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.

description of project's scope

Definition and description of a project’s purpose

How does a project originate? How can you tell what it should achieve? How can you tell what approach is required? How can you tell if it will be successful or not?

Before the work can begin, there must be a common understanding of the project: purpose, objectives, scope, sponsorship, funding and mission. Without such understanding, the project should never be accepted by a reputable Project Manager.

The project, particularly its purpose, must therefore be clearly defined before the project manager accepts personal responsibility for its success. The first step, after accepting the mandate, should then be to share the project’s purpose with the Project Team and with all stakeholders.

Project Purpose: Why does the project exist?

A project’s purpose explains the reason for its existence, the meaning of what is done, the ambition or dream pursued by the project or the direction it takes and maintains.

The definition of this is essential at three levels: for the project and for all stakeholders.

The scope is to ensure that all actions taken follow this guideline, it is therefore a strategic decision-making tool and a lever of innovation that allows the ambition behind the project to be kept in mind at all times.

For stakeholders, the purpose is first and foremost a driver of motivation and consistency over time.

At a time when the search for the meaning of their work is strongly present, purpose allows team members, for example, to know what they are involved in and give them a good reason to get up every morning.

For an investor, it is also particularly important to ensure a coherent development that not only serves his or her own personal interests.

So, how do you define a project’s purpose?

The following steps can help to effectively define a project scope:

Identify project needs

When you can clearly identify the needs of a project, you are more likely to set a sound point of reference from the outset.

Understanding the “what and why” of a project will allow you to set specific objectives and also establishes the basics for which activities should be followed and how they should be carried out.

Confirm project objectives

The baseline of the project scope should be that the objectives are those that follow a SMART guideline, that is, they must be specific, measurable and achievable.

In addition, they should also be realistic and completed within a given time period and within the deadlines.

Project scope description

The project manager must be clear about the features and operation required for the product or service that will be the result of the project.

In other words, it must be clear what certain qualities will necessarily be required for the project to be considered successful.

Expectations and approval

Successful projects are those that factor in end-user satisfaction. If these are satisfied, the customer will accept the product, service or process derived from the project.

The end users may be customers outside the organization, but in some cases, also the team or other internal departments.

Ultimately, the scope of the project is what should be in tune with the best results to anyone who can be your end users.

Identify constraints

There are always blocks or obstacles in the project that come into play on the way to the finish line.

The awareness of the possible limitations can contribute to minimize the problems that could delay or limit the ability to achieve the result of the project.

These limitations can be caused by dynamic environmental conditions (internal and external), technological problems and/or lack of resources.

Communicating such problems to your team in a timely manner and taking steps to overcome these obstacles will reduce delays in project completion and keep expenses within budget.

Whether based on hypothesis or uncertainty, the analysis of their impact along the time sequence of projects further reduces the risk of failure.

definition of project's scope

Identify necessary changes

It is always best to avoid re-elaborating the scope of the project, as it means investing more time, money and resources. However, sometimes these changes are unavoidable and necessary.

In such cases, it is important to limit the changes as much as possible, involving all stakeholders and thus minimizing disagreements on new solutions.

A sound project management, not only as a result of adjustments, but generally, it takes into account the following considerations:

  • An agreement regarding the acceptable level of quality of the project output.
  • A budget for the costs that should be sustained (and not exceeded) to deliver the project.
  • An acceptable time frame during which the project should be completed.

The three aspects are all interconnected and as such are indicated at the beginning of the project and are monitored throughout the project life cycle.

Every time one of the three elements is affected, it inevitably impacts the other two.

For this reason, these three fundamental aspects of the project should be defined at the beginning and, ideally, no longer be “touched”.

Define and describe a project purpose: Conclusions

Ultimately, the project scope is a bit like the top of the mountain that is observed at the beginning of an alpine expedition.

If everyone identifies and is motivated by the idea of reaching the peak, then it will be possible to make everyone move in the same direction.

You may not know exactly how to climb the mountain in detail or you will have to choose alternative routes along the way, but the whole team will have a good image of the summit and will be determined to reach it, whatever it takes.

This allows the expedition (the project) to remain consistent over time, the team (parties involved) to remain motivated and the leader (the rope leader) able to take a regular step back to ensure that the expedition is consistent with the original purpose.

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project metrics

Project metrics

Project management metrics are fundamental to implementing sustainable project management practices and processes in any organization.

The key is to keep them simple and relevant to the organization.

Project management metrics are also central for improving the way projects are managed and delivered, as well as showing improvements over time in project management maturity.

Project management metrics help to:

  • Measure and understand the maturity of the organization
  • Manage projects and resources more effectively
  • Show performance improvement over time

 

All metrics should be:

  • Simple and logic for the organization
  • Clearly, correctly and unambiguously measurable
  • Supported by real data

 

There are some key requirements and guidelines for the consistent implementation and measurement of the project management metrics and these are:

  • Repeatable and sustainable project management processes
  • Process compliance monitoring
  • Data collection through the use of a project management tool
  • Timely and unambiguous communication of the baseline and any subsequent changes in metrics or the data collection process
  • Not having too many metrics, especially if they are similar

 

The implementation of the project management metrics will have to address some challenges that need to be managed with appropriate processes and controls:

  • As compliance improves, figures may not change or show improvement initially
  • If the metric definition or measurement process is changed, data from previous years should be recalculated.
  • If the base data changes, the metrics also change and must be recalculated.

6 relevant metrics for project management

Several project management metrics can be defined according to the objective and complexity of a project.

metrics for project

However, the following six metrics generally encompass the most important measures:

 

  • Productivity: this metric allows project managers to measure the use of a project’s resources. Compare the total effort with the planned effort, which has a direct impact on profits. Delays in timing, staff or supplier under-performance and unavoidable circumstances can affect productivity metrics.

 

  • Project scope: the project scope is usually defined directly, but changes and additions can shift even the efforts of the best project manager. You need to keep track of change requests to control them and keep the project on time and within budget.

 

  • Quality and customer satisfaction: quality assurance is a real customer-oriented metric. Ensuring low defects throughout the project, as well as acceptable quality in the end, should be one of the goals of every job. Early detection of defects can also help prevent the failure of the whole project. Don’t forget that customer satisfaction in a project is always essential.

 

  • Employee satisfaction: just as the end customer must be satisfied, so must the employees and team members working on the project. The morale of employees is directly related to the success of the project. Research has shown that a satisfied employee works better and more efficiently. High employee turnover costs, ranging from 50% to 200% of an employee’s salary, should also be sufficient reason to care about people working directly on a project. Here you can find good suggestions on how to motivate the project team.

 

  • Cost: cost analysis and management is often vital to the success of a project. Cost management is related to other variables, such as quality, scope and productivity, so if it varies above or below projections, the project may be affected. Typically, costs are closely observed throughout the project, so if costs increase unexpectedly, variables such as scope or time are adjusted and the project can still achieve its objectives.

 

  • Gross margin: Normally, the final objective of a project is to contribute to the organization by increasing its profits. The gross margin is the difference between the total income generated and the total costs spent on the project. A project should have a target gross margin established in the planning phases of the project and should be measured throughout the project life cycle. Project managers who reach or even exceed the target gross margins are often extremely valuable.

Monitoring these six project management metrics can help project managers gain greater control and, consequently, a better chance of success.

Over time, organizations can obtain information about which methods are successful and which require more precise fine-tuning in their specific case.

Project metrics implementation

Once the metrics have been clearly established to meet an organization’s needs, it’s time to start implementing them.

The first step is to communicate with all stakeholders to help them understand the process, its significance and how metrics can help improve projects.

Providing clear examples and creating a metrics plan with guidelines that everyone understands can help clarify ideas and prevent delayed information.

So, once all these steps are taken and everyone is on the same page, you can start implementing the plan.

Throughout the process, it is also crucial to correct the plan when identifying unusable metrics.

Finally, implementing project management metrics can build historical data to help improve future planning and allow for comparisons.

As you accumulate project metrics in your organization’s portfolio, you are building a valuable database of internal benchmarking data.

These metrics can be compared with other projects in the same organization to see where process improvements can be made or compliance requirements can be introduced.

In addition, you can also compare the metrics with reference data from other companies in the same market.

The final challenge is to ensure that the project status includes metrics that prove the value of project management.

And as Peter Drucker said half a century ago: “If you can measure it, you can improve it”.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

important feedback

The most important feedback in a project and how to receive them

Receiving feedback in an effective way as a project manager is as important as being able to give them.

Feedback is a key part of any manager’s skills and contributes enormously to the success of a project.

Without feedback everything remains limited to the “feelings” of the team and the PM himself. Surely a careful reading of the data can be of great help, but what is really happening outside the fence is a whole different story.

So let’s try to see what are the feedback that a good Project Manager absolutely must be able to get and how to get them.

The benefits of feedback

For starters, providing feedback, if done regularly, keeps everyone on track and this is convenient for anyone involved in the project.

A communication that is clear  and honest among the team helps employees prevent serious mistakes. Here a good project software with a team chat can be of great help.

Feedback saves time that would have been used to correct someone’s work or the regrets of another who has done theirs wrong.

Also, feedback helps to build better relationships between the project manager and the team and between team members.

It is obvious that feedback often involves criticism – something most people don’t feel comfortable with – but if given in the right way, it can help them evolve personally and professionally.

It should be seen as advice, not judgement. The project manager should believe in the members of his team and use the feedback as a tool to help them achieve the project goal first.

The constructive feedback can then serve as a tool to motivate employees and improve their performance. It is about active listening, seeing what everyone can change to improve their attention and results and bringing people together while creating a healthier communication flow.

The ideal situation would be to create a pleasant working environment where everyone is open to criticism and even to ask for feedback on their own.

What are the most important feedback in a project

project feedback

There are five topics in particular that are the most important when speaking about feedback in a project:

  • Do we have a structured approach to the project?

Getting feedback regarding the quality of the project approach is key to achieving properly structured, aligned and productive teamwork. When working on client engagements, it is also advisable to get regular feedback from stakeholders and identify potential communication bottlenecks.

Here are 3 typical elements on which you can get information quite easily:

  • Clarity of the project scope (what concerns the project and what does not)
  • Definition and communication of key project milestones
  • Transparency on project progress monitoring and status updates

2)Are we able to make decisions?

Many initiatives are hindered by poor decision-making. Being able to structure and organize the decision-making process is in fact one of the key skills of a successful project manager. If you want to be sure that the decision-making process runs smoothly, you need to control and receive feedback from:

  • Stakeholders and decision-makers
  • Project meetings
  • Team members

3) Will we delivering the next milestone on time?

Most projects follow a top-down approach with an indirect communication flow. When the project manager asks for updates about the progress of activities, having intermediaries strengthen project information on the front line generates loss of information. Therefore, it is important to ask the team directly if:

  • will provide the desired results with high quality standards on time
  • possesses all the necessary skills and abilities to achieve its objectives
  • is making continuous progress or is experiencing hiccups.

4) Are we good at implementing the decisions we make?

The follow-up of decisions taken is often a project shortcoming. Making sure that no false promises are made in the process is the key to meeting expectations. Therefore, on a regular basis, it is important to ask if:

  • Key decisions are duly documented and communicated (e.g. through the minutes of meetings).
  • Project decisions always have a high priority
  • Implementation risks are correctly identified and associated with mitigation actions.

5) Do we have a clear understanding of the project?

Last but not least is having a clear understanding of the project. The project manager has to ensure that the vision is clear, shared and supported by all stakeholders and therefore has to ask for feedback by asking these questions:

  • Does everyone understand the short and long term objectives of the project?
  • Are the expected results of the project clear?
  • Is it clear to each team member how the team should achieve the desired project targets?

How does the feedback request process work?

Having examined what topics absolutely need regular feedback during a project, let’s now see how an efficient feedback request process works.

  1. Set feedback objectives

As in all things, you have to decide what the goal is.

A good feedback will help to avoid repeating the same sub-optimal or destructive patterns that hinder a project instead of pushing it forward.

One of the goals not to forget is also to receive feedback with an open mind and a positive and accepting attitude.

  1. Identify the right people to ask for feedback from

Asking for feedback from every single person you interact with is not productive and can lead to wrong messages.

Not everyone can provide the specific type of feedback you are looking for.

Feedback with multiple perspectives can lead to a thorough perspective on the path to follow, but this does not mean asking everyone indiscriminately.

As a project manager, feedback can come from colleagues, team members, management and clients.

Depending on the question, it is therefore important to limit the request for feedback to those directly involved.

  1. Prepare questions

The questions you wish to ask in order to receive feedback should be formulated according to the objectives.

If the goal is to improve relations with team members, for example, questions should be asked that specifically relate to the current working climate and interactions.

If the goal is to improve time management, questions will need to be asked in this regard.

In particular, a series of open questions will help to achieve the relevant atmosphere.

  1. Getting feedback the right way

When the time comes to ask for feedback, you have to be willing to accept the answers with an open mind.

If you are defensive or negatively influenced by comments from others, you will be much less likely to receive honest answers in the future.

  1. Make a commitment and keep it

The biggest waste of time is getting feedback and doing nothing about it.

Not all feedback will be usable, but most likely you will notice a recurring theme that should serve as an indicator of what specific things need to be improved in the future.

It is important to take action on these things, make the necessary changes and, once done, come back to those who provided the feedback and show the implementation and improvement.

This will send the message that the contribution has been appreciated and will encourage people to continue to contribute honestly and openly in the future.

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colaborative decision-making process

Collaborative decision-making process

Everyone knows that individual decision making is faster and easier than team decision making, right?

Yeah, as long as the decision maker is fully informed about all the details of a decision and is impartial, the process is certainly faster.

However, if the decision maker is not omniscient and impartial – and this applies to most cases – then the involvement of more stakeholders and specialists undoubtedly leads to better results.

“Collaboration” thus becomes the keyword, even in the decision-making process, and collaborative decision-making, not surprisingly, is at the heart of the world’s most successful teams.

What really is collaborative decision-making

Collaborative decision-making happens when a team of individuals comes to a consensus.

This consensus should be reached on the best possible solution, based on a series of proposals.

Not only does this approach promote a team working atmosphere, but everyone involved is more committed to the successful implementation of the solution.

Below are some steps to make the decision-making process collaborative.

How to make the decision-making process collaborative: Choosing a facilitator

Most initiatives require a facilitator to ensure that the objectives are achieved. Collaborative decision-making is no different.

Without committed leadership the process is at risk of failure.

This facilitator will have the task of managing aspects such as:

  • Ottenere il buy-in e l’impegno delle principali parti interessate
  • Creare definizioni di successo e fallimento per l’iniziativa
  • Allineare l’iniziativa con altri obiettivi
  • Favorire il lavoro di squadra ed il dialogo costruttivo durante l’intero processo

Il facilitatore garantirà inoltre che il gruppo rimanga concentrato sul problema in questione e lo guiderà attraverso il processo di identificazione e selezione della soluzione.

How to make the decision-making process collaborative: Identify and understand the problem

Without a clear identification of the problem at hand, the whole decision-making process may fail and this may lead to team discouragement and confusion.

The first step towards success is therefore to ensure that each member can articulate the problem clearly.

 

Then, the next step is to list the unknowns surrounding the problem and to track what information has yet to be discovered.

It is also vital to involve the people directly concerned by the problem.

This advice may seem obvious, but if you look at how the most bureaucratic decisions are made, it is not what happens in reality.

However, people who are affected by a decision are generally more connected to the topic than the experts themselves; therefore, they can offer a variety of experiences and valuable information, interpretations and perspectives on the topic.

How to make the decision-making process collaborative: Develop a positive dialogue and discover alternative solutions

Instead of lingering over the negative impacts of the current problem, the team should focus on finding a solution.

It is easy to be overwhelmed with pessimism when attention is completely focused on the negative aspects.

The team should then focus on the details that can be changed and each team member should be free to provide their most original ideas without being judged.

Sometimes the best solution may not be found by the most obvious source or the most renowned experts.

How to make the decision-making process collaborative: Collect data

Once potential solutions are collected, data must be obtained to support them.

The project team should assess and analyse the value of the data collected against the ability to support the predefined successful measures without getting lost in other details of little importance for the specific situation.

How to make the decision-making process collaborative: Consider alternative solutions and make a selection

Now the team is finally ready to choose the best solution to the problem.

The facilitator can help team members to structure their thoughts on each proposed solution using specific tools, such as the decision matrix.

Clearly, there is a chance that an immediate consensus may not be reached and in that case it may be useful to complete the process with other types of tools, such as a cost-benefit analysis.

This will help the team to select the solution that best fits the business objectives.

decision-making process

How to make the decision-making process collaborative: Draw up an implementation plan for the chosen solution

The selection of a solution does not mean that the work is completed. Without implementing the proposed solution correctly, the problem will remain unsolved.

An effective implementation plan takes the final goal into account and focuses on creating steps and activities that will set the solution in motion.

The team should not be frightened if unexpected barriers or obstacles are discovered; this is a common event in the implementation phase.

As with the rest, any problems can be addressed by applying the same collaborative decision-making process.

 

Organizations of all sorts and sizes will benefit from a collaborative approach to decision-making.

In today’s competitive marketplace, teams must address problem solving in new ways and avoid the dangers and threats that uncertainty, disagreement and confusion can create.

Facilitated and collaborative methodology of a team-led decision making is the shortest path to lasting problem solving and to maintaining or fostering a strong teamwork culture.

Ultimately, pursuing a more collaborative approach is likely to increase the effectiveness of any important decision making process.

Increasing collaboration begins with identifying colleagues who are more likely to provide useful input and then listening sincerely to these ideas before making a final decision.

More importantly, in a collaborative decision making process most decisions are of much better quality and the commitment to those decisions is considerably higher, making collaboration the first choice in a decision making process, and not the last one.

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project reporting

Reporting system in projects

A reporting system is a key process in any organization and for every kind of project.

The information is used to provide all interested parties with information about the status of the project and is of course also used to make decisions.

Thus it is essential that the accounting and reporting system in project management is accurate at every stage.

Reporting may not be the most exciting part of a project manager’s work, but it helps to ensure that projects stay on track and end according to plan.

So let’s see in this article what are the most common types of reports in projects.

Types of reporting in project management

Project reporting means much more than just communicating the latest project updates to the team and stakeholders.

You can use project reports to mitigate risk, monitor budget and schedule and create more accurate project plans.

Here are some project reports that may prove valuable to a project manager:

  • Resource availability report
  • Project status report
  • Project health report
  • Risk assessment
  • Project baseline

Resource availability report

To build an accurate project plan, a project manager needs to know what resources are available to perform the work and for how long they will be available.

Furthermore, this report shows the amount of work that each team member accomplishes (and can accomplish) in their time available for the project. This allows the project manager to make weighted decisions about activity distribution.

Project status report

A weekly project status report is an easy way to keep the team and stakeholders informed and handle expectations as the project progresses.

Generally speaking, this report shows these results:

  • Completed activities
  • Activities under completion
  • Incoming activities
  • Overall project completion
  • Spent/available budget
  • Project risks or problems

This report does not necessarily need to get into too much detail and often it is enough to write a page with key information to learn the trend of the project.

In case stakeholders need more specific information, a meeting or a series of documents can be arranged.

project reporting system

Project health report

This kind of health status report provides a high quality view of a project’s status.

It is ideal for immediate sharing during meetings with the team and stakeholders, so that everyone knows at a glance which activities are on schedule, which are running against the clock and which – unfortunately – have already exceeded the deadline.

For example, the project can simply be split into 3 different levels of health status and, for an even stronger impact, with 3 different colors.

Here are the ones:

  • Activities in progress marked in green: activities that are in advance or meet the deadline.
  • Activities running behind the schedule marked in yellow: activities where there is still some time left until the deadline but in which case, if the current rhythm is maintained, it will be difficult to respect it.
  • Late activities marked in red: those activities that have missed the deadline and require special attention in order to avoid that the traps prevent the regular continuation of the whole project.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment helps to identify and categorize project risks according to their magnitude and likelihood of occurrence.

In this way, problems can be prioritized and the risk can be minimized before the entire success of the project is undermined.

Project baseline

A baseline report compares the original and initially planned timeline with the actual project timeline to determine which activities were performed on time or ahead of schedule and which were delayed.

It is also valuable to show how changes or delays affect the overall project timeline.

Best practices for project reporting system management

Here are a series of suggestions that will make the management of the reporting system in projects more effective:

  1. Set a deadline: a schedule in the reporting system fixes regular deadlines so that everyone knows when to expect and/or provide important updates on the project.
  2. Pay attention to the data: a report is only as good as the information it provides. Verifying that project details are up to date and correct before sharing reports with customers and stakeholders is essential.
  3. Writing with your audience in mind: team members, clients and stakeholders should not get lost in the details of the project (unless the purpose of the report is precisely that). Generally speaking, reports are brief, with bulleted and schematic lists and without the presence of technical terminology.
  4. Add graphic elements: an image is worth a thousand words and visual project management specialists are well aware of this. The use of diagrams and graphs when possible will make a report easier to assimilate.
  5. Be honest: if the project is late or over budgeting, don’t hesitate to mention it in the report. The sooner a problem emerges, the sooner it can be solved.
  6. Encourage sharing: a project report should be a launching pad for dialogue, not a static document carved in stone. This is how it becomes essential to create a space for feedback on the project and constructive discussions so that everyone agrees on the next steps to take.

 

Ultimately, an efficient reporting system is crucial for project activities execution.

Simply put, unless the organization uses an adequate reporting system, the project team and stakeholders won’t be able to know the full details of the project.

Stay constantly updated with reporting system.

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traceability matrix

The traceability matrix: what it is and what is it used for

The traceability matrix, also called Requirements Traceability Matrix or RTM, provides documentation of the links between the proposed requirements, concerning the project output, and the test phase.

Simply put, it is a document to map and track requirements and to ensure that an adequate level of testing is achieved for each of these requirements.

Indeed, when developing a product or service, you want to make sure that this output matches what was requested. To ensure this, the traceability matrix and tests are essential.

Traceability is the process of reviewing all defined test cases for any requirement.

Traceability allows one to determine which requirements generated the most defects during the testing process.

The traceability matrix is, essentially, a tool that helps to ensure that the purpose, requirements and results of the project remain in line with what was initially agreed.

Why is traceability of requirements necessary?

The requirements traceability matrix provides an accurate connection between requirements, test instances and defects.

Generally it ensures good output quality as all functionalities are tested.

Quality control can be achieved when the final product is tested for unexpected scenarios with minimal defects and all functional and non-functional requirements are met.

From that moment on, quality improvement can also be achieved.

Benefits of using requirements traceability matrix

The benefits of utilizing a traceability matrix are many, here are the most important ones:

  • The final product is tested and includes all the required functionalities that meet users’ needs and expectations. The end customer must get what they want. There cannot be any negative surprises for the user, if this happens it would not be a nice experience for anyone.

 

  • The final product developed and delivered to the customer must include only the required and expected features. The extra functionalities present in the product may initially look interesting until an overburden of time, budget and effort to develop them is experienced. Extra features can also become a source of defects and cause problems for a customer during or after use.

 

  • The activity of the project manager and their team can be set out clearly because they work first on the implementation of the requirements, which are of the highest priority, according to the client’s needs. If the high priority requirements are given clearly, the output elements can be developed and implemented in this order of importance. In this way the entire project plan can be set up clearly.

 

  • At the time of testing all the most important and top priority features can be examined, without losing time with unnecessary testing. This helps to produce a quality product that meets expectations.

the traceability matrix

 How to efficiently run tests with the help of a traceability matrix

To effectively run tests with the help of the traceability matrix, it is important to follow four basic rules:

Have a good communication channel

In case of modifications suggested by stakeholders or users, they must be promptly reported to the project team. Without this timely communication, accurate testing cannot be guaranteed.

Determine test scenarios priority

Identifying high priority test scenarios can be a challenging task. Trying to test all scenarios is in many cases an unachievable task, so the goal of the test must be very clear from the business and end-user point of view.

Process implementation

Testing process must be clearly defined taking into account factors such as technical infrastructure and implementations, team skills, past experience, organizational structures and processes undertaken, project estimates of costs, time and resources. A uniform implementation of the process considering the mentioned factors ensures that every person involved in the project is on the same page.

Effective implementation of the testing strategy

An effective testing strategy, supported by a traceability matrix, plays an important role in planning ahead for all types of critical challenges, which further helps to develop a better product.

How to create a requirements traceability matrix

In the process of creating a requirements traceability matrix, the following operations must be conducted:

  • Set objectives: Only one question needs to be answered is: “What purpose will the traceability matrix serve?” Here is an example of an objective to explain the concept: To create a traceability matrix to keep track of test cases and bugs that will be affected if changes are made to the requirements.
  • Collect artifacts: Once the objective is determined, it is necessary to know what artifacts you will need to achieve it. To create a traceability matrix of requirements, you will need to:
  • Requirements
  • Test cases
  • Test results
  • Bugs

The next step will be to collect these artifacts.

  • Create a traceability matrix template: For a requirements tracking matrix template, an Excel spreadsheet can be used and a column can be added for each artifact collected. The columns in Excel will be as follows:
RequirementsTest casesTest resultsBugs

 

  • Artifacts addition: Now you can add requirements, test cases, test results and bugs in their respective columns depending on the results achieved.
  • Update traceability matrix: The updating of the traceability matrix is an ongoing work that continues until the completion of the project. If the requirements change, it is mandatory to update the traceability matrix. If a new test case is added or a new bug is found, you need to update it in the traceability matrix of requirements.

 

Bottom line, the requirements traceability matrix is the way to map and track all customer and stakeholder requirements with test cases and defects detected.

It is a single document that has the main purpose of not losing track of test cases and therefore ensures that all the functionality of the final product is covered and tested.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

risk mitigation strategies

Risk mitigation strategies in project management

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

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

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

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

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

Risk mitigation strategies: Expanding requirements

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

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

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

Risk mitigation strategies: Have the right project team

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

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

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

risk mitigation

Risk mitigation strategies: Risk distribution and/or transfer

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

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

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

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

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

Risk mitigation strategies: Communicate and listen

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

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

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

Risk mitigation strategies: Assess project feasibility

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

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

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

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

Risk mitigation strategies: Run tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk mitigation strategies:  Have a plan B

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

You don’t have to worry… it happens.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Manage risks in your projects.

manage project criticalities

Manage project criticalities

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

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

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

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

Manage project criticalities: Break during project planning process

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manage project criticalities: Scope Creep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manage project criticalities: Budget is exceeded

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

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

This could be due to three reasons:

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

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

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

Manage project criticalities: Missing or inefficient communication

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

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

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

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

project criticalities

Manage project criticalities: Missing deadlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manage project criticalities: Lack of responsibility

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

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

Manage project criticalities: Decentralized information

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Manage project criticalities with Twproject.

21st century pm

21st century project management and increased productivity

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

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

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

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

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

Project management transformation in the 21st century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pm in 21st century

Project manager’s role

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

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

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

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

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

Innovating therefore becomes the lifeblood for organizational survival.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change your approach to project management now

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sow

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Statement of Work?

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

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

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

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

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

When is a SOW needed?

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

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

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

statement of work

When should the SOW be drafted?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is included in the Statement of Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Manage your project at your best.

success projects

Successful projects: evaluation parameters

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

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

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

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

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

Why measure the success of a project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

success evaluation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criteria for successful project management

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

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

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

Other project management criteria can be added such as:

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

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

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

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

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

 The “define, align and approve” paradigm

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

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

Let’s see each point further in detail:

1. Success criteria must be explicitly set out

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

2. Success criteria must be ‘aligned’ adequately.

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

3. Success criteria must be duly approved

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

 

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

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

Determine and manage project criticalities and risks (second part)

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

Effective criticality management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to address criticalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After having addressed the criticality…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warning flags indicating that you’re drifting towards failure

1. There is no project risk

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

2. Some risks remain unidentified

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

3. Risk identification is incomplete

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

4. You don’t have a risk mitigation plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for dealing correctly with project risks and criticalities

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

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

2. Give the right scale to each single risk

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

3. Know who is responsible and owner of the risk

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manage project criticalities

One try is worth a million words.