Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Managing Project Expectations: How to define and organize project scope

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

This is a guest post from Diana Eskander at Genius Project

Abstract:

Project scope: the intended result of a project, and what’s required to bring it to completion. Projects range in size, complexity, duration, resources, stakeholders – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Defining the scope of a given project – what the intended result is, and what’s required to bring it to completion.

It creates clarity and accountability, and carves out the path for success. Establishing project scope can prove to be difficult. It requires you to step back and have a global understanding of the project environment and to be analytical.

You have to get intimate with the specific details. There are plenty of elements to take into account in order to scope the main lines of a program or project. This white paper examines how to define the scope of a project and consequently, how to organize the information in a comprehensive way that can be referred to by all stakeholders, at any time.

How essential is a project scope?

Companies and teams don’t always take the time to define the scope of a project, because it’s often seen as a waste of time; and people usually want to go straight to planning. Nevertheless, the time before project initiation is very important for maximizing success.

Projects often see failure for many reasons; one of the main ones being unfounded expectations, due to a lack of understanding of the intended goal of the project. It can also be due to a lack of
knowledge and organizational skills, which make deadlines difficult to adhere to. Taking the time to develop a project scope should be seen as an investment, not as a loss. The greater the preparation, the greater the chances of success.

Determining the what, the objective

Once a project is defined as one, the next step is to gain clarity on exactly why the project is being initiated – and what its ultimate purpose is. In other words, what is the intended outcome?
The why is the motivation.

At this stage we’re not talking about the “how”, we’re talking about the “what”. In order to determine all the parts of the what, we suggest using the SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Relevant, Time-bound.

To dig deeper into the what and why, identify how the project is linked to the company’s overall strategy. This will help you get an understanding for the
importance of the project, the context and the desired outcomes. It’s also a good idea to make an exhaustive list of all the stakeholders – knowing who’s involved is a major help to gaining a clearer picture of what the outcome should be.

To get the full view of the intended goal or outcome, you’ll want to refer to all the original documentation, such as the initial project proposal. The information here will usually point to all the answers you’re looking for about why the project was initiated and what the end result should explicitly look like – or what functionalities it should provide.

Based on all the learnings, a project scope statement is put together to summarize what the project intends to produce (product, service, specific result), its complexity and size. This  documentation serves a major purpose when your team is in the thick of the project, because it can be referred to for clarification and for keeping people in alignment with the desired
outcome.

A little note of caution; it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to create a project scope without making some assumptions – and that’s ok. Because waiting until every last detail is figured out, likely means that you’ll be waiting until the project is over. Create a document with all the assumptions and adjust it as you get clearer on the details.

But, it’s not only your assumptions that will change – the scope is bound to change too. Some details, complications, etc., are simply unforeseeable from the get go. So it’s also a good idea to build in a contingency for the unknown.

First comes scope, then comes budget and time

Once the scope is defined, you can start making calculations for how much the project will cost, and how much time it will take to complete it.

Cost and time constraints are directly tied to the project scope. Cost and time constraints are directly tied to the project scope

So as you can see, getting the scope as accurate as possible, makes your calculations more accurate as well.

In terms of getting concrete data for time and schedule constraints, determine if there’s an event date, launch date or business cycle for which the results of the project are needed.

Based on any constraints that you discover, certain pieces of the project will have to be shifted in priority, in order to
deliver on time and on budget.

To get even more information on budget, time and workload needs, talk to your stakeholders. You’ll need to establish a schedule with all the relevant information.

For example, an IT project can only be planned if you know how much time the developer requires to implement the concept. And the easiest way to get this information is to ask the developer. The tasks then need to be organized into a schedule, along with the subsequent costs.

Organizing Project Scope

The “how”, is about finding the right method for the project. This method will help you achieve it in a logical and
organized way.

One of the simplest ways to organize and capture the scope of a project is with a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

This creates structure around the scope of a project by creating a hierarchy of the deliverables, and a breakdown of the tasks required to complete them. In the simplest terms, it breaks up all the activities that need to be performed, down to the smallest actions.

With Genius Project, you can take the WBS a little further and put into the software’s Gantt chart, Genius Planner, for a holistic view of interdependencies, resource requirements and duration period for each deliverable. As soon as your request becomes a project, the Gantt chart becomes an invaluable tool for planning resources, costs and deadlines.

The software allows users to create project requests, which can include a description and attachments. There’ s also a section for project ranking, with up to 10 fields that the user can fill out. This information aims at informing the management level. The ranking can be set up with budget constraints, or risks, for example. Genius Project calculates the ranking from 1 to 100 automatically, in order for management to evaluate the priority of the
project. The requests can be set up with workflows in order to get approval from different departments.

The project request can move through several stages of approval in order to ensure its feasibility. If we use the automotive industry as an example, it could look something like this:

The government has built roads using new materials, and therefore, tire companies need to adapt their products. The initiative to change the tires, needs to be validated and approved within the company.

In the basic system, each user can put in a request. The Marketing department can validate that there’s a market for the new tires, the Technical Department can confirm that the innovation is possible and the Finance Department can approve the budget.

When the project is approved, Genius Project will change the request into a project. All the information is copied into the project document, which offers more detailed information related to costs, resources, etc. At this time, the Project Manager can start planning the tasks, the processes and the timeframe, and all this information can be used to create the project scope statement.

There’s a lot to consider when putting together a project scope. The key is to look at all the information, to get informed by speaking with stakeholders and to build in a contingency for any changes and/or assumptions that need to be made.

Once this information is organized into a project scope statement and work breakdown structure, ensure that both
documents are readily available to team members to refer to throughout execution of the project.

 

Discover the many possibilities for your teams to use Genius Project, to improve project management

Top three indicators that you’re ready for a project management tool

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

This is a guest post from Diana Eskander at Genius Project

ABSTRACT
Project management is critical for an organization of any size, for accomplishing goals and reaching new milestones. But the question remains, how do you know if your organization is ready to take the plunge and invest in a project management tool?

A business in its growth stage looking for scalability and to establish processes that can be maintained and sustained over a long and fruitful future, is more than likely, well positioned for a project management solution. For project-centric organizations, there’s no question that a PM tool is necessary for managing demand, resources, time, etc. But for other organizations, the answer isn’t always as clear.

That’s why we decided to conduct an interview with 150 software buyers – to help us identify the top three indicators that a company is ready to upgrade from their current practices, such as using email and excel, to more sophisticated project management systems. This white paper will reveal the three indicators that drive companies to invest in a project management tool.

1. The need to manage deadlines, track status updates and budgets

The most consistent answer we received for why companies have decided to upgrade to a project management software was due to the need to manage deadlines, track status updates and of course, budgets. These companies require project managers to provide project status reports (what phases the projects are in) and whether or not they’re over budget, to department managers. The buyers’ top priority is to provide transparency and a summary view of all ongoing projects within the company and to have this information displayed in a project dashboard.

We had a few buyers who needed to manage client training and coordinate demonstrations. They were in need of a solution that would help track tasks and percent completion of projects. They needed to have a crystal clear picture for which of their clients had received product demonstrations and trainings, and a system that would serve as a repository of all projects.

A powerful project management system will provide:
• Predefined and configurable dashboards
• Adhoc reporting with custom views
• Automatic generation and distribution of reports

In other words, the system will allow stakeholders to get a holistic view of all ongoing projects and the ability to compare their current statuses with their defined objectives.

Here’s a view of Genius Project analytics, which enables users to drill down to the smallest details:Genius Project analytics

2. Companies have tasks that depend on each other and are part of a workflow process

Next point on the list of critical reasons why our surveyees decided to buy a project management tool, is that they have processes within their organization that require systematic approvals, or a multitude of interdependent tasks. For example, when one team member completes a task, it automatically moves to the next team member’s queue. One example that came up several times was in the case of a marketing agency. The ad copy they produce for their clients needs to go through an approval workflow, to make sure all the required stakeholders sign off on the final ad, before it’s made public.

Some typical benefits of workflow management are:
• Ensuring that processes are followed
• Automatic distribution of information
• Workflow based notifications
• Document creation
• Roles based workflow

Here’s a view of Genius project’s workflow management, which can be defined based on the needs of the organization:Genius Project workflow

3. The need to track time and billable hours

When it comes to managing resources and budgets, it becomes incredibly challenging to do so without an ability to track time and even more so, billable hours. Add to that the layer of complexity of various billing rates for tasks and people, and what should be a simple process turns into a project of its own – unless of course you have a tool that seamlessly tracks this information for you.

One comment we consistently received in our survey is that before they purchased a project management tool, they were using a variety of products to keep track of costs associated to certain tasks and different contractors, and that information was starting to get lost. The ability to keep all information in one place, especially as they continue to grow, has been an integral part of their success.

A project management tool will ultimately allow organizations seamlessly provide:
• Workload and capacity reports
• Weekly time and expense reports
• Project progress and cost reports

Here’s an example of time reporting in Genius Project:

Genius Project time reporting

Ultimately, companies that have their sights set on expansion and project and information management were keen to implement a robust solution that would sustain them over the very long term. The purchase of a project management tool was a clear investment and protection of their work and efforts as they continue to evolve and scale their business. There are numerous tools to consider, and the right one will depend on the needs of each organization. To help clarify the differences we invite you to refer to this Market Landscape Report: Navigating the PM & PPM Software Sector.

 

Genius Project is a complete project portfolio and project management solution that connects the various departments within an organization, facilitates communication and ensures uniformity of enterprise processes and workflows. Each feature of Genius Project reflects years of experience and knowledge in project management and dedication to helping companies succeed.

The Softer Side of Project Management

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

This is a guest post by Ben Richardson, a director of Acuity Training, a UK based business that offers a variety of MS Project and other project management courses

“The P in “PM” is as much about People Management as it is about Project Management” Cornelius Fichtner

The best project managers have an uncanny ability to stick to their plans.

The question is how?

In many projects people are the greatest unknown quantity. Will they buy in? How fast with they move? How can we avoid them feeling threatened or being unreceptive to change?

These sorts of issues can derail the best-laid plans almost before the project has started. The best project managers are pro-active about people and change issues and in large part it is this that is the secret of their success.

The softer side of project management isn’t magic though. Let’s take a look at the key elements:

A good project manager needs to be able to communicate with their team. Image source

  1. Thoughtful Communication

Motivating and achieving buy-in from large numbers of individuals requires strong communication skills.

This is not about repeating the same communication mantra-like over and over again. It is about pro-actively engaging with people.

The first step is to introduce the project, explaining the context of the project and the impact that this will have on the organisation. However, having done that, it is vital that a project manager discusses how the requirements of the project will impact the individuals that they are with.

This communication needs to be specific to the group that the PM is talking to. Taking the time to discuss the impacts on, and concerns of, each the multiple different stakeholders will deal with most of their concerns upfront and should remove blocks to the project proceeding.

It will also allow the PM to build strong relationships and clear communication lines with key stakeholders that will be very useful through out the project.

  1. Confidence & Energy

As PM you are the face of the project. You are leading the various parties contributing to the project. Remember this at all times.

People don’t engage with and follow leaders that are low energy, or lack confidence. If there is doubt in their mind that the project will be driven to a successful conclusion, their commitment will waiver, causing further problems and delays.

Inevitably you will be faced with difficult decisions as a project proceeds and issues arise. When they do you must face them head-on with confidence and energy. Decide on the best course of action and run with it. Communicate the change clearly and positively to people. Their confidence of achieving success will in large part be based on the confidence that you express in achieving success.

When faced with a tough call, don’t hesitate to ask for different people’s opinions and views. This is a positive thing to do showing that you value their views. But remember the decision is yours and you must get on and make it.

When making difficult decisions keep in mind that people don’t expect you to get everything 100% right. They can live with a wrong decision that is subsequently changed.

What they can’t live with is not being kept informed or decisions not being made and communicated in a timely fashion.

  1. Negotiation & Clarity

Negotiations will take place throughout the life span of a project. Whether agreeing SLAs and pricing with external suppliers or arguing for allocations of time and resource internally, the best project managers know that a large part of their job is negotiation.

The first step in any negotiation is to try to understand the other party’s issues and concerns. When you understand clearly their issues and priorities you should explain to the other party what you are seeking and why you are seeking it. This will establish the respective positions and priorities clearly.

Seeking to understand the other party shows your respect for their position and that you are seeking to work collaboratively to meet your mutual objectives rather than treating their concerns as an inconvenience.

This approach will then allow you to discuss the different ways that things can be approached to try to find the all important ‘win-win’ outcomes that allow both parties to walk away feeling that the agreement works for them.

Especially with lengthy projects the ability to reach agreements that don’t leave one party bitter is very important. It is likely that that other person or organisation’s buy in will be required in future.

If negotiations are not handled respectfully it is unlikely that the project manager will receive co-operation from the other party in future.

Negotiation is an essential soft skill to possess as a project manager. Image source:

Conclusion

Whilst we’re not saying that hard skills aren’t crucial to project management, it’s important to remember that there’s a softer side too.

World-class project managers combine the ability to analyse and manage multiple information streams with very strong soft skills. The ability to achieve buy-in and effect change across multiple stakeholders is the key to dealing with the inevitable issues as effectively as they do.

Image credits: kelbycarr and SalFalko

How To Work Together To Achieve Common Goals

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Collaboration is a form of professional or social cooperation among individuals, groups or firms where they team up for fulfillment of a common goal for a variety of reasons.

The chief reasons can be:

1. Increasing profits

2. Sharing brains and resources

3. Capturing a market

4. Creating a new product

5. Creation of new technology

6. Artistic fulfillment

There can be various others involved depending on the collaborators expertise, tastes, objectives and other issues involved.

Why has collaboration become so important nowadays?

With the information technology coming of age, people across the world can share, communicate and coordinate on common issues without any checks or controls enforced by an authority.

This helps people to share their areas of interest and invent something new.

An Online Collaboration Toolcan be of great help in such type of interactions.

Various business groups, industrial firms collaborate to produce something new in terms of a product, marketing strategy, processes, brands and others.

They work on a common project which has a predefined objective.

How do they manage to accomplish a project in collaboration.

They form teams, sub-teams and employ members who have a clear-cut  responsibility for a particular task and who can communicate amongst themselves. This type of project management is less centralized and more collective where all members can control, provide suggestions and get enforced the task.

This type of setup helps to avoid bureaucratic hurdles and remain focused with clarity of goals and their timely achievement.

In order to communicate, they must be comfortable in using modern tools of communication employed in information technology like emails, social media, project management systems and others so that communication remains open ended and error free.

This is important as the team members involved may be dispersed in different geographical locations across the world and they must remain in touch with each other easily for professional reasons.

There have been active collaborations in the field of medicine, science, research, education, corporate and others and there is hardly any field which is untouched by this.

 

Author Bio:

Sharon is an author who likes to write on themes and issues related to project management software. Through her write-ups she provides tips and suggestions for businesses, so they can better manage their projects and duly achieve their business objectives.

5 Online Collaboration Tools For Teams Working Remotely

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

More and more teams are working remotely nowadays. This is quite beneficial for businesses as it allows them to save considerable time and costs. But maintaining effective communication and collaboration among globally dispersed team members remains a big challenge. Geographical distances separating them can hamper communication and collaboration among them. This in turn can drastically affect their efficiency and productivity over work.

But this concern of businesses can be properly addressed by using online collaboration softwares which enable fast and accurate communication among team members in a convenient manner. So this provides a great scope for businesses who have some great ideas and plans and want to work towards their success. This would help them to grow and profit more.

So we are providing here a list of five useful online collaboration softwares that will not only facilitate effortless communication and collaboration among remotely located team members, but will also enable them to work in a collaborative, efficient and productive manner. With better bonding among them, their efforts will be translated into quality and timely results which every business needs for its success.

1. Skype: This online collaboration application enables instant and convenient communication between people both at work and at personal level. The beauty of this tool lies in the fact that it can be accessed from variety of devices like mobile, tablet, computer, home phone and even TV. Users can make voice and video calls, send messages as well as share files, videos and photos.

 

A boss can easily and clearly explain finer points to his remotely located team members through a video call. Its Group video call feature allows users to communicate with up to 10 people at the same time. You can enjoy some great moments with your friends and family members through its video chat feature and see them right before your eyes even if they are distantly located.

2. ProofHub: This online project management software enables organized and planned management over projects. It is quite easy to use and offers some pretty useful features like notes, to-do’s, calendar, mobile, Gantt besides others. It enables fast and accurate communication and collaboration among globally dispersed team members. They are able to perform their tasks in a timely and organized manner through to-do’s without forgetting their tasks. Progress over projects can be precisely tracked through its Gantt chart feature and risks can be identified early and resolved promptly. Thus projects can be properly managed within the constraints of time, budget and resources and can be timely and successfully accomplished.

3. Google Drive & Google Docs: Google Docs let you create folders, documents, presentations, spreadsheets besides other things. Users can create files, edit, upload and share them with their co-workers. Google Drive acts as a free online repository where these files, documents and other things can be stored and these can be readily accessed from any location and from different devices. Google Drive imparts users the flexibility to work with various kind of files by installing different Google Drive apps.

4. Evernote: This online application allows users to create notes, view and edit and store them and reference them easily for further use. It enables users to capture content present in variety of forms like photos, web pages, handwritten notes, to-do lists besides others. In customizable notebooks, these notes can be grouped together. Notes can be easily and quickly searched and filtered through tags. Co-workers are able to conveniently share notes with each other and this boosts their efficiency at work.

5. Dropbox: This enterprising tool lets users access their files while online. An individual can readily sync these files to a computer and access them while offline. He can operate these like any other folders and files. Users can access their files and documents from any kind of device whether it is a tablet, phone and computer. It grants them the flexibility to edit documents, add photos and show videos from any place in the world. Their data and information remains secure and safe from any accidents and it can be restored in split seconds. Users can control the access of other individuals to their stored data. It is quite a useful application for storing work related and other kind of data.

Author Bio:

Sharon is a Business manager of ProofHub, a web based project management software that facilitates management of projects and helps in their faster and accurate accomplishment as per schedule. It enables the team members who are spread out in different locations in the world to collaborate over project matters. They can define, document, discuss, organize, coordinate, review and control different project matters efficiently which results in their quick resolution. With its use, organizational objectives can be achieved effectively along with the generation of intended gains and assets.