October 17, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Archives for September 2017

A Guide to Conducting Project Closure Surveys

By Jane Sandwood

After wrapping up a project, it’s important to gain feedback from workers and stakeholders in order to improve business practices and help future projects to run smoothly.

survey as a PM toolSurveys are a valuable tool that project managers can use to collect feedback from team members who might otherwise not give their input. In addition to comments and ideas, surveys allow you to easily capture project closure metrics such as stakeholder satisfaction and employee engagement.

At the end of a big project, a closure survey can help companies to learn how all parties involved feel about the success of the plan and offer suggestions on how to improve. When conducting a project closure survey, it’s important to keep in mind both your audience and your end goal.

Who to Target

A project closure survey should gather information from all parties involved to gain the most valuable insight into the minds of employees and stakeholders alike. Managers should ensure that the survey reaches not only their team members but also anyone involved with the project and those who were impacted by the project, such as investors and key end-users.

With a large sample pool, it can sometimes be difficult to analyze and interpret the vast amounts of survey data collected. By breaking information into demographic categories, such as management versus team members, companies can address interdepartmental differences in opinion.

What to Include

Surveys make it easy for employees to express themselves by giving structure and organization to their feedback. Questions can pinpoint common themes and ideas regarding a recent project, and data can be easily be organized by using a five-star rating system. A good survey should include space for comments after each question as well so that people can expound upon their answers if they want to, or provide additional feedback.

In order to find out if the results of a project have met everyone’s expectations, there are several important topics a survey should cover. A project closure survey should generate information by asking questions about issues such as:

  • Has the project met the expected results?
  • Did team members feel that the parameters of the project were well defined?
  • Did the project team communicate effectively?
  • Were the right tools and processes used to complete the project?
  • Why or why didn’t everything go according to plan?
  • How successful was the project overall?

 

Every employee’s time is valuable, so a good survey shouldn’t be too long or complicated. There should be a limited number of questions, and the wording should be kept relatively simple. The language of a question can influence results, so to get accurate data, companies should be careful about how each question in a survey is asked. Businesses can customize existing online surveys, or hire an expert to help them create the ideal project closure survey for their team.

Project Success Story – Retail Payment Switch upgrade 

This story from the Project Manager, Shiraan Fredericks, is about a Payment Switch upgrade at a big national retailer in South Africa. It was complicated by the fact that it needed to be PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant which means that all card data must be masked involving all the components it touches i.e. the POS ( Point of Sale), the Postilion EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) switch etc. This had to work considering huge volumes of transactions, up to 2 million per day.

Testing of all possible cards

testing all credit cardsA switch upgrade impacts all components in the chain of transactions – about 7.  The project was very deadline driven with resources who were not people oriented but rather hostile. There was also much politics to deal with on and around the project.

Another challenge was the fact that the Pinpad terminal had to be EMV (set of standards) compliant. This means that it was submitted to rigorous testing as part of the QA process.  Even the project manager was involved with doing EMV certifications. All types of cards had to be tested including AMEX, VISA and Mastercard. Also other Value Added Services (VAS) i.e. Airtime, Prepaid electricity.

Fortunately the resources understood the environment and the retailer and they had the right experience.  The Project Manager also had a good mentor.

Project Management – Industry Experience

The environment and setup was ready in terms of infrastructure, people and systems, including commercial relationships with 3rd party vendors.

The project team was very experienced even though the software was new.  The project manager could build the relationships and they understood the process to be followed.

Stakeholder engagement was good, which meant that the project was well supported including support from the management team. All the banks were on-board and attended the Steercom meetings through-out.

The PM was very hands on – he did configuration, testing, looked at transactions flows. This helped to monitor and control the progress better. The technical expertise about switching projects were picked up from past project experience. It needed to be like that because it was cut-throat, and a project that couldn’t be managed on a high level only.

The PM spent more time with project team members, to understand what they’re doing, and to assist where necessary. Issues could be identified and addressed immediately.

The customer was so satisfied with the PM’s results that he was requested back for other projects. This is the type of project requiring a PM with domain expertise. like EFT and the payment switching environment which helped to contribute to a successful outcome.

Test, test, more testing

switch upgradeThe impact on many different components added to the complexity of the project scope. Due to the amount of testing that had to be done some defects would slip through. For example while testing airtime – every 1st transaction would fail, every 2nd transaction would pass.  The test team never told the PM about it.

This was caused by the fact that the Easypay switch would cut-out connection after 90 min. This was only discovered in UAT (user acceptance testing) and a resolution had to be found quite late in the project life cycle.

Doing testing in parallel with different teams and not having all test teams on-site posed a risk.

Lessons Learned

All results from testing should be communicated to the project team and the PM.  Furthermore, it’s critical for Test and Production environments to always look the same.

A Test Plan needs to be compiled and all test teams need to work off the same plan. Be clear about all versions in all environments and how it’s configured.

Negative testing is key – the testers should try to break it. This will cater for different scenarios in production and exceptions.

Communication needs to be consistent to all stakeholders. It’s important to highlight all risks as early as you can. Be transparent about any problems so that resolutions can be found.

The post-production support is very important to ensure quality as well as system stability and customer satisfaction.

A very involved and hands-on project management style is sometimes required for very technical and complex projects.

 

About the Project Manager:

Shiraan Frederick had been in project management for the past 10 years. He started as a project administrator on an Asset Management project. When he relocated to Cape Town, he studied IT, MCSE, Cisco CCNA and Prince II Practitioner. This helped with his transitioning into project management. While in the switching industry he had exposure to banks and retail customers.

Shiraan may be contacted on:  shiraan79@gmail.com or  0732906789

Hack Yourself Safe: What Project Managers Need to Know About Cloud Security

By Jane Sandwood

Cloud Security for PM's

Many great Project Managers have the ability to juggle balls, lots of them. You’re there to see the threads, weave them, control them, and untangle them until the project is complete. One of the things which often flies under the radar somewhat among all that information and competing needs and issues, is cybersecurity. It’s worth looking at because the average data breach costs big business $4 million each.

Hacking the Cloud

Luckily, cybersecurity is one of those relatively easy things to remedy in a way because if the basics are done right, they can be carried through – often from project to project. That being said, cyber threats proliferate and mutate like the common cold, so regular re-checking and inoculating is required.

This kind of security is vital because in the 21st century workspaces are virtual. Employees, contractors, investors, and clients can all have varying degrees of access to information, ongoing projects, meeting spaces, shared documentation, and collaboration zones. This needs to not only be expertly organized but safe from prying eyes and thieving fingers.

11 Things you Need to Know

These hacks will show you 11 ways a Project Manager can ensure their cybersecurity is topnotch so they can get on with other aspects of the job:

  1. Threats to cloud security might be overstated, but they do exist
  2. Cloud security has vulnerabilities for a very good reason – without them sharing information would be impossible
  3. This kind of cloud computing could be the riskiest yet
  4. When combined with the Internet of Things (IoT), security gets much worse
  5. Big cloud companies are taking it seriously – check out Google’s whitepaper for proof.
  6. There’s virtually (pardon the pun) no difference between private and public cloud services
  7. The biggest risk might be human error – just like any other kind of security, lazy passwords put your data on a plate
  8. Research hybrid options which mix public and private solutions
  9. The law will catch up with the technology, but the results might not be good
  10. You can improve security by learning about SSL, TLS, AES, and improving encryption and two-factor authentication
  11. The cloud is here for the foreseeable future

 

It sounds like a lot of work, but consult with an expert and look at a hybrid option which separates elements into public and private areas. Furthermore, ensure you have high quality passwords with no weak links, encryption, and two-factor authentication to minimize the risks. Do these things and one aspect of coordinating stakeholders will get easier.

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