Project Management – Successful implementation.

No two projects are the same. But all successful projects share a similar set of processes and procedures, or methodology, for keeping on track and on budget. Here are eight elements of a successful project.

1. Scope and deadlines are defined up front.

“During complex projects, it’s easy for team members to miss seeing the forest through the trees,” says Catherine Roy, senior manager, PMO, HOSTING, a managed cloud services provider. “Before kicking off any project, make sure that the client, stakeholders and team members know the exact scope [and] that they aware of all critical dates.”

2. Project lead and sponsor are established on Day 1.

“Have the client clearly identify the project lead (day in and out point of contact) and project sponsor at the initial implementation meeting,” says Ellen Craig, vice president, consulting services group, Unanet, a provider of project and resource management software. “By identifying these roles, the client understands who will be responsible for day in and out activities and who owns the engagement. Also, if the sponsor leaves, the client must identify a new sponsor.”

3. Team members have the right skill sets and work well together.

“One key to delivering a successful project is identifying a project team that meshes well with that of the client, both professionally and personally,” says Thalia Ortiz, director, project management for Omnigon, a digital consulting firm. “Given the time spent together, both in person and remotely, it is critical these teams not only collaborate well but enjoy working together, which is especially key in crunch times,” she says. “In post-project client feedback surveys, our clients often tell us how much they enjoy working and spending time with us.”

“On more complex implementations or engagements, I’ll specifically request certain resources whose skills and expertise I have leveraged on past projects,” says Roy. “I also tap resources I know I can count on to deliver results within the project scope when the going gets tough.”

4. The project schedule is realistic.

“Mistakes are often made when you or your team are tired and overworked; [so] be realistic about [the] schedule,” says Roy. “It’s also important to let clients and stakeholders know in advance when a project will require additional budget or resources in order to meet their completion date,” she says. “On many occasions, executives set completion dates without realizing the overall impact on resources. I’ve often had to push back (oh so nicely) at the beginning of the project and manage their expectations.”

5. Has a (software) system for keeping everything and everyone on track.

“Research has shown that project management software substantially increases the likelihood that projects are completed on time and on budget,” says Rachel Burger, project management software expert, Capterra, which helps companies find the right software. “For example, Capterra found that project management software significantly improves final product quality, the number of products on budget and the number of projects completed on time. There is even industry-specific project management software, like construction management software,” she notes.

The key is to “use tools [software] that make administration and reporting simple,” says Scott Bales, senior director of customer success at Replicon, a provider of timesheet software. A good project management system should be “easy to run [and provide] real-time reports. Setting up projects and tasks should be easy and obvious by pointing and clicking.”

In addition, a good project management software solution should “have built-in intelligence that anticipates what you need to get the work done” and allow you to “see team productivity, compare actual costs versus original budget, quickly understand overall status, and process and approve expenses immediately,” he says. “And as you proceed with new projects, historical data is readily available to help you make more accurate forecasts.”

6. Project details, team members and clients are kept up to date.

“It’s a fallacy to think that project planning happens only at the start of the project. In reality a project is a dynamic, living thing that is constantly changing,” explains Liz Pearce, CEO, LiquidPlanner, a provider of project management software. “Agile project managers do iterative planning and daily stand-ups with their team to keep team communication strong while also staying on top of issues, roadblocks, changes or risks that might send the project off track.”

“A project manager needs to ensure that there is transparency within the team and [with] stakeholders throughout the duration of the project,” adds Jose D. Canelos, project manager, program management, Centric Digital, which helps businesses with user experience and operational processes. “A common issue in projects is [team] members not receiving all the details. By ensuring transparency,” that is, by making sure all team members are kept up to date, not only do you build “trust within the team, which helps projects more than people think, but in the event of an issue, everyone can take action to ensure the project continues down the successful track.”

“Maintaining positive, frequent communication with clients is [also] paramount to a project’s success,” says Ortiz. “At the onset of every project, one of the first points discussed is preferred mode and frequency of communication. “Some clients prefer daily status calls; other prefer weekly. Some prefer dashboard reports; others prefer portfolio. We are completely adaptable and flexible to their needs,” she says. In addition, “our client management team has regularly scheduled conversations with their counterparts to get a sense of overall relationship health and to ensure all expectations are being met, and in most cases, exceeded. We [also] hold recurring ‘State of the State’ presentations with clients to ensure they are abreast of overall industry trends and as they relate to the current engagement.”

7. Team members are empowered to make decisions.

“A primary project manager is required for direction and accountability, but the roles of decision maker, organizer and communicator need to be embodied by every team member,” says Ray Grainger, CEO, Mavenlink, a provider of project management software. “To be effective, empower each member of the team to make strategic decisions. This allows the project as a whole to be more nimble, and to make many necessary pivots that will ensure the overall success.”

8. Problems are faced and fixed head-on (not shoved under the carpet or ignored).

“As with life in general, project management can be messy,” says Roy. “While it’s true that some days you want to stick your head in the sand and pretend that last meeting – the one where the client changed the project scope after 6 months of work – never took place, it’s best to deal with issues ASAP,” she states. “Some issues may require the project manager to use their influence in order to solve a problem or get a decision made. In most cases, action taken sooner is better for the overall success of the project.”

“When projects go off the rails, the first step is to accept responsibility and forget about blame,” says Jeremy Sewell, principal collaborator at Firefield, which offers software consulting, design and development services. “You can go back and evaluate what went wrong later.” The important thing is to “get a clear picture of where you are versus where you need to be and identify what decisions need to be made and by whom to get there.

Project Management – Best methodologies for IT Projects

Types of Project Management Methodologies

There are several project management methodologies available, some of which are generic and can be used for a wide variety of projects, while there are others that focus a particular area. Let’s have a look at the key PM methodologies.

1. PRINCE2

PRINCE2 is an acronym for Projects IN Controlled Environments) and is a process-based methodology that was originally developed for use by the UK Government but is now widely used across all industries and sectors in the UK and around the world. This methodology is based around having distinct manageable project stages with approvals required between stages and planning based on the delivery of defined products. It’s a flexible methodology that can fit many different types and sizes of projects which is why it is so widely used. Although PRINCE2 is commonly adopted for IT projects, it doesn’t work well with development projects which tend to be more effective with Waterfall, Agile or Scrum.

2. Waterfall

Waterfall is a linear project management methodology that is typically used in the development of software programs and applications. A plan of action is developed, which is executed in a specific manner. Generally speaking, a project that is managed using the waterfall approach, comprises of eight process phases, including conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, implementation and maintenance. Each process flows downwards into the next process which is where the methodology gets its name. The Waterfall project management approach provides you more control, but it is highly inflexible.

3. Agile

Agile is a popular alternative project management methodology that enables project teams to react unpredictably to sudden changes or unknowns during project scoping or delivery. This is especially beneficial when working on software development projects that typically involve lots of iterative activities. The structure is similar to Waterfall although each process stage in Agile is referred to as a Sprint and like Waterfall, follows a sequential sequence from one process (Sprint) to the next. Agile isn’t typically adopted for IT infrastructure projects although it is becoming more popular for these types of projects. It lends itself better for software and web development and remains to be one of the most popular methodologies in this arena.

4. Six Sigma

Six Sigma, which has been around since 1986, isn’t recommended for use with IT projects as it’s a methodology designed to provide techniques and tools to support process definition and improvement. Six Sigma lends itself well to business process and change projects and is focused on the quality of the output as opposed to providing a structured set of phases or stages, as is found in Waterfall, Agile and PRINCE2. The methodology follows a defined set of steps that each have targets attributed to ensure that the quality of the outcome reaches the desired level. Like PRINCE2, Six Sigma can be used across many different sectors and industries although it is especially well adopted in the manufacturing industry.

5. Scrum

Scrum is iterative in nature and was actually developed based on the Agile methodology. It involves formation of small focus groups that work independently and report to the Scrum manager who evaluates the progress and reprioritise any backlogged tasks. The Scrum methodology builds a project environment based around collaboration, innovation, self management and flexibility. Organisations that adopt a Scrum approach typically have a ‘business side’ and a ‘technical side’ to the project meaning greater levels of involvement and ultimately a better, more tuned product. Scrum isn’t recommended for IT infrastructure projects but works extremely well for software and web development projects.

Project Management

In Scrum, a project starts when an individual – the client – or a group of people – stakeholders – realise that end users have certain requirements which can be fulfilled by developing a project that can best satisfy their needs.

The objective is to deliver a product which has been designed and developed exactly as per the vision seen by the client – What an ideal product should actually contain, or consist of.

The primary reason for developing a project is to earn out of it, therefore it is necessary to reduce operational overheads and keep other expenses in check. One of the best ways of developing a successful project is to develop it as per the client’s needs and to keep to delivering product features on a consistent basis. Moreover, the client is invited to remain closely attached with the development process and confirm the features developed by the team. As a result, the client remains satisfied with how the project is proceeding and offers valuable suggestions from the end user’s perspective.

This can further add on to what the project proposes to deliver in terms of its business value. At the same time, care should be taken to develop those features which have a certain market value or business worth. When useful product features having high business values are developed, tested, corrected, and delivered to the client at regular intervals, the project automatically acquires a certain business worth. Scrum proposes to do this in the best possible manner.

Every project needs a vision to steer itself in a proper direction. A properly envisioned project provides a definitive path that can best fulfil the project’s objectives or goals. If a project lacks a clear vision, it will deliver a product that is not as per what the client has envisioned at the project’s onset. This can seriously hamper the product’s potential to earn when it is launched in the market.

In Scrum, a project can successfully deliver a profit-making product only when the project vision is clearly seen, and its goal are precisely defined and followed by the entire team. A vision, and its goal are separate entities, and it is important to know how they differ.

What is a “vision” in Scrum?

Visions are basically a reflection of the thought process and are abstract in nature. Visions are different from dreams, in the fact that they are not based upon fantasies and whims of an individual’s inherent desires. A vision can be best understood as an aspirational description explaining what an individual, or an organisation plans to accomplish or achieve in the near or long term future. A vision serves as a guide for choosing the current as well as future course of actions.

In Scrum, the project starts when a client feels it is possible to develop a project that can fulfil certain end user requirements. Most often, the client is a market-oriented person, and has a clear understanding about what users need in the form of a working product. The client “visions” the project in his or her mind, and later conveys that vision to the product owner – a person appointed to represent client’s interests, and support his or her vision by developing a product release that closely resembles the working product “seen” by the client. Therefore, the vision fundamentally defines the process used to design and develop the product.
How should a vision exist in Scrum?

Project development and its success are affected by several factors. It is, therefore, important to have a vision that can sustain throughout the tenure of the project. So what is it that can sustain the vision on a continued basis?

Keep the vision “visible”. Ensure that the team “sees” and understand the project vision at all times.

Review the vision at regular intervals. What was envisioned much earlier on – is it practical and viable now?

Can the vision change itself, or adapt to changing market conditions and end user requirements? Does the project vision have enough scope to change itself?

What are goals in Scrum framework?

In simple terms, a goal can be understood as an observable and measurable outcome, or result, of one or more objectives required to be achieved within a certain timeframe. Goals are what the vision targets. The vision focuses upon accomplishing something and the “something” aspect actually defines the goal.

Goals are what Scrum proposes to achieve. The framework defines the project goal in the form of a master list containing all features required to develop the product in entirety – the product backlog. The backlog fundamentally reflects the product vision, and functions as a backbone for the entire project development process. As per the Scrum process, product backlog items having high business values are selected for development from the product backlog, and fully functional, shippable product features are delivered to the client through product incremental cycles known as sprints. So, it is the project gaol that eventually delivers the product.

Principles characterising goals in Scrum

It is important to have clear goals if product features are to be effectively developed. Ideally, what should goals be like in Scrum? What characteristics should they have to ensure that the final product developed by the team satisfies the business objectives of the project? It is worth knowing what can make goals more effective and meaningful – SMART:

S = Sustainable
Is it possible to sustain the goal and follow it? If necessary, can the goal be broken down or changed so it can be easily developed?

M = Measurable

Is it possible to measure the goal, or count how much of it is developed using a tracking process or check-in system?

A = Attainable

Is it possible to attain the goal? Can the team develop the product features effectively without any bugs?

R = Realistic

Can the goal be realistically achieved? Is it humanly possible?

Team Building and Leadership

Let’s face it, being a leader is not an easy task. You have to balance maintaining work relationships with meeting deadlines, and walk a difficult boundary line between friendship and authority with your team. We’ve collected a list of seven character traits that we think every truly great team leader needs.

1. Decision Making Prowess

A good team leader is able to make tough decisions, even if it means she’ll be putting more work on herself or the team. This means always having an accurate assessment of the situation, all possible outcomes, and which choice will be the best for the company, the team, and the client.

Your team should be able to recognize that you made your decision while taking everything into account. Sometimes, that might mean that the chosen path goes against what they were hoping for because of the overall benefit. Your decision should be made in such a way that there is no question that it was the best choice for all parties involved.

2. Good Great Communication Skills

Without communication, a leader is nothing more than a figurehead. In addition to being able to communicate with the team about his decisions, a good leader is able to discuss any sensitive issues with the team without the situation becoming awkward or demanding.

Leaders need to be masters of both written and vocal communication, and know when each method is appropriate. A team-wide memo to ask how everyone is doing today isn’t appropriate, nor is a text message to update the team on a complete change in project scope. Switch those two around and we might be getting closer.

3. Honesty and Openness

If a team member has an issue with a decision that was made, he should feel welcomed when bringing his concerns to the team leader’s attention.The project manager needs to be able to back up the decision with facts and as much decision-making discussion as is called for.

Not every decision needs to be aired in the open with all of its contributing factors. And that’s just fine. But when there is available information that can help your team understand and come to terms with a situation, it pays to keep them informed.

4. Positive Outlook and Attitude

As any sports coach knows, having a positive attitude can completely change the game. Similarly, the attitude of a project team leader can have a huge impact on the team.

If you receive an update from the client that puts you in a bad mood, expect your team to pick up on it even if you don’t verbalize the situation. And surely if you do, you can reasonably expect productivity on this project to suffer since your attitude will be reflected in your team’s outlook as well.

5. Confidence

A great team leader will be able to make tough decisions and communicate effectively with the team, even if things aren’t completely rosy. When the team sees a confident leader, they won’t question the project direction. On the other hand, a team leader that second-guesses himself will eventually foster a team atmosphere of doubt as well.

6. Inspiring and Leading by Example

In addition to confidence, a team leader should be able to inspire her team to achieve a higher goal than they might have thought possible. If the project manager has lofty expectations but also sets an example that these goals can be reached, the team will see that example and strive to emulate it. However, a team leader that doesn’t set an example will see her team disregard suggestions and expectations because there is no one to show that it can be done.

If you expect your team to show up on time, don’t stride through the door five (or thirty) minutes late. You can always try to justify why your actions don’t mirror your expectations of the team (I was busy with a client!), but by setting an example that is not in line with your expectations of the team, you’re setting yourself up to be ignored.

7. Delegating Effectively

The final piece of the leadership matrix is the ability to delegate. This works in conjunction with the other 6 traits we listed here.The leader must make the decision to delegate the work and then communicate that decision to the team members. This inspires the team members, as well as shows honesty and confidence in their work, and that the team leader is optimistic that they will achieve the level of work quality that is necessary to succeed with the delegated tasks.

How many of these leadership qualities do you possess? Have you tried to consciously work on them at all as you’ve become a more experienced team leader? Start working on at least one of these every week, and you and your team will notice improvements immediately.

Communicating with your boss!

HOW TO COMMUNICATE BAD NEWS TO YOUR BOSS – SIX TIPS

I don’t have to tell you that not everything at work is always smooth sailing. Sometime things are delayed, mistakes are made, wrong numbers are published. It may be your fault, it may be a bad circumstance, or a combination of both. What do you say when your boss wants a progress report and things are not going so well?

Well, not all is lost. Just because something negative happened or is happening with your work or your project doesn’t mean you cannot salvage the situation with some good communication with your boss. Here are six tips of how you can communicate bad news to your boss to minimize its impact and bounce back quickly.

Prepare for your meeting – spend some time to do some introspection and analyse what led to this bad news. Be prepared with answers to the following questions – What happened? What went wrong and what have you learned? What do you plan to do going forward to fix the issue? What help do you need from your boss? Your boss may not ask these questions but you may want to guide the conversation this way in the meeting.

Don’t lie – During the meeting, don’t even think of lying and saying everything is fine. Your boss will find out eventually. The worse thing you can do is keep your boss in the dark. If she hears the bad news from her boss asking questions about what went wrong, you have just blindsided your boss making her look bad and digging yourself into a bigger hole.

Stick to the facts, be diplomatic and accountable – communicate to your boss what happened factually and try your best not to point fingers at anyone. The moment you start pointing fingers, you will look more guilty. Instead focus on stating what happened and what you think went wrong. If you think you are partially responsible, come clean and state that. By you stating you know what errors you made, you minimize the work for your boss and shows that you are already learning.

Don’t blame it all on yourself either – It also doesn’t help to say it’s all your fault. Most bad news are affected by a bad judgment call, circumstance, or lack of information. Be fair to yourself and others.

Listen, Listen, Listen – Once you have communicated the bad news, pause to listen and make sure you answer all questions or concerns. She will ask questions so she feels like she can communicate what happened to her boss effectively if needed.

Don’t dump the problem on your boss. Discuss how you will solve it moving forward-Even though she asked for progress, every boss that hears bad news also wants to know how you plan to fix it going forward. So once you are done answering her questions about what happened and what went wrong, don’t end the meeting there. Come prepared with a plan of how to move forward and what help you need from her to turn things around. This way the meeting will end on a positive note and you are part of the solution to the problem at hand.

This kind of conversation is always nerve-racking, but remember no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. The key is catching that mistake early, proactively communicate the bad news, be accountable and most importantly focus the conversation on how to turn things around going forward. Good luck at your job!