December 14, 2017


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

Project Story: Retail Staff Scheduling System

By Linky van der Merwe

retail-staff-scheduling-systemThis project story is about the turn-around of a complex project which was over budget and not delivering on the expected business benefits. It was for a Staff Scheduling system in the Retail Sector with the objectives of effectively scheduling staff shifts, manage staff leave cycles and ultimately deduce staff costs for over 30 000 store staff. The brief to the project manager, Jurie van Heerden, was to finish outstanding Phase 1 work and to complete Phase 2.

Defects, Enhancements and management reporting

At the end of Phase 1 when the system was deployed in production, key management reports which were part of the scope, were not development and implemented. The management reports were key to measuring the system’s effectiveness and staff behaviour.

A list of critical defects and enhancements identified post deployment, also had to be addressed. Upon completion of the Management reports, a national training programme to train and embed the management reports within the store structure, had to be completed.


The Phase 2 of the project was to implement a Proof of Concept for Schedule-to-Clock functionality which would prevent staff from working if they do not have a scheduled shift for that day.

Kick Starting the project

Initially a new communications plan and project structure had to be put in place ….  Read more

Project Success Story – Call Centre Efficiency

By Linky van der Merwe

Call centre efficiencyThis story from a project manager, Sakhile Malinga, is about a national roll-out of a support contract for contact centre technology in a massive tele-communications company. The objective was to build the support function for all the Call Centres. An outcome was the creation of a National Operational Centre (NOC).

The complexity lay in the fact that it was aligned with software renewals. It had to be completed in a limited time-frame with fixed dates, when support had to be taken over by a new company. The project team consisted of a large sub-contractor component who were responsible to provide resources in the Regional centres that were taken over. It was difficult to manage various stakeholders, different entities and people with different agendas.

Scaling Up

The company that had to take over the support contract, was a fairly small enterprise, therefore the project was quite transformational for them. At the same time they were trying to achieve operational efficiency for the customer.

Existing technical resources that were assigned to the project, needed to skill up. In addition more skilled resources, responsible for technical infrastructure, had to come on board and all had to work together as one team.

Good Management of Resources, Stakeholders and Time

Project resourcing worked out well, despite the difficulty to secure the right people. The stakeholder management was done professionally, especially with C-level stakeholders.

Although the timeline was fixed and deadlines were tight, the project launched on time. The budget that was quoted in the local currency, had to be fixed to compensate for possible loss due to fluctuations in the exchange rate.

The project also created opportunities for staff to grow. Read more ….

Stakeholder Management: Stakeholder Analysis in Five Steps

Guest Post by Joe Schembri

stakeholder analysisStakeholders are critical to the success of any project and should be included in every major assessment and decision.  Stakeholders are defined as the ones who are positively or negatively affected by the course of the project and any resulting solutions or conclusions. This article covers a most important aspect of stakeholder management, namely stakeholder analysis.

Because of their influence, stakeholders can create a positive or negative impact on the project or organization, so it is important to identify your project’s stakeholders from the beginning, learn what they anticipate and give them the attention and consideration they expect.

Stakeholder Analysis

stakeholder analysisStakeholders are typically categorized into two groups – primary or secondary stakeholders. Those who are directly impacted by the project are the primary stakeholders and secondary stakeholders are those who are indirectly impacted. Primary or secondary stakeholders can also be key stakeholders, a group which includes anyone with the power or position to exert significant influence over the project or the organization itself.

Since stakeholders can have such an impact on the success of a project, proper stakeholder management is essential. Conducting a stakeholder analysis is part of effective stakeholder management. Here are five steps to follow.

#1 Identify

A proper stakeholder analysis allows project managers to identify individuals or groups that are likely to affect, or be affected by, the project and how to best communicate with them.

#2 Sort

During the analysis, project managers will also sort and group stakeholders according to their level of impact. This information is then used to determine how stakeholder needs and interests should be handled during the course of the project.

#3 Interview stakeholder analysis

At this point in the stakeholder analysis, it’s usually a good idea to interview a sample of people from each stakeholder group to find out what they know about the project, their thoughts on the project, and what is most and least appealing about the project to them.  This allows the project managers to have a first-person stakeholder perspective on what stakeholders expect to get out of the project and what they believe the project will do for them or their department.

#4 Analyze

Then, analyze the results of the interviews by recording repeated themes, concerns, and issues for each group and sort them by priority.

#5 Record

Once project managers have successfully identified the stakeholders, developed an understanding of their concerns, and sorted them in order of priority, they can effectively use this information to help gain support for the project. All of the collected information should be recorded on a stakeholder map, which can then be used to develop detailed plans for communication with each stakeholder.

At this point, project managers should be able to identify how they will leverage each stakeholder group to help accomplish the project goals. Of course, gaining the support of stakeholders is just one small part of managing a successful project, but with the influence that they can have on a project, stakeholder analysis is one of the most important things to consider when planning an efficient and successful project.

What are some of your stakeholder analysis tips? Please add to the comments!

About Joe Schembri: Joe is with University Alliance. He writes about various project management topics including stakeholder analysis and PMI’s Project Management Professional certification exam.

5 Essential Practices for Explaining Projects to Stakeholder

By Guest Author: Jo Ann Sweeney

Are you frustrated you’re no longer getting the support from stakeholders that you need for your project to succeed? And you have difficulty in explaining your projects properly?

Perhaps you have hit resistance to the changes. Maybe you are working on a multi-site, multi-country or long-term project and, midway through, you’re struggling to keep key people interested and involved.

The fact is, keeping sponsors, senior executives and end users involved for the duration of our projects takes effort – experience also helps!

Over many years as a communications consultant working on complex and multi-site projects, no matter the size of your team or budget, I have learnt key lessons in winning stakeholder support.

Here are 5 essential practices for explaining projects:

1.      Simple and practical

When it comes to planning the communication aspects of any project, the simpler the plan, the more effective it is. It can be as simple as a bulleted list of things to do and key messages we wish to get across.

However, more useful is a communication framework that clarifies:

  • The objectives for communications activities
  • A prioritised list of key audiences
  • Which communications channels to use
  • A calendar of activities
  • Monitoring mechanisms
  • Who is responsible for delivery.

One of the biggest benefits of a simple structure is that we spend less time planning and have more time for managing each of the activities.

2.      Understand their perspectives

Project communication is about more than project updates. People want to be personally involved; they want content that relates to them and that they can relate to. This means tailoring content to their needs rather than presenting it from the project team’s perspective.

Here are some guidelines to tailor the content:

  • Understand who they are –  the obvious plus what they think and feel
  • Uncover what they are interested in – usually what their performance pay is based on
  • Relate to their view of the world – are they thinkers, people-focused, or action-oriented
  • Identify shadow issues – unacknowledged attitudes and behaviours that impact their support
  • Balance their needs – sponsors, senior execs and end users have different needs.

3.      Clear aims

There are four over-arching reasons for telling people about your project:

  • Knowledge – you want them to know more than they currently do
  • Attitude – you want them to feel more positive than they do
  • Support – you want them to say positive things about your project in public
  • Involvement – you want them to get involved in some way.

These reasons form a spectrum with ‘knows nothing’ at one end and ‘fully involved’ at the other. If you want an individual or audience grouping to be fully involved then you will need to move them along the spectrum using communication activities that build on each other.

Using this spectrum we turn communications activities into a stepped process based on business objectives. It ensures activities are linked to business need and the project’s core aims.

4.      Flexible schedule of activities

When we use a flexible schedule to manage communication activities we are able to respond to unexpected issues and to changes we aren’t able to predict.

A schedule is just a framework to show clearly what is going to happen and when; it can be complex and difficult to update or flexible and easy to change.

Being flexible means we can change any of the components – deadlines, audiences, delivery channels, responsibilities, monitoring – as and when we want without causing extra work or problems in other work streams.

5.      Take audiences on a journey

Communicating projects is all about taking our audiences on a journey from where they are now to where we want them to be.

We plot where each of our audiences is now in terms of familiarity and favourability; and where we want them to be. Then we map a journey that will help them to get there.

By following these essentials on your projects, you will win stakeholder support that will help your project to succeed.


Jo Ann Sweeney is a communications consultant and mentor who helps project managers win the support of their sponsors, senior executives and end users.

She has launched the brand new Communicating Projects MasterClasses starting in September 2011 to help teams present their projects so audiences listen and understand. For full details, visit:

7 Steps to Becoming a Better Project Manager

When you become a full-time project manager, you are always looking for ways that will help you be more successful. The purpose of this article is to give you 7 steps towards a successful outcome for your projects.  The 7 Steps will be presented in two parts. Some factors will influence your success: like the power you are granted as a project manager, the responsibilities you are given and the type of organization you are in.

1.      Conduct a project discovery session

Have a discussion where the idea of the project is discussed. It may involve some formal planning with a Business Case, estimates and Benefit Management. At some organizations, this session is part of pre-sales or Deal Phase and the result may be a proposal to a customer. Once this proposal is accepted, the project receives the go-ahead to start. At this time the project manager is usually assigned. Make sure that you familiarize yourself with all the documents from this phase as well as any lessons learnt from previous projects.

2.      Document Stakeholder expectations

It is important to capture all stakeholder needs early on and to define the meaning of success for everyone. Small projects may collect the expectations through personal interviews or by email. Larger projects, with stakeholders potentially numbering in the thousands, may employ sampling strategies and extensive consultation.

Once such Stakeholder Management tool is called “Conditions of Satisfaction” which is a way of ensuring that the customer’s (stakeholder) expectations are identified, agreed and that action plans are defined and allocated to responsible persons to implement.

It is also vital to articulate an understanding of the core benefits of the projects implementation. Understanding stakeholder expectations and key benefits will influence how the project will proceed, and will provide input into the Communication Plan. Having well-documented expectations and clearly defined benefits will pay dividends when project success metrics are being created and when key decisions must be made.

3.      Put project governance in place

Document the governance and routines for the project as well as expectations for the team.  How will your project be managed? How and where will status reports and project documents be stored, and what will they look like? What is the team’s appetite for risk? How often will you meet as a project team? Have you worked together before?

Once established, the Project Governance and all key project components should be covered in a formal initiation meeting, also called a Kick-off meeting, to certify that everyone is on the same page.  When you conduct projects for external customers, it is important to have an internal kick-off meeting with the project team first to ensure alignment, before you start engaging with the customer.

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Stakeholder Management Best Practice Tools

Essential skills for stakeholder management

Stakeholder Management Best Practice Tools audio

Stakeholder management requires getting commitment from stakeholders as the cornerstone of success in projects.  The needs and concerns of stakeholders define the project plan. As a follow-up from the previous stakeholder management best practices article, I want to share with you a best practice communication tool as an essential skill for stakeholder management.

How to communicate Smart, measureable, attainable, realistic, time-bound

The tool that I have used successfully in projects before, is called “Conditions of Satisfaction” or COS. As soon as the project manager identifies who the key stakeholders are, he needs to have a discussion with the customer(s) to determine what their conditions for satisfaction are. It is necessary to make the COS statements specific, measureable, attainable, realistic/relevant, time bound (SMART).

These conditions are then communicated back to the project team, partners and vendors.  Once the conditions are determined, they must be agreed and summarised in writing for the customer(s).

Once documented, add any agreed-upon actions to meet them, as well as the planned completion dates. Post the COS to the project repository.

Examples of conditions of satisfaction (COS) are:

  • Sponsor expects external consultant to be on-site, during core hours
    • Action: consultant will be on-site between 9am and 4pm and log this on his time-sheet for the duration of the project
  • Sponsor expects skills transfer between specialist and team members who will do roll-out and support
    • Action: put skills transfer actions (workshop & presentations) as activities on project plan to track them before end of planning phase
  • Minimize extra cost
    • Action: Try to reduce travel costs, by developing estimates and travel schedule, by having more tele- and video-conferences during execution phase of the project

Communicate the Conditions (COS) to the entire project team and ensure that everyone on the team knows the COS and has plans for how they will help achieve / exceed the COS in the role they play on the project.

Conditions of Satisfaction

At all project meetings, both internal and with the customer, you need to address progress against the COS and identify plans to address any problems. During project closure, the COS will again be discussed to evaluate whether the customer’s conditions were met by the project.  This stakeholder management communications tool leads to a satisfied customer, a happy customer and ultimately a more successful project.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder management and engagement is an essential skill that project managers need to develop. A successful project needs to satisfy the triple constraint of time, cost and quality/performance, but it must also meet requirements of functionality, reliability, maintainability, efficiency, integration and operability.

How to determine your success

To determine if the project was successful, you need to assess the following:

  • Did the project provide satisfactory benefit to the users?
  • Measure whether value has been added.
  • Did the project completely meet predefined objectives?

For success the project experience should have been positive and the project will have added value. The project would have satisfied the needs and concerns of the stakeholders, as well as the project team members and would have allowed the team to acquire new skills.

If you know of other stakeholder management skills or tools that you have used successfully in your projects, please share those with us in the comments section.

Please click HERE to listen to a recording of this article. If you wish to download a free copy of this audio file, please right click on the link and select “save link as” to save to your desired location.

About the author: Linky van der Merwe is a former Microsoft Project Management Consultant and an IT Project Manager with 14 years IT industry experience and 11 years Project Management experience.

She consults with small-medium business owners and service professionals about project management and project processes, best practices and successful delivery through projects.  She can be reached at

Make Projects Work For You

Stakeholder Management Best Practices

Are you actively managing project stakeholders?

Stakeholder Management Best Practices audio

Stakeholder Management Best Practices

Stakeholder management is as key to a successful project outcome as communications management. Today I want to focus on best practices relating to managing stakeholders on projects.

For complete clarity about stakeholder management, let’s look at it from the angle of:

  • What a stakeholder is
  • Who stakeholders are
  • Why you must do stakeholder management
  • When to communicate

Stakeholder definition

What is a stakeholder? Stakeholders are people who are actively involved in projects, who exert influence on projects and whose interests may be positively/negatively affected by projects. Source: PMBOK

Who are stakeholders?

The key stakeholders on projects are the project manager, project team members, the project sponsor, the customer and the performing organization. Other stakeholders could include:

  • Internal and external owners and funders
  • Sellers and contractors
  • Team members & their families
  • Government agencies and media outlets
  • Society at large

Why do stakeholder management?

On any project a project manager needs to identify project stakeholders in order to determine their requirements and to manage and influence the requirements. Identify stakeholders during initiation phase of Project life cycle. Project Life Cycle

Throughout the project you need to actively manage the stakeholder’s requirements and expectations. Influencing the organisation involves the ability to ‘get things done’. This requires from a project manager an understanding of both formal and informal structure of the organisation involved, for example the customers, partners, contractors, office politics etc.

One golden rule to remember is when there is a difference between stakeholders, it should be resolved in favour of the customer. Finding appropriate resolutions to such differences can be a major challenge of project management.

The reason why you need to do stakeholder management is to drive stakeholder satisfaction. This requires reliable, dependable, repeatable effort from your side. You need to know the needs and expectations of stakeholders and invest in those needs. A frequent investment (weekly, ever daily) in the needs of the stakeholders helps projects to be successful.

When to communicate with stakeholders?

You need to communicate with your project stakeholders a number of times as documented in your communications plan:

  • Beginning of a project
  • Weekly at progress meetings
  • Regular Reviews and reporting
  • At the end of a project

In summary a project manager needs to manage and influence stakeholder requirements to ensure a successful project.

In the next blog post about stakeholder management, I am going to share some best practices tools that you can use to really ensure customer satisfaction.

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Please click HERE to listen to a recording of this article. If you wish to download a free copy of this audio file, please right click on the link and select “save link as” to save to your desired location.

About the author: Linky van der Merwe is a former Microsoft Project Management Consultant and an IT Project Manager with 14 years IT industry experience and 11 years Project Management experience.

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

Make Projects Work for You

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