April 28, 2017

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

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.

Why Goal Setting is Important to Project Success

Through the power of goal setting, project managers can set objectives for their teams and watch them accomplish their mission. Goals need to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

There are several benefits to SMART goals, like when project managers outline their expectations by keeping them out in the open. In so doing, they increase the probability of employees and team members being successful by up to 70%, thanks to regular check-ins, updates and group accountability. This statistic is supported by the recent research of Dr. Gail Matthews.

SMART goals help project managers effectively create the focus and drive that employees and organizations need to constantly operate as high performers. High-performing organizations successfully complete an average of over 80% of their projects.

Through SMART goal setting, priorities become clear. There is a clear and specific focus that employees of all levels are committed to. Along with clarity and focus, the motivation of being able to measure progress in light of milestones achieved, further bolsters the positive effects and total results of SMART goal setting.

Discover more on the power of goal setting and the benefits of SMART goals in project management in the following Infographic, as supplied by Brandeis University who offers a Masters Degree in Project Management.

 

SMART Goal Setting

Brandeis University M.S. in Project and Program Management Online

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]

Soft Skills for Project Managers

By Linky van der Merwe

Often in Project Management courses there is a big emphasis on the technical skills, also called ‘hard skills’ which are the occupational requirements that project managers need to do their jobs effectively. This would include the creation of tangible deliverables like a project schedule, project budget, status reports etc.

Soft skills for PM'sSoft skills complement hard skills.  Soft skills are the important interpersonal skills you need as a project manager to accomplish work through other people.  Soft skills are essentially people skills – the non-technical, intangible, personality-specific skills that determine your strengths as a leader, listener, negotiator and conflict mediator.

Developing your soft skills is equally important, but is often left to project managers to find suitable courses that would equip them with adequate soft skills like Leadership, Conflict Management and Emotional Intelligence.

Soft skills development

Why would you ask, are soft skills that important? Soft skills refer to behavioural skills – a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioural competencies that characterize relationships with other people.

Since projects are delivered or executed through people, your soft skills are like the glue that will hold the project team together when the going gets tough, for example when projects fall behind, or immovable deadlines are looming, or the normal stress coming from project delivery and dealing with issues.

At the end of the day a project manager wants a balance of hard and soft skills. Hard skills are more technical in nature where as soft skills are intangible and less visible. Soft skills are typically employed without the use of tools and templates. Soft skills can be taught, but they are typically honed by years of experience.

How to improve soft skills

When you set out to improve your soft skills as a project manager, there are 3 key things you need to remember.

  1. Make the commitment to learn and improve
  2. Put yourself in situations where you can practice various soft skills
  3. Evaluate your progress and adjust as needed

At this point you may be wondering if there is a finite list of soft skills to focus on as a project manager. According to my research there are at least 11 soft skills that should be part of your make-up as a professional project manager. They are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Team building
  3. Motivation
  4. Communication including active listening
  5. Influencing
  6. Decision making
  7. Political and cultural awareness
  8. Negotiation
  9. Conflict management
  10. Emotional intelligence
  11. Problem solving

Over the years I’ve published many articles on various soft skills. For more interesting articles with practical advice on developing your soft skills, continue reading about Leadership, Team build, Communication, Decision making and Emotional Intelligence.

If you are new to project management and you are serious about developing yourself as a professional project manager, please look at the Fast-track Growth Program which was especially developed for people like you in mind. It’s an online, self-paced training program for busy professionals which will give you the essential elements for project delivery. It’s the fastest way to grow critical Project Management competencies like technical and interpersonal skills, and becoming a confident project manager!

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.

Project Success Story – Tension between Business and IT

Project Success StoryThis is the story about a project manager, Gren Gale, who was working for a large insurance company in the UK who wanted to update their CRM system to provide a much smoother experience for call centre operators and allow better integration of customer information between call centre and back office.

Politics

While the business area was very anxious to get on with the change, there was friction between business change and IT over the choice of system and the degree of involvement of IT in the implementation.  This particular area of business change had suffered from previous poor experience with the IT department and wanted to bypass them.  With IT having strict rules for the compliance of any new system to its technology standards, there were political issues to handle as well as a complex implementation to manage.

Outsource

Tension between IT and BusinessA tender was issued by IT to six vendors, using requirements put together by business change.  As seemed almost inevitable in the situation, business change preferred the system that was the least compliant with IT standards, while IT preferred another system.

Negotiations between the IT project manager and IT’s preferred vendor resulted in a big reduction in up-front costs by the vendor who were keen to get a foothold in the Insurance sector.  Despite luke-warm support from business change, the recommendation to go with this vendor was presented to the director of the business area and approved.

This left IT satisfied, but business change feeling not entirely happy about the choice.

Analysis and Design

Meetings were arranged to agree a final design between the business area and the vendor.

These went well, but hit a couple of issues:

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