July 21, 2017

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

Product Development for Telecommunications Company

Project Success StoryThis story from project manager, Candice Adams, is about a project in the telecommunications industry with the goal of establishing a new Business Model to create a system whereby mobile services could be sold in bulk as part of B2B services.

The project was innovative and it was difficult to find resources with experience. This made the company’s stakeholders who were new to the concept, very dependent on a service provider for domain specific knowledge. It took about two years to complete.

The Customers knew more than the company which put a lot of pressure on the company to establish a model and service package. It took time to work out what is of mutual benefit.

Strained Business Relationships

What worked in the project’s favour was the fact that they had dedicated project team members and good support from IT management.

Initially they didn’t have Business support and they had to build trust over time. Due to the corporate nature of the company, there were the usual challenges with having a Silo effect and different teams working independently.

This challenge was overcome by communicating with the Business stakeholders regularly. The project was executed as part of business strategy and the business stakeholders had to become part of the journey. IT didn’t pretend to know everything.  The relationship became more transparent, business stakeholders were part of decision making and they felt empowered.

Multiple Challenges

In order to address the high dependency on the software provider, the project manager had to source subject matter experts (SME’s) in-house to assist with communications with the software provider from an overseas company who didn’t know the company culture, in order to challenge their ideas.

The business was not trusting IT with how the solution needed to be packaged and delivered. This improved as the relationships between IT and the business stakeholders became stronger.

The external dependency on the network in order to make the new business model work, was particularly challenging, because it wasn’t always stable or optimal. The project was formulating a bulk service solution, but standard services were not stable yet, for example, when calls dropped.

The Business Case determined a launch date a year into the future. This date couldn’t move out, as it was advertised already.  Much money was spent on marketing the future bulk service solution. For certain customers, there was a small window of opportunity to offer this service to their existing clients – this caused an immovable end date for go live of the solution.

Lessons Learned

Project success storyOn a strategic business project of this nature the buy-in from business stakeholders is mandatary and it requires transparent communications in terms of how the solution is developed.

A big factor in the success of the project was the on-boarding of SME’s to become part of the project team. This allowed better negotiation with the software providers in terms of what is required for the new business model. The SME’s also played a major role in transitioning to operations.

Sponsor Support and Communications

Through-out the project sponsor support was critical. The sponsor had to provide updates to the Board of Directors and he had to assist with addressing major project issues that were escalated.

Project communications were done through daily stand-ups with the entire project team (IT and Business) to keep team members aligned, first thing in the morning. Informal conversations also helped to overcome the silo’s. It addressed the questioning of motives and it helped to build trust. Evidence of the trust relationship was seen in how business stakeholders would defend IT if there were delays.

Key take-aways

The project manager had some big take-aways from the project experience, like the importance of being open and transparent. A project manager needs to keep an eye on the pulse of activities and progress. Also stay close to how people are feeling and how the team is experiencing the project. In conclusion the project manager learnt the value of being supportive and managing expectations.

About the project manager:

Candice Adams has started in Systems Management policies and procedures in a Petro-chemical company. She did business process analysis before she moved into project management, where she worked on projects in ERP, like SAP or Oracle and in Retail IT for the past 12 years. She plans to become PMP certified next.

Candice may be contacted on candicead@gmail.com

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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How to Use a WBS as a Team Build Event

Work Breakdown StructureMost project managers will know that compiling a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is one of the key activities of the Project Planning phase. To discover more about the benefits of a WBS, the different types of WBS and how much time is required to develop the WBS, read Project Planning – Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The purpose of this article is to show you how you can use the WBS as a team building exercise even though it’s considered to be a regular project activity.

Teamwork

WBS as team buildAs a best practice rule you don’t construct the WBS by yourself, you let the people who are doing the work define the work. Let them see how their deliverables begin to translate to assignable activities. This is an excellent opportunity for building trust and relationships through teamwork.

Invite the appropriate participants. This means someone from each group participating in the project. Since this could be a very long work session or a series of work sessions, try to schedule them with an awareness of your team members’ availability and other work commitments. It is recommended to have refreshments that will fuel the brain power!

Review the scope. If this is the first time the team is hearing the formal scope, this will result in lively discussion. Encourage questions and ‘what-if’ scenarios. Have open discussions about the scope to strengthen communications and achieve alignment among team members.

WBS and Deliverables

Ask individuals to work together to identify the key deliverables. Use the ‘sticky note’ approach. This means that you will give the team post-it notes or similar pieces of paper that can be written on and moved around. This allows the team to write deliverables (and next activities) on paper and position them at various locations on the proposed WBS.

Once the deliverables seem firm, have the team work on the lower levels. Have the group or groups that own each deliverable (or a portion thereof) break the work down further. Encourage detail. You want the end result to be assignable and measurable work.

Make sure that good notes are taken during this session. What we construct during one meeting makes perfect sense at the time. Later, details may be forgotten.

Take some time away from the WBS and then revisit it. Walk through it again and make sure it still makes sense.  Have team members present their sections to the rest of the team for review and discussion. This helps build an understanding of the entire work effort.

Now you have built a traditional work breakdown structure that the team understands and through your work together you have a built a stronger team. That is why WBS can also mean We Build Strength!

WBSCoachIf you are starting with a new project and you have a WBS coming up as part of the project planning, I strongly recommend you look into WBS Coach from PMStudent. What to expect from this course:

  • You will end with a proven and repeatable approach to planning and controlling your projects;
  • You’ll be able to translate what your project sponsor wants into what you and your team must do to meet project objectives
  • You’ll discover how to structure every project so it’s clearly defined.
  • It will make creating your schedule and budget straightforward.

 

Don’t delay, try it out today!

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.

Certifications for Professional Project Managers

By Linky van der Merwe

In a previous article about being a professional project manager, we explained the characteristics of a professional, the type of qualifications within the profession as well as the benefits to the individual and the organisation. This article will explain the main project management bodies, as well as the certifications on offer.

Who are the recognised Project Management Bodies?

Certifications for professionalsThere are three main recognised bodies for project management who provide a range of project management best-practice methodology, principles, qualifications, certifications and professional membership.

There is considerable overlap with what each of the three Bodies considers as best-practice project management. The differences tends to be more related to the level, focus, breadth and depth of project management principles, processes, techniques and methods rather than there being any fundamentally conflicting views about best-practice project management.

The three main recognised project management bodies are:

  1. Project Management Institute (PMI) – The PMI is the largest global membership association for project management professionals. At the heart of the PMI philosophy is ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)’, comprising of core project management processes and techniques. Training is delivered through PMI Registered Education Providers (REP). PMI is headquartered in the USA.
  2. Association for Project Management (APM) – The APM’s mission statement is to develop and promote the professional disciplines of project and programme management for the public benefit across all sectors of industry. At the heart of APM ethos is the APM Body of Knowledge (APM BoK), comprising fifty-two knowledge areas required to manage any successful project. APM BoK provides a framework and key principles for managing projects. Training and examinations are delivered through APM Accredited Training Providers. APM is headquartered in the UK.
  3. Association for Project Management Group (APMG) – The APMG is the registered examination institute and administer qualifications, certifications and accreditations for Axelos on behalf of The Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office is the owner of the PRINCE2 method for managing projects and MSP for managing programmes. PRINCE2 is an acronym for Projects In Controlled Environments. MSP is an acronym for Managing Successful Programmes.PRINCE2 is a structured process-based method for effective project management and a de facto standard used extensively by the UK Government and is increasingly used in the private sector.

Certifications offered

The most well-known certifications in the project management marketplace today are awarded by these three institutions.

1.      PMI®:  Project Management Institute

PMI is the world’s leading not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession, with more than half a million members and credential holders in 185 countries. Their worldwide advocacy for project management is supported by a globally-recognized standards and credentials, an extensive research program, and professional development opportunities.

  • CAPM®– Certified Associate in Project Management
  • PMP® – Project Management Professional
  • PgMP® – Program Management Professional
  • PMI-RMP® – Risk Management Professional
  • PMI-SP® – Scheduling Professional

2.      APM:  Association for Project Management

As the largest independent professional body of its kind in Europe, their membership extends to more than 20 000 individual and 500 corporate members throughout the UK and abroad.

  • Introductory Certificate in Project Management
  • APMP
  • APM Practitioner
  • CPM: Certificated Project Manager
  • APM Risk Certificate – Level 1
  • APM Risk Certificate – Level 2
  • Registered Project Professional (RPP)

3.      APMG-UK:

APMG-UK is the United Kingdom arm of APMG-International, a global Examination Institute accredited by The APM Group. APMG-UK specialises in the accreditation and certification of organisations, processes and people, within a range of industries and management disciplines and is currently the Official Accreditor of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

  • Agile Project Management
  • APMP Foundation, Practitioner, Professional Bid & Proposal Management
  • CHAMPS2 – Change Management Foundation
  • CHAMPS2 – Change Management Practitioner
  • Earned Value Management (EVM) Certification
  • PRINCE2® Foundation
  • PRINCE2® Practitioner
  • PPS – Programme and Project Sponsorship
  • M_o_R® Foundation and Practitioner (Management of Risk)
  • MSP® Foundation, Practitioner, Advanced Practitioner Managing Successful Programmes

4.      IPMA®:  International Project Management Association

The IPMA® is a world leading, non-profit making project management organisation which represents more than 50 project management associations from all continents of the world. The organisation actively promotes project management to businesses and organisations around the world in order to increase the recognition of the profession.

  • IPMA: International Project Management Association
  • Level A – Certified Projects Director
  • Level B – Certified Senior Project Manager
  • Level C – Certified Project Manager
  • Level D – Certified Project Manager Associate

5.      Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a business management strategy originally developed by Motorola, USA in 1981. (Unfortunately, there is no recognised Six Sigma accreditation body or single organization which oversees a standard body of knowledge or standardized Six Sigma tests and certification).

  • Six Sigma Certifications
  • Yellow Belt Certification
  • Green Belt Certification
  • Black Belt Certification
  • Master Black Belt Certification

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Are you a Professional Project Manager?

By Linky van der Merwe

professional project manager

What does a professional project manager really mean? Defined simply it means the level of excellence or competence that is expected of a professional.

Next you want to know what are the characteristics of a professional project manager.

Characteristics of a Professional

In a profession, people would be expected to have characteristics like:

  • Advanced education and expertise
  • Membership to professional bodies
  • Implicit adoption of that organisation’s ethics
  • Commitment to continual professional development and learning
  • Sense of responsibility to the wider public
  • Consistent exercise of discretion and judgement

Qualified or not

Professionals would have a qualification, an accreditation and/or certification. Let’s look at the definitions to be clear:

Qualification – A learning outcome as a result of formal tuition. Diplomas, Degrees and post-graduate degrees in Project Management are available from Training Institutions or at Universities and Business Schools nationally in your country or even internationally.

Accreditation – Recognition provided to a candidate in accordance with the criteria of a specific organisation or institution typically based on a combination of knowledge and demonstrated ability.

Certification – Certification is often needed to work in some trades. It usually means an individual has passed a trade test administered by a recognised authority. Possessing a certificate of completion of a course is typically not the same as being certified.  Examples of popular certifications are PMP, Prince2 and Agile Practitioner.

Registration – A Professional Registration gives a license to operate and to practice within a scope of operation and to take responsibility for the work. It provides authority to perform a certain scope of work without supervision. The registration is typically a statutory requirement.

Designation – In some countries a designation is a job title. It’s the title conferred by a recognised professional body that could be statutory or non-statutory, based on certain criteria defined by the professional body.

What are the benefits of achieving a qualification or certification?

Both an individual and the organisation they work for should benefit from an individual achieving a project management qualification or certification. Dependent upon the nature of the organisation and its business, some of the key potential benefits are as follows:

Benefits to the organisation:

  • Best-practice knowledge, skills, tools and techniques acquired through the training necessary to achieve a qualification are deployed back in the work place.
  • Improved capability and competence to deliver an organisation’s programmes or projects, resulting in increasing customer satisfaction and reputation, saving costs, utilising resources more effectively and positively impacting morale.
  • Supports individuals with their personal and career development planning. This in turn can result in increased appreciation of, and commitment to the organisation, by the individual.
  • Catalyses improvements to an organisation’s own project or programme management methods and processes through gaining an understanding of best-practice.
  • Enhances the credibility of the organisation to own clients and customers through having project or programme staff that have achieved externally recognised certification or qualification.
  • External recognition of an individual’s project management knowledge and capabilities indicating a core level of embedded understanding, which is then likely to be applied back in the work place.

Benefits to the individual:

  • Provides the individual with additional and portable knowledge, skills, tools and techniques in order to be more successful in managing and delivering projects or programmes.
  • Enhances career development prospects through having achieved an externally recognized qualification or certification.
  • Demonstrates to the employer, the individual’s desire, commitment and capabilities to learn and improve themselves, and thus improving an individual’s reputation within the organisation.
  • Provides an external industry-wide benchmark of an individual’s project management knowledge and competence.

 

One of the biggest compliments a professional project manager can receive, is when stakeholders (customers) call you back by name to do additional projects for them.

It is my belief that you are only as good as your last project; therefore project managers should always strive to be professional and competent on every project, since you never know if it is your last…

Please comment and share if you have had good experiences with ‘last’ projects.

Project Managers Discover Top Time Management Tips and Techniques

An important responsibility of a project manager is to manage time as a constraint which involves keeping an eye on the project schedule, ensuring team members are delivering on milestones, while having to keep track of your own time spent as well.

While your role is varied since you need to cater for every aspect of the project from cost management to human resource management, you are accountable for the overall delivery including all tasks tied to the project. This does not mean that the project manager must micro-manage everyone on the team as individuals are primarily responsible for various aspects of the project.

However, we find that a number of project managers spend time doing too much management and fire-fighting and then they are left with little or no time to work on strategy, leading the team and focusing on tasks that only they can perform.  An efficient project manager, therefore, should be able to effectively develop strategies for his/her team and perform oversight functions effectively all while being on schedule.

To support you to be more professional as a project manager, here is an infographic with very helpful time management tips with complements from Nutcache.

Time Management – A Prerequisite for Great Project Managers [Infographic]

Is Project Management Success on the Rise?

The more mature companies are with project management, the more likely they are to achieve their goals of adding value, advancing strategies and to increase competitive advantage.

PMI Pulse of the Profession 2017This is according to the PMI Pulse of the Profession Report for 2017, a global survey of project management practitioners that charts the major trends for project management now and in the future.

The results in the Pulse of the Profession indicates that more organizations recognize the strategic value of projects and programs. There’s a growing focus on talent management, executive sponsorship, and benefits realization management. At the same time, organizations are searching for ways to be more agile, customer focused, and competitive and this is a big driver for executive leaders, PMO directors and project teams.

There’s a growing need for a culture of engagement, learning, and innovation. To make progress the focus should remain on developing project management talent, managing project benefits, establishing PMO’s, driving executive sponsorship and by addressing agile approaches.

To read the full Report Pulse of the Profession 2017: Success rates rise, visit PMI.org.

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