Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How to maximize the return on your software investment

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

This is a guest post from Diana Eskander at Genius Project

The success of your software implementation is a two-way street. All systems work best when the people using them are fully on board and making the most out of the features and services offered.
It wasn’t too long ago, that your company made the leap and invested in software that promised to radically improve your business. Whether it’s to automate your billing process, manage customer information or plan your projects, most companies can’t survive without their application software. Often, most end users are only utilizing a small fraction of the features available. Which means many companies are paying major dollars, without necessarily reaping all the benefits.

This white paper explores simple but necessary strategies for maximizing the return on your software investment.

Employee buy-in

After performing due diligence for gathering your company requirements and ensuring that the software is in fact, suitable for your organization, the most important next step is to get employee buy-in. Generally speaking, employees are the ones inputting the required information into the system for reporting and tracking purposes. Without their buy-in, which ideally, should be addressed before purchasing the software, you cannot be sure just how well the system is going to be received or adopted.

Whoever is going to be using the system the most, needs to be a major part of both the decision-making and purchasing process. Ultimately, there is no greater factor to how well your software is implemented and utilized, then how often and how diligently the users, use it.

Take advantage of the free-trial period offered by most software providers. Have some of your team members try the solution before buying it. This is something that we insist companies do when they’re considering Genius Project as their enterprise project management software.

There needs to be a person or people within the organization who are designated for making sure team members share their input during the tool selection process and that they have access to training and additional resources. This ambassador if you will, needs to serve as a role model for using the tool the proper way.

Adoption by your team members is truly the most critical success factor.

shutterstock_46793158

Training

Training your users on the new system cannot be overlooked, and this training should go beyond the frontline of users. Anyone who will be directly or indirectly implicated by the system should understand its use, and how the information is gathered, stored and manipulated. Leadership needs to be involved in this training too.

Upfront training is critical for obvious reasons; people need to know how to use the various features of the system and to understand how this affects, or more accurately, changes, their daily processes. But beyond the initial onboarding, training needs to be ongoing. As users get more adapted to the system, and the idea of using it, they’ll grasp more from the training. At this point, they have a better idea of the context in which they will be using it, and ideally, how it improves their working process. Further, once the company or department knows how people are using the application, they can more readily pinpoint what areas need to be improved and explored.

One of the greatest resources at this stage, are the people who use the system the most – which is not necessarily, the IT department. Encourage these people to help others and reward them for doing so. Take advantage of all the training materials and opportunities offered by your software provider, such as, webinars, online tutorials and the Help Desk.

Further, we suggest investing in specialized training. Not all users use the system in the same way, ie. Project managers and team members may use it in very different ways. It’s important, and valuable to specify the training for specific users.

Stay in close communication with your sales rep

There is no better way to get your feedback and suggestions heard than to communicate them directly to the person who guided you from being a prospect to their software buyer. By staying in communication with your representative, you can benefit from their expertise. If the software you’re using is the lifeline of your business, it’s definitely in your best interest to nurture that relationship.

Respond to customer surveys, provide feedback, testimonials and participate in case studies. You have the opportunity to represent your industry and what you need, and to get your ideas and questions heard from the source.

Your representatives want to know how they can help you get the most out of your investment, so be receptive to their communication efforts and don’t hesitate to reach out to them directly when further support is needed.

Implement new upgrades

Your software vendor works hard to continuously improve their product, based on client feedback, requests and recommendations. These improvements are specifically designed to make the use of the system easier and more effective. Keep your system up to date! Your IT department should have the code updates for the latest version, with all the latest features. One of them most important reasons for updating your software is for security. The reality is that there are hackers are always trying to break their way into online systems and applications. Software providers stay ahead of the curve by performing these regular updates.

Support and SLAs (Service Level Agreements)

An SLA keeps the terms of agreement between the vendor and the software buyer clear and comprehensible. The client knows what services it can expect to receive and the provider is held accountable for its performance. An SLA is important for any significant service relationship, and most providers are ready to supply a standard version.

Change management

One of the biggest challenges that comes with implementing any new software is managing the change it brings in the way people work. It’s challenging to shift people’s habits and processes in a new direction, but it is often necessary for growth and evolution. When adopting a new tool like PPM software, this can provide the perfect window to rethink some of your project management methodology and processes. Utilizing a PPM consultant at this stage can help transform your PPM to the next level, and help to communicate the value of these changes to your entire team.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the most successful software implementation, in terms of maximizing the value of your investment, comes down to understanding what you really want the software to do, and then translating that into action through your most valuable resource, people.

To learn about how Genius Project supports its clients after their purchase please see the following resources:

Implementation Services

Standard SLA

Guided Training

Self-Service Training

Customer Support

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.

My Project Is Not Failing

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Maybe we are all reluctant to accept that our project might be failing but with high project failure rates in many industry sectors we should make sure we are able to spot the main warning signs. And then act on them rather bury our heads in the sand and hope it will “be alright on the night”. That approach will never lead to a successful project or a successful career in project management.

Just because things might not be going to plan doesn’t mean a project is doomed – managing problems and risks is all part and parcel of a project manager’s role and a risk management plan should be in place that will help to mitigate the very risks that might be causing problems. If a risk plan has not been prepared, don’t worry it is rarely too late to review the real and potential risks that might be threatening your project and to deal with them effectively. Problems that materialise in a project, whether expected or not, are inevitable in many industries and with a controlled approach they can usually be mitigated.

The very fact that problems so often arise in IT projects, for instance, is what led, at the beginning of this century, to the creation of the Agile Manifesto, with its values and principles designed to help project managers work constructively to solve problems rather than either being defeated by them or trying to ignore them. An agile approach recognises that many projects are simply unsuited to the traditional “waterfall” approach and offers an alternative where deliveries are made in small stages allowing for user feedback to be incorporated into the next stage. Increasingly both waterfall and agile methods are recognised as appropriate for different types of projects and in some cases they are being combined on a single project.  All projects have their ups and downs so it is important to remain optimistic in the low periods and remember that things will change.

It is reassuring that the formalisation of project management methodologies over the past 20 years has led to a significant improvement in project success rates. Increased used of the internet has also helped by making status reports quickly and easily available so that problems don’t drag on undetected for too long.

 So what are the warning signs of a project that could be destined for failure? If your know how to spot these and act on them you already have the means to turn a potential disaster into a success. Warning signs of pending trouble are usually relatively easy to spot – here are some typical ones:

 1.      Lack of Buy-In

When those working on a project have been pressured into becoming involved they will never be fully committed to its success and will not give 100% of their time or energy to the project.

2.      Poor Communication

Communication takes many forms; there are the informal team discussions, regular meetings, emails, phone calls and various written reports and other documentation. If any of these areas are lacking then there is likely to be a problem looming.

3.      No Visible Progress

If it is not possible to see what has been achieved to date then it is difficult to convince stakeholders and the team that success is possible. A lack of visible progress (or “velocity” in Agile project management) is de-moralising for everyone involved.

4.      Long Hours

If the project team are having to put in long hours just to stay on top of the scheduled activities then this is a classic indicator that all is not well. Either the original estimates were badly wrong or the scale and scope of the work was not clear.

5.      Milestones Missed

Milestones should deliver manageable chunks of work to the customer on a frequent basis. If this is not being done, or the deliverables cannot be tested by the customer, there is no opportunity to get feedback for the next phase to know the project is on the right track.

6.      Changing Scope

Every project’s nightmare is scope creep – adding to the requirements during the project – it is usually an indication that requirements were not fully documented or the customer did not understand the aim of the project. But often a more serious warning sign is when features are being removed from scope and the end-product is being scaled back.

Remember that warning signs such as these give you the opportunity to rescue a project from failure so should not be ignored but treated as part of the project management process. By looking out for warning signs and using your experience and personal skills (supplemented with the right project management courses) a project manager can avoid project failure.

Author: Michelle Symonds

Free directory of online courses

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

The project — http://www.onlinecourses.com/ — is a free and comprehensive resource that is a collection of open college course that spans videos, audio lectures, and notes given by professors at Harvard, Princeton and MIT. We offer highly relevant courses such as iPhone Application Development from Stanford and Cyber Humor from Oxford. This is something I believe would be a wonderful resource for those looking to explore additional educational topics and to see what college level course has to offer.

I hope that you will find this to be a powerful resource for anyone pursuing to further their education. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

5 Key Components of a Project That You Need to Get Right

Monday, January 30th, 2012

There are many factors that contribute to the final outcome of a project, whether it is large or small, simple or complex. But just a few of these factors will determine the ultimate success of your project.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes such as straightforward improvements to products or operations procedures through to new product research or major software development. But the key components that contribute to the success of a project are the same no matter how simple or complex the project is and whether it is being run in a small organisation without any formal project framework or in a large organisation as part of a well-established framework in an ongoing programme of projects and with the support of a project office.

The most important factors that will contribute to a project being completed successfully can be broadly broken down into the following 5 areas:

Strategic Planning

Understanding your marketplace, the wider industry and your competition is necessary so that the specific business objectives of the project can be well-defined and, more importantly, meet a genuine need, or anticipated need, within the market to which the end-product will be targeted. For simpler projects in small organisations the “marketplace” may, in fact, be a small internal team or department but the concept of understanding them and their objectives is still the same and still just as important.

Developing the Product

Any new product, process or service needs to be developed or established solely to meet the defined business goals, which need to be articulated and documented at the very beginning of the project. Where a project involves a new process, it is important to prevent it becoming an opportunity to add or change related processes where they do not add real business benefit and do not affect the final outcome or contribute to the overall business aims.

Marketing

Focused marketing aimed at the right target audience is as vital for the simplest internal projects designed to change an existing operations process as it is to a new product with a global market. Of course, the realities of such marketing are quite different – internal projects are unlikely to have big-budget advertising campaigns for example – but it is still important to “sell” the product/process to those who will be buying or using it. In many internal projects involving major change to the status-quo the greatest challenge is to convince the end-users that they will be better off with the new process in the face of typical human reluctance to change.

Support

For the wide variety of projects that take place in organisations year-round, the provision of a support mechanism both before and after implementation is another key component to the success of the project. Support might come in the form of IT support (providing the right hardware and software), Human Resources for recruiting and retaining the appropriate staff, facilities for providing the necessary offices or other building space and any number of other support services relevant to the project.

People

There are different categories of people involved in projects and they all have different and specific roles to play but they are all stakeholders with a vested interest in the project being a success:

  • Sponsor:- The sponsor(s) of a project is often a member of the senior management team of an organisation but can also be someone from outside the organisation if a strategic alliance has been set up. Their role is to define the business objectives that are the driving force behind the initiation of a project, to ensure that adequate resources are made available to complete the project and to influence the completion date of the project by defining priorities. They will tend to have a good overview of the project but not become involved in any of the detailed aspects.
  • Project Manager:- A professional project manager has the responsibility of creating a detailed project plan that meets the budget, schedule and scope determined by the sponsors. They advise, teach and motivate team members; resolve conflicts and issues with deliverables and deadlines and have a good understanding of all tasks required to complete the project. They also aim to manage and control risks and changes.
  • Team Member:– These can range from a subject-matter expert through to a recently hired novice but all team members will have a contribution to make towards the end-product. Each will be responsible for completing individual tasks to a deadline, including resolving issues that arise related to their tasks. More experienced members of the team should help the less-experienced members by answering questions and giving advice to maximise the ability of the whole team to deliver projects successfully.

So if you can get these 5 components right you will be able to do the following on your project:

  1. Clearly define the aims of the project
  2. Stay focussed only on those aims
  3. Successfully “sell” the project to the end-users
  4. Provide support for the whole project team as required
  5. Select a committed team that will work co-operatively

This will go a long way to ensuring that the final outcome of a project is a successful one. Of course, underlying all of these components and driving the project to success will be professionals who have gained on-the-job experience as well as completing project management training in a recognised methodology such as PMP or APMP.