the product manager role

Product Manager: role importance

The Product Manager is a core figure for a business. He ensures the company’s position in the market, drives the product roadmap to meet deadlines and focuses on long-term success.

How does a product manager perform this important task? We will discuss the subject in this article.

What does a product manager do?

The product manager is among the most highly paid and respected professions in the business world, but at the same time he is also one of the least known.

So let’s try to make things clear.

Product Management is a very broad definition that covers a number of different skills. In fact, often different organizations want a Product Manager for different tasks according to specific business needs.

However, here is a general description of what any good product manager should do:

  • Develop a product history or roadmap for each part of the product life cycle.
  • Optimize the product to achieve the organization’s business objectives.
  • Focus on comprehending the customer base to assess satisfaction and identify areas for improvement.

In other words, a product manager should cover virtually every aspect that has to do with the product with the main objective in mind: the product’s success.

From this perspective, a product manager creates a strategy for the success of the product and works closely with the various departments – marketing, sales, design – to help make this concept a reality.

Why is the role of the product manager so important?

A good product manager is the key to ensuring that the product reflects business objectives and customer needs in the best possible way.

As a result, this means higher revenues and happier customers.

Some companies are hesitant to hire product managers believing that other people – with no specific experience and training – can also cover that role.

A product manager understands the whole picture and clearly understands the product vision, thus making the best decisions about how to proceed through a specific roadmap.

 

Here is more in detail how the work cycle of a product manager works:

Vision

The first step in product management is setting a vision for the product. A product manager starts with a clear definition of the problem you are trying to solve.

He will then discuss and fine-tune this problem with each specialist within the product team.

Building good products is a team effort and it is therefore important to have different perspectives and use everyone’s knowledge to find the best solution.

The solution that results from this process is the product vision.

Roadmap and execution

Once everyone has agreed on the ultimate goal, the product manager will develop a product roadmap.

This is a general plan on how to provide the product vision; it is still a vision but also contains specific action points on timing, who is involved, activities, final results and processes.

It is basically a guide regarding how the product will be created and here the key challenge is to find the balance between the ideal product and what can realistically be delivered with the available resources.

In addition, when designing a roadmap, It is crucial to keep in sync with what may be changes in the future of the industry.

A product manager is responsible not only for current product performance, but also for future performance.

Managing conflict and issues

At the beginning of the product development process, the product manager is in charge of keeping the design, development and business teams up and running, coordinated and working in harmony.

Often it is easier said than done. Developers, designers, investors and other stakeholders obviously attribute different importance to different aspects of the product.

This can lead to conflict, where people tend to think that their area is the most important and that their needs are the most urgent.

For example, in IT, someone on the corporate side may not appreciate the importance of UX design and only worry that a specific feature is created without a second thought. A designer can provide a list of last-minute changes to developers, unaware that these require a major code rewrite. A developer may want to implement an experimental framework, but this leads him to work more slowly than an alternative, thus risking losing an important deadline. The product manager must therefore anticipate and manage problems of this kind.

Product launch and beyond

the product manager

When the product gets launched on the market, it is definitely a reason to celebrate… but not for long.

Product development is in fact a dynamic and constant process and new features, bugs and new requests will be on the daily agenda again.

Eager to evaluate product performance, the attention of the product manager will also turn to data and user feedback.

What is the conversion rate? How do people use the product? Have sales increased? What do the reviews say?

Addressing every inquiry, criticism, question and idea takes time.

After the analysis of this data and the comparison with the design teams, The product manager will introduce changes to the roadmap to discuss new information and business priorities.

 

As you have noticed, the role of a product manager is truly multifaceted. Sometimes it requires sparks of creativity, in others it requires rigorous planning, expert interpersonal skills and a sharp eye for detail.

Being a product manager is certainly a demanding role, where multidisciplinary skills are required, but at the same time it is very rewarding.

In the end, it is the product manager who decides the direction of the product and who can see first-hand how it impacts customers.

Create your roadmap with Twproject.

standard deviation

Project standard deviation

Standard deviation is an abstract construct based on observation rather than computation or experimentation.

The standard deviation, also represented by the Greek letter sigma σ, is a metric used to express the amount of variation or dispersion in a group of data.

In other words, it defines how much the members of a data group differ from the average value of the group itself.

A low figure for the standard deviation means that the data tends to be close to the average or expected value of the set, while a high figure means that the data is spread over a wider range.

The standard deviation and “normal distribution” concept is part of the general principle of probability on which the past can be relied upon to predict the future.

Obviously what will happen precisely is unknown but in many situations what happened in the past can be valuable to predict the future.

The main question is thus: to what extent can one rely on past models to predict the future?

Standard deviation applications

Odds study began in 1654 when French mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat solved an enigma that troubled gamblers for more than 200 years: how to split the prize in the case of unfinished gambling if one of the players is in advantage?

Their solution meant that people could, for the first time in history, make decisions and predict the future based on numbers.

In the following century, mathematicians developed quantitative risk management techniques that transformed probability theory into a powerful tool to organize, interpret and apply information to help make decisions for the future.

The concepts of standard deviation and “normal distribution” thus began to be the focus of these new developments and studies.

In 1730 Abraham de Moivre suggested the shape of a normal distribution, the so-called “bell curve”.

Later on, Carl Friedrich Gauss confirmed de Moivre’s bell curve and elaborated the mathematics necessary to apply this probabilistic concept to risk.

project standard deviation

A normal variation can be large or small depending on the population, or data group, that is being studied and the normal distribution curve defined by its standard deviation provides tools to help understand the likely range of results that can be expected.

This prediction is clearly never certain, but there is a high degree of probability that it is reasonably correct and the degree of certainty increases as the amount of data used in the analysis increases.

How to use deviations in project management

A key factor in understanding the concept of standard deviation is to consider that it was based on the analysis of data obtained from hundreds of measurements.

Therefore, this concept will have less value in determining the one-time consequences on the basis of a single result or a single risk event.

For each set of measured data, the main things to remember are:

  • The standard deviation is expressed in the same terms as the measured factor. If the factor to be measured is the age of people’ death, measured in years, the standard deviation will also be measured in years and, again, if the factor to be measured is the length of a bolt expressed in millimeters, the standard deviation will be expressed in millimeters.
  • The standard variation value for a specific population is constant, if 1 SD = 0.5 mm, 2 SD = 1 mm and 6 SD = 3 mm, then if the target length for the bolt is 100 mm and also the average length produced is 100 mm, then 99.99% of the bolts produced will range from 97 mm to 103 mm (± 6 SD).
  • Percentages for 1 SD, 2 SD, 3 SD and 6 SD are always the same because the value of the standard variation expressed in millimeters, years, etc. varies according to the overall variance of the population and, of course, the measured factor.

How to apply standard deviation to projects?

PMBOK says that you can determine a project standard deviation or activity by applying the following simple formula:

SD (σ) = (P – O) / 6

with P being the pessimistic duration, i.e. when things are really going badly, and O being the optimistic duration, i.e. when things are going very well.

For example, if P = 25 days and O = 10 days, according to PMBOK the SD = (25-10) / 6 = 2,5 days.

This formula, according to PMBOK, implies a symmetric bell curve or a normal (Gaussian) distribution – as explained above – where if durations are considered, the distribution suggests that there is a 50% probability that the project will take less time than the average and a 50% probability that it may take longer.

However, PMBOK looks generic when you consider that a normal distribution is rarely the case for project management durations where a beta frequency distribution is much more common, since there is a limit to the speed at which you can complete a project, but virtually no limit to the time it takes to complete it.

The resultant asymmetric distribution therefore does not possess the characteristics of the normal curve.

According to the previous data, if we applied the formula (P – O) / 6, the standard deviation would be 2.5 days.

However, the true standard deviation for this distribution is 7.81 days, given by the following formula:

SD = √ [(O-E) ² + 4 (M-E) ² + (P-E) ²] / 6, dove E = (O + 4M + P) / 6

D = √ [(10-15) ² + 4 (13,75 -15) ² + (25-15) ²] / 6 = 7,81 days

The three critical numbers in this case are:

  • 10, the optimistic time frame
  • 13,75 the average between optimistic and pessimistic time frame
  • 25, the pessimistic time frame

 

Lastly, the concepts of “standard deviation” and “normal distribution” are precious quality control tools in the event that the project is producing or purchasing hundreds of similar components – like bolts.

They are less precise concepts when dealing with the probability of completing a “one-off” or one-time project.

In both situations an understanding of variability and probability is important, but when faced with the uncertainties of a “one-off” design, the “beta” deviation provides a more reliable approach.

Analyze all your project’s critical numbers with Twproject software.

risk register

Risk Register: how to compile it

The Risk Register is a valuable working tool, often underestimated.

Projects sometimes involve huge work demands and significant amounts of money to be completed successfully.

Ensuring that they are completed is an extremely delicate yet complex task.  How can you achieve this? Simple: with a risk assessment and, thus, the compilation of a risk register, one of the most important documents of a project.

Why is a risk register so important?

A risk register contains a list of potential risks that the team has identified in relation to a specific project.

It also includes measures that can be adopted to ensure that these risks do not escalate into a tsunami that could eventually disrupt the work.

A risk register is mainly a communication tool for sharing concerns and risks related to a project with all stakeholders.

Since everything is written in an official document produced before the project even begins, this document is of greater significance than when doubts are expressed during a “routinary” meeting.

The first approach to a risk register

The first thing to do is to determine risks.

No one expects the project manager to be a fortune-teller, but their experience should guide them through this task.

The projects are all different, of course, but for organizations that manage similar projects year after year, there may be historical data to review to identify common risks.

Also, it is possible to forecast some risks based on market forces or staffing issues.

To collect the possible risks that may arise during the management of a project, you will need a systematic approach to ensure you get the most thorough overview possible.

The project risk register is a system that can then keep track of that risk if it actually appears and then assess the actions set up to resolve it.

Recording a risk in the official register gives you a unique place to enter all the data related to the situation in question. It is thus possible to track the specific risk throughout the project, verifying whether the actions taken to fix or mitigate the risk work.

By recording the entire process in a log, you are less likely to lose track of the risk during a demanding project.

This makes the risks less likely to turn into real problems that can significantly threaten the success of a project.

Finally, when the risk has been resolved, it can be officially labeled as closed or terminated.

How to use and fill in a risk register

Here is how to use and fill in a risk register and which items must absolutely be included in this official document.

Risk list

Together with the help of experts and project stakeholders, it is crucial to list all the potential risks that the project may face.

In this case a brief description of the potential risk is included, for example, conflict of resources that lack enough time due to multiple concurrent requests.

Furthermore, it is important to give a unique identification number to specifically track each individual risk in the register.

Assign a risk category

Risks are not all equal; some risks are caused by technical factors, other risks are at the level of personnel or even, environmental risks, brand risks, health risks, etc.

Each risk must be assigned to a specific category.

Assess the impact of each risk

The impact shows the magnitude of the consequences of a risk.

A low impact means that if the risk were to occur, the potential damage to the project would not be so severe.

A high impact means that serious adverse effects can be expected and, clearly, these are the risks that should be given more attention.

the risk register

Estimate risk probability

The next step is to estimate the probability that a risk may occur. Naturally, the higher the probability that the risk will occur, the more you will need to be careful.

Calculate overall risk value

After estimating the impact and probability of the risk and filling in the appropriate values in the risk register, the overall risk value is calculated.

This is simply the product of the impact and the probability factor:

overall risk value = impact * probability

Assign a manager to each risk

To each risk a manager must be assigned. This risk manager will be the individual in charge of monitoring risk and taking appropriate measures to limit its impact.

Often it is directly the project manager, but sometimes there may be risks where a specific team member may be better suited and closer to the role.

Define mitigation actions for each risk

Lastly, you should list all the measures that can be adopted to mitigate, circumvent or eliminate the risk. All measures must be reported in the document.

 

Risks lie in all situations, both in daily life and in business, and this is doubly true in project management, where everything is in motion.

Risk documentation is fundamental for the success of any project, it offers a single place to identify the risk, note down its history.

Developing a risk log allows you to follow the process, from where it first occurred to where it is resolved, and even mark the person who will be in charge of managing each risk.

A project manager will never be able to anticipate everything that might go wrong in a project, but following a structured plan and having a clear risk log will be proactive and capable of taking prompt action before the risks become real problems.

Manage your risk register on Twproject
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project budget

Project budget: 7 main tips to prepare them

Planning a project budget is a crucial component, it is the very essence of a project.

The concept is straightforward: if you do not have funds, you cannot successfully complete a project.

That’s why when you allocate a budget for your project, you need to spend as much time as possible to carry out a thorough job and define a budget that is as accurate as possible.

This will ensure that the project, the project manager and the team are successful.

So let’s have a look at the 7 main tips to prepare the best possible budget for each project development phase.

What is a project budget?

A project budget is the sum of the estimated costs required to complete a project within a given period of time.

It is used to estimate what the project costs will be in each phase.

The project budget will include different factors as the cost of the job, the costs of supplying of the materials, the operational costs, etc…

Please note that the project budget is not a fixed value and a static document.

This amount will in fact be revised and restored during the plan life cycle and adjusting and modifying itself gradually as the plan evolves according to the various expenses and necessities.

The budget is the engine that drives the funding of a project and communicates to stakeholders how much money is needed, when it is needed and why it is needed.

But it is not just a means to obtain what the project requires; the other thing that makes a project budget crucial is that it is a tool to control the costs of the project.

The budget is a plan that serves as a basis for measuring performance while you collect actual costs as the project progresses.

How to create a project budget?

As already stated above, there are many different factors involved in creating a budget such as, for example, fixed and variable costs, manpower, direct and indirect costs, materials and licenses, etc.

Also, there are several ways to create a project budget.

To meet all these different needs and project requirements, a budget must be created with the highest commitment and care.

So here are 7 main tips for preparing a successful project budget.

1. Make use of history and data from previous projects

The new project we are addressing is neither the first nor the last one that is trying to reach a milestone or a specific goal in the market.

This is why, before starting any work on the new project, it is worth taking a look at all similar successful projects of the past and their related budgets.

Historical data can also help to pinpoint errors that may have led to spending more money than necessary in the past and, therefore, to avoid them.

Historical successful projects are a starting point to get a general idea of the possible budget amount for the new project.

2. Get in touch with experts

Regardless of what the problem or industry is, there will be experienced people everywhere who possess many years of experience.

These people often know the market like the back of their hand, they know where the opportunities are and what the potential risks are.

So in order to create a successful budget, it is sometimes necessary to contact these “gurus” to get precious information.

Alternatively, check out our blog which is packed with information and specific articles.
the project budget

3. Confirm data accuracy

After having prepared the long-awaited budget document, you need to make sure that all the statistical data included in it are correct.

During the development phase, in fact, you cannot afford gross errors such as a misreported number or an incorrect evaluation because they could lead to a fatality – even a very serious one – in the long term.

4. Keep your budget dynamic

Now and then, the company’s needs and resources will change and, as a result, so will the budget.

Project management is a dynamic discipline and, consequently, the budget dedicated to each individual project must also be dynamic.

So, when the time comes to make changes to the project, it is therefore important to make sure that these changes are carried over to the budget as well.

An extra advice is to provide a buffer, containing a certain amount (initially discussed and agreed upon) to face any changes that require a budget increase.

5. Update your budget in real time

Speaking of budget changes, the project manager must ensure that the budget is always updated in real time.

One mistake to avoid is to postpone the update of costs and expenses – maybe because it’s lunch break -because you might forget about it.

This will avoid making mistakes, even very major ones, based on incorrect information.

6. Use a project management software

The project manager has one job: keeping all project activities under control.

So what better way to do this than using a great project management software?

With this, the project manager will not only be able to have an overview of the whole project, but also to have the budget at hand anytime.

With TWproject’s project management software you will not eliminate the risk of cost overruns, but can help you manage them.

 

Therefore, preparing a project budget is a delicate task: and above all, it is an element that follows the evolution of the project throughout all its phases.

The project manager needs to be always vigilant, they must never let their guard down! Our software is developed for this reason: to be a valuable and efficient tool for your project’s success.

Manage your project budget with TWproject.

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the strategic analysis

Strategic analysis in project management

Planning a project and conducting a strategic analysis should be a key activity for a project manager no matter what industry they work in.

Although digital technologies and the online environment have changed in virtually every industry, the skills, tools and techniques for project planning continue to be relevant.

This requires the project manager to achieve a clear and thorough understanding of the project requirements, business environment and a broad spectrum of other factors to develop the best plan.

This poses the following question: What type of tool or strategy is considered “best practice” in project management?

We have already discussed extensively the techniques available to define a project management strategy. Although there is a wide range of techniques currently available, today we will be focusing on the one called SWOT.

What does SWOT mean?

SWOT stands for SWOT analysis or SWOT matrix.

The name is an acronym and stands for a project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

SWOT is a strategic planning technique that recognizes these four factors in any project plan.

In this way, the SWOT approach helps the project manager narrow down project goals, while also pinpointing which internal and external factors can help or constrain efforts to achieve these goals.

The SWOT analysis uses a question and answer methodology to collect information:

  • Strengths are inherent qualities of the project that can provide an advantage.
  • Weakness are the characteristics of a project that put it at a disadvantage.
  • Opportunities are external elements – environmental conditions or circumstances – that are related to the strengths of a project, giving it an advantage.
  • Threats, instead, are the elements that capitalize on the weaknesses, reducing the effectiveness of the project.

Given the importance of such analysis for resource allocation, determining the strengths and weaknesses of a project, as well as situations to optimize both, becomes a must.

strategic analysis

When to use the SWOT technique

SWOT analysis can be used for a wide range of purposes and can fit virtually any situation.

SWOT can be used when assessing a project, but also during the project itself to pinpoint obstacles and know how to overcome them in the best possible way.

Moreover, if a project becomes stagnant, does not progress, evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats can open your eyes to new possibilities.

Lastly, when you introduce a project plan to business leaders, shareholders or key stakeholders, having a SWOT matrix in the presentation will provide the necessary credibility to the plan.

Here are a couple of more specific applications for SWOT analysis.

Strategy

Whatever effort is made to develop a corporate, social or personal strategy can benefit from SWOT analysis.

Clarifying precisely what resources, limitations, opportunities and problems are to be faced in a project can help define the type of strategy that a team or individual might adopt.

If, for example, there is a strong link between strengths and opportunities, if the external environment aligns strongly with positive internal factors, the strategy may involve a more aggressive search for all opportunities.

If, on the other hand, the negative external and internal factors are aligned and weaknesses and threats are strongly linked, then it must be assumed that there is a higher risk level also for small opportunities and the strategy to be adopted must be more risk-averse.

Matching and converting

SWOT can extend beyond the strategic level and this can be done through two separate processes: matching and conversion.

  • Matching: After determining strengths and opportunities, simply connect each strength with the opportunity that allows a team to make the most of it. For example, if a company is strong in IT knowledge, it should be linked to any opportunity to use that pool of skills.

Conversion: Once a team is aware of its weaknesses and threats, it can look at the conditions under which they could be considered strengths or opportunities. This step, which is simple on paper, can be difficult to be actually put into practice. Here is an example: a company may identify an existing product line that does not meet the needs of the market as a threat.

If the company has no way to redesign this product line, it may be looking for markets that may need the products the way they are. Basically, conversion turns a threat into an opportunity.

Business Plan

For large organizations, strategic planning is only one part of the overall planning process.

SWOT is therefore great for evaluating the whole organization: current conditions, existing products and services and their expected life cycle.

SWOT analysis benefits

We already mentioned many of the advantages of SWOT analysis, yet they are worth listing.The use of a SWOT matrix:

  • Allows a team to determine how feasible a project is.
  • Allows team members to view the results and actions needed to achieve their goal.
  • It is very useful to collect and interpret information useful to optimize a project’s work efforts.
  • It is good for determining what factors are critical to achieving the organization’s overall goal.

SWOT analysis limitations

Despite its value, SWOT analysis (like all things) is not perfect and there are some things to take into account when using it.

SWOT analysis can potentially be improperly used, especially by the less knowledgeable individuals, and this can lead to an ill-informed or distorted presentation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, thus leading to an incorrect strategy.

Furthermore, a SWOT matrix only creates a list of positive and negative factors and cannot devise strategies or goals on its own. This is how it also becomes essential to be able to interpret it correctly.

Transform your strategy in action with TWproject!

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repeatability and sustainability of processes

Repeatable and sustainable project management processes (part 2/2)

In the first part of the article we outlined what process repeatability is and also discussed the advantages of process repeatability and sustainability.

We now keep on examining further aspects of process management projects

Concerns about process repeatability and sustainability

Even though process repeatability and sustainability bear several benefits, the idea of submitting processes and procedures to a standardized way of doing things can be a cause for alarm for people who are not used to them.

Does standardizing mean losing individual creativity? This is the most common concern that revolves around the adoption of repeatability in processes.

Actually these concerns are out of place, let’s see why:

1. Does process repeatability and sustainability mean monotony and boredom?

By definition, the right way of doing things means uniformity. For some people, however, this concept will inevitably seem dull and boring.

The bottom line here is that by removing ambiguity and setting a standard against which to evaluate performance, standardized processes can help employees feel that they are actually achieving “something” at work.

Team members are much more likely to feel a higher sense of accomplishment – and not boredom – if they get standard processes that help them achieve positive results.

When a task is performed to the prescribed standard, it is (almost) guaranteed to be performed 100%.

And, let’s face it, checking the boxes in the to do list definitely gives a fair amount of satisfaction.

2. Does process repeatability and sustainability destroy creativity?

A concern related to the previous one is the concept that if you standardize crucial processes in an organization, the result will be a work environment that does not promote innovation and creativity.

The main concern here is that standardization means an organizational culture that eliminates all individual thinking and new ideas, replacing a positive diversity and exchange of thoughts with a monocultural mentality.

Here it is important not to mistake the process repeatability for lack of innovation.

Once again, standardization is the elimination of inefficient alternatives that could lead to conflict.

By clearing inefficiency and unnecessary conflict in an organization, everyone can get rid of unnecessary waste of time and energy to focus on innovation in areas where it is really important.

The irony here is that, if considered wisely, process repeatability is good and even promotes innovation.

By standardizing processes, it will simplify operations so that everyone can do more and be more effective team members.

It goes without saying that if someone in the organization finds a way to improve a standardized process, the organization will consider the idea and, if positive, adopt it.

There is no reason why a standardized process cannot be changed over time if circumstances, experience and innovation indicate that it really is time for change.

the repeatability and sustainability of processes

How can you build a repeatable, sustainable and successful project management process?

Until now we have covered what a repeatable and sustainable project management process means, as well as the advantages it brings, but how is it possible to create such a process?

Here are some suggestions on how to do it:

Finding shortcomings

The thing about doing things differently every time is that, sooner or later, you will forget or overlook one or more steps.

So to create a repeatable and sustainable project management process, you will need to review previous projects, best practices and find gaps.

For example: has the product found many bugs? The solution will then add more testing and quality control time.

Or do you always receive an incomplete list of requirements? The solution will be to create a set of fixed questions for each initial project meeting.

Engage all process elements

Bad habits would not exist if someone did not prefer them. Perhaps the project manager is lazy? Are stakeholders always too busy? Or does someone on the team want the whole process to revolve around them?

Also, you need to consider that people will fight to keep the old, and ineffective, process going just because they are accustomed to it. You can find more reasons for this in this article about company changes.

For those who decide to implement the change, it will certainly be a difficult and frustrating task, but it will have to be done and everyone will have to be involved if the organization wants to improve.

Taking into account variables

Surely each project will present unique situations compared to all other projects (even the most similar ones), but this should not be an excuse not to commit to finding repeatable and sustainable processes.

A repeatable project management process should be a framework in which you can link different variables and still get consistently positive results.

Focus on objectives

The biggest drawback to having a repeatable process is that it is easy to pay too much attention to the process itself, rather than the actual goal of the project.

In this case, the process actually becomes an obstacle to success.

Whenever you add a step to the process, you will need to consider how it will affect the il project workflow.

Will this process streamline things or can it cause a blockage? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Which process would result in higher quality output?

These questions will be crucial in determining whether a new, repeatable, sustainable process makes sense to the project or not.

If you can implement a repeatable, sustainable project management process, you will be able to dramatically improve team efficiency and improve project quality accordingly.

In addition, another key point is to simplify the monitoring and evaluation of project metrics, so that you can better see where and how the team needs to improve in order to be successful.

 

Bottom line, what matters is the commitment to quality work; work that is satisfactory to the organization and its customers.

The best repeatable and sustainable processes will be those that improve organically, adapting and increasing the value of the output so that the sum is much greater than its parts.

Plan your projects with Twproject

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repeatable and sustainable processes

Repeatable and sustainable project management processes (part 1/2)

Having replicable and sustainable project management processes is the foundation for any respectable organization or project team.

Imagine if a project manager and a project team did not have set guidelines for project management, what would happen?

You know what, it would be like taking a random group of random people off the street, having them sit together in an office and expecting to get a job done right

This is basically what happens when you do not have replicable and sustainable project management processes.

An organization’s operations include activities that must be completed on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis to ensure that processes run smoothly.

But if these processes are not standardized, replicable and sustainable, it will inevitably lead to chaos.

The processes we are referring to can be very different: from the management of a customer service request to activities that are less often repeated. However, what is important is that each process, regardless of how often it is carried out, should have rules to manage scope, quality and methods.

If these rules are not standardized and sustainable, you cannot strive to ensure the utmost quality by limiting human error.

Simply put, managing activities will turn into an operational nightmare.

To prevent this situation, then, you need to make sure you have replicable and sustainable project management processes.

What is process replicability?

Essentially, process replicability and sustainability means a set of rules regulating how people in an organization should complete a given activity or sequence of activities.

Sound, replicable and sustainable project management processes provide a framework for new projects based on what has been successful in the past and lessons learned from what has not been so successful.

Standardization can be applied to any process, activity or procedure relevant to the organization. Picking up the phone, paying and storing invoices, managing customer information, keeping track of activities, etc. are all tasks that can be standardized.

At the same time, processes need to be flexible enough to allow the necessary changes to address the uniqueness of each project/activity without having to resort to a completely new process every time.

Process Repeatability and Sustainability Benefits

Basically, process repeatability and sustainability means that the project manager, as well as team members, have a proven and well-established process to use.

If done correctly, standardization can cut ambiguity and guesswork, ensure quality, increase productivity and boost employees’ morale.

So let’s recap the advantages of standardization as follows:

  • Improved clarity, because a standard process will remove the need for guesswork, extra research, or “double work”..
  • Quality assurance, because the work is done by default and optimized.
  • Productivity boost, because project team members will not need to search for information or revise any documents to find answers.
  • Employee morale boost, because team members can be proud to have learned the process and refined their skills.
  • Customer Service Perfection, because every request is addressed in the best possible way.

Now we will try to analyze all these advantages in more detail:

Process repeatability and sustainability reduces ambiguity and guesswork

The first and most obvious advantage of process repeatability is the reduction of the potential for ambiguity and guesswork.

It is likely that any complex activity is likely to have some grey areas or borderline cases and the problem is that time spent in speculation is wasted.

With a straightforward set of instructions to work on to complete a task, team members will spend less time trying to understand it and more time actually doing it.

Effective procedure repeatability means that there is a correct way to complete a particular task, defined in terms of a clear, measurable end result.

Process repeatability and sustainability ensures quality

If lack of standardization translates into more ambiguity, an inevitable consequence of this will be poorer reliability and less consistent quality.

This is because not all approaches to a certain task or procedure are the same; there are better and worse ways to pick up the phone, manage important client information, and send status updates to the project manager.

One of the most important ways in which standardization can help ensure quality is to minimize the chances of key details being overlooked.
the repeatable and sustainable process

Repeatability and sustainability drives productivity

Generally, standardization is accompanied by streamlined and more functional performance, which means that an organization can reduce waste and do more with available resources.

Repeatability and sustainability promote productivity by eliminating inefficiency.

This is the result of eliminating ambiguity and quality control: tasks are completed more efficiently and there are fewer quality control problems from tasks that were not completed correctly the first time.

Another benefit of eliminating alternative procedures is the reduction of unhealthy competition and conflicts.

For example, it may happen that an organization might have three different “semi-formal” systems for keeping track of workflows, each of which has its own constituency within the organization.

Three different groups of people, three different systems: conflicts are therefore unavoidable.

Although all three systems are more or less the same in terms of productivity, trying to coordinate them within the organization is likely to lead to competition and conflict between the three different factions.

If, on the other hand, everyone learns the same way to do business and manage processes and stick to it, it will be easier for teams to work together.

This means more productivity through the resulting synergy and less time wasted trying to communicate through gaps in understanding and communication.

Repeatability and sustainability is beneficial to employees’ morale

The key factor to bear in mind regarding repeatability and team member morale is that standardization will help employees feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Repeatability should not mean dullness and lack of creativity, instead it can – and should – mean standards that anyone can master and be proud to refine.

If handled correctly, standardized and repeatable processes establish a relationship between people and their work processes.

This relationship can increase pride in the quality of work performance and the result is high morale and productivity.

No wonder everyone wants to know if they are doing a good job or not, and not knowing if they are doing their job properly can be very stressful.

Having to apologize for inadequate or wrong work can also be humiliating as well as stressful.

So if processes are ruled by standards that teach team members to do efficient, high-quality work, employees are more likely to take a sense of belonging and pride in the work they do.

Instead of uncertainty and inefficiency, team members will thus have a defined way of performing their assigned tasks that actually works.

And the result is a higher employee morale.

This means that the link between standards and team members’ morale is fundamentally about employees’ ability to be proud of their achievements.

If the standardized process is efficient, it avoids unnecessary frustration and guides those working to achieve something meaningful and useful.

Repeatability and sustainability means better customer service

A great customer service is the natural consequence of teamwork having less ambiguity, higher output quality, better productivity and higher morale.

Repeatability and sustainability can drive the customer service department through standardized processes to talk to customers and methods to centralize information.

Standardization can also indirectly improve customer service, because if an organization is more productive and efficient, the result will be better results for customers.

The more you can produce with the resources available, the shorter the delivery time and the happier the customers will be.

You’ll find further aspects of process management projects in the second part of this article.

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7 tips for competitive advantages

7 tips for gaining competitive advantages as project manager

The competitive advantage that a Project Manager can achieve is strongly associated with project management. This is rarely easy and, consequently, the role of project manager is not a simple task.

Typically, a project manager’s tasks include the estimation of project work, the drafting of project plans, and progress and scope monitoring.

Not only that, possibly the most important responsibility a project manager must fulfill is managing relationships with the people involved in a project.

A good project manager works hard to preserve team morale and ensure that stakeholders remain happy from start to finish.

Becoming a project manager certainly requires a lot of cross-functional skills, so here are 7 tips for achieving this goal with greater peace of mind.

1. Avoid micromanagement

Project managers have the tendency of being extremely careful when a project is assigned to their team.

This at first glance might be logical, but sometimes has a very different motivational and relational substrate. You underestimate the capabilities of resources or enter a stressful situation to prove your position as project coordinator.

This leads to a constant micro-management in which project managers constantly pester and monitor employees and their work, closely tracking their team until the project is completed.

In such a situation, team members may be exhausted or otherwise dissatisfied with the work environment.

The micro-management of the project is not the result of exaggerated micro-management, but rather the effects are counterproductive for the project itself.

2. Assess priorities

Many project managers adopt an agile approach in which the different parts of the project (and their dependencies) are mapped and listed at the beginning, but over time the priorities may change.

Reassessing priorities periodically and changing work deliveries therefore becomes essential in certain cases.

3. Manage time effectively

Time management is the top priority for a great manager.

It is essential to maintain a balance between being productive during working hours and your hobbies or leisure time.

Also, a good project manager makes sure that team members are able to respect this work-life-balance.

4. Manage effective communication

The skill of communicating effectively with stakeholders and the team can be the way to deliver a successful project on time.

Promising impossible things and soliciting team members to perform unattainable tasks can only lead to problems.

It is essential that a good project manager should also be a good communicator with whoever is in front of them.

The project manager must also be a good listener; communication is not only a one-way thing.

Body language also matters a lot.

You will probably have seen, at least once, people whose lack of confidence is reflected in their posture, hand gestures or facial expression.

Project managers must be exactly the opposite, they must look confident and exude power through body language and through what they say.

competitive advantages

5. Know the ultimate technologies in the industry

Technology is an ever changing process and every day new platforms and new software are launched on the market.

We too at Twproject are in evolution and we are about to release a new release.

For a project manager, being curious and knowing the new innovations in project management is undoubtedly a competitive advantage.

The knowledge of the different innovations that are emerging can bring the project, and the organization in general, to a profit.

6. Conflict and problem solving capabilities

In any project it is almost inevitable for a project manager to encounter problems, whether big or small.

In these moments it is extremely important that the project manager controls their emotions and do not react impulsively.

It will be critical to remain calm, considering the options you have, and working out a plan to get the project out of the danger zone.

The problems can be diverse in nature, related to employees within the team, complications with new regulations or unforeseen expenses that affect the budget, etc.

Being a great problem solver and understanding how to implement it depending on the problem and the situation is one of the greatest competitive advantages a project manager can achieve.

It is also important that a good project manager understands the psychology of people so that they can mediate conflicts between two parties – or prevent conflicts from arising.

A good project manager needs to understand their team, knowing what each individual is capable of giving to the team, both in practical and personal terms, and what each one’s capabilities are.

Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, not merely from the professional skills point of view, but also with regard to the character aspect, becomes essential to manage the team in an excellent way and to avoid, as much as possible, conflicts.

7. Have plenty of experience

Surely there will be people more gifted than others by nature to fill the role of project manager, but even the most talented professional, without experience, does not really go far.

So, first-hand experience in this role becomes a competitive advantage for a project manager.

Using the right kind of skills at the right time requires an overview that is often only acquired with years of experience in the role.

 

Project management requires planning, direction, implementation and collaboration.

There is no skill that separates the average project manager from the best, but it is the mix of skills that sets a good project manager apart from the rest.

All project managers can become great if they are committed every day, especially if they aim to achieve the 7 competitive advantages we have mentioned in this article.

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smart goal

Employing SMART guidelines for goal setting

SMART guidelines for goal setting are key aspects of project approach.

It happens, however, that these guidelines are, in some cases, set aside for the sake of extemporaneousness of the project itself or an alleged clarity of shared objectives.

The result is a vicious circle: unclear objectives lengthen and undermine the project results.

When objectives are set, specificity is crucial: for example, challenging yourself to “do more work” is too vague, because in this way you cannot monitor progress and the point of arrival.

In short, if objectives are not measurable, achieving success can become challenging.

SMART objectives are therefore the answer, since they can be split into five measurable factors.

Although progress in personal or working life is possible even without setting objectives, surely the application of the SMART system brings more chances of success.

What are SMART objectives?

SMART objectives are a fairly new idea: in 1981, George T. Doran, a consultant and former business planning director at Washington Water Power Company, published a paper introducing SMART objectives.

T. Doran describes G. T. Doran describes SMART objectives as a tool to create criteria and help improve one’s chances of achieving a goal.

SMART is the acronym used to guide the definition of objectives and in detail means as a tool to create criteria and help improve one’s chances of achieving a goal.

SMART is the acronym used to guide the definition of objectives and in detail means:

  • Specific (simple, reasonable, relevant).
  • Measurable (relevant, motivational).
  • Achievable (agreed).
  • Realistic (reasonable, resourceful, result-based).
  • Time-bound (based on time, limited in time / cost).

S – Specific

When setting a goal, you have to be specific about what you want to achieve.

This is not a thorough list of how you will achieve a goal, but should include an answer to the popular “5 w” questions:

  • Who: You must consider who needs to be involved in order to achieve the goal. This is particularly important when working on a team project.
  • What: You think about exactly what you are trying to achieve and list the important factors and aspects.
  • Where: This question may not always be applicable, however, if the project is about a specific place or event, it must be specified here.
  • When: You will go down to the details of this question in the “time-bound” section of the SMART objectives definition.
  • Why: It simply answers the question “what is the reason for the goal?”

The more information you can get, the better the results will be and the easier it will be to achieve your objectives because the definition of the path to follow will be clearer.

M – Measurable

What metrics will be used to establish whether the objective is achieved successfully or not?

This makes a goal more tangible and practical because it provides a way and numbers to measure progress.

If the project takes several months to be completed, the advice is to set some milestones taking into account specific activities to be conducted.

The more quantitative data you have, the more control you can have over your progress.

A – Achievable

This step focuses on how to achieve the goal and if you have the right tools and skills.

Sometimes the team does not possess the required resources. If this is the case, you will need to consider how to get them or if there are alternative methods to achieve the goal while not having the required tools and skills.

So, to prevent unpleasant surprises and to make a goal achievable, a prior analysis of what you can actually do to achieve the goal is necessary.

s-m-a-r-t

R – Realistic

In order to define relevant and realistic goals, you need to quantify the extent of your potential and those who are associated in the organization.

This refers to focusing on something that makes sense with the broader business goals, then to marketing goals and/or business strategies.

For example, if the goal is to launch a new product, it should be something that is in line with the overall business goals.

The project team might also be able to launch a new consumer product, but if the company is in B2B and does not plan to expand into the consumer market, the objective would not be relevant.

T – Time-bound

Anyone can set goals, but if realistic timing is missing, it is likely that the project will not achieve the goal successfully.

The key is to ask specific questions about when the goal is to be achieved and what can be achieved within a given time frame.

If the project spans a long period of time, it is beneficial to break it down into mini-goals or milestones. Providing time constraints thus creates a sense of urgency.

SMART objective system benefits

The concept of SMART objective setting performs well not only within business, but also in private life because it provides a clear framework for achieving objectives.

Here are the main advantages of SMART objectives:

Provide directions

Implementing SMART objectives, you get a clear business direction that can guide your team in making everyday decisions.

Help with planning

When you achieve success in setting SMART goals, you gain an advanced level of planning of project activities and everyday issues.

Faster results

SMART objectives help you carry out activities faster and with less strain because less time will be wasted on non-productive actions.

Motivational tool

Strong business objectives can become a tool to motivate team members. For example, if the goal is to increase sales, you can implement incentive programs related to achieving certain goals.

 

To recap everything in a very short and very meaningful sentence:

working without objectives is like sailing without a compass.

It’s like being on the vast open sea when you don’t know what to do, on what resources to count on, let alone the direction to take.

The same happens with organizational objectives: people, groups and systems need clear, structured and well-defined objectives.

The SMART formula is therefore a powerful tool that provides transparency, attention and motivation to achieve all the objectives.

SMART objectives are also easy to implement and do not require specific tools or training.

Some people believe that the SMART method isn’t suitable for long-term goals because it lacks flexibility, while others suggest that it may stifle creativity, but regardless of different points of view, specific and measured goals are the key to success.

New targets, a new way of working.

duration

Effort and duration: difference and priority

Estimating project effort and duration is a core element of any project planning.

The goal of effective project management is to complete the project on schedule. The accuracy of the overall project program therefore depends on the precision of the effort and duration estimates.

What is effort?

In simple terms, effort is simply the amount of hours that workers spend, focused on a particular task, to achieve a particular result.

Effort is often expressed in hours, days or weeks spent by workers.

Stakeholders often want to know how much a project will cost. This mainly depends on how much time the project members spend on the project.

So here is a simple example to explain this concept:

To paint a house you need 6 hours a day of work for 9 days.  The effort  is therefore the amount of time you spend in a day multiplied by the number of days of work required, in this case 54 hours. The effort is therefore 54 hours.

Not just Effort but also time factor

Time is a unique, non-renewable and irreplaceable resource. Time estimation and management can therefore create or destroy a project. It is essential that the project manager knows how to approach them.

It is also important to estimate the time correctly, for two main reasons:

  • Project planning and delivery deadlines are based on estimated project duration. An inadequate estimate translates into delivery times that go beyond the expected timescales and may not only affect the company’s financial performance, but may also raise doubts about the project manager’s competence and reliability.
  • Deadlines also determine the prices of contracts that, if not met, can affect project profitability.

Often, however, it can be difficult to understand the major difference between effort and duration. So let’s clarify it.

What does duration mean?

Duration is the time required to perform any specific task.

Duration is measured in hours, days, weeks, months, or years and can only be calculated after determining what type and how many resources will go to perform the given task.

Duration is defined as the entire time it takes to complete a specific task, based on the resources allocated to the project.

It is typically measured from when the task begins to the day the task ends definitively. It does not include the free time of resources such as vacations or other non-working days.

Using the same example used in the effort case – painting a house – where you work 6 hours a day for 3 days, the duration for this task will then be 3 days.

Effort and duration relationship

Only when you have an estimate of the effort, you can assess the duration.

This is directly related to the construction of a draft program and involves deciding how many people and resources will be included in the project.

The staffing can, to a certain degree, be changed during the life cycle of the project, but it is necessary to remember that there is a minimum duration required for some activities. For example, it is impossible to make a child in one month by employing nine women to work on the task.

Project effort and duration example

Let’s use as an example a small painting job of a house.

Requirements and estimates

 1 working day = 8 working hours. It means that the painter(s) will work 8 hours a day.

  • The job has an estimated duration of 4 working days with only 1 painter working.
  • There are many painters available to perform the task and all painters are equally productive. The quantity and quality of the work would then be the same for each painter.

Duration

If 1 painter works, the duration of the job will be 4 working days or 32 working hours.

If 2 painters work, the duration of the job will be 2 working days or 16 working hours.

If 4 painters work, the duration of the job will be one working day or 8 working hours.

Effort

If 1 painter works, the effort for the job will be 4 days/person or 32 hours/person.

If 2 painters work, the effort for the job will still be 4 days/person or 32 hours/person.

If 4 painters work, the effort will always be the same as before, 4 days/person or 32 hours/person.

Project effort and duration relationship

The relationship between the effort of the project and its duration can be better explained using the following formula:

Effort = Duration * Number of resources

the effort

This formula will not work every time, but it gives a good idea of the relationship between effort and duration of a project.

The formula will only work if:

  • The work can be easily distributed among many resources.
  • Resources are not dependant between each other.
  • All resources productivity is considered equal.

Conclusions

When working on a project that has a deadline, understanding and accounting for the difference between duration and effort will allow the project manager to plan the time to dedicate to all activities and meet the deadline.

Moreover, only when project effort and duration will be estimated, it will be possible for the project manager to create the cost estimate.

Effort and duration therefore become two key aspects project planning.

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types of project benefits

Project tangible and intangible benefits

No project is launched unless it presents at least one benefit.

Usually, the tangible benefits are mostly considered when evaluating a project, but there can also be several intangible benefits.

What’s the difference between tangible and intangible benefits?

Tangible benefits are those that can be measured in financial terms, while intangible benefits cannot be quantified directly in economic terms, but still have a very significant business impact.

The intangible benefits, sometimes also called “soft benefits”, are the profits ascribable to the improvement project that cannot be reported for formal accounting purposes.

These benefits are not included in financial calculations because they are not monetary or are difficult to quantify and calculate.

Material benefits are physical in nature and may represent long-term or short-term benefits, while intangible benefits usually represent long-term assets that are not physical property but rather the intellectual property of an organization.

Another difference between these two benefits is that intangible benefits can increase or decrease over time, while the tangible benefits of a process are unlikely to fluctuate.

And, again, tangible benefits can often be estimated before certain actions are taken, while intangible benefits are virtually impossible to estimate beforehand.

Here we will see specifically what the tangible and intangible benefits of a project can be.

Tangible benefits

Revenue increase

Questo è il tipo di vantaggio più comune di un progetto, ed il più auspicato dagli stakeholders.

L’aumento delle entrate è un vantaggio quando un progetto ha un impatto diretto sulle entrate dell’organizzazione.

A queste entrate possono aggiungersi altre fonti di entrata aggiuntive quali il lancio di un nuovo prodotto o la fornitura di un’offerta.

L’aumento delle entrate è rappresentato da un valore in denaro preciso.

Resource cost savings

Sometimes, adjustments to the system or the renovation of work processes aim to make the cycle of a project more efficient.

In these cases, it may therefore happen that a certain activity is not necessary after the implementation of the changes. This benefit can also be achieved when any system or process problems are resolved. In this case, it may happen that the organization may make some roles redundant or assign some resources to a different department, which means an optimization or decrease in resources and, therefore, their costs.

Increased productivity

A tangible project benefit is increased productivity that may allow people to work more or be rerouted to other areas.

Sometimes, system or process problems force people to perform a manual solution, repeat tasks more than once to correct or lead more people to revise the same task.

Process improvements

Processes can improve the time required to complete a given project. It can be a matter of automating a simple manual data entry operation or a complex process that would require a lot of energy, time and cost. Improving processes means that the time needed to complete a process is shorter, which can save time by freeing up the resource for other tasks.

Intangible benefits

Organizational strategy support

Among the intangible benefits we find an increased market position and/or the perception by customers that the organization is an industry leader.

Enhanced user experience

Some projects may create a product that is easier for final customers to use or provides innovative features. This leads to a better user experience, an intangible benefit to all the actual users.

Increased customer satisfaction

The projects in general aim to provide satisfaction to the final customer, whether this is external or internal to the organization. Otherwise, if the client is not satisfied with the result, the project could not be considered successful. However, increased customer satisfaction is an intangible benefit since it is not possible to measure it objectively.

project benefits

Greater compliance

Some projects intend to rework systems or processes that will undergo an audit process. If an organization violates a regulation or a compliance policy, it could end up facing huge fines. Sometimes a project benefit is just this: doing something to provide greater organization security.

Brand equity

Brand equity is one of the key goals for most organizations.  Some projects seek to improve brand equity by providing better services and keeping standards. This is another example of an intangible benefit.

 

Sometimes, tangible benefits are considered more important than intangible ones. This because they are quantifiable and immediately recognizable.

However, it is necessary to remember that intangible benefits deserve the same consideration, since they constitute a significant part of an organization’s value.

According to economists, more than 25% of the value of companies is now based on intangible assets, such as brand image and market share.

Here is how it becomes essential, during a project analysis, to consider tangible as well as intangible benefits and to consider them equally important.

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project reporting tools

Project manager reporting tools

In project management, reporting tools can help you achieve efficient and effective communication.

Communication plays a fundamental role in any work process as well as in everyday life.

Whatever the scenario, you always find yourself transmitting a message or an opinion.

There are several reports that are carefully designed so that the communication about the progress of the project is clear, accurate and effective.

In this article we will examine the project manager’s reporting tools in greater detail.

Why is the reporting system imperative?

In the foreword we have already clearly stated the need for effective communication.

This becomes even more important within an organization and in project management.

Thanks to an effective reporting system, the project manager should no longer worry too much about updating the various stakeholders directly and personally.

With an established project management reporting system, you will have a scheduled and formal reporting process that will allow you to update stakeholders on all aspects of the project they need to be informed about.

In this way, you can protect project team members and stakeholders from any unforeseen issues.

Reports are used to learn about the progress of the project and the pace at which it is being carried out.

Also, you can understand what is preventing the project from moving faster and you have the ability to analyze various aspects of the project management plan.

Besides being one of the central aspects of communication, project management reporting can be effectively used by the project manager to maintain a documented history of the project and its processes.

With this “time” documentation, you can carry out analysis to learn lessons, evaluate processes and learn the strengths and weaknesses of how the project was approached.

To briefly recap, the project management reporting should be:

  • The successful communication link between all the different stakeholders of the project and the organization
  • The collection of important data and information about the project
  • The system that guarantees the reception of information from the necessary personnel whenever necessary
  • The cornerstone of the project organization’s understanding of the project, its management, its plan and its goal

The 5 main reporting tools for project managers

1. Activity sheet

One of the most important reports for a project manager is definitely the activity tab.

This report will include all the details about the time it takes for resources to work on the project.

The activity sheet, specifically, can keep the following details under control:

  • Time invested by each team member
  • Work completed on a given day, week or month
  • Responsibilities of each team member with regard to their assigned task
  • Resource overload or underutilization in the project

This way a project manager gains a thorough idea of the time and effort spent on the completion of a particular activity or the entire project.

 2. Cost and expense reports

Sometimes your perception can be fooled! A project may seem to run as planned, team members work well and activities proceed as scheduled, and deadlines are met.

When the project is completed, however, there comes a time to piece together the total expenses on the project and, surprisingly, it turns out that the cost incurred is well beyond the budget allocated for the project.

In this way, what was thought to be a successful project is actually a loss-making project.

The solution is to make use of a report that includes expenses and project costs and which will be updated frequently.

This report can be accessed by the project manager and stakeholders who approve budgets and the expenditure accounting, whether large or small, should be done in real time.

reporting tools

3. Project Status Report

The project status report will include:

  • Completed work
  • Delayed expiry date
  • Planning variation
  • Cost variation
  • Problem monitoring
  • Risk monitoring
  • Pending activities

Besides these aspects, you can add further information relevant to the project in question.

It should be noted, however, that this report should not be too detailed, but should give this information directly, clearly and concisely.

For more information about the various matters, you can hold a dedicated meeting.

4. Resource workload report

Similar to the activity sheet, the resource workload report will keep track of the amount of work assigned to each member of the project team.

Here at TwProject, we have human resources at heart, the core of the successful project, and that’s why we have hypothesized a series of dedicated tools and actions.

 

This report is highly beneficial to the project manager whether in tasks or job assignments.

5. Portfolio reports

This is a report specifically intended for those project managers who manage more than one project at the same time.

This document will show the number of projects that the project manager is managing and will ensure that the important dates of each one are next to the right project, so as to ensure an overview.

This is a fairly schematic report and may be optional for many, but in many cases it may be beneficial to the project manager to keep track of all their projects and what needs their attention at that particular time.

 

Project reports are therefore not just checklists, they are much more than that.

Project reporting means keeping communication with stakeholders open, solving problems before they occur and ensuring high quality results.

Consistent monitoring of project management metrics helps project managers gain greater control over projects and a higher success rate.

Organizations gain information about which initiatives are successful, which need to be tweaked and which need to be totally eliminated.

Ultimately, the project reporting system can create historical data to improve future planning and enable comparisons.

By providing an excellent project reporting system, the project manager does more than just check the boxes: they are bringing project management to the next level.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

project deadlines

Better schedule your project deadlines

How many times have you been under stress and nervous trying to meet a project deadline?

We all know that deadlines are crucial for a project’s success and without a set deadline you would have no direction or motivation to do anything.

Unfortunately, a lot of projects keep struggling due to delays, missed deadlines and lack of follow-up.

When a project slows down or fails, the damage is huge: it means – in most projects – wasted money and precious hours of work spent for nothing.

If skipping the project deadline becomes a habit, if you find yourself in a hurry to try to catch up at the last minute, then you need to redefine your way of working by making changes to your work scheduling system.

To understand how to do it, you need to start with their purpose and utility.

Why are deadlines important?

Generally, deadlines are set for one of the following reasons:

  • To ensure a job completion: it’s easy to delay or forget a task that doesn’t have an established end point. Deadlines therefore help to avoid this situation.
  • To support a smooth workflow: deadlines help to work collaboratively to achieve a shared goal and to keep complex, multi-step projects on track.
  • To set expectations: deadlines clarify what is to be delivered and when. This way you can take control of the work, without any fuss.

If a deadline is missed, there can also be serious consequences.

On a personal level, this can affect the reputation and career prospects of those who fail to meet deadlines, especially if this happens more than once.

In addition, it can also be extremely damaging at the organizational level because it can trigger complaints and active negotiations. Missing a deadline can have an impact on an organization’s reputation and can also have serious financial consequences if this delay triggers other delays or even a penalty clause in a contract.

6 key steps to meet project deadlines

Here are 6 key steps to help you schedule your project deadlines in the best possible way:

  1. List all the activities and stages of the project.

Write them as action sections instead of loose, generic sentences; this will help you find additional motivation.

  1. Choose a realistic deadline according to the complexity of the work to be carried out.

Firstly, you should not make the mistake of setting a deadline that cannot be met. You must analyze the complexity of the work and estimate a reasonable amount of time to complete it. If you are not capable of completing it on your own, you can always ask for the help of someone who has already done the work or who knows the processes better.

  1. Schedule and set up deadline notifications.

If the deadlines are not scheduled and logged somewhere, chances are you will not remember them. So, using a calendar tool to plan your tasks and milestones so that you receive notifications for each one, can certainly help you keep your goals on track.

  1. Add a reasonable “buffer” at each expiration date.

By buffer we mean extra time that becomes useful in case of delays or problems that could lead the project to a sudden stop or slowdown.

  1. Work with a reliable partner.

Whether it is the project manager, a team member, a client or a stakeholder, having a partner can motivate you to meet deadlines on time.

  1. Focus on only one task at a time.

Multitasking may seem beneficial, but having to think about so many things at once can lead to feeling worn out and having organization issues. The key is therefore to focus your time, effort and attention on only one task at a time. After completing it, ticking it off the to do list will motivate you even more to move on to the next task.

What happens if, again, you don’t meet a deadline?

schedule project deadlines

Notwithstanding the tips provided in this article, despite hard work and far-sightedness, it could still happen – again – to miss a project deadline.

If this happens, it is important to stay calm and make every possible effort to limit the damage.

How?

The first step is to keep stakeholders up to date on progress during work, highlighting any problems that may delay – or are already delaying – activities and pointing out any potential emergency and risk management plans.

This will help people involved will be more likely to understand the situation if they ultimately fail to meet the deadline, and some may be ready to help.

In this situation, it is best to quickly address the problem and agree on a new deadline.

Also, a project review is necessary to identify what went wrong and to prevent it from happening again, even in any similar projects in the future.

Still, not meeting a project deadline may have broader implications.

For example, as previously mentioned, if you work with a client or an external organization, the delay could lead to a financial penalty or damage the reputation of the employee and/or the company in a serious way.

Still, it is important that those who failed to meet the deadline take responsibility, avoiding finding excuses and worsening the situation.

When this happens, the best thing a professional can do is to accept the mistake and learn from experience.

 

Ultimately, deadlines should not be seen as a rope around your neck getting tighter and tighter.

With a pragmatic mindset and the right strategies, such as those outlined in this article, you will be able to better manage your deadlines.

This way you will not only have a clear improvement in the quality of work, but also the ability to manage stress.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

the quality plan

The Quality Plan: an essential project document

The quality plan is often overlooked in project development, yet it is strategic in defining the course and results, let’s see how.

CONTENT

All projects, at their end, must produce / provide something, the so-called project output.

In the start-up phase, the client and the project manager, along with the project team, jointly set the project goals and timelines for completion.

The project deliveries must therefore meet certain general industry quality standards as well as customer-specific requirements.

Therefore, all project outputs – whether they are one or many – must be validated and verified prior to delivery to the client.

The quality should not only affect the output, but also the processes and activities that produce these results.

Generally speaking, if the processes and activities that produce the deliverables do not meet quality standards, it is very likely that the output will not meet the delivery quality standards.

Thus, the quality plan becomes an essential document for the project.

This plan acts as a “quality bible” for the project and all stakeholders should agree to it.

The project’s quality management plan will determine the relevant quality requirements and standards that project deliverables must meet and will define a plan on how to meet them.

In short, it means providing a defect-free product developed with the highest efficiency.

What information should a project plan include?

In order for the plan to be complete, there are a series of information that should not be overlooked. We have drawn up the following list of data to be included in a quality management plan:

  • Describe project objectives and quality expectations in general.
  • Determine the organization’s quality policies (e.g., ISO 9001 certification) and outline how these policies will apply to the project.
  • Identify other quality criteria or policies that must be adhered to and complied with, such as customer or investor requirements.
  • Describe how quality requirements will extend throughout the supply chain.
  • Define acceptability criteria for project deliverables.
  • Define quality management roles and responsibilities.
  • Identify which standards will be applied.
  • Identify and list the quality metrics that need to be monitored.
  • Describe monitoring and reporting processes to provide constant improvement.
  • Describe design and review processes.
  • Describe testing and quality assurance processes.
  • Describe the processes for dealing with defects.
  • Describe project acceptance processes.

quality plan

What is project quality planning?

Project quality planning can be a challenging process, but it allows an organization to clearly set quality requirements and document all necessary procedures for managing expectations in this regard.

The development of a quality plan model is thus a key activity. Without a complete project quality plan it is almost impossible to implement the project and deliver the product on time, within budget and according to stakeholders’ requirements.

Project quality planning is one of the key elements of strategic project management; it is the starting point to create a link between stakeholder expectations and product requirements.

There are several inputs involved in running the project quality planning process. These are:

  • Scope statement,
  • Stakeholder requirements,
  • A list of identified and described risks (the so-called “risk register”)
  • Project implementation program.

By using all this input information, the project manager, supported by their team, should develop a model project quality plan.

Project quality plan model development

Although each project is unique, a standard approach can still be used for the development of a quality plan model.

Here are the key steps:

1) Collect input data

As already mentioned, in order to develop a model project quality plan, it is necessary to collect input information, including the scope statement, stakeholder requirements, risk register and the project implementation program. The project manager and the team must ask for all the necessary information and collect the requirements for the product.

2) Set quality parameters

Here you must decide which metrics and parameters will be applied to analyze data and activities throughout the project lifecycle.

3) Analyze data

As soon as the input information is collected, the next step is to perform a cost-benefit analysis. This analysis will help to review all the costs that will be involved in the project and all the benefits stated during the project setup phase. Quality planning activities are aimed at meeting quality requirements within the planned costs and reported benefits. Simply put, the cost of each activity should be compared with the expected benefit and, according to the quality parameters chosen, the ratio should be at least satisfactory.

4) Perform quality control

Throughout the project lifecycle, quality metrics will have to be observed and it will be essential to establish how to control these characteristics during the project implementation process. You can use checklists and templates to guarantee consistency in quality metrics and to take control of the expected quality performance.

5) Progettazione del piano di miglioramento

The ultimate step in developing a model project quality plan is to create an improvement plan that outlines the actions to analyze quality performance and identify activities to improve the value of the project / product. This plan usually includes steps and reasons to apply changes to the project, product setup or process metrics.

 

Ultimately, a quality plan is a fundamental document in a project to ensure its success.

It is about creating a foundation for setting requirements and identifying quality procedures.

Just as in a project you have defined objectives and results, so the quality metrics must also be well set.

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the waterfall method

Waterfall methodology: what it is and what it is for

The Waterfall Methodology is called this way because it develops systematically from one stage to another in a downward direction. Basically, you cannot proceed to the next stage unless you have completed the previous one first.

First introduced by Dr. Winston W. Royce in an article published in 1970, the Waterfall methodology is a classic model used in project management and project life cycle development to create a system with a linear and sequential approach.

This model is divided into several phases and the output of one stage is used as input for the following one.

In short, each stage must be completed before the start of the next one and there is no overlapping.

Although the popularity of the waterfall model has decreased in recent years towards more agile methodologies, the logical nature of the sequential process used in this methodology cannot be denied. Let’s have a thorough look.

The five stages of the Waterfall Methodology

Building a “waterfall model”, for a new project, is a rather simple process, thanks in large part to the step-by-step nature of the method itself.

Clearly there may be small differences from one project to another, but regardless of these, the basic concepts regarding what it takes to start a model are the same and can be applied anywhere.

1. Requirement analysis: During this initial stage, potential project requirements are methodically examined and documented. This paper will serve as the baseline for all future developments. This stage also often includes a feasibility study to see if the project is really worthwhile.

2. Planning: In this stage it is determined how the project will be conducted and will then be divided into various modules/activities.

3. Development: In this stage the project is actually executed.

4. Test: During this stage, tests are performed to identify and report any output problems that need to be solved.

5. Release: at this stage the output is ready to be rolled out and distributed in the market.

waterfall method

Waterfall methodology pros

Although in recent years the Waterfall methodology has been slowly discarded for more agile methods, it should not be ignored that this method can still offer a number of advantages. Notably, larger projects and organizations that require strict phases and deadlines could benefit from its application.

Here are the main pros of the Waterfall Methodology:

•   Fits mobile teams: the use of this method allows the project as a whole to keep a more detailed and solid design scope and structure thanks to all the initial planning stages of the project and of documentation. This is especially convenient for large teams that could have employees coming and going during the life cycle of the project.

•   Allows a structured organization of resources: Whilst some might argue that this is a burden rather than an benefit, the Waterfall model forces the project, and even the organization that uses it, to be extremely disciplined in its structure. Most major projects will necessarily include detailed procedures to manage every aspect of the project.

•   Allows early design changes: Although it may be difficult to make design changes later in the process, the waterfall methodology is well suitable for early life cycle modifications. This is great when filling out the specification paperwork in the early stages, as changes can be made immediately and with minimal effort, since no coding or implementation has been done until then. Basically, with the Waterfall method the management of project changes is significantly smoother.

•   Ideal for milestone oriented development: due to the intrinsic linear structure of a project that follows this method, the waterfall methodology is well-suited for organizations or teams that operate well in a milestone-oriented environment and fixed deadlines. Having distinct, tangible and clearly understood steps by all team members, it is fairly easy to develop a timeline for the entire process and assign milestones for each step. This does not mean that project development can be delayed, but the Waterfall methodology is particularly good for projects that have set deadlines.

Waterfall methodology cons

Here are the disadvantages of the waterfall methodology:

•   Non-adaptive design limitations: Arguably the worst drawback of the waterfall model is its inherent lack of adaptability in all phases of the project life cycle. When a phase five test reveals a major flaw in system design, not only does it require a drastic leap backwards, but in some cases it can often lead to serious concerns about the legitimacy and operation of the entire system. Experienced teams and developers argue, of course, that such situations should not occur if the system was designed correctly from the start, but sometimes not all scenarios can be considered, and each project carries its own set of risks.

•   It ignores customer feedback halfway through the process: Due to the strict process that this method involves, feedback from users or customers is provided late in the development cycle and this can sometimes be too little or too late.

•   Delayed testing period: Whilst most modern models seek to integrate testing during development, the testing phase of the waterfall model comes relatively late in the process. This not only means that most bugs or design problems will not be discovered until the final stage of the process, but it also encourages poor coding practices as testing is just an afterthought..

 

A solution could therefore be to anticipate not only the normal test phase as foreseen by the waterfall methodology, but also to consider the idea of introducing an effective error management tool in the project development cycle.

To do so, a good project management software that includes an error monitoring feature can be the optimal solution.

Although it has its drawbacks, as mentioned above, a project management plan that follows the Waterfall methodology is very effective in situations where you work in a familiar scenario with various known factors and scenarios, and where the client knows exactly what they want from the beginning.

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costs-benefits analysis

Cost-benefit analysis in a project

Measuring costs and benefits of a project isn’t something that can be left to the feelings of the Project Manager. We are talking about the essence of the company’s business and therefore we need certain elements on which to make assessments.

When managing a project, in fact, you need to make many key decisions.

There’s always something that needs to be done and often it is crucial to the success of the project and the organization itself.

Because of the high stakes, good managers do not only make decisions based on instinct, but prefer to minimize risk to the best of their ability and only act when there is more certainty than uncertainty.

But how is this possible with myriad variables and with an ever changing economy?

The solution is to seek concrete data with reporting tools, graphs and spreadsheets, even better with the help of project management software.

Thus, you can use this data to assess your decisions with a process called cost-benefit analysis (CBA).

A smart use of cost-benefit analysis will help minimize risk and maximize gains for both the project specifically and the organization in general.

What is cost-benefit analysis?

Jules Dupuit, a French engineer and economist, introduced the concepts behind the cost-benefit analysis in the 1840s.

This method became very popular in the 1950s; a simple way to evaluate the costs and benefits of a project and, therefore, to determine whether to carry on (or not) with a project.

As the name suggests, cost-benefit analysis involves summing the benefits of a course of action and comparing them with the costs associated with it.

The results of the analysis are often expressed as a payback period, the time it takes for the benefits to pay off.

Many people who use it, in fact, search for a payback within less than a specific period.

You can use this technique in a number of situations. For example, when you want to:

  • Decide whether to hire new team members.
  • Consider a new project or change initiative.
  • Determine feasibility of a capital purchase.

The cost-benefit analysis for project management is an additional tool available that the project manager can make use of.

Cost-benefit analysis purpose

The purpose of the analysis is to have a methodical approach to understand the pros and cons of the various possible options for a project, including transactions, activities, business requirements and investments.

In short, the cost-benefit analysis offers options and the best approach to achieve the goal while saving on investment.

There are two main goals to be achieved with the use of this analysis:

  • Determine whether the project is sound, justifiable and feasible, assessing whether its benefits outweigh its costs.
  • Offer a base for comparison of projects by determining which benefits are greater than their costs.

the costs-benefits analysis

How to use cost-benefit analysis

Here are the steps to perform a cost-benefit analysis.

1) Brainstorming on benefits and costs

Although there are some guidelines on how to draw up a project budget, it is always necessary to spend time thinking about all the costs associated with the project and make a list of them, including any unexpected costs (the ones you can think of).

Then, you will do the same for all the benefits of the project, including any potential unforeseen benefits.

2) Give a financial value to the costs

Costs include both the price of the required physical resources and the cost of manpower involved in all stages of a project.

Costs are often relatively easier to estimate than revenues.

It is important to think of as many related costs as possible. For example, how much will it cost to train team members?

Will there be a decrease in productivity while people are learning a new system or technology and how much will it cost?

Also, it is important to consider the costs that will continue to be incurred once the project is completed.

3) Give a financial value to the advantages

This step is less simple than the second one: first, it is often very difficult to accurately predict revenues, especially for new products.

Second, along with the expected financial benefits, there are often intangible benefits that are still important results of the project.

For example, what is the impact on the environment, employee satisfaction or health and safety? What is the financial value of this impact?

 

For example, is the preservation of an ancient monument worth $500,000 or is it worth $5,000,000 because of its historical significance? Or, what is the value of a stress-free trip to work in the morning?

In these cases, it is also important to discuss with other interested parties and decide how to assess these intangible elements.

4) Compare costs and benefits

The last step is to compare costs with benefits and use this analysis to decide what course of action to take.

For this, calculate the total costs and total benefits and compare the two values to determine whether the benefits exceed the costs.

At this point, it is important to consider the payback time of the investment, to find out how long it will take to reach the “break even point”, i.e. the time when the benefits will pay off the costs.

A simple example, considering a situation where the same benefits are collected in each period, is to calculate the payback period by dividing the total expected cost of the project by the total expected revenues. This way:

Total cost / total income (or benefits) = duration (depreciation period).

How to consider the cost-benefit analysis

The data collected is used to help determine whether the project will have a positive or negative consequence.

It is essential to keep the following aspects in mind when evaluating this information:

  • What are the effects on users?
  • What are the effects on non-users?
  • Are there any external effects?
  • Is there a social benefit?

It is also important to take into account the time-value of the money spent. This can be done by converting expected future costs and benefits into current rates.

Of course, there is a risk intrinsic to any business and the risk and uncertainty must always be considered.

This can be calculated with the theory of probability.

Uncertainty is different from risk, but can be assessed using a sensitivity analysis to show how the results meet parameter changes.

How accurate is cost-benefit analysis?

The short answer is that the analysis will be as accurate as the data entered in the process.

Some inaccuracies are caused by:

  • Relying too much on data collected from past projects, especially when these differ in purpose, size, etc. from what you are working on
  • Using subjective insights during evaluation
  • Improper use of heuristics (problem solving that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed) to obtain the cost of the intangibles variables
  • Confirmation bias or use only data that supports what you want to find

Generally speaking, a cost-benefit analysis is more suitable for small and medium-sized projects that do not take too long to be completed.

In these cases, the analysis can lead the people involved to make appropriate decisions.

For large projects that run for a long period of time, there may be a number of problematic external factors that need to be taken into account in a cost-benefit analysis, such as: inflation, interest rates, etc.,

There are other methods that complement the cost-benefit analysis in the evaluation of larger projects.

Overall, however, the use of this methodology is a crucial step in determining whether or not a project is worth pursuing.

Cost-benefit analysis reliability

The cost-benefit analysis also suffers from reliability when a project has cash flows that vary from period to period.

Furthermore, the revenue that will be generated by a project can be very difficult to predict and the value that people attribute to intangible benefits can be very subjective.

Also, the production of a cost-benefit analysis requires a thorough awareness of project risks.

The intangible benefits analyzed can easily be underestimated or overestimated.

The benefits might also not arise or the risk that the benefit will not be achieved is too high.

The risk has two main factors that compose it:

Risk = Probability x Gravity

Here the level of risk of an event is proportional to the probability of its occurrence and the level of risk of an event is proportional to the size of the impact it generates.

For example, the office in which the project team works could be destroyed by an aircraft (a “risk event”).

The probability is clearly very low, but the severity is very high.

However, for most people the low probability outweighs the high severity, which leads to the conclusion that this risk event is not worth creating a risk response plan.

 

Ultimately, cost-benefit analysis is a data-based process and must be tackled appropriately.

With the help of sufficiently robust project management software, it will be possible to collect, analyze and distribute information effectively, so that the greatest possible benefit can be gained from a cost-benefit analysis.

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project plans

How to create accurate project plans

The creation of an accurate project plan, no matter what type of project you are working on, is something that should not be underestimated.

Every good project manager knows that no successful project can exist without a robust plan behind it.

Starting a project without a project plan that has been thoroughly considered in all aspects is like going on a trip without a map: maybe you will also reach your destination, but the waste of time (and money) will be inevitable.

A project without a well drafted and structured plan can, in fact, lead to problems of scope creep, budget and missed deadlines.

You should therefore work closely with your team and build a good project plan before you start the work itself. You will need to set expectations and decide how to achieve them, and this is the method that will guide us to success.

How to write a project plan in 5 steps

What we want to achieve with these articles is a path to follow, an approach thanks to which you can understand and follow simple and systematic guidelines that will help you in your work.

That’s why we have tried to summarize the steps of writing a project plan in 5 steps. Let’s have a look at them:

1) Define the project

Whatever is the project you are going to work on, the beginning is always the same: define what you want to achieve.

However, doing so does not simply mean writing general concepts such as: “I want to open a new pizzeria”, there are six key elements to be taken into account when defining the project:

  • Objectives: what are you trying to accomplish with the project? Here we consider both external elements – profits, market share, customer satisfaction – and internal elements – infrastructure improvement, process optimization, employee retention. The extra tip, is to use the SMART guidelines at this step.
  • Scope: regardless of how carefully you plan, the project will almost certainly be subject to changes that need to be addressed. Instead of trying to identify everything within the scope of the project, it might be easier to identify what is definitely out of reach. This is also a good opportunity to determine who will be responsible for approving/denying any changes to the scope.
  • Success standards: What will determine the outcome or failure of this project? In this step, you must consider the objectives. Common standards are the projects delivered on time and within the project budget, the end product that meets a certain level of quality and the solution of a specific business problem.
  • Final products: Here we list the essential results of the project in as much detail as possible.
  • Requirements: Determine what you need – resources, staff, budget, time – to achieve the project objectives and produce positive results.
  • Program: Use a work breakdown structure to determine what needs to be delivered and when, then use it to determine the basic schedule, project milestones and deadlines.

2) Identify risks, preconditions and constraints

Identifying potential risks, dangers and setbacks before they occur can help the project manager navigate through “rough waters” when they inevitably occur.

At this stage, designating a team member to be responsible for risk management can be key.

Depending on the size of the project, this individual may be either the project manager or another team member.

The important factor is that someone must clearly be responsible for monitoring all risks that have been identified.

In this case, the help and support of project management software can make risk management easier and more manageable.

3) Planning people for the project

This step is another key one in the project plan, in fact, the management of the project is largely the management of the people who work there.

Planning the project means identifying and documenting the following:

  • Client: who will receive the final product? Is it an internal or external customer?
  • Stakeholders or interested parties: these are the people or groups interested in the successful completion of the project.
  • Roles and responsibilities: determine the organizational hierarchy for the project. Who gets the last word on decisions? Who is accountable for communication with the client? Who oversees the budget? Who is responsible for the actual work?

accurate project plans

4) List project resources

In the first step, a series of high level requirements needed to successfully complete the project were identified, after which the human resources needed to perform and manage the work were identified.

Now it is time to focus on the specific resources needed to get to work:

  • Technology (computers, software, mobile devices)
  • Salary
  • Materials
  • Ecc.

In short, you need to list all the resources you need in detail, along with their costs.

5) Set up a communication plan for the project

By now you will have a clearly defined project with a program, budget and resources. So it’s time to get to work, right? Wrong! Actually one very important step is still missing: a communication plan.

Poor communication is one of the main reasons for a project’s failure.

This is because everything that has been seen before – meeting deadlines, sticking to the budget, etc.. – depends on team members communicating with each other, the project manager, stakeholders and clients.

A good project communication plan should include:

  • Communication goals: what is the goal of a certain message?
  • Audience group: who should be included in communications? For example, it may not be necessary to include the organization’s director in regular project updates, but they should be consulted at all times if the project exceeds their budget.
  • Key communication content: When communicating with the project team and/or stakeholders, what information should be included each time?
  • Communication method and frequency: how will communications be delivered and how often? Via e-mail or another collaboration tool? Determine this information at the beginning of the project and remain consistent with it.

How to create accurate project plans: Bottom line

Ultimately, if a project manager notices that their projects are prone to lose control, exceed budget, miss deadlines, or fail to deliver a final product successfully, it is very likely that the poor planning is at least partially – if not totally – responsible.

Clearly defining the project, identifying risks, assembling the team, gathering resources and drawing up a communication plan following our suggestions will therefore make a big difference.

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project status update

Project status updates

An update report on the status of the project is a core part of every successful communication strategy and project management to update the team and all stakeholders.

Many project managers are likely to use certain project management models or programs or software to manage projects who generate the reports directly.

Whatever format is used, compliance with a regular and formalized process is essential and saves time and costly data errors.

In addition, by being consistent in the reporting process, it keeps everyone aware of the information they can expect on a regular basis.

As a project manager, you need to create regular status updates to inform stakeholders about the progress of the project. We will see how in this article.

How to create effective status updates

Reporting on project status updates is a way to keep track of and manage the project, as well as distributing this data to those parties who need it.

It is a vital communication tool and can provide a documented project history, which consequently simplifies the planning of future work.

Some other objectives of status updates include:

  • Improve communications within the organization
  • Simplify communication process
  • Keeping stakeholders informed
  • Provide key messages to the intended target audience
  • Improve organizational team support

Whether the status update is sent face-to-face during a meeting or by e-mail, it is always a good idea to know the best practices in this area:

1. Communicate: status update reports are part of the communication plan. These should not be used to communicate everything about the project, but should be used to provide the right data to the appropriate party at the right time.

2. Consistency: use the same format, distribution cycle and method, without getting things confused.

3. Set metrics: when planning the project, You need to have this method figured out clearly about how to measure your progress and then follow it while reporting project status updates.

4. Simplify: the report must be effective, so it must not be filled with unnecessary details in order not to confuse stakeholders.

5. Verify: the audience does not want opinions or unsupported facts, so it is only necessary to report objective data and talk about what is of interest to stakeholders.

What to include in a project status update

project status updates

Here are some of the things you will need to include in a project status update.

1. General project information

First of all, the foundations will have to be established: what is the name of the project? Who is the project manager? What is the number of resources? All this information is essential to keep track of the project throughout its lifecycle. Do not assume that all stakeholders are familiar with this information.

2. General status information

Here you will include what the general status of the project is, if it is – generally speaking – in line with the program or if it is going off track. The traffic light method, for example, uses red, yellow, and green color coding to indicate the status of the entire project:

Green = On track

Yellow = Struggling

Red = Requires immediate attention

3. Milestones review

Milestones are the main phases of a project. These are a good way to break the larger project into smaller, more manageable parts. In a project status update you should present where you are in relation to those milestones.

4. Project milestone outline

Include a brief overview of the expected completion date and costs of the project – at the current time.

5. Problems and risks

Also be sure to include the activities that are having problems and how they might impact on the deadline and costs, what you are planning to do to solve these problems and what the results will be once they will be solved.

6. Project metrics

It is vital to back up the report with tangible figures to objectively demonstrate the statements you are making. These status reporting metrics, as mentioned above, must be agreed upon during the project planning phase. It is impossible to know if the project is successful without measuring its effectiveness with data that can be compared over time. These metrics are a way to show whether you are on the right track and to assess what, if any, may require attention.

Status Updates: Last tips

Be concise and organized

Planning project status update meetings in advance will be very helpful to get a successful meeting. Any discussion must be relevant to the topic and any other problems or questions that may arise must be brought up at another time – unless there is an urgent reason not to do so.

Manage questions and concerns

Questions and doubts are legitimate and do not represent a challenge to the authority and role of the project manager. Therefore, a defensive response is not just a waste of time, but is inappropriate and jeopardizes the professional position of a project coordinator. It is important to listen openly and respond to questions and concerns, even if they have been addressed before. No question is “stupid” or nonsensical.

Admit when you don’t have all the answers

If you don’t know something, you must say it. You can’t have all the answers – unless it comes from poor preparation. But it is the job of a project manager to know HOW to get the answers. So, you need to have a process to follow and offer a deadline for a thorough answer.

Little time spent on small talk and chatting to get to know each other

In general, during a meeting dedicated to project status updates, the focus of the meeting is clear and, as mentioned above, any discussion outside of this issue should be addressed in another setting. However, if, for example, there are new people in the group, it is important to introduce them, so a few precious minutes can be invested at the beginning of the meeting for this kind of informal talk.

Status Updates: Conclusions

Ultimately, we can say that reports on project status updates are a key part of project management.

In most cases, therefore, it is important to have a method that saves valuable time and makes reports easier to build and more accurate to present, providing the right data at the right time to the right people.

The tips and best practices detailed in this article will certainly help you when preparing a project status update report.

Use Twproject to generate your status update reports.

decisional marix

Decision matrix: how to make important decisions in a project

What do you do when you have an important decision to make? Draw up a list of pros and cons? Flip a coin? Do you postpone hoping someone else will end up making the decision for you?

Certainly there are many ways to make choices, for example we have already discussed collaborative decision-making process, but when it comes to taking into account objectively all the important factors that are part of the decision, there is a method that prevails above all else: the decision matrix.

Many people are intimidated when it comes to applying the decision matrix. However, I can assure you that, once you understand the mechanisms and fundamentals, its use is actually simpler than you imagine.

When should you use a decision matrix (and when not to)?

A decision matrix can help not only to make complex decisions, but also to prioritize activities, solve problems and build reasoning to defend a decision already made.

We had already spoken about the criteria for prioritizing projects,  but here we will talk about an ideal decision-making tool if we are discussing between some comparable solutions that each have multiple quantitative criteria.

The decision matrix process is best used when deciding something that is not related to an emotion, because it is a rational tool.

It is therefore preferable to use a decision matrix when it is necessary to evaluate a situation from a logical point of view and to have sufficient comparable variables to make a weighted analysis.

The matrix can be used alone, but also in combination with other decision-making tools and techniques.

What exactly is a decision matrix?

A decision matrix is a chart that helps to show a clear winner among the different options.

To create the matrix, you need to determine which criteria are important in making the final decision and then assign a weight or value to each criterion.

This allows you to prioritize factors that matter most and, as a result, to identify mathematically which of the options is the best one.

Let’s see in detail what are the key steps to use a decision matrix in the best possible way.

How to create a decision matrix: 1) Clarify the problem

The first step is to insert the decision to be made or question in the decision box. This statement must be specific and clear for everyone.

Let’s have a practical example and imagine, for example, that you have to make the choice between reconditioning an old machine or buying a new one. Formulate the correct question and put it in the decision box!

How to create a decision matrix: 2) Assess decision factors

In this step you will need to make a brainstorming about the selection criteria for the decision to be taken.

In short, the question must be answered: what are the factors that will help to make the right decision? Or, what are the critical success factors that need to be met?

In the example chosen in the previous step, the factors that would have a great impact on the decision are:

  • How quickly can we get a return on our original investment? Obviously, the quicker, the better!
  • Cash flow – How will each option affect cash flow at the bank?
  • Timing – how much time “is lost” in each scenario?

How to create a decision matrix: 3) Add options

Now it is time to compare the different options available. These are, in other words, the solutions to the problems.

In our example we have two options:

  • Revise the old car
  • Buy a new car

the decisional matrix

How to create a decision matrix: 4) Give a weight to each decision factor

It is evident that in any decision, some factors will be more important than others, and for this reason, you need to create a pondered score.

Each individual decision factor is then given a score from 1 to 5 (1 is the minimum importance, 5 is the maximum).

It is absolutely important to try not to give each decision factor the same weight, otherwise the whole analysis cannot be carried out.

If you have difficulty in finding different scores, one solution is to extend the scale from 1 to 10, in order to assess each factor even more thoroughly.

How to create a decision matrix: 5) Add scores for each option

The same process that was done previously is now being done in regard to each option.

Again, you score from 1 to 5 and, if that is not enough, you can use a scale from 1 to 10.

How to create a decision matrix: 6) Choose the highest score

Once the scores have been established based on all factors and for each of the available options, the next step is to select the highest score as the winner.

Decision matrix: Conclusions

Last but not least, the decision matrix makes it possible to measure options against what is important and, above all, to do so objectively and pragmatically.

This process eliminates the complexity of analysis and decisions are much easier to make when simplifying things.

In other words, the decision matrix allows you to focus on what really matters.

It is also important to keep in mind that a decision matrix is not the only decision-making tool available. For example, sometimes even a simple list of pros and cons will work.

However, for a decision where you have more options and different characteristics to consider, a decision matrix can clarify (objectively and mathematically) the best choice.

This approach can be used not only in project management, but also in everyday life to make informed decisions, while avoiding the typical prejudices and complications in which almost all of us are guilty of falling from time to time.

Create your own decision matrix.

pm's code of ethics

Project manager’s code of ethics

Ethics for a project manager is a very modern topic and highly relevant to their career, although talking about ethics may seem to be something much more relevant to an ancient branch of philosophy.

Ethics covers, in fact, many aspects of the PM’s work: it is not sufficient to know the technical methodologies, but it is necessary to know how to apply them in an appropriate way to the difficult dilemmas of the real world.

What makes this particularly difficult is that, unlike processes and methods, there are no rigid and fast rules on what is right and wrong.

People, politics and moral questions are often chaotic and confusing, so guidance is needed.

And that’s the role of a project manager’s code of ethics and professional conduct.

What is ethics?

Simply put, ethics can be summed up as follows: making the right choices.

However, it is not always easy to know what the right thing to do is; sometimes you have to face tough moral dilemmas, where there is no single good choice between a lot of bad options and, often, there are only nuances of compromise.

Many people find it difficult to accept ethical ambiguity because it forces them to take responsibility for their choices and actions, rather than following convenient and settled rules and customs.

That’s why a code of ethics can provide the principles that can help to make choices in a consistent way.

By consistent we mean consistency with oneself, with the prevailing norms in culture, society, organization and professional community.

So…

Ethics is about giving a picture to assess what may be right or wrong in a specific scenario.


What are the ethical dilemmas that a project manager faces?

The main ethical challenges a Project Manager will face in their career include:

  • Building a “good” professional career.
  • Properly assert their rights and at the same time defend those of the people around them.
  • Meet their responsibilities with fairness and respect towards all parties concerned.
  • Determine what is right and wrong, especially when it is necessary to balance different interests.
  • Operate with honesty and integrity, especially where your interests may conflict with those of other stakeholders.

Why should a Project Manager act ethically?

At first glance, one could “earn” more by acting out of self-interest. However, this advantage resulting from unethical conduct is likely to be short-lived.

The benefits of good ethical conduct are long-term.

This will help you build a lasting and sustainable career because many of the opportunities you gain (or lose) depend on your reputation.

Here are three main benefits of following a code of ethics:

1. Ethics as moral map: A project manager will face many choices in their career that they will not be able to determine from a purely technical point of view. A code of ethics will therefore provide a consistent basis for making these choices.

2. Ethics as a tool for thinking: It is often difficult to judge who is right in a discussion when both sides can support their point of view with sound technical arguments. Both positions might equally lead to acceptable results, but sometimes the difference lies in the domain of ethics rather than reason. Here ethics will help to isolate the core of choice.

3. Ethics as source of professional benefit: The project manager needs team members, and the organization in general, to trust them and their work. So behaving ethically – as well as credibly – helps to build this indispensable professional trust.

pm's ethics

The 8 elements of professional ethics

As project manager there are in particular 8 elements of professional ethics to be taken into account:

1. Integrity

Integrity can be summarized in these simple concepts:

  • Doing what’s right, not what’s easy.
  • Honoring commitments and promises given.
  • Being the person you say you are.

2. Respect

When you treat team members and other people with respect, ethical behavior becomes much easier – almost automated. Difficulties arise when an action that respects one person or group will necessarily make another person feel less respected.

3. Discretion

Always related to respect, but in particular with regard to privacy, the feelings of others and confidential information and intellectual property of the organization.

4. Responsibility

Everybody makes mistakes, even the project manager. There is no problem with that if the person who made the mistake also takes responsibility and learns the lesson.

5. Honesty

Of course, we should not repeat that, as professionals, we must act honestly, but unfortunately episodes of dishonesty, even serious ones, are not so rare.

6. Openness

Openness goes hand in hand with honesty, but one thing is not lying, another is telling the whole truth. A good project manager requires transparency and complete openness with stakeholders if you want to make solid choices and that everyone has all the information available. If it is not an informed decision, it is not a sound decision.

7. Equity

When you sense something unfair, it is natural to experience feelings ranging from mild irritation to real anger. Therefore, the project manager should take an impartial position in any decision-making process and treat all people with equal respect.

8. Generosity

This does not necessarily mean physical generosity with gifts, rather it is generosity of spirit.

It is important to be aware that professional codes of conduct inevitably incorporate ethical standards that derive from the prevailing culture within which the organization that created them is located.

And each culture has its own set of ethical and moral standards.

While people are essentially the same all over the world, our cultural backgrounds differ dramatically, through influences such as history, geography, religion and politics.

That is why the project manager who is faced with an international team must also take this into account.

Looking at the last condition, we can still conclude that the code of ethics for a project manager is a valuable tool that defines a guideline in deciding what should and should not be done in every situation.

We have the tools, we have the culture.