Work Breakdown Structure: some suggestions for using it to the best

A Work Breakdown Structure, abbreviated with WBS, is a visual tool for the definition and tracking of a project deliverable and all the small components necessary to create it.

With a Work Breakdown Structure, the project manager can concentrate on what he has to accomplish as he approaches the project deadline.

This is a fundamental tool for a PM as it helps to plan, manage and evaluate any type of project.

With a WBS, we start from the result or the desired final product, we analyze it and decompose it into smaller deliverables or the activities necessary to create it.

In a WBS, the deliverable can be an object, a service, or an activity.

Focusing on deliverables, rather than methods – the “what”, not the “how” – a Work Breakdown Structure helps to eliminate unnecessary and superfluous work.

A weighted WBS helps in planning, costs estimation and risk analysis.

It is usually a graph or a visual diagram that defines the temporal sequence and the process of a project. It breaks down into each activity that will be performed during the project life cycle.

A WBS is often represented as a structure, as a summary, but can also be organized using tabulations or other visual organizational systems.

What are the purposes of a Work Breakdown Structure?

Here are some of the benefits that arise whit the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure:

  • Provides a visual representation of all parts of a project
  • It offers a continuous vision on how the whole project proceeds, helping its management
  • Defines specific and measurable results
  • Decomposes the job into manageable blocks
  • Provides a system that allows successful experiences to be repeatable
  • Sets a basis for estimating costs and allocating resources, both human and other
  • Avoids overlaps or lack of work for the resources
  • Minimizes the possibility of forgetting a critical result or a risk.

 A well-done WBS can make the team work like a well-oiled machine, with the following advantages:

  • Increases productivity
  • Helps project managers predict results based on various scenarios
  • Helps with the project organization
  • Helps to describe the scope of the project to stakeholders
  • Helps to distribute responsibilities
  • Allows a correct estimate of costs, risks and time
  • Increases and improves communication
  • Allows more creativity and brainstorming
  • Focuses on the final results
  • Organizes the details
  • Prevents potential problems
  • Addresses programming issues
  • Helps to manage risks
  • Gives flexibility to the team
  • Eliminates confusion
  • Provides clear descriptions of the tasks of each team member
  • Provides a basis for a clear report on the status of the project, since each task is a measurable unit

Work Breakdown Structure templates

For a WBS, different types of formats and templates are possible:

  • Graphic format: emphasizes visual visualization of the project;
  • Linear structure: presents a time interval and dependencies between the components of a project;
  • Hierarchical structure: puts at the top the most important elements of a project for a greater emphasis;
  • Tabular view: allows team members to easily navigate to the most relevant sections for them.

Not all projects require the same type of format.

This can and must be adapted to the type of project and the type of members in the team.

Work Breakdown Structure: Best practices

1. Focus on the final results, not on the methods / actions.

The key lies in thinking about the “what”, not about “how”.

The main purpose of a WBS is to define the main deliverable taking into consideration the small components that compose it.

If the deliverable is not a physical product, a specific and measurable result must be provided in any case.

For example, if you are creating a WBS for a professional service, you need to define the results of that specific service.

2. 100 percent rule

The work represented by the Work Breakdown Structure must include 100% of the work required to complete the general result without including any extraneous or unrelated work.

Even sub-activities, at any level, should be taken into account, because are all necessary to complete the main activity.

In other words, the elements in the second level are equal to 100% and the elements in the third and lower levels are positioned within the percentage of the higher level with respect to them.

The finished project should never give a sum greater or less than 100 percent.

Work Breakdown Structure

3. 8/80 rule

One of the common mistakes is to break down the work too much or not decompose it enough. There are several ways to decide when a work package is small enough without being too small.

The 8/80 rule is one of the most common suggestions: a work package should not take less than eight hours of work, and no more than 80 hours.

Other rules suggest not to give activities that exceed ten working days – which is equal to 80 hours if you consider a full-time employee.

In other words, a work package should not take more than a month to complete.

Clearly, this rule should be applied if it makes sense within the project and the industry.

4. Attention to the level of detail

In general, work packages should provide activities that can be completed by a team member, or by the team in general, within a reference period.

If the team is less experienced and needs more supervision and coaching, one solution is to make the work packages smaller and shorter.

If you have a deliverable that may take longer to complete or cost more than your given budget, it may be useful to divide the project into smaller deliverables with shorter work times.

With a more frequent reporting and review time, you can solve problems and solve them earlier.

Another suggestion is to create tasks and delegate activities at the beginning of a project, but in case and if necessary create new tasks and new delegations during a project.

We gained a time optimization thanks to the structuring of projects with tools such as the template generator and cloning function of entire projects or portions


How to create a Work Breakdown Structure

The first step to create a WBS is to bring the team together.

Regardless of whether the team works in an office or remotely, it is essential that members participate in identifying derivables.

Collaborators must know exactly what is happening.

The project manager must also assemble the key documents of the project in order to start the development of the Work Breakdown Structure: the project charter, the problem that the project will solve, the scope definition, the documentation that refers to the existing processes for the project management, etc.

To start the creation, it is necessary to define the level one, ie the main result of the project.

Then gradually add as many details as possible. From the second level you will descend to the smaller pieces up to the third level, to the fourth level, and more, if necessary.

It is important to always define what is required in the previous level in the most detailed way possible before moving on to the next levels. It will be essential to further break down the work.

Here is a brief structure that can be useful for writing a WBS:

  • Determine and describe the project result;
  • Highlight all the necessary phases of the project;
  • Divide the final results into manageable tasks;
  • Assign each section and make sure that each owner, ie the corresponding team member, has all the information, skills and knowledge necessary to complete the job.
  • Ensure frequent feedback. The WBS is a dynamic document, whose content can be revisited, even frequently, to ensure the correct execution and delivery of the project.

In conclusion, the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure is a team effort and is the point of arrival of multiple inputs and perspectives for the given project.

Its goal is to make a large project more manageable.

The deconstruction into smaller blocks means that work can be done simultaneously by different team members. This will lead to better productivity and easier management of the project in general.

Have you ever created a WBS structure for your project? What tools and methods did you use?

Share them with us in the comments below.

Start creating your Work Breakdown Structure.

Total quality management: plan the quality management of a project

Total Quality Management is an extended and structured organizational management approach. It focuses on continuous improvement of the products and services quality using continuous feedback.

The exact origin of the term Total Quality Management is not certain. What is certain is that it was certainly inspired by the works of Armand V. Feigenbaum and Kaoru Ishikawa.

From its origins the concept has been developed and can be used for almost all types of organizations, not just traditional companies but also schools, hotels, communities, etc.

Nowadays, Total Quality Management is also used in the e-business sector and perceives quality management entirely from the customer’s point of view.

Total Quality Management’s objective is to do things well and satisfactorily for the customer and to repeat this positive experience.

This allows the organization to save the time it takes to correct poor work and failed implementations of products and services, such as warranty repairs.

Total Quality Management can be set differently depending on the type of organization or for a series of standards to be followed, such as in the case of the ISO 9000.

In this type of approach, the strategy, data and communication channels are used to integrate the quality principles required in the organization’s activities and culture.

The principles of Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management has a series of basic principles that can be summarized in the following points:

  1. Focus on customers
  2. Employee involvement
  3. Process centralization
  4. Integrated system
  5. Strategic and systematic approach
  6. Decision-making process based on facts
  7. Communication
  8. Continuous improvement

Focus on customers

When following the principles of this approach it’s essential to remember that only customers determine the level of quality.

Regardless of the efforts made in the training of employees or the improvement of processes, only customers determine, through questionnaires, for example, whether the efforts have contributed to the continuous improvement of the quality of services and products.

Employee involvement

Employees are internal customers of an organization.

Employee involvement in the development of an organization’s products or services largely determines the quality of these products or services.

All employees within a company must understand that they have an important role to play in ensuring high levels of quality in the products and services that the organization produces.

Hence, it’s good to create a corporate culture in which employees feel involved in the organization.

total quality management 5 - meeting

Process centralization

The thinking process and managing processes are a fundamental part of Total Quality Management.

Processes are the guiding principle and people support them based on goals that are related to mission, vision and strategy in general.

Integrated system

It’s important to have an integrated organizational system that can be modeled, for example according to ISO 9000 standards, or a company quality system for understanding and managing the quality of an organization’s products or services.

Strategic and systematic approach

A strategic plan must embrace the integration and development of the quality of an organization’s products and services.

Decision-making process based on facts

The decision-making process within the organization must be based only on concrete facts and not on opinions, emotions and personal interests. Data should support decision making.

A quality management system is only effective when it is possible to quantify the results; in fact, it is necessary to see how and if the implemented process is having the desired effect.

This will help set goals for the future and make sure each department is working for the same result.

Communication

A communication strategy must be formulated in such a way that it is in line with the mission, vision and business objectives.

This strategy includes all stakeholders, evaluates communication channels, measurability of effectiveness, timeliness, etc.

Continuous improvement

By using the right measurement tools and innovative and creative thinking, continuous improvement proposals will be launched and implemented so that the organization can develop into a higher level of quality.

Total Quality Management is not something that is done once and then forgotten. It’s not a management phase that will end after a problem has been corrected.

Real improvements must occur frequently and continuously in order to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Practical approach to Total Quality Management

When implementing Total Quality Management, a concept is implemented.

total quality management 4

In fact, it is not a predefined system to “mount”, but it is a line of reasoning that must be incorporated into the organization and its culture.

The practice has shown that there are a number of basic assumptions that contribute to the success of Total Quality Management within an organization.

These basic assumptions are:

  • Form the top management on the principles of Total Quality Management and ask for their commitment in this regard;
  • Evaluate the current company culture, customer satisfaction and the quality system;
  • Senior management determines the desired core values ​​and principles and communicates them within the organization;
  • Develop a total quality management plan using the basic principles mentioned above;
  • Identify and prioritize customer and market needs and determine the products and services of the organization that can meet these needs;
  • Determine critical processes that can make a substantial contribution to products and services;
  • Create teams capable of working on process improvement;
  • Managers must support teams through planning, resources and training;
  • Management integrates the desired changes for the improvement of daily processes. After the implementation of improved processes, standardization comes in play;
  • Evaluate progress continuously and adjust planning or other critical issues if necessary;
  • Stimulate employee involvement. Awareness and feedback lead to a general improvement of the whole process.

In summary, Total Quality Management is not a quick solution and one must understand that real results may not occur immediately.

It is not a short-term investment but is designed to help an organization find long-term success.

What is your experience with Total Quality Management?

Is its principles applied within the organization you work with?

Are there any other basic assumptions that you think are important? Leave us your feedback below.

Manage the quality of your projects in a professional way.

Brainstorming and Project management: creativity at the service of a project’s success

Brainstorming, a technique apparently so far, but so useful for a Project Manager.

In the life of a project manager, in fact, creative thinking is required every day to solve problems.

Steve Jobs himself underlined it with the phrase: “Creativity is nothing more than connecting things”

In fact, many job descriptions for project managers specify creative thinking as an fundamental skill.

Brainstorming is an excellent way to develop new ideas and creative solutions to problems.

But to get the maximum benefit from this mental exercise it is essential to know how to use it correctly.

That’s why brainstorming is an interesting solution:

  • It is far more productive than traditional troubleshooting methods;
  • It is less structured and helps people find more creative solutions;
  • Helps more to get the agreement between team members on the chosen solution;
  • Offers an open environment that encourages people to contribute;
  • Enhance the different experiences of team members;
  • Help team members to create a stronger bond, both with each other and with the organization.

So let’s see what are the steps to perform efficient brainstorming sessions.

Brainstorming must have a goal

The moderator of the brainstorming meeting should present himself with a specific problem to be solved or a question to be answered; this is how we ensure a productive meeting.

If necessary and if it makes sense, you can provide the team with basic information and basic data a couple of days before the meeting.

The contribution will be concrete, reasonable and applicable only if people know what direction their effort is going.

brainstorming (3)

Prepare the team for brainstorming

Ensure that the meeting environment helps the team to concentrate.

The room should be well illuminated and include all necessary resources or tools, such as a whiteboard, post-it, pens, etc.

A very popular solution is also to include some refreshments. This solution is valid both to make the atmosphere more pleasant, and to prevent people from being misled by creating a way to drink machines 🙂 .

Prepare the basic information – if these have not been sent previously – without exaggerating.

Too much data can easily limit the creative potential of the team during a brainstorming session.

Finally, consider and choose the people who will participate in the meeting well.

If the team members invited to brainstorming session think in the same way, you will not be able to count on many creative and innovative ideas.

A heterogeneous group is therefore to be preferred.

The ideal would be to choose people from various departments and roles that will surely have different styles of thought.

Establish basic rules of brainstorming

To make sure that the discussion proceeds smoothly, establish basic rules at the beginning and stick to them.

Should people raise their hands before speaking? Or will they be able to make suggestions at any time?

Defining the basic rules will guarantee a smooth discussion and communication.

Moderate the discussion during the brainstorming

Remind to the participants that the brainstorming session is not a competition, but a collaborative effort to solve a problem.

This is how the team is helped to develop ideas – even those of other people – and to create new solutions.

To encourage everyone to contribute. Discourage employees from criticizing each other. Stick to one idea at a time and refocus the team when the discussion loses focus.

If the brainstorming session gets longer, organize breaks to help members regain concentration.

Comfort of brainstorming’s participants

There is only one way to get many creative ideas: give people the freedom to express themselves.

Even if an idea seems silly or scandalous, it must still be exposed and discussed, it could in fact lead to a new solution never thought of before.

Certainly some employees will be reluctant to exhibit and share their ideas for fear of being judged or that they are considered with no-sense.

Hence, it’s creating an environment in which participants feel comfortable that they will not run this risk.

Also, it’s important to show the team that it’s ok to have fun or strange ideas.

brainstorming (4)

Use brainstorming tricks

Here are some tricks to use during a brainstorming session:

Ask to the team what is the opposite of what you want to achieve

For example: what is the worst navigation project on a website?

These questions lead to thinking of a problem in an unusual way.

Play

For example, any person at any time can say “Wheel!” And everyone in the room will have to get up and move to the chair on their left.

This type of exercise helps people to move, not only physically but also mentally, and can become useful when the team feels stuck or lacking energy.

Introduce a new constraint on the problem, often exaggerated

The idea here is not to make the team work harder, but to help it think creatively.

For example, you can suggest that the product will be used only by left-handed people or that the budget for a given (large) project must be € 100 or less.

Challenges of this kind stimulates people and, because the constraint is so exaggerated, almost ridiculous, people will feel safer to expose any kind of idea.

At the end of a brainstorming session, do not forget to keep the participants informed about the continuation of the process and about new ideas and solutions, through follow-up.

In conclusion, an effective brainstorming leads to greater creativity and the generation of quality ideas.

Furthermore, it can also be a lot of fun for the team!

Which other aspects are important for successful brainstorming? Write us your opinion!

Manage your new ideas in an innovative way.

Corporate change: the 8 reasons that cause difficulties and resistance

Today, the resistance to change in the company is a very important, and the same time delicate, subject.

In fact, in business, it is assumed that – big or small – organizations must change to remain competitive and survive in an ever-changing market.

However, facing this (big) change leads to face resistance barriers.

There are many different types of organizational changes.

Organizations can change:

  • their strategy,
  • their use of technology,
  • their structure,
  • their culture,
  • any combination of these aspects.

That’s why having a perspective view becomes fundamental.

Only by looking forward and defining the new organization and the new way of working of the people involved it is possible to identify the key aspects of the change process.

In short, it will be appropriate to plan “how the hypothetical change must take place” and to define the necessary actions that can counter the potential obstacles that may arise.

It is necessary to understand to what extent the people, in this case the employees, are ready to accept the changes and if the process threatens them in some way.

For a manager who must effectively manage the process of change implementation, it is important to know the reasons why people might resist change. The comprehension of motivations is essential to find and apply ways that encourage cooperation.

Resistance can delay or slow down the process of change, hinder its implementation and increase its cost. A manager can not afford it.

Why do people resist change?

In practice, there are 8 reasons why people resist change at work place.

A good manager must recognize these signs easily and understand the emotions that employees feel in this phase. Let’s try to examine one by one the causes of resistance to change.

1.Loss of work

In a company, any technological progress, process or product change will include more optimized work. This means a reduction in costs, an improvement in efficiency and a focus on faster completion times.

All this means that there will be changes that can affect certain roles and jobs. The team will tend to resist to protect their role.

2.Fear of the unknown

Employee responses to corporate change may vary. It can be fear or total support.

During times of change, some employees may feel the need to stick to the past because it is safer, more known and more predictable.

If what they did in the past worked well for them, they could resist change because they fear this comfortable situation will change in the future.

How can you blame them?

What is known is definitely an anchor, a safe haven, whatever the area.

This is why listening and dialogue become fundamental in this situation. Periodic meetings, comparisons and communication on change can be therefore very useful.

corporate change (2)

3.Loss of control

Asking to change the way the work is made can make employees feel helpless and confused.

People are more likely to understand and apply changes when they feel they have some control over them.

The key is therefore to keep the communication doors open and to encourage input, support and help from employees.

4.Lack of competence

This is a fear that employees will hardly admit openly.

Some people will feel that they will not be able to make the transition. This is because of their (few or insufficient) skills.

Therefore, the only way for them to survive or not to show their “ignorance” is to counter change.

Some employees express reluctance in learning something new in general. In this way, however, besides hindering change, they also hinder their personal growth.

5.Wrong time

It is important to consider that change is, itself, an event!

For this reason, change must be introduced when there are no other important initiatives in progress.

In this case, it is essential to prepare a strategy for change management since the beginning. The general situation of the organization must be assessed and the analysis should be complete.

In some cases it may be useful to hire a business change management consultant. This serves to design an effective and objective change management strategy.

6.Lack of rewards

Employees can resist changes when they see no reward. It is the simple question “Who makes me do it?”.

Without reward, in fact, there is no motivation to sustain change in the long run.

Therefore, to support change management, it is important that the organization’s reward systems are modified accordingly. The change must be seen as a rewarding system, an improvement for the company itself.

7.Social environment

Each company has its own internal policy. Thus, some employees resist change a priori, like a “political strategy“. It is simply a way like another to go against the management.

Employees can also join forces against change. They can do it, for example, to show that the person leading the change is not good for the task.

In the same manner, employees can resist change in order to protect their work colleagues. They do this when, for example, there is a risk of layoffs.

Sometimes even managers themselves could resist change in order to protect their working teams.

8.Lack of trust and support

A corporate change can not succeed if it takes place in a climate of distrust. Trust implies faith in the intentions and behavior of others.

In this case, any change in the workplace can be a cause of fear for the employees. The fear that their roles within the company may change.

In companies where a high degree of trust exists and employees are treated with respect and dignity, there is less resistance to change.

corporate change

Recognize resistance to change

How do you know if there is resistance to change in the company?

Sometimes people say or demonstrate quite directly that they are not happy or that they will not follow the plans.

Often, however, resistance is less obvious. It tends to act in a hidden way.

Those who remain silent can resist just as firmly as those who openly communicate their dissent.

Silence does not always mean consent. It is more difficult to manage a silent dissent than an open resistance.

Others may question the methodology. They could do it by undermining the process by which the changes were decided. In short, they will tend to weaken the initiative of change.

Then, there are those who are too busy to think about implementing changes.

Running everywhere the whole day, sending messages and continuously answering calls, they simply do not have time to make changes to their operating modes.

 

So, how do you handle the obvious and less obvious resistance to change?

Strategies to overcome resistance

If new initiatives seem to fade before moving on and the best plans go nowhere, these can be signs that employees are resisting to change.

Even if not all resistances are negative, the inability to adapt to change can have disastrous consequences.

Several studies have shown that around 70% of corporate changes fail due to the resistance of the workforce.

So what do you do to face resistance to change? Here are some suggestions.

[av_font_icon icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’ style=” caption=” link=” linktarget=” size=’40px’ position=’left’ color=’#145b79′ av_uid=’av-33k5u7v’][/av_font_icon]Link the change to other issues that affect people. To improve the perception of change, one can think of connecting it to other issues that people care about (eg work safety). By showing how change is linked to these factors, it is possible to make resistance less likely.

[av_font_icon icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’ style=” caption=” link=” linktarget=” size=’40px’ position=’left’ color=’#145b79′ av_uid=’av-x87i3′][/av_font_icon]Show attention and understanding of concerns. Communicate with employees about new initiatives and their progress. Ask them which are their worries that they see behind the change. Listening to others’ opinions is the first step to influence them.

[av_font_icon icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’ style=” caption=” link=” linktarget=” size=’40px’ position=’left’ color=’#145b79′ av_uid=’av-1z6bg4b’][/av_font_icon]Identify team members who support change. These people are the supporters of the new way of working. They can be the link between change and the rest of the team. Ensure that they participate in the forums and to the change initiatives so that their voices can be heard.

[av_font_icon icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’ style=” caption=” link=” linktarget=” size=’40px’ position=’left’ color=’#145b79′ av_uid=’av-1s8wyt7′][/av_font_icon]Communicate openly. It is essential to give precise information on what will happen and when, which aspects will change and what will remain unchanged. People are more likely to get stressed when they do not know the details of the situation.

[av_font_icon icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’ style=” caption=” link=” linktarget=” size=’40px’ position=’left’ color=’#145b79′ av_uid=’av-12pf457′][/av_font_icon]Offer resources and tools. In a change, one of the biggest obstacles can be employees who are unprepared to manage changes. It will be necessary to provide training courses, equipment and everything that will not only help them to adapt, but also to excel in the changed environment. In this way, not only they can stop resisting, but they can even feel encouraged and confident about the new situation.

[av_font_icon icon=’ue812′ font=’entypo-fontello’ style=” caption=” link=” linktarget=” size=’40px’ position=’left’ color=’#145b79′ av_uid=’av-rp4zwb’][/av_font_icon]Timing is everything. Good timing is crucial when it comes to change. If you try to make important changes all at once or too quickly, employees may be more likely to resist. It is good practice to introduce change in measured doses in order to give employees the chance to acclimatize. This not only guarantees less interruptions to the activity, but also makes employees more inclined and therefore more productive.

It is a cliché, but it is true that change is difficult, in every sector, both in the working as well as in the private sphere.

By following a few simple strategies and a well designed plan of change, it is possible, however, to reassure the employees that the company’s commitment is to ensure, as never before, their well-being and success.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation of corporate change? Which side did you stand for? Tell us about your experience.

Manage your change process.

From time management to schedule management: the new time management in a project

Schedule management or project scheduling is the process of project time management through milestones, activities and final results, usually indicating the expected start and end dates.

A schedule or scheduling is the project or program calendar.

This shows how the work will progress over a period of time and takes into account factors such as limited resources and the uncertainty estimation.

This process begins with the work necessary to meet the requirements of the stakeholders.

This includes the technical / practical work that creates the results and the management activity that deals with aspects such as risk management and stakeholder management.

Definition of types of work

Some types of work can be defined much more easily than other types.

Engineering work, for example, tends to have detailed and complete specifications from the start, while some IT activities follow a more iterative approach to define what needs to be done.

The approaches to time calculation must be equally flexible.

In some cases, you can use rigorous techniques to model the work and calculate the detailed times.

In other cases, general estimates have to be made from the start, then, as the project continues, they are constantly refined thanks to the information available.

A detailed model can be used to perform “what-if” calculations and analysis to test the result of potential events.

For example: “what happens if the X resource is not available in February?” Or “what happens if there are unfavorable weather conditions in March?”.

Rolling Wave Planning

The detailed high-level planning approaches usually follow the so-called  “rolling wave” planning.

Short-term work is generally better defined and can be subject to more rigorous and comprehensive planning.

Long-term work is more vague and subject to changes and will be detailed working progress.

The detail window then moves along the program like a “rolling wave”, literally a rolling wave.

The most commonly used graphic planning form is the Gantt chart.

In its simplest form it uses bars on a horizontal chronological scale to show the beginning, duration and end of the various activities.

Variants of the Gantt chart can transmit all types of information adapting to the circumstances.

At the end of the work scheduling shows what has been planned and what really happened and can be an important tool in identifying and determining the lessons learned.

How to perform project scheduling

Before deepening  project planning, let’s examine the basics.

You have to ask yourself three questions to start project planning:

  1. What must be done?
  2. By when will it be done?
  3. Who will do it?

time-management-to do list

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start planning dates, linking activities, setting duration, milestones, and resources.

Following are the necessary steps  to plan a project:

  • Define activities: Using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) structure and a deliverable diagram, you can begin to perform these tasks and organize them by mapping the activities needed to complete them in an order compared to what is necessary;
  • Making estimates: Once the activities have been defined and divided, it is necessary to determine the time and effort required to complete them;
  • Determine dependencies: Tasks are not isolated and often it isn’t possible to start a new one until the previous is not completed. This is the so-called dependence of activities;
  • Assign resources: The last step to finalizing the planned program is to decide which resources will be needed to perform these tasks on time.

You will have to choose the project team and the time of the collaborators will have to be planned exactly following the planned activities in the planning.

As the complexity of work increases, it becomes impractical to maintain a single detailed program.

Large-scale projects will often use wave planning in which only short-term work is shown in detail with the long-term work that is shown in summary.

As the amount of management activity increases, it may be useful to create separate delivery plans for different areas such as a communication plan, a technical plan, a marketing plan, etc.

The need for multiple plans is inevitable as the complexity of project increases.

To be effective, the project manager must ensure that similar programming policies are adopted throughout the program.

These policies can be defined in a planning management plan.

The scheduling management plan has essentially three parts:

  • Development planning
  • Control
  • Planning of changes

Development planning

In this section the procedures for the development and revision of the program are established.

The personnel responsible for the development is identified and the potential contribution of the project team members is discussed.

Written procedures for estimating asset duration and budgets, contingency levels, and resources are specified for the project.

Moreover, if the project is complex, a project planning software is very often a useful tool to have.

Scheduling check

In this section the procedures for measuring and monitoring the project program are implemented.

Throughout the project, planning deviations and costs should be known or calculated regularly, which requires an estimate of the percentage of completion of each activity according to scheduling.

At this stage it is necessary to have clear answers to the following questions:

  • How will the program be measured?
  • Which units will be used to measure completeness of activities?
  • Who will measure it?
  • How often will it be measured?

Scheduling changes

Normally, any change to the initial project planning must be communicated and approved.

In fact, in most cases, someone has initially approved the project budget and deadline and expects to receive results accordingly.

That person is usually called the “project sponsor“.

And it is the project sponsor together, often, to the stakeholders who must be informed and approve all the changes to the initial planning.

time-management-desktop

                                                                                                                                         Thanks for the image to  Watch List

Here are the basic questions to consider in this case:

  • What are the appropriate reasons for a change of program?
  • How much notice do you need?
  • Who must approve the changes?

Project planning is probably one of the most difficult jobs of a project manager, but the coordination of delivery dates on estimates can be simplified and made more efficient when you have gained experience and when using appropriate software management.

What are your experiences with project scheduling? Write us your comment here.

Start planning your projects.

How to manage remote working teams

The idea of  how to manage remote working team until just 20 years ago was pure madness.
Internet has changed the history, and companies are adapting to it.

In the ever-changing and rapidly developing modern world, it is almost impossible to imagine something stable and stationary.

Communication, teamwork and society itself have changed radically.

In fact, today more and more companies and freelancers offer their services on a global level, transforming the virtual workplace from a mere exception to normality.

This trend offers countless opportunities for professionals and companies from all corners of the world.

In Italy more and more companies are activating remote working processes, transferring part of the personnel work remotely.

Managing a team remotely in efficient way, is therefore the new challenge for project managers!

Following there is a series of suggestions to help the project manager in organizing and managing a remote work team.

How to manage remote working team: Choose the right members for the team

Everyone dreams working from home, but only a few can do it.

Actually being able to work professionally and without being overwhelmed by everyday activities is not easy.

In a traditional office, the environment is necessarily more social. It interacts with colleagues also because avoiding them is practically impossible.

Some people need that extra level of social responsibility to work properly.

But there are also other people who manage themselves pretty well.

They organize their workload and keep aligned themselves with the working team.

They can do it even remotely.

Hence, It’s essential to hire this second type of worker in a team that has to perform the job remotely.

This person does not need to be with others to properly to his task.

Effective remote teams are composed of self-motivated individuals who can complete tasks on time without being managed closely.

These workers must be engaged in communication.

They have to know that clear, detailed and continuous communication is vital for a healthy team.

They will work hard and make every effort to interact with the rest of the team every day.

In general, however, it is much easier to appear as a professional worker on the Internet than in real life.

Therefore, before hiring someone, you need to make sure of his expertise, experience and knowledge of the industry.

But how do you know if a person is really the right one for the job?

A possible and simple solution is to start with a test.

It will only take a couple of weeks to find out if the worker is valid for the project or if it is better to find another employee.

 How to manage remote working team: Communication is the key

Clear and regular communication is the key to the success of any team work.

In the case of remote teams, continuous and fluid interaction is the lifeblood.

Nowadays there are a lot of free or paid services and tools that facilitate the management of the virtual team.

Depending on the purpose of the communication and its urgency, you can choose the most suitable tool for team members.

In Twproject we have created a very popular tool for business discussions, both formal and informal: the chat.

Its use among our customers was immediately appreciated and widespread.

how to manage remote working team

The TWproject chat was designed and implemented to allow all communications to be centralized.

A single place to communicate, talk about individual projects and having the history of what happened.

And not only. In fact, it often happens that in the discussions emerged activities to be done, not planned or planned.

Here is that thanks to the TWproject chat, it’s possible to mark any message and turn it into a task / issue.

how to manage remote working team

Chatting with colleagues, even without always talking about work, certainly does not damage the process.

On the contrary, it will help people to bind themselves more closely, just like a team. It will help them feeling important for the other team members.

This is why in TWproject the chats can also be created between colleagues only.

Because if it is true that everyone likes to talk about work, it is true that sometimes you can keep the relationship even by discussing a good movie.

To improve the reading of the chats, the log of these chats is visible only by the participants.

Twproject chat is included for free on every floor. (a further money saving, beyond that of time)

So if usually, the best strategy is to have everything in one place, there are some cases where you need to use other communication tools.

This happens when situations become complicated: there are problems that must be managed “face to face”.

Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting or other video-conferencing software are essential for successful remote collaboration.

Sometimes, you need to see a person’s emotions and talk to us directly to understand how things are going.

It serves to know what is really happening on the other side.

It is also advisable to plan regular, weekly or monthly meetings.

The frequency will depend by the frequency of communication with the team.

In this way, it is possible to understand the spirit with which the collaborators are working.

It will help the Project Manager to be sure of the team’s alignment on the project objectives.

How to manage remote working team: Keeping track and reporting of progresses

The tools that are used for communication and control within the team are important. But they don’t affect the success of the project you are working on.

The success of the project in fact, always depends on the people hired and the way in which the overall work process is built.

When dealing with a remote team, the answer to a project manager question may not be immediate.

Sometimes the project manager could wait several hours before receiving an answer. This is due, for example, to a time zone difference.

This is why it is necessary to implement an easy and transparent system for tracking and reporting progress.

Every professional should have a clear vision and understanding of the step he is taking and of what will come next.

Remote team management tools such as TWproject help all team members to be on the same wave line.

They can also obtain the assistance of the right person when necessary.

These tools usually help people to:

  • stay organized;
  • plan work effectively;
  • be more productive.

Clearly defined roles, objectives and expectations help each team member to perform tasks more productively and independently.

 How to manage remote working team: The importance of feedback

Every healthy relationship is based on trust and communication.

Remote team management is no exception to this rule.

The project manager must be aware of the team’s expectations.

Collaborators in the same way, should know exactly what the project manager expects from them.

It is easy to lose motivation and “the track” when working away from the rest of the team and when communication is not excellent.

This is why building an empathic listening is essential.

A good remote team manager should not just worry about completing tasks.

It should also show genuine interest in the general well-being of team members!

how to manage remote working team

Take an interest in their job satisfaction and be alert to any further expectations.

The self-motivation of an employee is a must for remote working.

It will not last forever without proper communication, feedback and interaction.

Furthermore, even asking the team regularly for feedback is essential.

If people have been hired prepared and available, why not ask them how satisfied they are with the way things are going?

Why not ask what their ideas are on any business process improvements?

A new perspective and an idea received from the remote team can greatly improve the development of the project.

How to manage remote working team: Real Meetings

The world of technology is great and can make almost anything possible.

But we are humans, and for us “relationship” is a fundamental element.

In the age of technology, the other aspect of the coin is being shown in all its fullness.

It’s the biggest and least obvious digital disadvantage … we’re talking about loneliness.

The remote worker is alone.

And if at first, when the team is formed, it can be an opportunity to start the activities with greater concentration, in the long run this aspect can become a boomerang.

That’s why team building activities for remote teams are as important as those for people who work physically in one company.

how to manage remote working team

If the company allows it, real meetings, even if only annuals meetings, they should be done!

They are perfect for increasing cohesion and team closeness.

The connectivity that can be obtained in real life is difficult if not impossible to reproduce digitally.

Even for the project manager himself, these real meetings could be useful.

Personally meeting colleagues from different cultures will help you understand them better.

Also the overall management will be easier.

Managing remote teams is certainly a challenge.

Remotely, organizing the work process, monitoring team members’ activities, and keeping track of workflow is much more difficult than in an office.

However, the simple tips of this article will help in this task.

In this way, it will be possible to have a group of loyal, hardworking, productive and satisfied employees who will help to achieve company objectives quickly.

Have you ever involved with managing a team at a distance?

What kind of problems did you deal with? What did you like?

Tell us about your experience.

Start managing your remote working team.

Agile methodology: advantages and disadvantages of an innovative method

The Agile methodology is a project management methodology that uses short development cycles, so called “sprint”, to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service.

The key principles of the Agile methodology in the project management

The key principles that guide the project management according to the Agile methodology are 12:

  1. Customer satisfaction is always the highest priority and is achieved thanks to fast and accurate delivery;
  2. The evolution is adopted at any phase of the process;
  3. A product or service is delivered at a higher frequency;
  4. Stakeholders and developers work closely every day;
  5. All stakeholders and team members must remain motivated in order to achieve optimal project results. The teams have all the necessary tools and support to achieve the project goals;
  6. Face-to-face meetings are considered the most efficient and effective form of communication for the success of the project;
  7. A final product that is working is the final measure of success;
  8. Sustainable development is achieved through agile processes where development teams and stakeholders can maintain a constant and continuous pace;
  9. Through a continuous attention to technical excellence and correct planning, agility will be improved;
  10.  Simplicity is a fundamental feature in every phase of the project;
  11. Self-organized teams are more likely to develop the best ideas and projects and to meet the requirements;
  12. Teams make changes in behavior in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work.

The advantages of the Agile methodology

The Agile methodology was firstly developed for the software industry.

The task was to optimize and improve the development process and to try to identify and quickly correct problems and defects.

This methodology allows to provide a better output, more quickly, through short and interactive sessions / sprints.

For example, we use Twproject to manage the entire software development process, using tools such as the kanban board to manage bugs and new features.

Twproject allows us to manage things to do, manage the list, balance the load of resources, have direct contact with the customer and monitor the general progress of the entire project.

Try Twproject for free.

In the era of digital transformation, where many organizations are migrating to a digital workplace, the Agile methodology suits perfectly in companies that are looking to transform the way in which projects are managed and the way they operate as a whole.

If we consider the benefits for the company, the digital workplace and the Agile methodology provide:

  • More flexibility;
  • More productivity;
  • More transparency;
  • Products of superior quality;
  • Decreased risk of missed goals;
  • Greater involvement and satisfaction of stakeholders.
agile methodology

In the field of project management, the Agile methodology gives teams, sponsors, project managers and customers many specific advantages, including:

  • Faster implementation of solutions;
  • Waste reduction thanks to the minimization of the resources;
  • Greater flexibility and adaptability to change;
  • More success thanks to more focused efforts;
  • Faster delivery times;
  • Faster detection of problems and defects;
  • Optimized development processes;
  • A lighter/less complicated structure;
  • Excellent project control;
  • Greater attention to specific customer needs;
  • Increased collaboration frequency and feedback.

The disadvantages of Agile

As with any other methodology, even the Agile approach is not suitable for any project.

It is therefore recommended to do an adequate analysis in order to identify the best methodology to apply in every situation.

Agile may not work as expected, for example, if a client is not clear about the goals, if the project manager or the team has no experience or if they do not “work well” under pressure.

Because the Agile methodology has less formal and more flexible processes, it may not always be easily included into larger and more traditional organizations.

Here, in fact, processes, policies or teams could be rigid.

The Agile methodology is also difficult to implement when clients follow rigid processes or methods.

Furthermore, given that this methodology focuses mainly on the short term, the risk that the long-term vision will be lost does exist.

The sixth edition of the PmBok and the Agile methodology

At this point it is appropriate to make some small considerations according to the fact that the PmBok, ie the bible of Project Manager, is mainly based on the so-called “Waterfall” approach – which explains a sequential development in phases, in the life cycle of the project.

In some of these phases, the PmBok contemplates possible application of an Agile approach, provided that this is in line with the goals of the project.

The advantages of the Waterfall approach are:

  • Defined, agreed and formalized requirements;
  • Possible defects or risks are already assessed in the initial phases of the project;
  • Detailed and punctual documentation;
  • Due to the detailed project documentation, even non-expert colleagues can manage the project.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of this approach are the following:

  • Analysis and planning activities can take a long time and thus delay the actual launch of the project;
  • The requirements, as soon as they are formalized, can only be modified through another process, which – again – takes time;
  • During project development, new needs or new tools may arise that can require more flexibility.

The Agile methodology focuses mostly on optimizing the process.

agile methodology

The PmBok, and therefore the Waterfall method, focuse more on managing goals and risks and on forecasting and controlling costs.

An Agile approach works at its best in situations that have a relatively high level of uncertainty, where creativity and innovation in order to find the appropriate solution are more important than predictability.

A very simple and clear example is the research for a cure for cancer. In this case, for instance, it would be ridiculous to develop a detailed plan on the strategy to follow.

A traditional approach, such as Waterfall, works well in situations that have a relatively low level of uncertainty and where predictability, planning and control are essential.

Here the best example can be the building of a bridge that must always follow the same system.

Many project managers have seen – and still see – these two approaches as competitive with each other.

A high level of skill is needed in order to see these two approaches in a new perspective, as complementary to each other.

In fact, both methodologies are valid, but require a great interpretative capacity – beyond experience – in order to apply the correct principles in every situation.

In the development of the Twproject software, we came to a very important consideration.

Particular approaches can help to solve certain classes of problems, but they will never cover all the work activities of a company.

Therefore, it would be extremely non-agile to have a specific software for “agile” projects, and one for others.

And even “agile” projects can present many variations, which will fit into the agile metaphor at different stages, and hardly in a single “software model”.

Therefore we have reached a basic assumption: agility is in the methodology, not in software.

Innovation projects have to be agile and are often financed by grants. Twproject reduces the overhead associated with time recording and makes it faster to collect data

A software should be flexible enough to let you map projects, tasks, issues, to people and customers, in endless ways, but so that all data from different projects and methodologies are collected in the same place.

For this reason, we made Twproject a real project management tool, regardless of the chosen approach.

Try Twproject now and see it for yourself, you have a 15-day free trial!

Start managing your projects.

Project Stakeholders

Who are the stakeholders? When we read the title, this is the first question that comes to mind.

If we take the definition of the PMBok, a stakeholder is an individual, a group or an organization that can influence or can be influenced (or perceive itself being influenced) by a decision, activity or result of a project.

Shortly, a stakeholder is a person, a group of people, or an organization that has an interest in the project or is influenced – directly or indirectly – by its result.

This can include, for example, project team members, project sponsors, members of the organization, and people outside the organization.

But let’s try to analyze all the aspects that can be of interest of the subjects directly or indirectly involved in a project and the evaluations and actions that inevitably are in the hands of the Project Manager.

Project stakeholders: interests and necessities

In a certain manner, a stakeholder has an interest in the outcome of the project.

It is therefore essential to identify all the stakeholders in a project, and it would be trivial to say the reasons.

The identification of the stakeholders must be done from the beginning of the planning phase in order to create a strategy to manage them.

This will help in managing the project with minimal obstruction from them. The sooner the stakeholers are identified, the sooner we can start to communicate and to involve them in project decisions.

In this way, they will feel a connection to the project. They will be able to understand the benefits and they will support the project manager everytime he needs it.

The project is successful, if all the stakeholders are happy and satisfied with the result.

It may happen that even if the project is complete and all the deliverables have been accepted by the client, the project is not successfully completed because some stakeholders are not completely satisfied.

Therefore, in order to successfully complete a project, it is very important that a project manager can keep all stakeholders satisfied.

Normally, if the project is simple, the list of project stakeholders is probably small.

However, if the project is more complex and perhaps spread across a large geographic area, it is possible that the number of stakeholders is huge.

In a big project, in fact, project stakeholders can also be communities or the general public.

The important thing is to keep in mind that the stakeholders are not all the same.

Every stakeholder has different needs and expectations.

So, each stakeholder must be treated according to its needs and expectations.

Not doing it can compromise the success of the project.

For this reason, knowing all the stakeholders, their needs, expectations and requirements will increase the chances of success of the project.

project stakeholders

If we forget or disregard an important stakeholder, this could lead to difficulties in the later phases of the project.

The Project could suffer: delays, cost overruns and, in the most serious cases, the closure of the project itself.

Type of Stakeholder

Project stakeholders can be divided into two categories:

  • Internal stakeholders;
  • External stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders are directly within the organization. For example:

  • A sponsor;
  • An internal client (if the project arose because of an internal need of the organization);
  • A project team;
  • A project manager;
  • A portfolio manager;
  • A manager of another department of the organization (for example, trade manager, administrative manager, ecc.).

On the other hand, external stakeholders are external to the organization. For example:

  • An external client (the “standard” type of clients);
  • An end user of the project result;
  • A supplier;
  • A subcontractor;
  • The government;
  • Local communities;
  • Media.

Moreover, stakeholders can be positive and negative.

A positive stakeholder sees the positive side of the project and benefits from its success.

These help the project management team to complete the project successfully.

On the other hand, a negative stakeholder sees the negative result of the project and can be negatively influenced by the project or its outcome.

This type of stakeholder is less inclined to help.

Perhaps we will appear boring, but it is fundamental to understand the importance of identifying the project stakeholders in the early pahses of the project.

It is also necessary to note down the details, requirements, expectations, power and influence on the project in the stakeholder register.

Some of these stakeholders will have a minimal interest or just a relative influence on the project.

However, the project manager must also take care of them.

Indeed, you can never know when secondary stakeholders can become the dominant stakeholders and if the dominant stakeholders become less influential.

The register of Stakeholders

After having identified all the stakeholders, their information will be recorded in a so-called stakeholder register.

This register is a project management document that will contain all the aforementioned information.

In this document all the people, groups and organizations that have any kind of interest or involvement in the project will be identified.

Here we can find the names, titles, roles, interests, requirements, expectations, type of influence, etc. of each one of them.

The stakeholder register will be created as soon as the project statute is signed.

project stakeholders

Doing this in the first stage of the project will help complete the project with minimal effort.

Once the register is created and all the stakeholders are listed, a strategy to manage them will be easily drafted.

The contents of the Stakeholder register

Usually, the stakeholder register contains three types of information about each stakeholder:

  • Identification;
  • Evaluation;
  • Classification.

In some cases, the register can also contain the stakeholder management strategy.

In the first section, we will have the following information:

  • Name;
  • Title;
  • Contact information;
  • Role in the project / organization.

In the second section about the evaluation of the stakeholders, we will have:

  • Stakeholders requirements;
  • Communication necessities;
  • Communication frequency;
  • Expectations;
  • Influence on the project;
  • Interests and power.

The last section will classify the stakeholders on the basis of various criteria.

They can be divided according to their power and interest in the project, whether high, medium or low.

It is also possible to assign other attributes to the stakeholders, for example, if a stakeholder is internal, external, positive, a supporter, a resistor or a neutral stakeholder.

After completing the evaluation, it is possible to edit the stakeholder management strategy.

This strategy will help to interact with each one of them based on individual needs, influence and interest in the project.

The stakeholder register must be kept up to date throughout the project life cycle.

While the project goes on, it will be possible to identify new stakeholders or it can happen that other stakeholders should no longer be considered. The register should be therefore contain these changes.

Moreover, during the project life cycle, the interest or power of one or more stakeholders could change. This must also be duly noted in the register.

As it appears clear, the identification of stakeholders is a continuous process. This is why the stakeholder register must be considered an “open” document during the entire life cycle of the project.

Because this registry contains names, e-mails, classifications, and management strategies, it may not be shown to everyone.

It is therefore necessary to keep this document in a safe place with limit access.

Every project manager must therefore remember to always take the project stakeholders into consideration.

In fact, a deficiency in this sense could have serious and negative repercussions on the whole project.

Have you ever had any difficulty in identifying one or more project stakeholders?

What are your experiences?

Leave us your comment.

Identify the stakeholders of your project.

Leadership skills of the Project Manager: the key elements of the role

The leadership of a project, in very few words, is the act of guiding a team towards the completion of a project.

It is obvious that it is a simplistic definition and that the true meaning of Leadership in a project is much more than that.

It is about obtaining something well done through other people who, in turn, are happy to have done it.

Leadership is a soft ability; part art, part science

Everyone is obsessed with this topic, from professionals to companies.

It represents an important – and necessary – quality for a project manager.

We have been asked the following.

Can everyone be a Leader?

Can leadership be learned and taught or is it an innate talent?

This is still an open point on which there are discussions.

But one thing is certain: successful leadership can be monitored and studied.

Different leadership styles

If we analyze the management style of everyone involved in a project, we can find different ways in which project managers try to reach goals and set their job.

Most of these differences are based on the personality of the professional and on the style of leadership.

We tried to reproduce these differences graphically and this is how the Project Leadership Matrix was born, which you can see below.

leadership skills

It’s a tool that says what kind of leader you are, and with this knowledge it is possible to correct or change the style to become a better leader.

This matrix divides the leadership into four main types:

  1. Reactive people leadership;
  2. Reactive task management;
  3. Proactive people leadership;
  4. Proactive task management.

It is unlikely that a project manager fits perfectly in a single quadrant.

It is much more likely that every Project Manager is a mixture of two or more leadership styles.

However, in general, the best project managers are those who emphasize a proactive leadership style.

It is important to remember, though it may seem obvious, that people are not like activities.

Managers are often more comfortable with processes and methodologies, rather than with human beings.

However, the work is not done by automata and treating the team, which is made up of human beings, in an abstract and cold way means risking the disaster.

Here is where excellent project leadership must come. As a leader, the goal is to inspire and empower the team.

Planning, monitoring and reporting are certainly fundamental for the construction of a project, but the morale of the collaborators may not be quantifiable like a milestone on a timeline.

How (as project manager) do I become a GOOD project manager?

Knowing what good project leadership means leads to the inevitable question: how is it possible to apply this concept to reality in order to become a good project manager?

The aspects that many – excellent – leaders share are the following:

  1. Keep the focus on the goal;
  2. They are aware;
  3. They create solutions;
  4. They are analysts;
  5. They can evaluate the risks;
  6. They can generate a sense of urgency when necessary;
  7. They are perspicacious;
  8. They promote cohesion among collaborators;
  9. They motivate the team;
  10. They reach results.

These represent ten pillars on which it is possible to build a good leadership.

Leadership is difficult to teach through books, videos and courses.

Of course, you can learn the basics by reading, but the “practice” at work is another story.

What does the sixth edition of PmBok on leadership say?

It can be more difficult to manage a team, and a project in general, through leadership rather than authority.

However, leadership is usually more effective because it is built on trust and respect.

Leadership is particularly important at the beginning of a project to define the vision, communicate it to the team and start this necessary relationship of trust and respect.

This let all employees take part in the project objectives.

Good leadership skills will also keep the collaborators inspired and motivated to do their best.

In order to be a project manager with good leadership skills, it is important to recognize situations and select the appropriate action.

The PmBok summarizes the leadership as:

  • Lead team members and stakeholders towards a common project goal;
  • Doing things “through” the project team members;
  • Manage with respect and trust;
  • Communicate with, motivate and inspire the team;
  • Maintain the vision, strategy and communication of project performance;
  • Evaluate the performance of the project team.

Communication is the key

Clear communication is the most valuable tool that a project manager has.

Clear communication not only with the team, but also with the possible leaders and with all the stakeholders.

This quality is probably what firstly characterizes a good leader.

Communication is not only a means through which needs and desires can be explained but, if used correctly, it clearly transmits to the team what are the expected objectives, the requirements and the limits to respect.

This allows everyone to act correctly in an autonomous way.

The more team members know, the more they can act autonomously and make the right choices.

To ensure that communication skills are clear, a simple pattern, both for written as well as spoken communications, can be followed:

  • First of all, communication has to be compelling, as the message must arouse interest and involvement in the topic.
  • Secondly, commication must be persuasive. If you are not able to influence the person with whom you are communicating, you will not be able to change her/his way of thinking or her/his habits.
  • Finally, communication must be powerful. This means that we need to communicate effectively and efficiently. The correct result of communication should be the action.

Leadership for a project manager is a term probably easy to describe but represents a goal to pursue and to try to achieve throughout the whole working life.

What kind of leader are you?

Which are the most difficult aspects for you in the field of leadership?

Tell us about your experience.

Increase your leadership skills.

How to apply the Kanban method to project management

The Kanban method was developed as a methodology to improve production efficiency.

The Japanese word “Kanban” means “billboard” in English and it was born in the company of Toyota, in Japan.

Today this method is widely used.

Nowadays, the Kanban method is not only used as a planning system for lean production, but also in Agile projects in order to manage the backlog of activities.

Actually, thanks to the popularity of Kanban, there are now countless project management tools that follow this method. The goal is to help people plan and prioritize.

The advantages of this method are different.

Kanban cards work like visual panels with virtual notes that can be added.

These notes can be moved to organize the order of activities or in order to prioritize the things to do.

Kanban is often used by software house to manage bug status. We use for example Twproject, to change status and priority to all our new features inserted in every releases.

Therefore, Twproject enables more flexible planning options, a quickier output, as well as more carefullness and transparency throughout the project life cycle.

Try Twproject for free now

The Toyota company, where this system was first implemented, has created six rules that permit to apply the Kanban method to the production process.

Today, people and project managers of the most different sectors use the Kanban method for planning and managing activities and their priorities.

In fact, Kanban is a structured process of prioritization.

What is a Kanban Board?

A Kanban Board is like a blackboard.

A space in which Kanban cards  stand for the individual activities that have to performed and are categorized based on priority and delivery.

Nowadays, Kanban cards are used mainly as online softwares, or in some cases are directly integrated in more complex project management softwares.

In general, they allow to track the work flow not only of a team, but also of the single collaborators.

It is particularly used by the software development teams that follow the Agile methodology.

It is used to define user history and the activity priorities in the backlog or as a collaboration tool for innovation.

If we consider the most basic (and more structured) form, the Kanban card can be divided into three levels:

  • Work/activity in standby;
  • Work/activity in progress;
  • Work/activity completed;

Obviously, the complexity of the card depends on the goal of the project.

As every task is completed, team members move Kanban cards through the different sections of the board.

Kanban cards allow to:

  • Visualize the workflow;
  • Limit the number of activities in progress;
  • Move an activity from one section to another;
  • Monitor, adapt, and improve the process.

What are Kanban cards?

The Kanban method can be considerated as a system of knowledge and the cards permit to represent each singular object of work or activity.

Each Kanban card includes the critical data for the specific activity to which it refers.

The cards have different colors that indicate the type of task performed.

Different colors can also refer to other distinctions that have been agreed upon at the beginning of the project.

Some of the ways a Kanban card helps teams and project managers: 

  • Quick understanding of the details of every activity/task;
  • Easy communication within the team;
  • Information on documents;
  • Support with the future workflow.

How to use the Kanban method in project management

In order to manage different projects in an efficient and productive way, different methodologies are required.

In general, the Kanban method is an excellent tool for planning the project and prioritizing the activities.

It can increase team efficiency, optimize time management, as well as allow a more fluid and simple overall project management.

It is also excellent for supporting with resource allocation, workflow management and waste reduction.

Here is why in more detail:

Use the Kanban method to: Assign resources

The first step is to create the activities and then assign them to a team member.

It’s fundamental to make sure that the right people are working on the right job in the proper manner.

This will help to correctly manage the work, without blocking any other member of the team or delaying production.

Everytime a new project activity is added into the workflow, the right resource can be assigned to it in a easy and quick way.

Use the Kanban method to: Workflow management

The Kanban method is a perfect tool that allows to visualize the workflow of any project.

The workflow is a sequential series of activities and the Kanban card with its visual representation makes everything more understandable.

Kanban method

Thanks to the observation on how activities are related, collaboration within the team will be promoted and at the same time greater efficiency and productivity can be achieved.

Use the Kanban method to: Reduce waste

The reduction of waste, whether of resources or costs in general, is not only the rule of a lean system.

Every project manager is interested in obtaining results in this sense.

Kanban cards help in the identification of a probable expensive process.

Something that does not work as planned, an overproduction or a situation where team members are blocking the workflow are easily detectable.

The big advantage lies in detecting these factors before they become problems.

There is no limit to the number of cards, integrations and workflow management that the Kanban method allows.

This method can work not only in a small company with a single office, but also in a multinational company with offices all around the world.

The Kanban method in the software

The common thread that permits to use all the advantages of this method is a project management software.

For this reason, we added in Twproject the Kanban functionality in order to organize the to-do-list of the project.

The ToDo that in Twproject are used as cards can be easily managed with the Kanban multi-dimensional of TWproject.

Indeed, it allows to organize them in a fully visual way.

It is possible to move them and organize them by task, assignee, status or severity degree.

Shortly, a very flexible multi-dimensional Kanban.

Do you also use the Kanban method for your projects?

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Project risk analysis

The project risk analysis or risk management,  is the process of identification, analysis and response to any risk that occurs during the life cycle of a project.

Analyzing the risks that may lie behind the execution of a project, predicting the possible obstacles and having a vision of the solutions in advance is certainly vital for any project.

It serves to help the latter stay on track and reach his goal.

But risk management can not and must not be just an action in response to something.

It should itself be part of the project planning process, in its evaluation phase.

In fact, during the planning of the project, the potential risks should be assessed and, obviously, also the possible solutions in order to manage these risks should be evaluated.

But what does “risk” mean?

A risk is anything that could potentially affect the timing, performance or budget of the project.

Risks are considered as potentialities and, in a project management context, if they become reality, they are classified as “problems“, which must be addressed accordingly.

Thus, risk management is the process of identification, categorization, prioritization and risk planning before they become problems.

Risk management can be managed differently depending on the project and its scope.

If it is a large-scale project, for example, risk management strategies could include detailed planning for each risk.

This is to ensure that mitigation strategies are activated in case of problems.

For smaller projects, risk management could mean a simple and prioritized list of high, medium and low priority risks.

Project risk analysis: How to identify risk

To begin with, a clear and precise definition of what the project will have to produce, the objectives and the final results is essential.

In this way the risks can be identified at every stage of the project, even with the help of the team.

Some companies and industries develop risk control lists based on past project experience.

The team’s past experience, the project experience within the company and industry experts can be valuable resources to identify potential risks on a project.

Project risk analysis

Identifying the sources of risk by category is a possible method to explore the potential risk of a project.

Some examples of categories for potential risks include the following:

  • Technology;
  • Costs;
  • Timing;
  • Clients;
  • Contracts;
  • Financial situation;
  • Political situation;
  • Environmental situation;
  • Persons.

Each defined risk must then be included in the risk monitoring model and marked by its priority

Consequently, a risk plan that shows the impacts on the project, both negative and positive, must be created, as well as the actions to use and implement in order to manage the problem.

In the context of risk management, it is also important to maintain regular communication with the team throughout the project.

Transparency is fundamental, so that everyone knows what elements to take into account to recognize and react to a problem.

Project risk analysis: Risk assessment

After identifying potential risks, the project manager, with the help of the team, assesses the risk based on the probability of occurrence and the potential loss associated with the event.

Not all risks are the same.

Some risk events are more likely to happen than others, and even the cost of a risk can vary greatly.

Therefore, evaluating the probability that the risk presents itself and the concrete repercussions on the project are the next step in the risk analysis.

Having criteria for determining high-impact risks can help narrow attention to certain specific and more critical risks to the project.

For example, suppose it is established that high-impact risks are those that could increase project costs by 5%.

Only a few potential risk events will satisfy this criterion.

These are therefore potential risk events on which the project team should focus on creating a mitigation plan.

The probability and impact of risk are both classified as high, medium or low.

A risk mitigation plan normally concerns events that have high results on both factors.

There is a positive correlation between the risk of the project and the complexity of the project.

In the case of highly complex projects, an external expert can be included in the risk assessment process and the risk assessment plan can take on a more prominent role in the project implementation plan.

Project risk analysis

Project risk analysis: Risk mitigation plan

After the risk has been identified and assessed, the project manager with the team develops a risk mitigation plan, a plan to reduce the impact of an unforeseen event.

The risk can be mitigated in the following ways:

  • Risk avoidance: it usually involves the development of an alternative strategy with a greater probability of success, but usually linked to a higher cost;
  • Sharing risk: involves collaboration with other stakeholders, in order to share responsibility for activities at risk;
  • Risk reduction: it is an investment to reduce the risk on a project. For example, hire and rely on consultants to take care of high-risk activities;
  • Risk transfer: it is a risk reduction method that shifts the risk from the project to another part. For example, the purchase of insurance on certain items is a method of transferring risk. In fact, the risk is transferred from the project to the insurance company.

Each of these mitigation techniques can be an effective tool to reduce individual risks and the overall risk profile of the project.

As far as the project manager is concerned, not everyone conducts a formal risk assessment on the project.

The lack of formal risk management tools has also been seen as an obstacle to the implementation of a risk management plan.

In addition, the project manager’s personality and management style differentiate the approach to risk.

Some project managers are more proactive and will develop risk management programs for their projects.

Other managers are reactive and are more confident in their ability to handle unexpected events when they occur.

Others, on the other hand, are risk averse and prefer to be optimistic and not consider risks or avoid taking risks when possible.

Whatever the case, the ability to accurately analyze the risks of a project must fall within the skills and tasks of a project manager.

In any project, a proper risk assessment becomes fundamental to a successful plan.

What about you? What kind of project manager are you? How do you manage potential risks?

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The digital project manager: when the project meets the web

What is the Digital Project Manager? It is quickly explained!

Nowadays, our routine goes in parallel with the digital world, we are connected 24 hours a day and – almost – anything is possible thanks to the Internet.

The work itself is largely digital.

For these reasons, the figure of the digital project manager is born, a specialist who knows the online business and knows the modern tools for managing online projects.

A digital project manager is not so different from a traditional project manager.

Even a digital project manager, in fact, manages tasks related to projects, such as the planning of the project, the communication with stakeholders, the management of the team and, of course, the delivery of projects within the deadline and without exceeding the given budget.

The difference is that they work in the digital space.

digital project manager

A digital space that is growing day by day and that offers ever more performing instruments.

One might think of the digital project manager as an exclusive figure for high-tech and software companies, but this is not the case.

Digital impregnates our lives, we are increasingly connected and this hyper-connectivity and hypertechnology becomes more “normal” every day.

Almost all commercial companies now have an online presence, that they try to improve and take care of.

Many people are beginning to understand that the presence on the web is no less important than a physical presence, like a branch of the company or the company itself.

This is the work space in which the digital project manager moves: a space of innovation, but no longer futuristic.

His figure is every day more requested by the market and its importance in a company that faces the web or intends to improve its online presence is increasingly essential.

Any company that pushes sales through its website, through search engine optimization, newsletters, social media marketing and copywriting may want to seek the help of a digital project manager.

The digital project manager: What does he exactly do?

The projects of a digital project manager work similarly to any other project, but we can find subtle differences.

Digital project management usually follows these five steps:

  1. Discovery: the idea generation stage, in which new concepts or new technologies are explored, solutions are identified and risks assessed;
  2. Project planning;
  3. Production: work in concrete;
  4. Distribution: that is, the work of evaluating and analyzing the product of the project, for example, a social media marketing campaign;
  5. Maintenance: the digital project rarely has a definitive ending, but remains open for corrections and re-elaborations throughout its life. For example, a social media marketing campaign, while active, can be directed to another target audience, can be modified in the image, etc. depending on the results of the data analysis.

The digital project manager will assess the risks, plan the work and coordinate the tasks, direct the team and maintain the project “on time”.

He is also involved in the business development process that will go hand in hand with the brand and business development on the web.

In addition to managing the team and the project, these new digital managers have to deal directly or indirectly with customers and their needs.

Indeed, their relationship with the customer could have more influence than that of the sales team.

In fact, they will collect the “humor” of the customers, perceive their desires and direct the company management towards choices that could prove decisive for the business development.

What are the tools and skills required to be a good Digital Project Manager?

The set of skills and competences required for a digital project manager will be slightly different than those of the traditional project manager.

We can list the following:

  • CMS – Content Management System: software that allows the management of web content, without the need to use the webmaster. These changes can be made directly by the digital project manager, thus freeing developers who can concentrate on more complicated tasks;
  • Information Architecture: structure and categorization of information, content and digital processes;
  • Analytics: digital project managers need to know how to analyze and use data collected from tools such as Google Analytics. The data obtained are in fact fundamental for understanding and correcting the performance of the website;
  • HTML: this competence allows the digital project manager to perform some programming jobs personally, allowing developers to concentrate on more complex tasks;
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): being able to position your website in the first results of Google and search engines in general is crucial for online success. The digital project manager must know all the SEO tools that allow to promote the site in the best possible way;
  • Social media: these are used by a company mainly to drive traffic to their site and to improve brand awareness and online reputation. Knowing platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is therefore essential for a digital project manager.

Job Description

Digital project managers are responsible for managing digital projects, which may include, for example, the launching of websites, online tools, applications for mobile devices, social media advertising campaigns and more.

They are experts in technology and innovation, with a deep knowledge of how technology works in order to achieve business objectives.

Digital project managers are methodical, have excellent time management and communication skills, both personal and online, and effectively manage projects respecting the requirements of quality, time and budget.

This involves drafting supporting documentation, such as risk analysis and plan and requirements specifications, to ensure that actual progress is in line with planned progress.

Digital project managers highlight risks and develop plans to tackle, stem and proactively solve these problems when and if they occur during the project life cycle.

In addition to risk management, they will also always be looking for business opportunities to explore in new potential projects.

Another task includes the creation of effective communication channels with the team and with stakeholders.

Gaining consensus on the project and ensuring that all the activities delegated to them are clear is one of their main objectives.

A digital project manager must also have great adaptability.

The digital space can present big changes every day and without warning and flexibility and a high spirit of adaptation are therefore fundamental.

Last but not least, the digital project manager must possess a technical and marketing language, but at the same time must understand and speak the language of the people of the web.

Speaking the right “language” will help the digital project manager better understand what online customers say, in order to contribute to the conversation and effectively communicate messages to others.

Are you a digital project manager? What are your digital projects?

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7 tips on how to manage winning projects

The success of any project depends on the ability of a project manager to have a specific methodical approach to each project.

The approach must be in line with the needs of the client and with the strengths of his team.

In order to manage a winning project, it is essential to create an effective working structure that is not a task that anyone is able to do.

Of course, most project managers know that workflow management, like any other tool that contributes to project management success, is important, but how to do it properly is often not so obvious.

Any project manager knows that the best project management tips and tricks come with time, with experience, but also with the advice of more experienced project managers.

Therefore, today we want to give you 7 valuable tips for managing winning projects.

How to manage winning projects: Plan the day using time management techniques

For a project manager, time management skills are essential because we are dealing with a series of activities that often require rapid response times.

Planning the day will therefore be essential to maintain the overall organization and increase productivity.

For the planning of the activities there are appropriate project management software that can be a valuable help and that allows to keep track of the work done.

If you are not very tech savvy, even a simple to-do list, ordered by priority, can be a good organizational tool.

how to manage winning projects

The most important and priority tasks will therefore be placed at the top of the list, while the less important ones at the bottom. Another idea is also to use different colors depending on the urgency of the activity.

Having a visual plan of daily activities helps to have a general picture. It helps to be aware of how to manage time for each specific task and for each individual resource.

As a visual tool we can only recommend the use of Gantt charts.

How to manage winning projects: Include stakeholders in important decisions

Despite having many responsibilities regarding the project, the project manager must never forget customers and stakeholders.

Good communication in a project is essential to keep the parties informed about the progression of the project and the need for program changes.

Some customers may have different expectations when it comes to communication, so already in the planning phase of a project, it is important to establish the frequency and the communication system to be used, which can be e-mails, phone calls, meetings, etc.

Establishing communication expectations in advance helps alleviate the uncertainty of stakeholders on the frequency and on the arrival of communications.

In addition, it can also help the project manager set the limits for when he is free to talk about the project and when he can consider himself too busy to have a conversation – unless it is an emergency.

How to manage winning projects: Communicate regularly with the team

Daily communication with the team helps to control misunderstandings and unclear needs.

Keeping your team informed at every stage of the project is essential for successful project management.

Good communication skills are a cornerstone of project management.

In other words, clear and frequent communication positively influences the way in which team members see their project manager as a leader, helps to control product quality and project duration, as well as foster risk management.

how to manage winning projects

Furthermore, a study published by Procedia Technology found that some methods of communication are more effective than others.

The researchers found that communication works best in the following order, from the most to the least effective:

  1. Electronic communication (with the right tools);
  2. Written communication;
  3. Verbal communication;
  4. Visual communication;
  5. Non-verbal communication.

How to manage winning projects: Anticipate the possible deadlock situations of the project

Even the best plans can go wrong. Even with a high level of planning and attention to detail, the project could still encounter some difficulties.

Paying attention to complaints from stakeholders or colleagues and other warning signs, such as a deadline or a cost overrun, is crucial.

Preventing a crisis will allow the project to continue without too many hitches, saving a lot of time and maintaining a cohesion among team, stakeholders and the project manager.

Unfortunately, not all complications can be avoided. Crisis management capabilities are essential to tackle the unexpected.

Project managers must be flexible and pragmatic, improvise and make precise decisions when needed.

How to manage winning projects: Know your limits as a project manager

Many projects are destined to fail from the beginning due to unrealistic expectations (you can see how can

Managing project expectations.

Establishing impossible deadlines or assigning too much work to team members will undoubtedly lead to untidy jobs and often to failure to meet deadlines.

Errors and delays in the work can direct the project towards failure, necessitating adjustment and “patching” work, extension of the calendar and going to undermine the trust of the stakeholders and of the team itself.

Taking the time to get to know the team you work with, will help you understand each person’s strengths and weaknesses and then assign the right tasks.

Delegating tasks to the right person is very important, because success depends on how team members can and are able to perform their tasks.

How to manage winning projects: Stay focused on the details

A common problem encountered by project managers is that project goals are not in line with business objectives.

A good project manager will define a strategic plan for the project that will bring the company back to success.

It’s too easy to get lost in minor details and forget what the goal is, so a well planned project goal is essential to success.

Having a fixed deadline and budget will help maintain a project structure, marked by milestones and a written list of requirements.

How to manage winning projects: Be updated on the latest project management trends

Upskilling is very useful, if not essential, for project management.

Unfortunately, with the high workload and stress of full-time work, it can be difficult to find the time to attend training or refresher courses.

On the other hand, there are many project management courses that are conducted online and most companies will be happy to reimburse their cost.

Professional development should never stop. The workforce is constantly changing, adding new tools and project management roles that did not exist until a few years ago.

To conclude, a project manager must be an expert in leadership, communication and organizational skills.

With the high workload and stress, it is essential to have the necessary skills to reach every goal.

Remaining responsible and aware of all aspects of the project will lead to success.

What are your suggestions for managing winning projects?

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Gantt charts for a project: productive advantage or disadvantage?

Gantt charts for projects are the essential weapon of the Project Manager, but they can be extremely useful and effective even for anyone who wants to organize their activities in a structured way.

This planning tool appeared in the early twentieth century and has since been widely used for project planning.

The main reason for the success of the Gantt charts is their simplicity and the focus on the quick visualization of the activities.

Gantt charts are also an excellent way to plan the project in a temporal way, allowing to define roles, responsibilities and effective use of resources.

In fact, they provide an immediate vision of how the project is developed and structured and act as a guideline to the end.

What is a Gantt chart?

The Gantt chart, also called scheduled bar chart, is a tool used to plan a set of activities that, generally, are part of a single, more complex project.

On the horizontal axis there is the time span, whose unit of measurement depends on the project calendar – days, weeks, months, etc. – while on the vertical axis we find the list of the various activities.

Each task is represented by a colored bar that goes from the start date to the end of the activity.

Once all the activities have been inserted, there is a visual scheme of how the project is structured, which tasks come first, which ones overlap and which ones happen later.

The resources that carry out every single activity are easily identifiable.

With such a graphic structure, it is easy to understand, at first glance, if the processes are taking place on schedule and if the progress of the project is in line with the shedulated deadline.

Gantt charts

Many software have, in the Gantt, their sore point because the Gantt is not very effective or even non-existent.

Only some software, including TWProject, allow not only to obtain a Gantt chart of the project that is easy to read, but also to get even more details, indicating for example:

  • who is the resource assigned to a given activity;
  • if the resource works full-time or part-time;
  • how much work has been done and remains to be done;
  • the cost associated with each activity.

What are the advantages of the Gantt chart?

As a company we are convinced that the Gantt chart, if well structured and managed, can bring various benefits to the management of a project.

Here is a list of advantages that this system inevitably presents.

The Advantages of Gantt: Visualization

The Gantt chart allows to clearly visualize the workflow and the project structure.

When we insert the various tasks, or analyze the schema after inserting them, we can immediately realize any inconsistencies.

The linear scheme allows you to understand in advance if you will be faced with potential organizational or technical problems and allows you to prepare in advance.

The distribution of the activities allows to identify the intermediate goals and to understand if the project is in line with the schedule or not.

The Advantages of Gantt: Flexibility

As already mentioned, an advantage of the Gantt chart is to clearly show the start and end date of a given activity.

The timing of each task will be set after a direct comparison with the managers of each sector, in order to have a realistic value.

For this reason, the Gantt chart is also useful for the feasibility analysis of a project.

Once the entire project structure is set up, it makes no sense to run to complete certain steps before the set date – unless there is really a valid reason – as this may be reflected in the lack of completeness and / or accuracy.

If you have agreed on a certain date speaking to the direct responsible, it means that this is the time necessary to carry out the work correctly and completely.

Forcing time would affect the quality of work.

Create your Gantt now

In Twproject you will find a simple, fast and intuitive editor, and once you have created your project Twproject will follow you in its development with all the essential features for the Project Manager.

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The Advantages of Gantt: Efficiency

These charts allow an intelligent and effective use of resources.

It becomes really difficult for the resources to be reliable when they are grappling with too many processes and find themselves submerged.

All conflicts and problems that follow an overload of tasks can lead to a definitive blockage of the whole project and, inevitably, to its failure.

Using Gantt charts as a project planning tool gives you an overview of the project timeline so you can easily see where and when a particular resource is used.

So, it is possible to allocate resources in such a way that the activies are not slowed down or blocked.

Once a process is finished, you can transfer the resource to another activity.

The Advantages of Gantt: Motivation

Gantt charts are great for morale!

Probably we all had those days where we felt completely lost and submerged from work and projects and we could no longer see the direction in which we were going.

In this case, the Gantt chart can be a valid psychological aid.

Looking at the diagram, in fact, you can immediately see how activities are taking place and how each process leads to the completion of the entire project.

It is a very effective method to raise morale and motivate the team.

Moreover, seeing the achievement of a goal – however small it may be – is still a gratification. It allows to concentrate, step by step, on the different blocks of activity without feeling disoriented by a project that can be long and complex.

The Advantages of Gantt: Communication

Gantt charts are not just a useful tool for planning the project.

Team members can use these diagrams to see where they are in the project, what they need to complete certain tasks and the inputs they need.

The project diagram shows them exactly who they should contact and who they should collaborate with during each phase.

This makes them able to communicate better not only with each other, but also with the Project Manager.

Thanks to the Gantt charts, it is also possible to help improve cohesion, communication and understanding of and in the team.

Twproject includes an interactive Gantt that allows us to punctually assign resources to each phase. Thanks to this approach, we can monitor the progress of the project in all its parts with full transparency.

The aspects (disadvantages) of the Gantt chart to keep under control!

As with any high performance tool, even for the Gantt Chart, there are some aspects to monitor.

Aspects that if not properly managed could result in real disadvantages.

Let’s list briefly the aspects to pay attention to, so that everyone can make his evaluations:

  • It can become extraordinarily complex. Except for the simplest projects, a Gantt chart will present a large number of activities and resources used to complete the project. There are special software that can handle all this complexity. However, when the project reaches this level, it must be managed by a small number of people, or often by one, able to handle all the details. Large companies often employ one or more prepared Project Managers. In companies not used to this type of management, this may not work as it should.
  • The size of the bar does not indicate the amount of work. Each bar on the graph indicates the period of time in which a given activity will be completed. However, by observing the bar, it is not possible to determine what level of resources is needed to complete these tasks. For example, a short bar could take 500 hours, while a longer bar could take only 20 hours.
  • The length of a bar in fact indicates the timing of a given activity and not its complexity in terms of working hours.
  • It must be constantly updated. After starting the project, things can change. If you use a Gantt chart, you need to be able to change the chart easily and frequently.
  • Difficult to see on a single sheet of paper. The software that allows you to manage these graphics are mostly suited to a computer screen and are not meant to be printed. It therefore becomes difficult to show the details of the plan to a broad audience. It is certainly possible to print the chart, but this normally involves a job of “cutting and pasting” of the individual pieces, rather expensive in terms of time.

All in all, the biggest advantage of the Gantt chart is the pure simplicity and the clear overview of the activities and their duration.

This makes it ideal for projects where facilitated access to all relevant information is required and where these should be easily understood by all those involved in the project.

In fact, we have built an instrument capable of modeling situations in real time and that can easily be modified over time.

This is why we thought of an evolution of the TWProject Gantt.

Twproject’s focus is to capture the work done in real time, to guide the Project Manager during the entire project development.

Our customers’ experience in this direction encourages us by providing us with guidance in future development.

Now it’s your turn, create your Gantt with Twproject now!

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The sixth edition of PMbok

General overview and differences from the fifth edition

At the end of 2017, the sixth edition of the PMbok was published. 

Let’s start from the base: what is the PMbok?

It is the Project Management Body of Knowledge, a guide, published by the Project Management Institute – PMI, which aims to document, gather and standardize the practices generally used and recognized in project management.

“Generally recognized” practices means the ones that can be applied to most projects and on which there is a widespread consensus on their value and usefulness.

This means that sometimes the latest project management trends promoted by some consultants, even if interesting from an evolutionary point of view, may not be part of the latest version of the PMbok, because they are not “generally recognized” practices.

The PMbok made its debut in 1987 and it has evolved over the years, up to the current sixth edition of 2017.

But which are the PMbok changes from the fifth edition to the current one?

Let’s summarize the differencies in this article.

PMBOK sixth edition: Increase of total chapters

In the fifth edition of PMbok five groups of processes were listed:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring and Control
  5. Closing

The number of processes remain unchanged in the sixth edition, but what changes is the number of sub-processes within each process.

Furthermore, in the fifth edition there were a total of 13 chapters. In the sixth edition we find instead a new chapter that deals with the role of the project manager and its functions.

In addition to this, the skills and competences that a project manager must possess are now aligned with the so-called Triangle of Talent.

It is not enough to have technical skills, but due to the dynamism of the working environment and the evolutionary trends in the sector, it is necessary that the project manager possesses also additional skills. The most relevant include:

 

  • Strategic and corporate management: It is necessary to understand the progress and the functioning of the company business in order to adapt the project to it. The project manager must therefore possess the skills to analyze the competition, the market, know the legal implications, business models, etc.
  • Leadership skills: In the fifth edition of the PMbok, this skill is already explained, but the new edition gives it more emphasis. Among the leadership skills, we find emotional intelligence, problem solving, team building and the ability to influence and motivate the team;
  • Technical skills: This refers mainly to the sector in which a person works and the specific skills required for the project.

 The sixth edition of the PMbok: The knowledge areas

In the fifth edition of PMbok 10 areas of knowledge were listed.

These still remain in the sixth edition, but two appear with new names, as specified in the following list:

  1. Integration Management
  2. Scope Management
  3. Time Management is replaced by Schedule Management
  4. Cost Management
  5. Quality Management
  6. Human Resource Management is replaced by Resource Management
  7. Communications Management
  8. Risk Management
  9. Procurement Management
  10. Stakeholder Management

Why these two changes?

The new term Resource Management refers not only to the human workforce, but also to the physical resources (such as materials, equipment, licenses, etc.) that can be part of a project and contribute to its success.

Time Management has been replaced with Schedule Management, so that the importance of project management planning is emphasized.

 

the sixth edition of the PMbok

Moreover, in the sixth edition of the PMbok, each area of knowledge has four additional sections:

Furthermore, in the sixth edition of the PMbok, each area of knowledge will have four additional sections:

  • Key concepts;
  • Tailoring considerations: they must help to focus on the important processes of a project depending to its size and, of course, on the scope of work;
  • Developments and new project management practices;
  • Focus on the Agile  and adaptive Methodology.

PMBOK sixth edition: The three new processes

The sixth edition of the PMbok lists 49 processes, 2 more than the last edition.

In reality the changes to the processes are 4 because the three processes have been added while one has been eliminated.

The Close Procurement process has been removed. This refers to the closing of vendor contracts, a task that in most organizations is not performed by the project manager.

Among the new processes added we find:

  1. Manage Project Knowledge: born from the need to process the data of the market and the business in which the company operates to transform them into knowledge and “wisdom” on which certain decisions will be based. Knowledge is a power that will help the project manager to use data processing technologies and make decisions based on concrete analysis;
  2. Implement Risk Response: PMI surveys have stated that most project failures are due to improper risk management. Therefore, implementing the risk response in the management of the project is a necessary addition;
  3. Control Resources: this new process refers to the monitoring and control of the various resources present in the project and is aligned with the modification, seen previously, in the area of knowledge from human resources.

PMBOK sixth edition: 6 changes in existing processes

6 processes are renamed in the current PMbok edition, even if their content remains unchanged:

  1. Perform Quality Assurance becomes Manage Quality.
  2. Plan Human Resource Management becomes Plan Resource Management.
  3. Control Communications becomes Monitor Communications.
  4. Control Risks becomes Monitor Risks.
  5. Plan Stakeholder Management becomes Plan Stakeholder Engagement.
  6. Control Stakeholder Engagement becomes Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.

From Perform Quality Assurance to Manage Quality. This refers to the fact that, while quality assurance is a way to manage quality during execution, in reality there are also other qualitative aspects to consider.

This overall quality management is what reflects the name change.

The change from “Control” to “Monitor” indicates that, during the execution of the project, we monitor it to understand what is happening everyday and personalize the strategy to meet the changing needs.

the sixth edition of the PMbok

Points 5 and 6 on stakeholders refer to the essential factor of understanding how to involve the stakeholders to ensure that everyone agrees with progress and results.

Who will be affected by these changes?

The role of the Project Manager is becoming more and more important and is spreading in every sectors; this is why the need to certify its skills increases.

The PMbok then becomes a fundamental text for all those who are dealing with an official exam to get the title of Project Manager.

Nowadays, there are five internationally recognized certifications:

 

  • CAPM – Certified Associate in Project Management
  • PMP – Project Management Professional
  • PgMP – Program Management Professional
  • PMI-SP – PMI Scheduling Professional
  • PMI-RMP – PMI Risk Management Professional
  • PMI-ACP – PMI Agile Certified Practitioner

Regardless of the type of certification, students and prospective Project Managers will refer to the Pmbok and, consequently, their work will for sure be influenced by the changes in the sixth edition of PMbok.

But not only.

Even a certified Project Manager must be updated on the changes contained in the new edition of PMbok.

Being up-to-date is the best quality of a serious and competent professional.

A careful reading of the new edition of the Pmbok will certainly be useful and a source of interesting reflections that could help guiding any type of project in an efficient and professional manner.

Leave us your comment or your impression on the new edition of the Pmbok.

 

Get familiar with the phases of your project.

The 3 trends of Project Management

Project Management is not a static topic but evolves from year to year and follows the trend of industry and the world of work in general.

There’re trends, that we can clearly see, that are increasingly influencing this profession. Some of these started some years ago and gradually take hold, others have been born only recently and abruptly.

Knowing them is necessary to maintain a strategic vision of the profession and the sector.

Let’s see then what are the trends that will affect the project management sector.

The Trends of Project Management: the advent of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a very current topic and there’s a real debate around it.

As with any new trend, there are also in this case two currents of idea:

  • those in favor who announce it as the “reality” of the future;
  • and those who are skeptical, or even frightened, of the consequences that this evolution can have not only at work but also in everyday life.

Project management can also be influenced by artificial intelligence.

Therefore should we be favourable or frightened?

In particular, when we talk about artificial intelligence applied to Project management, we talk about systems that can manage projects and their progress without the need for human input.

Not only the simplest tasks will be automated, but an understanding of the key points of the project can also be developed. In this way artificial intelligence is able, thanks to this knowledge, to perform more complex tasks, make recommendations and even make decisions.

Moreover, an artificial intelligence system can save time by improving the results of a project.

 

project management

Project Management managed by artificial intelligence is a service  more developed and that goes beyond what is currently offered, for example, by so-called bots.

Not even an algorithm that applies machine learning to predict activity estimates can be called artificial intelligence, although interesting and useful.

The true potential of artificial intelligence in Project Management can only be seen when you start to connect boats and algorithms.

Now we try to hypothesize what artificial intelligence applied to the Project Manangement can do.

Here some concrete examples:

  • Combine the right resource with the right role: Artificial intelligence will allow not only to match the right resource to the right team/project, but also to select upstream the resources suitable for a given project
  • Reduce downtime: Artificial intelligence is able to analyse the performance and the progress of each resource and assign a task/project based on the real capabilities of the individual;
  • Create an ecosystem for knowledge management: When an employee for whatever reason leaves the company, part of his knowledge is non-transferable and goes away with him. In this sense, artificial intelligence can be used to centralize knowledge. This will avoid the so-called “starting from scratch” when a change takes place;
  • Improve the performance of the resource by reducing the effort to a minimum: How many times we have those days when we are not in “the right mood” and spend a lot of time on a simple task? How many times, on the contrary, do we manage to complete complex activities in a very short time? Artificial intelligence can help the project management system associate the best task to the right resource at the best time of day, suggesting the planning of activities in a personalized, unique and variable way;
  • Provide objective evaluation and vigilance without getting tired: By their nature, human beings can get tired and this can affect the quality and precision of work. An artificial intelligence system, on the other hand, is tireless and available 24 hours a day.

Of course, a system that integrates all these functionalities is not available yet, but in the near future all this can become a real.

There is still a long way to go and the potential of artificial intelligence in Project Management is not yet fully developed.

However, the goal of the new technologies is to realize and integrate these functionalities.


Project Management Trends: Wearable technology

The tendency in Project Management to the increasing use of Wearable Technology seems unstoppable.

By hearing wearable technology many think about glasses, headphones, and smartwatches, but the concept goes well beyond these.

Wearable technology devices not only help us count how many steps we take in a day or how many calories we burn but can even improve our productivity in a project.

In fact, wearable devices can provide data in real time and perform monitoring and localization functions.

These devices will establish a connection between workers and the digital platform.

In this way, the data can be used to analyse the workforce in order to increase efficiency and productivity.

 

project management

Wearable technology can also simplify the process of managing daily activities. Time, as well as the progress of the activity, can be scanned and collected on virtual worksheets to obtain a precise image of the flow.

But the advantages of wearable devices are not finished yet, they can also help increasing the level of employee health.

Already today, a growing number of employers and companies are encouraging their workers to wear fitness trackers to measure their health.

In fact, it is widely demonstrated that an increase in fitness levels is related to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

In addition, many wearable technology devices have the ability to enable Project Managers to keep track of strategic aspects, such as the heart rate of the employees and the level of stress and fatigue, in order to maintain workplace performance.

This can lead to a decrease of the burn out cases due to projects that are too demanding for a resource.

For this reason, if an employee shows a high level of fatigue during a given activity, the employer can choose to delegate this task to one collaborator who proves more suitable and “fresher”, allowing the first employee of the team to concentrate on a lighter job.

Some companies all over the world are also using wearable technology for fitness tracking and they offer incentives to their employees according to these values. (For example, in America, cheaper health insurance is offered to employees who increase their fitness levels.)

The potential that wearable technology has in increasing productivity is the factor that is increasing its use in the workplace.

There are already studies and reports that highlight how the use of this technology actually increases productivity.


Project Management Trends: Smart Working and Remote Team

The sharing economy is proving that more and more companies are implementing the use of project teams with resources that operate remotely.

More and more workers are looking for flexibility. The ability to organize one’s time and hours of work and not being tied to a desk is becoming more and more important.

This trend is definitely destined to grow.

 

project management

In Italy, Smart Working (or agile work) is a reality: 305,000 workers have switched to this modality of work. And the numbers will grow, especially in the large companies.

This is confirmed by the data from the latest research of the Smart Working Observatory at the Politecnico di Milano.

The benefits of Remote work are undeniable for the company:

  • Productivity is improved;
  • Absenteeism is reduced;
  • The costs for physical spaces are greatly reduced; in fact, several large companies are redesigning their offices, reducing the surface area.

Moreover, the Observatory registers a productivity increase of 15% for a worker who adopts an already tested smart working model.

The benefits of distance work and Smart Working also have an impact on the worker:

in fact, the Smart Workers are more satisfied than their colleagues who don’t adopt this working method.

Thanks to remote work the smart worker:

  • Reduces travel time and costs. As the Observatory also shows by implementing only one working day a week remotely, an employee could recover even 40 hours in a year.
  • Improves the balancing of professional and private time and space (the so-called work-life balance).

In the end, Remote teams offer great opportunities: more economy and more productivity if managed effectively and with the right tools. We’ll talk about it later in this blog.

In the meantime, a final reflection. The scenarios change but the basic objective of the project management remains the same: deliver a project within the pre-established time frame and without exceeding the budget.

This our analysis, we would like to know yours. Do you see other trends that can help to innovate and simplify the Project Management?

Leave us your comment or your impressions on the evolution of Project Management.

 

Project status meetings: what to monitor to make them work!

To know the progress of the project at any time is one of the main responsibilities of a project manager.

To this end, project status meetings become a fundamental tool throughout the project life cycle.

Unfortunately, however, too often, these appointments turn into a waste of time losing sight of the objectives of the meeting itself.

In this article we will try to unveil some secrets to carry out effective Project status meetings.

The aims and times of the meetings on the progress of the project

The frequency of these meetings obviously varies depending on:

  • the complexity of the project;
  • the number of project team members;
  • the level of information required by the project owner, by customers, stakeholders, etc.
  • from the level of involvement of the project task manager.

Once the timing has been established, it is fundamental for the Project Manager to evaluate, during the meetings, the progress of each of the following elements:

  • Updates of individual activities.
  • Progress of the project compared to planning: are we late or early?
  • Budget status: are we under or have we exceeded the budget?
  • Quality status: are we maintaining the expected quality levels?
  • Current or hypothetical problems (such as changes, problems with resources, dissatisfaction with the customer or supplier, etc.).
  • Next steps to be taken.

 

project status meetings

Project status meetings are essential for the Project Manager and must be scheduled periodically.

Thanks to these meetings the Project manager has the possibility to:

  • Keep the focus on the project.
  • Orient the team to look in the same direction.
  • Report to the company management clear and updated information on the progress of the entire current project.

Unfortunately, too often these important meetings are ineffective and fail to bring benefits to the project in the intended way.

The most common reasons why project progress meetings turn into a waste of time.

There are some recurring reasons why project status meetings fail. Here is a list of the most frequent:

  • Unclear or even missing agenda.
  • Team members not adequately prepared for the meeting.
  • Inability to manage the time during the meeting.
  • Inability to maintain focus on the subject matter of the meeting.
  • Absent or ineffective feedback* from team members.

*(you can also read “How to receive feedback“)

Unclear or even missing agenda

When Project status meetings doesn’t have a previously defined and shared agenda, they will inevitably become unclear and ineffective.

Without a roadmap that marks the road, the meeting is easily dispersed and time is often misused or even lost.

In addition, team members will not be able to provide effective feedback as they are not prepared to face the meeting.

The purpose of a project status meeting is to obtain an update on the status of activities, identify problems and so on.

Therefore It’s essential that team members prepare themselves on time and collect specific data before the meeting to be prepared to answer certain key questions.

Without specific predefined objectives, the meeting will not bring any benefit.

Team members not adequately prepared for the meeting.

It often happens that some team members do not perceive the importance of the meeting and think that all they should do is just show up and attend the meeting.

When this happens, the whole team loses precious time.

Unsupported feedback can delay the resolution of the problem, causing frustration and delays in the project itself!

Inability to manage the time during the meeting

“Even today an interminable meeting …”.

This is the classic phrase that the team members, exhausted, exchange each other out of the meeting room.

If the time is not managed properly you will get three boomerang effects:

  • Team demotivation.
  • The need for a further meeting on the same topic.
  • The possibility of arriving at hasty and ineffective decisions.

In addition, team members may try to skip the meeting by perceiving it as a waste of time.

Once team members begin to miss project status meetings, the overall effectiveness of this tool is bound to deteriorate inexorably

Inability to maintain focus on the subject matter of the meeting.

Closely related to the previous one, it is the inability to stay on the pre-established tracks.

This incapacity is very frequent.

In fact, participants often tend to digress, considerably reducing the time dedicated to the purpose of the meeting.

Thus we arrive at the crucial issues with little time available, often taking decisions of poor quality dictated by haste.

Absent or ineffective feedback from team members.

One of the most difficult tasks of a project manager is to deal with several different personalities within the team.

The most aggressive personalities tend to dominate project meetings, while the more passive types tend to contribute much less to the discussions being much less talkative about their views on a given problem.

We all know the saying that the creaking wheel gets more oil and that’s what often happens during project meetings.

Sometimes a project manager or team leader will be overly influenced by a team member with a more aggressive personality.

When some team members dominate while others sit passively (without providing critical input on a problem), the quality of decisions taken by the team suffers.

Another big problem with this dysfunction is that the project manager often develops a distorted view of some fundamental project problems because one or two team members express very strong opinions.

Such opinions may not be representative of the group at all, but without a balanced response from another team member, the project manager may conclude a progress meeting with an inaccurate view of the team’s views on a particular issue.

project status meetings

Conclusion

Project status meetings are a key tool in the project manager’s toolbox.

Unfortunately, a few project managers have adopted methods and techniques to ensure that these sessions are concise, productive and valuable.

Too many project managers assume that a project status meetings means sending an invitation to the meeting and simply showing up.

Project status meetings require a lot more!

The good news is that when project status meetings are effective and efficient, the results are huge!

The productive meetings on the progress of the work:

  • increase the morale of the group.
  • Provide comprehensive information on the status of the project.
  • Discover potential risks.
  • Provide a forum for the timely resolution of problems.
  • Encourage the sharing of relevant information among team members.

Finding the best time to plan a meeting on the progress of a project is very important.

It may be obvious, but it’s not just about finding a day when the team is available, it’s about finding a day when none of your colleagues have important deadlines, scheduled appointments or high-priority activities to close.

Using a project management software  like Twproject, with shared agendas, is essential to manage a focused team.

Introduce your team to Twproject.

One try is worth a million words.

Twproject 6.4.64001

A new Twproject release is out with some great features included in all plans. This is a free upgrade for all Twproject users and includes some database changes so do a complete backup before update.

If you are updating from a version before 6.3 remember to check the upgrade guide here:
https://twproject.com/support/twproject-advanced-usage/installation/update-twproject-6-3/

Gantt PDF export

The first and more important one is the new Gantt print functionality that generates a pdf with the entire Gantt finally solving the big images print browser issue.

The print button has been reintroduced in the Gantt editor to generate the pdf:

Resource operating hours

A great new feature introduced in 6.4.64001 is the resource operating hours available in the work settings tab. Thanks to this new functionality you can specify resource working hours day by day. Operating hours are considered in operator load and plan for every day load calculation.

Project progress calculation

Twproject includes now nine different automatic rules to calculate task progress.

By worklog / estimated: task progress is calculated according to the work inserted on the estimated one.

By sub-tasks (weighted): in this case Twproject considers the relevance of each sub-tasks and its progress to calculate the parent progress.

By sub-tasks completed: in this case the parent progress follow the status of its children, for example if the half of its children are closed the progress is at 50%.

By issues closed / total: project progress increase according to the number of its closed issue.

By cost / estimated & by cost / budget: Project progress increase according to costs bear in relation with estimated ones or budget.

By date: Project progress increase with end date approaching.

Different sub-tasks calculate their progress using a different rule.

You can check the complete list of new features and fixes on our change log here.

Let’s check these new features.

Twproject 6.4: API & Webhooks

Today we are so excited to announce that you can now add and access Twproject data using our simple stateless API.

The Twproject API lets you build a variety of applications and scripts to integrate Twproject with your business systems, read Twproject data insert and update data from different locations.

Twproject 6.4 release includes some important security fix, check them from the complete changelog:

Twproject 6.4 Changelog

What is an API?

API stands for “Application Programming Interface”. It allows software like Twproject to exchange data with other softwares. For example, when a new customer is created in your CRM software, the API can be used to create a new task in Twproject for managing pre-sales activity. Or Twproject can tell to your accounting systems via its API how many hours you spent for that purpose. The communication goes 2 ways.

Why an API for Twproject?

The main purpose of an API is to make your life easier by “synchronizing” data between the different software you use to run your business. Twproject is good at managing projects, your accounting software is good at counting moneys. With an API both software can finally talk together, and bridge the functional gap between them.

What can the Twproject API do?

Thanks to the new Twproject API you can finally integrate your existing services with Twproject, you will be able to create/update/delete all the main Twproject’s objects like task, resources, assignments, issue and so on.

The Twproject API is designed to be as simple as possible for other developers to work with.

Twproject API authentication is based on an API key that can be generated by every Twproject enabled user, but in case you are calling the API from portlet/widget running inside Twproject itself it is not required, the current https session will be used for authenticating your requests.

Inside your Twproject instance, in the admin panel you will find a dedicated section with a test tool to try your request and see the actual response.

Twproject send data in JSON (two standard data formats) and can receive data from other applications in JSON.

API & Webhooks

Together with Twproject API we are also announcing our new webhooks to be notified via HTTP-POST if something happens on your installation.

You can configure several webhooks for different events.

All events available can be cheeked from the admin API panel in “Webhooks configuration”.

 

If you have any question about Twproject API and webhooks, please post them on Stack Overflow with “twproject” in the title, we are monitoring that channel and we will answer you promptly.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed feedback and waited patiently for the API to become available. We can’t wait to see what you create.

For more information about the API and Webhooks, have a look at the API documentation.

Donwload now Twproject 6.4

Twproject Certified as a Great User Experience Software for Project Management

We are really happy to announce that Twproject has been recently reviewed by FinancesOnline’s experts, winning not one but two awards!

Finance Online is one of the most popular reviews platform sites for SaaS and B2B services. Thanks to them thousands of users can find the best software available counting on updated and refined reviews.

When FinancesOnline informed us that we won the Great User Experience award for 2018, we cannot be more pleased as it went beyond our expectations, especially after it coincided with our inclusion in their list of 10 project management software tools. This distinction recognizes software solutions that provide an especially pleasing user experience to users due to its ease of use and intuitive interface.

We worked really hard in the past years on this purpose, to help our users face the complexity of project management in a friendly and usable environment. This is one of the reasons why we were also highlighted in their purpose of project management software article, and we are so happy that FinancesOnline prize our effort.

What we appreciate the most is that the review captured the real aim of Twproject: manage complexity with simplicity.

Twproject also won the prize of Rising Star award for 2018, with a user satisfaction of 100%.  This is another confirmation that what we are doing here is providing the best user experience and support to all our customers.

Please visit FinancesOnline.com to post your own review of Twproject!