Vera van den Groenendal – “Designing a Project Management Support Tool for development projects that are part of European eHealth research projects”


StudentVera van den Groenendal
StudyIndustrial Design, University of Twente (the Netherlands)
Host OrganisationRoessingh Research and Development
Finalized DateJune 2020


The project management of a development or research project can be supported by project management tools. This master thesis focusses on “Designing a Project Management Tool that Supports the development project that is part of a European eHealth research project”.

This thesis is executed at Roessingh Research and Development (RRD). RRD is involved in multiple European eHealth research projects where RRD is mostly responsible for the development of a service or product. The development of such service or product is based on the European research but can be seen as an individual development project. These European projects require collaboration with multiple partners, the internal stakeholders are often only partly involved in a project and all stakeholders have their own goals within the project. This complicates the project management. This thesis researches how to design a tool that can support the project management of the development part of a research project.

Council of Coaches is one of RRD’s current European eHealth research projects. This project serves as case study for the development of the Project Management Support Tool (PMST). The PMST is proposed to RRD to support their European research projects in the eHealth department.

The project management of RRD’s research projects is analysed to determine strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. The PMST’s potential lies in supporting the project management team, improving project documentation, stimulating stakeholder collaboration, supporting project communication, supporting the decision-making process, handling emerging new requirements and supporting effective and efficient knowledge sharing. 

The Project Management Support Tool is IT-based and supports multiple projects with their project management at the same time. It is possible for the users to use the PMST for multiple projects simultaneously. All the user input is saved and the PMST builds up a database. The available data is combined into understandable and relevant information for the user.

The PMST includes characteristics of Synthetic Environments (SE) to structure these complex research projects and to support the stakeholders with their project activities. A SE is a combination of virtual and real elements describing an alternative setting of a real-life situation. In this case the PMST creates an environment for the project that has SE characteristics. The PMST visualises the influence of a project update in the project overview, which allows the user to evaluate this change and decide whether or not to implement the update. Building a SE focusses on involving all stakeholders, including their opinions and documenting their requirements and decisions.

In the PMST the internal stakeholders of a project can document decisions and requirements. The users (who are internal stakeholders of a project) add information to the PMST, and the PMST presents this information in clear overviews and lists. Included are the rationale behind a requirement/decision, which requirement/decision is related to what project aspects/requirements/decisions, which stakeholders are involved in a certain project task and the author. The project overview is based on actor networks and includes all stakeholders, project aspects, requirements and decisions mentioned. Filters and graphical elements support the visualisation and can present information in different structures. This allows the user to analyse information from different perspectives. The PMST personally supports each stakeholder with notifications about requested actions and actions of other users.

Integrating and combining characteristics of Synthetic Environments, requirement engineering and decision-making support systems into the designed PMST has proved to be of added value. All decisions and requirements can effectively and efficiently be documented and managed in the PMST. This allows for easy adding and updating of certain decisions or requirements. By adding more information to the PMST, the PMST reinforces over time.

A feature to set goals for and evaluate the project (management) is included, this will provide very useful insights to the internal stakeholders that they can use in their (next) projects. Next to that, the PMST present an overview of all RRD’s research projects, visualising how these projects are related and which stakeholders are involved.

A mock-up of the PMST is designed to provide an example of how the PMST could look like and function. The PMST design is positively evaluated by the potential users. Thus, when the PMST will be developed according to the proposed design, the project management of RRD’s research projects will be improved and the stakeholders will be better supported. With the PMST the project management of a development project within European eHealth research project will be supported and reach maturity and grow excellence over time.

Results & Outcomes

Integrating characteristics of Synthetic Environments (SEs) into the designed Project Management Support Tool (PMST) has proved to be possible. In SEs, blueprints are the backbone, they support stakeholders with categorising their information. This is integrated in the PMST by introducing project categories and main project aspects. The categories help classifying the information that added into the PMST by the user. The main project aspects are determined by the project management team and support the user with defining (sub) project aspects.

All stakeholders, project aspects, requirements, decisions plus their explaining information are brought together in an architecture. This architecture is based on actor networks and includes all elements (stakeholders, project aspects, requirements and decisions) mentioned. Filters and graphical elements support the visualisation and present information in a different structure. This allows the user to analyse information from different viewpoints (perspectives). The disagreements between stakeholders or stakeholder groups should be discussed and the agreements represent a Synthetic Environment of Council of Coaches that can be developed in the PMST.

All decisions and requirements can be effectively and efficiently documented and managed in the PMST. This allows for easy adding and updating of certain decisions or requirements. A template is presented that asks the user to fill in certain aspects about a requirement and decisions. This information is documented and contains the knowledge that is saved by the PMST. Adding more information to the PMST reinforces the PMST over time.

All project elements can now be visualised in the PMST in a clear and understandable way. Adaptations can be made within only few steps, which allows the user to analyse the impact/influence of a project update.  

To conclude, the PMST facilitates an approach to document project information (e.g. goals, approaches, stakeholders, requirements, decisions and rationales). It supports the decision-making process and gently forces the user to think of the impact of a certain decision. It handles emerging new requirements and requirement updates to allow requirement evolvement over time. By providing all information at one place (in the PMST) and sending notifications about actions, the PMST supports effective and efficient knowledge sharing.

The potential users who evaluated the PMST were positive about its functions and features, and stated improvements that are related to the (sub) goal(s). As a result, it is expected that the PMST would reach its goal and sub goals when designed and implemented.

It is expected that the Project Management Support Tool is broadly applicable and could provide support to development projects in general.

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