The augmented project manager

The coming artificial intelligence revolution will dramatically change the project management discipline. Three capability areas are ripe for improvement.

After seeing recent industry presentations on bots, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), I see the application of these technologies changing the practice of project management. The question is, is this future desirable or will we have a choice?

The project manager role

Much of the daily work of a project manager has not dramatically changed over the last 30 years. We may use different management methodologies, but we spend a great deal of time manually collecting and disseminating information between the various roles on a project. This effort directly results from the need to fill the information gaps caused by systems that can’t capture what is truly happening within the organization. In a recent PMI sponsored roundtable discussion, missing or incorrect data was highlighted as a significant issue. Today’s systems are totally dependent on human entry of information, where it can be nuanced or simply not entered.

The combination of artificial intelligence in the form of bots and cloud computing could radically change this situation. PM effectiveness would be dramatically enhanced and likely the need for some PM roles diminished. In the future, as data capture becomes richer and more automated, we may see new advisor services that arise from improved data quality and completeness. I foresee significant improvements in three key areas.

Planning

One of the black arts of project management is predicting the future, where we represent this future state as a new project plan. We draw upon our own domain and company experience to determine the steps, resources and time needed to accomplish the goal. Our success rate at predicting the future is not good. Our predictions are fraught with error due to the limits of our experience and that of the organization. If you’ve ever managed a project for something completely new to an organization, you are familiar with this situation.

Imagine if your scheduling bot generates a proposed project plan, based on the aggregated and anonymized experiences of similar sized companies doing the same type of project. Today, we use tools like Monte Carlo to simulate this information. The bot could incorporate real world data, potentially yielding better results.

Benchmarking of business data has been around for some time. These new cloud capabilities could see benchmarking expanded to include real-time project management data.

Resource allocation

Another common challenge of project managers is that of resource constraints. Imagine a world where your resource pool is the world and it’s as easy to use as Amazon.

We are seeing the continued growth of the freelance nation trend in corporations. Currently, corporations use agencies to locate and recruit talent. Agencies may simply be a stopgap as bots become a more efficient clearinghouse of freelancer information. Staff augmentation agencies could become obsolete.

For example, your resourcing bot determines that you need a social media expert on your project on April 5th for two days of work. It searches data sources like LinkedIn and your public cloud calendar to find a list of suitable and available candidates. Three are West Coast of the U.S., one is in Paris and one is in Sydney. It then automatically reaches out to these candidates with offers. If multiple people accept, it automatically manages the negotiation. Once complete, the planning bot is informed, a virtual desktop with requisite software is provisioned, user login credentials are generated and the specific task information is sent to them. When the job is complete and rated as satisfactory, the bot coordinates with your accounts payable system to pay the freelancer. The planning bot automatically updates the plan and pushes the data to the BI dashboards.

Tracking

Project feedback loops on work are awful. The largest challenge is incomplete data, which results from increasingly fragmented work days, limits of the worker’s memory and tools that rely on human input. It is also incomplete as it serves little benefit to the person entering the data.

Workers are overwhelmed with tasks arriving via multiple communication channels and no consolidated view.

Imagine a world where the timesheet is antiquated. Today, we have systems such as Microsoft Delve that know what content you’ve touched. We have IP-based communication systems that know what collaborations you’ve conducted. We have machine learning capabilities that can determine what you’ve discussed and the content of the documents you’ve edited. This week, we have facial recognition capabilities and other features that can track and interpret your movements. Given all of this, why is a timesheet necessary?

Professional athletes use this type of data in the competition setting to improve their performance, using the data feedback to spot areas of development. Combining this activity information could prove a boon to productivity.

I can see this working as a “Fitbit” type feedback loop that helps the worker be better at their job and allows them to get home on time. Doing so provides direct benefit to the employee and reduces the Big Brother feel of this data.

The personal bot acts as a personal assistant, reminding the worker of tasks mined from meeting notes and marking tasks as complete in real time. All the while, it is also keeping track of the time spent that enables to the worker to get a better picture of how they spent their time.

Brave new world

There are many challenges with the view I’ve presented above. Many of these challenges are the same faced when we automated and integrated procurement processes. It is also hard to deny that there is compelling opportunities to improve the worker lives as well. Bots, machine learning and artificial intelligence are reachable capabilities that should be incorporated in the PM toolbox as you plan your organization’s future work management needs.

Source: CIO.com-The augmented project manager

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Is Failure Is An Option In Project Management?

When it comes to project management failure is sometimes an option. Many of us have pulled ourselves from the smoking ruins of a project to say, “What happened?” and “How did this not succeed?”

In just about any movie or book that includes a military presence, there is more than likely a line of dialogue by the hero or General to the effect of, “Failure is NOT an option!” Perhaps, when aliens are taking over the earth and probably going to destroy all of humanity that could arguably be true. However, I think when it comes to project management that is not true… not by a long shot. Many of us have pulled ourselves from the smoking ruins of a project to say, “What happened?” and “How did this not succeed?”

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, which analyzed 1,471 IT projects, found that the average overrun was 27%, but one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% on average and a schedule overrun of almost 70%. And we all have heard about large construction projects — the Channel Tunnel, Euro Disney, and Boston’s “Big Dig” — that ended up costing almost double their original estimate.

The great thing about success is that it encourages us to take more risks, try more, innovate more, and engage more. The natural outcome is that there will be times when we overreach, commit too many resources, and don’t perform the appropriate risk analysis. That’s when failure might occur. And that’s when we close the project and shake our heads in disappointment. So, what’s the solution? Do we simply play it safe? Do we not take on projects where there is a great amount of risk?

The short answer? No.

I have had more successful projects than failed projects, but I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have had the winning season without the losses. Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way that helped me when I had to tell Sr. Management that the project was finished, and unsuccessfully finished at that.

Risk management is real

One of my fellow PMPs, J Ashley Hunt, referred to herself as a “catastrophic thinker.” In other words, she was always looking for the “what ifs.” I kiddingly called her Monte Carlo. It’s not like I didn’t do Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis, instead I didn’t foresee any of those medium impact risks occurring. In the Bible there’s a verse, “the little foxes spoil the vineyard.” Yes, a big risk event can bring you down, but so can the death of a thousand little risks. Use your failed project and do some serious reverse risk analysis. At what point did things go south? Who and what policies were involved? Were there any warnings or triggers that might have gone unnoticed? Was the mitigation/transference/avoidance up to the task?

Lessons learned aren’t just on the exam

There’s a joke about how the answer on the PMP exam question of “What input is used for such and such?” is the WBS (work breakdown structure), and that the answer to “What is the primary output of such and such?” is lessons learned. The other aspect is that lessons learned is not just a one-off meeting at the end of the project. I strongly believe that at each phase or major milestone, there should be a debriefing with your team. If your team is too large, then break it down into sub groups and then have those team leaders meet with you to discuss the gathered details. This ONE thing alone helped turn around a development project I was working on with Cisco.

The bottom line is don’t get down on yourself too much. Shake off the dust, admit what you did wrong, and then get back into the game. Many of you have probably heard about the man who was defeated for state legislature, failed in his business a year later, lost his sweetheart two years later, had a nervous breakdown a year after that, tried again for Congress and lost, was rejected to be a land officer, defeated for US Senate twice, and lost his re-nomination for Congress. That man was Abraham Lincoln. He was elected President two years after his final Senatorial defeat. Failure is an option.

Source: CIO.com-Is Failure Is An Option In Project Management?

Top 5 predictions for project management in 2016

As a discipline, I see project management as being fairly static. Still, there are changes and movements happening. Here are my top five for 2016.

What’s going to happen with project management in 2016? Since project management as a discipline is fairly static, I liken this concept of predicting changes in project management to a conversation two fictional characters had on one of my favorite shows, “The Big Bang Theory,” a few years ago. Leonard Hofstadter is an experimental physicist and his future girlfriend and wife, Penny, is asking questions about his job while they are out to dinner together.

Penny: “So, what’s new in the world of physics?”

Leonard: “Nothing.”

Penny: “Really, nothing?”

Leonard: “Well, with the exception of string theory, not much has happened since the 1930’s, and you can’t prove string theory, at best you can say “hey, look, my idea has an internal logical consistency.”

Penny: “Ah. Well I’m sure things will pick up.”

I think of project management changes when I think of this conversation about experimental physics. Still, I believe there are slow changes happening and some shifts in focus and management about to happen.
Here are my top five predictions for project management I 2016.

1. Emergence of CPOs. I think 2016 is the year of that the CPO position – or Chief Project Officer – begins to get real traction. In the late 1980’s many technical experts and business leaders were suggesting that Chief Information Officers (CIOs) would be the next critical C-level position in organizations. It happened. We’ve also seen the emergence of CFOs in the last decade and now CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers). My prediction for the next big C-level position to emerge is the CPO. It may mean the end of PMO directors and/or centralized project management offices (PMOs)…we will have to see how that plays out.

2. Decrease in PMOs. Project management offices are still failing or at least not serving many organizations very well. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of strong leadership at the top of the PMO, sometimes it’s putting a great project manager in charge who ends up spending too much of this time managing projects rather than managing the PMO, and sometimes it’s just a disorganized mess led by whatever resource manager needs a position of responsibility this week. Not enough are formed around the principles of strong leadership, executive buy-in, and established practices, policies and templates. Executives in the organization can only stand so many restarts before they move in the direction of a decentralized project management infrastructure.

3. Shift away from PM certification focus. While many organizations and job postings will still list certification as a “nice to have” or “preferred”, fewer will focus on that aspect of a candidates background or experience. In 2015, I consulted with two organizations where they were looking for someone who was an experienced project manager and the consulting search listed several key responsibilities and qualifications and PMP certification was listed as “preferred.” However, it was never even discussed during any of the proceedings leading up to the engagements. I’m seeing it listed, I’m not hearing about it being discussed.
4. Decentralized project management in all but the largest of organizations. I realize this may seem to contradict the “emergence of CPOs” that I discussed above, but not really. I think we will still see the CPO position start to mean something in the PM community, but we will also see the increased use of project managers and consultants throughout the organization in individual business units and departments or just more of an independent pool of professionals.

5. Increasing reliance on remote project managers and consultants – growth of virtual team situations. It only makes sense. Professional service organizations who base most of their business on seeking out and providing project solutions are moving more and more to geographically dispersed teams, project managers and teams that may never meet face to face, and offshore development teams who provide great development services at a fraction of the price of high priced co-located project teams. Let’s face it, project teams rarely need to sit at the same table and by allowing your PM’s and project teams to work remotely mean you can always find and obtain – at least on a contractual basis – the best of the best by not making them relocate just for the privilege of having them take up space at your company headquarters.

Summary / call for input

I see project management, in general, as a being fairly static. Important – often critical – in organizations who rely on steady and strong project management to bring home profitable and successful customer implementations in order to succeed as a company. But still, fairly static. There are always new project management software tools and templates available for organizations looking for a change or improvement, but many offer fairly similar capabilities.

But for 2016, I’m going to predict this five things I’ve mentioned above. How about our readers – what changes do you see coming for project management and PM infrastructures or methodologies in the coming year. Please share and let’s discuss.

Source: CIO-Top 5 predictions for project management in 2016 By Brad Egeland

The most common software project management mistakes

Here are the four big mistakes that get in the way of good software project management for nursing homes and what to do about them.

Mistake #1: Thinking having a “project manager” is project management. It’s not.

A project manager is a professional who has studied the tools and procedures of the project management discipline and often holds a certification such as a PMP. Despite the all-encompassing connotation of the title, many people are surprised to find out the PM’s role is rather limited. On a well-run software project the PM is tracking tasks and budgets and timelines. For that reason, I like to use the term “literal project manager.” Here’s a diagram showing the literal project manager’s place on a typical project team.

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Project management, in contrast, involves many more people. There are those who will discover and understand the business requirements, who will make strategic decisions about technology choice, who will set the project’s goals and establish metrics. In short, good project management is holistic, not limited.

annamurraybloggraphic1_875468_875474

What you can do: Learn all the business roles involved in holistic project management.
Many business people are not aware of the roles or “hats” necessary in a software project to achieve good governance and management, such as a project sponsor, program manager, and business analyst. Taken together, all these roles achieve good project management.
Mistake #2: Not understanding the word “risk.”

In regular life, when you hear the word “risk,” you probably translate it to the following statement, “There is a chance that I will endure some harm, but in all likelihood, I probably will not.”
Software development “risks” have a high likelihood of impacting budget and timeline. Many times, risks are not identified, or accepted heedlessly. Timelines and budgets are blown.
What you can do: Understand the most common project risks; account for them in timeline and budget.
Every software project has risks. Getting the definition straight—that a risk is likely to have consequences—is the first step.
Next you must identify your risks. Most businesspeople do not know how to identify risks in a project. These five items always go into my risk column until proven otherwise:

1. Integration—The need for one system to exchange data with another
2. Data migration—Porting data from an older system into the new one
3. Customization—Inventing a novel feature or function
4. Unproven technology—Employing a new/hot technology just introduced
5. Too-large project—Tackling a massive project in one fell swoop rather than breaking it up into parts

Sometimes risks can be avoided. If a business leader is aware of risky items and their likely consequences, she can eliminate features in a project or put the kibosh on some sexy new technology an influential cadre of people want. When risks are identified and accepted, contingency budget and timeline should be set aside to deal with them.

Mistake #3: Not understanding the accuracy of the budget

There are four methods of budgeting in software development.

  1. Comparative budgeting—When a vendor or internal team uses a recently completed equivalent project to estimate a new project.
  2. Bottom up budgeting—When a detailed list of tasks exists and can be estimated one by one.
  3. Top down budgeting—Usually on a large or innovative project. Where few equivalencies can be identified and it is not practical to develop a detailed list. The team estimates big “buckets” and how long they will take.
  4. Blends—A budget that involves two or more of the above

As you can probably tell from reading the previous list, the accuracy of the budget will vary according to the method used. Comparative budgeting and bottom-up budgeting are generally more accurate than top-down budgeting.

A businessperson may not understand why a current software development project is going over budget. He may say, “I did a project last year that seemed very complicated and it came in on time and on budget! What is wrong with you people?”
He may not understand that his previous project was comparison-budgeted against a very similar project. The current project required top-down budgeting based on its degree of innovation. Top-down budgeting is almost always less accurate than comparative budgeting, where a good recent equivalency exists.
What you can do: Understand how the budgeting methods work.
Understand the different software budgeting methods and know which one(s) was used in your project. Set aside contingencies for the methods that are less precise.

Mistake #4: Business leaders shirk their responsibilities in project management

Business leaders with little experience in technology often raise their palms to the sky and say, “I don’t know? What should we do?”
After a few interactions like this, a group of programmers may think, “It’s my responsibility to decide.” Many organizations get into enormous amounts of trouble and expense because all strategic technology decisions are being made by mid-level programmers who have no insight into any of the organization’s actual strategy. Business leaders end up discovering too late that their customer database is a mess or that they are in violation of federal data-protection guidelines.
What you can do: Step up!
It’s critical for organizational leadership to accept that however unprepared they may feel, they are in charge of making strategic technology decisions. This means involvement in software project management – in the holistic sense.

Source: mcknights-The most common software project management mistakes

Which Team Member Are You? Identifying Your Project Management Style

As with many tasks in life, most companies, organizations, and individuals begin to nourish the seedlings of success for their project well before they start the work itself.

Selecting an effective framework for your project is essential in helping it to move smoothly—yet many struggle when it comes to choosing the most suitable management methodology.

Each manager has their own approach when it comes to organizing tasks and setting the wheels in motion to achieve a particular goal. Knowing exactly which format you are going to follow will help you to interact efficiently with other members of your team—thereby delivering better results overall.

So how do you know where your project management style falls between some of the more common options such as waterfall, scrum, agile, and lean? First of all, you start by getting to know each concept better.

The Waterfall Project Management Method
First and foremost, the waterfall project management method is the most traditional option and requires extensive and detailed planning at the start of a project. All of your future steps need to be mapped and laid out so that you can move onto the next stage only after successfully completing the previous one.

The name “waterfall” refers to the fact that each phase of the project takes place in sequence—ensuring that progress flows downwards towards the final goal.

Winston W. Royce established the first formal description of the waterfall method, and since then there have been numerous well-known and highly-commended waterfall methodologies used throughout various industries. Similar to most business approaches, there are a number of negative and positive aspects to consider when regarding the waterfall approach.

For instance, on the positive side—the development process of the waterfall methodology is well-documented, as this method places a greater degree of emphasis on documentation through planning. What’s more, customers and developers can come together to agree upon the desired product, early in the development lifecycle—thereby making design more straightforward.

However, the waterfall approach uses long-term planning, and requires a great deal of time for effective completion, which is one of the reasons why people began turning to agile project management, especially in regards to projects dealing with non-physical deliveries and services such as code, design projects, and copywriting.

The Agile Project Management Method
Unlike the waterfall system for project management, the agile method is a short-term value-driven approach that aims to help project managers deliver high-quality, high-priority work as quickly as possible.

The agile approach to project management is a fast and flexible option based on principles of adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Far removed from the organized stages of the waterfall approach – the agile project management system is set into quick, iterative project release cycles—which often means that it is less suitable for projects with strictly defined requirements.

With agile project management, your process for delivery should continue to get better and better—improving your value to consumers and clients. It allows for quick correction based on feedback from the stakeholder, and adaptation all the way through the process—even in the later stages of development.

It can be the perfect option for teams that need to work efficiently and creatively, as it includes collaboration and engagement from all members of the team at all times.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of this methodology is that it evaluates cost and time as primary constraints. Continuous adaptation and rapid feedback create significant portions of the team’s schedules—ensuring proven progress and top-quality output. The net result is often a working product delivered in a matter of weeks, instead of months, and fewer costly surprises at the end of the project.

The Scrum Project Management Method
The scrum method for project management is another fast-paced option—part of the Agile movement. Scrum uses three primary roles: the scrum master, the team, and the product owner.

The process works as follows: the owner of the project writes up a backlog of project requirements ordered according to their priority level. From there, a sprint team for planning begins to work on the first items written in the backlog according to a particular deadline.

During this time, daily meetings permit the scrum master to direct the team towards completion and track progress at the same time, and a review of the completed sprint precedes the team beginning work on the next.

The advantage of the Scrum sprint process is that it allows for adequate development that provides a saleable product, even while the project is still underway. The delivery system works on an incremental basis to shorten the time between creation and market, thereby resulting in a higher revenue.

Considered an “inspect and adapt” framework for project development, the scrum methodology can apply to a number of different people and industries—particularly those managing large to-do lists and complex problems.

The Lean Project Management Method
Finally, the lean method for project management is particularly useful within the IT industry. Lean concepts are useful for preventing waste, and when used in the context of project management – they operate on the ambition to deliver more value, with less waste.

The term “waste” in lean project management can mean extra labor, time, and materials that don’t provide any extra value to the project itself. For example, this could refer to unproductive status meetings or lengthy documentation for a project that is not used. The steps utilized in Lean project management are as follows:

Identify value by breaking down the project and examining the elements within.
Map plans essential to the success of the project.
Break out small manageable tasks and measure productivity along the way to enhance the flow of the project. This will help you to assign tasks based on the strengths of different staff members.
Ensure that all participants in the project agree to a list of desired goals.
Empower your teams to seek the best possible results and promote improvement through communication.
Finding The Right Project Management Style
Discovering the ideal management method for your specific circumstances will be an issue that depends on your team, your project, and your desired goals. Once you have selected a planning style, make sure that you have the project management software at hand to ensure that you and your team have the best organization available.

What are your thoughts on the different project management methods available? Have you tried multiple different solutions and found one that works best for you, or do you stick to a single option?

Source: Business.com-Which Team Member Are You? Identifying Your Project Management Style by Aaron Continelli

How to Avoid Pitfalls in Project Management

As AV technology plays a more central role in communications, the need for competent project management has become paramount to an integrator’s success.
 At least, that’s the way Travis Deatherage, president at Linx Multimedia, sees it. “We’re now a very integral part of the construction process, and our infrastructure needs often need to be communicated early in the project because those things are happening right away, when the project kicks off,” he said. And, because AV integrates with so many different trades, someone must be charged with communicating with all of the project stakeholders throughout. “There’s a need for more project management time in a project to ensure it’s going to be successful at the end, because of that integration with all of the other trades.”
Headquartered in Denver, CO, Linx Multimedia is the full-service audiovisual design and integration division of Linx, which also specializes in structured cabling and security. The multimedia group has 90 employees on staff, seven of which are project managers. Deatherage explains that the PMs at Linx Multimedia oversee projects from contract to closeout, both in terms of execution––getting the job done––and dollars. “They’re financially responsible for the success of the job, its profitability, how things get billed, when they get billed, and ensuring change orders get processed and managed appropriately,” he said. To streamline this process, the firm’s foremen manage the actual job sites, so project managers may focus on client communications, coordination with other trades, resource planning, product procurement, and, inevitably, solving problems. “All of those things take a lot of time, and without managing them properly, it’s very difficult to have a successful integration project.”
Christopher Maione, president of Christopher Maione Associates in Northport, NY, a firm that provides business and technical consulting and training to the AV industry, notes that these days, with many of the larger RFPs calling for AV, IT, and security services, it’s not sustainable to dedicate three PMs––one for each category––but rather one project manager who oversees the entire job, and who has access to in-house experts, or lead consultants, with deeper technical knowledge in each of the three disciplines.
“The project manager is facing the client, talking to them and interpreting their different needs, but they don’t need that same level of technical expertise [as they would on smaller jobs] because the lead consultants are supporting them in that role,” Maione said.
 Each summer, Linx hosts Linx Academy, which offers employees workshops on leadership, planning, and communication. For project managers, these sessions have focused on what goes into creating estimates and writing project plans, as well as role-playing exercises to demonstrate what goes on during client meetings. “We’ve also had project planning exercises on creating, writing, and managing project plans, and then having change introduced––whether that’s the schedule, or financial or resource challenges, and then teaching them how to deal with those challenges, because jobs never go exactly as planned,” Deatherage said.
However, he emphasized that if you have a solid plan in the first place, managing change is a lot easier. “When you have that plan––that baseline––and you’ve communicated that clearly with the customer, and you’ve set expectations up front, and when that change occurs it’s a lot easier to have that conversation with the customer about the impact of that change because you had an agreed upon set of expectations up front. And that’s probably one of the most important steps in project management—to clarify the schedule and expectations early in the process.”
One issue that project managers often face is that although they may be responsible for a project’s success, they don’t necessarily have full control from the outset. “[Oftentimes] sales set up the project in such a way that it may ultimately lose money, and when a project loses money, the project manager is blamed, even though sales set up a bad job,” said Bradley Malone, PMP, partner at Navigate Management Consulting (formerly Twin Star Consulting) in Hinsdale, IL, and an InfoComm senior instructor. By “bad job,” Malone means that the sales department may not have accounted for any number of variables that could have a considerable impact on a project’s profitability. “[For example,] sales wrote up a scope of work that was more bill of materials-based versus project execution-based. They did a site survey that talked about the size and shape of the room and where the equipment was to be placed, but didn’t show the numerous obstructions in the ceiling, nor that the technicians had to go through security every time they entered the site, the loading dock was another building away, the elevator isn’t large enough to hold the large screens, and several of the rooms were only available in evenings [so prevailing wages applied], and you couldn’t make noise during the day.” Not only does this cost AV firms more labor time (and therefore, more money), the PM in a scenario like this has little hope of managing the project proactively (profitably) rather than reactively.
Resource planning is another big challenge for project managers, Malone notes. After all, AV firms usually have any number of projects taking place all at once, which means any number of PMs are vying for the same resources in the same timeframe. “What often happens is that there’s a lack of capacity planning for resources––the sales pipeline is talking in terms of revenue, but not in terms of the number of labor hours needed and when those labor hours are needed,” he illustrated. Six different salespeople may have sold six different projects with January deadlines, and yet there may be only 10 technicians available to perform the installations when in reality, the workload requires 20. “So a lot of an AV integration company’s problems are really from resource management, not project management.”
To avoid falling into this trap, Malone encourages companies not only to ask themselves: can we execute this project? But instead: can we execute all the projects we sell? “Project management is eight to 15 percent of the labor hours on a job, typically, and that needs to be based on complexity, not size,” he said. The way AV firms can hone their project management skills is to apply them to all projects, regardless of scope. “I find a lot of companies will add project management to a large job, but not a small job. We need to learn our fundamentals of project management on small jobs. What we tend to do is wait until we win the big jobs, and then think that we can manage them well. But again, we didn’t master the skills and processes on the small jobs as a company.”
Accountability: Measuring a PM’s Success
At Linx Multimedia, project managers are accountable for two metrics upon project completion: its financial success and customer satisfaction. Travis Deatherage, the firm’s president, explained that throughout projects, PMs are required to generate monthly financial reports that detail how they expect a project to perform financially, and this data is assessed once the project is done. The company’s marketing department also generates customer surveys to measure the client’s experience.
“The mindset that we build into our project managers is that financial performance and customer satisfaction are not mutually exclusive,” Deatherage said. “I think many people believe that you can have one without the other, or that you can’t have both. I actually believe that if you have both, they feed on each other: if you have a happy customer, you’re usually more successful financially, and if you’re financially successful over the long term, you probably have happier customers. Because customers want somebody who’s going to be responsible, who’s going to be honest, who’s going to be truthful and direct, and who’s going to be there for the long haul. And that requires a level of financial responsibility.”
 Techs vs. True PMs
It’s not uncommon for AV firms to promote their lead technicians into project management positions––something that Bradley Malone, PMP, warns companies to be careful of. “It’s a different mindset,” he said, and it really depends on whether the technician wishes to assume the other non-technical responsibilities that are part of project management, such as communications and administration. “I like to take the middle-of-the-road technician who likes to talk to people, likes to see how things work together, and will do paperwork. I’m very careful in the project management selection process to take generalists, not technicians.”

 

Source: AVnetwork-How to Avoid Pitfalls in Project Management By Carolyn Heinze

6 proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing IT projects

Within most large organizations – as well as smaller businesses – time and resources are in short supply yet high demand, making project selection more difficult. Evaluating and prioritizing projects can be complex, but this vital first step can negatively impact the business if not assessed carefully.

Regardless of business size, industry or structure, many projects today are unfortunately still selected and initiated in a siloed department-by-department manner, without considering the overall strategic impact. What are the risks of initiating projects in this manner? Businesses run the risk of more than one area competing for the same project resources, including people and technologies, and also conflicting deadlines and goals. They may even risk some project outcomes negatively impacting other areas of the business.

All too often every department or unit deems their projects a top priority. The bad news is unless a business has unlimited resources, time and no real clear direction, it is impossible to assess all projects as top priority. The good news is, there are some proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing projects.

1. Become involved in strategic level planning

The first step for a program, portfolio or project manager is to become involved in strategic level planning. Sit down with the leadership team to gain a full understanding of the direction of the business, the timing, and their overall vision; there is no such thing as too much detail here.

This may require more than one strategic planning session, and will provide valuable insights to help guide decision-making for programs, portfolios, and projects. Consider this similar to a roadmap or blueprint that will not only mark the desired destination but also provide additional markers along the way to follow, to help confirm if you are navigating in the right direction.

2. Identify project drivers

Projects can be driven by various factors like some of the ones below. Some of these drivers may motivate a business to initiate a project for the purpose of creating or enhancing something, meeting a requirement or hurdle, reducing the risk, removing an existing or potential problem, increasing revenues, offering an opportunity not previously available or simply streamlining a process. Talk with management to identify which of the following drivers are motivating each proposed project.

  • Competitive advantage
  • Cost savings/financial benefit
  • Operational efficiency/process improvement
  • Legislative/legal/ tax implications
  • Improving quality
  • Risk reduction
  • Growth/ business opportunities

3. Quantify strategic value

Ask management to discuss the various projects they are considering to determine the impact and desired project outcomes. This will help to better understand and quantify the strategic value, immediate and/or long-term impact as well as anticipated benefits of each project being considered. The risks of not starting certain projects on schedule will also have to be weighed carefully. For instance, some projects may be of great strategic value, and add numerous benefits, yet may not be top priority when compared to another project driven by legal, tax or legislative requirements.
4. Determine factors that may impact project success

Additional factors that should carefully be considered are the return on investment (ROI), budgeted funds, available resources, and timing, and if there are any dependencies or limitations (among other factors). Company budgets and timing are almost always limited, making it impossible to take on all project ideas conceived. Some projects may need to be put on hold if they depend on the successful outcomes of other projects, or there may be factors outside of the business’s control that could delay or prevent the success of one or more projects.

5. Create an evaluation and prioritization matrix

Once you have gathered all the applicable information from management and other sources, create a project evaluation and prioritization matrix to identify and rate each project in terms of criteria. Use a weighted scale (for example 1 to 5, with 1 = very low, 2 = low, 3 = medium, 4 = high, 5 = critical) to put a rating on each of the criteria in order to accurately evaluate the priority of each project.

6. Close the loop

After projects have been carefully weighted and prioritized, before initiating any of the projects sit down again with management and review the project evaluation and prioritization matrix, and any other findings, to ensure expectations are clear with all parties involved. This allows management an additional opportunity for added input, and to confirm if they are in agreement with your findings.

Source: CIO.com- 6 proven strategies for evaluating and prioritizing IT projects by Moira Alexander

Does remote project management really work?

Remote project management may be a great alternative to traditional project management for most organizations, project managers and team members, but is it realistic? There are tangible advantages here, but this is not for the faint-hearted.

Does remote project management work? The answer, in general, is yes, it can. Will remote project management work for your organization if you have a top-notch virtual project teams? Not necessarily.

There are advantages to establishing virtual project teams for remote project management. Some may include the following:

  • Lower project costs due to technology advancements that bridge distance
  • Improved work/life balance for project team members
  • Increased efficiency and decreased travel time
  • increased ability to attract top talent

While these are definitely advantages, when it comes to knowing if remote project management is right for your company you should carefully vet several aspects. Below are some aspects that may impact an organization’s ability to execute a project successfully using virtual project teams, as well as some possible solutions.

Factors that may impede remote project management

Productivity degradation. Even the most dedicated project managers and team members can at times lack focus and have trouble staying on task, despite their dedication to the project.

Possible solutions:

  • Seek to build virtual project teams with members that not only have the required technical expertise but possess an intrapreneurial outlook and approach to their work. People who are intrapreneurial naturally possess a passion for what they do; they are results-oriented, resourceful, dedicated, independent, innovative and highly adaptable.
  • Expect a high level of professionalism and personal integrity from all team members. This trait should not be optional, as it drives the actions of team members throughout projects.
  • Foster exceptional organizational skills in all team members. If this is not a team member’s strong suit, additional training can be gained in this area to improve their abilities in this regard.
  • Clearly define the roles of all team members, establish schedules, and regularly monitor the status of activities and deliverables to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. This is particularly important with virtual teams due to various obstacles like distance, time and possible cultural and language barriers that may exist.

Location, distance or time zone issues. Project schedules can develop a bottleneck when negatively impacted by the distance between team members, time zone changes that impact fluctuating work hours, and even remote locations of work where communication is limited due to telecommunication servicing gaps.

Possible solutions:

  • Establish clear policies and protocols to address expected availability of team members throughout the life of a project. Whenever possible, determine a reasonable time and schedule for team meetings where all required members can attend in order to effectively manage the project. Due to time zone changes, this may only be a small window of time per week but can significantly aid in effectively monitoring progress and moving things along.
  • Ensure all remotely located team members have access to the necessary technologies to complete their required work on time, and have enabled them to communicate with key contacts as well as the project manager as needed.

Cultural and legal differences. In today’s global business world, many organizations have projects that span across multiple geographical locations; sometimes creating cultural and legal challenges that must be factored into the success of a project.

Possible solutions:

  • In the initial stages, it will be important to evaluate and address any legal or regulatory issues that may exist currently or in the future.These types of issues can easily and unnecessarily halt a project. Try to gain critical local and/or international legal expertise prior to proceeding with the project, which can mitigate the risk of the project becoming an expensive sunk cost.
  • Also prior to initiating a project, research and prepare for any cultural or language barriers that could crop up throughout the project. This is an area that is often highly underestimated but can often times create the potential to risk project failure due to misunderstandings.

Communication barriers. This is easily one of the areas most impacted in remotely managed projects because teams are not meeting regularly face-to-face, where it is easier to gauge facial expressions, body language and tone of voice simultaneously. As a result, effective and timely communication can be the most troubling for virtual project teams to achieve.

Possible Solutions:

  • Project managers will have to work exceptionally hard to establish trust with and among team members. Work at building virtual teams that feel connected and stay connected regularly. It may be helpful to talk with some other virtual project teams that have been successful in this regard. Also, find out more about your team members in order to establish common ground to help build a more cohesive team.
  • When possible set up the initial kick-off and weekly/bi-weekly meetings via video conference as people often feel more connected when they can see each other when they are talking.
  • Try to use different forms of communication depending on time and information sensitivities, timing differences, the nature of the message and even the audience.
  • Set team based rewards that are tied to team performance, not just individual performance.

Technology, data access and security issues. Having the right technology and tools available to all members of a project team is essential in ensuring a project is on schedule and on budget. This is especially true in remote project management. Projects can easily fall out of scope if team members cannot access the data they need in a timely manner. Projects and organizations can also be negatively impacted by security breaches that can put the client’s or internal company data at risk. This is another area often highly underestimated and overlooked.

Possible solutions:

  • Prior to project execution ensure the appropriate PM/other collaboration tools, access rights and permissions are identified, provisioned and tested for all project team members.
  • Establish clear security protocols for utilizing all company information, resources, technologies and external mobile devices.

Remote project management can work; however, there are numerous factors that impact the success of a virtual project team, including the industry, project nature and complexity, infrastructure, communications, technology and team dynamics.

Take a close look at your organizational goals and resources.The success will depend on how well all issues are sufficiently and appropriately addressed in the initial stages and how well your resources, knowledge and tools are leveraged to avoid any pitfalls. This may require some specialized situational team training to help improve on schedule management, effectively utilizing collaboration tools, and improving communications, processes, and protocols.

Source: CIO-Does remote project management really work? by Moira Alexander

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does remote project management really work?

5 Key Downfalls that Can Wreck a Project

The potential for project failure looms over every project and has since the beginning of time.  Most surveys and reports have the project failure rate at greater than 50%….so you can see that true project success is often painfully difficult to obtain. So many variables go into each project, so many outside entities can affect the success or failure of any given project, and unknowns can enter the picture at any time – making risk planning…something that is often too overlooked – a very necessary piece to the early project planning puzzle.

I’d like to discuss what I consider to be five key things that can greatly diminish any projects chances of success – and in all likelihood, any one of these can absolutely squash the project undertaking. Keen project management skills are required to prepare for, plan for, and react to each of these…and these are merely the tip of the iceberg of things that can kill a project.

Poor or incomplete requirements.  Since I consider requirements to be the lifeblood of the project – and I’m sure I’m not alone here – it’s understandable that incomplete requirements can be project killers.  Indeed, if we don’t spend enough time capturing and documenting requirements during the planning phase of the project, the re-work later on can quickly flood the project budget, ruin customer satisfaction and confidence and bring the project to a halt long before deployment of a final solution ever happens.  It doesn’t matter how detailed a customer ‘thinks’ their requirements are coming into an engagement…the project manager and team still must go through the painstaking tasks of verifying existing requirements and extracting additional requirements.  Remember, many customers come into the project looking for a solution to a symptom…something that may not even be the real project need.

Inconsistent or limited communication with the project customer.  Communication is job one for the project manager.  So if communication with the customer is not going well – for whatever reason – it can be disastrous for the project.  In order to maintain effective and efficient communication with the customer, the project manager should:

  • Layout – during project kickoff – how communication on the project is going to happen
  • Ideally, create a project communication plan document (even if it’s very basic, it will still set good expectations)
  • Keep to a schedule on the important customer communications like status reporting, status meetings, etc.

It sort of goes back to the idea of “slow and steady wins the race.”  Don’t be all over the board – be consistent with the customer.  It sets expectations with them since communication is a two-way street.

Irregular meeting schedules.  Part of the downfall in the communication category is irregular meeting schedules.  I had one project that I took over from another project manager in the very late stages of the engagement.  I thought we were just really in a roll-out mode so I tended not to put too much emphasis on adhering to the meeting schedule, and status reporting schedules.  If the customer said they didn’t see a need for a meeting, I canceled it…I was so busy on my other projects I considered it bonus time!  That was a mistake.  Customer confidence faded a little and the inconsistency was the key factor – even though it was at their request.  So, I went back to the basics – keep everything on a regular schedule: meetings, communications, status reporting, etc.  It was no surprise that the customer’s confidence and satisfaction greatly increased and we ended the engagement on a much higher note.

An unmonitored project budget.  I’m sure this just sounds very logical anyway, but I always contend that a 10% budget overrun is much easier to deal with and correct than a 50% overrun.  So catch it early!  How?  By managing the budget weekly, applying actuals to it weekly, and reforecasting it weekly.  If you do that, you’ll know every single week where you stand and the project budget will never get so out of hand that proactive and corrective action can’t be administered to fix the situation.

Non-existent or very limited risk planning and management.  Finally, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, too many project managers – often myself included – tend to give too little emphasis to risk management. If we don’t take the time to properly identify risks at the beginning of the project, plan for risk mitigation and avoidance, and then track those risks throughout the engagement, then encountering them can bring the project down.  Period.  So, despite executive management’s resistance, sometimes, to spending too much time on risk identification and management, you must plan for it.  It’s critical to the success of your projects.

Summary /  call for input

Of course, there’s really no way to guarantee project success.  We can’t even guarantee it most of the time.  And while using strategic project management tools can enhance communication, collaboration and task management, it still won’t guarantee success.  The factors I’ve mentioned here need special attention – they must not be skipped.  And for every one mentioned, there are several more.

Source: blog.viewpath.com-5 Key Downfalls that Can Wreck a Project by Viewpath Support

Top 10 project management certifications

No matter what your IT role is, a project management certification can add depth, breadth and value to your skills. Here are the top 10 project management certifications, their requirements and their cost.

Project management certifications
Almost everything IT does can be considered a project — from hardware and software upgrades to ongoing security patches, virus scanning and spam filtering to application development and rollout itself. Adding a project management certification to your list of IT credentials is a great way to benchmark your skills for potential employers and show that you have the know-how to plan, schedule, budget, execute, deliver and report on IT initiatives. Here, CIO.com outlines the 10 most popular project management certifications.

Project management professional PMP
The gold standard in project management certifications, this rigorous test covers absolutely everything you need to prove your knowledge and skill in managing all of the triple constraints: time, cost and scope. The Project Management Institute (PMI) is this credential’s parent organization, and works continuously with businesses and academia to ensure relevance for the certification.

Requirements: Four-year secondary degree plus three years of project management experience, 4,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours project management education or a high-school diploma, five years of project management experience, 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, and 35 hours of project management education.

Cost: Computer-based exams are $405 for PMI members; $555 for non-members. Paper-based exams are $250 for PMI members; $400 for non-members.

URL: http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Project-Management-Professional-PMP.aspx

Certified associate in project management CAPM

This is the precursor to the PMP certification and also is administered by the PMI. Designed for professionals who want to achieve their PMP certification in steps rather, or for those with only rudimentary project management experience, the CAPM is a stepping-stone to the more rigorous PMP.

Requirements: High-school diploma or equivalent and at least 1,500 hours of project experience or 23 hours of project management education.

Cost: $225 for PMI members; $300 non-members

URL: http://www.pmi.org/Certification/Certified-Associate-in-Project-Management-CAPM.aspx

CompTIA Project+

This entry-level certification is roughly on par with PMI’s CAPM credential, though the requirements are less stringent. CompTIA’s Project+ solicits feedback from the entire computing industry, government representatives, research institutions, academia and independent experts to design the certification.

Requirements: One year of experience managing, directing or participating in small- to medium-sized projects is recommended.

Cost: $269

URL: http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/project.aspx

Master Project Manager MPM

The American Academy of Project Management has modeled this certification after the professional licensure model that many professions such as pilots, engineers, doctors and lawyers follow. The AAPM focuses on professional project managers, but also includes those pros with business and technical management responsibilities.

Requirements: Three years of project management experience and training. Waivers are available for professionals holding a master’s degree, with other qualified training and experience, the military or project management instructors.

Cost: $300 for application, review, processing, review, initiation and certification.

URL: http://projectmanagementcertification.org/masterprojectmanager.html

Certified Project Manager CPM

This is an international, globally accepted and recognized project management certification, though it is mostly popular in the Pacific Rim region. It’s focused on skills like communications, finance, integration, information technology, marketing management, human resource management, risk and issue management, and quality management.

Requirements: Bachelor’s degree or above, or global equivalent; or certified project professional certification, plus a minimum four years project or program management experience (5,000 hours leading and directing projects), 36 contact hours of CPM project/program management training and must pass the CPM exam.

Cost: $370 certification fee; $70 annual fee and $70 annual renewal fee

URL: http://www.iappm.org/cpm.htm

Project Management in IT Security PMITS

The EC-Council was formed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to address issues of cyberterrorism and the information security of nations at large. This certification explores the complexities of managing an IT security project — and IT security skills are hot. The certification helps candidates reinforce their existing project management skills while tailoring them to the unique requirements of implementing and managing IT security within their organizations.

Requirements: At least two years of experience in information security and an educational background that shows a focus on security (Bachelor’s degree or higher preferred). Candidates may also opt to attend an EC-council training program before attempting an exam.

Cost: $250 (PMITS courseware)

URL: http://www.eccouncil.org/Certification/e-business-certifications/project-management-in-it-security

Associate in Project Management APM

The Global Association for Quality Management (GAQM), which administers the APM (as well as a Professional in Project Management and a Certified Project Director certification), is a global, not-for-profit certification body that offers credentials across a variety of IT specialties, including project management. The GAQM’s project management certifications are focused on a broad knowledge base and emphasize effective resource allocation, clear direction, adaptability to change, effective communication and assurance of quality deliverables at minimal risk. The APM program is designed for the entry-level project manager, or for those who want to start a career in the field.

Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; no formal education or experience requirements.

Cost: $300

URL: http://www.gaqm.org/associate-in-project-management

Professional in Project Management PPM

The PPM is a mid-tier project management credential from the GAQM. The GAQM’s project management certifications are focused on a broad knowledge base and emphasize effective resource allocation, clear direction, adaptability to change, effective communication and assurance of quality deliverables at minimal risk. The PPM is targeted towards intermediate to experienced Project Managers, who are involved in risk and crisis management, and who are involved in the day-to-day management of projects.

Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; no formal education or experience requirements, but candidates should have at least some project management experience in order to pass the exam.

Cost: $300

URL: http://www.gaqm.org/professional-in-project-management

Certified Project Director

The GAQM’s Certified Project Director certification is the credentialing body’s highest-level project management certification. This designation is designed for experienced project managers who are involved in directing multiple, complex projects and programs. The program focuses on managing, budgeting and determining scope for multiple projects, multiple project teams, and assessing and mitigating interdependent risks to deliver projects successfully. The CDP program is only for those who have significant project management experience.

Requirements: GAQM body of knowledge study and e-course; candidates must be familiar with principles and methodologies of project management and pass the PPM or equivalent exam.

Cost: $300

URL: http://www.gaqm.org/certified-project-director-cpd

Project management certificate

Many colleges and universities offer project management certificates through their existing business, management or professional education programs. Schools such as Villanova, University of New Haven, Stanford University and others (check your local college or university’s course offerings) have excellent project management programs and certificates; some for-credit, other not-for-credit.

Requirements: Varies based on educational institution

Cost: Varies by institution

Source: CIO.com-Top 10 project management certifications By Sharon Florentine