November 20, 2017

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

The Benefit of Resource Driven Updates on Projects

By Biraj Borah

Project planning and monitoring may be quite simple on average projects, but for larger projects it is a complex set of tasks and activities. During Planning, once the scope is defined, firstly the high-level activities are listed as Level 1 (L1). A rough time estimate is given and only the major milestones are defined. With respect to the Level 1 milestones, further levels are then defined. And the number of levels depends on the size and complexity of the project.

In Planning, this process of defining all task levels to be done on a project, helps to create the work breakdown structure, also called WBS. And the final level of the WBS is the activity. Completion of all the defined activities under the WBS, will lead to completion of all the in scope deliverables.

Traditional Method to Update Progress

According to the traditional method, we update by dragging the Gantt chart or edit in % completion field. Using this approach, there is no relation to the resource assigned to the task and is mostly manually driven by the user. This seems simple enough. But on a complex project, there is no validation of how that percentage is arrived? Large projects require project task against certain validation. Without any tools, the project manager has to rely on other details and supporting documents which makes the project much more complex to monitor.

traditional progress update

Modern Approach – Driven by Resources (Human, Capital & Material)

TIEMCHART project management software provides the modern approach to monitoring task progress based on resource update assigned to that task. Each task or WBS may be driven by various resources – human, machinery and material resources.

An individual WBS may involve completion of multiple sets of resources. If you are talking about a consulting business, a task may involve assigning the consultant a set number of hours or it may involve delivering a set number of design documents or other reports. Now such tasks can be monitored based on either the number of hours completed or number of design documents submitted against the plan.

Similarly for a procurement task, it may involve delivering a set quantity of cement bags, steel pipes etc. Likewise such deliverables can be assigned against the task or WBS. Progress of the task can be automated based on actual number of cement bags or steel pipes delivered.

Set Resource Planning & Requirement

Once the resources are identified against the task, you can plan the quantity / hours deliverables against the task. Based on such assignments, project progress can be monitored.

  • Single resource – if a task involves using single resource. Deliverables such as number of hours or quantity can be specified against the task
  • Multiple resource – Tasks that involves multiple resources can have a bearing based on number of items delivered against such multiple resources

Resource planning

Monitor Task Progress Based On Resource Assignment

Depending on task planning and resource assignment, task progress can be monitored based on actual delivery of such resources. Be it human or machinery engagement in number of hours, material resources in quantity, task progress can be measured and monitored in real time based on such deliveries.

Tiemchart resource driven updates

Benefits of Resource Driven Updates

TIEMCHART is the first Project Management Software to bring the solution of automated project progress based on resources. This helps businesses to cut down project delays and finishing more projects on time. Being a cloud-based solution, it also simplifies implementation and reduce expensive installation costs.

Visit Tiemchart and request a free demo.

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 Management: Top 10 Tips for Validating your Project Schedule

By Linky van der Merwe

schedule WBS validation

Link to Schedule Validation Template

This article is aimed at existing project managers who use a scheduling tool like MS Project, or similar to plan their projects and then to execute against the plan.

Use the validation template once the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is transferred to a scheduling tool. The purpose is to validate that the project schedule contains all the necessary WBS elements to complete a project successfully.

#1 Deliverables

Are the key deliverables shown at the highest level of the WBS? If you do all of the detail tasks, will you have completely accomplished the summary deliverable?

#2 Scope and breakdown

Does the WBS represent the entire scope of the project and is it set at the appropriate level for the size and type of project?

#3 Milestones

Are there enough milestones identified and checkpoints when moving from one phase to the next?

#4 Governance

Are governance tasks separated out into their own section? Is there sufficient project management time across entire project?

#5 Structure

Does the WBS map to a methodology and does it make sense within that context?

#6 Estimates

Did the person who is most familiar with the task estimate the task itself? Check the accuracy of the task after the work had been performed.

#7 Risk

Did you document any risks for the tasks?

#8 Dependencies

Are the task dependencies implemented with the correct logic? Does the overall sequence of phases/deliverables make sense?

#9 Resources

Have all the resources been identified in the resource sheet? Is there any duplication of resources?  Are all resources named completely and consistently using a naming convention?

#10 Tasks, assignments, durations

Are there any assignments on summary tasks?  Does each detail task have at least one human resource assigned?

Final validation

It is always a good practice to have your schedule reviewed by an independent party or a senior architect not part of the planning team.

Please click here for the validation template that supports the schedule validation steps.

New Project Manager – How to start projects successfully

By Linky van der Merwe

athlete startMost people know that a race is half won when the athlete has a good start!  For project managers, a good start is just as important to win the project ‘race’. You will be a successful project manager if you learn to define the project clearly from the outset.

 

Where to start

The following basic questions need to be answered when starting any project:

  • Why is the project being initiated?
  • Who is this work being done for?
  • Who are the project sponsor(s) and the key project stakeholders that might use the final product, service, or results?
  • How are we going to achieve the project’s goal and objectives?
  • What are we going to deliver? What work do we need to complete; what resources and funds do we need to produce these deliverables?
  • When will we produce the deliverables?
  • When will the project stakeholders review them?
  • When will the project sponsor approve and accept the final project outcome?
  • Where will the deliverables be used?
  • How will success be measured?

Solid foundation

A project manager needs to lay a solid foundation to start a project successfully. This would include the following:

  • Define and control the scope
  • Understand the client’s business drivers
  • Build strong relationships of trust
  • Support delivery on the project with appropriate tools, techniques and processes, but tailored to suit the size, culture and context of the organisation

Let’s take a closer look at the building blocks of a good foundation.

Project Definition

When you define the project, you need to begin with the end in mind. This means that you want to know the project vision, objective, high-level requirements, high-level risks and milestones. This is normally documented in the Project Charter.

Based on your understanding of what the project is set out to achieve, you will select the best execution approach.

Scope agreement

Define and agree what is in and out of scope. The components of a scope statement include:

  • Project justification
  • Product description
  • Project objectives
  • Project deliverables

It is a good practice to document the project scope in a document that is generically known as a Scope Statement. The document has different names depending on which methodology is used. This is to explain what is in and out of scope, a step-by-step process for managing changes in project scope, project deliverables, constraints and assumptions.

Work Breakdown Structure

Work breakdown structureBased on the agreed project scope, you can continue to create a work breakdown structure, known as the WBS. The WBS is a decomposition of the total scope of the work. A work package is work defined at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure for which cost and duration can be estimated and managed. For more about the WBS, read Project Planning – Work Breakdown Structure.

When you’re new to project management, you may need clarification on project deliverables and milestones.  We differentiate between them as follows.

A project milestone is referring to a significant point in time when something is complete.  For example, the end of the planning phase could be a milestone. If you use MS Project as a scheduling tool, a milestone will have a zero duration.

A project deliverable is a tangible output of the project, for example, a completed document, a piece of code, or a documented list of requirements or product specifications.

Understand business requirements

Next, you will follow a process of collecting and analysing requirements. It is very important to understand the requirements by answering the questions above. You need to be clear on how you will measure each benefit that is realised.

Build strong relationships of trust

You will have to identify all stakeholders to the project. You also need to plan how you will effectively engage stakeholders throughout the project life cycle.

Support delivery

By now you should have a good understanding of the size, culture and context of the organisation in which project execution will take place.

If your organisation has a Project Management Office, you will have a standard project management methodology that is customised to the needs of the organisation. That will give you access to tools and processes that can be used to support the delivery of your project.

If not, you will need to select appropriate tools, techniques and processes, which will help you to execute your project. Consider using a standardised project management templates from Method 123 that will guide you through the project processes of Initiation, Planning, Execution and Closure.

After having a great start, it’s time for Planning! Read the short article on Time Management and Gantt Charts as a planning tool.

If you’re new to project management and would like to grow critical project management competencies fast, check this self-paced online training, called the Growth Program today.

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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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