Project genome mapping


Director, The Hartford Financial Services Group


At the request of a divisional CIO, I was asked to perform an audit of one of the largest and most strategic programs in the company. There were many observations and recommendations which resulted from the four week assessment. One of the most prominent observations was that this program had all of the essential elements of program management (e.g. a program plan, a schedule, change control log, a budget, and a resource plan), but that they were not aligned together. Therefore, there was no clarity as to the impact of changes, the detailed makeup of the budget or the relationship between resources, milestones, and deliverables.

I was looking for a visual way to represent these relationships to present back my findings. What I realized, as I considered it further, was that all of the major project deliverables were made up of the same basic elements. I then thought about how most projects also have these basic elements however some are successful and some are not. I hypothesized that it is how these elements are structured and related which has an impact on the project's ability to be successful. This seemed similar to the way that DNA works, so I decided to present my thoughts in the context of a genetic mapping metaphor. In the American Heritage Dictionary, a gene is defined as “A hereditary unit consisting of a sequence of DNA that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and determines a particular characteristic in an organism.” (2000). In the context of this paper, the genes or “atomic elements” are those basic building blocks that combine to determine the particular characteristics of a project. With the right genetic makeup your project can grow up to have positive morale, high quality and a better chance of success.

This paper will…

  • Identify the atomic elements of all projects
  • Show how they combine to make up the major deliverables
  • Identify genetic defects in projects
  • Show how the deliverables relate and how to gage success from them
  • Identify some suggestions on each deliverable

The Atomic Elements

This paper proposes that all projects are made up of the same atomic elements described below in Exhibit 1…

Atomic Elements

Exhibit 1 – Atomic Elements


The atomic elements combine in different ways to create the core project deliverables. Note that for this paper, I focused on the core project management deliverables and not the supporting ones (e.g. issues log, risk log, communication plan, etc.). This next section will take each deliverable and show which of the atomic elements is in its genetic makeup. It will also suggest some techniques for each deliverable which I have used in the past.

The Project Plan

Project Plan

Exhibit 2 – Project Plan

The Project Schedule

Project Schedule

Exhibit 3 – Project Schedule

The Project Resource Model

Project Resource Model

Exhibit 4 – Project Resource Model

The Project Budget


Exhibit 5 – Project Budget

The Project Change Control Log

Change Control Log

Exhibit 6 – Change Control Log

Integration of Deliverables

Since the deliverables are made of the same elements, they are tightly related to each other and should be managed as such. Exhibit 7 shows the atomic elements as well as the deliverables that they make up in various combinations. This picture clearly shows the overlap between the deliverables as well as the linkages at the genetic code level. This is the project DNA.

Integration of Deliverables

Exhibit 7 – Integration of Deliverables

Genetic Defects

I have noticed many different ‘genetic defects’ on projects. These are common situations where the atomic elements or deliverables are not aligned correctly. This section will describe several situations where this can occur and explain the results of such a genetic defect.

Defect: Schedule Separate From Budget

Separate Schedule/Budget

Exhibit 8 – Separate Schedule/Budget

Defect: Resources Separate From Budget

Separate Resources/Budget

Exhibit 9 – Separate Resources/Budget

Defect: Schedule Separate From Budget

Change Control on the Plan

Exhibit 10 – Change Control on the Plan

As all of these genetic defects show projects, like the one I audited, have deliverables which are not tied to the same basic elements causing a lack of clarity around the management of them. Therefore, there can be little confidence in the ability to be successful.


This next section will show how the major deliverables should relate and leverage the same atomic elements. Suggested techniques are also identified here.

The Linkage Between Plan and Schedule

Schedule/Budget Linkage

Exhibit 11 – Schedule/Budget Linkage

The Linkage Between Schedule and Resource Model

Schedule/Resource Model Linkage

Exhibit 12 – Schedule/Resource Model Linkage

The Linkage Between Resource Model and Budget

Resource Model/Budget Linkage

Exhibit 13 – Resource Model/Budget Linkage

The Linkage Between Plan and Budget

Plan/Budget Linkage

Exhibit 14 – Plan/Budget Linkage

The Linkage To Change Control

Change Control

Exhibit 15 – Change Control

Proposed Model

As part of the implementation plan for the audit results, I proposed a model which I have used in the past. It is a “one stop shop” for most of the project deliverables and allows for clarity between the relationships (see Exhibit 16).

A Proposed Model

Exhibit 16 – A Proposed Model

The steps for creating this model are as follows..

  1. Create the project plan based on input from the team. This should take into account effort required to perform activities and an initial pass at duration.
  2. Based on the project plan, create the schedule across the top of the model by month.
  3. Map the resources to the schedule and identify FTE allocation. Note that as a result of looking at FTE allocations and start times, the schedule may have to change. This is very much an iterative model.
  4. Add the monthly rates for each resource
  5. Calculate the budget - total, monthly, and by resource

Change Control

Once the model has been created, it can also be used to manage change controls with the following steps.

  1. Baseline the budgeted view. Once the budget has been approved this is the snapshot of what it is made up of (resources, duration, rates, etc.). This should be locked down and a copy should be made for any changes going forward.
  2. The copy should be used to track any changes in rate, duration, or allocation since all of them impact the project deliverables. I usually use a different color and notes to identify what the change was/
  3. Calculate the forecasted view. EAC = ATD +ETC

In Summary

I have seen a lot of writing on the major project deliverables but few have shown the linkages. This paper suggests that all projects are made of the same basic elements and that they combine in different ways to create the project deliverables. These deliverables are tightly integrated and must be managed as such to avoid the genetic defects. The creation of one detailed view allows the Project Manager to have clarity around the project financials, resources, and schedule which also allows for impacts of changes to be measured and managed.

The concepts in this paper are not new and should be common sense for most Project Managers, but it is the implementation of the rigor and detail which will provide for this clarity.


Houghton Mifflin Company. (2000) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2000) Houghton Mifflin Company.

Project Management Institute. (2003) A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Third Edition (PMBOK Guide) - 2003 Edition. Newton Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

©2007 Kerry R. Wills
Originally published as part of 2007 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Atlanta, GA



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