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.

Want to know more about Twproject Mobile app?

One try is worth a million words.
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.

Give a look at the twproject services.

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.

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

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.

Want to know more about Twproject Mobile app?

One try is worth a million words.
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.

Switch to remote project management with Twproject.

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.

Manage your projects at your best.

One try is worth a million words.
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.

Improve your business with Twproject.

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.

Vuoi saperne di più sull’app Twproject Mobile?

Un tentativo vale più di un milione di parole.
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.

manage project benefits

Project benefits: what are they and how to manage them

Project benefits are referred to as “the measurable improvement deriving from a result perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders, which contributes to the achievement of one or more organizational objectives”.

Basically it means that the benefits should represent an improvement resulting from the project.

The purpose of launching any project is, in fact, to provide some kind of benefit as a result of the delivery of the output.

It is obvious that not all projects bring the same benefits to the organization. Let’s look at some types of benefits that can be achieved.

Types of benefits in a project

The types of benefits are, as stated earlier, variable. Here are some concrete examples:

  • Quality improvement,
  • Production cost reduction,
  • Error rate reduction,
  • A higher level of customer service,
  • Increased customer retention rate.

Benefits can be classed as tangible and intangible benefits.

A tangible benefit is quantitative, i.e. something that can be measured, such as a reduction in operating costs.

An intangible benefit is something that cannot be measured accurately, although its effects can be seen, such as increasing brand awareness.

The performance management plan describes what the benefits of the project will be and how they will be classified and measured.

In order to measure the delivery of some benefits, such as cost reduction, a study of current costs within the organization is needed so that a comparison can be made after the delivery of the project.

The benefit management plan will therefore include the following key elements:

  • A description of the benefit that should be provided.
  • The “owner” of the benefits.
  • How the benefit will be determined.
  • Assumptions and risks considered in determining the benefit.

This plan will be reviewed regularly throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that the stated benefits remain on the project’s delivery path.

Some benefits, in particular, may be awarded even after the project has been delivered, which is why monitoring and measuring benefits may expand beyond the completion of the project.

Benefit management process

The project benefit management process can be divided into four distinct phases. In each phase there are a number of associated key objectives, activities and results. These are:

Benefit definition

The project must clearly outline what benefits will be provided and how they will be quantified before the start of the project.

The audience for this communication consists of all stakeholders who share an interest in the project.

When defining the benefits, it is important to take into account that most of them occur after the distribution of the output.

Therefore, the measurement and communication of benefits should also – and above all – continue after implementation.

Benefit structuring

It can be tricky to know when and how to assess the benefits of a project, but it is important to make sure to specify:

  • What is measured and what is expected.
  • What measures will be used and how these measures comply with the general measures of the organization.
  • When and how the benefits will be assessed.
  • What is the threshold of success for the realization of the benefits.
  • What will be the impact on the project if the measured benefits do not match the expected benefits?

It is imperative that the method of measuring the benefits is established before the launch of the project.
project benefits

Implementation and monitoring of benefits

Once the project starts, it is also important to measure and report on the actual outcomes against the expected results throughout the entire life cycle and not just at the end of it.

These reports can be used during periodic reviews to assess whether a project is still on track in terms of benefits.

Often it may seem that a project is on track, but if there are no formal reports it may be impossible to know that for sure.

Regular reporting will clearly show whether a project can achieve its objectives.

Clearly, in many cases the final benefits cannot be determined during the project, however it is possible to measure progress towards the benefits and then determine whether action is needed before it is too late.

Often the achievement of benefits can be influenced by factors external to the organization, such as government, competitors, and customers.

These factors must then be included in the measurement and taken into account to determine whether the project is still valid.

Benefit assessment

Monitoring the benefit measures and comparing them with the expected benefits identified at the start of the project will provide a good indication of a project’s performance.

This performance evaluation can be a useful guide in determining what course of action should be taken in relation to the project.

It is a fact that projects do not always achieve the expected benefits and that there are several levels of success.

Having hard data and comparing it to a predetermined threshold will help the organization maximize the potential of a project and know when there is no benefit to it.

The benefit management process certainly offers a structured approach to managing the benefits of a project, but this does not mean that this is a mechanistic activity; it is proactive and takes into account changes.

7 reasons why projects fail to deliver benefits

Sometimes it can happen that a project cannot deliver benefits. How come?

The reasons are different, but mainly this is due to:

  • The initial work on identifying strategic benefits has not been expanded or developed.
  • Poor definition of the corporate objectives of the projects.
  • No mechanism or strategy in place to manage the achievement of the benefits.
  • Lack of commitment from key stakeholders to delivering the benefits.
  • Lack of unambiguous ownership of the benefits.
  • Lack of robust processes to monitor benefits.
  • Lack of updating in case of changes during the project lifecycle.

That is why it is important to have a clear and structured benefit management process.

To be successful, this must become standard practice for the organization, especially every time a new project is started.

During the life cycle of a project it may be necessary to change objectives, change priorities or redefine desired outcomes in light of changing circumstances.

It is critical that this process continues throughout and beyond the life of the project to ensure that the benefits are achieved.

Manage your projects at your best.

One try is worth a million words.
working from home with kids

5 tips for dealing with children when working from home during Coronavirus

All over the world, schools of all grades and kindergarten have shut their doors in an attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

This is incredibly important for the safety of our communities, but parents working from home are thus faced with a challenging domestic situation to manage.

It gets complicated when parents have to work from home for the first time.

Here are 5 tips on how to find work-life balance within the boundaries of the isolation caused by the coronavirus.

1. Create the program of the day, also for the children

As we said in our previous article about time management for home working, the key to an efficient organization of home working is to draw up a to-do list of activities.

The same rule applies for children, drawing up a strict schedule that replicates that of a normal school day.

Many schools have prepared online lessons and virtual homework, so children should be reminded that they are not on holiday, but only in an exceptional situation caused by an emergency.

Every morning it is important to wake your children up, prepare breakfast and dress them just as you would if they were going to school.

2. Communicate, even more than necessary

When working remotely, communicating is one of the key elements in maintaining efficiency and making others understand the situation at home.

When it comes to work, it is important to be clear that you are also dealing with the needs of your children, so that colleagues – and especially your direct supervisor – won’t be surprised.

For example, if you are taking part in a Skype meeting, it is perfectly legitimate to inform others that there is a child walking around the room and may interfere with the call suddenly.

Especially given the unexpected work situation in which many people find themselves, a statement like this becomes fundamental and certainly not negative.

In fact, the participants in the meeting will be more aware and understanding if they are warned beforehand.

Given the exceptional nature of the situation, one could also ask for meetings to be rescheduled so as not to have calls lasting hours and hours, but short and frequent online meetings, in order to better care for their children.

3. Establish limits with children

In addition to communicating with your colleagues and manager, it is imperative to set limits with your children.

At this time, it may be helpful to allow children to play or watch TV for longer to keep them busy.

However, it is important to state clearly that this is a special situation and that this freedom will not last forever.

It is also necessary to say when you absolutely must not be disturbed.

This limitation could be indicated in several ways, for example by closing the door if you have an office room or, if you have a desk in a common room, prepare a “STOP” sign and place it in plain sight when you absolutely do not want to be disturbed.

4. Take breaks

Breaks are essential, even when working from home.

Especially for those who have children, taking a 10-minute break every hour becomes important, also to have the chance to give them some attention and make sure that their day is also going in the right direction.

If you find yourself in a particular situation where your child needs more attention, it is important to tell your superior and try to find a solution.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to offer support or cover your colleagues who may need an extra or longer break to look after their children.

home working with kids

5. Schedule shifts with your partner

If both parents work from home, this can greatly ease the coordination between work and home life with kids.

Here the key is to schedule shifts with your partner so that it is clear who should look after the children and when, thus leaving the partner free to concentrate on their work without any interruption.

Even if the partner doesn’t work from home, but is part of the small section of the population that still goes to work every day, it is still an extra help compared to single parents.

A thorough program will be the secret to maximizing everyone’s day.

It is important to understand that, in the beginning, you will struggle and make lots of mistakes before you will find a relatively “acceptable” home working day.

To find the right solution and routine, as in all things, you need training and practice.

So be ready to innovate, try and repeat more strategies over the next few days and remember that there are already many remote workers with children who can manage this situation successfully.

So there is hope for everyone!

With a bit of planning, definitely lots of debates and an adaptable attitude, you will be able to efficiently manage your home working period with children during this Coronavirus.

Thus we want to close this article with the most heartfelt hashtag of this period: #everythingwillbefine

Are you still having problems with smart working? Try yourself with a free demo.

home working

How to manage your time working from home

Many employees will be working from home for the first time because of the pandemic we are currently facing.

Many companies around the world have, in fact, implemented remote working in a near mandatory way. These employees will therefore have to face the challenge of remaining active and productive in a new environment to which they may not be accustomed.

We have talked about time management before. We have done so, for example, when discussing time management in a project, or when we spoke about the GTD method, but we would have never talked about how to manage time working from home.

Coronavirus or not, the key to working from home is just proper time management and finding the balance between work and private life.

So here are some tips that will help whoever is facing home working for the first time to have a productive working day.

6 tips for best time management when working from home

If you are a Project Manager you might also appreciate reading this article on how to remotely manage a project team, if you’re part of a team, instead, then you need some advice.

You should know that the worst enemy of productivity, when working from home, is time running relentlessly. Often you get to the end of the day tired, but you realize you haven’t really achieved much.

So here are 6 tips for time management (which you must absolutely put into practice) when working from home.

1. Create a list of daily and weekly activities

You can begin by drawing up a list of the activities to be carried out during the week. These activities will then be spread out, according to priority or other important factors, over the different days of the week.

In this way the workload will be evenly distributed and you will not be faced with work overloads on one day and downtime the next.

In addition, during each working day, you will be able to tick off the list of activities carried out. This will create a psychological sense of well-being in seeing that you are making progress at work.
doing home working

2. Plan your breaks

At work, it is frequent to have lunch breaks and coffee breaks and often many people, during their daily activities, take regular breaks to recharge their batteries.

This routine could be totally altered in the case of home working, which is why it is essential to plan breaks.

The time of lunch and coffee breaks will be decided in advance and, unless something important happens, these schedules will have to be observed.

During breaks it is important to leave your computer and/or phone, so that you can really enjoy this time.

Prevent distractions

When working from home, it’s much easier to be distracted.

There’s no one controlling how many times you look at your mobile phone, your personal Facebook page can be open all the time and notifications can always be on, your landline can ring at any time… In short, we’ll be subjected to a myriad of uncontrolled distractions.

Maybe this is one of the most difficult steps to take, but when it’s time to get to work, you have to turn off – or at least put on silent – your private mobile phone and close all social pages.

This way you can carry out your work faster and more efficiently, leading to great satisfaction at the end of your working day.

4. Remember to eat

This section is somehow connected to point number 2, even if taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean eating.

In fact, it is important to remember to eat correctly and healthily, especially considering the fact that we are currently fighting against a virus and the stronger we are, the less vulnerable we will be.

This also requires planning in order not to end up eating a box of biscuits or a bag of chips at the last moment.

In fact, lots of people may be accustomed to having a company canteen or favourite restaurant around the office.

Working from home therefore means facing the “problem” of finding food in another way.

Just as we said in point 1 about creating to-do-lists of work activities, similar actions should be done for food as well.

One suggestion is to draw up a list of what you will eat during working hours at the beginning of the week so that you can plan your shopping accordingly.

5. Remember that it’s a job

Surely working from home gives you the chance to sit in front of the computer in pajamas and with your hair messed up by a night’s sleep, but as tempting as this scenario might be, we strongly discourage you from doing so.

Taking a shower and dressing as if you were going to the office will make you more focused on what you are doing and working and not just surfing the internet for fun.

Another suggestion is to do everything you can to create a space that is exclusive for working at home.

Not having a well equipped home office space, especially when you start working remotely, can cause a temporary reduction in productivity.

Clearly not everyone is lucky enough to be able to afford a room that can be fully converted into an office, yet the solution could be something as simple as moving a coffee table somewhere away from distractions.

This also serves as a signal to those who live under the same roof: when you sit dressed at that table, you’re at work.

Having a space to work in and physically preparing for the working day are crucial steps for the mood that enters “work” mode.

6. Manage isolation the best way possible

There are many communication tools: mobile phones for video calls, Skype, email, WhatsApp, etc.

However, even with these tools, the sudden and forced nature that represents the transition from an office to a home environment could make it very difficult to get used to this change.

Because of the coronavirus, it is not even possible to meet with colleagues and friends once the day’s work is over.

Prolonged isolation could also have a major impact on morale and productivity, leading to depression in severe cases.

That’s why, to try to maintain a semblance of normality and camaraderie in unconventional ways, you can hold virtual meetings like a pizza party or a remote happy hour where people connect and share a pizza or cocktail on Skype.

This becomes a good way to preserve relationships or bond even more and, why not, given the oddity of the situation, it can also become a lot of fun.

It is not clear how long people will stay at home, so it is important to become accustomed with remote working in order to deal with it in the most positive and effective way possible.

It would not be bad to take advantage of this period also to try out new working tools. If you have never done so, for example, you could try TWproject for free. Have a great day at work.

I know what you’re thinking… “everything is easy when you don’t have kids at home driving you nuts.”

We have also covered this issue as well! In the next article we will discuss how to manage children when working from home.

Start doing smart working with Twproject.

project perimeter

Project perimeter

Defining the project perimeter, also called the scope of a project, is a challenge that project managers always meet when they first work on a new project.

Project scope is the part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project objectives, end results, features, duties, tasks, deadlines, and costs.

Simply put, it is what needs to be done and the work that needs to be accomplished to realize a project.

It is important to define this perimeter in the early stages of a project’s lifecycle as this can have a significant impact on the planning and/or costs of the project along its way.

A well-defined project scope is mandatory to ensure the success of any project and we have already discussed this in this article about Scope management.

Without it, no matter how efficiently, how effectively and how hard a project manager works with their team, generally speaking, they will not be able to get the job done successfully.

The significance of defining the perimeter of a project

Here are the benefits that the definition of the perimeter of a project offers to any organization:

  • Defines what the project involves so that all stakeholders can understand what is (or is not) involved in the work;
  • Provides information that project managers can use to assign tasks, plan jobs and budgets accordingly (a perimeter in fact), within which project managers can plan;
  • Helps team members to focus on common goals;
  • Prevents projects, particularly complex ones, from growing beyond the established vision – beyond the perimeter.

The perimeter of a project provides a solid foundation for project management and helps to ensure that resources are not redirected or wasted on elements beyond its scope.

This will allow the project manager to allocate activities more efficiently and provide guidance to team members so that the project can be delivered on time and on budget.

How do we set the perimeter of a project?

The following steps can help the project manager to effectively define the perimeter of a project:

1. Identify project needs

When you are definitely able to identify the needs of a project, you are more likely to establish a solid point of reference from the beginning.

Understanding the “what and why” of a project will allow the project manager to set specific, achievable goals.

The identification of project needs also allows establishing the basics for which activities should be followed and how they should be performed.

2. Confirm project objectives

The establishment of a project perimeter should imply that the objectives are those that follow a SMART guideline; i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and completed within a given period of time.

Let’s see them in detail.

  • Specific is what it means to state precisely what the project wants to achieve. That is, what, why and how it will be accomplished. Openness will reduce the potential for ambiguities and misunderstandings.
  • Measurable: Are the objectives objectively measurable?
  • Achievable: Is it possible to achieve the project objectives, given the resources available?
  • Relevant: the objective must have a – positive – impact on the organization’s business.
  • Temporary: Can the objectives of the project be achieved on schedule?

the project perimeter

3. Definition project perimeter

As project leader, one must be clear about the features and operation required for the product or service that will be the project output.

That is, what certain qualities will be required to successfully achieve the final goal of a project.

4. Expectations and acceptance

Successful projects are those that meet the end user’s expectations.

End users can be either customers or the project team or some other entity within the organization.

For customers, this means the price, value and quality of the products/services as well as the availability, delivery and return policies.

For employees or internal figures within the company, this includes, for example, the effectiveness and efficiency of new operational processes.

Finally, the scope of the project is the one that should be in accordance with the best results to anyone who can be the end user.

5. To identify constraints

There are always obstacles – more or less significant – on the way to achieving a certain goal, and this applies to projects as well.

When one is aware of possible limitations along the way, this can help to minimize problems that could delay or limit the capability to achieve the project result.

These constraints can be caused by environmental conditions, technological problems and/or lack of resources.

Communicating such problems to team members in a timely manner and adopting measures to overcome these obstacles will reduce delays in project completion and keep expenses within budget.

 6. To identify required changes

It is always best to avoid redesigning the project perimeter, as this implies investing more time, money and resources.

However, sometimes these changes are unavoidable and necessary, so the key is to limit them as much as possible.

Tips for project perimeter management

Here are some tips for the project perimeter management, which can help to avoid some of the most frequent problems that can occur during the project lifecycle.

  • Ambiguity: Ambiguity in the scope often leads to unnecessary work and confusion. To avoid this, the perimeter must be well defined and specified.
  • Incomplete definition: A not fully defined perimeter leads to incorrect scheduling leading to cost overruns. To avoid this, the project perimeter must be complete and accurate.
  • Transience: A transient perimeter is the main cause of late deliveries and “endless” projects. To avoid this, the purpose document must be finalized and remain unchanged for the duration of the project.
  • Non-cooperative environment: An inadequately prepared project perimeter causes misinterpretations. To avoid this, the document should be shared with all stakeholders at every stage of the perimeter definition process.

 

The management of the project perimeter is not difficult to implement; however, it requires effort, time and patience.

When it comes to project planning, the definition of the perimeter of the project is one of the most critical steps.

If a project is launched without knowing precisely where the boundaries are, there is little chance of success.

The main purpose of establishing the perimeter of a project is to clearly describe which area will be under the control of the project.

Plan and define your projects using Twproject.

project framework

Project management framework

What is a project Framework? Let’s try to learn it together.

A strong reason why project management is increasing in virtually all sectors is because the world economy has become project-focused.

Basically, everything that is not considered a routine operation is a project.

Therefore, by adopting project management frameworks and strategies – such as the establishment of clear results and the definition of a work programme – operations can be managed more effectively.

Project management in organizations is no longer an extra, but rather a priority and, in some cases, an essential part.

While the role of the project manager has changed radically over the past decade, largely due to rising technologies, the bases remain the same.

The six stages of the Project Framework

An example of one of the main tools that every project manager uses is the project management framework.

This framework integrates a number of tools and processes to ensure that a project runs smoothly from start to finish.

Depending on the company, this framework may have different names for different phases, but the six phases that comprise all the basic elements are:

Project framework 1. Initiation phase

This phase concerns the launch of a project.

Here stakeholders, the scope and objectives are defined and the requirements of the project are set out. It is during this phase that the feasibility of the project is measured.

The main end result of this phase is the start of the project.

Project framework 2. Planning phase

This is the moment when all decisions are finalized and the project roadmap is developed.

The team develops a project plan and a corresponding timeline and determines which materials and resources will be needed to successfully conclude the project.

It also identifies potential threats that could delay the end of the project or prevent activities from being completed on budget.

The final result in this phase is the development of a project plan.

Project framework 3. Execution phase

The project progresses here from design to development.

This is often the lengthiest phase of the framework and involves developing the results according to the project plan.

Here, the team will often use status reports and hold regular meetings with sponsors and key stakeholders to assess progress.

The main end result at this stage is to obtain approval of the planned product or service.

Project framework 4. Control phase

This is the tuning phase in which project stakeholders will take corrective action in response to deviations from budget, timing and scope.

The project manager could re-evaluate resource levels, monitor project objectives, and arrange meetings with stakeholders to approve changes.

The main outcome at this stage is the reporting of progress.

Project framework 5. Evaluation phase

It is at this phase of the Framework that the performance of the project as a whole is reviewed.

The project manager will use key performance indicators to determine whether the project is well on track or not.

The factors that will be monitored include, but are not limited to:

  • if the project is within budget;
  • if the project follows the established schedule;
  • any change in the scope of the project.

The main end result at this phase is the measurement of project performance and progression.

Project framework 6. Resolution phase

A successful project ends – successfully – when it achieves all the expected results.

The lessons learned will then be collected and documented in a special paper.

This paper provides an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past (lesson learned) and implement successful processes for future projects.

project management framework

Thus, these are the six basic phases of a project management framework.

Clearly, traditional project management processes are constantly evolving with the adoption of new practices.

Finding the right balance between the adoption of new modern tools and established classical methodologies is and will be a great challenge for project managers.

Project management framework in depth

The PMBOK Guide describes a project management framework as a basic structure for understanding project management.

Different frameworks are available and project managers will choose the one that works best for the project within their organization.

In some cases, organizations leverage multiple frameworks depending on the departmental unit or project type.

Let’s see what some of the most popular project frameworks are.

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)

The CCPM is designed to address the uncertainties inherent in project management.

This method focuses on resource allocation, including personnel, skills, management and capabilities during the project.

The aim is to maintain the workload level for all resources.

Lean

The key concept of Lean project management is to deliver high value with minimal waste.

The Lean method aims to achieve this through standardization, maximum compatibility, safety, repeatability, interoperability and quality.

Lean often employs the Six Sigma methodology, which is geared towards improving quality by eliminating defects, standardizing and formalizing processes.

Extreme Project Management / Megaproject (XPM)

Extreme Project Management (XPM) is a framework designed to meet the needs of very complex and often highly flexible projects.

XPM is more about stakeholder management than about the timing of activities.

In a traditional project, the result is much less complex, the change is expensive and therefore minimized, the technology is assumed to remain largely unchanged and the project is driven by the project plan.

This is not particularly suitable in high technology environments where change is a constant because the technology is constantly evolving.

XPM is therefore characterized by very short development (sprint) periods of two weeks or less.

Scrum

The Scrum method is also based on short sprints, although Scrum sprints are longer than XPM sprints and generally last two to four weeks.

Waterfall

The Waterfall methodology is generally recognized as a traditional approach to project management.

Waterfall is based on the idea that everything happens in sequence, with one phase of a project ending before the start of another.

Why are there so many project management frameworks?

Every framework has its own strengths and weaknesses, but, above all, every project has its own needs and requires specific resources.

Some elements that can determine which framework to use are the type of activity, the unique nature of the projects and the different departments involved.

A project manager must therefore be aware of what the project management frameworks are and must be able to identify which one is best suited to each occasion.

Only by choosing the right framework can a project be carried out successfully, respecting the corporate culture and the ultimate goal of the organization.

Would you like to better manage project frameworks?.

negotiation skills in a project

The importance of negotiations in projects

Negotiating skills for a project manager are crucial and improving them will set the foundation for a successful project.

Project managers hold different roles at the same time: leaders, intermediaries, delegators and even negotiators.

This is why negotiation skills for project managers are on the list of soft skills they should develop.

What is the negotiation in a project

Negotiation is a process consisting of the activities necessary to resolve different types of disputes through consultations between the parties involved in order to reach a consensus.

Negotiations can take place at any time in the project lifecycle and may be formal or non-formal.

Formal negotiation implies an agreement through contracts and formal documents, while informal negotiations include debates to resolve a conflict between team members, for instance.

In project management, the negotiation process is divided into phases and include:

  • Planning: the preparation of all relevant information necessary for the discussion.
  • Debate: here the key issues are examined and discussed.
  • Proposal: the creation of the proposal as a way of solving the problem presented.
  • Revision: this can include negotiating compromises before an agreement is formalized and before the information is shared throughout the organization.

Why negotiation is important for project managers

Here are some situations where negotiating skills play a key role in the success of a project. Cases in which the project manager:

Ultimately, negotiating skills enable project managers to achieve stronger relationships with stakeholders, better relationships with clients and, in general, a more positive working environment.

Negotiating can also be a useful strategy for dealing with conflicts on a project.

While it is almost impossible to avoid conflict entirely, being able to negotiate the way around it is a useful skill.

In the most serious situations, conflict can also halt a project.
negotiation in a project

Improving project manager’s negotiating skills

Here are 5 tips that can help improve project manager’s negotiating skills.

1. Improving negotiating skills: Practice

The very first thing to do, as happens in all things, is to practice a lot.

Probably everyone negotiates more than they think – both in their professional life and in their private life.

It is therefore important to be aware of these negotiating situations, to analyse how you approach and deal with the moment, how you feel and what could be improved for the next time.

2. Improving negotiating skills: Preparation

It is important to spend some effort on preparation for negotiation.

If a project manager knows they are meeting a supplier, for example, they should think in advance about what they want to achieve from this agreement and explore potential alternatives.

This way you will engage in the discussion more confidently and know in advance what you want to achieve.

However, it is important to remember to remain receptive to other people’ points of view as well.

It is not a negotiation if you refuse to change your standpoint and force the other person to accept your ideas.

3. Improving negotiating skills: Manage your emotions

Conflict situations and negotiations often expose the worst in people.

It is therefore important for the project manager to be prepared for how they will react in a potentially difficult and perhaps embarrassing conversation.

4. Improving negotiating skills: Take your time

Negotiations can take a long time and be running on a continuous basis; it is unlikely that in a single meeting, everything will be discussed and resolved.

For large projects, multiple meetings could be held to ensure that everything is documented effectively and to the satisfaction of both parties.

And even when the agreement is concluded, the project manager may find himself negotiating more precise details or new terms to move the project in the right direction.

5. Improving negotiating skills: Listen

When preparing for a negotiation, you need to try your best to think about what you want to say, how to say it, how to reply to what you think the other person will say.

Simply put, a project manager must also be ready to listen.

Listening will help you identify the other party’s weaknesses and help you really understand what others want.

When you listen actively, you are more likely to formulate answers that the other person finds acceptable.

The importance of negotiating: conclusions

Ultimately, negotiation is an excellent project management tool and is critical to getting the best out of any situation.

Negotiation goes beyond reducing or increasing the price of an offer and is a necessary tool in the daily activities of the project manager.

Like all soft skills, knowing how to hold engaging conversations that translate into good results for both parties is something that can always be improved over time.

With the right knowledge, structures and techniques, any project manager will be able to approach negotiations knowing how best to target the project and the organization in general.

Read more about Twproject bootcamps.

One try is worth a million words.
project information flows

Project information flows

Project information flows are crucial to the Project Manager.

Also due to new design methods, pioneering products, technologies and processes, the amount of information within an organization has increased significantly.

However, the increase in the amount of information available for projects is not being exploited effectively and therefore does not add any value to the project.

This is particularly true for complex projects.

The main reason for this is the ineffective management of the information flow.

 What happens to the information?

To better understand how to manage the flow of information, we must try to familiarize with it. The flow of information requires four components:

  • a starting point (source),
  • an endpoint (receiver),
  • a path (interaction)
  • a leading force (mutual relevance).

There are two types of actors that can act as a source or recipient of information:

1) people

2) documents, i.e. tools such as graphs, reports and other documents that allow communication between groups of people.

The role of a person in the information flow is determined by their contractual role within the project.

This role defines:

  • the type of information expected from a person,
  • the type of information the person can provide,
  • how this information is shared and how it is received by it.

Documents affect the flow of information through their structure, their depth of news and the process of information acquisition and use.

This set, i.e. the characteristics of the people and documentation involved in a project, create the potential flow of information, but this does not mean that the available information will actually be embedded in the project.

information flows

Interaction between people and documents as a key element for the Information Flow

It is the interaction between these actors that ultimately determines the fate, and thus the actual flow, of information.

Depending on the type of interaction, information may be accepted, rejected or ignored.

In order for information to add value to a project, three critical steps must be executed:

  • The information must be shared by an individual in the project team.
  • The information shared must be accepted by other project team members. Information that gets ignored or rejected becomes useless and basically disappears from the project unless it is shared again under other circumstances. The information accepted by others is retained in the project team’s collective memory. However, accepting information does not automatically mean that this information is used and creates value in a project.
  • It is only when the information is used in a decision that they are finally able to add value to the project

The “Big Four” of interactions and communication

Several factors moderate and affect the outcome of interactions.

Basically, it is possible to reduce these factors to four main ones: trust, commitment, learning and common understanding.

These key factors then determine what information is shared, how it is shared, how it is received and lay the foundation for future interactions.

Trust implies having positive expectations about another person’s future actions when an individual is vulnerable to such actions.

Commitment is the strength of an individual’s identification in a particular organization or project.

Together, these two factors influence a person’s values in relation to the project, such as:

  • how one sees others in the project team,
  • how one sees their role,
  • how much commitment one is willing to put in,
  • one’s sense of association and interest in the project.

Learning occurs when the processing of new information changes – potentially – the behavioral range of an individual.

The common understanding comes from an informal agreement on what is relevant for the other team members and the project in general.

Together, learning and common understanding form the mental model of an individual. Mental patterns determine how one:

  • Evaluates new information,
  • Links new information to their existing knowledge,
  • Ranks and sorts information for the project.

Project information flows: Values, mental models and decision-making process

People are rationally limited, which means that they can understand only a limited amount of information.

Therefore, one relies on one’s own values and mental models to limit the amount of information one needs.

Based on their frame of reference, people are only aware of a subset of the total information available.

From this information, people filter the information even further according to what they think is important.

The remaining information is what they use to interpret the situation and make decisions.

Due to different settings, individuals may be exposed to the same situation and information, but they may come up with very different conclusions and ideas on the subject in question.

As far as the project team interactions are concerned, the main purpose is to share information and make decisions.

Consequently, the effectiveness of the interaction becomes one of the most crucial factors in determining the outcome of a project.

In a project team moreover, the way in which others share information and the way in which a person’s contributions are received affects trust building.

This includes issues concerning how individuals feel:

  • How are their contributions weighed up by others?
  • Are they treated fairly?
  • Is there mutual responsibility in the team?
  • Have their expectations been met?
  • Do project team members show commitment to team goals above their personal goals?

These considerations affect the quantity, type and quality of information shared in subsequent interactions, interpersonal dynamics among team members and people’s willingness to share and accept information.

Therefore, as mentioned above, the effectiveness of the interaction becomes one of the most crucial factors in determining the outcome of a project.

Project information flows: complex cases

In more complex cases, the increasing importance of information management and integration requires a project team entity responsible for social integration and communication flow.

The main role of the integrator is to create an environment that facilitates trust and positive learning cycles. This includes:

  • Emphasize the value of individual contributions in relation to the objectives of the project,
  • Manage expectations while maintaining responsibility, discipline and fairness by setting clear and consistent objectives
  • Understanding of existing mental models and positive interaction between them.

This is how a proper management of information flows becomes crucial for the success of a project.

If the information is not managed correctly, some important details could fall into “oblivion” generating a series of problems that could have been easily prevented.

Would you like to better manage project information flows?