June 27, 2017

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

Project Planning – Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

By Linky van der Merwe

The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a very important tool at the start of your planning phase.

Once you have defined your project scope, it is necessary to create a work breakdown structure. By definition it’s a tool used to define and group a project’s work elements in a way that helps organize and define the total work scope of the project.

There are many benefits to having a WBS as it provides the project manager and team with a task framework that helps with task scheduling and deriving cost estimates. From the WBS you can also identify the Deliverables and Milestones of your project.

It helps to finalise the project scope and plan the project properly. In addition it will help to outline the project budget and to link deliverables to resources.

Types of WBS

There are different types of WBS depending on the type of project. Have a look at some options:

  1. Use project life cycle phases as the 2nd level and deliverables at the 3rd level
  2. Organised based on major deliverables on 2nd level, tasks to be completed on 3rd level

Work breakdown structure

Benefits of a WBS

A WBS will give the project team confidence in that they are clear on the in-scope activities. A well-defined WBS enables resources to be allocated to specific tasks, helps in generating a meaningful schedule, and makes calculating a reliable budget easier.

The WBS will show well defined tasks that can be assigned to a specific individual, who is then responsible for its completion. It will keep the team focused on the project objectives and make them committed to the goals and completion of the project.

Time required

The development of a WBS can take quite some time. Depending on the complexity of your project, the number of people who must provide input and how large the scope is, it can take hours, if not days and multiple workshops to complete. Once drafted, the WBS will require refinement and it may change as the project changes.

However the advantages of having a WBS far outweigh the challenges of creating it. A good WBS makes planning and executing a project easier and lays the groundwork for the schedule, tracking, budgeting, and accountability. It’s considered project management best practice to have a WBS and as such it’s an essential element of overall planning.

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Project Management – 7 Tips to Effectively Manage Project Meetings

As a project manager you have to deal with multiple meetings almost every day. Whether you plan for which meetings to avoid or attend, you cannot deny the fact that meetings are crucial for planning and delivery of projects you manage.

8 tips to effective project meetings In these meeting, you may to interact with your project team members, colleagues, customers, partners, project sponsors, senior management on various aspects of projects like issues, plans, progress, risks, budget, resources, etc.

As a project manager, you always have limited time and if you are anyway going to spend it in these meetings – why not utilize it to the best possible extent?

Here are 7 tips to help you in effectively managing your meetings.

1. What do you want to achieve? (Objectives)

Unless you have clear objective(s) to achieve as a result of a meeting, the meeting and discussions may not lead to anything useful to organization also, potentially wasting every attendee’s time. Before you call for a meeting or attend a meeting, ensure that you have clearly defined objectives that you would like to achieve.

2. What are you going to discuss? (Agenda)

Meeting agenda sets the roadmap for meeting – as what meeting participants can expect. As an organizer you should share meeting agenda with everyone invited, well before the meeting.

3. Who is going to drive it? (People)

If the meeting is expected to conclude in terms of some decision, you will have to ensure that there will be a senior representative – decision maker, present in the meeting. The steering committee may make all useful discussion, but if it is going to be a senior manager who is expected to approve it, organizer should inform him/her about it and invite them to meeting.

4. Are you discussing off-topic and wasting time? (On-track)

It is not uncommon to see that meeting discussion goes off-topic, sub-group of people starts discussing within themselves. As a meeting coordinator, everyone would expect you to direct all such discussion to the point and that you insist everyone to focus on the agenda.

Of course, quick humorous notes/comments are just fine to make the meeting environment little relaxed and healthy.

5. Criticize concepts/concerns and not people

Project team members and stakeholders may have differences, liking for one topic over other or preference for one resource over other; however it is important to focus on the concepts, ideas rather than preferences in people.

Sometimes, meeting participant may tend to criticize other attendees. If you are in the best position; you should drive them to discuss the concept rather than the proposer.

6. Understand, Accept differences and Propose Solution

Sometimes there are bound to be differences of opinion and for meaningful discussion, you need not have unilateral/consensus on a given topic. As a meeting attendees, you should be able to accept these differences, record those and understand what works best for your organization and meets the goal of meeting.

7. Share MoM, Action Items to follow up

An equally important point to carry out is post-meeting activities. Always record minutes of meetings (MoM), enlist action points with a due date and assignee and share this information with all meeting attendees.

I am sure, as a project manager you have plenty of meetings to attend every week, too many emails to go through and plenty of agenda, MoM, action items to search through. There is no easier way of organizing all information than using central meeting manager system.

Bottom line

A meetings is like a drawing board and it’s critical to the success of project planning and delivery. You should carefully plan for it, attend and conduct it effectively.

How do you make your meeting more productive? Please share your experiences in the comments.

About the Author:

Dhan is co-founder of Zilicus, the technology company that offers online project management software – ZilicusPM. ZilicusPM helps organizations in managing entire lifecycle of projects with advanced project planning, risk management, issue tracking, timesheet management, meeting management, document management, resource management, reports and dashboards.

How To Setup a Project Governance Framework as a Best Practice

A more recent article on Project Governance can be found here:

Best Practice: Project Governance Framework

 

Wikipedia defines project governance as follows:

Project governance is the management framework within which project decisions are made. Project governance is a critical element of any project since it provides a framework for the accountabilities and responsibilities associated with an organisation’s capital investments (projects).”

Therefore, the role of project governance is to provide a decision making framework that is logical, robust and repeatable to govern an organisation’s capital investments. In this way, an organisation will have a structured approach to conducting both its business as usual activities and its business change, or project, activities.

Absence of Governance

In today′s business world, the absence of “governance” is equal to fraud, mismanagement and even scandal.
Project governance is fundamental to ensuring project success and control.

A Project Governance Framework

Guy Jelley, CEO of Post Vision Technology believes that the most desirable scenario is creating a project governance framework that allows projects to be fluid and move ahead – as opposed to those that are hindered by too much red tape and unnecessarily scrutinised at every opportunity – but, to implement this framework together with a mechanism that provides visibility on current projects and their governance status, so as to understand and manage risks.

“The framework should provide a logical, robust and repeatable management decision making process, with the purpose of governing an organisation’s projects. And, although I advocate that project governance should be simple and straightforward in order for projects to flow, its importance must not be underestimated,” he says.

According to Jelley, project governance is underscored by the overall strategy of a business and, consequently, project managers must understand the objectives and vision of a business in order to understand and appreciate the project governance framework.

“That is, analyse what the governance processes should be delivering and measure these against the business value that the implementation and monitoring of these provide. The bottom line is, your project governance framework is dependent on your organisation’s holistic requirements and should thus be business- and not technical oriented,” says Jelley.

“Important, however, is to be aware that project governance is not a part of IT governance, but is a set of rules and regulations under which projects fall, irrespective of their type,” concludes Jelley.

Elements of good project governance

Wikipedia lists elements of good project governance which include: [Read more…]

What is Project Management Best Practices?

Are you following project management best practices?

Project Management Best Practice audio

Best Practice

When I started out as a project manager, I always tried to apply project management methodologies and practices in a technically correct way. In that sense, I had a natural tendency to find and use best practices in project management before I even knew that such a term existed or what the proper meaning of project management best practices is.

According to Wikipedia, a best practice is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive, or reward tWikipediahat is believed to be more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. when applied to a particular condition or circumstance.

Best practice can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.

Project management best practices can and should evolve to become better as improvements are discovered. It is about developing and following a standard way of doing things!

I would summarize it to say that project management best practice is a standard approach to follow that has been proven to work within a business industry or environment and then gets adopted by most people within that specific context.

Some consulting firms specialize in the area of project management best practices. A key strategic talent is required to provide good “best practice” consulting to organizations: the ability to balance the uniqueness of an organization with practices it has in common with other organizations.

Make-Up of a Project Manager

The make-up of a typical project manager consists of a person’s natural abilities or talents, learned skills and project management knowledge.

In the Project Management Paper: ‘Still more Art than Science’ by Kate Belzer, it has been stated that project management is both an art and a science. Understanding processes, tools, and techniques are the hard skills, also referred to as the science of project management.

For successful project delivery, project managers also need soft skills, referred to as the art of project management. Soft skills help to define the business value, clarify the vision, determine requirements, provide direction, build teams, resolve issues, and mitigate risk. Communication is quite simply the most important soft skill. The ability to apply soft skills effectively throughout the life cycle of a project will enhance the success of a project exponentially! Often projects fail because of a project manager’s inability to communicate effectively, work within the organization’s culture, motivate the project team, manage stakeholder expectations, understand the business objectives, solve problems effectively, and make clear and knowledgeable decisions. These are the skills that take time to acquire through experience, coaching, and mentoring.

To me the art and science of project management requires the intuitive application of your talents, your hard and soft skills, your knowledge and experience in the right combination that is applicable to a specific project situation. To find that kind of balance is a project management best practice in itself.

Does project management best practices work? does project management best practice work

My work experienced has exposed me to working in organizations with too few specialist resources, lack of sufficient time for projects and inadequate project budget planning or allocation. I have also worked in highly controlled, standardized approach organizations with expert resources where everything in a project is set up to succeed. This means that planning is based on previous similar projects and expert judgement estimates, resources are dedicated to the project for periods when needed, adequate budget is allocated, proper scope and quality management is applied. Of course, all of this was based on project management best practice.

Even though normal risks and issues were experienced in both type of organization’s projects, the organisations where project management best practices were applied consistently, have shown more successful projects and satisfied customers, meaning that these projects always had a better chance of being on time, to budget and with the desired quality.

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About the author: Linky van der Merwe is an IT Project Manager with 15 years IT industry experience and 12 years Project Management experience. She is currently at Microsoft Consulting Services, South Africa.

She consults with small-medium business owners and service professionals about project management and project processes, best practices and successful delivery through projects. She is most experienced in corporate infrastructure projects (upgrades, migration, deployment etc) and process optimisation. She can be reached at linky@virtualprojectconsulting.com

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