September 2, 2014

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

Social Media and Project Management in South Africa

This week it was my privilege to be interviewed by Jerry Ihejirika, a project management blogger from Nigeria in his new series called “Project Management for Africa”.

According to Jerry I’m one of the most active African Project Managers on Twitter (@virtualpm) and for that reason as well as my passion for project management, he chose me to interview, using Twitter. I thought it was an innovative medium to use to conduct the interview and a good example of the power of social media to promote our profession.

Below is an extract of the interview that I wanted to share with my community too.

When exactly did you venture into project management and what informed your decision?

I’ve been in the project management profession since 1999. I’m an accidental Project Manager, and I love working with teams and the satisfaction of achieving goals.

As someone who is passionate about project management, what’s the best project management advice you’ve ever received?

From both advice and my experiences: “Always be planning, always be communicating, and always build relationships.”

What’s the level of awareness of project management in South Africa?

In South Africa, there is a growing level of awareness and appreciation of project management as a professional designation. We have a Body called SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) which has officially recognised project management as a professional designation with career path. It’s also required by corporate employers for a Project Manager to have a PMP (certified) status, especially when applying for senior roles.

Is there any recognized national PM body in South Africa to help promote and advance Project Management in the country?

Yes, Project Management South Africa, or PMSA, representing project management practitioners across all sectors. They have monthly meetings in major cities, a biennial national conference, national printed magazine; we also have PMI chapters whose members meet monthly.

You’re one of the advocates of social media in project management. Do you think social media has a role to play in project management?

Yes, and for different reasons. Some of the benefits of social media in project management include improved collaboration, cost savings, best practice sharing, and networking.

How do you think social media can be utilized to promote and advance project management in Africa?

Through our project management blogs; sharing of project success stories; creating LinkedIn interest groups; leveraging Twitter, podcasts, videos, Google+, and PM Flashblog initiatives.

How would you rate the level of awareness of project management in Africa?

Project management as a designation will contribute to the development of career paths; and also through promoting continuous professional development. In South Africa, we have a national conference by end September with theme: Growing project management in Africa. (See events page for more details.)

Wow, that’s good, and there’s also a national conference in Nigeria by September tagged “Project Management Development in Nigeria” being organized by ProMaCon.

That’s good for raising the awareness of value of project management in Africa.

What advice would you give to a Project Manager who’s planning on incorporating social media in his/her project management profession?

For use of social media on projects, you need a social strategy that’s specific to your organisation’s business objectives, challenges, and culture. You also need to have an adaptable, step-by-step, ongoing formula to bring social media into projects. You can also use social media to build your professional project management career by having a strategy with tactics to communicate on each social media channel.

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How to Prevent Project Failure with Pre-Mortems

By Bruce Harpham

Project failure is a constant threat. When a project fails on scope, quality or timeliness, the credibility of the project manager is threatened. Delivering the project is the acid test of project manager success. That means we need to understand how to prevent project failure.

project pre-mortemThis article is about one strategy you can use to prevent project failure, pre-mortems. Using the pre-mortem approach is a positive way to harness skepticism and negativity in the work place. Rather than silently enduring complaints from project members, the pre-mortem brings concerns into the open. The pre-mortem also creates a safe space to share project opinions.

Trust is a critical component to a successful pre-mortem session. If your project team has had negative experiences in the past, that fact needs to be taken into account.

The project manager sets the tone for the session. At the beginning of the session, say that challenging ideas are welcome. Otherwise, critical threats to the project’s success may never be discussed. With that context, let’s discuss how to run an effective pre-mortem session.

Run a Pre-Mortem Meeting in Five Steps

Follow these five steps to run your pre-mortem session. If you are new to the process, be patient with yourself. Implementing a new idea can feel uncomfortable at first.

Note that the pre-mortem is designed to be used in the early stages of a project. Applying this practice late in the game is akin to providing a vaccine to a terminal patient: timing matters!

#1 Provide the Project Plan

In order to provide meaningful feedback, your project team and stakeholders need background. Whether you have a fully developed project charter or a short PowerPoint deck, share what you have with the team. For the best results, provide the project document to the team a few days before the pre-mortem meeting.

Tip: For purposes of the pre-mortem, it’s better to keep the project plan brief.

#2 Introduce the Pre-Mortem

In an effective pre-mortem session, each person contributes ONE idea. By asking each person to focus on a single idea, they will be forced to prioritize the most significant challenge to the project. I recommend giving five to ten minutes to consider the question and make a few notes.

Tip: If your team has good experience with brainstorming, then you can build on that point. Pre-mortems and brainstorming both rely on openness to new and challenging ideas.

#3 Record Project Failure Factors

Go around the table and ask each person to share their project failure factors. During the listening stage, focus on listening to the comments. There will be plenty of time to evaluate the comments later. The only reason to make comments during this step is clarify how the failure factor works.

Focus the discussion on major problems that could destroy the project’s chances for success. Here are some examples to consider:

  • Vendor Failure – A vendor fails to keep their commitment to deliver software by an agreed date.
  • Project Sponsor Behavior -The project sponsor departs the firm to retire or take a role at a competitor.
  • Lack of Feedback Failure -Employees refuse to provide useful feedback during testing because they fear process improvement will cut employment.

Tip: Appoint one person to serve as the scribe. Their role is to capture all of the ideas and send out minutes after the meeting. Appointing one person to this task signals the importance of the pre-mortem.

#4 Evaluate Failure Factors

Following the pre-mortem meeting, start the evaluation process. Use two evaluation criteria to measure the failure factors.

Let’s use the example of a delayed delivery from a vendor as an example.

Likelihood: XYZ Vendor has delivered 18 of the past 20 software projects on time. The likelihood of late delivery on the current project is low.

Impact: Failure to receive the software package from XYZ Vendor would cause the project to miss the delivery deadline. The impact rating is high.

Assessment: One of the two criteria is rated as high so this problem requires further attention.

#5 Escalate Most Critical Problems to Project Sponsors

From time to time, it makes sense to seek assistance from the project sponsor. For large contracts with vendors, your sponsor may be the accountable executive for the vendor.

In any case, schedule a short meeting with the project sponsor to discuss the greatest threats to the project. Bring at least two possible solutions to the meeting so the executive has ideas to consider.

About the Author: Bruce Harpham writes on project management training at Project Management Hacks. His professional experience includes leading cost reduction projects at financial institutions. He earned a Master of Information Studies degree at the University of Toronto.

Project Management: 5 Metrics to Measure Project Success

By Maricel Rivera

project success metricsSuccess isn’t absolute. At the fundamental level, project success is difficult to define. According to Computer World, the usual group of project stakeholders – project manager, team members, sponsor, end users and top management – may give the project very different success ratings at any given point in time.

The triangle of time, scope and budget is just the starting point for project managers, as hurdling through the triple constraint is expected for the project’s output to be a success.

Then, there’s the fact that project success goes beyond just the output. As a PMI article puts it, “Based on today’s project environments, project managers need to broaden their perspective to include other criteria to satisfy stakeholders and deliver business results.”

How to measure project success

Here are five project success metrics to consider.

#1 Client satisfaction

The project’s end result may squarely fit within the designated time, budget and scope requirements, but is the client happy? Clients, sometimes, cannot eloquently explain what they want, and it is up to the project manager to figure things out. Does the project pave the way to more future partnerships? If not, is the client willing to put his reputation on the line and recommend your company to his peers and colleagues?

#2 Quality of delivery

A project may elicit results the client absolutely loves, but if the people involved in its execution had to go through endless clarification stages and endure unnecessary headaches while working their way to completion, the project may not necessarily be a success. Knowing how team members feel about the overall project can prompt project managers to devise ways to better communicate and define future delivery objectives.

#3 User adoption

A software application as an end product can only be successful if the intended end users actually use it, and use it often. Aside from usage frequency, other questions to ask can include:

  • Is the software user-friendly and easy to navigate?
  • How is the learning curve?
  • Does it address prior user challenges?
  • Overall, is the product an enabler or a nuisance?

#4 Value realization

Apart from satisfying the needs of its clients, a company must also realize its business goals, such as ROI (rate of return), NPV (net present value), among others, for every project it takes on. Shorter time-to-market and faster project delivery benefits not just the client but the business as well, in that this ultimately leads to cost efficiency and more time to take on more projects.

#5 Lessons learned

For every project, successful or otherwise, there are lessons to be learned. While failure is oftentimes seen as a better teacher than success, two important factors to look into when evaluating the success of a project are:

  • Is the project instrumental to increasing the knowledge of its stakeholders?
  • Does it better prepare the company for future endeavors?

Conclusion

Keep in mind, to ensure success above and beyond the output, project and business objectives must be aligned. The above are just five measures to look into when evaluating the success of your projects. What other measures would you like to add? Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

 

About the Author: Maricel Rivera writes content for Comindware, the company behind Comindware Project, a state-of-the-art project management solution providing unique automated scheduling and unmatched collaboration capabilities for professional project execution.

Leadership in Project Management

An excellent Leadership ebook has been released by AtTask containing lessons from well-known Project, Program and Portfolio Management experts about making the transition from project management to project leadership.

Gartner predicted a massive change in the world of project management—a change that is forcing project managers into a greater leadership role and requiring them to work closely with senior executives.  Making the shift from project management to project leadership isn’t easy, but the rewards can be significant. Read the stories for inspiration to become a better leader.

Project Management Maturity and Project Performance

project management maturityIn the difficult economic times we live in today, organisations are faced with the challenge to continuously adapt to the changing environments in order to survive and prosper. For most companies project management has become part of their competitive advantage strategy. The question is if there’s a relation between project management maturity and project performance?
This question was answered by the results from the survey done by Price Waterhouse Coopers:
Global Insights and Trends – Current Portfolio, Programme and Project Management practices

PM Maturity and Performance

Project management maturity is measured by evaluating projects on 5 performance indicators:

  1. Delivering projects on time;
  2. Within budget;
  3. To scope;
  4. To quality standards;
  5. With the intended business benefits

Project performance is evaluated around 4 core elements:

  1. Processes
  2. Organisational structure
  3. People
  4. Systems and tools

The survey results were analysed to determine the current state of project management maturity and the characteristics of higher performing projects. This article will highlight some of the key findings.

Processes

When a systematic and organised set of processes exist for project management, or in other words when a well-defined repeatable PM process is in place (can be grouped into a PM methodology) the chances are better to deliver consistently high project results.

Organisational Structure

When looking at organisation structure as an influence on PM performance the following aspects are considered:

  • Resource ownership
  • Definition of clear roles and responsibilities
  • Support from senior management
  • Use of a Project/Programme Management Office (PMO)

Results indicated that project management is critical to business performance and organisational success. Where suitable project organisational structures exist on project(s) it clearly outlines the project team and reporting relationships.
Senior management support of projects is a contributing factor to project success especially for projects that are expanding from departmental to national and international levels.
Established project management offices result in projects with higher quality and business benefits. Employing a PMO is one of many methods to institute standardized project management processes and project controls in an organisation.

People

Well-developed people management skills are fundamental to a high PM maturity level. Aspects considered in this area include: project staff skills and experience; development and training programme; and an emphasis on PM certifications.
They found that engaged, experienced staff leads to project success. Training and staff development in the field of project management has grown drastically. More PM certifications have become in demand.

Systems and Tools

Organisations purchase and create systems and tools to automate and support their PM processes. This includes the use of software for PM, Portfolio Management and Agile, as well as Earned Value Management, which is more relied on in the US as a useful tool.
The use of Portfolio Management software drives higher levels of portfolio performance and greater satisfaction with an organisation’s project management practices.

Portfolio Management

When implementing PfM, the survey results indicated that the three largest ways to be more successful include aligning the portfolio with the organisation’s strategy; using an enterprise PMO to manage the portfolio; and conducting monthly reviews. There are also several benefits to implementing Portfolio Management like:

  • Adoption of PfM has positive effects on both project performance and performance of the overall portfolio.
  • Two thirds of respondents that employ PfM reported that more than 90% of their organisation’s projects perform to expectations on the five key performance indicators. In contrast, seven out of ten organisations that do not employ PfM reported that less than 10% of their projects met the key performance indicators.

In summary, it was found that higher maturity lead to higher performance within the five key performance indicators. However, most organisations still desire a higher maturity level.
To read the full PWC Global Project Management Report, click here.

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Recognition for Excellence in Project Management

An announcement from the Project Management Institute (PMI):

Submit a qualified nomination for the PMI Award for Project Excellence, PMI Project of the Year Award, or PMO of the Year Award before 1 April 2014!

A PMI Professional Award will help you gain new business, recognition from your colleagues, peers, current and future employers and the personal gratification of being recognized for excellence in project management. Plus, you’ll gain visibility among more than 700,000 PMI members and certification holders – the largest professional network of project managers in the world.

Award recipients will be honored among their peers at the 2014 PMI Professional Awards Ceremony preceding PMI® Global Congress 2014 — North America in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Please visit PMI Professional Awards for a complete list of all the awards awaiting nominations.

PMSA Becomes a Registered Professional Body

Since September 2013 PMSA has been recognised as the professional body for project management in South Africa.

This means that PMSA has the sole right and the responsibility to confer the designations of Project Manager (PM), Senior Project Manager (Sr.PM) and Professional Project Manager (Pr.PM) according to criteria specified by PMSA, and in line with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) framework.

If you as project management practitioners have any questions in this regard, please visit the dedicated FAQ section on the PMSA website.

 

Use Enterprise Web Based Solutions to Improve your Project Management

Enterprise web based solutionBy Sharon Thomson

Managing projects can be hard for project managers who try to keep track of each and every process and operation in a project. Even if they have the required skills and capability to deal with projects, problems and issues may arise which could lead to projects getting delayed or even failing.

Fortunately many concerns can be addressed through the use of enterprise web based solutions. These web-based solutions are specifically devised to augment the human capability over managing projects and help them improve management of multiple projects. These tools enable easy description and documentation of various processes and operations that constitute a project.

A further benefit is that they enable fast and accurate communication and collaboration among team members which proves to be an asset for those organizations whose team members are situated at geographically different locations. They can easily communicate and collaborate over important matters and resolve them through purposeful interaction. They can remain in touch with their projects from any device whether it is a desktop, tablet, laptop or mobile.

The time spent over performing various tasks can be accurately documented which helps in true assessment of individuals’ performance while performing them. Moreover, organizations can bill their clients accurately by considering the number of hours spent over processing their orders. Even new projects can be easily planned and executed by referencing time related entries from old projects if the new projects are on the same lines of the already executed projects.

The important milestones and events can be properly highlighted and tracked through the calendar feature which helps to know exactly when a particular event needs to be staged, so appropriate resources can be arranged. Thus important milestone dates will never be missed.

Any problems or issues cropping up in a project can be tracked early and resolved effectively and quickly through mutual collaboration and active intervention. The progress of a project can be better tracked through the Gantt chart which helps to know if the project is on the right track or not. The level of completion of various tasks can be accurately gauged through this enterprising feature.

By using these tools, the processes and operations of a project can be better organized and scheduled and can be executed as per project plan. A project manager gets freed up from the burden of performing routine tasks like documentation, arranging meetings and tracking as most of the activities get automated. Thus he can better focus on the project affairs and ensure their timely resolution and execution. This saves time, costs and efforts over a project. This hugely facilitates its smooth execution and it gets successfully completed within the stipulated time frame with optimized usage of resources.

The use of an appropriate enterprise project management tool can indeed be a blessing for project managers who can get quality results with less work, and by focussing on the right things.

Author Bio:  Sharon is a Business manager of ProofHub, a web based project management software that facilitates management and completion of projects as per schedule. It enables the team members who are spread out in different locations in the world to collaborate over project matters. With its use, organizational objectives can be achieved effectively along with the generation of intended gains and assets.