risk mitigation strategies

Risk mitigation strategies in project management

The capability of mitigating risks means they can be recognized proactively and addressed by implementing specific mitigation strategies.

Risk identification is undoubtedly an important and crucial step in project management, but by itself it is not enough.

Knowing and thinking about risk is not the same as doing something about risk.

Risk will happen; some will even bring positive results, others won’t; some will be minor, others catastrophic.

So here are some of the most common ways to mitigate risks that can be faced in developing a project.

Risk mitigation strategies: Expanding requirements

First of all, we must know what’s what… Exactly, what do we want to achieve with the project?

This is a key question to ask and have a clear understanding of it, it is in itself a risk mitigating factor because it automatically removes all the mistakes related to “we didn’t know what we were doing“.

Taking full advantage of feasibility studies, kick off meetings with stakeholders and user groups to test ideas before making a full commitment, ensures that what is delivered is really what is desired.

Risk mitigation strategies: Have the right project team

People working on a project may be part of some risks themselves, especially in the case of inappropriate skills or perspectives that do not fit the company environment.

People who are not available when needed also affect the timing of the project.

This is why team members must be chosen in a thoughtful manner, thus mitigating the risks associated with people.

risk mitigation

Risk mitigation strategies: Risk distribution and/or transfer

A big mistake is to place all the responsibility for a risk on a single person or a group.

Without doubt, risk transfer is a proven and useful risk management strategy, but it must be used with care.

Mitigating one’s own risk by transferring it to someone else isn’t always the best approach.

For example, it is possible to transfer the risk to another player, but this could lead to increased costs – through increased supplier or insurance prices – which in many cases is not the most appropriate use of the organization’s funds.

The solution here is to look for solutions for managing risk jointly with other stakeholders considering the impacts of this 360-degree strategy.

Risk mitigation strategies: Communicate and listen

There is another way in which risks can be added to a project: lack of communication.

Communicating efficiently, consulting extensively and, above all, listening to the answers you receive, must be a core activity in any project.

This strategy can help the project manager to identify risks and engage more effectively with stakeholders.

Risk mitigation strategies: Assess project feasibility

Making use of feasibility studies and prototypes to test ideas and solutions before moving on to actual development can be an easy way to mitigate the risk of a project.

In this way it is possible to use this early stage as a test bed for checking concepts, methodology and solutions.

How? Break the project into phases and include time, at the beginning of each phase, for a feasibility study or survey.

This learning can be incredibly useful to shape the rest of the project and can prove – or disprove – the business case without having to commit the entire investment.

Risk mitigation strategies: Run tests

Arguably many people will know that when project time is nearing its end, testing is often the task that is cut out in the first place.

You should try to avoid this situation; testing is an important part of making sure that the project risk is reduced and manageable.

Tests help to eliminate much more important problems that may later fall on the project.

One way to make sure that you always have enough time to do tests is to estimate the “traditional” time needed to do tests and then double it.

This way, even if the project will encounter problems that will slow it down, there will always be room for tests.

Tests are often widely underestimated, but they are a great tool to detect defects or bugs that can be corrected so quickly, without causing much more serious problems later on.

That’s why carefully estimating and having a dedicated planning contingency for testing is fundamental in project management and can be considered a real risk mitigation strategy.

Risk mitigation strategies:  Have a plan B

Despite having planned everything, including risk mitigation strategies, an unforeseen problem occurs.

You don’t have to worry… it happens.

So the best way to deal with these unpredictable situations is to have alternatives to the hand, which you can include:

  • Emergency funds
  • Additional resources on standby
  • Options to split the project into segments and/or reduce the scope

A plan B isn’t exactly something that the project manager plans to use. However, having one prepared as a backup in case a risk materializes unexpectedly can be extremely valuable.

To prepare this strategy, it is necessary to discuss tolerances and contingencies with the sponsor and stakeholders before the project begins.

Determine what additional funding can be provided to address unforeseen problems and how to access it if and when the time comes.

 

The key to dealing with the unknown is to have an attack plan, maintain flexibility and always make sure you learn the reality of the situation so that you can adapt your actions accordingly.

This is therefore the solution to successfully manage risk for any initiative or at any stage of a project.

You cannot avoid risks, however you can prepare yourself through appropriate mitigation strategies.

Manage risks in your projects.

manage project criticalities

Manage project criticalities

Project criticalities aren’t really missing and managing them is what a Project Manager should be able to do in complete control.

Project managers need to be multitaskers and must be able to manage multiple single elements of a project at the same time, keeping everything under control.

However, even in the case of projects led by the most efficient managers, critical issues may occur during the planning and execution phases of the project. These problems are difficult to avoid, but often easy to solve.

To help you understand and give you an insight into what might be the most common issues to manage, in this article we will provide an overview of the 7 main challenges project managers may face.

Manage project criticalities: Break during project planning process

A skilled project manager knows that planning is one of the most important steps in the project management process.

However, sometimes project managers fail to spend adequate time at this stage and try to skip to solving the problem immediately. rather than planning and creating more effective strategies to avoid the issue, they prefer to solve it when it appears.

Instead, better planning means having more control over the project and more peace of mind when it comes to implementation.

So, please listen to the advice, it is important to never start a project before analyzing the problem, exploring possible solutions, finding the best one, and planning all the activities and resources needed to solve the problem.

Always keep in mind that some risks may affect the project in an important way and therefore find alternative solutions when they appear or you are certain that they will appear.

Clearly there is a difference in planning between longer-term and shorter-term projects: the former tend to require detailed planning, while the latter require a more pragmatic and agile approach.

Manage project criticalities: Scope Creep

It is very important to have a clear outline of the project before running it. However, even when a good planning process has already begun, the scope of the project may change during execution.

This change of scope, or scope creep, can be particularly threatening because it can result in the project deviating from deadlines and/or budget.

When this criticality occurs, in order to manage it, it is above all important to focus on the objectives and the real need to which the project must satisfy:

  • Have the goals changed?
  • Was it due to planning or execution?
  • Is it really necessary to change the scope?

If the answer to these questions is yes, a meeting with all project stakeholders should be scheduled so that everyone can find the easiest and most convenient unanimous solution.

Taking the time to refocus your project, reallocate resources, create new activities, reprogram them and let everyone know what happened is essential in this situation.

All documentation must be updated so that everyone can work under the same conditions and be fully informed on every aspect.

Manage project criticalities: Budget is exceeded

The project has been planned, the necessary resources have been defined and, consequently, the final project budget established.

So, if all these steps have been followed correctly, why, despite such good planning, is the budget exceeded?

This could be due to three reasons:

  • The planning process wasn’t as efficient as it seemed,
  • There wasn’t an efficient monitoring and control process during the execution phase
  • The project was influenced by external sources (environment, regulations, currency exchange, etc.) even unforeseen ones

When a project exceeds the budget, you need to find out what happened and try to reallocate the remaining resources so that you can continue to continue to maintain the same expenses.

A sound practice during project planning is to set a small “buffer” budget for exceptions, i.e., to have a reserve in case contingencies emerge that are beyond the project manager’s control.

Manage project criticalities: Missing or inefficient communication

A bad or missing communication plan results in unresolved conflicts, which could have a negative impact on the project.

A project is executed by a team of members, each of them responsible for specific tasks and deadlines.

If one member is not on track and the rest of the team or the project manager doesn’t realize this, the project will definitely be delayed. In the worst cases, larger problems will occur if the gap persists.

Having recurring meetings and records of these meetings sent to participants and stakeholders is a great idea to keep everyone on the same page.

project criticalities

Manage project criticalities: Missing deadlines

In a project, tasks depend on other sub-tasks and many of them cannot begin if a previous task has not yet been performed.

So, essentially, a missed deadline could lead to 1,000 other missed deadlines in a domino effect and, in the end, a late delivery of the final project result.

This is why time and deadline management is crucial in a project.

A good software with a clear Gantt and easily accessible is very helpful in this regard.

When delays occur, it is important to first analyze whether the expired activity is part of the critical path.

If not, you can check other activities within the critical path that can be carried out and reallocate resources so that you can keep the same end date.

Manage project criticalities: Lack of responsibility

Each task usually only needs one person in charge, i.e. a person who takes charge of the specific task and anything related to its completion.

A project manager must therefore clearly define the responsibilities and decision-making power of each team member and the expectations of stakeholders for that particular activity.

Manage project criticalities: Decentralized information

It is key to keep everyone up to date on the status of the project at all times.

Lack of accessible, available and reliable information can lead to project errors and delays.

Also, disorganized information, such as multiple versions of the time process, several document folders, many emails, can lead to decentralized information that creates confusion for all team members.

One solution to this problem is to use a project management software to help coordinate employees in multiple positions and, if applicable, in different time zones.

 

A project manager will build and develop effective project management skills with quality training and direct experience in the workplace.

Furthermore, the project team should not be passive but at best will proactively help the project manager to manage the various projects and their critical issues.

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

21st century pm

21st century project management and increased productivity

Project management is a long-standing profession and in the past century it has become a real subject covered by many studies and research.

According to classic project management, and too often used nowadays, the success of a project is measured in terms of time, budget and scope metrics.

Therefore, little attention is paid to the overall business benefits in terms of both customer value and profit for the organization.

Granted, project management has improved in recent decades, but it is clear that project management practices need to transform rapidly to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

But what does this mean in practical terms? Let’s see it in this article.

Project management transformation in the 21st century

The 21st century challenges us to change the way we manage change within organizations.

Conventional jobs are changing and new ones are starting to appear, the old concept of office work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is no longer up-to-date, means and opportunities for communication are evolving, as is technology that is constantly improving…

Organizations need critical thinkers capable of adapting, inventing and reinventing; collaborating, creating and innovating, understanding and exploiting complexities to let creativity flow.

So project management and business analysis are also transforming before our eyes in order to achieve and create better business results.

Some refer to it as “Breakthrough Project Management” (or BPM), an innovative approach to procurement and project management.

This method provides a sound and replicable basis for delivering projects:

  • Meeting deadlines
  • Using a limited budget
  • Without compromising reach or quality

Although the traditional approach to project management is still successful in the case of low to moderately complex projects, as far as the most difficult tasks are concerned, this method becomes inadequate and it is necessary to follow a new path also taking into account the ever-changing market.

pm in 21st century

Project manager’s role

The project manager, in this context, should not be stuck on the classic approach of project management, but should always be looking for new perspectives and new innovations in the industry.

It is clear that the world, including business, is moving rapidly, technology advances are rapid and furious, and organizations are forced to innovate all the time.

Indeed, the new Agile approach towards projects can be successful in this regard.

In this case, the required synergies are leveraged to stimulate creativity and innovation.

The key word therefore becomes “innovate” or stay in the market and facing competition will become increasingly complicated.

Innovating therefore becomes the lifeblood for organizational survival.

The project manager must therefore focus on the continuous delivery of business value and innovation, understanding the holistic nature of change.

This change requires attention to people, processes, organizations, rules, data, technologies to constitute a transformative business practice.

Realizing that a holistic perspective towards change is both an art and a science, the project manager must find a balance between analysis and intuition, between order and disruptive change.

The decision-making process thus becomes collaborative; thought is inclusive and strategic; complexity is exploited to achieve creativity; leadership is shared and diversified; teams are collaborative and highly performing; methods are adaptive, creative, agile; solutions are innovative, competitive and create value for the organization.

The innovative practices of the project therefore produce revolutionary results and require different thinking and new practices and systems.

The success criteria of the project must therefore be changed to include the concept of value, wealth and benefits for the company, innovation and creativity.

 

Ultimately, traditional project management tools and techniques are often considered inadequate today.

These traditional approaches that use a static method, in fact, provide project managers with unrealistic estimates that ignore multiple feedback processes and non-linear project relationships.

The interrelationships between the components of a project are more complex than those portrayed in the classic project management model and make them inadequate for the challenges of the dynamic project environment of the 21st century.

New complex and dynamic environments therefore require project managers to rethink the traditional definition of a project and classic management methods.

Project managers must also be able to make decisions in these dynamic and unstable systems that are constantly changing and evolving randomly and are difficult to predict, very different from traditional linear and predictable systems.

To achieve this goal, more integrated approaches to project management in complex environments and new methods of project planning, scheduling, execution and control need to be studied.

As mentioned above, “innovation” must be the watchword in 21st century project management.

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sow

Statement of Work (S.O.W.): objectives and project work

A Statement of Work (aka S.O.W.), is one of the most important documents in project management as it outlines everything that must be part of a project.

Project management processes comprise many different documents, regardless of the industry, but in the SOW you can find a complete description of what the project will be.

Not only data sheets and forecast numbers, but a proper narration of the project work. Activities to be carried out, results to be obtained and deadlines, but also prices, conditions and project governance will be described.

Basically the Statement of Work is the most comprehensive document of the project to have an overview of what we are going to achieve and when and how we intend to do it.

Let’s take a closer look at what this article is about.

What is a Statement of Work?

A SOW is a formal project management document that is aimed at defining the entire scope of work of the project and clarifying results, costs and deadlines.

This type of document is used where projects require suppliers and external collaborators and is generally created as part of a contract.

Project managers should pay sufficient attention to provide a comprehensive SOW to all stakeholders to avoid conflicts regarding results, budget or deadlines.

A Statement of Work is practically “the Bible” for the work that the project aims to achieve, a key governance tool, whether it is used to direct work for a supplier or contractor, or to direct work internally.

The work included in this document is part of the contractual obligation, while activities not contained herein will only be executed if mutually agreed upon or introduced into the project through a modification request.

When is a SOW needed?

The importance of a SOW lies in its capability to acquire all the elements of work and critical activities of the project and is particularly useful in two situations:

  • When a contract with an external supplier or consultant is signed
  • As an intermediate planning phase for a large and complex project where the work is carried out internally.

You don’t need a Statement of Work when the project is small and straightforward enough to perform.

statement of work

When should the SOW be drafted?

The SOW must be drafted after the scope statement, so during the planning phase of the project.

Notably, the scope statement should capture, albeit in very general terms, the product of the project.

For example, if you want to launch a project to develop software to capture and track orders, the scope statement should include a list of users used to place orders, software engineers and employees who send orders.

Furthermore, you could also include features desirable in the system, e.g. whether it is available on the Internet, what information it should store about every order, how the system will collect the payment for the order, etc.

The scope statement, in a nutshell, will provide information about what needs to be produced or built through the project.

Once you have determined what you are building, you need to capture the details of how it will be built; then you prepare the SOW.

The Statement of Work defines what needs to be done and must therefore be written before the work can be scheduled or a division of labour created.

What is included in the Statement of Work?

All elements included in the project scope statement should also be included in the SOW.

This should contain information on the final results at a more detailed level.

For example, if the scope statement includes an order acquisition and management system, this can be broken down into a database to acquire, store and track information, a front-end to interface with users, and a reporting system to manage reports.

Here is a list of categories of information that are usually included in the SOW:

  • Introduction: begin with an explanation of the work carried out. In addition, state who is involved in the project.
  • What is the goal of the project, what are the results, objectives and return on investment.
  • Goal of the work: which activities should be carried out in the project and which processes? This includes results, time needed and even the general steps needed to achieve this goal.
  • Where the work will be executed: will the team work at a central facility or remotely? However, in this part it is necessary to detail it, as well as specify where the equipment and software used will be located.
  • Duties: adopt the general steps outlined in the scope document and divide them into more detailed assignments. If desired, break down the activities into milestones or phases.
  • Milestones: define the expected time period for the completion of the project, from the suggested start date to the proposed end date. Specify billable hours per week and month and everything else related to project scheduling, e.g. if there is a maximum number of billable hours per supplier and/or contract.
  • Results: explain what is due and when is due. Describe it in detail, such as quantity, size, color and everything that might be relevant.
  • Planning: include a detailed list of when the final results must be presented, from which supplier will be chosen, the execution period, the review phase, development, implementation, testing, project closure, etc.
  • Standards and tests: If there are industry standards that must be met, list them. Also, if testing of the product is planned, list who will be involved in this process, what equipment is needed and other resources.
  • Define success: write down what the sponsor and/or stakeholders expect for the successful completion of the project.
  • Requirements: list any other equipment needed to complete the project and whether a degree or certification is required for team members.
  • Payments: If the budget has been set, you can list the payments related to the project and how they will be made – in advance, over time or after completion.
  • Other: if there are parts of the project that cannot be traced back to the above categories, you can add them at this stage so that everything is covered.
  • Conclusion: Determine how the final results will be accepted and who will deliver, review and sign the acceptance. Additionally, this part also includes specifications on the final administrative functions, such as confirmation that everything is signed, closed and archived.

As you can see, there is plenty of information that needs to be included in a SOW.

This must be specific and clearly defined so as to avoid any confusion later in the project when communication errors or disputes cannot be afforded.

Including visual elements in the SOW, graphics or other illustrations, can help to better focus the objective on various aspects of the project.

After writing the SOW down in detail, the final and crucial step is to get it approved.

For this, the project manager must make sure that those responsible have signed the Statement of Work; in case of disputes in the future, it will be possible to show the signed document in support of their actions.

 

Ultimately, the SOW therefore helps project managers by providing them with a support on which project plans can be built.

The document also helps to avoid conflicts during the project life cycle and keeps everyone involved on the same page as well as helping to reduce confusion to a minimum.

Manage your project at your best.

success projects

Successful projects: evaluation parameters

The success of a project is usually calculated with traditional evaluation parameters that only take into account the fact that the project has respected the budget and the programme. Quite often, however, this is not enough.

Some organizations consider broader parameters than the traditional ones – cost, planning and operation – and determine the success of the project by evaluating key performance indicators, the so-called KPIs.

This approach generates more relevant, fair and balanced project performance evaluations.

Some organizations, however, do not have a consistent way to determine the parameters that should be applied to determine how a project has achieved its objectives and how it has influenced the company in a tangible and non-tangible way.

Therefore, let’s see in this article what are the possible evaluation parameters to quantify the success of the project.

Why measure the success of a project?

This may seem like a silly question, but what is the main point of measuring the success of the project?

After all, once a project is finished, there isn’t much more you can do about it, whether it is a success or a failure, right?

This has been the primary philosophy for a long time, but with the development of the concept of learning and best practice, the value of recording information about an organization’s past to guide its future strategy has become more prevalent.

Nowadays, the value of continuous improvement based on past data is recognized and it is based on this that companies can understand what went wrong during a given project so that they don’t fall into the same mistakes during subsequent projects.

By integrating new knowledge, particularly about successes and failures, into new processes, fewer mistakes are made and higher performance can be achieved.

That’s why measuring project success has become critical for every project manager.

The problem with measuring project success is that it’s not as easy as it sounds.

What is so difficult about the measurement of a project’s success?

success evaluation

It seems logical that by measuring the success of a project, it will be possible to collect data on what went particularly well or badly and that you will be able to pinpoint those success factors to be applied to future projects.

What happens if the project is delivered on time and on budget but two months later the client does not benefit from the result? Or are you absolutely not satisfied?

On the contrary, some clients may be completely satisfied with the result of a project that has been almost a disaster in terms of management with, for example, unforeseen delays, excessive resources, financial losses for the company, etc.

For years project management has been trying to come up with a more precise idea of what is meant by “project success” and for years we have been trying to identify what is needed to ensure the success of the project.

A lot of research has been conducted on this subject and many studies have been published.

However, the results were not so homogeneous: despite thousands and thousands of texts written about project management, despite decades of individual and collective experience and despite a considerable increase in the amount of project-based work, the data have led to highlight that the success of a project is also partly very subjective and varies according to situations, organizations, sectors and stakeholders.

Indeed, everyone could have a different perception of the project and its result.

Fortunately, however, some good practices have also emerged that should help a project manager to measure the success of his projects using simple processes.

Criteria for successful project management

In these criteria we will find all those concerning the project itself and its implementation.

These in particular help to measure the internal efficiency of the organization to implement projects and here we find the “classic” elements of project management:

  • The project is completed within schedule
  • The project is completed within budget
  • The project meets its quality objectives

Other project management criteria can be added such as:

  • The project includes all the points covered by the scope
  • The project meets commercial objectives in terms of revenue and profits

And again in this category it is possible to include criteria related to different stakeholders:

  • Project team satisfaction
  • End-user satisfaction
  • Supplier satisfaction

The subjectivity of success is therefore minimized through the use of predefined success criteria.

Everyone will know what they are working on and when it is time to measure success, established benchmarks will be available.

 The “define, align and approve” paradigm

To ensure that the established success criteria are satisfactorily realistic, the development of the criteria must follow the “define, align and approve” paradigm.

In short, the success criteria must be properly set out in measurable terms, must be aligned with the needs and constraints of the project, and must be approved by all parties involved in the decision-making process.

Let’s see each point further in detail:

1. Success criteria must be explicitly set out

Success criteria must be stated in specific terms related to the execution of the project management process, the project activities and their results. For example: it is a success if the project is completed by the end of Q4.

2. Success criteria must be ‘aligned’ adequately.

Success criteria must be aligned adequately with the project vision, scope and effort, considering the overall purpose, benefits to be achieved, organizational capacity, priorities, risks and operational constraints. For example: it is a success if the project leads to a 5% reduction in reports of problems related to remote access to the system.

3. Success criteria must be duly approved

Success criteria must be developed and defined using a structured and collaborative process, whereby all parties involved in the decision-making process have the opportunity to provide input, challenge hypotheses, negotiate and finally provide acceptance and approval.

 

Whatever the project in question, when it is possible to measure success through optimal evaluation parameters, critical information will be obtained which, perhaps, will not lead to the improvement of the project itself, but will help to create a database of knowledge for the development of future successful programmes and projects.

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

Determine and manage project criticalities and risks (second part)

Let’s go back to our discussion about the detection and management of project criticalities already started with the previous article.

Effective criticality management

Regardless of how well and thoroughly you plan, there are countless unknown variables in any project.

It would be foolish to think that a few chats about potential risks at the beginning of the project are enough to ensure that you don’t run into obstacles and critical issues along the way.

Project managers must therefore assume that problems will arise, and they should develop criticality management skills that will help them address these issues in a timely and effective manner so that the project can continue.

Critical issues that arise during a project may be unforeseen, but may also arise from risks discovered during the project planning phase.

To minimize the impact that critical issues have on the project, it is necessary to quickly set up an action plan and solve the problem before it becomes serious.

When a criticality occurs, the first step is to comprehend and fully understand the issue: it is necessary to understand what happened and what or who was “hit” and to what degree.

A criticality cannot be tackled effectively if the potential repercussions are not realized beforehand.

It is also necessary to verify whether this criticality has been reported as a potential risk in the planning phase. If so, a response plan should already have been drawn up to mitigate the impact of the problem.

Only once all aspects of the problem have been fully understood can we begin to address it in the most effective way.

Ways to address criticalities

One of the most efficient ways to address the criticality found is to get the project team together, present the problem and make sure everyone is on the same page and there are no misunderstandings that could only worsen the situation.

The project manager can then work alongside their team to find a solution to the criticality that will work for everyone.

Working on problems as a group enables opinions and ideas that the individual may not have thought of to be heard, which means that critical issues can be resolved more quickly or in a way that results in unexpected benefits.

It is worth remembering that both the risks and the critical issues are not always negative, but can also represent opportunities.

Once a successful solution is found, the next important step is to ensure that this solution is shared with the whole team, stakeholders and customers – if necessary.

Letting everyone involved know that a criticality has been found, but for which you have a solution, means not having to work against unrealistic expectations.

This way, if there are delays to the project, stakeholders will know exactly what happened and there will be less room for dissatisfaction or negative feedback.

Then, the response plan will be put in place, most likely to be delegated to a person who can guarantee that it will be implemented in the way that everyone has agreed.

After having addressed the criticality…

Once the criticality has been addressed and the response strategy implemented, it is advisable not to carry on as if nothing had happened and not to forget what happened.

Instead, it is important to reach out to the person, team or process that has been impacted to see if the action plan has actually solved the problem.

By reviewing the criticality and how it has been resolved, you can obtain information relevant to future risk management strategies to avoid similar events in future projects.

In this regard it might be worthwhile for you to read this article about lessons learned.

One last remark we would like to underline: the project manager must make sure to address problems to the team and stakeholders only after the critical issues have gone beyond their control and decision-making powers.

If the project manager raises issues that the management committee and stakeholders believe could be solved by himself, his trust as project manager is at risk.
manage risks

Warning flags indicating that you’re drifting towards failure

1. There is no project risk

If you cannot spot a single project risk, it is likely that you will encounter unpleasant surprises during the project lifecycle.

2. Some risks remain unidentified

To effectively address risks during implementation, it is important that risk identification is also based on the residual risk and not just the initial risk. This allows the project manager to understand the project’s exposure to risk as the program progresses and to monitor developments in the risk elements. Focusing only on initial risks does not provide an accurate overview of the remaining risks as the project progresses through its cycle.

3. Risk identification is incomplete

The project manager and the project team often neglect some major risk elements. The application of risk analysis to every project that is implemented in an organization can lead to an improvement in the risk identification process. However, as in all things, practice improves the process.

4. You don’t have a risk mitigation plan

If one simply lists the risks without preparing a risk mitigation plan specific to each of them, the future of the project is uncertain. Every material, likely and extraordinary risk needs a clear response strategy to ensure that the risk does not become a reality or that its impact totally affects the project.

5. There is no clear owner for the risk mitigation strategy

A risk becomes a reality and begins to have some weight on the project, but because there is no owner responsible for implementing the mitigation strategy, precious time is lost and the impacts of the risk become greater and greater. Every action plan needs an owner who is capable of implementing it at the appropriate time and following the chosen strategy.

6. The project sponsor or the management committee are not used effectively to solve risks

The project manager must be careful not to exacerbate problems when they shouldn’t be or to not report them when they should. Time is limited when it comes to project sponsors and management committees, and the project manager must ensure that this time is spent on serious issues that require analysis and approval that he or she, as an individual, is unable to provide.

7. The project team does not have a clear picture of the risks the project is facing

If project team members are surprised or confused by the impact of the risks, it means that timely and clear communication is not taking place or that warning flags for early risk identification have not been agreed upon.

8. No one knows when a factor is going to become a risk

If you are often caught by problems affecting the project without any warning, you probably do not have the right alarm system to detect potential risks so that you can act promptly. Surprises are certainly fun on other occasions, but not in the case of projects.

Tips for dealing correctly with project risks and criticalities

1. Define risks and find clear mitigation strategies for each risk

This step should be taken before starting the project. The project manager and their team should take some time to consider the potential risks which, as mentioned above, are material, foreseeable and extraordinary. Once the list is developed, it is used as a starting point to start thinking about response strategies for each risk.

2. Give the right scale to each single risk

The project manager needs to clarify which risks can be solved by them individually, which by the project team and which need the help and support of the project sponsor, management or other interested parties.

3. Know who is responsible and owner of the risk

The project manager shall appoint, for each risk, an owner responsible for managing the mitigation strategy. If the risk is about to become a reality or already is, this person will be in the forefront to implement the response plan as planned. In this way there will be no waste of time and the response will be immediate.

 

Certainly the tips and strategies explained in this article are good rules to follow for the general management of risks and project criticalities.

However, sometimes circumstances require much quicker decisions and you simply don’t have time to bring the whole team together to examine the details.

It may happen that the project manager is forced to make a quick decision over the phone or the problem is simply not big enough to justify bringing more people on board.

Regardless of whether the project manager makes the decision alone or works in collaboration with the team, it is vital to record everything.

It is therefore a good idea to create a document that reports and outlines all risks identified, mitigation plans prepared and those actually undertaken, along with all the critical issues the project has encountered along with the steps the project manager and team have taken to resolve them.

These risk and criticality records must be tracked and updated throughout the project lifecycle.

At the end of the project, the project manager should be able to provide clients, stakeholders, and managers with an explanation of why the project has stalled, been delayed, or exceeded budget.

Effective risk and criticality management is therefore crucial to a project manager’s career development.

Showing that the project manager has the right attitude to work efficiently and effectively to detect and mitigate the impact of risks and critical issues will demonstrate their expertise even if the single project fails.

Manage project criticalities

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critical issues and risks

Determine and manage project criticalities and risks (part one)

The recognition and management of project risks and criticalities is one of the most crucial aspects for the success of a project; however, this issue is easily overlooked.

Throughout the life cycle of any project, there will almost always be unforeseen problems, questions and concerns that occur.

When these problems appear, the project manager and their team must be prepared to address them, or they may have an impact – even a severe negative one – on the outcome of the project.

Since most problems are, inherently, unexpected, how can we tackle them quickly and effectively?

The ideal solution is to have a problem-solving process in place before the project even kicks off, to make sure that you meet your deadlines and costs and achieve your objectives.

Problem management is the process of identifying and resolving problems. Problems that may affect staff, suppliers, technical failures, material or resource shortages, etc. every single factor in these categories can potentially have a negative impact on the project.

If the problem is not solved in time, it could lead to conflict, delay, or even total cancellation of the project.

So why is this often overlooked?

Perhaps because it is easier for a project manager to focus on organizing tasks and distributing roles rather than investing time in analyzing and managing project risks and issues.

However, risks and challenges, when they arise, are impossible to avoid. That’s why it’s critical to consider them from the beginning.

Risks and criticalities: what’s the difference?

At first, risks and criticalities might seem the same thing, just called in different ways, but this is not the case.

There are several aspects that characterize these two concepts. Let’s see what they are.

What is a risk?

The PMBok defines the risk of a project as

“An uncertain event or condition which, if it occurs, affects positively or negatively one or more goals of the project.”

Here is an example of a risk statement:

Since the project team failed to review the requirements with users, it might fail to meet the customer’s needs, resulting in dissatisfied users.

The cause in this example is the failure to audit and validate the requirements. The risk is that the project team may not meet the user’s requirements, while the impact is dissatisfaction with the product by users.

The risk is therefore an event or condition that could potentially happen in the future.

In particular, the risks of a project include several attributes such as:

  • They are generally known at the outset of the project.
  • They may exist at a specific point in the project and/or may last for the entire duration of the project.
  • They may have a significant impact on the outcome of the project if the risk becomes a reality.
  • There is a moderate probability that the risk may come true.
  • Sono straordinari rispetto alla normale gestione del progetto.

Making assumptions to identify project risks is a reasonable way to determine the elements of a project that could cause problems.

However, it is important to focus on important risks by basing them on three factors: materiality, probability, and extraordinariness.

When defining risks, it is advisable to try to make a list of the main factors that are most likely to occur, are extraordinary for normal project management, and could significantly damage the project if they occur.

After defining the main risks of the project, the next step is to implement mitigation strategies for each point on the list to apply if the risk begins to become a reality.

By defining mitigation strategies for each risk, one can actively and proactively outline how to avoid the risk and manage the potential problem.

Accuracy in risk definition is extremely important. Risks need to be defined in order to clearly design and determine the action to be taken to mitigate or avoid them.

If it is not possible to structure the response action, this means that the risk is poorly defined or is not a tangible risk.

manage critical issues and risks

What is a criticality?

A criticality is identified as:

An event that has occurred and is impacting the project.

It is the project manager’s responsibility to responsibly address events and ensure that their impact on the success of the project is minimized.

Critical issues require immediate attention and real-time action and may be the result of risks identified at the start of the project or may come from an invisible area not initially considered.

In both cases, critical issues arise in most projects and any effective leader should be able to address them efficiently.

Similar to project risks, critical issues are problems that occur in a project that require certain management actions and strategies for resolution.

If a criticality is not addressed promptly, it may impact significantly on the successful completion of the project.

The extent to which critical issues differ from risks, however, is that the former generally do not last throughout the project and may not be known at the beginning of a project.

The list of critical issues will not be as persistent as the list of project risks.

Effective risk management

The project manager should take care of risk management in every project from the very beginning.

It is certainly not a pleasant topic, but it is worth talking about potential risks to and with stakeholders during the initial project start-up meetings.

This may be the only chance to have the whole team and stakeholders together before the project is started and completed, so it is a good time to gather doubts and thoughts about potential risks from all perspectives.

This planning phase is unfortunately often overlooked due to the increasing need for speed that the market requires to drive back and overcome the competition.

However, skipping this part can cause major problems for the project later on.

Visualizing risk from a different perspective

The first thing the project manager and team should ask themselves is what could go wrong during the project.

  • Are there any factors that could prevent the completion of any project activity?
  • Is it necessary to take into account elements such as seasonal weather conditions, external suppliers, market fluctuations, political effects or material stocks as possible risks?

These are just two examples of questions that the project manager should ask himself.

There is an almost limitless list of “what if” questions that need to be considered and that can help identify as many risks as possible.

There are many types of risks that affect projects:

  • Cost risk: this generally translates into an increase in project costs due to poor cost accuracy or a change in scope.
  • Planning risk: i.e. the risk that the activities will require more time than expected. Delays generally increase costs and postpone the reception of the project output, with a possible loss of competitive advantage.
  • Performance risk: the risk that the project may fail to produce results consistent with the project specifications.
  • Governance risk: it applies to the performance of the board of directors and management in terms of ethics, community management and corporate reputation.
  • Strategic risks: resulting from errors in strategy, such as the choice of a technology that cannot be used in a specific case.
  • Operational risk: includes risks arising from implementation and process problems such as acquisition, production and distribution.
  • Market risk: includes competition, currency exchange rates, commodity markets and interest rate risk, as well as cash and credit risks.
  • Legal risk: arises from legal and regulatory obligations, including contractual risks and controversies brought against the organization.
  • Risk related to external hazards: including storms, floods and earthquakes, vandalism, sabotage and terrorism, labour strikes and civil unrest.

After having identified the project risks, it is time to consider their potential impact.

  • What kind of effect will every risk have on the project?
  • Will the risk cause delays in activities?
  • Will the risk cause an increase in project costs?
  • Will the risk affect the end product or service quality?

The best way to help the whole team and stakeholders understand these risks is to quantify and give them a value that everyone can clearly understand.

For example, for how many days could the risk delay the project? Will the risk lead to a percentage increase in how much on the project?

Giving a concrete number to the risk will make it appear as a real threat with real consequences and not just an abstract possibility.

Identify ways to mitigate, reduce, eliminate risks

Once identified, the next step for effectively managing risks is to determine and examine ways to mitigate, reduce and, if possible, eliminate the problem.

Is there anything the project manager and team can do to reduce the impact on the project or to eliminate the risk?

For example, if a risk has been defined regarding one supplier’s reliability or cost, can you look at the services of another supplier that may charge less or be more reliable?

The project manager must commit to putting in place a response strategy for any potential risk.

Defining and filtering the list of risks is easy compared to defining mitigation strategies.

The action plan will be the one in which the creativity and resourcefulness of the project manager will come into play.

It is fundamental to have a mitigation or risk management strategy, but it is also necessary to ensure that ownership and responsibility for the plan is fully assigned to a team member or a separate team.

No strategy can be implemented unless it is implemented by its owner and by assigning responsibility for that specific plan to someone, you can ensure that risk management strategies are implemented when necessary and as quickly as possible.

For example, back to vendor risk: by giving responsibility for mitigating that risk to the person who is directly involved with that vendor, they will be able to act quickly in the event of a problem rather than having to wait for the project manager’s green light.

In short, risk management is:

the process of identifying potential risks to the success of the project and the process of implementing strategies and procedures that will mitigate the impact if such risks occur.

Risk management is a key part of the planning process and the project manager must ensure that this vital step is not overlooked in favor of urgency.

The lack of a risk management strategy can result in project delays, increased costs and, in the most serious cases, even total project shutdown.

In part two we will analyse the effective management of the identified criticalities.

Manage project risks

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the responsibility matrix

Project responsibility matrix

The project responsibility matrix is a fundamental mainstay not only for the Project Manager but for the entire Project Team.

Regardless of the size of the project, in order to prevent problems, task descriptions and role divisions need to be clearly set out.

Whether it’s a small team or an international collaboration, everyone must understand their role and know what they have to work on.

One method of defining the role of each team member is to use a project responsibility matrix also called the RACI matrix.

But what exactly is it and how is it implemented correctly?

What is a project responsibility matrix?

In short, it is a charting system that depicts the objective of the activity and the action required for each individual.

This helps to reduce confusion about expectations, thus increasing the efficiency of the project.

In this way, decisions can be taken more quickly, the responsibility is clear and the workload can be distributed evenly.

What does the acronym RACI mean? :

  • “Responsible”
  • “Accountable”
  • “Consulted”
  • “Informed”

The RACI matrix maps the activities and final results in relation to the roles in the project and responsibilities are assigned to each using the above terms.

Specifically:

Responsible”: who should carry out the activity

This person carries out the activity at issue and is responsible for the work done. Sometimes it may be more than one person, but it is advisable to try to minimize the number of people involved.

Accountable”: who owns the business

This person is in charge of the overall accomplishment of the activity. They don’t necessarily have to carry out the activity, but they are responsible for it being finalized. Ideally, this role should be assigned to one person rather than a group to avoid confusion about who actually owns the activity.

“Consulted”: who is consulted for the benefit of the activity.

This person, role or group will provide useful information to complete the activity.

“Informed”: who has to be informed about the activity

This person or group will be kept updated and informed about the activity and its delivery. These people are not asked to give feedback or reviews, but may be influenced by the outcome of the activity and the final result.

Benefits of a project responsibility matrix

A RACI matrix offers several advantages including:

1. Simplified communication

A RACI matrix in place can be useful to have a well defined reference during the life cycle of a project. Instead of involving every single person in every single decision, it is possible to simplify communication and reach the right people at the right time, thus accelerating the process.

2. Prevent overload of perspectives

When one gets opinions from any person, the situation can become complicated. This is how the distinction between those who are “consulted” and those who are “informed”, those who are involved in feedback and those who are not, becomes important.

3. Prevent work overload

The RACI matrix can be a useful tool to help delegate and prevent people burn-out.

4. Clear expectations setting

When creating a RACI at the outset of a project, a crucial element is to set expectations for those who are managing or responsible for the work to be done in the future, so that there are no nasty surprises afterwards.

responsibility matrix

When to use a project responsibility matrix

Is a project responsibility matrix useful in all projects? The answer is no.

Having too much complexity in relatively small and fast-moving projects can only slow things down and create obstacles.

So if the project team is small, roles are already well defined and/or a similar structure has been used successfully before, all you need to do is assign tasks to people without wasting time building a matrix.

However, for more complex projects with multiple stakeholders, not using a RACI matrix can lead to difficulties during the life cycle of a project.

The use of a responsibility matrix is a great way to avoid unexpected surprises and excessive involvement of stakeholders during the project which can then lead to delays in decisions and the project as a whole.

How to create a RACI matrix

The process for creating a RACI model includes these six steps:

  1. Identify all the activities involved in the project delivery and then list them on the left side of the chart in order of completion.
  2. Identify all project stakeholders and list them at the top of the chart.
  3. Fill in the model cells by identifying the role of each person according to the RACI concept – who is responsible, who is the owner, who is to be consulted and who is informed.
  4. Ensure that each activity has at least one responsible stakeholder.
  5. No activity should have more than one responsible stakeholder. Resolve any conflicts where there is more than one for a particular activity.
  6. Share, discuss and agree the RACI matrix with stakeholders at the beginning of the project and resolve any conflicts or ambiguities.

Ultimately, investing time to prepare a customized RACI matrix for each project is an opportunity to design the management process for the success of the project.

Surely a well-organized team is essential to successfully complete a project, but a matrix assignment of responsibilities is beneficial, if not vital, to achieve this goal.

Manage your projects at your best.

measuring state of progress

Measuring the state of progress: the importance of a software

Measuring the progress of the project, or a simple task, is obviously critical, but why is it so important to use good software to achieve this?

It probably happened more than once that the project manager was asked the question “So, are we done?” in relation to a project activity or the project itself.

Whether it was brought in by clients, managers, team members or the project manager himself, this situation is not as rare as you might think at first.

During your work you may lose your sense of space and time and forget exactly where you are along the way.

Furthermore, incorrect or deliberately manipulated information can lead to a distorted image of the situation.

This is how project management software becomes vital to measure the progress of a project.

Why is project progress difficult to measure?

Knowing exactly where you are along the path of a project is difficult to measure for several reasons. For example:

  • Project progress is much more subjective in nature: this is particularly true if you work in an innovative technological environment where developers can work on a feature indefinitely, with the promise that they are just “on the verge of a breakthrough to complete things”.
  • Delayed resources: resources that are working on a certain project activity have been left behind and instead of reporting this, they hide it by being confident that they can recover it. They will go ahead and say that everything is fine, thinking that they can solve the problem by spending a few more hours in the office at the end of the day or working over the weekend. Meanwhile, the project manager will report in his planning file that everything is going according to plan, even if it is not.
  • Resources that don’t want to make a bad impression: another reason why manual planning may not be in sync with reality is based on human nature. People don’t like to make a bad impression, and the status of an activity can be “tweaked” slightly so that colleagues and, above all, the project manager have no complaints. From time to time this may not be a big problem, but week after week delays and false information can accumulate and cause significant damage to the project.

state of progress

Use planning software to measure the progress of the project objectively

After seeing the previous examples, it becomes clear how automated project management software can help to objectively monitor and measure the state of progress of a project.

Below are four ways to measure project progress correctly:

  • Make the objectives clear: every activity or milestone must highlight the intended objective or final status. For example, rather than having a loose activity as a “search solution for implementation” indefinitely, it should be precisely referred to as, for example, a “decision made on the solution for implementation”. This implies that this product must be completed and completed within a certain period of time and according to certain criteria.
  • Split the activities into small blocks: it’ s better to split results into small blocks of work rather than a big, complex final goal where each team member has the opportunity to be vague about his or her part of the work. It is not efficient to have a unique 6-month task called “product X finished”, which includes a series of tasks that are just as measurable in their own way. This way it is not possible to know what might be off track for a long period of time.
  • Allow only 3 status indicators: the team can report on the progress of an activity using only 3 indicators, i.e. not started, ongoing and completed – or any type of indicator that suits the industry. In this way there will be no room for intermediate or loose answers. This black and white approach avoids subjectivity.
  • Automation: good project management software provides automatic data collection and analysis. In this way, the team and the project manager can spend their time completing individual activities and keeping the project on track. In addition, the project manager will have the opportunity to see the progress in real time and to intervene in time in case of particular blockages or delays.

 

These are some examples that show how project management software is important to measure the progress status of a project.

Moreover, a project management software allows you to have a whole range of features that help to maintain efficient work and active and effective communication.

It is worth keeping in mind that it is impossible to improve what cannot be calculated, so using software gives you the opportunity not only to measure the progress of a project, but also to analyze it and implement process improvement strategies where necessary.

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

the monte carlo technique

Monte Carlo method for project management

The Monte Carlo Method used in predicting project results is what we would like to discuss with you today. Let’s see what it is.

Almost all project managers have experienced, at least once in their career, a missed deadline for a project.

The most common reasons that lead to missed deadlines are erroneous cost estimation or incorrect duration estimation of one or more activities.

Most managers treat estimates – both of the cost and duration of activities – as deterministic, thus not acknowledging that these values are actually probabilistic.

Unambiguous estimates are used with a false idea that the future can be predicted accurately.

Here is how it becomes useful to predict the results of a project using the Monte Carlo method to perform a quantitative analysis of the project’s risks.

What is Monte Carlo method or simulation?

Monte Carlo simulation is a mathematical technique developed by John Von Neumann and Stanislaw Ulam in 1940 for Project Manhattan. Its name derives from the casino in Monte Carlo, where Stanislaw Ulam’s uncle used to play often.

This quantitative risk analysis technique is used to identify the level of risk in achieving objectives, determining the impact of the identified risks by running multiple simulations and finding a range of results.

It is possible to run this simulation to analyze the impact of the risks on the costs of the activities, duration estimation, etc.

Every decision has a certain degree of uncertainty and the Monte Carlo simulation helps in such situations, avoiding nasty surprises later on.

This technique offers a range of possible outcomes and the probabilities with which they will occur for any choice of action.

According to the number of uncertainties and intervals specified, a Monte Carlo simulation can involve countless recalculations before it is completed, which is why it is a very complex technique.

Example of how the Monte Carlo method works

Let’s say we’re in the Monte Carlo casino and we’re playing Blackjack.

If we wanted to find the odds of getting Blackjack, we could simply count the number of possible hands in this case and divide by the total number of possible card combinations to get the chance – which is about 1/21.

Now, let’s imagine that our sample space is much more difficult to calculate, for example considering that our deck contains thousands of cards instead of only the classic 52, or, even more difficult, we don’t even know how many cards there are.

There is another way to find this probability.

We could play a hundred games and record the results while we play; we could get a Blackjack 20, 40 or even 50 times and assign the probability using one of these values; anything is possible but these are certainly uncomfortable techniques.

If we think about playing a total number of times, the Law of Large Numbers states:

“As the number of identically distributed, randomly generated variables increases, their sample average is close to their theoretical average.”

Besides being easily one of the most important laws of statistics, this is the foundation for the Monte Carlo simulation that allows you to build a stochastic model with the method of statistical tests.

monte carlo technique

Monte Carlo simulation in project planning

Let’s suppose we have three assets with the following estimates (in months):

Activities Optimistic Most likely Pessimistic PERT estimation
A 5 4 6 4.5
B 5 6 7 6
C 6 7 8 7
Total 16 17 21 17.5

 

From the table above it can be concluded that according to the PERT estimation, these three activities could be completed in 17.5 months.

However, in the best case scenario, according to the most optimistic estimation, they will be completed in 16 months and in the worst case, in 21 months.

If we run the Monte Carlo simulation for these activities five hundred times, we will get the following results:

Duration (months) Likelihood of completion
16 4%
17 8%
18 60%
19 75%
20 95%
21 100%

 

From the table above we can see that there is a:

  • 4% chance of completing the project within 16 months
  • 8% chance of completing the project within 17 months
  • 60% chance of completing the project within 18 months
  • 75% chance of completing the project within 19 months
  • 95% probability of completing the project within 20 months
  • 100% chance of completing the project within 21 months

The Monte Carlo method therefore provides a more in-depth analysis of the data and helps to make a more educated decision.

Modelling uncertainty and risk with the Monte Carlo method

In short, the following statements apply to the Monte Carlo simulation:

  • If the asset is risk-free, a single point estimate from expert judgement can be trusted. Then, the activity and project schedule can be modelled according to the most likely estimate.
  • If the asset carries a low risk, the estimate is fairly accurate, except for unforeseen changes due to random factors. Therefore, a Beta or triangular distribution can be used.
  • If the activity carries a known risk, the causes of the variance are known and the project team knows that the activity will be earlier or later if these risks occur. It is therefore advisable to use a Beta or triangular distribution.
  • If the task presents an unknown risk and therefore the project manager does not have the right expertise to produce a reliable estimate, one can set a range of possible values and model the task according to a uniform continuous distribution.
  • If the activity falls within the so-called “black swan theory“, in which a major unexpected event can happen with great consequences, it is possible to manage these risks as a hypothesis and, according to the Monte Carlo strategy, to model it all as a risk-free activity.

To factor in risk, assets are usually based on three points (as seen in the table above): optimistic, pessimistic and more likely.

In order to choose the type of statistical distribution, it is worth considering qualitative risk analysis for the activity:

  • Triangular symmetrical or Beta if the activity has a low probability,
  • Triangular asymmetric or Beta if the activity has an average probability,
  • Consistent if the activity has a high probability.

The advantages of using Monte Carlo analysis on projects are many:

  • It helps to assess the risk of the project.
  • Converts risks into numbers.
  • Provides early identification of probabilities.
  • Create a more realistic budget and program.
  • It helps to predict the probability of failure or exceeding time and cost.
  • Quantifies risks to better estimate impacts.
  • Provides objective data for decision making.
  • Helps obtaining management support for risk management.
  • Helps in the decision-making process with objective evidence.
  • Helps finding opportunities to achieve project goals or milestones.

 

Bottom line, Monte Carlo simulation is a key technique in risk analysis that allows decisions to be made under uncertain conditions.

Although this technique is not commonly used in projects, when taken into account it significantly increases the chances of achieving a successful project within the approved baselines.

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processes optimization

Optimization of business processes – business process management

Business process management is a real challenge for most organizations.

Processes are simply the heart of a company and the work that is carried out here, they exist in every department and team and are fundamental to the outcome of operations.

Business processes can be considered as a map that defines the paths and the flow of activities that take place within and between different business functions.

However, moving from point “A” to point “B” along these paths, and doing so as efficiently as possible, is often a great challenge.

It takes time, resources and good planning. It is also important to ensure that the processes are robust and the work runs smoothly.

This is where the management and optimization of business processes comes into play.

What is business process optimization and what are its benefits?

The optimization of business processes is the procedure that allows to increase organizational efficiency by improving processes.

Optimized processes lead to optimized business objectives.

Some examples of optimization are:

  • Lifting of dismissals
  • Workflow simplification
  • Improved communication

Every organization, in any industry, is in constant competition, regularly facing threats coming from other companies, disruptive technologies and changes in standards.

The optimization of business processes offers many benefits that can help organizations to stay afloat while facing big waves of change, through:

  • Market compliance
  • Optimized operations
  • Reduced risks
  • Good use of resources
  • Consistency
  • Guaranteed quality
  • End-to-end visibility

What are the steps for implementing the optimization of business processes?

Planning is key to getting the most out of your business process optimization efforts.

Below is a brief, detailed guide to implementing a process optimization plan.

  • Identification

Choose a challenging process that you want to optimize and then set its purpose and objectives.

  • Analyze

Is the process achieving its intended goals? Is there any surplus that must be reduced?

  • Implement

Once the unnecessary elements are taken out, the revised process is automated in its new form.

  • Monitor

Monitor both micro and macro factors on process performance and optimize them until the desired results are achieved.
optimize processes

How to optimize your business processes

As already mentioned, there can be many different ways to perform business process optimization.

This, of course, depends on the process at hand: there is not a solution that is suitable for all individual scenarios.

In most cases, however, optimization is performed using one of the following methods:

Process improvement or rebuilding

This is rather straightforward: all you need is a good analysis of each stage of the process.

The general concept is to identify the processes or steps that are:

  • A waste: every step within a process should, in some way, add some value to the final goal. The process itself should add value to the context of the organizational objectives. Sometimes, however, you may find that certain steps or processes are actually useless and lacking any kind of value.
  • An inefficiency or a factor that can be improved: This means that a step or process is not as efficient as it could be. Approval processes within an organization, for example, often tend to fall into this category because they are slow and complex.

Once the processes or steps that fall into these categories have been identified, it is only necessary to improve them to achieve efficiency.

This can be done by restructuring the process, for example by changing the steps or their order, or by eliminating unnecessary processes, or by mixing both strategies.

Automation

Nobody likes manual work and, sometimes, there are instances where what you are doing could very well be replaced by a robot working automatically.

In this case all you have to do is find the right tool or software.

Automating business processes can thus help to get rid of any unnecessary manual work from employees’ workload, which leads to increased productivity and morale.

Here is a common example:

If you consider the customer service industry, there is probably a customer support form available on the web page in almost every company.

Let’s assume that because of a product update, 10% of customers start to experience a defect.

It is therefore likely that the customer service inbox will begin be busy.

In such cases, a software that can automatically send a response based on the user’s complaint could lighten the workload of the customer service staff and they can gain valuable time to handle the most complicated requests.

Adoption of new technology and complete process modification

Adopting the right technology can indeed change the way you work.

Unlike the first two options, this solution does not exactly optimize a process, but rather changes it completely.

For example, to manage daily tasks that need to be performed within an organization, the management, instead of using an Excel spreadsheet, may decide to use a new task management software.

This helps you remember due dates through automatic messages and notifications, create new tasks and assign them to employees automatically (rather than sending an email), automatically track workflows, monitor and analyze tasks more quickly and accurately, etc.

 

Bottom line, optimizing a business process requires more effort than simply purchasing new software.

The optimization of business processes requires the planning and the identification of the process that requires optimization and definition of objectives and goals.

This will then make it possible to estimate the current state of the process to determine its performance and unnecessary or inefficient factors.

Afterwards, the revised procedure must be implemented after eliminating unwanted elements and, last but not least, the performance of the process must be carefully monitored and the necessary changes made until the desired results are achieved.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

virtual meeting

5 ways to effectively manage a virtual meeting

Being able to effectively manage a virtual meeting has become extremely important in this times where many are facing work from home for the first time.

Especially for those that have to coordinate a team, this method can become an even greater challenge.

Just like in the office, even remotely, meetings with several participants have become necessary to discuss particular aspects of a project or to share updates, to brainstorm and define priorities.

And so the project manager may be faced with a number of doubts:

  • How to effectively organize a virtual meeting?
  • How to make sure that key people are present?
  • What to do to make sure that the information gets properly understood?

The advantages of group meetings, it is known, are great, as long as they are carried out properly.

But what do you do in the case of a remote team? Let’s have a look at the 5 best practices to follow.

Effectively manage a virtual meeting: Find the most convenient time for the meeting

During this quarantine situation where employees are approaching telework for the first time, a manager should be particularly flexible with regard to the most convenient time for the meeting.

One cannot rely on the hours normally spent working in the office, as many members of the parent team may find themselves having to deal with their children and have – for the moment – another routine and other needs (in this regard we have given some advice to those who have to manage their children during telework.

That’ s why it is essential to schedule a virtual meeting in time, ideally a couple of days in advance, to allow anyone to make the necessary arrangements or, even better, to ask the participants directly about the time frame in which they consider themselves available.

Deciding the right day and time to meet online is the first step towards having productive conversations.

Effectively manage a virtual meeting: Set the rules on how the meeting will be run

Once agreed the day and time of the meeting, it is very important to set out a number of rules that will help the team to make the most of the meeting.

You can send this list of rules by email or in the internal chat, so you can be sure that everyone has received them.

Here are some guidelines for remote meetings:

  • Be mindful of people’s time and alert the coordinator if you are not present.
  • Find a workplace with limited or no background noise.
  • Mute the microphone when you’re not talking.
  • If the meeting requires the use of a webcam, dress and care about your look.
  • Check the meeting agenda beforehand and prepare your contribution.
  • Don’t interrupt other people when they talk.
  • Do not engage in other activities during the meeting – this is especially important if the meeting does not require the use of a webcam.

Effectively manage a virtual meeting: Create team bonding opportunities

Getting to know the participants of the virtual meeting personally can certainly be a huge help to allow everyone to feel more involved.

It is important that this “friendly” part is preserved even during the period of isolation.

There will surely be many colleagues who are already privately in contact with each other, but at the beginning of a virtual meeting, the manager can become proactive asking for example how the quarantine days are going and if someone has some funny episode to tell.

This “icebreaker” is a nice way to reinforce bonds within the team, promote better brainstorming and create an atmosphere of inclusiveness during a long-distance meeting.

manage virtual meeting

Effectively manage a virtual meeting: Maintain participants committed

Undoubtedly it is difficult to control the level of attention of each participant during a remote meeting, especially when not using the camera.

However, there are some tricks to maintain a high level of attention, for example by assigning different roles among the participants.

It is well known that keeping a meeting within certain time limits is essential for a successful outcome, so the “timekeeper” will be in charge of monitoring the clock and not exceeding the agreed time.

Another particularly useful role is that of the person who will write the minutes of the meeting. The person – one at a time – who will be entrusted with this task, will then be responsible for reporting everything discussed during the meeting in a report that will then be sent to each participant.

Another way for the manager to engage employees is to ask specific team members for an opinion during the meeting.

This is a very useful strategy, not only to keep the attention high, but also when an “alpha” individual tends to take control of the discussions.

Effectively manage a virtual meeting: Send the minutes after the meeting

As mentioned before, the person in charge of drafting the minutes will do so immediately after the meeting – when the memory is still fresh.

Before sending it to all participants, the project manager will check the quality of the information entered and, once approved, it will become an official document.

The minutes of the meeting will include a list of activities to be done, who is responsible for doing what, and when the goals should be achieved.

Another important part of the follow-up to a remote meeting, especially if it is the first time, is to ask participants if they have any feedback to make the meeting even more productive in the future.

Are virtual meetings always necessary?

Planning a meeting with a virtual team may not be as easy as an office meeting.

People may have other temporary needs and may not always be available.

Therefore, before scheduling a meeting, it is important that the project manager assesses the urgency, importance and complexity of the situation.

In less complicated cases that do not necessarily require an online meeting, there are countless other tools that can be used.

Not only classic e-mails, but also internal chats which, thanks to the new software, now provide a much more immediate and effective communication.

Through a chat it is in fact possible to talk not only with a single person but also create a discussion group.

Moreover, it will be possible to see who is online and the answers will be reported in chronological order in the discussion window, making it much easier to understand than an e-mail exchange.

It has been said that communication is the oxygen of a company and this is an even more valid analogy for a remote team that must necessarily have good communication strategies to survive and thrive.

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project constraints

Determining project constraints

Project constraints are elements that limit the project and affect the way the project manager and their team manage it.

Unfortunately, these constraints are an inevitable part of any project and, once discovered and classified, are impossible to ignore.

If a project manager decides to take over the project and carry it on without paying adequate attention to the constraints that the constraints impose, it could have very negative repercussions.

Not only one can get stuck because of lack of proper planning, but one might even be forced to stop the project altogether.

Here is how to determine the possible constraints of a project.

The triple project constraint

If you’re a Project Manager, you’ve definitely already had to untangle this triple constraint, and to employ all your skills to stay in balance.

As you know the triple constraint is made up of 3 essential elements:

  • The cost
  • The time
  • The scope

It is just the combination between these elements and their balance that will impact on the success of the project with particular reference to its usefulness and quality.

Let’s examine these three constraints, that arise so much concern during the execution of a project.

The triple constraint of the project: Cost

The available budget for a given project will determine the use and acquisition of the necessary resources.

Human resources, raw materials, equipment, information and infrastructure are all considered resources.

The available budget therefore makes it possible to identify which of these are achievable and in what quantity.

The triple constraint of the project: Time

Time is one of the most common constraints of any project.

When it is necessary to achieve a certain milestone by a certain date, it is necessary to schedule work in order to meet this deadline.

We have already discussed how to best manage the deadlines of a project.

The triple project constraint: Application Scope

Here we refer to the final objective of the project, i.e. what is the expected result.

For example:

  • The new product must not cost more than 100€..
  • The new software must contain certain features.
  • The new book must not be shorter than 200 pages.

Define clearly the purpose – or scope – of the project allows the work to be planned accordingly.

identify project constraints

Other important constraints

Besides the well-known triple constraint, a project manager should not overlook the following possible constraints that can cause delays and problems to the project:

Lack of commitment from the management team or project sponsor

One of the key factors in successfully completing a project is the commitment of the project management team and/or sponsor.

It is difficult to run a project with this constraint because it would mean constantly struggling for support or troubleshooting, which are crucial to the successful completion of a project.

Even during the project lifecycle, the project manager must be aware of this constraint because it may arise later.

The sponsor may lose interest because other events have occurred that overshadow the priority of the project.

Breaks or company reorganizations occurring in the middle of the project

Unplanned corporate reorganization or other types of business stoppages in the middle of the lifecycle of a project can negatively impact work.

During such operations, major challenges may arise that can put the survival of the project at risk.

For example: the budget might be reduced, some human resources might be allocated to other projects, etc.

Stakeholders who have unrealistic expectations of project results

There may be times when stakeholders have unrealistic expectations regarding the outcome of the project.

Project managers could easily overcome this constraint through successful communication with stakeholders and by requesting approval of the project charter and scope statement documents.

The sooner the project manager sets up effective communication with project stakeholders and defines the schedule and deadlines, the greater the chance of delivering the project on time and within budget, satisfying all stakeholders.

Lack of skilled resources

The lack of qualified resources for a given project can be a major issue.

This constraint can have a negative impact on project start and completion dates.

In addition, low quality output may result in dissatisfaction of the final client.

Poor communication with the project team

Poor communication can even lead to the failure of a project, while strong and effective communication leads to overcoming major obstacles and challenges, increasing the chances of closing the project successfully.

Poor communication is a potential killer of a project, because it can lead to misunderstandings about the scope, activity assignments, project programs, etc.

Times or unstable business conditions

Sometimes, the instability of the economic or business situation can create different kinds of obstacles to the execution of a project.

General economic issues are known to affect the project delivery date and the quality of the work of the project team.

Advancements in technology

Technological advancements can cause delays in projects due to lack of knowledge, training needs or availability of resources with experience regarding the new technology.

However, these difficulties can be overcome and considering the long-term benefits, the adoption of new technology can allow improvements in several areas of the project.

 

Surely no project can be planned or managed in every single aspect and situation, but it is possible, within reasonable limits, to work and plan to achieve the highest possible predictability.

The key is to remember what the constraints of a project are, how they affect each other, and when they suggest that a change of direction is imperative.

Projects change and evolve constantly, thus requiring a balance between preparation and responsiveness.

One trick is also to change the classic view of constraints such as limitations or restrictions on a project manager’s work.

Although these certainly represent a risk to a project, constraints do not have to be negative.

Instead of thinking of project constraints as limitations or something to fight against, it is useful for a project manager to positively adapt their thinking, considering constraints as guides that can help organize the work and thus achieve long-term success.

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project variants

Managing project variants

Changes throughout a project are not unusual for project managers.

Managing these variants efficiently and effectively can be tricky, but it is essential if you want your project to be successful.

Having a clear and simple change management process and a steady view of the big picture therefore helps greatly to keep the project on the right track.

First step: accept the change

Changes can happen at virtually any point in the project lifecycle.

Acknowledging that change is inevitable and sometimes can be beneficial, project managers can adopt more agile approaches to planning and execution.

Having strategies in place to effectively address change as it occurs is the most effective way to move in the right direction, even though it may seem like a constant change of direction.

A well-defined and structured process will establish the best way to respond to suggestions and requests for change within the development process.

Management process of project variants

The management process for project variants is similar to the following:

  • The change request is received
  • The change request is assessed
  • The response strategy is drafted and presented to stakeholders.
  • The response strategy is approved or declined
    • If the strategy gets approved, it is implemented
    • If the strategy gets rejected, a new solution must be found

Let’s see these steps more specifically:

The change request is received

Ideally, you should have an official and formal way to make requests for change, but in the real life of the organization, this is often not the case.

A change request can be received in hundreds of different ways: during a meeting, by e-mail, on the phone, talking in the hallway, etc.

The project change request template should accurately and concisely capture all the details of the request so that every single aspect can be addressed when looking for a response strategy.

The change request is assessed

The impact of an amendment request will be assessed based on:

  • Project program
  • Work carried out up to date and work still to be accomplished
  • Budget
  • Quality
  • Project scope
  • Resources availability

Let’s consider, for example, a software modification that is estimated to require five days to complete.

This would not add just five days to the schedule because it would eliminate another task as it would postpone it until the key resource is on vacation.

This task would then also have to be rescheduled, resulting in a total of eight days added to the schedule.

This would represent an X cost and the extra eight days would represent an additional month of contract with the supplier, thus increasing the X cost to an XY cost.

The quality at the end remains the same, but the scope changes due to the integration of the new change for project variant management.

It should also not be forgotten that all relevant documentation should be updated.

Therefore, in the overall picture, a simple five-day change has tremendous effects and it is therefore important to consider all relevant factors before making an implementation decision.

The response strategy is drafted and presented to stakeholders

Once all elements have been assessed, the project manager presents a response strategy to be provided to stakeholders as management of project variants and its advice on feasibility.

In some cases, the changes will not be implemented because the perceived benefit will be inferior to the cost.

In other cases, it is possible to obtain enough benefits to compensate for the additional work costs.

Other cases, however, will demonstrate that the changes are inevitable and outside of any control, regardless of the negative effect they will bring.

the project variants

The response strategy is approved or declined

The decision whether to accept or reject changes within the permit limit is directly up to the project manager, but any other larger changes should be approved by the project stakeholders.

The boundaries for what is within what category are generally defined at the beginning of any project.

Regardless of the outcome, it is important to keep all stakeholders involved in the process updated.

Leading a project team through the variant management process

The project team is fundamental to the success of any project, so it is essential to actively involve them in the management of process changes.

Here are five ways to do so:

  1. Be open minded regarding changes: the project manager needs to let their team know if any changes are planned in the projects – and ideally which ones.
  2. Be open minded regarding the process: Most team members won’t know what’s expected from them until they’ve been informed. The project manager will then have to prepare a briefing and let everyone know what their role is.
  3. Simplify as much as possible: Changing design variants is often, at best, a controlled chaos. The team can be afraid of changes, especially the most complex ones or those that conflict with long thought decisions and obstacles that are long considered to have been eliminated. The project team turns to its leader for assistance and stabilization, so the project manager must make the process as simple as possible.
  4. Help and support: A new way of working takes time. The project manager needs to let their team know that they are ready to help and support each individual member if they need something.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say no: Not all changes are meaningful suggestions. The project manager must convey to the team their openness to them if an employee feels, for whatever reason, that change is not the right move for the project. They must always be open minded towards dialogue.

 

Failing to manage project variants effectively is one of the main reasons why a project can completely fall apart.

But if the project manager has the right information and the right processes, project changes can be managed in a controlled, intelligent, and win-win way for everyone involved.

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working remotely

5 tips for managing a project remotely

Home working is a way of working that has been increasingly successful in recent years. In our times, home working is virtually the only choice that most companies are forced to make if they don’t want to shut down.

Project managers therefore have to manage the only communication channel they have: the virtual communication channel which, if properly managed, can be as effective as the real one.

As long as managers are able to guide, delegate tasks, hold meetings and supervise people wherever they are, the remote management of a project can still be successful.

What is virtual project management and how does it work?

Virtual project management is based on the work of a project team from different positions, and in most cases, they never meet in person.

Many responsibilities and the project life cycle are the same as those found in “traditional” project management, while other factors are entirely different.

There is no unique solution to be a successful virtual project manager. Everything will depend on the strategies and objectives that an organization follows and the policy of the company.

The biggest difference found in virtual project management compared to traditional project management is undoubtedly the communication channel.

A good virtual PM must be empathetic and able to grasp feelings of chaos or general confusion within a team even remotely.

Moreover, like never before, one has to invest in project management software (link to Home) to help the project manager remain updated in real time on the progress of the activities.

5 successful remote project management tips

What we want to achieve with this article is to provide Project Managers who need to undertake remote managed projects with some suggestions that can guide them.

Let’s begin with the first one:

1. Having a system

The very nature of a virtual team makes it more difficult to be managed in the long term than a “traditional” team.

Difficulties in communication or planning can cause the loss of important information in the process.

More importantly, it can be difficult to determine who is working on what at any given time or when different team members are available.

Too much ambiguity in a virtual team can lead to important problems in a project.

If a virtual project manager does not have a well established system to monitor progress, workflow, and expectations, the team will struggle to be efficient.

Successful leaders are proactive and organized, which allows them to make sure everyone is on the same page and working towards clearly defined goals.

2. Using communication tools in the right way

As already stated, communication is key in the case of virtual teams.

Fortunately, there are many technologies and tools that make it much easier to share information and work in collaboration with others.

For the majority of the most efficient virtual teams, email has become virtually obsolete.

Collaboration tools such as video conferencing platforms, instant messaging programs, project management software and document storage and sharing clouds allow teams to quickly access the information and materials they need at any time.

These tools also help employees clarify problematic situations and provide support more effectively.

It is therefore critical that the project manager must be clear about what tools are available and what they should be used for.
remote work

3. Building and maintaining trust

Anche se un team virtuale dispone dei migliori processi e strumenti, non riuscirà comunque a fornire risultati positivi se i membri non si fidano l’uno dell’altro o – ancora peggio – non si fidano del proprio project manager.

Una mancanza di fiducia può manifestarsi in vari modi, ma nella maggior parte dei casi, il problema alla radice è la mancanza di relazioni forti e genuine all’interno del team.

Per lavorare insieme in modo produttivo, le persone devono capirsi e fidarsi l’una dell’altra.

I project manager virtuali devono quindi ricordare che queste relazioni sono importanti e, per mantenerle e coltivarle, promuovere regolarmente esercizi di team building.

4. Getting the most out of virtual meetings

Virtual meetings are one of the most effective ways for remote teams to share information, review progress and set priorities.

They are also a good opportunity to maintain relationships and become more familiar and comfortable with each other.

A virtual meeting should never be something obvious and improvised, but it must be planned very carefully.

Meetings should be regular enough for people to know what to expect from them, but not so regular as to interfere with their daily work.

Information will be shared in the minutes, which can also be shared in project management software documents.

5. Emphasizing responsibility

One of the most important activities for a virtual project manager is to make sure that each member feels responsible for their own work.

Because team members are often highly dependent on each other, having some people not following their commitments can make it difficult for the rest of the team to follow their own.

Virtual leaders should not only be an example when it comes to shaping responsibility, but they should also determine what is expected of everyone and how responsibilities are distributed.

Yet, communication is crucial, because it is impossible to hold someone responsible for an outcome when they have not fully understood what is expected of them.

By communicating expectations in advance and checking with people along the way, virtual project managers can build a solid foundation to make the entire team responsible.

 

Now we find ourselves at a time where it is necessary for people to be able to manage these virtual work environments.

A good virtual project manager can make the difference between an efficient remote team and one that fails to achieve goals consistently.

A good virtual project manager can understand that a remote team has very different needs and characteristics compared to a traditional one.

This will allow the implementation of solutions and practices that make it easier for everyone to succeed in their role whilst working remotely.

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managing project expectations

Managing project expectations

Managing project expectations is a key skill for any project manager and for the success of a project. The reason why is easy to comprehend.

Delivering a project within schedule and on budget is certainly the goal of any Project Manager, but this is not enough to make a client happy.

Surely more than one project manager found himself delivering a project on time and within budget and then discovered that the client was not satisfied with the final result.

Often this is due to expectations that do not reflect reality, i.e. expectations that go beyond what is really achievable (at least on time and with the budget allocated. This is a rather common scenario, and when it occurs it is quite unpleasant for both parties.

The worst thing is that it often comes out of nowhere, as everything seemed to progress according to plan. You realize that you can’t meet the customer’s expectations simply because you failed to manage them.

Expectations: what are they and why should they be taken into account?

An expectation is “a strong belief that something is going to happen” based on certain assumptions and previous experiences.

The human being is a customary creature and expects certain things to manifest and act in certain ways.

We shape our expectations about others and, in the same way, we are subject to the expectations of those around us.

Certainly, however, life does not follow precise and fixed plans over time, thus sometimes making expectations futile and incorrect.

In particular, in project management, not knowing how to manage the expectations of the client and also of the project team leads to many challenges, including:

  • Ambiguous objectives and successful measures
  • Confusion about what task must be performed and when
  • Focus on wrong priorities
  • Lack of team effort
  • Diminished reliance between project manager, team and client.

Therefore, it is essential to manage the expectations (and not only those of the clients) from the beginning of the project and throughout its life cycle.

In particular, there are five ways to manage the expectations of a project. Let’s have a look at them.

Managing the expectations of a project: Project Planning

Frequently, stakeholders have a vision of the project and its results before any actual project planning takes place.

If this aspect is not properly addressed and approached, it can lead to a conflict between what is promised, how the promise is interpreted and what is actually delivered at the end.

It is important to involve stakeholders at the beginning and during the planning phase to develop realistic expectations based on available resources, team skills and desired outcomes.

Work with stakeholders to formulate the scope, priorities and objectives, identify the dependencies of the activities and decide how to address the risks.

It is also important to involve the team in project planning.

This guarantees that the team is aligned with the objectives and can help create a realistic project plan, leading to greater motivation and involvement of the various members.

Openness is critical during this phase and the project manager should not assume that everyone has the same understanding of the project plan and objectives.

Managing project expectations: Executing the project

The key here is to hold separate meetings with the team and stakeholders to discuss how the project will be executed and monitored.

The meeting with the team should be spent to ensure that everyone fully understands the project, their role and the project manager’s expectations of how the project will be delivered.

The agenda may include, for example:

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Tasks and dependencies
  • History, milestones and key results
  • Monitoring and reporting requirements
  • Communication plan
  • Resource availability
  • KPIs and metrics
  • Risk management strategies
  • Modification request process

Also, you need to plan regular meetings with the team – for example once a week – to examine progress and upcoming activities.

A meeting with stakeholders will review project documents and processes, scope and deadlines and clarify any doubts or problems.

This meeting is also a useful opportunity to highlight, for example, the responsibilities of stakeholders, providing timely feedback before it is too late and the project starts moving in the wrong direction.

project expectations

Managing project expectations: Communication

Expectations are based on assumptions and bias, and constant and effective communication is essential to reduce their impact.

Communication begins at the planning stage of the project and lasts throughout its life cycle.

When a project manager meets with stakeholders and the project team, they must be honest about what can be achieved and clear about the agreed plans.

There are several ways to achieve this level of transparency: for example, use simple language to avoid misunderstandings, promote enquiring and end each meeting with a short recap (perhaps emailed to all participants).

Another suggestion is to log and archive the minutes of the meetings in the project folder for future reference.

An efficient communication plan should include:

  • The communication channel for every situation: e-mail, instant messages, online discussion forums, meetings, etc.
  • Communication frequency.
  • Heads of communication.
  • Risk and problem communication management.

This last bullet point refers to the sensitive issue of bad news.

Projects inevitably fall by the wayside, but the problem can be easily overcome by fast and efficient communication.

Managing project expectations: False promises

It is easy before you start work on a project to get involved in the excitement for a new job and fall under pressure from stakeholders by making false promises.

A “we might be able to do it” can easily become a “we certainly can” and you find yourself struggling with unrealistic expectations.

It is therefore important that a project manager accepts goals that they know for sure are achievable, while regarding others they must keep a dialogue window open or make clear the possible risks, without making false promises.

A solution could be, if uncertain about a request or suggestion, to check the history of similar previous projects and/or consult the project team or industry specialists before agreeing on any deadlines.

Managing project expectations: Personal expectations

As stated above, people always expect certain behaviors from those around them.

However, because expectations generally do not match reality, we may be disappointed by the actions of family, friends and colleagues.

As a project manager, it is important to share expectations with the project team.

Being transparent about the standard of end results, communication requirements, responsibility for risk management, etc. can make expectations within the team much more manageable.

In addition, a project manager needs to be clear about the mechanisms and feedback processes to address poor team member performance.

Expecting a project team to deliver results without direction or guidance is simply not fair and wrong.

Conclusions

Expectations are inevitable both in everyday life and in project management.

Everything we do, everything we say, everything we don’t do, everything we don’t say creates expectations about what we will do or say in the future.

This is why it is important in project management that the project manager is able to ensure that all stakeholders maintain the same expectations and that these expectations are feasible and intentional.

Proactive management of expectations consequently leads to successful projects, satisfied stakeholders and clients and teams involved.

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six sigma method

Six sigma: what it is and what it’s for

Not everyone is familiar with the Six Sigma method and especially what it is for. We will try to break it down in this article.

Digital transformation has become the buzzword of this decade.

New technologies and tools are supporting the transformation path of large and small organizations that are competing for a larger share of the market in an extremely competitive environment.

Although digital transformation quickly follows the growth of an organization, it must be equally supported by management methods of quality control and business transformation.

Focusing on emerging markets and processes, the American company Motorola developed a new concept of quality management process in 1986.

Over the years, this process has been refined into a defined process aimed at corporate transformation.

This method is called Six Sigma.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a set of management tools and techniques designed to improve the business by reducing the odds of error.

It is a data-based approach that uses a statistical methodology to eliminate defects.

The etymology is based on the Greek symbol “sigma” precisely – σ – a statistical term that measures the deviation of the process from the average or target of the process.

Six Sigma” is taken from the bell curve used in statistics, where a sigma symbolizes a single standard deviation from the mean.

If the process has six Sigma, three above and three below average, the defect rate is classified as “extremely low”.

The 5 Six Sigma key principles

The Six Sigma concept has a simple objective: delivering near-perfect products and services considering business transformation with the aim of optimal customer satisfaction.

Six Sigma has its foundations in five key principles:

1. Customer Focus

The primary objective is to offer the ultimate benefit to the customer. For this, an organization must understand its customers, their needs and what drives sales and retention. This requires the definition of quality standards defined by what the customer or the market require.

2. Measuring the value flow and identifying the problem

Mapping the phases in a given process to determine the areas of waste and collect data to discover the specific area of the problem to be addressed.

3. Removal of defects

Once the problem has been identified, adjustments must be made to the process to eliminate activities that do not add value, thus removing defects.

4. Engaging and training stakeholders

Engage all stakeholders and adopt a structured process in which the team contributes and cooperates in problem solving. Six Sigma processes can impact an organization in general, so the team must be competent in the principles and methodologies used. Therefore, training and specialist knowledge are needed to reduce the risk of errors and ensure that the process works optimally.

5. Guaranteeing a flexible and reactive framework

The essence of Six Sigma is business transformation and change. When a defective or inefficient process is resolved, a change in work practice and/or employee approach is required. A corporate culture of flexibility and responsiveness to changes in procedures can therefore offer an advantage. The people and departments involved should be capable of adapting to changes with ease.

the six sigma method

Six Sigma in project management

The Six Sigma methodology is generally implemented for project management and includes the following steps:

  • Define the objectives and scope of the project. Relevant process and client information is collected at this stage.
  • Measure: data on the current situation and process metrics are collected.
  • Analyze: collected data is analyzed to identify the root causes of the problem.
  • Improve: solutions to the problem are developed and implemented.
  • Check: the implemented solutions are evaluated and, if the outcome is positive, the mechanisms are introduced and standardized in the process.

Six Sigma Criticisms

The Six Sigma method certainly shows several advantages but, like all methods, there are also critical remarks about it. This is why:

  • Scope: the implementation of Six Sigma in the management of the project scope would require a clear definition of requirements and strict management of changes. The risk could be that this application could inhibit innovation.
  • Time: the application of Six Sigma in time management. It would require a better planning, set deadlines, close monitoring of progress, immobile risk management and the application of better resource management. The risk could be that this application could encourage further planning freeze and increase buffers.
  • Cost: The application of Six Sigma in cost management would imply absolute budgets, the imposition of accurate cost audits and effective forecasting. The risk could be that this implementation could require an “untouchable” budget.
  • Quality: the implementation of Six Sigma in project management could set strong quality objectives and a rigorous selection of standards. The risk could be that this application could cause hidden problems and blame others for defects.

Some believe that Six Sigma promotes a process of incremental improvements, hindering and disregarding radical improvements, such as a major technological innovation.

Therefore, it would seem not to fit well in the case of projects or organizations geared towards the search for new innovative methods and processes.

Moreover, in project management, the person in charge is the project manager. For Six Sigma, it is generally the so-called “Black Belt” person.

When it comes to executing projects, these two types of leaders may have a different focus.

Project managers use project management methodology tools that focus on executing a project on time and on budget, aligning it with overall business objectives.

Black belts, on the other hand, are generally more focused on solving a specific problem and finding a solution as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In general, neither approach is the perfect answer in every scenario and a lot depends on the people involved, the type of project and the type of organization.

“Traditional” project management and Six Sigma focus on different aspects, but this does not mean that they cannot perform well together when used in the right way.

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the corporate culture

Corporate culture as benchmark for a project manager

Una forte cultura aziendale modella i processi decisionali di un’organizzazione, guida le azioni e il comportamento individuale di tutti i dipendenti.

Nella sua forma generale, la cultura aziendale comprende credenze, norme, valori, atteggiamenti condivisi che permeano tutte le parti dell’organizzazione.

Questi modelli aiutano a fornire tabilità e coerenza all’organizzazione , tuttavia una cultura forte può anche sollevare ostacoli ai risultati necessari per rimanere competitivi.

I project manager che non sono a conoscenza della cultura aziendale possono essere limitati dai valori e dalle convinzioni della cultura di base dell’organizzazione.

Invece, i capi consapevoli del progetto  hanno un forte legame con la loro cultura aziendale, sono più adattabili, flessibili ed efficaci.

Cos’è la cultura aziendale?

Fondamentalmente, la cultura aziendale è il carattere dell’organizzazione.

La stessa persona, inserita in organizzazioni diverse o persino in dipartimenti diversi della stessa organizzazione, agirebbe diversamente, perché una forte cultura aziendale crea ideali sociali che modellano il comportamento individuale .

La cultura aziendale è un canale attraverso il quale i messaggi su ciò che l’organizzazione rappresenta vengono trasmessi ai dipendenti e alle altre parti interessate.

Quando gli individui si impegnano nelle credenze dell’organizzazione , tali credenze vengono incorporate nell’organizzazione e i singoli membri le considerano come credenze personali .

Comprendere la cultura dell’organizzazione è quindi fondamentale per i progetti di successo.

Forze esterne ed interne modellano la cultura aziendale che influenza i progetti.

La struttura, ad esempio, influenza la cultura.

Strutture solide, formali e di controllo possono promuovere l’efficienza funzionale a spese dell’innovazione collaborativa.

Le azioni di leadership trasmettono anche credenze, valori e ipotesi che contribuiscono alla cultura aziendale.

Some leaders promote and incentivize individual and group competition, while other leaders motivate people to work collaboratively and synergistically.

Performance measures also play an enormous role in determining an organization’s culture.

What is measured, whether, for example, profits, i.e., cost savings, position with respect to the competition, etc. is also part of the corporate culture.

Last but not least, even external factors shape the corporate culture and are very powerful as organizations reflect transnational, national, regional and industrial ideologies.

These can be represented by religion, science, political ideologies and environmental concerns.

All these listed elements therefore influence the way people perceive the organization and how they behave within it.

What does this mean for the project manager?

Projects often have a deep impact on the organization and, of course, on the people within it, especially those who work there directly.

Projects change all or part of an organization and by their very nature create changes in the organization in general and/or in individual departments.

Project managers need to be capable of interacting with various subcultural elements within their organization and, where suitable, within the client’s organization, often at the same time.

Project managers who are aware of cultural differences can avoid or minimize conflicts resulting from productivity errors or misunderstandings.

Differences can arise due to communication problems between different corporate cultures.

It is therefore important that the project manager makes an effort to speak and listen to “different languages” so that these differences are taken into account.

Stubborn and hasty judgment that attributes project barriers to another person’s inflexibility or stubbornness can polarize differences, escalate conflicts, and make it very difficult or almost impossible to complete the project.

Projects are more likely to have success when:

  • They begin with the premise that organizations are living social systems.
  • They assess, define, work and align themselves with the basic culture of the organization.
  • They are directly related to the organization’s strategy.
  • They are aligned with culture and leadership initiatives.

Projects considered consistent with corporate culture may have smoother implementations and higher success rates than projects that challenge these cultural norms.

In addition, understanding the corporate culture and its relationship to project management can help organizations understand which projects to pursue and which not to consider.

cultura aziendale

Corporate culture as a crucial element

Culture perhaps plays the most important role in determining whether the organization is successful in running projects or not.

If an organization is experiencing difficulties in completing projects correctly, project managers can’t always be blamed.

Project managers may be working in a corporate culture that does not support their efforts, and until that culture changes, project managers will constantly struggle to succeed.

However, a positive corporate culture can be an incentive for project success.

Organizations and, consequently, project teams have unique personalities and value systems and an individual way of doing things to achieve success.

The more a project manager understands and accepts the concept of corporate culture, the more effective he or she will be in gaining support and guiding the project through the myriad organizational mazes.

Project managers typically work within their own core corporate culture with subcultures of other departments – for example: research and development, marketing and sales or production… each with their own “intrinsic ways of doing things here to succeed” – or external clients.

Understanding and speaking the language of the target culture is key to the success of the project.

Communicating effectively with the surrounding culture can help develop plans and strategies that are more likely to be acknowledged and adhered to over time, bypassing practices that violate the beliefs and values of both the organization’s own and external beliefs.

This is an important part of project team development that also helps to ensure a healthy climate during the team’s work and the basic approach to ensuring the success of the project.

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the timeboxing technology

Timeboxing technology: pros and cons

To understand what timeboxing is, it is imperative to think about it and consider a regular working day.

What is the standard approach when you have a list of things to do?

Most people, as well as most project managers, chooses an activity to start with and work towards completion.

You cannot move on to anything else until that first task is successfully completed.

Only then will you choose another task and repeat the process once again.

This is the standard method of doing things, but is it really always the most effective?

What if, for example, one of the tasks on the to-do list is so broad and complex that you won’t be able to work on anything else during a certain period of time?

In this situation, the timeboxing technique can help you to better manage your time.

What exactly is timeboxing?

We have already discussed time management in projects several times, such as the GTD method, when we talked about time management or when we mentioned the smoothing, but we never brought up the timeboxing technique.

Timeboxing is a very simple technique to manage time and become more productive.

The concept is to allocate a certain period of time to a task in advance and then complete this task within that time.

A practical example is to plan a meeting agenda and determine in advance how long you want to work on each topic.

During the meeting, you then set a timer and when the time is up, you move on to the next topic.

timeboxing technology

What makes timeboxing effective?

Timeboxing is a tactic designed to help you stay focused and achieve significant progress by focusing on time rather than the activities in question.

This technique is based on the psychological principle called “Parkinson’s Law” which says the work grows to fill the time for its completion.

To give you an example: If you allow yourself a week to complete a two-hour task, this task will expand to fill the whole week.

It may also not fill the extra time with more work, but only with stress and strain from having to complete it.

That’s why when you set a time limit, you focus solely on getting the activity done.

What are the advantages of timeboxing?

Obviously, the aforementioned sense of self-imposed urgency is one of the major advantages of timeboxing, but this approach also carries a number of other positive aspects, including:

  • Enhanced focus: timeboxing increases the level of attention when performing an activity. There will be no room for distractions and productivity will increase.
  • Recurrent revaluation opportunities: Most people do not spend time evaluating their performance until the end of the working day, when they look at their to-do list and see clearly how much remains to be done. Timeboxing allows you to analyze and evaluate your work when your time is up.
  • Less stressful projects: when dealing with a particularly demanding and activity-packed project, work can become intimidating. The project seems to stretch infinitely and you feel overwhelmed. Here’s how timeboxing becomes useful in these cases: it’s much easier to think, “I’ll work on this activity for an hour”, than to think, “I’ll work on this activity until it’s over”.

How hard is it to implement Timeboxing?

Especially when you have a workflow that focuses on activities rather than time, how difficult will it be to turn the perspective upside down and make use of the timeboxing technique?

Here are some tips to start applying timeboxing in your workflow and, why not, in everyday life as well:

  • Instead of starting with a daunting project, select a relatively small and simple task or job, something that you can complete in a short space of time and without too much stress. In fact, nobody runs a marathon without first training step by step.
  • Likewise, set short time intervals when starting to adopt this technique. The best option is to start with 15 or 20 minutes for an activity and, if possible, to start at the stage where you are most careful, focused and energetic.
  • Set a timer on your phone or computer and, when the time runs out, observe it and finish the job.
  • Focus and force yourself to work, without any interruption, for that set period of time. This is probably the most difficult part and means, basically, not answering the phone, not looking at emails, not surfing the internet and no small talk with colleagues.

In the end, it is important to examine how things went and make the necessary changes for the next time.

Do you really need to check your emails during the activity? Is answering the phone mandatory due to your role in the company?

By following these steps and tweaking them over time, you will be able to effectively implement the timeboxing technique to your workflow.

However, it is also important to underline that timeboxing is not a wonder and will not automatically make you more productive and efficient.

Moreover, it is not suitable for all types of activities or meetings. For example, when it comes to creative activities or brainstorming, you will need time that often cannot be as limited as with timeboxing.

It is also important to always pay attention to the quality of the results.

No matter if with or without timeboxing, the goal of every project manager, project team and organization in general should always be top quality work.

Better organize your time.

One try is worth a million words.
FMEA methodology

FMEA methodology

FMEA methodology was created to solve a primary need of every company. The Brand, the reputation and even the survival of a company pass through the quality of its products and the relationship with its customers.

Nobody wants a defective product and defects are expensive, frustrating and harmful to the reputation of an organization.

The FMEA methodology can improve systems, design and manufacturing processes, helping to identify potential problems and enabling corrective action to be taken.

Its acronym – FMEA – stand for Failure Mode and Effects Analysis.

Furthermore, this technique is also known as FMECA – Failure Modes, Effects and Critical Analysis.

FMEA is a simple, systematic and qualitative technique that involves brainstorming with experts and recording their comments in a table; a process similar to the creation of a probability and impact matrix, i.e. the matrix for risk assessment.

Experts identify and report in a table the possible causes of product failure, the likelihood of their occurrence, their effects and the probability that failures will be detected before they happen.

This allows them to identify many failures that may affect the end result.

Used in many industries, the FMEA methodology is one of the best ways to analyze potential reliability issues early in the development cycle, making it easier to quickly take action to mitigate or eliminate failures.

When to use the FMEA methodology and its different types

The FMEA is beneficial to prevent future errors and improve process and product reliability in general.

This methodology can be used in the following cases:

  • During the development of a new product or process.
  • Before modifying a product or process.
  • After having identified an error in a product or process.
  • When multiple and consistent complaints are received from customers.
  • When sales support costs are uncommonly and exceptionally high.
  • When the integrity of an organization is at stake.

 

The most used applications of the FMEA methodology are:

  • Concept FMEA
  • Design FMEA or DFMEA
  • Process FMEA or PFMEA

Concept FMEA

This is developed at the very early stages of a product or process life cycle, i.e. when it is still in a conceptual phase.

It is performed at the system or subsystem level before the key requirements are set.

The concept FMEA helps to identify the factors that can be included in a product or process.

Design FMEA or DFMEA

Design FMEA is used to determine potential risks when designing a product or service.

The DFMEA is a methodological approach used to identify the potential risk on a new product design and examines the possibility of malfunctions, reduction in product life and safety and regulatory issues arising from, for example:

  • Material properties;
  • Shape;
  • Intolerances;
  • Interfaces with other components and/or systems;

DFMEA identifies the failure conditions of the design features and their possible effect on the end customer with the classification of the severity or danger of the effect.

Process FMEA or PFMEA

Process FMEA is used in the analysis of possible errors and risks in a process.

It detects faults that may affect product quality, reduced process reliability, customer dissatisfaction and risks to safety or the environment arising from, for example:

  • Human factors
  • Methods applied during processing
  • Materials used
  • Equipment used
  • Impact of measuring systems on acceptance
  • Environmental factors on process performance

the FMEA methodology

How to implement FMEA methodology

The use of this technique requires experienced assessment.

One or more brainstorming sessions with specialists, will help to identify, collect and evaluate potential defects, their causes and impact.

Experts should fall within all functional areas so that the entire lifecycle of the product can be covered.

The FMEA methodology is based on three parameters: severity, occurrence and detection. Specifically:

  • Severity (S) indicates the effect of the failure on the rest of the system if the failure occurs;
  • Occurrence (O) indicates how often the problem may occur;
  • Detection (D) is a measure of the effectiveness of current controls in place to identify potential defects before production.

Here is how the FMEA methodology is used, step by step:

  1. For each potential error or defect, experts will assign a value from one to ten, where one means “extremely unlikely” and ten is “extremely likely”.
  2. At the end of the brainstorming session, a list of problems will be generated, with their causes and assessments.
  3. Afterwards, this information will be added in a table.
  4. Lastly, the values for severity, occurrence and detection of each defect will be multiplied to generate an RPN. This will indicate the number of risk probabilities and provide an overall risk impact score for each defect.
  5. The thresholds of each risk level will be decided after generating RPN for all possible defects and failures. Using the RPN number, a decision will then be made whether a cause of the defect has high, medium or low priority.
  6. Work on high priority RPNs will begin to mitigate or eliminate the most important flaws.
  7. Determine the recommended actions. These actions can be design or process adjustments to reduce defects and problems.
  8. Once the actions have been carried out, note the results and the date in the FMEA form. In addition, it is important to take note of the new S, O or D value classifications and the new RPNs.

This is the description of a general procedure. Specific details may vary depending on the standards of the organization or industry.

Advantages of FMEA methodology

  • Improved and more reliable products
  • Less after-sales support
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved brand reputation
  • Reduction of breakdown costs and warranty
  • Profit maximization by reducing after-sales expenses
  • Catalyst for teamwork and sharing ideas between different functions

Although this is a simple method and can allow teams to set priorities according to the highest RPN (Risk Priority Number), there are some weaknesses to be taken into account before adopting this methodology.

  • Scope problem. Once the key problems have been solved, what is the limit point for further improvement? If every problem, even the most trivial ones, ends up on an FMEA sheet, the specific meetings can become time-consuming and complex, constraining valuable hours during which the actual processes could be improved.
  • FMEA methodology is only valid among FMEA team members. Problems that have not been experienced by team members will not be presented as possible error modes. When this occurs, the situation may even require the hiring of external consultants.
  • FMEA methodology is an evaluation tool and, in itself, does not eliminate problems.

 

In conclusion, the FMEA methodology is a proactive technique to detect potential defects and failures before they happen.

It is an optimal method that, if used correctly and taking into account the limitations mentioned above, can bring many advantages to an organization.

We have the tools, we have the culture.