July 27, 2017

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

Project Managers – Find a Beginners Guide to Scrum

Agile management frameworks are growing in popularity across many industries. Scrum is an agile framework that helps teams manage product development. The core principle behind Scrum is the understanding that customers can often change their mind about what they want at any stage of a project. For some teams, this can generate a lot of rework particularly in the later stages of development, which wastes time and money. Scrum manages this by delivering quickly in increments, gaining feedback early and adapting the product as necessary.

As with all agile frameworks, Scrum encourages team collaboration, frequent communication and continuous improvement. If you’re interested to learn how Scrum typically works, take a look at the graphic below designed by Knowledge Train.

You can download an A0 size poster version of the graphic to print and display in your office!

The Scrum methodology: a visual guideINFOGRAPHIC

Project Managers – Find a Beginners Guide to Kanban

By Alison Wood

It is no surprise that many organizations are adopting agile methods to manage their workflow. Kanban is one of the methods under the agile umbrella. Once understood, embraced and adopted successfully, you can expect significant improvements to your workflow and team collaboration.

The principle behind the Kanban method is to decrease and manage blockages in workflow, which can disrupt the entire team. It is a beneficial choice for teams that deliver frequently and for software development teams, even allowing teams to deliver daily if required. It is a very visual management method which usually revolves around the use of a whiteboard, coloured sticky notes and markers. Working like this allows the entire team to view the work progress and easily spot problems if they arise.

If you’re interested to learn about how Kanban works, take a look at the graphic below designed by Knowledge Train.

The 4 principles of Kanban: A visual guide

How Project Managers Manage Virtual Teams

With more companies expanding globally, the trend to work on projects with virtual team members who are remote workers, is growing. I have now worked on a project spanning three countries across three different time-zones. Despite having cloud-based tools for project plan sharing and logging test defects, the latest communication technology like Skype for Business in addition to everyday emails, it has been severely challenging.

Challenges in handling virtual teams

Project managers face a variety of challenges when handling virtual team members who work from different locations, who are permanent or freelance workers, who come from different backgrounds and cultures. It can be difficult to schedule a meeting with all members at a fixed time, especially with a 8 hour time-zone difference as was the case with my project. It impacts the decision-making process negatively.

It can be difficult to communicate a message correctly to remote workers. They may fail to understand the context or cannot grasp specific issues related to a project. They don’t always appreciate the consequences if they fail to have a same-day turnaround, that it can cause 2-3 days delays.

A risk I had to manage through-out was to keep team members aligned in terms of the project schedule, the latest decisions, new project baselines etc. Due to the fact that one team worked during another team’s night time and visa versa, it meant that any requests sent via email had to be very clear in terms of context and what was expected. If the receiver of the email had a question, they usually had to wait another day to receive an answer. This caused repeated delays in getting multiple requests fulfilled. As the project progressed, and especially during testing when team members in different time zones had to work together, we had to resort to different work hours to create more of an overlap between team members and to enhance the communication process and response times to issues and defects.

How to manage remote teams effectively

It’s important for project managers to effectively manage both remote and on-site team members to achieve project success. Have a look at the infographic below created by Brandeis University’s Online Project Management Masters Degree program. It addresses the typical challenges and obstacles faced when managing virtual teams, strategies to effectively manage them and technologies to overcome issues.

Managing Virtual Teams

Please share in the comments the challenges you faced when working with virtual teams and how you overcame them.

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PMO are you Looking for PPM Software with a Difference?

Today I would like to introduce an interesting concept, the democratization of project management. What this means, is to ensure that professionalized project management is no longer a privilege available to only a few.

It’s based on providing access to all organizations – regardless of size – to professional, organized and simple project management. It must be equally accessible to a certified specialist as it is to someone who has never heard of PMI, for example. This is according to ITM Platform, providers of a Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) Software with a difference.

The democratization of project management consists of bringing to everyone what was previously only accessible to the largest players. How has this philosophy made ITM Platform different from other PPM software?

ITM Platform PPM software

How ITM Platform differentiates itself

  1. We facilitate use of the system by everyone involved in the projects.Clarity and ease-of-use are not incompatible with a system that offers comprehensive features. Our efforts are focused on offering a complete and user-friendly system that adapts to your company and product. The market contains some very simple and visual tools, but they fall short in terms of functional characteristics. Others are highly comprehensive but entirely unusable.
  2. We offer deployment periods for our solutions that range from five minutes to four days.Other solutions with comparable feature sets range from six months to one year. We achieve this with a native cloud-based model, a series of predetermined configurations that facilitate start-up and user-friendly and easy-to-understand training materials.
  3. We provide the complete freedom to complete a deployment without the need for consultants.Having to contract another organization to launch a tool at your own imposes limitations. Consultants should only be necessary when they are going to provide methodological value, when they are going to help transform the organization or transfer knowledge.
  4. We offer all the features you could wish for, but delivered in an intelligent fashion without requiring clients to follow steps that are not natural for their organization and without restrictions that add nothing to the project.
  5. And, above all, we are accessible in terms of price.We have made great efforts to create a “fat-free” company with only what is absolutely essential for delivering what our clients need.

This is how to make project management accessible to all. The concept of project management democratization goes beyond the tool itself. PM knowledge is shared also via regular publications and webinars.

PPM Tool Selection

When selecting a tool, go for an option that offers value to both project managers, program managers, and the portfolio team. While many PPM tools offer a great value for the latter, they may be difficult to adopt for the basic project planning needs of ‘accidental’ project managers, and perhaps add even less value to team members.

The less attractive a tool is for project teams, the worse the quality of project data. This means that you should look for a tool that allows for easy project planning and execution: not just portfolio management and Business intelligence.

If you would like to try ITM Platform for yourself, please visit PPM Software here.

PrimaveraReader – Simple to use viewer for XER schedules

By Joel Roberts

If you manage your construction & engineering projects with Oracle® Primavera P6, you may want to know about a software that goes hand in hand with P6, and how you can benefit by utilizing the features this software provides.

I’m writing about PrimaveraReader, which is a .xer viewer in its nature, able to perform a wide variety of project scheduling functions, beneficial your team and organization.

PrimaveraReader enables users to view Oracle® Primavera P6 Schedules in .xer or xls. format.

View schedules

Project stakeholders like project managers, contractors, and subcontractors can take advantage of the software and gain greater visibility over the project progress by utilizing the following views:

  • Activities
  • WBS – Work Breakdown Structure
  • Projects which represents the Enterprise Project Structure (EPS)
  • Resource assignments
  • Detail view of selected item in current view
  • OBS – Organizational Breakdown Structure
  • Roles view

Why reader for .xer files instead of sharing .pdf files?

PrimaveraReader as .xer file reader provides an interactive overview of the project with personalized view. Moreover, users can use custom and auto filters with flexibility when viewing a file as well as navigate through predecessors and successors with complete overview.

With .xer reader, you can also work with custom layouts imported from .plf files, and take advantage of visual baselines comparison on the activity updates from previous .xer file versions.

Cutting costs on software licensing

Nowadays, as a consequence of the global economic crisis and slow recovery from it, companies are trying to tighten up their spending and budgets on costly software technologies and services.

Moreover, if we consider a project where most of the people work on their assignments, while only project managers, executives, and coordinators make changes on the schedule, then a lightweight application to display project views could dramatically reduce costs for software licensing.

Reduce license costsОne of the most eminent attributes of PrimaveraReader is its speed. Anyone having issues with importing large .xer files knows how important is the speed. It takes minutes, and some managers even reported hours to open a large .xer files in P6.

But that’s not the case with PrimaveraReader, as it will open .xer files in a matter of seconds.

Progress Update

The Progress Update functionality at PrimaveraReader allows team members to propose assignment progress and activity status in their respective views. The Project Scheduler then decides whether to accept or reject the updates proposed by the team members.

progress updates

Project Baselines

Baselines functionality allows comparison of up to four updated versions of a project schedule. Users can view precise graphical presentation of what has been changed from the original schedule in the Gantt preview. It’s an easy visual comparison utility, helping you to keep track on the project progress.

project baselines

Filters and Search

With the latest release of PrimaveraReader, users can filter project data that meets certain criteria, such as milestones, completed activities, in progress or critical activities. User can pick between User Defined and Default Filters to be applied to the current view.

Searching within the project data is also a feature to be highlighted and useful when you need to find a specific item from the current view.

Mobile Support is expanding

Not all people from the team might work on a PC. That’s why the vendors developed iOS application to support users with iPhone and iPad devices.

The iOS app supports reading files hosted in iCloud or One Drive for business. There are plans to extend with an Android version in the following period.

Benefits of PrimaveraReader

The benefits of using PrimaveraReader are huge for project teams of any size. I’ll highlight some of the most important:

  • Save time and share plans in XER format without exporting to PDF.
  • Greater control over team members and reduce the risk of having unclear tasks.
  • Reduce manual workload and avoid mistakes when receiving progress updates.
  • Worry-free sharing of the project details without the risk of unwanted changes.

Thanks to this powerful reader for Oracle® Primavera P6 files, you have an affordable, user friendly, and comprehensive addition to Primavera P6. If you want a tool that you can use to view .xer files, you’re very well advised to get PrimaveraReader.

5 Benefits of Using a Future Fit Critical Chain Project Management Software

Software review by Irina Viter, multi-project management researcher

Epicflow is an online Project Management tool designed for business experts who want to manage large numbers of projects simultaneously without project delays and cost escalations. The web-based PM software works in tandem with MS Project and Jira, the most commonly used project management tools, as well as Topdesk, Trimergo, Primavera, and CA Clarity.

This online project management tool was developed by two Dutch scientists, Albert Ponsteen and Jan Willem Tromp, to prevent overload, reduce planning headaches, and set priorities in dynamic workplaces. Having spent nearly 30 years in project management environments of different kinds, Ponsteen and Tromp recognized that project management experts are badly in need of software features that can bring order and simplicity to their multi-project environments.

Benefits and Strengths

  1. Epicflow is the next generation of Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) software, offering capacity buffers for resources in addition to time buffers. It approaches project management from the perspective of resource availability, as this is the most effective way to avert the risk of overload and release bottlenecks as soon as they appear. The key benefit of the Epicflow project management tool is that it creates perfect flow by helping business leaders create effort-based workloads and set priorities.
  2. With Epicflow, project management experts can achieve complete visibility over team performance and notice the “bugs” in their business processes as soon as they show up. The system immediately points to overloaded, “stuck” employees who hold back a project’s velocity. You get a real-time overview of all projects in the portfolio, sorted by priority.
  3. Epicflow creates order out of chaotic planning routines. Its smart algorithm eliminates all the waste so people can work according to project priorities and situations of overload are reduced to a minimum. Project managers immediately feel the reduction in planning and management overhead.
  4. This innovative management tool helps you reach high team performance. With adequate resource planning and effort-based workloads, employees are less likely to suffer stress at work, and will be more proactive.
  5. Epicflow increases project awareness by including a mobile application to control resource groups and stay abreast of current projects regardless of location.

Features

Epicflow’s features complement MS Project and Jira, upgrading them for multi-project environments and infusing predictive analytics into an ordinary capacity planning routine. The most striking features of this PM software include:

  • Future load graphs to help you take control of resource planning and predict the impact of additional projects on the existing projects in your pipeline;
  • A pipeline showing multiple projects, milestones, and bottlenecks;

 

Epicflow pipeline software for projects

Pipeline with bottlenecks shown in red above

Pipeline indicating the amount of hours that a project lacks below

epic flow PM software

 

  • Historical load graph presenting group performance, capacity, load, and output over time;
  • Burndown chart;
  • Weeks remaining;
  • Task list;
  • Reporting;
  • User mapping.

Epicflow resource management software

The allocation of resource groups among three PM tools (Jira, Trimergo, MSP) and their associated workloads.

 

Clients Success Stories

Epicflow has already proven effective for many clients in the form of its previous offline version Flow MPM. This is what clients have to say about the software:

  • TKF: “With this project management software we increased our output by 200% and reduced lead-time by 50% in 2 years. We are also able to give our customers a realistic commitment.” Hans de Boer, R&D Director, TKF
  • THALES: “This PM tool resource status is giving you visibility in the near future whether you run into bottlenecks. By doing this it gives you enough time to act accordingly.” Frank Zalm, Program Manager, Thales Nederland
  • DSM: “Analyzing FLOW MPM data shows that agility on projects is increasing and efficiency is going up.” Rigo Bosman, Application Development, DSM Dyneema
  • PILZ: “Epicflow has given us a significant improvement in the amount of projects we can deliver nowadays.” Jan Tournois, Director, PILZ NL

 

Visit Epicflow for more information.

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How Big Data Can Solve Leadership Challenges

Big data can be defined as ‘the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day to day basis’, according to research done by the University of Norwich. Data that modern businesses generate including web traffic logs, social media posts, blog posts, transactional data etc.

By understanding big data and analyzing it correctly, leaders can benefit greatly from the insights provided which will lead to better decisions and more strategic businesses. It can be used to extract insights on consumer behavior, market trends, revenue growth, as well as brand perception and reach; therefore solving diverse automation and leadership challenges.

Find more fascinating research on big data’s role and impact on organizational leadership and management in this Infograpic brought to you with compliments from the Norwich University’s Online Master of Science in Leadership program.

It explains the challenges posed by big data, how big data is utilized across organisations, how big data is fueling business growth, requirements for handling big data and some case studies.

Let us know in the comments section what you think of the research and how you are dealing with big data?
Big Data and Leadership DevelopmentNorwich University Master of Science in Leadership Online

Project Success Story: Implementing a Customer-Centric Strategic Project the Agile Way

Agile key lessonsThis story from Lance Hamel, is about a complex Customer-centric strategic project to improve customer experience in the Retail Industry that took 7 months to complete. The complexity was due to having to implement an unknown cloud-based solution using an agile approach in a traditional waterfall environment, with an unknown vendor. The systems integrator promised technical skills some of which they didn’t have, and subsequently had to be outsourced. That delay caused increased pressure towards the end of the project.

Going Agile

After less successful prior attempts, the team was mobilised quickly and was able to deliver a minimum viable product (MVP) after 6 months. This was an early win for the business and it took about one third of the time it normally takes to implement a new solution.

The Business had an active and involved project sponsor who was also the product owner.  Through-out the life-cycle of project, following an Agile approach, the project team was aligned on a daily basis. The Sponsor had a briefing 2-3 times a week, when she did regular prioritisation with her team; therefore there was a close alignment between business and the project team.

The vendor was leading the agile process.  They had a very transparent way of working between IT and Business,. The right stakeholders were involved with sprint planning, backlog grooming, reviews and briefings. They also attended sprint reviews/retrospectives in a continuous improvement process.

New way to manage projects

There was a complete shift in the way they managed the project. Instead of …..

Read more ….. for many lessons learned and key take-aways for future projects.

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