Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Trends in Project Management for 2014

A new year is here and I'm shaking my magic 8 ball to see where Project Management is headed in 2014 ...

5. More teams will be virtual.  As the workforce ages it will become harder and harder to find the right employee locally.  As PMs we will need to leverage tools to help bring together our teams to build relationships.

4. Documentation will move to the cloud making it easier for our clients and teams to access their project information. Project files flying around via email will start to decrease.

3. We will increase our connections with our clients and team members via Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.  Again this will help build critical relationships with our team members.

2. We will start to use more online tools to manage our portfolio so we will have an easier way to forecast resource needs.

1. We will continue to see more organizations trying out Agile.  Some will adopt and will see quick wins and a boost in morale, and others will fail.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Multitasking Now Everybody’s Cup Of Tea

 Multitasking is not an unfamiliar term for many of us. It has happened so many times in our lives that we had to juggle between our professional, personal and other type of tasks. The pressure to execute important tasks intrudes into our mind and we cannot relax till we have finished them.

But we also have been through moments when we forgot to remember important tasks just because we had so many tasks at hand or we simply forgot them to perform them at a right time. Such human forgetfulness can land us in awkward situations. For example we have to face the ire of our seniors/bosses on account of forgetting to do an important task entrusted to us or lose trust and goodwill of our friends and acquaintances when we forget to extend them favors which we promised at some point of time. At such moments, we definitely feel the need of some assistance which would have made us remember that we had an important tasks at hand to perform.

We need to reorient ourselves and set true priorities for our tasks, so that we can give them due focus and perform them until their appointed time. We ought to know clearly which are our most important tasks that we need to perform urgently and which are our lower priority tasks which we can do later, so no ambiguities remain. But merely setting the priorities would not help much. We still need help to know when we need to do a particular task, otherwise it will slip off our memory.

Writing down our tasks on a piece of paper, setting up alarms in our mobile may help us at a personal level, but such tactics would not be very effective at the organizational level where so many workers are working in an organization and are entrusted with a variety of tasks. Here also the tasks that need to be performed vary in importance. Some are truly important tasks with higher priorities set for them and other tasks that are associated with a lower priority. In such situations missing tasks can also create problems or even catastrophes may result if the higher priority tasks are not performed at the right time.

But as is the case with humans, they fail to perform important tasks at the right time due to their forgetfulness, negligence or on account of being too busy and an organization cannot afford such an erroneous conduct and has to pay for such blunders right through its nose.

Let us take the example of a surgeon failing to bring out the needle from the abdomen of patient after an operation and the patient thereafter is complaining of constant pain. And for this reason, he has to be operated again. If the surgeon had cared to make a checklist of the instruments used in the operation and had simply counted the number of instruments both before and after the procedure and found them to be equal in number, such a situation might have never arisen. Sometimes a small wise effort saves us from enormous suffering later.

Choose Mediums That Organize Tasks

Such ugly situations can be effectively avoided if they we choose some mediums that help us in proper and accurate documentation of tasks and help us in their timely and planned execution through proper tracking. These aids should be easy to access and use.

In the organizational context, one important thing that needs to be kept in mind is that nowadays workforce in many organizations around the world comprises of employees who are based in different locations in the world and are from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. So such mediums should be easily accessible to all such men and facilitate their working as a team and abridge their cultural and geographical differences.

Our search for such effective mediums for task documentation, execution and tracking ends at task management tools though there are other applications around like spreadsheets, etc, but which help up to a limited level. These web-based applications enable proper classification, description, documentation, allocation, execution, tracking and controlling of tasks. By using these tools, an organization can streamline its functioning and perform its tasks in an organized and planned manner. By adopting these, an organization can work more efficiently and save costs and time and boost its profitability. As these are online tools, they remain within the easy reach of various employees based in different locations and they can easily connect with their organization through these.

Challenges In Choosing The Best Task Management Tool

Those organizations who have come to know about the efficacy of these tools for better management of their tasks and those who have never used these tools ever before, have a new challenge at their hand; how to choose the best tool for their needs. As there are so many task management tools out in the market who are shouting at the top of their voice that they are the best, is confusing the prospective users even more. These organizations are not sure where to start and whom to give the favour. So where lies the remedy?

Suggested Remedies

The easiest thing for them would be to go with the reviews of a particular tool and spend time reading and analyzing them. These reviews have been written by some great technology enthusiasts who love to test new applications and give their input on these. So this at least can give them some idea over how a particular tool is faring. But in some cases different technology experts may rate the same tool differently. So the same application being ranked differently by different people will not always provide clarity over such matters. But this idea does hold some merit.

Another thing that may enthuse the prospective users, is the free trials offered by some of these application providers. An organization can choose to go with a free trial being offered by a particular task management tool. Usually these trials span a fixed number of days and in most cases these are a month long. During this time, an organization can use the application and have a feel of it and see how it benefits their work. Thus an organization tends to know how a particular application works and can accordingly make up its mind for upgrading to its paid version, if it is satisfied with the results.

Different task management tools have different set of features and cater to different types of organizations. Some cater for freelancers, while others are designed for small sized, medium and large sized organizations and some of these are scalable for all sizes and flexible for all types of organizations. So an organization before choosing to go with a particular tool, should know pretty clearly what its needs and requirements are and whether a particular tool can do justice to these and whether it would be suitable for its size.

More Clarity on How These Tools Work

There are numerous videos on display in famous video viewing sites which gives a fair idea on how various task management tools function, so that is going to help the users know how to proceed while working with a particular application.

Users can also approach support staff of various task management service providers and inquire should they have any queries or confusion about their use, so that would also help.

Multitasking Can Indeed Be Achieved

The availability of such tools gives us a hope that we too can perform our multiple tasks with precision and focus without ever forgetting them if we choose to prioritize them in the right manner through such aids. Using these tools would incur costs, but such costs are negligible considering the benefits these would bring. Organizations using these would be saving their time, costs, improving efficiency, pushing their sales up and will be able to provide timely and quality services to their clients and customers. These tools provide immense scope for organizations to grow and prosper. Forgetting tasks will become a thing a past as humans can easily forget these, but these tools never will.

Author Bio:

Sharon is a Business manager of ProofHub, a web based project management software that facilitates management of projects and helps in their faster and accurate accomplishment as per schedule. It enables the team members who are spread out in different locations in the world to collaborate over project matters. They can define, document, discuss, organize, coordinate, review and control different project matters efficiently which results in their quick resolution. With its use, organizational objectives can be achieved effectively along with the generation of intended gains and assets.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Keeping your Project on The Road!

This past week I gave a presentation to a group of Project Managers at Promega (in Madison, WI).  They wanted me to talk at a lunch learn session on WBS, Risk planning, Communication Plans and what does done look like (I threw this last one in).

The group was very engaged and asked many great questions throughout my presentation.  I always enjoy the opportunity to  talk about project management.

Here are my slides:

Keeping your project on the road ...

More PowerPoint presentations from Ryan Endres

Slide 2: I just gave an overview of my career and places I've worked at (if you are interested here is a link to a podcast I recent did on the same topic audio play button at the bottom of the page)

Slide 3: Many times as PM we are given projects that we not doe similar ones before or we are given a project that has died and now it is your job to jump start it.

Slide 4: To do this you need to gather some information.  Talk with so of the senior PMs in your organization to try to see if a similar project has been done in the past and if you are lucky a WBS was created for that old project.  Talk with the project sponsor and read the scope of work.  Get a full understanding of why we are doing this.  Then you can sit down with  your team one on one or in a group to start to create the WBS.

Slide 5: For super small projects I like to create the whole WBS myself and then I will ask my Team Members for input.  For larger projects I will create the first 2 levels and then will work with my team to create the rest.  Remember we are indicating the large work packages for the project, not what we are creating.  No verbs, just nouns.  We will break it down to the task level when we create the timeline.  There are various applications you create WBSs in including Word, the example on the slide was created in Word using the work chart feature.

Slide 6: Are we done with the WBS at this point?  NO!

Slide 7: Next we create the WBS dictionary.  The WBS dictionary will help you (the PM) and your team better understand what you are trying to create within that box in the WBS.  This will help your team members as they come and go on your project and it helps you so you know what your team is suppose to be working on.  Another reason to do this is that is stops the Yup'er Project Managers, who think their project is on track, but have no clue as what is going on within their own project.

Slide 8:  We can use the WBS for status updates (visual aid as to where we are now). You can use it to control scope, and you always use it to develop your timeline.

Slide 9-11: basic PMP type of questions on WBS's.

Slide 12: What is a Risk?  Keep in mind that a risk can also be positive; an opportunity.

Slide 13:  You should always first document your risks in the charter.  That what they way your team see the first few risks at the start of the project.  Risks should then be captured within a risk register.  Excel is typically the most common place to capture risks.  The PMBOK indicates that you will create the charter, WBS, WBS dictionary, timeline and then you will first start to talk about risks ...  seems a bit late to me.

Slide 14: a little risk planning saves a lot of fan cleaning.

Slide 15: Risk planning needs to happen throughout the entire life cycle of a project.  You need to have key timepoints to review your risk log to keep it up to date and you need to get your team thinking about potential risks throughout the life of your project.

Slide 16: the risk management process.

Slide 17:  Typical items you would capture when documenting risks.

Slide 18-19: Risk questions

Slide 20: Typical PMP question on channels of communication within a project.

Slide 21:  Information on when to use a formal communication plan.  We create lots of documents when we manage a project and man PMs think we create it and then file it.  Which is wrong.  If you have a new team member come on your team you need to sit down with them to review the Charter, WBS, WBS dictionary, risk log and the timeline so they understand what the project is about.

Slide 22:  This is my standard status update form that I've been using for over 15 years; I create it in Word and then copy and paste it into the body of an email.  It should give your team a simple snap shot of where we are in the project at this moment.

Slide 23:  You need to define what done is upfront or you may never get out of a project.

Slide 24:  The 4 area's we covered today are key to keeping your project on the road!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Step 1 to building a PMO…

Recently I attended a talk by Dr. James Brown titled: Three Overlooked Strategies of a Successful PMO and there was one item that really hit home for me.

Dr. Brown indicated that the first thing you need to have in a successful PMO is a standard one page status report that is sent out at the same time as all other projects.  In it, it will have 4 basic sections: Where are we now, where have we been, where are we going and new issues and risks.

This was great to hear, because I have used this same concept at each of the organizations I have worked at.  The key to this one page document is that it is short, concise and in many cases it includes colors or charts.  I always encourage PMs to insert these updates into the body of an email instead of attaching a word document (save the word document to your project site).  Next it is key within  your communication plan to indicate when the status report will be sent out (I personally like Thursdays by 5PM); and be ready for the folks that actually read it to send you questions on it.

The next step is to have a portfolio view of all of your organization’s projects.  I personally like SharePoint, because it is very easy to create a mini database within it.

If you are in a PMO or are the sometime PM, do you have a clear easy to understand status report that is sent out at defined intervals?  If not here is your chance to truly help your project get back on track!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In the Trenches with Ryan Endres

Recently I sat down with Andy Kaufman to talk about how I got to where I am today in my career.

Andy caught on early in our talk that my mentor has played a huge part in my career.

Head to Andy's site and give it a listen (scroll to the bottom):

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Top Ten Project Management Trends for 2013

Well here we are 2013!  What will 2013 bring to Project Management?  I personally think we will see more companies looking to hire their first project manager, more companies, looking to move to a more agile environment and more companies that are looking for a project management system so they can see what is happening in their organization.

The good news overall – demand for PM skills hit a four-year high in 2012 (despite the general economic decline over those years).
The five sectors are:

2013 for sure will be an exciting year for project management!