class presentation and on the insights presented to the class.

Important Project Milestones

1 Project assignments handed out
2 2-page project proposal due the class site
3 Project approval and feedback via email from instructors
4 Project update due (500 words), upload to the class site and email TA
5 Project Final presentations, upload to the class site


List of Some Past Project Topics (Sample)

  • DSM Project at Hamilton Sundstrand Aerospace - Chang, Lim, Hu
  • NASA, Program Management in The Formative Years - Butler , Stevens
  • Case Study: the Schedule Delay of the Space-Transportation-System Development Project—Hsieh, Tian
  • Design Structure Matrix of the Upfront Vehicle Development Process - Garza , Ziegler
  • Virtual Design Teams and SimVision—an integrated project planning technique - Kupczewski, McKenna, Zito
  • The SDM Virtual Project Room - Cherbonneau, Xie
  • Development of a Probabilistic Multi-Project Resource Leveling System for Control and Information System Integrators - Prutz
  • PM for the Joint Development Of A Complex System—A Study Of Joint Team Composition - Krishnaswami, Seth, Singh
  • Effectiveness of Nortel Networks Time to Market - Bond, Lanni, Nolan, Svensson
  • The Dynamics of an SDM Thesis - Gilbert, Weinstein
  • A System Dynamics Analysis of the Testing Phase of Small to Medium Scale Software Projects - Lee, Malaga, Sermpetis
  • A DSM a Blade Computer Server - Curhan
  • Project Management Methods and Tools used on Ford NA New Model Programs - Bagley, Somavarapu, Zarewych
  • DSM-Suspension system development in the New Design Process - Barretto, Shen, Usan
  • A review of the Raytheon Aircraft Premier I Program - Downen, Freeman, Kim
  • Intel Backend Flow Optimization - Banerjee, Kommandur

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2012
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples
Design Assignments