project approval

Verifications with the client and project approval documents

The approval by the client describes the acceptance by the client or the contractor of the result obtained at the end of a project.

It denotes the successful delivery of the product – goods or services – which meets the requirements established at the beginning of the project.

The delivery of the agreed goods or services immediately after production is exactly what the customer expects. A delivery that completes the order according to the requirements agreed at the time of the contract.

Verification and approval as milestones of a project

The approval is therefore a fundamental milestone in the project. The approval means the verification of the product, where the client determines if the contractor has delivered an asset that satisfies the agreed goals or not.

Without the verification, and consequently the approval, a project is not completed correctly. This applies even if it has been completed within the time frame and / or the set budget.

By accepting the deliverables of the project, the client acknowledges that the product or service delivered is complete, which means that it can be used for the intended purpose.

However, verification and final approval are not the only tests that can occur in the project. In the context of project management, several other situations where approval is requested can also occur, such as approving the project plan or adjusting the scope.

In this case, the approval means keeping all the stakeholders updated on the status of the project and then moving on to the next phases of the project.

What are the criteria for verification and acceptance by the client?

Verification criteria are criteria that include performance requirements and essential conditions that must necessarily be met before project deliverables are accepted.

They set specific circumstances under which the client will accept the final output of the project.

They must be measurable criteria through which it is possible to demonstrate that the project has been successfully completed.

The fundamental elements of the verification by the client

The goal of the PM is to ensure that at the end of the project, the client verifies and positively accepts the deliverables produced.

It is obvious that for this to happen, the project manager must immediately work on some elements of verification that will later become fundamental. Let’s see them together

 1. Set the customer’s expectation level

The success or failure of projects depends on whether the final product meets the acceptance criteria of clients.

Having a clearly defined set of verification criteria, the project manager with his team is able to set the client’s expectation level and lay the groundwork for the completed product.

Inaccurate or missing verification and acceptance criteria can lead to low levels of client satisfaction, missed delivery dates and / or development costs being exceeded.

2. Work on the verification criteria to make them relevant, measurable, and tangible

Acceptance criteria are generally used for projects where the customer pays the final results or the completion of the project phases.

For this reason, the project manager should make sure that the acceptance criteria are relevant, measurable, and tangible for each deliverable.

It can happen that the client refuses to sign the results for two legitimate reasons:

  • The project results do not meet the needs,
  • The project manager and the team have no clarity on the needs of the clients.

Working towards a well defined set of verification and acceptance criteria before starting to work on the final results, protects the project manager and the project team, together with the organization in general.

Since the project client is responsible fort he approval of the final product, he is also responsible for approving the verification and acceptance criteria.

If the acceptance criteria are met, there should be no reasons why the client should not approve and accept the final product.

Main challenges and best practices for writing verification criteria

The verification and acceptance criteria seem very easy to write. Nevertheless, their drafting and formalization represents a challenge for many project managers.

Let’s take a closer look at the best practices that help avoid common mistakes when writing project verification criteria.

Document verification criteria before product development 

The verification and acceptance criteria must be documented before the project – ie. the actual development of the output – starts. In this way, the project manager will be able to capture all the needs of the client in advance. The criteria must then be agreed and accepted by both parties and used to plan the process inherent to the project.

Do not make the verification and acceptance criteria too specific

The verification and acceptance criteria should not be too specific and give little or no maneuvering options. In order to avoid this, it is necessary that the verification criteria transmit the intent and goal sought, not exactly the final solution.

Keep the criteria achievable

This point intersects closely with the previous one. The effective verification and acceptance criteria define the reasonable minimum of functionality that the client is inclined to accept. In the event that all the smallest details are described, there is a risk that the project team remains blocked in order to focus on hundreds of small tasks, sometimes not strictly necessary for the success of the project.

Keep the criteria measurable and not too wide

This is exactly the opposite error compared to the previous points. Too broad criteria make the client’s requests vague. They must outline the purpose of the work so that the project manager and the team can plan and estimate their effort correctly.

Avoid technical details

As mentioned, the verification and acceptance criteria must be written in a simple way. This will make them clear and easy for everyone to understand since not everyone could have a technical or specialized background on the subject.

Achieving consensus

It is necessary for the project manager to make sure that he has communicated the verification and acceptance criteria to the interested parties and that he has reached a mutual agreement. The same applies to team members who will have to work directly on producing the output. All stakeholders must confirm that they understand and agree with each formalized criterion.
the project approval

Some examples of verification criteria by the client

The verification and acceptance criteria are conditions that are used to determine whether the work has been completed according to the requirements initially established.

In particular, the acceptance criteria are designed so as not to be ambiguous.

The following are examples of possible verification and acceptance criteria used by the client:

  • Behavior of a system or an instrument that can be tested with use.
  • Specifications of the phases of a process including automated steps and human activities. For example, “When the customer sends an application, an activity is created in the sales system”.
  • Specification for a calculation that can include business rules, algorithms, and formulas.
  • Aspects of a product that make it pleasant to use.
  • Implementation expectations that allow architects, designers, engineers and experts to be flexible in their work.
  • Performance requirements such as “the system will have a page load time of less than 3 seconds when 500 users are online simultaneously”.
  • Definitions of internal controls.
  • Operational requirements such as “the platform will integrate with another”.
  • Quality expectations.
  • Constraints on materials, such as “all ingredients will have an organic certification”.

Why is an approval documentation essential

 The approval documentation is essential for any project in order to keep a record of what has been agreed.

Without this documentation to accompany the life cycle of a project, the project manager , the team, and the client can find themselves having different ideas about the concept, the form of the final results and even the delivery timing.

Even for project managers who hate paperwork, this documentation is a sort of “blessing”, because it serves as a simple reminder of the expectations of both the parties, clients and project team.

Anyone with a question about the different phases of the project can refer to the approval documentation to see what actions need to be taken based on the approved requirements.

The 3 advantages of the acceptance documentation are:

  • Managing the expectations between the client and the project team.
  • Leaving room for additions or modifications while maintaining clear communication.
  • Maintaining maximum responsibility for each phase of the project.

What does the project approval process look like?

Obtaining formal registration is important because it indicates the official end of a project and the completion and acceptance of a deliverable by the client.

When the project is finished and the deliverable has been produced, the project manager is ready to examine it with the customer.

Offering the opportunity to the client for a complete review will give time to consider and accept the result or provide feedback to organize any revisions to the output.

Once the project is deemed satisfactory by all interested parties, the approval form comes into play.

All the main stakeholders will sign their part of this documentation and, once approved in full, the project will officially come to an end with success.

Once a project is officially closed, the team has the freedom to start a new project for that same client or for others.

Once the approval documentation and the project are complete, the project manager may wish to review the project in its entirety with his team in order to identify what went well and what can be improved in the future.

A project manager can also decide to ask the client for feedback, not only regarding the final output, but also regarding the project as a whole, so as to have further evaluation elements.

Conclusions

The criteria for verification and acceptance of an output by the client represent a specific and defined list of conditions that must be met before a project can be considered completed and the final results of the project are accepted by the customer.

Having clearly defined acceptance criteria can help the project team in many ways, including:

  • Establishing customer expectations regarding the final product.
  • Measuring, reaching and demonstrating to the clients that the work is complete.
  • Obtaining formal detachments from the client on the final results in the project.
  • Protecting the project manager, the team, and the organization from problems such as missed payments by customers.

Clearly, definining acceptance evaluation criteria can also help avoid communication problems and political maneuvering on internal projects.

Now, we hope there are no more doubts about why the verification criteria must be included in the contractual agreement with the clients, as well as in the project scope statement and in the requirements documents.

Still in doubt? Well you can try yourself with a free demo.

the software choice

How to choose a project management software

A project management software is a versatile way to simplify the process of managing any project.

A project management software helps to unify the work process on one or more projects. This avoids forcing teams to work on different applications and platforms.

Thus, communication tools, file sharing, activity and deadline monitoring, and reporting are all inserted into a single software application.

A project management software works like a real-time workspace. It helps keep the eye focused on the big picture, effectively managing the details day by day.

When do you need project management software?

It is important to point out that a project management software is designed for completing projects that require time and teamwork.

An organization needs a project management software, when it is necessary for different individuals and business units to coordinate, both internally as well as externally, to complete certain tasks.

Establishing precisely when it is the exact time to switch to the use of a project management software is not easy. However, there are unmistakable signs that make clear that perhaps this time has come. The telltale signs that an organization needs a project management software include:

  • Delay of projects due to over-correspondence via e-mail and work was lost in the mailboxes of team members.
  • Confusion over too elaborate and not user-friendly worksheets.
  • Lost of some deadlines due to lack of accountability and transparency in the process.
  • Poor communication between team members and the project manager due to failure to report the status of the project or individual activities.
  • Overlapping or redundant jobs due to the confusion that reigns over the specific role of each team member.
  • Not clear or lost timelines due to poor planning or poor communication.

Therefore, choosing a project management software solution can simplify the entire process. It can allow the team to offer higher quality work in a shorter period of time.

Effective softwares allow the project manager to save and track multiple projects simultaneously.

In essence, the workload can be saved on a single platform. On this platform, each team member has access to all the information needed to do his job.

How does a project management software look like?

Generally, as starting base, we also find a dashboard. This control panel provides access to all major software features.

From the dashboard, users can create new projects and manage and organize old ones.

software choice

In many project management platforms, the dashboard is also the site of an overview of active and completed projects, which users can access at any time.

Project management softwares clearly have different capabilities, and it is important to assess what the business needs are before choosing one solution.

For project managers, complete control over project management is essential.

This way, they can reassign the work and reprogram it, if a team member is overloaded while others are not, managing resources more effectively.

With detailed summaries and reports, project managers can also more easily keep pace with new developments.

Any complex project has many moving parts and it is therefore important that the manager is informed of all the details.

Choose the right project management software

Most quality project management softwares offer the features described above, but of course there are other aspects that vary from platform to platform.

This is why it is important to select a project management software that allows to ensure the success of an organization.

A large company, for example, will have different needs than a small startup with a small team.

So, examining each software and asking the right questions is the key.

Implementation and ease of use should be two key factors essential for the decision.

5 fundamental aspects for the choice of a project management software

Here are the 5 fundamental aspects in order to choose the right project management software:

1. Respond to the whys

The process must begin with a transparent and honest assessment of why the organization needs a project management software. The project manager can start by tracing the needs and identifying current problems. This can be followed by an analysis of the existing processes to highlight the negative points and, consequently, to look for a software that allows to overcome them.

 2. Looking beyond the “big names”

Clearly, there are project management softwares most famous than others, but are we really sure that these represent the right choice for any organization? For a given company, in fact, a less well-known project management platform could be the ideal solution. So, it becomes important to search online to see what types of software are on the market, collect different opinions, ask the team members what they used in their previous organizations, etc. In short, do some research and compare the various features.

3. Identify implementation barriers

 Once the project manager has chosen a potential project management software, it is important to consider the obstacles or implementation barriers that the organization might encounter. These implementation barriers could be anything: From team resistance to longer than expected training sessions, from difficult data migration to insufficient purchasing budget. The idea is therefore to identify all the factors that could cause a block to the implementation of the software, to verify if these barriers can be eliminated and to find a solution.

 4. Do a test drive

Almost all the available softwares are supplied with a free trial (if you want to try TWproject for free you can click here). It is therefore important to make the most of this opportunity, using realistic project scenarios to scroll through the list of software features. The PM will not have to act alone, but choose a team just as it would in the case of a real project. The team chosen for the test drive will thus have the opportunity to explore the new software and give the most accurate feedback possible. It is important to keep the communication open in order to discuss any problem straight away.

5. Draw up a detailed implementation plan

A final factor to consider before officially choosing the project management tool, is to plan the implementation and make sure it will be as smooth as possible. Typical elements to be considered at this stage include time frames for implementation, adequate training for the various stakeholders, and possible data migration activities. It is also necessary to evaluate the level of support that can be obtained from the supplier of the software as well as the long-term technical support.

Conclusions

The choice of a project management software therefore requires much more than a decision based only on a couple of “big” names, on a superficial analysis of the functionalities, and on the feedback of a few people.

Choosing a new project management tool can be a long and complicated process, but one that is worth it in the long run.

The right choice will be an advantage for the organization in general, for customers, as well as for the project team.

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consegna dei deliverables

The delivery plan of project deliverables

The delivery plan of project deliverables is a strategic element for every Project Manager.

The goal of every project is, in fact, to produce a result that serves a specific purpose. With the word „purpose“, we can mean the most disparate goals: a software program, a chair, a building, a translation, etc.

In project management, all these results have only one name: deliverable.

In essence, all planned activities should be directly related to the production of a deliverable. The Project Manager must have in mind what the delivery plan of the deliverables is.

Any project activity that does not directly contribute to the production of a product should be restructured or removed from the project plan. If you are not sure about the definition of deliberable, you can always read the article on how to identify the project deliverables.

Regardless of how many tasks have been completed by the project manager and his team, until a deliverable is not produced and accepted by the client, the project team may not be paid!

Since the final results are the result of some activity or effort, they must also be measurable and specific.

In the world of project management, a deliverable is defined as a “measurable, tangible, verifiable result that must be produced to complete a milestone of the project”.

Processing of the delivery strategy of the deliverables

A weighted delivery strategy of the deliverables ensures that customers’ goals are met and that agreed deadlines are respected.

Processing this delivery strategy includes the following activities:

  • Definition
  • Deconstruction
  • Assignment
  • Progress monitoring
  • Quality check

Knowing these steps will increase the efficiency of teamwork and ensure that all activities add value to the project.

Let’s look at them in detail.

Definition

Understanding the client’s goals is the first step in the definition process, as the final results must be developed from this perspective.

It would be useful to collect the customer’s needs by following the SMART criteria.

Deconstruction

After a comparison with the customer, the results of the project are successfully defined.

The next goal is to break down each deliverable into as small units as possible in order to trace the activities and thus be able to delegate them.

This exercise is often referred to as the creation of a “WBS – Work Breakdown Structure“.

The correct deconstruction of the final result is fundamental for an accurate monitoring of progress.

Assignment

Once the final results have been broken down into small measurable tasks, the project manager can begin to assign individual tasks to the appropriate team member.

The first step is to hire the right people for the project team.

It is the responsibility of the project manager to understand the team’s skill set and determine who is best suited for a particular job.

After assigning the tasks, it is important to keep the communication with the team open in order to allow clarifications on any questions or concerns regarding compliance with deadlines.

la consegna dei deliverables

Progress monitoring

Now that the final results are defined and broken down with deadlines and tasks set for each activity, it is time to keep track of progress towards the completion of each deliverable.

A variety of methods and tools are available to track the progress of the project.

For accurate status monitoring, it is important to select a project management tool that is flexible and easy to use.

Moreover, each team member should be able to easily insert updates on the activities, while the project manager needs a general overview of the project.

There are many project management tools that systematically monitor the progress that can be made as team members indicate that activities are completed. In this case, a good project management software is the key.

Quality control

Establishing and planning time for a thorough quality review is a key component of the project deliverables delivery strategy.

The quality review serves as the final status between the deliverable and the customer.

A quality control process usually includes steps to validate that the deliverable:

  • Maintains consistency with other deliverables
  • Fulfills contractual obligations
  • Is free from errors or defects

Depending on the size and skills of the project team, a single resource or more resources can be included in the quality review process.

After carrying out the quality review process, the project manager should be sure of the acceptance of the deliverable by the client.

It is good practice to always ask the customer to send a written approval of the result.

In conclusion, developing a clear delivery plan of the deliverables is essential for the timely execution and management of any project.

Investing time from the beginning to establish the various phases of the process and selecting the right project management tool, will allow the project manager to focus on efficient project management.

Still in doubt? Well you can try yourself with a free demo.

risk response

Risk response strategies: mitigation, transfer, avoidance, acceptance

When dealing with a project, risks are always on the agenda. Even the most carefully planned project can encounter problems and unexpected events.

Team members may fall ill or resign, other resources may be unavailable or insufficient, the budget may fail to cover an expense, etc.

Does this mean that we must give up when faced with unexpected problems? Absolutely not!

This is where planning and risk response strategies come into play. We need to identify potential problems that could negatively affect the project, analyze the likelihood of them occurring, take action in order to prevent the risks that can be eliminated and minimize those that are impossible to avoid.

 Definition of project risk

A risk is any uncertain event or condition that could affect the project.

However, not all risks are negative. Some events, such as finding an easier process to perform a certain activity for example, or the decrease of prices for certain materials, can also help the project.

This situation is called “opportunity”, but is managed just like a risk.

There are no absolute guarantees on any project, even the simplest activity can face unexpected problems.

A risk can be an event or a condition, in any case, it is something that can happen and if it does, it will force to change the way the project manager and the team work on the project.

When planning a project, the risks are still uncertain and have not yet happened, but it is likely that one or more identified risks will actually happen, and this is where a project manager needs to be able to deal with them.

The risk management plan tells precisely how the risks of the project will be managed if these occur.

It is important to draw up guidelines – through a priority scale, for example – that help to understand how large the potential impact of a risk on the project can be.

6 key steps in the risk management process

The risk management process can make the unmanageable manageable, and can allow the project manager to operate on what seems to be a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage. Let’s see how:

1. Risk identification

It is not possible to solve a risk if you do not know it. There are many ways to identify risk.

One way is through brainstorming, a methodology which allows a group to examine a problem.

Another method is that of individual interviews. It consists of finding people with relevant experience, so that it is possible to gather information that will help the project manager identify the risk and find a possible solution.

Imagining the current project and thinking about the many factors that can go wrong is another technique. What can you do if a key team member is sick? What can you do if the material does not arrive within the defined deadline? Etc.

An aid in this phase is also to read the reports of similar past projects, verifying the presence of any problems encountered during the path, and see how these have been solved.

2. Risk analysis

The next step is to determine the likelihood that each of these risks will occur. This information should also be included in the risk register.

When evaluating the risks of a project, it is possible to proactively address the situation. For example, potential discussions can be avoided, regulatory problems can be solved, new legislation must be known, etc.

Analyzing the risks is certainly difficult. There is never a limit to the information that can be collected in this sense.

Moreover, risks must be analyzed based on qualitative and quantitative analyzes. This means, that you determine the risk factor based on how it will potentially affect the project through a variety of metrics.

3. Risk prioritization

Not all risks have the same level of severity. It is therefore necessary to assess each risk in order to know which resources will be gathered to resolve it, when and if it occurs.

Some risks will be more acceptable, others may even risk to completely stop the project, making the situation quite serious.

Having a long list of risks can be daunting, but the project manager can manage them simply by classifying the risks as high, medium or low.

With this perspective, the project manager can then start planning how and when these risks will be addressed.

Some risks require immediate attention; these are the risks that can derail the project.

Other risks are important, they probably won’t threaten the success of the project, but will delay it.

Then, there are those risks that have little or no impact on the program and the overall project budget.

Some of these low priority risks could be important, but not enough to be urgently addressed. Indeed, they could be somehow ignored and also time could delete them and improve the situation.

4. Assign an owner to the risk

All the hard work of identifying and assessing risks is useless unless the project manager assigns someone to oversee the risk.

Who is the person responsible for that risk that, if this were to happen, would take charge of its resolution?

This decision, in general, is up to the project manager who knows the level of experience and training of each team member and is therefore able to assess the most suitable person to face a particular risk.

It is certainly important to identify the risks, but if these are not managed by a person in charge, the work will have been completely useless and the project will not be adequately protected.

the risk response

5. Respond to the risk

Now comes the moment, when all that has been planned must be put into practice.

For each identified risk, based on priority, a mitigation plan or strategy is created.

The project manager should deal with the risk owner in order to decide together which strategy to implement to resolve the risk.

6. Risk monitoring

Obviously, every strategy to respond to the risk is useless if it is not monitored in its success – or failure.

The risk owner is also responsible for monitoring the progress towards resolution.

But also the project manager needs to stay updated in order to get an accurate picture of the overall progress and to identify and monitor potential new risks that may arise from the new situation.

It is better to ensure that dedicated communication channels for risk management are organized, so that important elements and information are not lost.

It is possible to have face-to-face meetings, but some updates could be better provided via e-mail or text or through a project management software tool.

Risk mitigation

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

Here are the four ways to manage or mitigate a risk:

  • Risk avoidance
  • Risk acceptance and sharing
  • Risk mitigation
  • Risk transfer

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

Let’s see these four techniques in detail.

1. Risk avoidance

This technique usually involves developing an alternative strategy that is more likely to succeed, but is usually linked to a higher cost.

A very common risk elimination technique is to use proven and existing technologies rather than adopting new technologies, although they could lead to better performance or lower costs.

A project team can choose a supplier with a proven track record instead of a new supplier that offers significant price incentives; this, in order to avoid the risk of working with a new supplier that is not known whether it is reliable or not.

Eliminating a risk is definitely the best technique you can use. If the project manager can avoid it, surely he will not have negative impacts derived from it on the project.

2. Risk acceptance and sharing

This technique involves accepting the risk and collaborating with others in order to share responsibility for risky activities.

Many organizations working on international projects will reduce the political, legal, and employment risks associated with international projects by developing a joint venture with a company based in a particular country, for example.

Partnering with another company to share the risk associated with a part of the project is advantageous when the other company has experience that the project team does not have. If a risk event occurs, the partner company absorbs all or part of the negative impact of the event.

3. Risk mitigation

Risk mitigation represents an investment in order to reduce the risk on a project.

On international projects, for example, companies will often buy a guaranteed exchange rate in order to reduce the risk associated with exchange rate fluctuations.

A project manager can hire an expert to review technical plans or cost estimates on a project in order to increase confidence in that plan.

Assigning high-risk management activities to highly qualified project personnel is another risk reduction method.

Experts who run a high-risk business can often anticipate problems and find solution.

4. Risk transfer

Risk transfer is a risk reduction method that shifts risk from the project to another party.

A classic example of risk transfer is the purchase of an insurance. The risk is transferred from the project to the insurance company.

Purchasing an insurance is usually in areas beyond the control of the project team. Weather, political unrest, and strikes are examples of events that can have a significant impact on the project and that are beyond the control of the project team.

Simply put, it is simply a matter of paying someone else to accept the risk.

Risk management may seem superfluous at the beginning of the project. When a project manager is starting a new project, it is indeed difficult to think about things that could go wrong, especially if he is caught up in the initial enthusiasm.

It is essential to remember, however, that the development of a management plan will – most likely – be useful later during the development of the project.

This is why risk management must be considered an absolute priority from the start.

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project manager assistant

What is a Project Manager Assistant

A project manager assistant is generally someone who, as the title says, assists the project manager.

This person generally has some education or experience in project management and is probably aiming for a career as a project manager.

Large, excessively complex or highly critical projects may require a project manager assistant to help and support in the management and supervision tasks.

What are the tasks of a project manager assistant?

The main role of a project manager assistant is to assist the project manager in the research, development, and management of the projects from the beginning and throughout the entire life cycle of the project.

Some assistants can also manage and monitor almost independently simple projects or segments of a complex project.

Among the responsibilities and tasks required for this role, we find:

  • Assistance in planning and managing the project
  • Development of effective internal and external communication plans
  • Leadership, motivation, and staff development ability
  • Update and reporting on the progress of planning
  • Update and reporting on budget and expenditure
  • Identification of requirements and gaps in terms of resources
  • Any other project management task that is routine, standardized, or low risk

These tasks can vary from organization to organization and from project to project. In general, however, these are standard tasks that can be delegated to a project manager assistant.

The qualities of a project manager assistant

To carry out his tasks to the fullest and to aspire to become a project manager, an assistant to the project manager must possess certain qualities:

Time management and organizational skills

Time management and organizational skills allow project assistants to help project managers stay on track in order to make sure deadlines are met. Project assistants must be organized and manage their time well, so that they can always know what is happening at each stage of the project. This is essential to help keep the project in line with the schedule and within the budget.

Ability to adapt and stress management skills

Adaptability and stress management skills are necessary for a project manager assistant. These capabilities allow the assistant to effectively manage the many unknowns that accompany any project. Stress levels can clearly rise when goal changes, blockages or missing links in the activities occur. The uncertainty caused by these variants can lead to errors, misunderstandings, and communication problems. During this chaos, project assistants must therefore be able to manage the resulting frustration and stress.

Computer and mathematical skills

Project manager assistants need good IT skills in order to be able to manage different forms of electronic communication, but not only. They should also be able to create spreadsheets and use word processing programs, as well as being clever in using the project management software. Mathematical skills are also needed in order to help project managers create and manage budgets and make cost estimates.

Communication skills

According to the Project Management Institute, 75% of organizations that complete on average 80% of projects on time and within budget have one thing in common: clear and effective communication during the project. The project manager assistant plays a crucial role in deciding which method of communication is preferred by the stakeholders (e-mail, chat, in person, telephone) and the desired times and frequency of it. Good communication skills are also needed during team members, employees and customers meetings. This is especially true in times of disagreement in order to manage conflicts.

Leadership and problem solving skills

The importance of leadership and problem solving skills cannot be forgotten. When the project manager is not available, the project assistant can assume some of the responsibilities. The ability to take charge when necessary and to assess situations and determine the correct course of action is one of the best qualities that a project manager assistant can possess.
the project manager assistant

How can you become an assistant project manager?

Starting in a position as a project manager assistant can be a good way to gain experience and progress in your career towards a project manager career.

The requirements of the job and the skills required will depend specifically on the organization and the project.

However, the requirements are generally lower than those required in the case of a project manager.

Certainly, a plus point for a project manager assistant is to undertake a training course as project management and possess the relevant certification.

Being a project manager assistant is almost a necessary step to become a real PM.

The period of working time spent assisting a project manager will be useful to demonstrate the right skills and professionalism to take the leap.

During the period of assistance to the project manager, it will be possible to learn from a senior project manager the art of project management in order to become the successful project manager of the future.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

enterprice project management

Enterprise and project management software

Why should we talk about an enterprise project management software and not simply about a project management software? It is very simple… they are not the same thing!

We will see later the features of an EPM software, but for the moment let’s just say that there are many softwares that allow to follow a project, but only some of them are able to follow multiple projects even of different sizes.

In general, large organizations run multiple complex projects simultaneously.

Although each project is not necessarily connected with others, they are all in a certain way correlated because they all have an impact on the organization as a whole and on its general goals.

This is where the practice of managing business projects comes into play, ie. Enterprise Project Management or EPM, which refers to project management on a corporate scale.

This generally involves implementing various strategies and processes aimed at simplifying and improving the effectiveness of project management on such a large scale.

What is Enterprise Project Management?

To understand what EPM means and why it is important, it is better to take a step back and consider the definition of “project management” itself.

The Project Management Institute defines project management as a temporary effort undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. And this is clear.

However, an organization involved in dozens of temporary initiatives, each focused on a specific goal with a specific deadline, needs a way to organize these efforts. It must make sure that each individual project brings the organization closest to its long-term goals.

This is where Enterprise Project Management comes into play.

EPM is considered as a specialized branch of traditional project management that focuses on the overall business goals of an organization, rather than on specific short-term goals.

By grouping projects and giving a broader view of activities, a company can avoid internal conflicts and unnecessary efforts.

Enterprise Project Management is a comprehensive approach to project management that takes into account direct and indirect influences on the progress of each project as a whole.

Consequently, it includes analyzing the risks, resizing of project processes, resource monitoring, continuous reporting and cost analysis with respect to benefits, and the use of tools and software to manage all these aspects.
the enterprice management software

How does Enterprise Project Management differ from traditional project management?

 Unlike traditional project management, the EPM is based on combining all parts of the project management into a single resource, often thanks to the use of a specific project management software.

These features help reduce the barriers between the individual project and the business vision in general, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Traditional project management practices focus on seeing a specific project from beginning to end, with a defined and measurable goal.

Enterprise Project Management focuses instead on the organization. It gives priority to its business goals and manages projects in order to ensure that they meet these general organizational goals.

The final goal is not necessarily a successfully completed project, but the project itself, which helps creating value in the organization.

Here are the advantages of EPM:

  • High quality output
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced impact of skills shortages
  • Reduction of project risks
  • Greater reliability of delivery

What makes Enterprise Project Management effective?

 The adoption of EPM can help an organization adopt a more strategic approach to budgeting, operations, and resource allocations.

First of all, however, a company must ensure that it has the following key elements:

  • High level support for project management initiatives: As with any large-scale initiative, the management of company projects will be effective only if the leaders of an organization are committed to supporting the idea and are actively interested in its progress .
  • Qualified project managers: In many cases, the most experienced project managers of an organization are able to deal with program management or project portfolio management tasks.
  • Project management software: No person or team can keep track of dozens of related projects without strong technological support. Today’s best project management solutions offer a range of tools to help project managers keep track of the times, budgets and resources of multiple projects simultaneously.

The essential features of an EPM software

The Enterprise Project Management software offers organizations the necessary functionalities to competently manage both smaller and more complex projects at the company level.

This tool allows you to look at projects from a strategic point of view and offers managers the opportunity to prioritize projects and allocate resources accordingly.

EPM software is generally rich in features. In addition to the typical ones like advanced security and mobile access, here are the other essential features:

  • Project Portfolio Management (PPM): this is the essence of EPM. This function organizes company projects and presents them in an easy way to consult, manage and monitor.
  • User Dashboards: a corporate project management software should allow to provide each user with a customized and customizable dashboard in order to analyze important information about the project and easily access vital information.
  • File sharing: a good EPM software offers a sophisticated level of file sharing. In addition to simple file sharing, in fact, the functionality must include audit trails, content versioning and authorization settings to ensure that only the right people have access to the data they need.
  • Internal communications: instant messaging or private messaging is a typical feature of EPM software that can help reduce the use of e-mail or telephone. Some software (not all) also allow video conferencing.
  • Calendar: valid EPM software should provide a calendar for each project as well as a central one that combines all the deadlines and milestones of the projects. Some EPM softwares even allow you to create custom calendars for each team member.
  • Gantt charts: although not all project managers use Gantt charts, many do. These are horizontal bar graphs that illustrate the program of a given project.
  • Integrations: last but certainly not least, a good EPM software should be able to connect with other softwares used in the organization, like Salesforce, Dropbox, and Microsoft Office.

A project management software with these features becomes fundamental for a successful EPM and for the achievement of business goals.

brainstorming techniques

Brainstorming Techniques: When Unity Is Strength

In Project Management, Brainstorming is a technique that can produce innumerable advantages for the Project Manager. At the start of a project or at a particular stage, project managers inevitably want to get as many ideas as possible. This is where brainstorming comes in handy.

Brainstorming is the technique where a project team meets in a meeting in which the individual members expose all sorts of ideas related to the project in a creative way.

When it comes to brainstorming, it is important to keep in mind some fundamental aspects.

First of all, the main priority of brainstorming is quantity over quality. Brainstorming is in fact the first step in the exploration phase of a new project, so it is important to be open to all ideas and possibilities, without judging.

Brainstorming and clichés

Another common idea of brainstorming is that many think it can only be done in one way: An open discussion in a room with all the people involved.

This method is not necessarily wrong, but it leads to some disadvantages that can make a session unproductive.

For example, when the first couple of ideas is shared during the meeting, the group inevitably tends to focus only on these first ideas throughout the rest of the time.

The biggest problem with classic brainstorming is that only a small part of the group makes 60-75% of the conversation. This fact can often prevent other new ideas from coming to light.

It is therefore important to maintain an efficient and effective brainstorming session, also using different techniques. In this article we will see how.

How to plan the brainstorming session

Before entering a room to do a brainstorming session, there are some tasks that the project manager must perform. These are:

  • Defining the problem and purpose of the session using SMART objectives.
  • Identifing the participants. Usually most of the them are those who are most interested in the problem, but it is also possible to include “strangers” and experts so that there is a diversity of points of view.
  • Clearly communicating the date and time of the session. It is generally important to also indicate a time when the session will end, but it is advisable to suggest to the participants to keep a buffer time between the brainstorming session and their next engagement.

How to conduct the Brainstorming session

Some guidelines to follow during a brainstorming session are:

  • Make sure you have a blackboard in the room to document the ideas.
  • Divide complex problems into simpler problems and examine each smaller problem independently.
  • Divide the group so that each member can brainstorm even independently.
  • After classifying the ideas, agree on the solution.
  • Assign an owner to the solution to make sure it will be adressed properly.

What to do at the end of the Brainstorming session

Even after the brainstorming session there are several activities that must be completed, such as:

  • Give a reward or recognition to the participants. This will ensure that the next time a new brainstorming session takes place, people will be happy to participate.
  • Follow-up and monitoring of the solution decided upon closing.

Brainstorming techniques

There are six brainstorming techniques that can help project managers find better ideas. Let’s see what they are:

1. Brainwriting

This technique is particularly useful if the project deadline is approaching.

The activity starts with a team and the project manager who exposes the basic idea.

At this point, instead of speaking out the ideas, each team member writes down his ideas on a piece of paper. Each participant then passes his ideas to someone else, that adds his own. And so on.

When the last person in the group has finished writing his idea, the project manager collects the sheets, exposes them and the group discussion starts.

2. Virtual brainstorming

This brainstorming technique, as the name already says, does not require participants to be in the same room.

This technique is perfect in the case of a team working remotely. All is needed is a good internet connection and a device to connect to the network.

A centralized platform allows you to start the brainstorming session and to include the participants.

Here the ideas are written directly on the digital platform instead of on a blackboard and the discussion takes place online instead of in a room.

3. Rolestorming

One of the most engaging and playful brainstorming techniques is definitely rolestorming.

In this method, the participants do not think like themselves, but put themselves in the shoes of someone else, playing a role.

There is no limit to the role that can be played. To generate innovative ideas you can think of being the next Steve Jobs or going beyond the limits by impersonating a superhero.

This is a fantastic technique for generating creative ideas and thinking “out of the box”, because it allows participants to perceive the opportunity or the problem in another way.
the brainstorming techniques

4. Mind Mapping

This is probably the most used and known brainstorming technique.

The participants meet in a room in front of a blackboard and each one of them suggests ideas relevant to the problem that is represented in the middle of the sheet.

Based on the ideas presented, a map is created in the form of a tree, where each idea is a different branch. When the ideas are finished, it will be possible to see the big picture.

5. Reverse brainstorming

This technique is also called negative brainstorming because it totally reverses the classic concept of brainstorming.

In practice, the participants, instead of looking for ideas to improve or solve a given problem, are called to find ways to weaken the fact represented.

This technique will allow to find the elements that are not working in the analyzed situation.

6. Starbursting

From the word “star”, this brainstorming process begins by representing a star with six tips.

The center represents the topic on which the group will discuss, for example a product, and each of the six tips will represent a question:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • When
  • How

During the brainstorming session it will therefore be necessary to specifically answer these questions, including all the sub-questions that will inevitably arise.

The benefits of group brainstorming

So why is brainstorming in a group advantageous?

It is a way to solve problems by holding a group discussion and gathering information or ideas that come through spontaneous participation in the discussion.

It is also a useful method, especially in the early stages of a product or project, to bring together different points of view.

And again, it’s a quick way to generate a great amount of ideas; a group effort can indeed increase the number exponentially.

Here are some tips to help the next brainstorm become a success:

  • Make clear goals from the start. What are you trying to find / solve? What restrictions are you operating with?
  • Just like with other collaborative meeting techniques, allow everyone to have a say in the matter. Facilitate the session so that people who are normally silent are the focus of attention at the same time as those who have a tendency to dominate discussions.
  • Let people generate ideas individually before meeting to discuss and elaborate. This will encourage the “silent” to actively participate without being overwhelmed by the ideas of the most dominant.
  • Prefer quantity over quality at the beginning.
  • Remind the group – and if necessary repeat it during the session – that no question or idea is stupid.

It may happen that brainstorming sessions sometimes do not bring great results. In these cases, it is important that the project manager is not discouraged.

Perhaps, if another brainstorming technique is tried – like the ones mentioned in this article – it will be possible to receive more fruitful ideas.

Brainstorming, in all its techniques, remains however a very effective methodology for generating new ideas and new thoughts, useful for the success of a project.

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variance analysis

The analysis of project deviations

Project variance analysis is an important technique that allows project teams to constantly compare planned performance with actual project data.

This analysis also assists the project manager and the project team in identifying and understanding the deviations in the project performances.

In the context of project management, the concept of variance analysis is fundamental. The aim is clearly to determine the causes of a variation, which is, in simple words, the difference between an expected result and an actual result.

This type of analysis can help the project manager to accurately identify the factors that influence each element of the project.

This analysis also helps further identify the causes and assess the severity of the deviation.

The steps of the variance analysis

Analyzing the deviations, or variances, is not difficult, however it requires a great deal of discipline in the collection and interpretation of data.

To begin with, the project manager identifies the deviation in the basic performance, then establishes the causes of the deviations and assesses the severity of the impact.

The next step for the PM is to implement corrective actions in order to restore the project’s performance. Finally, another task is to propose preventive actions in order to avoid similar future events.

A well-structured analysis of variance should include the following aspects:

  • Identify the relevant key performance indicators.
  • Evaluate the extent of the deviation.
  • Assess the degree of impact on project performance.
  • Identify the causes of the variance change.
  • Establish corrective action.
  • Estimate the resources needed to implement the corrective action.
  • Establish a time schedule for implementing the corrective action.
  • Recommend preventive action.

Analysis of deviations in Project Management

In Project Management, the analysis of the deviations can be traced back to 4 fundamental steps. These are:

  • Scope control
  • Program control
  • Cost control
  • Risk control

Let’s see them in detail.

Scope control

Most projects undergo frequent changes to the purpose of the project.

Sometimes, the project teams cannot control the changes and, consequently, fail to verify their impact.

This uncontrolled expansion in the scope of the project, without changes to planning, budget, risks, and resources, is known as “scope creep“.

The steps to control changes to the project scope include mainly:

  • Implementation of change control processes.
  • The periodic review of the basic forecast of the project.
  • Monitoring of project tracking on a regular basis in order to visualize changes to the project’s purpose.

Program control

The analysis of deviations as a program control technique is part of the Earned Value Management – EVM.

The EVM uses measures such as Schedule Variance (SV) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI) to indicate variances and performance efficiency.

However, there are many organizations that do not use EVM techniques to control project planning, but use similar techniques to measure deviations.

These techniques mainly include measurement changes on the planned start and end dates.

Moreover, they also imply the comparison of the duration spent to reach the planned goals with respect to the basic plan.
the variance analysis

Cost control

Without doubts, project cost control is a crucial aspect of monitoring and controlling any project.

Mainly in this case, the cost variance (CV), the cost performance index (CPI) and the completion variance (VAC) are used to establish the cost variances.

However, there are organizations that do not implement EVM techniques.

Therefore, these organizations implement procedures that track the actual expected costs on certain project activities.

Comparing then the actual cost forecast with the approved budget, the change in costs is obtained.

Risk control

The risk analysis of the project uses the data obtained from the analysis of the scope, program, and variance costs.

This not only helps the project manager and the project team to establish risk thresholds, but also to confront the existing ones.

If the risk changes exceed the desired threshold, the project risk mitigation plans are implemented.

Causes of project variances

The projects provide a unique product or service, however, they are subject to various changes during their life cycle.

Actual key performance indicators, therefore, can go against the desired project performance.

The key to successful project management lies in managing these changes and variances.

Refusing changes is not a solution. In fact, changes can also have a positive impact on project results. Rejecting them a priori would be counterproductive.

The factors responsible for changing the project’s performance may be different and here we have a list of them:

  • Changes within the project triggered by the end user or project team in order to meet contractual obligations.
  • Lack of resources, such as skilled labor, availability of equipment and material.
  • Estimates of the duration of incorrect activities.
  • Improper identification of critical activities.
  • Reviews of improper and incorrect projects.
  • Lack or poor implementation of project monitoring and control processes.
  • Poor risk assessment.
  • Not using change control procedures.
  • Changes in the regulatory framework.
  • Evolving business needs.
  • Changes of the requirements by end users.
  • Market factors such as changes in commodity prices, changes in exchange rates, etc.

The analysis of the deviations is therefore fundamental for the success of a project.

It is essential that these data are always monitored during the entire project cycle in order to avoid identifying a problem too late.

Clearly, the use of a project management software can help keep project values monitored as well as promptly visualize variances.

Especially with regard to complex projects involving different stakeholders, the use of a PM software can be fundamental in order not to loose sight of important and fundamental values.

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project meetings

The management of project meetings

Being able to manage project meetings is a feature that every successful Project Manager should have.

Each project requires periodic meetings where stakeholders meet to discuss goals, assigned tasks, and progress of the project.

Project meetings are an effective way to communicate, solve problems ,and develop skills. They can also be used as a tool to increase morale and create a sense of camaraderie within the team, which increases productivity.

However, in order for the meetings to produce the desired results, they must be effective.

Let’s see how the effective management of project meetings works.

The phases of a project meeting and how to manage them

In general, it is up to the project manager to determine the frequency of the meetings and to create an agenda for each one.

This task should not be be taken lightly. In fact, if the participants’ time is wasted, they will become uncooperative, which can endanger the very success of the project.

In principle, we can distinguish three phases that characterize a meeting: before, during and after the meeting.

For each of these phases the Project Manager will have to put in place some indispensable measures. Let’s see which they are.

Managing a project meeting: Things to do before the meeting

It all starts with a plan. Each meeting must have a clear purpose. Sometimes it is even necessary to bring together all the stakeholders for a brainstorming on the right goal.

For regular meetings, such as weekly team meetings or weekly client status meetings, the goal is likely to go beyond the current status of the project and provide updates on key activities, results and problems.

For an effective planning, here are the essential elements to consider:

  • How long should the meeting last?
  • Who should participate?
  • How should the agenda look like?
  • Which key goal do you want to achieve?

Here are more concrete suggestions to follow:

  • Set goals. If you do not set clear goals, the meeting is bound to fail. Without a clear goal, the meeting will not produce results; therefore, no solution will be generated. Before deciding on the date on which to hold the meeting, it is necessary to make sure that you have set a series of SMART goals.
  • Write an agenda for the meeting. Developing and following an agenda helps make the meeting more effective. Thanks to the agenda the project manager will have, in fact, more possibilities to finish the meeting with the expected results and in a more rapid way.
  • Keep the documentation organized and available. This means that it is necessary to make the meeting documents as short and concise as possible. If the documentation is too long and chaotic, in fact, you risk disorder or the loss of important information.
  • Invite the right people. Knowing the goal perfectly allows to know the right people to invite to the meeting.
  • Create an appropriate and comfortable physical environment. The project meeting must be conducted in a comfortable and well-ventilated room. Do not forget the presence of water and coffee that will make participants feel more at ease.
  • Start and end the meeting in time. People don’t like it when an event goes on too long or starts late. It is very likely that the participants have work to do outside the meeting and consequently they would like their work schedule not to be ruined. It is necessary to ensure that each participant is aware of the start and end time. Moreover, it is advisable to send notifications and reminders of the time to the participants.

These things may seem elementary, but it may be surprising to know how often some of them are forgotten or not taken into account.

Managing a project meeting: Things to do during the meeting

  • Always start the meeting in time. Unless there is an urgency or an unforeseen event, any meeting must always start at the scheduled time.
  • Finish on time. Similarly, it is important to end the meeting as close as possible to the planned end time. The closing time must be made clear in the invitation, on the agenda, and in the pre-meeting information. Often, the start time is set, but nobody knows exactly at what time the meeting will end. This hinders the possibility for the participants to organize themselves with their next job.
  • Never cancel a meeting. There can certainly be good reasons to cancel a meeting, but generally this is a bad idea. The participants have extra organized themselves on the basis of the meeting and apart from catastrophic events, it is always good to stick to it.
  • Take notes. Above all, the project manager, as well as the contact person for the project’s communications, must make sure to take detailed notes. It is necessary to document all the decisions made, the tasks performed, the updated questions, the progress of the activities, and the concerns that have been discussed. Record as many details as possible and as accurately as possible for the follow-up.
  • Keep the meeting positive and encourage comments. If the team sees that the project manager is positive and motivated about the project or topic of discussion, this enthusiasm will affect them. In meetings regularly scheduled with the team, a suggestion is to give recognition to employees who are doing an excellent job, this will keep a positive tone during the meeting and stimulate morale.

Managing a project meeting: Things to do after the meeting

After the meeting, it will be advisable to distribute the notes and the meeting protocol as quickly as possible to all participants. It will also be essential to ask for their feedback or their revisions within a certain deadline.

Following the suggestions, the project manager can review the protocol and send the final and updated copy again.

The goal is to always ensure that everyone is aligned with the project and this final step guarantees it.
the project meetings

Effectively manage project meetings: conclusions

 Here are the ingredients to plan and carry out effective project meetings.

Following these suggestions, it is possible to transform project meetings into effective and productive meetings, with awake and even interested participants.

As a project manager, you will always have plenty of meetings to attend every week.

Organizing all the information that comes with it is not easy. Surely, there is no easier way to organize all the information than to use a project management software suitable for the purpose, here you can find some tips to choose a project management software. In TWproject for example, it is possible not only to enter the dates of the meetings, but also to automatically update the workflow based on the decisions made during each meeting.

A well-organized meeting is a great way to allow efficient work within the team.

Well-managed project meetings allow teams to overcome the maze of distractions and obstacles to achieve results.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

final report

The Final Report

At the end of any project, a final report must be presented. This means that every project must have an official conclusion. The drafting of the project final report is the moment in which it is officially communicated that the project has come to an end and that the funds and resources will no longer be needed for it.

The workforce will then be returned to the respective departments and the contracts with the suppliers will be concluded.

This is a phase that cannot be omitted or reported informally, but must be formalized in a document that:

  • Attests what the project team delivered.
  • Provides an evaluation of the project in terms of quality of work.
  • Evaluates the budget and program performance.

The purpose of a project final report is to evaluate how a project was executed, being honest and objective.

What should a project final report include?

A project final report must necessarily include:

  • A description of the process with which the project was approved and the reason why it started.
  • A summary of the project execution with the specification if the project has achieved its goals.
  • Details on the project budget performance.
  • A list of factors that influenced the project results.
  • If possible, a description of the financial impact or other benefits that the project will provide on the organization.
  • Annexes containing summaries of important project documents, such as the scope document, the project plan, the test results and the final approval / acceptance.

Why is a project final report required?

If the project involves work for an external customer, the preparation of a project final report is generally required by contract. This is enough to show how necessary this report is at the end of a project.

However, even when a final report is not specifically requested, internal and external stakeholders are probably expecting one. Therefore, it is always better to deliver a project final report as soon as possible after completion of the work.

The final report will serve several purposes, including:

  • Inform stakeholders that they may not have been actively involved during all the phases of the project, that the project is complete and how it went.
  • Inform the other departments or organizations involved that the project has come to an end and that no additional resources or materials will be required. This allows the availability of resources for other projects.
  • Document any deviations from the planned budget or program, along with explanations as to why the variances occurred. This can help in the future to draw up a more accurate project plan when it comes to managing similar projects.
  • Recognize the efforts of the employees who worked on the project, especially those who contributed more than expected. This type of formal recognition can do much to increase people’s morale and maintain their commitment to the organization.

the final report

How to carry out the project evaluation and prepare the final report

Evaluation is a useful tool for stakeholders who have financially or technically supported the project. It means, in fact, assessing whether the project has met its purposes or not.

Evaluation is also important for the project manager in order to reflect on what happened during the course of the project and to learn how to better organize projects in the future.

The evaluation can actually be conducted only once, ie at the end of the project, or several times during the project. It can, for example, be useful when a milestone is reached or in the middle of the project life cycle.

Next, we will illustrate which are the main methods used for the evaluation of a project.

Regular review of activities during the project

At the end of each activity, a partial evaluation of its development is made. It is possible to include an evaluation on the completion of the activity in time and on budget compliance. If there was a delay, it is necessary to write the reason and explain how it was possible to limit the negative impact on the project. If the budget had not been sufficient, it is necessary to explain how the situation has been addressed and how this has affected the project in general. At the end of the project, all the partial reviews will be examined and collected to write a complete and detailed final report.

Interviews with participants

The interview with the participants is one of the fundamental steps for the drafting of the project final report. The project manager speaks directly with each participant in order to assess his level of satisfaction, the impact of the project in his working life and his commitment to the project. It is also very useful to collect possible ideas on how to further develop the project or how to design future similar projects.

Surveys and questionnaires

These allow you to collect a set of data that can produce statistical information. For example, it is possible to view the level of satisfaction of the participants through easy-to-read visual graphs that can be included even in the project final report.

The characteristics of a project final report

Regardless of the chosen project evaluation method, there are some qualities that a final report should absolutely possess:

1) Clarity. The report is a short document that can inform the reader about the main points of interest. It is unlikely that the entire development of the project will be told in such a report. As a rule, it is necessary to remember that the goal is to present how the project was successful and select the relevant information accordingly.

2) Structure. Reports must have a clear structure that will be used as a model. Moreover, they should clearly identify the targets set for the specific time period and demonstrate how they were achieved or not. In the event that something has not gone as planned, the report should provide clear information to understand what has happened and how the organization has addressed the problem.

3) Lessons learned. A good project final report always has a section dedicated to a critical evaluation of the project as a whole. This part is important because it indicates what the organization has learned and communicates how in the future it is possible to develop further projects drawing on what has been learned.

Since there is no way of knowing who could read the project final report and for which purpose, this report should include enough information to be understandable even by those unfamiliar with the project. Whoever reads it must be able to understand the purpose, execution and final result of the project without being overloaded with too much information.

It is obvious that a Project Management Software greatly facilitates the drafting of a project final report. The possibility of sharing documents with all the members of the team and with the stakeholders allows to take into account the individual states of progress of the project and all activities or obstacles that have been met along the way.

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project deliverables

Identify the project deliverables

In project management, a deliverable is a product or service that is provided to the customer.

A deliverable usually has an expiration date and is tangible, measurable and specific. It is given to an external or internal customer and meets a milestone or a deadline that is created and produced in the project plan.

There may be one or more deliverables within a single project.

Know when a deliverable can be defined as such

Deliverables are what drive the success or failure of each project. It is important, therefore, to know what they are and all the different forms they can take.

These measurable results confirm the achievement of the goals of the project. The results also demonstrate the adherence of the team’s work to the project requirements.

However, in the execution of a project, it also happens that some obtained results have little to do with the project itself. It is therefore necessary to have parameters in order to know when it is possible affirming that an output is a deliverable. An output, in order to be classified as a “deliverable” within a project, must:

  • fall within the scope of the project
  • be accepted by stakeholders – external or internal
  • be the result of deliberate work
  • have a precise role in realizing the goal of the project

The deliverable can be big and tangible, like a building or a factory, but it can also be small, like a one page document.

The deliverables, on their own, are rarely the final goal of the project, but rather trace the path to reach it.

This is why project managers often focus obsessively on their definition, management and monitoring.

 Internal vs external deliverables

A common way to classify the final results is to divide them into “external” and “internal” deliverables. There is a simple way to define them:

  • Any work done to satisfy customer requests or to fight competition is an external deliverable.
  • Any work done that is not part of the business with customers is an internal deliverable. In short an internal deliverable is whatever is created as part of business management. Keep and monitor accounts, create business documents, etc. these are all examples of internal deliverables.

Difference between Deliverables and Milestones

Another source of confusion for some project managers, especially at the beginning of their career, is the difference between deliverables and milestones.

Milestones are checkpoints during a project and can be inserted at any point. They mark the completion of an important activity. They have no deadlines, but are simply a way to keep track of project progress.

Milestones are created to break down a complex result into its constituent parts.

Moreover, milestones are not meant for customers, but for the internal project team.

Project deliverables vs process delivarables

There is also another distinction to be made when it comes to deliverables: project deliverables vs process delivarables.

The deliverables of the project are the great customer-centered goals we talked about previously.

The process deliverables instead, describe the path that will help to achieve the project results.

All documents created during project management, such as the project scope statement, the project plan, and the work breakdown structure, are documents not addressed to the final customer. However, they are necessary documents for internal stakeholders and for the team in order to better manage the project.

All these documents are examples of process deliverables. Their creation is not the goal of the project itself, but they are fundamental for a successful conclusion.

Process of defining project deliverables

To define the deliverables of the project, it is necessary to have a look at the project goal and ask the following questions:

  • What is the project trying to achieve?
  • What is the purpose, goal or final result that the customer wants once the project closes?
  • What are the constituent parts of the project goal?
  • What is the form and function of each of these constituent parts?
  • How important is this part for the overall project?
  • How will it be possible to create this part?
  • What is the cost of production / acquisition of this part?
  • How long will it take to produce / acquire this part?

In essence, the goal of the project is being divided into smaller parts and, at the same time, the feasibility and priority of each constituent part is being evaluated.
the project deliverables

Collection of requirements for deliverables

The probably most difficult part is defining the requirements for each deliverable. In particular, the requirements specify the criteria that make a deliverable acceptable – or not.

If the requirements are incomplete, customers will inevitably require changes and revisions and this can increase the scope and budget of the project, therefore affecting profits.

For this reason, a fundamental step in the definition of the deliverables is the collection of the requirements.

There are several methods that can be adopted to find the requirements.

Regardless of the tactics used, however, there are some questions that should always be asked:

  • Who are the main stakeholders that need to accept this deliverable?
  • What are the main priorities for this deriverable?
  • Do these requirements fall within the scope and budget of the project? If not, how much additional time / budget is needed?
  • Have we created similar deliverables in the past? What were their needs?
  • What is the industry standard for these deliverables?
  • Who is the end user for this deliverable?
  • What will make it a success for them?
  • What are the minimum quality criteria that this deliverable must meet in order to be successful? How will they be measured?

In addition to the specific requirements for each deliverable, there will also be some “universal” requirements, usually dictated by the best practices followed in the specific sector or organization.

Suggestions for managing project results

By following these simple suggestions, it is possible to simplify the management of the project deliverables:

  • Define the deliverables before starting work. The addition of deliverables once the work has already begun could lead to a change in the scope and budget of the project.
  • The better the requirements for each deliverable are understood, the easier it will be for stakeholders to accept it.
  • Break down the goal of the project in order to discover the key points.
  • Involve the interested parties in the project start-up meeting and seek their contribution in defining the final deliverables and their acceptance criteria.
  • When collecting the requirements, make sure that they meet the SMART criteria.
  • Separate the deliverables into distinct phases to better follow them.
  • Identify in advance the metrics and data that will be used to measure the acceptability of each deliverable.
  • Identify the deadline for each deliverable.
  • Use a project management software to facilitate project tracking and deliverable management.
  • Maintain a clear distinction between deliverables and milestones, and between process and project deliverables.

Every project manager must develop his own process to define and manage the deliverables in the best possible way. This will depend on the work style and on the limits and capabilities of the project team.

One way to make deliverable management easier is always to use a project management software.

This will simplify the tracking of the deliverables and make sure they meet the acceptance criteria.

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escalation procedures

The escalation procedures: when the risk gets big

The escalation procedures are the ways in which the PM communicates certain changes, with respect to the project forecasts, at the board of directors of the company.

The projects can fail for the most disparate reasons, but probably the main one is the failure to correctly monitor the project.

Beyond the risk management plan and the change control process, escalation procedures are essential in order to manage potentially dangerous situations. They are procedures that can work both during the project, as soon as the problems are identified, or upon completion before the closing declaration of the project.

Having a well-structured project escalation process is essential for a project manager. This process can help him to communicate effectively, accurately, and promptly, in case of problems. The more effective and timely the communication will be, the better the results of the decision-making processes will be.

Structuring an effective escalation process consists of knowing what, when, how, and why taking certain actions to face certain situations.

What is the project escalation

The general meaning of the term escalation is the progressive increase in intensity or spread of a phenomenon – in this case a risk.

In the context of the project, the escalation process is generally a formal process to highlight the problem in question to a higher authority.

For example, if a particular project participant is unwilling or unable to perform a certain activity for which he is responsible, it is necessary to explain the problem to the superior in order to find a solution.

Risks or problems relating to Project goals, resource conflicts, ambiguous roles and responsibilities, disagreements in the field, third-party dependencies… these are just a few known situations that require an escalation procedure.

Such problems require a higher level of intervention because many times the authority, the decision-making process, the resources or the efforts required to solve them go beyond the horizon of a project manager.

Understanding the correct use of the escalation technique is therefore vital for project managers.

The escalation should be treated as a professional act and should be carried out effectively. A project manager should not hesitate to implement an escalation process when dealing with a performing organization.

Proactive escalation and risk communication are far better than unpleasant surprises that can require costly corrective maneuvers to the project.

Moreover, when used correctly, escalation is a relatively simple technique to use most of the time.

Elements of an escalation plan

Here are the five elements that a project manager needs in an escalation plan:

1.  Responsibilities of the team: If it is necessary to rely on the team to inform a stakeholder in case of the discovery of an area at risk or problem, every member of the team must be considered reliable to communicate the problem to the interested parties.

2. Plan management: As project manager, the project manager cannot leave the project when a risk is identified, but must be able to manage it with the established guidelines.

3. Documentation: The escalation plan should have a register similar to a risk log in, which keeps track of the problems, the way they are managed and the priority of each one.

4. Timely reaction: Project managers and leaders must collaborate promptly with teams and stakeholders to ensure that risks are addressed in order to recover from any mishaps or reduce the problem.

5. Communication: Effective communication to and from the team is the key to an escalation plan. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the communication plan is accessible to all during the whole project.
the escalation procedures

How does an effective escalation procedure work?

First and foremost, the project manager must ensure that the necessary analysis and data are performed.

Many impatient project managers, in fact, are too quick to implement an escalation procedure. This causes more inconvenience than those that are solved.

Here are some ways to effectively use the project escalation mechanism:

  • During the initial phases of the project, have a correctly defined escalation matrix, that is based on different areas and levels of escalation. Explicitly document this escalation matrix for the project.

Ensure that project stakeholders are well aware of the escalation process. They need to know what issues should be raised, to whom and within what time frame.

  • Create a culture in which people sincerely believe that it is right to communicate problems promptly to the next level of management without fear of an aggravation of the problem.
  • As a project manager, avoid creating a tense and stressed environment.
  • Avoid frequent and unnecessary escalation. If this happens, in fact, a project manager could be seen as an incompetent and the escalation, when real, may not receive the attention it deserves when it really needs it.
  • Involve only the right – and not all – stakeholders without distinction.
  • Keep the meeting, call or email escalation focused on the problem and not communicate personal and private information.
  • Communicate the escalation describing the context, highlighting the correct data, the gravity of the situation (high / medium / low) and the suggested solutions.
  • Document the escalation and mark all necessary actions.
  • Search for lessons learned provided by similar escalations from past experiences.
  • When the vertical escalation – towards leadership – does not work, it is possible to try to use an horizontal, indirect or innovative method, until the solution or attention required to solve the problem is obtained.
  • Take strong measures only if no escalation procedure works. For example, a strong measure could be the closure of the project.

The escalation procedures: Conclusions

Problems can emerge in any type of project.

Many are small and can be solved within the team, but others can be much larger and have a strong impact on the project.

This is why a formal project escalation process should be always defined, therefore ensuring that management is aware of critical issues in order to enable correct decision making is essential.

The escalation of the project is both an art and a science that also presents a certain amount of risk. If handled badly, in fact, an escalation can lead to violent clashes even on a personal level.

Identifying project situations where escalation is the only way out and having the courage to face these situations professionally by following a structured escalation procedure is the key to helping the project.

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functional organization structure

The functional organizational structures and the Project Managers

The functional organizational structure is a particular type of organization in which a company can decide to organize itself.

The structure of an organization determines how employees, teams, and work responsibilities are organized in order to meet final needs and goals.

In a functional organizational structure, the employees are divided into departments characterized by the similarity of the tasks and the projects are carried out within the individual departmental units.

What is a functional organizational structure?

 A functional organizational structure is composed by project team members allocated according to the different functional units of an organization.

A typical organization has different functional units, such as the Human Resources, Finance, Marketing, Sales, Operations, IT, Administration, etc.

Each unit is managed by a functional manager who reports to the strategic direction of the organization.

In a large organization, the heads of the individual functional units may have other operational managers working under them and reporting directly to them. The larger the organization, the more levels it will have the functional unit.

For example, the HR department can have an HR head manager, under which we find additional HR managers. Each sub-responsible will deal with different aspects of this same department such as hiring, payroll management, staff training, etc.

All these managers work in harmony with the human resources department head in order to achieve the overall goals of the HR department.

Therefore, functional organizational structures must be managed using a hierarchical structure.

In an organization of this type, the execution of a project means the birth of a temporary team. The project team will be composed by members coming from different functional units.

Therefore, the members of the different functional units will deal with the part of the project that concerns them most closely and of which they are directly responsible.

It is not mandatory that all units of an organization are present in a project. The employees will in fact be assigned only on the basis of the requirements of the given project. For some projects, for example, no member from the Marketing department may be needed while more specialists of the HR department may be required.

The advantages of a functional organizational structure

When an organization is structured in a functional way, it is important to know what are the advantages and disadvantages of this choice. Let’s try to clear ideas by listing the advantages and disadvantages of this organization. Let’s start with the advantages:

  • No change. The projects are completed within the basic functional structure of the organization. There is no radical change in the operations and structure of the organization.
  • Flexibility. There is maximum flexibility regarding the use of team members. Specialists from different functional units can be temporarily assigned to the project, after which they return to their normal work. With many specialists available within each functional department, people can be exchanged between different projects with relative ease.
  • In-depth expertise. If the primary responsibility of the project is assigned to the correct functional unit, it is possible to make use of in-depth expertise on the most crucial aspects of the project.
  • Easy post-project transition. Normal career paths are maintained within a functional department. While specialists can make a significant contribution to projects, their functional unit is their professional home, therefore the focus of their professional growth and advancement. The project becomes like a temporary home for the staff member and, once it is completed, the employee returns to his “real” permanent home which is the functional department.

A functional organizational structure is – in general – more suitable for projects that require greater technical experience.

the functional organization structure

Disadvantages of a functional organizational structure

  •  Lack of attention. Each functional unit has its own basic work to do and it happens that project responsibilities are set aside to meet these primary obligations. This becomes even more difficult when the project has different priorities for different units. For example, the marketing department can consider one project urgent while other departments consider it only of secondary importance – if not a real waste of time. This can lead to delays and quality problems.
  • Poor integration. There may be poor integration between functional units. Functional specialists tend to care only about their own project segment and not what is best for the project in general.
  • Slow. In general, more time is needed to complete projects within a functional organizational structure. This is partly attributable to slow response times. Information on the project and decisions must be disseminated through the normal management channels that do not consider horizontal communication between departments. For example, if a staff member of functional unit A needs to solve a problem involving a team member of functional unit C, the problem must first be assumed by the manager of A, who must then coordinate with the manager of C that can then reach team C member in order to get the relevant information and then retransmit it along the same path back to the staff member of A. This, as is easily deducible, is a complicated process and can cause delays and stress.
  • Lack of ownership. The motivation of the people assigned to the project may be weak. The project can be seen as additional work not directly related to one’s professional development. Moreover, since project members only work on one part of the project, they do not identify with the project as a whole. Lack of ownership thus discourages team members who may not engage enough in project-related activities. The result, even in this case, will be a problem of quality of the results.

The role of the project manager within a functional organizational structure

It is a fact: The project manager has less authority over the members of the project team in the functional structure than in any other form of organizational structure.

In fact, he is more of a project coordinator than a real project manager. This is precisely because functional managers maintain complete authority over project team members and project budgets.

Here are the important facts regarding the role of project manager within a functional organizational structure:

  • The functional organization is a traditional organizational structure in which the authorities – and therefore the real managers – are divided according to the functions performed by a particular group of people, such as Finance, HR, Marketing and Purchases, etc.
  • Power and authority are in the hands of the functional manager, not in those of the project manager.
  • The functional manager has the authority to release the resources based on their knowledge and their competence – the project manager is therefore always dependent and pending on the decision of the different functional managers.
  • The resource goes back to the functional manager after completing the project – and in any case it is never “completely” separated.
  • The resources that work in this type of organization are always under the authority of the functional manager, in any situation.
  • The project manager generally has much less power in this type of organization.
  • Project manager skills are much less used in this type of organization.
  • The resource assigned to the role of “project manager” is usually a member of the team within a functional area and does not have a real project manager title or training.
  • The functional manager will control the budget and the “project manager” will act more as a coordinator of the project activities rather than having real project management responsibilities.
  • The resources for the project must be negotiated with the functional managers and the accessibility of these resources will be based on the business conditions.
  • Any type of problem escalation must be reported to the functional manager.
  • Since the “project manager” has low or no authority, the project can last longer compared to other organizational structures. Generally, there is no recognized project management methodology or best practices used.
  • The project manager practically assists the functional manager.
  • The project manager spends a lot of time doing administrative tasks and often works as a PM only part-time.

In conclusion, in a functional organization, project managers have little or no role when it comes to allocate resources and must completely rely on and hope for the cooperation of functional managers in order to obtain the resources they need to complete projects.

Functional managers have complete control over the company’s specialized departments and are responsible for the productivity and results of the unit.

To reach our conclusion, we can say that, in general, the functional organizational structure can work well in a company that mainly carries out repetitive work.

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Portfolio Management

Project Portfolio Management, also known as PPM, is a term used to describe how the – often confused – mix of dependent and connected projects within an organization is managed.

Projects are often seen as independent units, but in reality individual projects are rarely isolated.

The reality is that the projects within an organization are extremely interconnected, so the question is: to which extent are they connected.

The way projects are managed and prioritized in order to ensure their success is precisely the task of Project Portfolio Management.

What is Project Portfolio Management?

Project portfolio management refers to the centralized management of one or more projects in order to achieve the strategic goals of an organization.

In essence, project portfolio management ensures that all approved and ongoing projects meet strategic goals and are efficiently managed in order to obtain optimal results.

It’s a way to bridge the gap between strategy and implementation. It guarantees, in fact, that an organization can exploit more projects to guarantee the global success of a business.

PPM is also generally used by organizations to identify the potential return of a project.

It also makes it possible for companies that want to invest in new projects to see in advance the risks in each of them in order to make careful decisions.

However, the goal of project portfolio management goes much further. Just think of how much Portfolio Management facilitates group communication and ensure that all stakeholders are coordinated.

 The correct management of the project portfolio

If done correctly, the PPM is a valuable tool to get the buy-in of all interested parties in an organization.

Portfolio management allows various stakeholders to get a broader picture of what is happening. It also allows for consistent feedback, understanding, managing and mitigating risks, thus giving less space to possible discrepancies that can often have negative inflences on the success of a project.

Good project portfolio management therefore improves transparency, governance, and responsibilities.

If managed effectively, Portfolio Management helps improve project management processes and methods, reducing failures and improving customer satisfaction.

The PMI reports that organizations with mature PPM processes have successfully completed 35% more of their projects, wasting less time and money.

The advantages and key elements of project portfolio management

In summary, the PPM helps to:

  • Support the management of project requests
  • Improve visibility
  • Improve collaboration
  • Introduce risk management processes
  • Involve stakeholders
  • Improve transparency, governance and responsibility
  • Ensure the realization of benefits
  • Manage resources efficiently
  • Offer a competitive advantage
  • Improve decision-making and problem solving
  • Ensure continuous improvement and evolution of project management processes
  • Attract, recruit, maintain and develop the right talents

The PPM therefore covers a series of areas and practices, here are the three key elements that characterize it:

The key elements of the PPM: Business Strategy

The business strategy is the basis for managing the portfolio of successful projects.

The strategy refers to the long-term direction and scope of an organization. Thanks to the strategy, it is possible for a company to grow and to be competitive.

Obviously, a strategy must be supported by the implementation plans. These plans take into account the capabilities and resources of the organization, external threats, as well as metrics to measure success.

In essence, you can have the best strategy in the world, but if there are no means to achieve it, that strategy has no value.

It is true that projects are fundamental for achieving the agreed strategy, but only when this is clearly defined and communicated.

The key elements of the PPM: Software

Choosing the right software solution is essential for the success of Portfolio Management.

Very often, the absence of integrated software, which combines data from various sources into a single framework, prevents organizations from fully realizing the advantages of the PPM.

When evaluating software solutions, you need to look for a system that is easy to implement and use. It is essential to do this in order to ensure that it is adopted easily and correctly used by end users.

An effective PPM solution provides a unique view of the situation. A unique source of truth about the project that promotes collaboration and tracking of activities.

This is particularly important for team members and project managers working on multiple projects at the same time.

In fact, teams and project managers need optimal levels of knowledge and visibility to fulfill their obligations and take corrective action where necessary.

The key elements of the PPM: Ask the right questions

The connection between business strategy and project portfolio management has been mentioned several times, but how is this relationship managed?

Project portfolio managers need to ask some fundamental questions about all the projects in an organization. Here are some of them:

  • Does each project contribute to the overall achievement of the portfolio?
  • Are the projects dependent on each other?
  • Can any project have a negative impact on other projects?
  • Will successful delivery of all projects produce the desired goal or benefit?
  • Are resources / budgets available to start a new project?
  • Is there a similar project in the portfolio to use as a model?
  • Are stakeholder expectations realistic?
  • Are all members of the organization familiar with strategic goals?
  • Are the available resources used effectively?
  • Is it easy to get the right information about the project to optimize the decision making process?

In an increasingly competitive and stimulating operating environment, companies are required to perform more and more in order to stay competitive in the market.

Projects are clearly the basic tools to provide the solutions and innovations that organizations require to move forward.

Without a general structure, however, and without an overall strategic vision such as that provided by the centralized management of multiple projects, the projects themselves will tend to consume precious resources, like budget and time, often ineffectively.

With an emphasis on long-term strategic goals, organizational requirements and governance, project portfolio management ensures the success of the entire company project.

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software for PA

Project management software for public administration

A software that manages projects for the public administration? It is no longer an utopia.

The digital revolution is influencing the entire system and it is clear that even the dynamics of running a business have changed significantly, as have those of the public administration.

The importance of using Project Management software also in public administration

In both the private and public sectors, it has become crucial to implement a project management software within the system.

The positive effects of having a project management platform that works and fits perfectly into an organization is enormous.

First, a series of basic processes and operations are automated, thus increasing productivity and reducing the risk of human error.

Moreover, project management platforms help to ensure the quality of work.

Last but not least, it is possible to have control of all the costs, budget and timing.

Simply put, project management softwares help achieve goals even within the public administration. The right tool will therefore influence the success of the projects.
the software for PA

How to select project management software in the public administration

There are many types of software for project management, with different functionalities and interfaces, and it is therefore important to be able to understand which one is the right one in each specific situation.

Since every situation is different, there is no software suitable for everyone, especially in the case of public administration, where the needs can be extremely different compared to a private organization.

Here are the steps to follow in order to make sure you make a good decision when navigating the vast market of project management softwares.

1. Outline the needs of the organization

The selection of the right project management software starts with a clear and honest assessment of the needs and requirements of the organization.

First, you need to make sure the team is ready to accept this new solution.

In the Public Administration, in fact, the projects often involve numerous people. It is therefore important to ensure that everyone is on the same page in order to avoid future complications.

It is then necessary to draw up a list of all the necessary functionalities for the project manager and the team, taking considering the goals.

Moreover, the new software should support the current work methodology of the organization, without changing it – or at least not drastically.

2. Look for the various market options

Once all the requirements for the project management software have been outlined, it is time to start searching for the various suppliers on the market.

Probably in the case of the public administration it will also be possible to launch a public competition for the collection of offers.

The more offers you have, the greater will obviously be the possibility of not neglecting any potential platform.

Once all the offers have been collected, the time will come to narrow the selection.

In order to do this, the criteria may vary: price, technology, functionality, graphics, etc.

3. Test-Drive and evaluation

This could be the most difficult part of the whole process.

Here is where you actually go to try out project management platforms – which fit the criteria – to see how much they meet the needs and to proceed to choose the final solution.

The demos show how the product generally works and it is therefore possible to see if the software is really in line with the needs of the organization or not.

At this stage it is important to imitate real processes as much as possible. To this end, all the team members who are going to work with the platform should be involved, their feedback is indeed important. In this step, an accurate assessment is the key.

And let’s not forget about data security, a very important issue for the Public Administration since it deals with sensitive data every day.

It is also important to make sure that the new solution fits the work style, habits and needs.

4. Evaluate software costs

Before making the final decision, it is necessary to consider the costs related to the various offers received. The costs of project management software can vary enormously between one supplier and another.

When evaluating costs, it is a good idea to also consider implementation and adoption costs.

If a solution takes a long time to implement, the advantage it brings could be zero.

We must therefore compare the cost of having that tool with the cost of not having it.

5. Implementation of the new project management software

Once a project management software provider is selected and the contract signed, the process is not finished yet. The time has come to implement the new platform within the office.

The project management software is not just for the project manager, it is for the team.

It is therefore important to draw up a plan that explains how the team will start using the new tool.

It might be a good idea to schedule training sessions, if necessary.

Moreover, you need to make sure that you have all the necessary tools, that the additions are completed, and that all important documents are available within the new platform.

The project manager should not forget be an example for the team by using the new solution as much as possible and answering any questions or concerns about it.

Finally, the project manager must demonstrate the help and support that this new project management software will bring to work in general.

There is no doubt how vast the market is when it comes to project management softwares. The choices and alternatives are indeed numerous.

With these tips however, even the Public Administration will be able to orientate itself and choose the platform that best suits its needs in respect of the good of the citizen, its ultimate goal.

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the monitoring plan

The project monitoring plan

Project monitoring plays a vital role in the decision-making processes of a project manager.

However, despite being an often overlooked method, if put into practice, project monitoring can help the project manager and his team to foresee potential risks and obstacles that if not treated could bring the project in the wrong direction.

What is a project monitoring plan?

 The monitoring plan of a project consists of keeping track and monitoring of all the data related to the project.

Thanks to this activity the Project Manager can always have control of the situation, identify potential problems, and put the corrective actions into practice. The monitoring plan assures that the project is within the field of application and respects the specified deadlines and budget.

In simple terms,

Project monitoring serves to supervise all project activities in order to make sure everything is as planned.

Monitoring is the fourth phase of the five phases of project management according to the PMBOK: starting, planning, execution, monitoring – precisely – and closure.

The monitoring phase should be performed together with the execution of the project, so that to have useful information on the project.

Project monitoring helps to keep track of project performance and progress using key performance indicators (KPIs) given during project planning.

The most important part of this phase is to identify when a change is needed, what the change entails and how to implement it by impacting the minimum possible on the project.

Why is the project monitoring plan important?

 When project managers make important decisions without verified data, it is like they move into a dark room they don’t know with their eyes closed.

Decisions will be based on very little or no evidence. The action could therefore not be very efficient and could only be a waste of time and resources.

This is why it is important to monitor projects diligently and use the data collected to reach rational and logical decisions.

ere are some basic questions to ask during the project monitoring phase:

  • Are the activities performed as planned?
  • Are there unintended consequences that arise as a result of these activities?
  • Are there any elements of the project that need to be modified and if so which ones?
  • What is the impact of these changes?
  • Will these corrective actions lead to the expected results?

Automation in project monitoring

Automated tools and technologies can simplify the project monitoring process.

Most project managers have already adopted project management tools to delegate tasks and monitor their projects.

However, project monitoring is a complex process and here the project manager must always be actively involved.
monitoring plan

The six advantages of project monitoring

Project monitoring offers six advantages:

1. Align progress with the plan

Monitoring project progress will help assess whether the project is in line with the original plan. Moreover, it will help to understand, if the project is going wrong, what corrective actions to apply.

2. Involvement of interested parties

Monitoring improves stakeholder engagement. If a problem or risk is detected too late, the project sponsor is often powerless. With regular monitoring and clear communication, it will be easier to deal with risks and contingencies.

3. Customer satisfaction

Open communication and feedback increase the likelihood that the final result will meet expectations, thus considering the project a success.

4. Team motivation and responsibility.

Team motivation will have fluctuations during the execution of the project. By monitoring progress and completing the milestones, the team will have clear goals for the project.

5. Management of external suppliers.

Communication is essential for any project, especially when working with external suppliers. Monitoring the performance of these resources will help meet key deadlines, manage the given budget, and take into account unexpected project planning delays. Similarly, it is necessary to share project changes with suppliers, so that they can update their internal plans and be available accordingly.

6. Continuous learning and improvement.

Monitoring represents an ideal opportunity for continuous learning and improvement, as well as planning and project execution. Once the project is finished, it is essential to document the lessons learned, a task that is easier if the project was monitored during the execution.

Methods and techniques for monitoring the project

Project monitoring starts already during the project planning phase.

During this phase, the project manager must decide which are the factors that will define the success of the project. He will also determine how to measure the target using key performance indicators (KPIs).

In this phase, it is also necessary to consult the team and the sponsor of the project.

The KPIs used to track and measure success can be, for example:

  • Cycle time: the time required to complete an activity.
  • Number of program adjustments: how often project planning has been changed.
  • Budget variance: how much the actual budget varies from the project budget
  • Number of errors: the number of times the job needs to be repeated.

Moreover, it is possible to keep track of customer satisfaction, planned working hours compared to the actual ones, etc.

Choosing KPIs is therefore the first piece of the puzzle.

 The 6 phases of project monitoring

1. Identify the goals of the project

The definition of the program goals begins with the answer to three questions:

  • What problem is the project trying to solve?
  • What steps are taken to solve this problem?
  • How will the project team know when the project was successful in solving the problem?

Answering these questions will help identify what the project should do and how the team, and especially the project manager, will know if it was a success or not.

2. Define the indicators

Once the project goals have been defined, it is time to define the indicators to track progress towards achieving them. The indicators trace the progress of the project and help to answer the question “Are the activities implemented as planned?”

3. Define data collection methods and timing

Now it is time to decide the methods for data collection and how often the data will be collected. The method chosen will have important implications for project monitoring. In fact, a wrong method could lead to a wrong perception.

4. Identify roles and responsibilities during monitoring

It is important to decide who is responsible for collecting data for each indicator from the early stages of planning. Data management roles must be clearly decided so that everyone is on the same page.

5. Create an analysis plan and report templates

Once all the data has been collected, someone will have to draw up a table of results for internal review and external reporting. The project monitoring plan should therefore include details on what data will be analyzed and how the results will be presented.

6. Plan data disclosure

The last element of the monitoring plan describes how and to whom the data will be given. For example, a project team might want to review data on a monthly basis in order to make policy decisions and develop future work plans, while other stakeholders may want to review the data every quarter. These options should therefore be discussed with stakeholders in order to determine reasonable expectations for data review and to develop dissemination plans at the beginning of the project.

These six steps are all you need to set up a good quality project monitoring plan.

By consistently applying these steps, each project manager will be able to see how his project is going. Above all, he will be able to intervene promptly to correct the course when necessary, avoiding inappropriate failures.

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industry 4.0

Project management in Industry 4.0

Project management in Industry 4.0 is destined to play a key role. In this article we will try to explain why.

The concept of Industry 4.0 was born in Germany, in 2011, during the Hannover Fair. This so-called fourth industrial revolution introduces what has been called the “smart factory“. It is a factory where cyber-physical systems monitor the physical processes of the factory and are able to make decentralized decisions.

The basic error that involves project management in Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 therefore leads to a new industrial automation that integrates innovative technologies in order to improve working conditions, so increasing productivity.

All this is however closely correlated with the Internet of Things, the Cyber-Physical System, information and communication technology, Enterprise Architecture, and Enterprise Integration .

Although project management is a well-known challenge in Industry 4.0, this aspect of global network connection is sometimes ignored. Most studies, in fact, focus only on technological aspects.

As you can easily understand this is an important error that can lead to visions disconnected from reality.

The importance of this aspect in Industry 4.0 is evident. Consider the fact that networks are growing and the Internet is used as an important source of information and communication – sometimes primary. Moreover, virtual representations of the real world are created and information systems are increasingly being developed. In short, we reach levels where these systems are able to act independently and even make their own decisions.

Managing an innovation environment like Industry 4.0 therefore requires a creative and completely new way of thinking.

How the processes have changed with the advent of Industry 4.0 and what repercussions they have had on Project Management

For half a decade, the concept of Industry 4.0 has had time to spread throughout the business and industrial world. We have already discussed this topoc in the article on disruptive technologies.

Production processes  within companies have changed during this period and continue to develop following this direction.

The advantages of digitization are obviously innumerable. They include simplified data management, more opportunities to create less expensive and more customized solutions, automation of labor-intensive processes and / or the introduction of measures that simplify these processes.

Thanks to digitization, benefits that are achievable both in conventional manufacturing companies as well as in service companies can be obtained.

The theme of Industry 4.0 is therefore always present in project management. In fact, the management of the most important projects, in this historical period, concerns companies that are going through digitalisation (for some advice you can read here) and must be able to manage this process.

All this is also part of the project managers‘ tasks, who are interested and “affected” by digitalisation. It will therefore be their job to organize their internal structures and their work using those digital products.
the 4.0 industry

Digitization in Project Management

Project management must respond faster and faster and operate more proactively within the digital world.

But, in concrete, what does this mean for a project manager?

First, we all know that most, if not all, project managers use a smartphone. This allows them to have constant access to e-mails, to Internet, to instant messaging services, to cameras, plans and reports.

All company statements can be reviewed directly during a meeting, for example, or while waiting at the airport during a business trip.

Has the appropriate plan been received by a team member? Has the technical sheet been sent to the supervisory office? Can all this information be solved and controlled directly thanks to digitization? Yes of course!

Some examples of how the Project Manager’s work changes with the advent of Industry 4.0 and digitization

Let’s take the example of a project manager working in the construction sector. He can use a tablet and write reports during site inspections. He can thus take pictures of a damaged or incorrectly labeled door or cable and then insert them directly into the report together with the relevant annotations.

In this way, in essence, it is possible to generate a site inspection report in an extremely simple, fast and effective way. It is also possible to send it immediately to all interested parties.

Digitization therefore saves time and…a large amount of telephone calls.

Digitization also concerns project management platforms, which have become common in many areas of project management.

 The advantages of the Digitized Project Management Platforms

Indeed, there are many different suppliers of these platforms and it is also possible to create personalized ones.

Such platforms can be individually created or customized for each project and designed to include different functions based on the activity or project.

Information such as plans, meeting reports, photographs, contracts, construction plans, invoices, data sheets, specifications, drawings, and correspondence can be stored here.

Moreover, each user can receive information when a new report is published within a specific category.

Invitations to meetings can also be sent via project platforms, which can therefore act as planning tools.

Meeting reports and project plans can be uploaded and can also be annotated, authorized, and modified without the need of pen and paper.

You can always determine which is the most recent version of the plan and see how many changes have been made and by whom.

For sure paper will continue to play an important role in project management. In many cases, it is simply inevitable and advisable to also print something in order to allow project participants to write notes.

This also allows to compare the drawings or read the printed versions of the reports because nobody is willing to spend the entire working day staring at a screen.

However, it is certainly true to say that digitization simplifies many things and will become increasingly indispensable in the future, also and especially in project management.

Have you ever thought of trying Twproject for your Project?

Want to know more about Twproject Mobile app?

One try is worth a million words.
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Project management in the Public Administration

Like in the commercial sector, where organizations adapt to the changing needs of the market, even public administrations are forced to adapt public services not only to legislative changes, but also to the perception that citizens have.

The “customers of public institutions”, citizens and legal persons, as well as those of commercial activities, in fact require fast, cheap and quality services.

The situation in the private sector is easier to manage, as there is at least one basic measure of success: profit analysis.

Public authorities, regions, cities and municipalities are instead obliged to work diligently in order to achieve a certain level of efficiency and to compare themselves with other public agencies.

The goal is that this level of services is equal for all organizations.

The purpose of the functioning of public sector organizations is in particular to satisfy the needs of others rather than their own. For public administrations, social goals should balance the economic ones.

These are mainly services that provide people with basic social assistance services such as health, safety, housing, education, cultural and social activities, etc.

The public sector is represented by the public administration, which includes a set of institutions with central or territorial jurisdiction.

The public administration is the backbone of a modern state, just as banks are the backbone of the economy.

It is therefore necessary to effectively coordinate this central government and here the project management in the Public Administration comes into play.
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Project Management and its meaning

 According to the most recognized global professional association in project management, the Project Management Institute (PMI), project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and technologies to the activities in order to satisfy the requirements of a specific project.

To satisfy the specific goals of the project, three fundamental factors must be defined for the management of the project:

  • Time: the limit for planning the sequence of activities,
  • Resources: both people, as members of the project team, as well as materials, such as tools or machines.
  • Cost: the use of financial resources over time.

Depending on the complexity, the projects are divided into:

  • Investment projects,
  • Non-investment projects
  • Mixed projects.

In the case of the Public Administration, we mainly talk about large projects that are the object of investments.

The investment project is rather demanding and involves a set of technical and economic studies necessary for its preparation, implementation, financing and efficient operation.

Non-investment projects are also called “soft projects”. These are projects focused on innovation, know-how, consultancy, etc. Processing is generally simpler than in the case of investment projects.

There is also a third type of projects, the mixed one. Mixed projects are those that include both the investment and non-investment part of the project.

Differences and similarities between the public sector and the private sector

The similarities between the two sectors mainly refer to management functions, while the differences focus on the conditions or constraints in which the management operates.

The main distinction between public and private organizations is their ownership. Unlike private companies, owned by entrepreneurs or shareholders, public organizations are the collective property of members of political communities.

Here are some additional differences between public and private organizations:

  • Complexity: public organizations are confronted with a wider variety of stakeholders, each of which places demands and constraints on managers;
  • Permeability: public organizations are “open systems” easily influenced by external events;
  • Instability: political constraints determine frequent changes in politics and the imposition of short time horizons;
  • Absence of competitive pressures: public organizations generally have few competitors. Even when competition is present, public managers often enjoy a dominant position in the market, such as in education and healthcare.

It is also emphasized that the goals of public organizations are more vague than those of their private counterparts, because organizational goals are imposed through the political process, rather than selected by the managers themselves.

Another feature of public organizations is that they usually have more formal procedures for decision making and are less flexible and more risk averse.

Moreover, economic efficiency cannot be used by public managers as a primary decision criterion, due to the mission that public organizations have. This means that public managers should follow public service ethics in their activities.

The role and skills of the Project Manager in the Public Administration

 Project managers play a crucial role in all types of projects and have a key role that determines the success or failure of such projects.

However, progress in public sector projection is creating a growing need to develop skills for public sector project managers.

Their role, in fact, is unique and very particular. This is also because in public projects we are always dealing with multiple and different stakeholders whose opinions can strongly influence the project.

Public sector project managers work in a different environment compared to the private one. Very often the public environment is not familiar with results-oriented project management. Project Managers are indeed often constantly involved in the management of political interference when they carry out projects.

Project management in the public sector therefore plays a key role in how society as a whole behaves. Here, project managers not only deal with the ability to successfully conclude a project in the right time, but they go further.

The importance of ethics for the public sector project manager

The public sector project manager must therefore possess the so-called “Skills Triangle“, which includes similar types of skills – but not identical – to those of the private sector: technic, leadership and ethics.

Without having an ethical competence, which refers to conforming to moral values and norms, project managers cannot use their professional skills in the right way within the public sector.

There are proper training programs and academic curricula tailored to the needs of public sector employers. These are paths that can help the project manager to do his job even more efficiently, in favor of the public good.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

Project chat: how to use it to motivate the team

Using a Team chat during a project to speed up communications and improve results? It can not only be useful, but I would say that today it has become almost indispensable.

From the pictograms carved in stone to the latest chat apps, humans find always better and faster ways to communicate.

Not surprisingly, MSN Messenger, for example, was one of the most used apps in the 90s, while messaging apps like WhatsApp and LINE are becoming a constant in our smartphones.

There is nothing to do, we like to talk and communicate, especially quickly.

For a project team, e-mails require a generally relatively long response time and an object. Video calls, on the other hand, can be frustrating to plan, just like a face-to-face meeting. Project chat, on the other hand, simplifies this.

 Writing a quick message and getting an answer just as quick – or even an emoji – is often used to reassure and continue with the job, perhaps with a smile on the face. Nothing complicated and no significant loss of time.

That’s how we talk to friends and relatives today! So why not apply this method even in the workplace?

INDICE DEI CONTENUTI

Today’s best chat apps, let you organize group conversations on multiple topics. And not only that… they also allow you to search in the organization’s archives to check if a question has already been answered and accelerate interactions with robots by exploiting the integrations present in the apps themselves and in the software.

Why use project chat within the team?

 There are so many ways to talk to the team, from e-mails to traditional phone calls, from video conferences to social networks. SMS may also work in some cases.

A Group chat is similar to the aforementioned tools, but it has something extra. Its main advantage is that it keeps all the organization’s communications in one place and makes it easy for everyone to talk. And if you need to say something to a single member of the team without disturbing others? No problem! Communication can take place through group chats but also through private chats.

Through the use of chats as a working tool, it is no longer necessary to search for a member’s e-mail address therefore wasting time. Everyone is just a touch away, even on the phone.

If a call may seem simpler, think that group chats often include the option of conference calls, video chats and screen sharing tools that make this way even more effective.

Usually, if you use the chat tool as a working tool, it is advisable to create both a general group for casual discussions, aas well as groups for each work team. Groups can also be created for specific topics that the organization needs to discuss. It often happens that you also have one or more groups of fun and light topics like jokes, music, birthdays, etc. These groups, apparently far from the working purposes, are instead often useful in creating harmony within the team.

Groups are generally public and everyone can participate. Thanks to private messages, on the other hand, it is possible to communicate directly with a colleague or chat with a smaller and more reserved group. Often, these small groups are created only temporarily in order to solve small contingent problems that involve few elements of the Team.

Chats therefore offer a place for everything, from casual conversations to private messages. This will save time and hopefully stimulate productive discussions. The chats, as already mentioned, sometimes also become playful tools. For example, it may happen that foolish wars with GIFs start, which will keep the organization a fun place to work, increasing motivation and harmony in the office.

Although a chat can be an extraordinarily effective element for a project group, it is essential to understand that it does not replace e-mail. Thinking of using the Team chat for everything can be a serious mistake and it is therefore useful and necessary to know well when to use one and when to use the other tool.

Let’s see what are the advantages that can be obtained by starting to communicate through a chat in a project group:

  • Drastically reduce the volume of e-mail, even up to half. By sending messages directly through the chat, you will save time and the team will be much more productive. Chat conversations are much more focused on the activity in question and the people involved will be reached directly.
  • Organize information with the corresponding activity (dedicated chats), so that communication is effective and direct as it covers a specific activity.
  • Keep active, open communication with all those involved in the project as it is easy to use, comfortable and accessible to all.
  • The meetings are targeted and more effective. Anything that can be clarified through the chat will mean hours of effective work instead of unnecessary meetings.
  • Promote monitoring and planning control. If the team enters and follows the conversations about the activities, it will have the project at hand. It will be easier and more convenient to see what you are talking about and, in this way, follow the process and planning. This will avoid unnecessary questions, doubts and wasted time.

project chat

Optimal communication with a chat tool

It sometimes happens that some members of the Team do not how to properly use a chat. It is therefore useful to establish which are the fundamental characteristics for an optimal communication with this instrument:

  • Private Chat: allows you to quickly connect with any team member and communicate privately.
  • Group Chat: useful for not writing an e-mail and putting all interested parties in CC. This places an update on the project in a space visible by the entire team and you can be sure that all the right people can access the communication and be informed immediately.
  • Project Chat: every project that you manage should have a dedicated chat so that conversations can be organized together with the content of the project. For larger projects, there must be a way to connect chat threads to specific resources, such as activities, files, diagrams or text.
  • Video / Audio Team Chat: when detailed discussions are required to happen quickly, embedded video conferencing is an essential requirement.
  • Visual indicators: Simple visual cues such as “full percentage” indicators of activity, out-of-office icons or emoji feedback to comments, help ensure that the team is aware of progress and updates are noticed.
  • Triage: first thing in the morning, or when you return from a vacation, you must first deal with the important things. A clear view of all unread notifications and the projects they come from will help the person decide what he or she has to focus on and what can wait.

In general, if the team or organization needs a dedicated chat app or a project tool  that also includes the chat option, there are a myriad of possibilities on the market.

The simplest tools allow you to organize chats in conversations and talk in real time, while the more advanced ones allow you to automate conversations with bots and make video calls when necessary.

Each organization will make its choice.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

functional organization

The functional organization

Every organization works on some basic principles and on a particular structure.

Working according to the principles of this particular organizational structure allows the achievement of a common goal, as well as the growth and development of the organization and the employees that are part of it.

There are different types of organizational structures and the functional organizational structure is one of these. And we will talk about this in this article.

What is a functional organization?

A functional organization is the most common type of organizational structure.

This is the organization divided into smaller groups based on functions such as IT, finance or marketing.

This departmentalization allows greater operational efficiency because the employees have their specific skills and knowledge to share within the group.

These people are supervised by a functional manager, who has experience in the same field.

This experience helps him use employees’ skills effectively, which ultimately helps organizations achieve their business goals.

In a functional organizational structure, the reporting relationships are grouped according to the specialty or functional area.

The purpose of the separation of the areas is has the purpose of letting the individuals deal with and worry about different and specific activities.

Here the authority, regarding for example the allocation of the budget, the allocation of resources, the decision-making process, etc. remains in the hands of the functional manager.

Project Manager vs Functional Manager

Usually, in this type of organization the role of the Project Manager is limited, since he will need the permission of the functional manager to satisfy his requests.

The functional organizational structure is generally suitable for companies producing standard products or goods, such as manufacturing industries.

Let’s consider a company that designs and sells clothing and fashion accessories, for example, and let’s imagine its creative department that carries out the projects.

The creative department will do its specific thing and will not focus on everything. Instead, it will be the task of the accounting and finance department to keep track of the amount spent on design creation and mass production. The sales and marketing department will be responsible for presenting specific plans for the sale of the products and for attracting the consumer, while the human resources department must ensure that the employees work to their maximum potential.

All these activities will be governed by the president and mid-level managers of the organization. More products will lead to the creation of more departments. Each department will have many other functions to perform, but these are the basic functions of each department.
the functional organization

The advantages of a Functional Organization

Every type of organization has its strengths and its shortcomings. Obviously, this also happens in the case of a functional organization. Let’s start from the merits:

  • The team is run by an experienced person with a high skill and ability, who can adequately understand and review the entire job.
  • Team members have the opportunity to work with other people in the same field. This allows the sharing of thoughts and knowledge and allows the learning of new special skills.
  • Team members have the opportunity to make a career and then be promoted within their functional areas. This can be a great reason to stay in the workplace for a long time.
  • Thanks to people’s skills, workers with specialized skills can perform tasks quickly, efficiently and with greater security, while reducing work-related errors.
  • Functional organizations generally represent an optimal type of structure for small businesses focused on the production or supply of individual products or services, because they have the possibility of maximizing performance. Peer cooperation within the different units is encouraged through supervision and coordination. Specialization, therefore, leads to operational efficiencies and improves productivity levels.
  • The hierarchy is obvious and employees must not report to multiple supervisors running the risk of generating confusion. Each employee reports to his functional manager and this reduces the number of communication channels.
  • There is no duplication of work because every department and every employee has a fixed job responsibility.
  • Cooperation and communication are generally excellent within the department.

The shortcomings of a Functional Organization

Let us now examine the shortcomings of this type of organization:

  • In a functional organization the grouping of units is carried out based on their special skills, abilities, tasks or roles. This will allow the entire team to operate correctly. However, business strategies and the level of bureaucracy make it difficult to respond to changes immediately. This is why this type of organization is quite rigid.
  • Another disadvantage of the functional organizational structure is that these functional groups may not be able to communicate more often than scheduled, thus reducing flexibility and innovation.
  • When a company uses this type of structure, people are grouped based on their knowledge and skills. This therefore requires a management system that allows the promotion, development and visibility of individual skills in each functional area.
  • The lack or inefficient horizontal coordination within the department could give rise to management problems. The motivation of the employees is strongly influenced by the lack of innovation and by the narrow visions of the organizational goals. This structure can be rigid and standardized methods and high formalization can hinder or prevent a faster decision-making process.
  • Another weakness of the functional organizational structure may be the lack of coordination of the unit. As a result, although functional units may have a better level of efficiency, they may have difficulty working well together, and cooperation may therefore be compromised. Moreover, some people may be particularly “territorial” and individualistic and may not be willing to cooperate. These unhealthy coordination can lead to delays, unfulfilled commitments, competing interests, waste of time and, in general, delays in completing the project.
  • Employees may feel bored due to the type of monotonous and repetitive work and may lose enthusiasm for the job.
  • Conflicts can arise if the performance appraisal system is not properly managed. For example, an employee can perceive the promotion of a colleague with lower skills as unjust and this could lead to demotivation.
  • A highly qualified employee costs more.
  • Departments have an egocentric mentality. The functional manager pays more attention to his own department and usually does not care about the other.
  • Employees may have little concern and knowledge of events outside of their department. This causes obstacles to communication and cooperation.
  • Generally, the functional manager makes autocratic decisions without consulting his team members. This may not always work for the organization.
  • When the organization gets bigger, functional areas can become difficult to manage due to their size. Each department can begin to behave as a small company with its facilities, its culture and its management style.
  • Functional departments can be distracted by departmental goals and focus on them rather than the organization’s overall goal.

 

To conclude, it can be said that among the various types of organizational structures a functional organizational structure is more suitable for organizations that do not change their working methods and function too often and where there is no intense competition in the market that could require quick action.

This structure requires a very powerful management, capable of resolving conflicts and internal problems. In essence, a management that allows employees to function as a team, despite the specialized departments working like a “watertight compartment”.

Moreover, it is ideal in a smaller environment where there is only one product or service to offer. For a larger organization, this structure may not be really effective.

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