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Interesting Reads About Project Management

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News

Project Management Important For Generating Real Business Value

Recent research by global management company Mannaz indicates that Project Management is one of the most important capabilities in an organisation for generating real business value. The research suggests the most important prerequisites to ensure projects deliver on their stated objectives are the definition of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as well as securing stakeholder agreement. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities were also key factors in achieving success as was a flexible and agile approach to change within a project. Not surprisingly cost was a number one priority for most organisations.

 

Achieving project success is about empowering people to take responsibility

A thought-provoking read by Rene Carayol , who points out that the recent Project Management Benchmark Report 2014 reveals that 97 per cent of organisations think PM is critical to business performance, but worryingly, only 54 per cent of organisations fully understand the value of PM. Even more alarmingly, fewer than two thirds of projects meet their goals and objectives, and a desperate 19 per cent fail outright. Strikingly, success is instructively due to 20 per cent processes and procedures (the “hard” skills) and 80 per cent is down to attitude and behaviour (the “soft” skills).

 

Comparing Project Management To Organising a Surprise Party

An interesting read on GRCC Today that compares the elements of arranging a surprise party to the project management process (set date, find venue, arrange food and drink, make cake, invite guests etc.) And how the ability to accommodate and even capitalise on change is important when things don’t go to plan – especially when managing projects. Control of the schedule is essential to be able to update it as and when necessary and to ensure that the updated schedule can still accommodate all necessary activities, still provide the resources and meet the deadlines.

 

Celebrating People in Project Management

Last week was the official launch party for the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Arras People held the launch event  at the National Centre for Project Management in Hatfield which they felt was a fitting place to bring together just some of the 50 odd authors who contributed to the Handbook. The book brings together all those soft skills; behavioural aspects of project management; career related issues and lots of other areas such as NLP; change and spirituality.

 

A project manager’s guide to smiling

 

A must-read from projectmanager.com.au to encourage PMs to smile more! The chemical effect that smiling has on our mind and bodies is the reason why humour is such an important part of every aspect of our lives, including the professional life of a project manager. The most successful project teams are those in which humour exists within the group’s dynamics. When exercised appropriately, humour can do wonders to improve team performance.

 

How Project Management Compares to Playing in an Orchestra

Another interesting read by Lisa Ricciuti  about the similarities between playing in an orchestra and working on a project.

1.     Every participant is focused on the same end goal of completion (project or concert).

2.     Dependencies exist between tasks and players.

3.     Tasks/phrases are completed and set up so the next person can take over.

4.     We follow the leader (conductor for the musicians, project manager (PM) for project folks).

Project Managers Need To Stand Up And Be Counted

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

I recently watched a video called “The Expert” about the challenges of being a technical expert in a corporate project environment – the video has been labelled a “comedy” but for anyone working in a large corporation or for an external project management consultancy it is a revealing insight into why so many projects go wrong (and why project managers can themselves be to blame) so it is painful watching.

The traits and behaviours that project managers exhibit in the early stages of getting a project off the ground can determine the outcome of the project and in the video the project manager takes his lead from his senior manager, who just wants to please the client even when the proposed project is ill-defined.

For a project to be successful it needs a project manager with the skills (and courage) to guide the project right from the start and, whilst the aim is to deliver what the client wants, the client may need guidance in translating their ideas and objectives into an achievable goal that will actually deliver something with business benefits.

Of course, a client’s perception of the final deliverable will give a project the stamp of approval, or not, which is why many PMs may be reluctant to voice their concerns about the aims of the project but, if the deliverable simply does not make sense what would be the benefit to the client? Ultimately not taking technical concerns seriously at the initiation stage will never result in a successful project either from the client’s perspective or the project team’s perspective.

Many project managers will have come across a scenario where there are only vague project objectives and inherent problems with the requirements that are not being addressed; situations where the client has not, and will not, make their aims and requirements clear yet expect the project to start with this poorly defined set of requirements and expected benefits. Even worse the client and senior management view any questioning of the requirements and benefits as obstructive behaviour rather than as an attempt at clarification designed to improve the outcome of the project.

In scenarios such as these it may not be the direct responsibility of the project manager to deal effectively with the situation but it is certainly going to affect the outcome of the project so it should be the PMs responsibility.

A project manager should have a vested interest in improving the situation by listening to the technical or business experts’ concerns and using tact and diplomacy to talk through the real aims and requirements of the client. Unfortunately, if the PM is a “yes” man (as in the video) he/she will not. Another thought-provoking snippet lately was the report from MIT Sloan Management Review revealing that “yes” men are a common cause of project failure because they are reluctant to report bad news or disagree with senior management. But, in the end, it is most likely to be the project manager’s reputation on the line.

So just what can a project manager do when faced with a project that has; ill-defined and poorly thought-out requirements and when senior management and clients refuse to see any problems with the project aims or requirements?

  1. Try and understand the client – their difficulty in articulating their needs in a realistic way may be the result of a lack of understanding of the true aims of the project or simply a lack of technical understanding – they could themselves be “yes” men. But if the project is to be a success then the project manager needs to work closely with the client and to raise difficult issues when necessary. This may require a certain amount of diplomatic hand-holding, advice and guidance but without this the project is doomed from the start.
  2. Assist the client in defining their requirements in a realistic way; don’t make the mistake of assuming the client can do this themselves. It may not be part of a PM’s job description to gather or document requirements but sometimes this is the only way they will be done clearly and accurately, and in a way that will deliver business benefits to their client. Never forget that the aim of every project is to deliver some benefit and if that cannot be articulated then what is the point of the project?
  3. Do not embark upon any serious project work until you and the client fully understand the requirements and the aim of the project; doing so will simply waste time and effort. Even if you are under pressure from your own boss you must get the foundations right – after all it will be your reputation that suffers when the project is a failure. Instead work closely with any subject matter experts if you do not have the relevant technical or business knowledge and listen to what the experts have to say.

Take a look at the video…

 

Re-visiting Rodney Turners Goal Method Matrix With an Agile Frame of Mind

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default

Sometimes it’s interesting how new ideas are generated by our brains, most of the time we are comfortable in our world and then events conspire to push us in a new direction. The past seven days, for me has been one to these periods. The first was the APM conference on new frontiers. The presentation by the two key note speakers (Camila Batmanghelidjh and Eddie Obeng) both talked about flexibility and adaptability in a world in which the pace of change is ever increasing. The second was delivering a course with an IT Director at a Global Charity. This integrates agile and waterfall project management into a common approach and the third was preparing for a meeting with one of the most innovative companies in the UK to talk about the application of project management in the product development environment. All this lead me back to Turner and Cochrane’s goal method matrix developed in 1993, before the birth of agile in 2001. How could this be updated for today’s project management.

Four Different Types of Project

Turner and Cochrane identified four different types of project.

turner

Type 1 Earth projects; have clearly defined goals and methods. These are typical construction or engineering projects, where the aim is to deliver the project in the most cost effective and timely manner. Turner and Cochrane talks about the project manager acts as a conductor applying bottom up planning techniques. A modern demonstration of this approach is the London 2012 Olympics where the team concentrated on “doing the basics well”

Type 2 Water projects; have clearly defined goals but poorly defined methods of delivery. These are typical product development projects where the goals are well defined but the methods of delivering those goals are not yet known. Turner and Cochrane’s talk about this type of project needing a multi-skilled team who can explore new avenues for implementation, led by a coach. Today we talk about disruptive technologies; which transform existing functionally of a product or transforms a business model, examples include the smart phone revolution or he streaming on-demand content such a music, sport or even project management training.

Type 3 Fire projects; with poorly defined goals but clear delivery method. Typical these are software application development projects. The technology to deliver the application is well understood, we just don’t know what the users want. Turner and Cochrane’s talk about defining the mission, requirement and the critical role of the sponsor in defining the direction. They see the project manager as a sculptor carving out the image from a solid block. Today we apply agile to this type of project, build a model and let the users see what they will get (before you start to carve the marble), then modify it based on feedback.

Type 4 Blue Sky Projects; with poorly defined goals and methods. Typically these are research of cultural change projects, in which we are exploring an area because it is interesting not with any clearly defined intended purpose or objective. Turner and Cochrane’s talk about the need for creativity and inspirational leadership of these projects, however most project of this form start by defining the research question to be answered. For example how could this organisation give higher levels of customer satisfaction or what new materials can be developed using nano-technology.

 

turner updated

Figure 1 Goal Method Matrix Updated for 2014

Reflecting on Turner and Cochrane in 1993 for the perspective of 2014 we can see that the different approaches to project management have matured significantly. The bodies of knowledge for engineering projects are now well defined and codified in the bodies of knowledge, agile approaches to applications development have become common place and most product development pipelines now follow a stage gate approach. However these different world views of project management often don’t see eye to eye, with traditional practitioners declaring that Agile will never work and visa versa. Turner and Cochrane remind us that not all projects are the same and we need to adapt our approach to the projects we manage.

In fact some projects have different types in the same project. The APM conference also heard from Andy Griffee, with is the programme director for the BBC new broadcasting house. In this project I can see at least three different types of project, so maybe that is why it is a programme.

Project Manager Training

The Importance of Good Business Requirements Analysis in Projects

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in News, Project Management Articles

Business Requirements define the scope of a project and enable everyone involved in a project to agree what will be delivered and what they can expect from the completed project. It constitutes the formal agreement between client and provider but in order to be valuable it must be based on a thorough analysis of the requirements to ensure the project delivers what the client needs.

A business requirements specification states what will and will not be included as part of the project and defines what can be expected from the completed project. Such documents are required for completely new projects and also for those that build on existing products or business procedures.

The advantage of analysing business requirements before beginning any project is that it gives the opportunity to generate real improvements to a business not just change.

Projects within large organisations are almost always started in response to some need or some current failing. Substantial resources are then used to complete projects so they must deliver what was actually needed or they will have been a waste of time and money. Good business requirements analysis will help to avoid this situation by precisely defining the requirements to meet a specific business objective.

 

Gathering Business Requirements

There are a number of tried and tested techniques for gathering the information for a Business Requirements Document. Some of the main methods are reviewed below. Always remember that people in different roles will view the project from their own perspective and will not always see the bigger picture. Business analysis will look at these different perspectives and present the overall best solution.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming can lead to numerous ideas on a certain subject in a short space of time. Dedicate a single hour in a meeting room with no access to phones or email to get full involvement from all the participants. Include people from every area involved in the project but avoid groups larger than around 15 people in order to stay focussed on the task.

Use any combination of whiteboards, paper, iPads to get a flow of ideas going. Note every idea down initially and then begin discussions on which ideas might provide a solution to the business need. Avoid being side-tracked onto topics that will not help to solve the business need.

Interviewing

Interviewing members of staff involved in a project is very effective for obtaining information that might not always come out in a group. However, it is important to know which people to select for interview and to remain focussed on the topic. Prepare questions in advance of the analysis interviews and ensure they are open questions so that interviewees must provide a full answer.

Storyboarding

Storyboarding is a way of breaking down a project into small chunks and concentrating on only one element at a time. It is used to organise tasks, communicate clearly (and unambiguously) and to identify areas where more analysis is required.

Prototyping
Many people cannot visualise a completely new product so it can be useful to create a prototype to help clients visualise what the final product will be like. Prototypes will often reveal problems and usability issues as well as assumptions made on the part of the client.

Interpreting Business Requirements

When the business requirements have been gathered it is then possible to decide what can actually be delivered and also which features or functions are not required to reach the business objective. They can then be prioritised to ensure the most important tasks are completed first.
The Business Requirements Document

Requirements always need to be documented in straightforward language that is easy to understand and unambiguous. Keep the writing simple and do not use technical jargon without including a clear definition of what it means. This document should include enough information so that the new product can be built, tested and delivered to the client.

Every documented requirement must be quantifiable and be able to be tested to confirm that it meets the business objective. Any feature or function that does not contribute to the final outcome of the project should not be in the Business Requirements Document.

The success of any project depends on thorough business requirements analysis so all stakeholders in a project should formally accept the final document before the project progresses too far.

 

Update of APM qualifications to the 6th Edition of APM Body of Knowledge.

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default

The Association for Project Management has announced that its range of project management qualifications is to be updated to reflect the changes in the 6th Edition of the Body of Knowledge. At the same time they will be changing the names of the qualifications, to be more descriptive of the qualification levels. While the changes in the qualifications content is minimal, at Parallel Project Training we have taken this opportunity to refresh our learning material and programmes, with a new book, a complete set of bite size podcasts and e-learning.

Scope of the Changes

So far the APM have announced the refresh of the APM Introductory Certificate and the APMP, the changes to contents of the qualifications are quite small but the names of them have been changed. Overall the earlier topics have been restructured as learning outcomes and these are to be measured using new assessment criteria.

Scope of Changes to Qualifications

Introductory Certificate has been re-named The APM Project Fundamentals Qualification The format of the exam remains a one hour exam with 60 questions. The contents of the exam are described in The APM Project Fundamentals Qualification syllabus. This shows that the overall learning outcomes have been restructured to

  1. Understand project management and the operating environment
  2. Understand the project lifecycle
  3. Understand the management structure by which projects operate
  4. Understand project management planning
  5. Understand project scope management
  6. Understand scheduling and resource management
  7. Understand risk management and issue management
  8. Understand project quality management
  9. Understand communication in the project environment
  10. Understand principles of leadership and teamwork

However within each learning outcome the assessment criteria such as “1.1 define a project” are remaining more or less unchanged from the BoK 5th edition version of the APM Introductory certificate course.

APMP is to be re-titled The APM Project Management Qualification

In a similar manner as the APM Fundamentals Qualification the learning outcomes have been restructured under the following headings.

  1. Structure of organisations and projects
  2. Project life cycle
  3. Project contexts and environments
  4. Governance and structured methodologies
  5. Communication
  6. Leadership and teamwork
  7. Planning for success
  8. Scope Management
  9. Schedule and resource management
  10. Procurement
  11. Risk and issue management
  12. Project quality management

The assessment criteria are in general similar to those in the existing APMP syllabus, for example “explain why projects are structured as phases (including the use of end of phase reviews, go/no-go decisions and high level planning)” or “describe where the use of portfolio management may be appropriate“. Most of these have been carried over with only a superficial update and modification from the previous syllabus. Only three new assessment criteria have been introduced as part of this review. They are

  1. Explain the importance of relevant legislation applicable to projects (such as health and safety , environmental, employment, contract, data protection, freedom of information). Health and Safety used to be a topic of its own – no longer.
  2. Explain a typical project reporting cycle including the gathering of data and dissemination of reports and the principles of reporting by exception
  3. Define scope in terms of outputs, outcomes and benefits (including use of product breakdown and work breakdown structures)

Parallel Upgrade Plans for APMP and APM IC courses

While the changes made to the syllabuses for these courses are quite small we have fully refreshed our learning material. The main changes are

  1. A complete revision of our APMP study guide to reflect the structure of the syllabus and to make some minor improvements such as including the quick quiz answers within the book along with explanations of the answers
  2. New podcasts covering the entire syllabus. These new podcasts are in bite size sessions of 15 to 20 minutes each, just perfect for the commute to work.
  3. All new e-learning, again in bit size elements, covering all the principle in the syllabus.

Transition Plans

Public Courses

The new exams will be available from the APM on the 30th April 2014. The new Parallel material will be released on the 18th April. The last public course using the 5th edition material will be the public course 28 Apr 2014 - 02 May 2014. The first course to use the 6th edition material will be on the 12 May 2014 - 16 May 2014.

Distance Learning Courses

Courses sold after the18th April will be the 6th edition material. The 5th edition exam and material will still be available until December 2014 for those doing distance learning courses. When booking an exam using the 5th edition please make sure you indicate on the booking form that you want the 5th edition exam. After December 2014 we will remove the 5th edition material from our website, and itunes and offer these candidates an upgrade to the 6th edition material for a fee of £50 to cover the new study guide and admin costs.

Corporate Courses

With corporate clients we will discuss transition plans, but would recommend moving to the new material as soon as possible.

Cross Cultural Project Teams

Project Management Around The World

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Parallel Discussion

Managing Global Projects & What I’ve Learnt About Outsourcing

Thinking about what to write for this #PMFlashBlog I started recalling my first foray into the world of project management. I had been working for some years for a blue-chip organisation, designing and developing bespoke software systems for internal use. But as with many large organisations 10+ years ago they were considering outsourcing the IT functions to India and retaining a core of IT staff as project managers and technical specialists in the UK. I duly gained my PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification and became a project manager (or, at least, that’s what my title said).

But the whole process was far from a smooth ride; for a start most of the people re-assigned to a project manager role didn’t really want a PM role – they had been happy in their technical IT roles but since the whole organisation was moving towards outsourcing IT there was little option but to take a PM role or look elsewhere for another job.

So a new era started where I became “global project manager” managing projects and teams 5,000 miles away in India. People I had never met, who worked for a different company and had their own “local project manager”.

Of course, I knew the reason behind the changes was purely financial – I don’t know what the savings were but they must have been considerable for a multi-national organisation of over 300,000 employees at the time. Not that this was admitted as being the only reason to outsource – there was talk of efficiencies, economies of scale etc. etc.

As you can imagine there was some resentment to the whole process and it badly affected morale – for one because many of our colleagues were no longer in the company but also because we had lost that team spirit that had got us through many a late night and many a stressful software release. The very term management suggests that a manager knows or can get to know the people working for her/him; that a relationship can be built up so that trust can develop. A manager will learn to understand the team (in theory at least) and how to motivate the individuals.

But my role meant that all my dealings were with the “local project manager” – for quite a while I didn’t even know the names of my team members. It initially seemed that it was only me concerned about this but gradually other PMs started discussing various projects and forming the same opinion. We had to get to know the teams – to understand them and the cultural differences if we were  to manage our projects successfully.

Perhaps, as with many project manager roles, I did not have enough support (let’s be honest, no support) from my superiors. It had been a money-saving decision to implement an outsourced arrangement and saving money was all they were concerned about.

But what happens when you only focus on one aspect of a project – in this case, the budget? Any experienced PM will tell you that something else will suffer. It could be the quality of the work or the timescales or both, as indeed it was in my case on that first project. I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought at the time – in fact, the web-based system developed then is still in use today so it can’t have been all bad, but coming from a background where the users, the IT developers, the project managers and senior execs were all located in the same, albeit very large, building my focus then was on what was not right with the project rather than what was.

So how did the project get to the point where it was implemented “successfully”? It is a whole other topic, dear to my heart, of how you define project success; you can have documented success criteria that are met, a project that is on scope, on budget and on schedule but one that doesn’t actually meet the needs of the client at the point it is implemented – but that’s another discussion for another time.

Back to completing a project with a team on the other side of the world – one that I don’t know, and, therefore, don’t understand and don’t know how to motivate. The easy solution would be to get together – I could fly out to India (always wanted to go) and meet the team, that would not be too expensive (thinking about cost saving here) and surely lead to a better outcome. Well, I tried but it never happened – with hindsight the outsourcing company wanted to keep their clients, me included, at arm’s length and senior management in my organisation, thinking of the bottom line, could not be persuaded otherwise.

In the end I spent many an hour on the phone with the local PM building up a relationship with him, stressing the need for honest status updates (that came later, when I realised the cultural differences meant that any problems were not reported until they had become out of control). In fact, I like to think we both came to understand each other a lot better and came to trust each other. After all we both wanted that first project to be a success – after much in-house grumbling we had all realised that outsourcing was here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future) so that project and the others that followed had to be successful.

This groundwork ensured that when there were some real issues that were difficult to resolve and those difficulties were being exacerbated by my not being able to speak to the person doing the work, it was finally agreed that I could speak to someone at the coal-face – hurrah.

That first project was a learning experience for me, for the local project manager, for the project team and, in fact, the whole company. I wasn’t then, and still am not, a fan of outsourcing any work overseas because it creates too many barriers between those specifying and using the project deliverable and those doing the work to deliver the end result. Even if there were not language and cultural barriers, which there invariably are in global projects, just having disparate teams working in different time zones is enough to create barriers that foster a lack of understanding and trust from both sides.

Nevertheless, those early global projects certainly delivered on budget and as time went on they started to deliver on schedule, in part, due to estimation “techniques” being improved with experience (you know the sort of techniques where someone gives an estimate and you double it just in case). I’m still not convinced they ever delivered everything I would want regarding scope and quality but what project is ever perfect? Maybe good enough is all anyone can ever hope for?

 

Gantt charts are just one part of project management

A Basic Guide for Success in Project Management

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

Project management in its simplest form is the organisation and tracking of tasks required to complete a project. A project can be anything from planning a new garden layout for your own home, designing a new website, building a new bridge or organising the Winter Olympic Games. Projects appear in our personal lives and on the global stage and at almost every stage in between.

So projects can be very diverse: large or small, simple or complex with many different factors, people and organisations affecting how a project progresses during its life and how it reaches its final outcome. There will always be a clinet and project manager involved but also various contractors, teams, groups, legislative organisations etc who may need to be involved at some point. But ultimately the success or failure of any type of project boils down to a few essential factors – if these are well-managed and controlled then the end result will be successful.

Requirements

The requirements or scope of a project are a detailed, written description of what the client wants from the project. Everyone involved in the project should understand what will be delivered and also understand what is excluded from the project.

 

Project Schedule

Fully documented requirements enable a detailed project schedule of work to be put in place. There are specialist project management planning tools to help with this task and these would typically be used for complex projects but for simple projects a spreadsheet can often be used. The schedule should list every task that has to be performed and the person responsible. It should also include milestones and deadlines and be frequently monitored to ensure the work is keeping to the schedule.

 

Risks   

By anticipating potential risks before they occur you can either prevent them from occurring or, at least, be able to manage the problem better. Projects of every size should have a contingency plan for coping with problems that arise either by adjusting the budget, time or scope of the work. Never trust to luck that risks will not materialise into a real problem as this approach will just make it harder to deal with the risks that inevitably occur in every project.

It is also important that success criteria are agreed at the outset of the project so that everyone involved can agree if, and when, the project has actually been completed successfully. The success criteria are likely to include three determining factors:

Budget

Cost is, obviously, a key aspect of the success of any project but a client’s cost expectations can change during the course of the project. Some increased costs can have a valid reason and may be acceptable to the client. Others may be the results of changed requirements at the client’s request so, again, the increase can be borne. But spiralling costs for no apparent reason will cause friction and possibly the halting of the project.

Always start a project with realistic estimates and an adequate budget is more likely to be allocated at the beginning.

 

Time

The time taken to complete individual tasks and the project as a whole is closely linked to budget and, in the same way, fully explained reasons for time-overruns will often be acceptable but any perceived lack of progress through idleness or no sense of appreciating deadlines will certainly lead to probelsm.

 

Scope

For any project to be seen as successful it must meet the expectations of the client. It is never acceptable for the project manager or project team to see the project as a success simply because it has been completed on budget and on time. There must be a satisfactory outcome for the client. This is one of the reasons why success criteria must be documented and agreed in the initial stages of the project and why one of the aspects of good project management is to manage the client’s expectations through regular discussions in person (not via email).

project management courses from Parallel

What Are The Benefits of Planning a Project?

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

Individuals and organisations regularly start a project believing that it can be easily controlled and does not require formal planning to be completed successfully. Such projects are likely to be time-consuming and expensive so failure to plan them properly is a waste of time and money because lack of planning will increase the risk of the project failing.

Planning a project is not difficult and should not take too much time, although this is obviously proportional to the complexity of the individual project. Yet many projects fail to put a detailed plan in place before works starts. In many ways it is understandable that everyone is keen to get going on an exciting new project but without a plan none of the team will know what the aims of the project are and how long it is likely to take. This can lead to projects that are never completed satisfactorily.

It’s important to remember that project success is not just about meeting the deadline within budget – these are important factors, of course but it is just as important (some would argue it’s more important) to deliver what the client actually wanted.

So next time you are embarking on a new project consider these basic project management and project planning steps – the benefits to following them could be a truly successful project:

 

DOCUMENTING THE CLIENT REQUIREMENTS

You should always document clearly and in detail what it is the client actually wants as the end result of the project. You should be equally diligent about writing down what is NOT included as part of the project as unspoken assumptions can be the cause of many problems in all types of project.

 

GOOD COMMUNICATION

An essential factor for any project to succeed is good communication, both written (in the form of documentation, reports and emails) and also face-to-face communication wherever possible. All communication should be clear and detailed and leave no room for mis-interpretation. Whilst emails are a very useful form of regular communication, verbal communication is necessary from time-to-time to establish trust and clarify details.

 

ALLOCATING TASKS

All tasks involved in completing the project must be assigned to a particular person or team. Avoid allocating a single task to more than one group or team to avoid conflicts of interest, unclear allocation of responsibilities and mismatched skill sets. If necessary break the work down into more distinct parts and allocate them separately to different teams. When teams are working on tasks there should always be a single person in the team who has clear responsibility for ensuring the task is completed.

 

COMMITMENT

Ensuring that people are fully committed to their allocated tasks is a contributing factor in the quality of the work they do and the ultimate project success. Commitment can be established by agreeing on the work that is required and how long it will take to realistically complete it.

 

REMAIN ADAPTABLE

As projects progress, future tasks and expectations become clearer and will often change so it is important to have a plan and a project schedule but it is also important to appreciate that these are not set in stone. By allowing the plan to be flexible and, particularly, by incorporating a time and cost contingency at the outset, you are more likely to achieve a satisfactory end result.

 

MANAGING RISKS           

Problems will inevitably arise during every project but it is the way in which risks are monitored and managed that will determine how they affect the project. Some risks occur unexpectedly but some can be anticipated so a project team should always discuss potential risks at various stages throughout the project so that they can determine in advance how to deal with certain risks.
These are the most basic aspects of a well planned project and there are many more tools and methods that can be used on complex projects, but whatever type of project you might be embarking on some planning is always better than none.

 

Project Completion Estimates

Is Any Project Ever Truly Successful?

Written by Michelle Symonds on . Posted in Project Management Articles

So many projects of all different types fail to live up to our initial expectations that you might wonder if any project could ever be considered successful when compared against the original expectations. At the start of a project there is usually a very clear idea of what should be achieved by the end of the project and most (but not all) projects are started with some measure of confidence in our abilities to pull it off.

Even without the ideal circumstances you are at least likely to have some of the things you need to complete the project successfully – skilled people to do the work, the right tools, some organisational skills and the time and budget required. So why do so many projects go wrong?

A project could be anything from installing a new kitchen, to developing a new software system, or building a new bridge or relocating a company from one office to another. Projects appear in our personal and business lives and major infrastructure projects can affect whole towns or regions so getting them right can have a major impact on many people.

Projects are rarely started with the anticipation of failure – usually it is quite the opposite – the project team and all the other people involved are full of optimism. But could it be this very optimism that is one of the causes of failure? In an eagerness to start a project often essential steps are skipped or not fully completed. So the areas to watch out for are:

 

  • Failure to define the scope of the work
  • Not being fully aware of the risks involved
  • Un-documented assumptions are made by certain people or groups involved
  • Costs and Time are underestimated
  • The benefits of the project are exaggerated
  • Different agendas by different people or groups involved
  • Failure to define what success is

 

Many projects are not complete disasters – they almost always deliver some end-product but it may not be exactly what the client wanted or it may meet their expectations but have cost more than predicted or taken much longer to complete.

Such failures in the management of projects results in clients having to accept less then they expected or pay more to achieve what they want. For a project to genuinely succeed and deliver what the client wants on-time and on-budget it needs to be planned and managed in detail at every step of the way. Milestones need to be set and stuck to. Whenever possible a professional project manager with the skills and experience necessary to keep the project on track should be in charge; a person not just with technical project management skills but one who can maintain the initial optimism of the project throughout its life. With the right person managing every stage of a project it is possible to achieve success.

Perfect Project Pan

Six Tips for the Perfect Project Plan

Written by Paul Naybour on . Posted in Default

We have talked before about what is a project plan. In this post we wanted to extend this to talk about the importance of keeping people involved in the project planning process. Keeping projects on track can be extremely arduous for project managers, especially when it comes to constantly changing additions and requests. When project managers do not implement the proper strategies and expectations with their clients, team, and senior management before starting the project, deadlines can crumble. For this reason, project managers should implement the following six tips for planning successful projects.

1. Focus on the Human Factor

Project management tools and critical path analysis play an essential role in administering and managing business projects. Making sure the project requirements are simple to grasp keeps all parties involved on the same page from start to finish. Project management tools help managers visualize the schedule, giving a quick calculation of a potential end date, but these tools cannot substitute the human factor. Although tools are essential to prompt project completion, managers need to take into account clients and senior management when planning:

  • Project tasks
  • Deadlines
  • Milestones
  • Implementation dates

2. Implement a Critical Chain Method

Project managers can utilize the Critical Chain Method (CCM) to plan and manage projects more efficiently, placing a large emphasis on resources needed to execute project tasks. The critical chain helps keep all resources levelly loaded while requiring managers to be flexible with start times and task changes in order to meet the project’s deadlines. The critical chain combines a network of specific tasks with achievable, aggressive estimates, and managers need to account for logical, hands-off dependencies and resource dependencies to determine the critical chain.

  • Logical, Hands-off Dependencies: The predecessor task’s output starts the successor.
  • Resource Dependencies: The tasks wait on the resource to finish other tasks first.

3. Involve the Team in Project Planning

The team works hard to keep the project moving smoothly, so they should take an active role in scheduling, especially since they have the skills needed to fully understand the project’s dependencies as well as have to accept the project’s schedule. Having constant communication with the team offers valuable insights into potential bottlenecks, planned and unplanned leaves of absence, and other issues that can impact the overall project schedule.

4. Iterate the Project Plan

Many project managers complete a project by utilizing a traditional approach. This entails completing one task after another in order, which does not take into account levels of uncertainty. Implementing an iterative plan allows managers to constantly evaluate the project and ascertain immediate feedback from stakeholders and clients. This entails several development cycles, which encourages team adaptation and improvements to ensure a successful cycle completion.

Once the requirements definition and streamlined planning phases are complete, project managers can iterate additional detailed plans and requirements. Organizing these plans into time-bound iterations of two to four weeks allows the manager and team to focus solely on one portion of the project, ensuring immediate modifications as new requirements appear. Managers who iterate their project develop a more realistic schedule for a successful completion date.

5. Move Riskier Tasks to the Beginning Stages

Every project consists of potential risks that could hinder or delay the project. Project managers can minimize these risks by moving riskier tasks to the beginning stages, allowing them to complete the tasks and communicate the progress to stakeholders and clients. If the critical path is hindered, managers should review available tasks to see if some can be finished earlier to complete the project on time. For unavoidable delays in the project, managers should inform the stakeholders of moving the due date back or reducing the scope of work.

6. Leverage Technology for Efficient Time Management

For projects that consist of parallel activities, performing scheduling calculations can become quite laborious, especially for large, complex projects. Project managers can utilize specialized project management applications, such as Microsoft Project, to visualize the project through a Gantt chart and draw dependencies between tasks. This chart automatically calculates the project’s end date and duration as well as tasks not on the critical path. Some applications allow managers to:

  • Schedule certain tasks as the project develops
  • Place tasks on and off the chart easily
  • Move tasks chains around on the chart

Managers can encourage team collaboration by implementing web-based tools, allowing the team to update the project schedule for a realistic end date. These tools show immediate progress and changes without doing the extra work.

Not having the proper steps put into place before starting any project can lead to challenges and delays. Project managers who wish to increase their profitability margins and ensure prompt project completion can take special project management training courses, such as those offered by Parallel Project Training, to keep their project plans on task and minimize deadline delays.