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In addition to upgrades and enhancements to their flagship ERP solutions, for a variety of reasons companies may also turn to specialty software companies for solutions to business problems. The rationale for using specialty software products can vary from filling gaps in their solution portfolio, gaining a competitive edge or responding to an outside factor such as new regulation.

Although these specialty software solutions are smaller in size and scope, they do require a relative measure of project management consideration. Many times I have seen dismissive or optimistic project managers assume that because a solution is smaller in size and scope, one can take a very relaxed approach to the implementation life cycle. In fact, greater care than what is found on ERP implementations needs to be emphasized in certain areas of the project.
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 08:00

Agile Misconceptions: What Agile is Not

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Introduction

Over the course of my career in software development, I have had the fortune of working in a wide variety of companies employing radically different approaches to the software development life-cycle (SDLC). Some strictly stuck to traditional Water Fall. Others called themselves "agile" but never actually bothered to adopt any agile framework, and were thus a blend of Water Fall and Agile—and all too often, not a successful blend either. Another strictly adopted a true agile methodology and decided that there was no need for a PMO since, as they put it, "we're SCRUM." Other companies used the same Scrum methodology but saw the value of having a PMO as well.

As I have closely followed discussions on Project Times (and other blog sites), I have noticed some discussions around Project Management methodologies that are fine in theory, but often seem divorced from real-world applications. You can often find arguments prefaced by statements such as "good project managers do X," or "the PMBOK methods require Y," or even "any experienced Scrum Master knows..."

In today's competitive global market, all companies are looking to make improvements that drive bottom line results. Many of these organizations are turning to process improvement methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma. While this is a great starting point, your first question may be, "What exactly is Lean Six Sigma and how is it different from Six Sigma or Lean?" Your next question may be, "If my company is not in manufacturing, would Lean Six Sigma even be applicable for my organization?" In this article, we will answer these questions by providing an overview of the fundamental framework of this methodology. We will also draw on our SEI experience and take a look at how companies are using Lean Six Sigma as well as some of the common pitfalls.

When I ask students for their biggest challenges in managing projects, they usually tell me it's the lack of people, time, or money.  They just don't have enough resources to get done what's expected of them.

I don't doubt it.  The relentless battle cry to reduce waste and increase productivity has many project managers feeling like they are expected to build a bridge over the Mississippi River with one team member and a box of toothpicks.  By tomorrow.

How much of this challenge is exacerbated by the lack of clear organizational priorities to guide how those precious resources are allocated?

Feature May16 40432452 XSOne of the critical factors for project success is having a well-developed project plan. This article provides a 10-step approach to creating the project plan, not only showing how it provides a roadmap for project managers to follow, but also exploring why it is the project manager's premier communications and control tool throughout the project.

Step 1: Explain the project plan to key stakeholders and discuss its key components. One of the most misunderstood terms in project management, the project plan is a set of living documents that can be expected to change over the life of the project. Like a roadmap, it provides the direction for the project. And like the traveler, the project manager needs to set the course for the project, which in project management terms means creating the project plan. Just as a driver may encounter road construction or new routes to the final destination, the project manager may need to correct the project course as well.

What qualities are most important for a project manager to be an effective project leader? It's a question often asked and one that makes us sit back and think. Over the past few years, the people at ESI International, a leader in project management training, have looked at what makes an effective project leader. They quizzed some highly-talented project leaders and compiled a running tally of their responses. Below are the top 10 qualities in rank order, according to their frequency listed.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 06:00

Project Success Plans - Planning for Success

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Co-authored by Jeff Hodgkinson and Gary Hamilton

"A Project Success Plan can be a platform for ensuring all project stakeholders start off, and continue on, the right footing."

Setting up projects to succeed in the view of the customer/stakeholder is a critical part of the Project Manager's role. We suggest that, as part of project planning activities in the early stages of your project, you should hold a Project Success Plan (PSP) meeting with all key team members to agree on the project's goals, and to discuss the emotional success factors that will ensure the team gels successfully to deliver the required outcomes.

Co-authored by Jeff Hodgkinson

Realizingbenefits4_mainWe believe a simple methodology can be applied to attain Benefits Realization. You can achieve true project success by ensuring that:

  • Project benefits are clear, concise and relevant in 'value creation' terms from the Business Case onwards, and that they directly relate to your organisational strategy
  • People are held accountable for achieving these benefits
  • Benefits stated in a Business Case are actively measured throughout the entire initiative, ie:
    • During the project lifecycle (particularly if it is released in phases)
    • After the project is closed
    • When the product/output starts to be used
  • Appropriate action is taken if required to alter direction (i.e. the organization changes course and the intended project benefits are no longer relevant)

Companies that sell services to other businesses-project management, data management, software development or IT consultancies, for example-often track time in order to automate invoicing, but they may be overlooking the other benefits these systems can provide. Real-time access to relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as 'percent billable' and 'completed vs. estimated' can give early warnings of project problems and lead your company to faster growth and more profitability. I would first like to explain what KPIs are, and then show you how to use some simple ones to improve your business or rate of project success that can be calculated from any time and data labor source.

FeaturePT May09 28832785 XSIn the pressure filled world of managing programs and projects, it is a healthy thing to take a break, look at the world around us, and reflect. One major source of reflection can be the approach our beloved pets take to life, and the tasks they look to tackle. Like project leaders, dogs are almost constantly communicating (albeit in their own unique way.) Through continued empirical research, interactive testing and more direct observation, compiled below are the latest techniques for project management learned from dogs. Open your mind, reflect on the dogs you have encountered and take a look…

1. Play with whatever and whomever you have around you

If projects aren’t opportunities to produce “unique products or services”, introduce change to an organization, increase productivity or enhance the capabilities of your customer then they shouldn’t be in your project portfolio. That being said, projects present the chance to make a real difference, and that is FUN. Manage your projects like a “prison camp” and you or your project team won’t be creative, won’t grow, and will not make the most of the collective skills present on the project. Lighten up, take lunches together, organize a project ping-pong tournament or try a new project management tool – there are many free options on the internet. Create a project environment where you can work hard and constructively “play” a bit and watch your success rate soar!