Tuesday, May 24, 2011

PMI Madison Professional Development Day 2011

Recently I attended the Madison PMI Professional Development Day at the Monona Terrace. The theme was Great Leaders Building Strong Teams.

I attended many excellent talks and here are my thoughts on them.

The first keynote speaker was Barry Alvarez, Athletic Director at the University of Wisconsin.  Barry told many stories from his career as the Head Football coach starting with the challenge of changing the culture of a losing team to moving the mind set of his team to see it was not just Ron Dayne going for the Heisman Trophy but the whole team.  Finally he mentioned how he kept his team focused on achieving the WIN (What’s Important Now).

Lesson Learned:  If you are tossed into a loser ongoing project gather the troops and focus on what done is.

Next I attended at talk titled: Positioning Your PMO as an Organizational Alignment Engine by Terry Doerscher

Terry is the author of Taming Change with Portfolio Management (checkout my book review) and he started out his talk with some stats from a survey he has conducted a couple of times over the past couple of years.  The biggest eye opener in the survey was that organizational alignment was the biggest issue.  

Lesson Learned: If you don’t focus on alignment your organization and projects will continue to flop around.

Then I attended a talk titled: Implement a PMO – Lessons Learned by Mark House

Mark went over two examples of PMOs that he created.  He came from a very structured PMO with State Farm and then he moved on to take on a job with the state of Illinos to help one of their departments create a PMO.  Mark came in with a tool box full of templates, policies and how to’s, but quickly found out it wasn’t going to work.  He stepped back and slowly rolled things out like an agenda template and status reports.  Also he found out the super formal way that worked for all projects at State Farm wasn’t going to work, so they came up with a PM Light version of their PM process and trained all project members on project management.

Lesson Learned: Adapt project management to the organization, then adapt the organization to project management.

Then I attended a talk titled: Dynamic Scheduling with Microsoft Project by Ted Barth

Ted went over the basics of using Microsoft Project.  From setting up a calendar to making sure you build your timeline like a network diagram (you need a start task and an end task).

Lesson Learned: If you stick with the basics your timeline work correctly.

Then I attended a talk titled: Influence and Persuasion skills for Project Leaders by Chris Hinrichs.

Chris reviewed his views of project leaders which included those who know how to inspire, influence and impact others in a constructive and supportive way often go the furthest and the highest.

Lesson Learned: Practice the fundamentals of leadership and you will be in a better position to excel.

Finally the second Keynote speaker Mark Johnson spoke.  Mark was on the 1980 US hockey team is the current UW Women’s hockey coach.  Mark Reviewed his career in Hockey and told some stories on how he motivates his team.

Lessons Learned:  Even if you are a coach, sometimes you need to be a cheerleader.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Review of Planning Force Project Planner …

It has been awhile since I reviewed a project planner so I thought I would take Planning Force for a spin.

On their main page there is an 8 minute video that gives a nice overview of the product and there are several other short videos on their YouTube page (I’m not sure why they want you to register to view their youtube videos on their own webpage or why many of their videos have no sound just a person clicking around in their application, or why you have to register to review their forums).

Their express planner is a free download (100 meg file).  Many other applications like these are cloud based.  The main issue I have with stand alone products are updating them.

After I had it installed I started clicking around and checking it out.  Overall it is a very very basic project planner with resource allocation capability.  The planner is pretty straight forward to use and the resource planner is too.   It also will allow you to see the resources from multiple projects saved in one file (they must assume companies only have 1 PM running all of their projects?).

It has a resource leveling function that will give you options before you move forward with their suggestions.  No clue as to how it works, but most projects I have ever worked on the resources don’t have the knowledge to jump in if they have some free time. It does have a calendar feature so you can track your staffs vacation (or holiday) time.

At the task level you can do some very basic things, number of days (or 0.5 for 4 hrs), start and end dates, predecessors (lead, lag if needed), percent completed, add notes to the task and the resource name.   What it is missing from this section … costs for the task planned and actual (not all projects track this… but if you are looking to do a little earn value analysis…) and how about I can create a column and let me name it myself?

Pros to Planning Force:
  1. Free
  2. Resource tracking so you can see if you are over allocated across all projects (keep in mind all of your projects are in one file)
  3. Basic project planning
  4. has some basic KPIs

  1. Very very very basic
  2. Probably not that useful for projects with staff that work outside of your office (all projects have some basic documentation (SOW, charter, WBS, requirements, Risk log, budget info …)  and this application doesn’t allow you to store that type information.
  3. No communication tracker … message board, or a newsfeed type of feature (@task has this and you will see more and more PM software adopting this soon).