Tag: Plan

6 Reasons You Should Never Embark on a Project Without a Roadmap

Sometimes in the excitement (or pressure) of a new project, it’s tempting to jump in and start to work without first making a plan.

This impulse is understandable. Maybe you’re passionate about the project and can’t wait to get started. Possibly you have a boss who talks a lot about seeing results quickly. Perhaps you’re eager to show tangible progress to your client. Whatever the reason for your hurry, you must resist this temptation!

A hastily begun project is almost always destined for failure. You should never embark on a project without a roadmap. Here’s why:

6 reasons you must make a project roadmap

Every project needs good goals from the outset

It’s essential to set your goals before work begins so that you, your client, and your team are all on the same page. Starting without good goals is an invitation for failure. What makes good goals? They need to be realistic, clear, and measurable.

  • Realistic– Can we accomplish this goal with the allotted time and resources available to us?
  • Clear– Do we know exactly what is being asked of us? Does everyone understand?
  • Measurable– Are there quantifiable indicators with which we can judge each goal?

There’s no way to know you’ve succeeded if you don’t set goals, but with good goals as the foundation of your project roadmap, you’ll always know you’re headed in the right direction.

The project vision must be communicated

Many project managers have a mental picture of exactly what needs to be done and how. The problem is when it remains a mental picture. A vision contained in just one person’s mind can’t be realized by a team of people. There are multiple stakeholders in any project– the client, the company, the team, the end users, and sometimes the larger community. All of these people have questions that need to be answered and even concerns that need to be addressed. A project roadmap can help with that.

Your team needs direction

Without a clear roadmap, each member of your team is left to interpret the vision of the project for his or herself. No matter how skilled the individuals are, every team needs the direction of a clear project plan. Beyond clearly defined goals, your team needs deadlines, communication guidelines, and a way to track their individual progress and that of the project. Lack of direction can result in demotivation, poor performance, and even high turnover, all of which are bad for both short and long-term outcomes. Without direction, the team–and your project–may end up in chaos.


Resources are limited

Project management involves resource management because your team and your company have a finite number of resources to work with. Good resource planning often includes taking other projects into consideration to ensure that the resource demands of your project aren’t in conflict with any concurrent projects at your company. Most of us know that financial resource planning is important. You also need to plan for human resources, physical work spaces, outside vendors, and any knowledge or skill gaps on your team. Including all of these factors in your project roadmap from the beginning will help you avert collisions along the way.

A good roadmap prevents scope creep

Scope creep is when, over the course of your project, the vision is expanded to include things that were not part of the original scheme. It’s a common cause of project failure, but having a clear plan can prevent it. Scope creep happens when either a) the parameters of the project were not well-defined from the outset or b) there’s pressure–either internally from the team or externally from customers or bosses. If you’ve drawn a good roadmap for your project, you can point back to the plan any time someone suggests an idea that would expand your scope and possibly derail your project.

A good roadmap aids project transparency

In the realm of projects and processes, transparency means creating a system in which all team members can access all relevant information about a project easily and efficiently. While some managers feel that providing transparency poses risks to the project, the benefits of transparency far outweigh these risks. Some of those benefits include clear communication, establishing collectively recognized expectations and standards, and improved motivation on the team and individual levels. When combined with a clear roadmap in the form of a string project plan, project transparency leads to better outcomes for both the team and the project itself.

Give your roadmap superpowers with automation

With a clear roadmap from the beginning of your project, you can take advantage of the power of automation.

  • Have clear goals– Having measurable goals enables you to automate reminders and status checks to keep your project on track.
  • Communicate the vision– Automated communication on missed deadlines, task completion, and changes to the project can remove the time burden of composing emails and also prevent lapses in communication.
  • Provide direction for your team– Using automated processes to help guide you team’s activities can take a huge burden off the project manager, allowing you to focus on larger issues as they arise.
  • Manage resources– Automated resource tracking helps prevent conflicts among projects and gives you time to adjust if resources become delayed or unavailable.
  • Avoid scope creep– With automated process management, there’s less room extra tasks to creep in and disrupt the tasks and goals at the core of your project.
  • Effortlessly promote transparency– Transparency is important, but manually generating and sharing status updates other reports can consume valuable time. Automated reports and updates provide transparency without burdening your team.

Automation and roadmaps go hand in hand. You can’t automate what you haven’t clearly defined, but once you have a good plan in place, automation can take your project management to the next level.

4 Ways to Improve Your PM Efforts When Expanding Your Business

Running a company nowadays has become a fairly seamless process, especially if we rely on a number of digital, automation tools that help us stay on track with our chores and responsibilities.

We have email notifications, alerts for social media, analytics and reporting tools that collect and analyze relevant data for us, and we use cloud-based storage solutions to share data across borders with all of our clients and employees. When it comes to expanding your business, however, even with access to a vast number of tech tools, your ability to put them to good use will greatly shape how successful you’ll be in the process. 
Too many growing businesses fail to contain and streamline their growth and development through proper project management systems, and end up returning home defeated and wondering what went wrong. Sometimes, your local operations will suffer when the time comes to allocate funds and expertise to a new market, while at other times, you take a leap of faith without fully understanding the legalities and intricacies of any new market you’re about to penetrate. This is where optimal project management can make all the difference, when you know how to utilize it to your advantage.

Define your projects based on the market

No business chooses its new targets haphazardly. You already know how to recognize markets with great growth potential and spot where your brand fits well so that you can have a strong position in that new market. However, your projects will not be defined in accordance to the same old goals and key metrics you’ve automatically used for your local endeavors. It’s time to do some research and understand what makes this new market tick, and treat it like a unique project that it is.
Perhaps a project located abroad will require a greater budget (or a smaller one, for that matter), or maybe you’ll need to go through a series of projects before you can even start launching your business abroad. Have you adapted your logo and your brand voice to the new market? Is your team ready and trained to deliver work based on these new parameters? Expectations change based on each new market you wish to enter, so it pays to understand all the fine details you should take care of before you start creating automatized projects that have worked for you in the past. 

Choose the right tools for international operations

Not all project management tools are created equal. They might not be inherently better or worse, but they do fit certain criteria and certain business models, depending on your needs. In the case of companies looking to expand into new markets, you should look for scalable project management solutions that are easy to integrate with other technology you use. Not sure where to look for reliable PM tools that fit your needs? You can follow in the footsteps of companies that have similar needs and priorities. 
For example, Netflix uses Confluence for their project management needs, and we all know just how vast this content platform is, and how many ongoing projects they have on their plate. Maybe this particular example is too expansive for your taste, but researching what the world of PM has to offer will greatly help you find the finest solution for you. 


Include your local partners

Expanding your company often means that you need to find and work with on-site partners of those new markets you wish to impress. Whether for legal, organizational, or resource purposes, partnering up entails changing your own internal structure so that you can exchange relevant information and collaborate effectively with your new partners scattered across the globe. 
For businesses eager to enter the Asian Pacific market, wanting to set up a local office may pose unique challenges from the perspective of legal ownership. In such instances, working with partners such as Invest Islands means you can get the right information on available real estate options, your legal rights, and how to proceed in terms of establishing yourself in Indonesia. In order to avoid delays in communication, missing files, and misunderstandings, using scalable PM tools in which you can include at least one representative of your partner can be useful in your endeavors to expand your business abroad. 

Monitor and reallocate your resources on the go

Although most well-established companies focus on deliverables almost exclusively when working on their projects, entering a new territory means that you cannot be certain your old project management approach works best. A certain level of flexibility within your project plans is a must. As the project unravels, you can see which teams need more resources, intellectual as well as financial, which deadlines are breached, and which tasks pose the greatest challenge for your employees. 
  • Refine your project goals depending on the market needs and your resource capabilities, and leave some “wiggle room” to make changes as each project moves forward.
  • Empower your employees to make changes when they see an opportunity, since micromanagement will not work in a growing business environment much like it never did even in a smaller business you once started.
  • Consider adding certified project managers to your teams, since running an international operation will always pose a far more complex challenge. 
  • Add post-project assessment, so that your analysis can benefit your future projects within the expansion. That is the only way you can tweak your PM efforts and educate your employees on how to be more productive and more efficient with their work. 

Project management may be an established, well-oiled routine for your existing structure, but when the time comes to penetrate new markets and expand your reach, you’ll need to think beyond your current scope even in terms of project management. Use these tips to improve your PM skills and your expansion will be much more efficient and streamlined for it. 

Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Project Management Software

There are a wide variety of project management software programs on the market.

However, having many competing solutions to choose from can create confusion and cause project managers and business professionals to feel overwhelmed. Selecting the wrong software program lends itself to a wide array of problems, such as reductions in the flow of communication, reporting, billing, and overall productivity. Basically, choosing the wrong project management software can increase the risk of making larger, unforeseen mistakes that can cost your company money.

Proper software selection is important, and it can start by avoiding some all too common mistakes. If you wish to avoid the sorts of mistakes associated with selecting project management software that isn’t right for your requirements, the information below will be helpful.

Mistake #1: Failing to Examine Your Business Processes and Match Them to Software Offerings

Just as with any type of selection project, it pays to start with a clear idea of what your requirements are. It is imperative to consider how projects come into being within your company, including which teams are usually involved, and what they need for optimal collaboration. What is working well in terms of how projects are currently managed and what could use improvement? (I.e., are there any requirements gaps?) Many projects managers should become more aware of what’s typically included in project management software solutions before making a purchase. They can accomplish this by spending more time analyzing project management software programs beforehand. As you read about what competing solutions offer, think about how those features fit with what your company needs.

If you find that there is not a lot of overlap between how your company manages projects and the approach taken by new project management software solutions, it’s worth considering revising how projects are managed to take full advantage of all of the software’s efficiencies. This is because many professional software products are designed to incorporate industry best practices. If your company’s project management practices have remained unchanged for a very long time, it’s possible that some proven best practices are being missed. However, this is not always the case. If some software provides features that seem to match up well with the way your company works and other software products do not, you obviously need to look for the ones that offer a good degree of compatibility.

The key here is to begin by performing a thorough needs analysis before making a final purchasing decision. An analysis will allow project managers to address the needs of the company’s projects in their totality. This includes:

  • Assessing how the organization communicates with all those working on projects, including both internal and external team members
  • Considering how file sharing is performed between team members
  • Analyzing how the company tracks resources such as costs, material, and human resources
  • Determining the types of reports that need to be prepared and their frequency

Basically, project managers should perform a detailed and thorough analysis of every step of the project management process. Beyond just accurately tracking projects, they should consider all aspects involved in the project management process to formulate a precise listing of their requirements.


Mistake #2: Selecting the Solution That Has It All

It’s tempting to gravitate to project management software solutions that offer a wide array of features. The problem is that having too many features that will likely never be used can overwhelm and complicate the learning curve and sometimes even the software implementation process. This mistake leads to overspending and to staff members underusing the system. This is mainly because the more complicated the system is, the more difficult employees will find using it, and that increases the chance of errors.

A larger system, like Microsoft Project, might be perfect if you have long-term projects spanning many departments that require long-term planning. But if the projects you’re trying to wrangle are much smaller in scope and shorter in duration, you might consider a lighter application like BaseCamp or Trello. Regardless, careful thought and consideration should be put into software-related purchasing decisions long before making the purchase. And remember, the more features a software program has the more likely there will be additional costs to purchase and implement it. If many of those features are unnecessary, that extra expense will have been wasted.

There is an effective approach to minimizing the risk associated with selecting software solutions that have it all. Project managers can do something as simple as creating a checklist with prioritized needs. Create a list of prioritized features in the following order:

  • The “must-haves,” meaning the features that are absolutely necessary
  • A list of features that are not necessarily required would be nice to have
  • A list of features that are not completely unnecessary for your company

Prioritizing your needs in this type of organized manner will help you make better informed software purchasing decisions.

Mistake #3: Not Planning Ahead

Be wary of only considering project management software solutions that address current issues. When evaluating a software solutions, one must imagine it growing with the business. In other words, long-term considerations should also be taken into account during the initial evaluation stages. Project managers should look out for software that offers things such as flexibility as well as scalable solutions that meet both their current immediate needs as well as their projected future needs.

An alternative that could support your company‘s growth plan is adding features to your software as your company grows and requires more licenses for new staff members. Project managers that do not plan ahead in this regard often end up causing their companies to spend more money in the long run.

Successful businesses are profitable, and this leads to expansion in most all cases. Failing to plan ahead often results in higher costs and a reduction in production. Avoid this mistake by ensuring the solution is open to updates, upgrades, and the addition of custom features. Ask if the software tools you’re considering have the flexibility to handle other types of projects that may emerge in the future.

If you are interested in reducing the risks associated with purchasing the wrong project management software, then careful attention, planning, and forethought must go into choosing the right software solution for your company. That includes giving careful consideration not only to the company’s current needs, but also to future needs that can be anticipated due to growth.

Lastly, project managers and business professionals who invest time into seeking out the right project management software program—meaning the one that’s most compatible with their operations will experience the best results. They will see a more streamlined flow of information and processes that improves areas including the tracking of projects, billing, task assignment, and reporting.

Building a Real Project Plan that Delivers the Right Results in the Right Way

I am not a purist by any imagination when it comes to Project Management. 

Any successful projects that I have delivered during my career required nuance, a bit of art and a reliance on some basic must haves to create a greater likelihood of success no matter the environment, type of technology or time constraints.   I am not exaggerating when I say I have reviewed hundreds of project plans drafted by Project Managers and drafted quite a few personally to help drive projects to successful outcomes.  The following represents some lessons learned that I hope you will find valuable if you are just starting out your career or if someone just walked over and offered you the chance of a lifetime to lead a cutting-edge implementation.  

Is it a Plan or a Schedule? 

Ugh! The purists now refer to it as a schedule because a plan is where you map out the approach to delivery (resources, logistics, etc.) versus the schedule which covers the tasks and dates.  Like I said, I am not a purist and we are calling it a plan for this discussion.   Before you read on let me just say that if you are building a project plan to only satisfy a governance/SDLC requirement you might as well just wing it.   If you don’t believe in running your status meetings off agreed to targets for tasks completion and actively using the plan to identify slippage, adjust resources and flag constraints, you might as well just stick with the stream of consciousness approach to project management and cross your fingers.   For those who have decided to hang in there with me for a moment to see where this is going let’s begin.

Microsoft Excel is Not Your Friend

I can list a ton of reasons why you should stick with Microsoft Project to build your plans but there will always be those who are just more comfortable working in Excel.   At a Global Financial organization, we essentially outlawed all Excel based project plans after repeated citations by the Audit organization for “violating” SDLC practices.    Here is what happens when you use Excel:
  1. You turn your multi phased, million-dollar initiative into a grocery like shopping list
  2. You have no immediate view into constraints, dependencies and predecessors 
  3. You cannot readily identify task slippage
  4. Don’t even think about resource allocations
  5. Rollup views become challenging
  6. Visualizations of the timeline require extra work
  7. Etc. etc. etc.


Strategic Plans that Deliver Business Value

We often talk about improvements in process as better practices, but one so called improvement that I have seen across organizations is the default project plan that is shared as a potential starting point. If you see such a thing, run in the opposite direction and take a step back.  Some things can’t be automated or standardized, and I refuse to have my creative project management side limited to a stale template of an approach that may or may not help build a better plan.  Use these kinds of tools as reference points but not shortcuts to doing the thinking about what is really needed to execute successfully.
Sit down and think about the success criteria of the stakeholders and begin to craft the high-level milestones that your task will rollup to and help deliver the vision.  Using delivery phases as the milestone with a whole bunch of tasks will not speak to the value that you are trying to deliver.     
You will have a difficult time explaining why the project failed despite you doing all the process steps accurately and timely.  Task fulfillment does not equate to process success and that is a lesson that requires a few laps around the proverbial project track before its learned.  
The tasks must be prescriptive and should not be done in short form tweet like entries.   Use declarative entries to ensure that work is performed and validated.  Words like Secure, Verify, Validate, Obtain, Draft, Approve and Distribute should be commonplace throughout your plan. 

Warning Signs of a Bad Project Plan

  • Task durations are greater than 10 or 15 days.  When will you know that a 60-day task is late?  On the 61st day it is too late to affect any kind of change.    Tasks that have a long duration require subtask items to allow for follow-up and remediation.  
  • Keep the schedule up to date, if all stakeholders agree to the approach and its reflected in the plan, you should be using it to manage your day to day deliverables.   I have attended hundreds if not thousands of status meetings and in most cases the project manager fails to leverage the plan to confirm status and discuss slippage or upcoming tasks for the week.  
  • Tasks that are past due with no percentage completed is a red flag.   Find out if teams have skipped tasks or decided certain deliverables have been deemed out of scope.  
  • Tasks are not prescriptive enough to convey work deliverable.   It doesn’t have to be war and peace but at least include enough information to make it reusable  
Unfortunately, Project Managers tend to get assessed on the existence of artifacts but not necessarily on the quality of products that get produced.    It is time to start looking at how your project plans connect to success criteria and how the details drive the intended result.   Start performing self-checks and peer reviews and include your stakeholders in the process.   Share your plans with them and ask them to opine on dates and resource availability.   That is a great way to get buy-in and learn from others.

How to Excel at Managing Multiple Projects

Managing one project at a time can be stressful enough, but try managing several projects simultaneously–

this is where real difficulties start to emerge. Luckily, there are certain steps you can take to help you get more organized and efficient when managing multiple projects. Let’s learn something about them.

Think ahead

The best thing to do, before you start anything else, is to plan ahead. So, take your time, have your morning coffee, tea, whatever you need to fuel your brain, and start planning. Make sure to know your priorities, and how much time you need for each task. For some people, it works the best to deal with the toughest tasks first and save those less demanding for later.

Schedule your time

Make the most of your time. Plan your time ahead, make an appointment with yourself, pick a project and give it your full attention. This will help you stay focused on the chosen task, at least for a short period of time, and it will make you more productive. It’ll help your thoughts stay in one place, and your brain will work better, without having to worry about other projects. So, you should simply block your time for that project and hold on to it.

Stay Focused

Don’t let anything distract you from what you are doing at the moment and stay focused on your current task. For example, listening to your preferred music helps me stay focused on what I am doing. If you love silence, just find yourself a quiet place, or simply do anything that helps you stop racing thoughts and staying on point.

Assess your workload regularly

Follow up on your project plan or time schedule frequently. Consider some unexpected time loss may occur – some projects might take more time then you have predicted, so you will be behind with other tasks. You can avert that by checking up on your to-do list or some other strategy for tracking project progress.


Entrust responsibilities

Having trouble accomplishing everything? Delegate! Share your workload with your team, or a trusted colleague. Assign them tasks, even the whole projects, but don’t exonerate yourself completely. As IED Barcelona’s current Master Degree in Service Design explains, this field should encourage an exploratory attitude, self-organization and abilities to collaborate in cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary teams. Just make sure you are still involved in the whole decision-making process, and you will be certain that the work will get done

Support the project plans

The best way to do this is by using the project management software. This will help you keeping better track of your project progress. Use milestones to mark the significant dates in your project plan and make sure everything is done and submitted before the deadline. Having this kind of information helps you prevent possible time loss, in addition to lowering your stress level when a busy time comes.

Keep an eye on progress

Many things can go wrong if you have a lot to do, and just not enough hands, eyes or time to keep track of all those things. With this in mind, you should block your time to review all your current projects and make sure everything is going just how you have imagined it would.

Be adaptable

Stay open to embracing change when it comes to your time schedule. Like we said before, some projects are more urgent than others and sometimes, despite your effort to pursue your schedule, you will need to attend some other task and spend unplanned time on it. This is considered inevitable when it comes to managing multiple projects, so just stay flexible and don’t panic if it comes to that.

These tips should help you in managing multiple projects successfully. Even if you encounter certain issues in the process (and, trust me, you will), you should be able to solve them with less stress and worries