Gantt timeline

Gantt timeline and its relevance to project management software

A timeline can be described as a chart that helps you understand the progress of a project in terms of activities on the Y axis and their duration on the X axis. We had already discussed Gantt in a different article, today we will try to explore other aspects of a timeline.

If the standard vertical to-do list doesn’t provide the necessary information to manage a project, the timeline may be the solution; it is an extremely useful tool in project planning.

Also, the option of having the Gantt timeline available in an automated manner can exponentially improve the workflow and its charting.

So let’s see in this article the importance of a timeline in a project management software.

How can the automated Gantt timeline benefit the project team?

The timeline is a tool that is used in two key phases of the project life cycle: planning and monitoring.

The most common project management actions performed using this tool are:

  • Visualizing the schedule
  • Allocating due dates to tasks
  • Allocating resources to activities
  • Identifying the critical path
  • Tracking work items progression

Some of the distinguishing elements that set project management software apart from a manual Gantt timeline include:

  • Color coding. To portray different attributes of the activity, such as who is responsible for its completion. For example: all of Maria’s activities are blue, all of Francesco’s activities are yellow, etc.
  • To display how much work of a given task has been completed. For example, a task that is 50% complete is half shaded.
  • Dependent activities. A software allows you to automatically cycle through the planning when changes are made to one of the dependent activities.
  • Drag-and-drop. This allows users to easily move a task to change the schedule, even automatically updating following tasks due dates.
  • Easily hide or show task details. Users can click or hover over a task to view its details, such as start date, expected end date, completion percentage, and who is in charge.

Now let’s see what additional benefits having the timeline in a project management software brings.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Complex information is more manageable

Gantt timeline makes a project’s critical information easily manageable and accessible.

Users can learn at a glance:

  • Who on the team will accomplish the task
  • When the task will be completed
  • How that particular task relates to the project as a whole

To pass on this information, tasks are displayed as horizontal lines and are color-coded to represent the employee or department to which they are assigned.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Increased team productivity

the Gantt timeline

Task assignments and progress information are displayed publicly in work progress Meetings, helping individuals to maintain control over their work and allowing team members to assume responsibility.

Once a project is underway, the Gantt timeline shows progress in several ways, including::

  • Activity will be shaded, thus reflecting the completion percentage.
  • Users can hover or click on a task to view extra details, such as “start date,” “end date,” and “duration.”
  • Also, some tools allow managers or administrators to schedule alerts via email or other messaging tools when a task is approaching its due date or if a task is in danger of not being completed on time, allowing corrective measures to be implemented.

Thus, by publicly tracking progress, the automated timeline can also be used as a motivational tool.

Progress tracking can be used to motivate teams to make an effort to achieve and complete the tasks for which they are accountable.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Improved resource planning

The Gantt timeline allows the project manager to distribute work more effectively among resources due to current and future project schedules mapped to their respective timelines.

Needless to say, Gantt is not the only planning tool used, and many project management software includes resource management capabilities.

Yet, any software that includes a timeline offers additional insight into employee use and availability.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software: Information centralization

Centralizing project information through a timeline helps to keep different stakeholders in line, allowing them to easily share information and remain up-to-date.

This is a great way to summarize complex project data for a range of audiences, as users can choose to view only the information that is most important to them.

In fact, the Gantt timeline is compressible and expandable, allowing the user to select the appropriate level of detail.

This is particularly true when using cloud-based project management software that automatically updates and reflects any changes made in real time.

Because these solutions allow any user to log in at any time from any device, remote teams can thus be even more connected.

Benefits of the timeline in a project management software:  Project and team requirements are straightforward

The timeline helps employees to better understand their responsibilities and how their activities are tied to the overall project.

This also helps project managers and other stakeholders in determining project milestones.

The timeline basically is a sort of map that helps everyone involved in a project visualize how they will get from the beginning to the end result.

Start now with Twproject

The importance of Gantt charts cannot be denied once you become familiar with them, and with Twproject is so much easier.

Twproject allows you to draw the project wbs, add durations and dependencies between tree nodes, assign resources, until you have a complete Gantt of the project that will guide you throughout its entire  life cycle:

 

Discover Twproject’s Gantt timeline.

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the babok guide

Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide)

Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK ® Guide) is the ultimate guide to the business analysis art. Few analysts can really work without relying on it.

The guide is described as “a globally recognized standard for the practice of business analysis,” written with the aim of defining the skills and knowledge that a seasoned professional should display… and that’s just what it does.

BABOK® is a comprehensive guide that at the same time can be applicable to any industry or knowledge level.

With the BABOK®, analysts:

  • will have an authoritative and concise encyclopedia of what they should know to be regarded as competent in every facet of their profession.
  • will keep at the forefront and up-to-date in their field, becoming familiar with the latest business analysis practices.
  • will gain access to a comprehensive list of techniques and concepts, along with details about how to implement them correctly.

BABOK® thus acts as a common denominator for the profession, providing a consistent standard of what is included in business analysis.

This guide outlines requirements, tasks, stakeholder and skills in a broad way that can be applied within any company.

Clearly, this is not to say that the BABOK® is intended to replace real-world experience or formal education programs, but it is nonetheless an essential reference guide that is comprehensive and covers virtually every aspect of the profession.
babok guide

BABOK® Structure

The content of this guide is structured in chapters, where each relates to the business analysis knowledge areas, including:

  • Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring. This chapter covers how to decide what you need to do to complete an analysis; in short, how to plan your project. It will help you decide intelligently what stakeholders, tools, activities, and techniques you need to get the job done.
  • Elicitation. This chapter covers the research process, i.e., how best to “extract” needs from stakeholders and how to recognize needs they don’t know they have. Techniques for doing this, such as brainstorming, are among the topics covered.
  • Enterprise Analysis. This chapter describes the key process of keeping everyone up-to-date and on the same page throughout the project lifecycle. The chapter goes into details such as requirements review and approval processes.
  • Requirements Analysis. Here it elaborates on how to write and state requirements that will meet business needs. Key sections include methods for prioritizing and organizing requirements, along with the most efficient techniques for presenting requirements, such as status diagrams, flow charts, and more.
  • Solution Assessment and Validation. This chapter outlines in detail how to choose the best solutions for specific business needs, as well as assessing how the chosen solution has worked – or didn’t – after its implementation. Here you will learn about risks, dependencies, and limitations that must be identified before offering any solution.
  • Requirements Management and Communication. This chapter covers how to identify the business needs, namely the reason for the project. This is a pivotal part of the analyst’s job. The authors include SMART measurement criteria, SWOT analysis, and other measurement factors that make the identification of needs objective and concrete.

Each of these domains is then broken down into a series of tasks that allow the analyst to accomplish the goals of each area.

Each of these tasks includes the following aspects:

  • Purpose
  • A description of why the task is needed and the expected outcomes
  • Required inputs
  • Support elements for the correct execution of the task
  • Relevant techniques for successfully completing the task
  • Stakeholders to be engaged in carrying out the task
  • Expected outputs

Each of these topics and many more are thoroughly documented and reviewed, and best practices are defined.

BABOK® covers everything; any relevant business analysis topic is explored.

Furthermore, most chapters are accompanied by diagrams and charts to help the reader understand each concept.

BABOK®, as its authors highlight, is not a methodology for performing business analysis; here you will not find any detailed description of how to carry out the work of business analysis, but you will find a virtual encyclopedia of endless possibilities that gives you an idea of how you can get the job done.

Whether you are looking to kickstart your career in business analysis or you want to make sure you are doing your best work, BABOK® is an imperative resource.

BABOK® in project management

The boundaries between business analysis and project management, in particular, are thin, especially when dealing with organizational change projects.

Moreover, a project manager must be able to both interpret and assess the impact on the organization of the projects they are working on.

Hence, within the PMBOK®, you can find several references to business analysis techniques.

This is how the BABOK® can also become an important reference for any project manager.

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project delays

Bottlenecks and project delays

A bottleneck is basically a situation where work is delayed.

It can be a one-off event due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a team member who gets sick, or it can be events that happen on a regular basis due to poor planning or a lack of resources.

The most common methods of getting things back on track include working overtime, hiring additional support and pushing back the delivery date.

The problem is that all of these solutions end up eating up, and sometimes draining, the project budget, employee energy, and client patience.

Rather than looking for a quick fix, it’s important to address bottlenecks in projects before they arise.

This means a strong measure of forward planning, excellent communication with the team and beyond, and the right tools for the task.

What is a bottleneck and what is the cause?

Bottlenecks in projects occur when the team or an employee cannot process their work in a timely manner, thus causing a delay.

This could be due to a team member having to take an unplanned break, a technical issue arises, a communication breakdown occurs, or the manager has overestimated how much their team could do at maximum capacity.

Although it’s difficult to predict employee illness and faulty or out-of-service equipment, there are things you can do to help your team keep moving forward regardless.

How to find a bottleneck

When using a spreadsheet as a planning tool, you should identify bottlenecks where the number of hours of work to be done in a day exceeds the number of work hours in the day, either for an individual or for the team as a whole.

If you use a project management software, ou can leverage Gantt charts s a graphic way to organize schedules and quickly identify problems.

If you are working following the Lean method, you can keep track of work through Kanban charts and thus finding very quickly where there is an overrun – this is a possible sign of a potential bottleneck.

However, it is worth remembering that not all short delays are an indication of a bottleneck.

In this case, you can measure for how long work remains in the queue and note the number of items waiting.

If tasks start piling up faster than they are being processed, you are almost certainly experiencing a bottleneck.

How to stop a bottleneck before it happens

The most obvious and easiest way to deal with a bottleneck is to invest money and resources, but this is not always necessary.

Here are two of the most popular techniques for stopping a bottleneck before it’s too late:

Stopping a bottleneck: Processing the critical path

The Critical Path Method (CPM), helps identifying the most important activities and then coming up with the quickest way to complete a project. To process a project’s critical path, you need to identify the longest section of dependent activities. This gives a sort of “bare minimum” time frame that you can use to plan the project.

Stopping a bottleneck: Distributing resources – leveling

Resource leveling is, simply put, the act of working on a project with people assigned to a set of tasks and doing it in such a way that they don’t have to work overtime.

Basically, it’s a process of shuffling tasks so that team members can work on tasks consecutively instead of simultaneously, thus helping to avoid bottlenecks.

How to limit a bottleneck when it happens

Not every bottleneck necessarily escalates into a disaster. Here are some possible solutions to limit the effects of a bottleneck once it happens:

How to limit a bottleneck: Act promptly

Bottlenecks have a domino effect on the rest of the workflow, also introducing an element of chaos. When schedules change, deadlines can be ignored and emotions can overrule rationality, leading to bad decisions.

The key to mitigating blowback is to act quickly. If a bottleneck has already started, you need to address it immediately and not give it any more space.
project bottlenecks

How to limit a bottleneck: Do not compromise quality

In the case of a bottleneck, a project manager might be tempted to skip certain steps not considered so necessary, such as quality control. However, this is a bad idea.

Each project step is necessary, and skipping them may save time, but could lead to bigger problems later on.

How to limit a bottleneck: Keeping WIP (Work in progress) limits

The purpose here is to limit the amount of work that can be delayed in Work in Progress (WIP) stage. This is also less daunting and stressful for project team members.

How to limit a bottleneck: Increase resources

If you have people willing to help, why not take advantage of them? This will help get the job done quickly and efficiently. One way to do this would be to keep a list of trusted freelancers or external contractors who will work on call and can serve as backup.

It’s also a good idea to have a small budget set aside in case of an emergency.

How to limit a bottleneck: Prepare for all eventualities

The best way to address a bottleneck is to plan for one before it occurs. In this case, investing in good project management software allows for activity tracking tools and charts that help the project manager detect any potential bottlenecks ahead of time.

With a software like Twproject, for example, you could identify overloaded resources and take actions before a bottleneck became a real problem for your project.

 

Bottlenecks are one of the main reasons why projects get delayed, budgets are not met due to additional costs, and the whole process becomes unpredictable.

Preventing is always better than treating, even in the case of bottlenecks it is always better to have a plan to avoid encountering these obstacles, but even if they do occur, with the proper strategy it is always possible to avoid problems that will undermine a project’s success.

Avoid delays and bottlenecks.

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preventive action

Preventive and corrective actions in project quality

Corrective and preventive actions are processes used to identify, record, and address defects, deficiencies, and nonconformities.

These are also called “CAPA” (“Corrective Actions Preventive Actions”) and constitute an organization’s immune system.

Typically, corrective action, preventive action, and defect repair are terms commonly used in project quality management.

Defect correction is a simple concept, yet distinguishing corrective action and preventive action can be difficult; in fact, the difference is so minimal that many people get confused.

What is the CAPA?

CAPA, as stated previously, is the abbreviation for Corrective Actions Preventive Actions.

These two aspects of CAPA are usually connected, but here’s the main difference between the two:

  • Corrective action: elimination of the cause(s) of an existing non-conformity or undesirable situation in order to prevent its future recurrence.
  • Preventive action: identification and elimination of the causes of potential nonconformities in order to prevent their occurrence.

In standards-based quality certifications such as ISO 9000 for example, the preventive action description directly follows the corrective action description, which has led to the misconception that the two processes should work together.

Actually, they are two separate paths and preventive action ideally precedes corrective action to prevent or avoid the need for corrective action.

Thus, corrective action is reactive, while preventive action is proactive.

What does corrective action mean?

Corrective action means identifying, documenting and eliminating the root cause of a nonconformity or problem to prevent the problem from repeating.

Corrective actions are looked at in more detail than corrections – which solve immediate problems – and corrective actions are typically implemented over a slightly longer period of time to prevent recurrence.

For example, if you put a bucket under a leaky pipe, this is a correction because it solves a problem immediately. However, if you inspect the entire sink and drain and notice that the pipe is dripping and clogging repeatedly due to a damaged gasket which is then replaced, this is a corrective action.

Corrective Process Steps

Here are some steps you can find in a corrective process:

  • Identifying and documenting the problem promptly. Ask questions to obtain details and determine if this is a one-time event or if it has the potential to recur.
  • Implementing a temporary fix, mitigation, or repair.
  • Determining the cause of the problem.
  • Determining the solution that will prevent the problem from recurring. Solutions may include new parts or process changes.
  • Implementing corrective action and making sure everything is reported.
  • Verifying that the action continues to be effective and that the problem does not recur.

corrective action

What is preventive action?

Preventive action is now considered a part of good planning and proper risk analysis and management.

This fully embraces the idea that prevention comes first and eradicates problems and, therefore, the necessity for corrective action.

Preventive action determines what in a project might deviate from the chosen path and cause, for example, over budget or low quality output.

A good example, referring back to the previous one, would be to check the pipes and drains of all the sinks present to see if certain parts should be replaced before they fail.

A preventive action process, besides including a specific preventive action plan to mitigate potential problems, also includes implementing controls to ensure that any preventive measures continue to work.

Preventive action means identifying not only potential problems, but also improvement potential opportunities.

Popular – yet wrong – ideas about CAPA

Although regulations may require organizations to properly record CAPA processes and adhere to them, organizations often have the following misconceptions about this concept:

  • It is a punishment because something went wrong
  • It’s extra work. The solution is to set up a review board with people trained in appropriate roles so that CAPA becomes a regular responsibility.
  • Training is too expensive. Management often complains that neither budgets nor programs offer resources for training employees in the efficient implementation of CAPA, yet you can save money by setting up a process.

CAPA is easier with a little help

Companies will always find flaws in their products or processes, but there will always be room for improvement, and that is the reason why, using a software management software is crucial.

Corrective action is an activity that has been determined to correct or resolve a present problem, while preventive action is defined as an activity identified to prevent a problem that may occur in the near or distant future, both, with a software like Twproject can be determined easily.

Twproject will show late projects in real time and issues incurred for corrective actions and, at the same time, can create a knowledge base for preventive actions for future projects.

Although the purpose is different for both, preventive and corrective actions are created to address issues in the past, present, or future.

The ability to identify risks and help identify corrective and preventive actions is an important skill that organizations can – and should – develop and use to their advantage at the expense of the common, but misconceptions surrounding CAPA.

Prevent, identify and correct risks.

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relevance of strategic thinking

Strategic thinking and its relevance for a successful project manager

Strategic thinking and its importance is what elevates a project manager to the next level. Project managers are definitely accountable for a project’s timely delivery, but it’s their skill in crafting a strategy that makes the difference.

Project managers in fact spend most of their days trying to push the project toward its ultimate goal, and generally their focus is somewhat “short ranged.”

They do keep the end goal in mind, but their focus is usually on the next step, or two or three.

This type of thinking is tactical. However, strategic thinking is different.

When thinking strategically, much more emphasis is given to the long-term goal.

In project work, an effective strategy can greatly reduce the level of tactical effort required.

Strategic thinking is therefore the first step in successfully executing any project.

Strategic thinking and how to strengthen it in the business scenario

There’s no denying that everyday life can make this difficult as project managers manage multiple work streams and find themselves under increasing pressure to deliver more at a faster pace (and often with fewer resources).

When you have so much going on, it can be hard to see beyond the current to-do list.

Some organizations solve this problem by creating program manager or project portfolio roles.

These people are assigned to supervise a series of projects and are typically in charge of defining a vision for the group that supports business goals.

Yet everyone, in their small way and project manager included, benefits from more strategic thinking.

When you know where you are going and why, you are more psychologically prepared to add value and make an impact.

Here, then, is how a project manager can strengthen their strategic thinking skills every day:

  • Think big

It might seem difficult to get the big picture when you’re working through the details, but it’s important to think holistically about how each effort supports overall business goals.

  • Become even more curious

Awareness of the big picture is not the same as knowledge. It’s critical to constantly look for the why of things and understand what the criteria are for achieving long-term success.

  • Ponder and analyze

After each project, a retrospective look back is necessary. It may be worth starting a project log to also note any revelations as you move forward. Think about and analyze these reports and weigh what went well and what you want to improve next time, ask for feedback from colleagues and stakeholders.

Shifting from tactical to strategic project management

It has become quite clear that successful project management not only requires the application of tactical management, but also strategic thinking.

However, traditionally, project management has been mainly a tactical tool, focusing on accomplishing work, managing schedules, and driving projects to completion within set time e and budget constraints.

However, as organizations began to face an unprecedented marketplace and increased competition, increasingly more of them have come to recognize that project managers can bring much more value than simply ensuring the successful coordination of activities.

Simply put, project managers can and should operate at a more strategic level to help an organization evolve, innovate and prosper.

The rise of this approach is all about aligning a company’s project objectives with its strategic goals and overall mission.

Strategic project management is not simply about executing projects for the sake of continuity of operations; it involves carefully selecting, prioritizing, and channeling resources to the projects that will contribute most to organizational success while increasing revenues.

How to ensure projects support the strategy

strategic thinking

Projects are the core of a strategy – this is where stuff moves and progress is made.

So how can you make sure that activities are well aligned with the business strategy?

  • Ensure projects support objectives

In short: every active goal needs at least one Project. You can have future goals that have not yet “started,” but any currently “active” goal should have at least one project related to it. Depending on the scope of each goal, you may also need to have multiple projects for each one.

  • Ensure that projects meet their objectives

Goals are met if related projects are delivered. Should this not be the case – i.e., projects are successfully completed, but the goal is not met – you need to find out where the shortcoming lies.

  • Ensure sub-projects align with objectives

As stated before, every project should have a clear link to one or more objectives, although there may be cases, such as sub-projects, where this connection is not so straightforward. Even if a project is not directly linked to a goal, the objective must still support what you are trying to accomplish. A good example is when there is a sub-project within a “parent” project that clearly aligns with a goal. In this case, the sub-project is still indirectly connected to the business strategy.

Benefits of strategic thinking in project management

Implementing strategic thinking into project management leads to competitive advantage in the marketplace.

The art of identifying and choosing the proper projects to work on in a given period of time is proving to be a particularly significant benefit in the modern marketplace.

Strategic thinking applied by project management in project selection enables the identification and selection of projects that will provide the greatest value to an organization.

As opposed to the practice of conducting expensive projects that are not fully compatible with business objectives, this alignment can shed a new light on the project selection process.

Funds are spent more mindfully to improve their impact on the organization’s overall performance, thereby increasing profitability and reducing unnecessary expenditures.

This alignment can also improve project success rates and the organization’s ability to quickly meet customer needs and expectations.

When each project contributes directly to the company’s bottom line, the organization as a whole improves, thus improving customer experiences and retention rates.

 

Ultimately, tactical management is definitely important to a project, but it is still incomplete if strategic thinking is not also applied.

One simply will not work without the other. Therefore, as a project manager with sound tactical skills, it is also important to develop a long-term strategic thinking attitude.

Plan your projects’ strategies with Twproject.

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work package of a project

Work packages: what are they and what relation do they have with wbs?

Work packages, what are they and what relation do they have with wbs? That’s what we will discuss in this article.

A work package is a set of inter-related activities within a project.

These activities are grouped to create a sort of mini-project within a project.

Work packages, in short, are the smallest unit of work into which a project can be split during the work breakdown structure creation, the so-called WBS.

What are project Work Packages

A work package is generally established as a result of the following characteristics that activities may share:

  • Type of work involved (i.e. Marketing, finance, etc.).
  • Task Results
  • Geographical location where said activities take place
  • Time when the activities will be completed
  • Technology or materials that will be used
  • Team leaders in charge
  • Specific stakeholders

By bringing related activities together, a work package becomes an element that is easier for the project team to understand.

Team members are thus able to see the connection between different work streams and focus on those that apply to them.

As part of a work breakdown program – work breakdown structure WBS -, using work packages delivers a greater sense of understanding because each block of related activities can be easily visualized.

To tell the difference between what is a work package and a true stand-alone project, you need to examine the outcomes.

Each work package is always just one element of something bigger, so its outcomes will be directly related to promoting the goals of the overall project.

Let’s use the following example: If you add a new feature to a technology product, such as project management software, there may be several work packages related to its development, including:

  • Design
  • Development
  • Test
  • Integration
  • Roll out

work packages

Within each of these packages there will be a variety of different activities. However, by keeping related activities organized, it will become easier to communicate with lead teams and set milestones and deadlines to better manage the entire project’s critical path.

The use of work packages also provides a reference point for describing and managing the various metrics related to a project, such as:

  • Budget: knowing how much is allocated to each area and how well this is being met.
  • Deadlines: how well they are being met and whether some areas are causing more delays than others.
  • Risks: what needs to be monitored to know where and how likely problems are to occur.
  • Priorities: significance of different areas and what you need to focus on first.
  • Stakeholders: knowing who needs to be kept up-to-date on different aspects of the business.

Why are work packages important?

By segmenting a project into work packages, the Work Breakdown Structures development becomes easier and project managers will have a greater level of control over the various tasks.

Other benefits include:

  • Work packages enable simultaneous work by multiple teams on different components of a project. Each team follows tasks defined for that work package and completes them within the given deadline.
  • When teams have completed their individual work packages, the entire project reunites seamlessly. The completion of a work package is often overseen by a specific person who may be the project manager himself or a specifically assigned supervisor.
  • Even though costs are estimated at the activity level, these estimations are aggregated at the work package level, where they are measured, managed, and controlled.
  • For each work package, direct labor costs, direct costs for material, equipment, travel, contractual services, and other non-personal resources, and associated indirect costs can be determined. Then, the individual costs of all work packages are aggregated to reach the authorized cost baseline or authorized budget for the project.

Work package performance measurement

A work package performance can be measured using the earned value management technique.

This integrates project scope, costs, and schedule measures to help the team assess and measure project performance and progress.

It involves preparing a baseline against which the performance of work packages can be measured for the duration of the project.

Earned value management develops and monitors three key dimensions for each work package:

  • Planned value: the planned value is the authorized budget assigned to the work to be performed for the work package.
  • Earned value: the earned value is the value of the work performed expressed in terms of the approved budget allocated to the work package.
  • Actual cost: Actual cost is the total cost actually sustained and recorded for the performance of the work performed for a work package.

Work package preparation guidelines

When breaking down a WBS to the work package level, WBS nodes may be split to extreme levels, wasting time and making the project difficult to understand, manage, and adjust.

There are many factors to consider when deciding how far to decompose the WBS, however the most important are:

  • Work packages should be small enough to estimate time and cost.
  • The project manager and project team should be positive that the current level of detail provides sufficient information to proceed with the following tasks.
  • Work packages should be small enough to be assigned to a single person or group that can be held accountable for results.
  • Although this might differ from project to project, most project managers agree that the 8/80 rule can be applied to measure a work package. This rule says that no work package should be under 8 hours and over 80 hours.
  • Work packages may reside at different levels in the WBS hierarchy. Project managers should not artificially force WBS into a structure where all work packages are at the same hierarchical level. This could lead to problems arising as the project progresses, such as forced details or lack of control where it is really needed.

Get Started

For project managers, the successful use of work packages is key as it allows them to easily differentiate and outsource tasks required to deliver a project, for this reason, having a project management software helping you is essential.

A software like Twproject could help you designing the WBS easily, deviding the project in work packages for enhancing delegation.

The most important benefit, however, is that work packages allow a major project to be segmented into more manageable parts so that neither the project manager nor the team is overwhelmed by the size of the project undertaken.

Start now designing your WBS

showcase a project

How to successfully showcase a project: 6 key tips

Knowing how to deliver a project in the right way is key to the project manager’s success and ensures that they are credited for their professionalism.

Furthermore, it is obvious that a good presentation significantly increases the chances of approval.

Yet, and if you’ve been through this you know it well, how many times before the presentation of a project you are tormented by doubts and questions such as “What if I’m wrong?… What if I will bore the audience?… What if I will forget some important detail?… What if I won’t be able to answer a question?”

Whether in front of an audience of hundreds of people or before a small group, many speakers wonder how to present their projects successfully and are nervous before going in front of an audience.

No matter how high or low the stakes, here are six tips that will boost confidence and help engage the audience.

In this article, we want to give you 6 key tips to overcome fears and perfectly present a project.

How to successfully present a project: 1. Establish your credibility

The material presented won’t be considered meaningful and the audience won’t be impressed if the speaker can’t convince them of their credibility.

Even in the case of an expert with many qualifications, the audience may still “put up a wall” if they don’t trust the speaker.

Establishing credibility begins the very moment the speaker enters the room. Here are some tips:

  • Dress accordingly for the audience and situation so that your attire will not distract from your presentation.
  • Convey confidence through body language by standing upright, looking the audience in their eyes, and avoiding nervous tics like twitching your hands or clicking your pen.
  • At the beginning of the presentation, establish credibility by explaining what qualifies the presenter to present the project.
  • Ultimately, polish every aspect of the presentation ahead of time, from the use of high-quality images to speech practice.

How to successfully present a project: 2. Make the most out of your space

Moving around on a stage, in a classroom or conference room will not only make the speaker appear more in control of the situation and more confident about their presentation, it will also keep the audience more engaged by making their presentation more dynamic. At the same time, this doesn’t mean walking incessantly as too much movement can be distracting and disruptive.

How to successfully present a project: 3. Do not be afraid of silence

It is tempting to fill in any silence gaps by talking constantly, but by doing so you are not giving the audience enough time to internalize what you are presenting.

Talking too much and too fast can also give the impression of a nervous speaker. Allowing for pauses and some silence will help the audience assimilate and retain more information.

A trick, for example, is to pause after presenting a big problem or solution and let the weight of that information fall on the audience. Or, allow some visual elements of the presentation to speak for themselves when showing a significant image or important graphic.

With practice, silence can become an important ally in impressing an audience.

How to successfully present a project: 4. Don’t linger on mistakes

Mistakes happen and to err is human. Laptops can crash, devices can fail, or one might forget a few key phrases or concepts. Audiences are less likely to judge a speaker based on their mistakes and more likely to appreciate how that speaker picks up. Should an error occur, it is important not to linger on it and move on.

How to successfully present a project: 5. Use visual elements

Visual elements often can make or break a presentation, highlight project results or not be understood.

By using an interactive presentation tool, you can bring abstract ideas to life by synthesizing and visualizing concepts through images and video.

Each time you include a visual element in a presentation though, you need to remember that the content of the presentation should be complementary to what is being said by the presenter and should not serve as the main act.

An example that should not be copied is that of speakers who do nothing more than read their presentation verbatim.

successfully showcase a project

How to successfully present a project: 6. Engage your audience

You need to engage the audience from the get go and keep the attention level high throughout your project presentation.

The beginning of the presentation is like the first page of a book. After that first line or paragraph, would the audience keep reading?

The audience can be engaged by presenting the problem which your presentation will attempt to address, sharing a personal anecdote, or making a connection to current events or other important issues encompassing the conversation on a broader level.

Once the audience has been captivated, their attention can be held through a dialogue with them or an interactive presentation. If it is appropriate to the situation, the speaker can ask questions and get the audience to interact and take an active part.

If you can make the audience feel like they are part of the presentation and not a passive element, they will most likely appreciate the presentation and the message will be remembered

 

Presentation skills aren’t something people are born with. Sure, some may be more gifted than others, but despite the naturalness with which some speakers may seem comfortable in front of an audience, even the most talented speakers usually practice a lot.

Preparing for a presentation, which begins with the research and gathering of material and information about the target group to the creation of the presentation, gets easier as experience and routine increase.

Like all things, the more often you face the challenge of speaking in front of an audience, the easier it will be to avoid making mistakes in the future.

How a project management software can help you presenting your project

Project progress, delivery times, costs, commitment of resources, data turning around your project are so many and being able to show them effectively without boring your audience can be tricky.  Of course, you can help yourself with tools such as Excel sheets and charts but having a project management software to help you can show the results of the project in real time.

Project management software can show your Gantt and how it has changed in time.

The load of your resources and the progress of the work done in addition to the project costs and all the attached documentation. Comprehensive statistics can help you highlight any problems encountered by being sure to show updated data at each meeting!

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

company change

Company organizational change: change management process and project manager’s role

Organizational transformation within a company is typically undertaken because it is believed that the transition will enable a firm to work at a higher level. The aim is to become more efficient, productive, in short, to transform the company into innovative and more profitable.

It’s also meant to keep up with new technological and economic developments; in some ways, organizations are forced to embrace change.

If change is poorly dealt with, however, it can become a double-edged sword, leading to a loss of productivity and poor employee performance. In this regard, you may find it worthwhile to read another article in which we discussed how to deal with resistance to change in your company.

Managers, including project managers, need to understand their role in change management.

Hence, here are some tips you can use to manage the change management process in your company more effectively.

What is organizational change?

Organizational change is the process in which a company modifies strategic or operational key components.

This may involve changes to the company’s culture, essential technologies, organizational structure, or key initiatives and objectives.

Organizational change is typically categorized into two types: adaptive change or transformational change.

  • Adaptive changes are small, incremental changes that an organization makes to evolve over time and can be thought of as the tweaking of business processes and strategies.
  • Transformational changes are larger in scope and scale and typically bring a major change in direction for the organization. These changes are often the result of external forces putting pressure on the company, such as the arrival of a new competitor.

Why does a company change?

Organizational change is the motion of an organization from one state of affairs to another.

A change in the environment often requires a change within the organization operating within that environment.

This change might be planned years in advance, be incremental and slow or, in cases of extreme urgency, be abrupt and drastic.

In any case, regardless of the type, change involves abandoning old ways and processes of working and adapting to new methodologies, strategies and visions.

Let’s see what can be the reasons for a company change:

  1. Organization demographics: The average workforce age is steadily increasing. The baby boom generation approaching retirement age and insufficient numbers of young workers are not helping to close the gap. Organizations may realize that as the workforce ages, the benefits preferred by workers may change. Work arrangements such as flexible work schedules and job sharing may become more popular as employees remain in the workforce after retirement. Thus, organizations need to formulate new strategies to address these different needs.
  2. Technology: Sometimes change is driven by quick technological developments that, over time, will become increasingly commonplace.
  3. Globalization: Globalization is another threat – an opportunity for organizations, depending on their capability of adapting to it. Due to differences in national economies and living standards across countries, organizations in developed countries are discovering that it is often cheaper to produce goods and provide services in less developed countries. Yet economies in countries are not static either, and given these changes, understanding how to manage a global workforce is a must. Managing employee stress from moving abroad, retraining the workforce, and learning how to compete with a global workforce are changes that companies must deal with.
  4. Market conditions changes: Market changes can also create internal shifts as companies must adapt. A very clear example of this is the Coronavirus pandemic that has literally upset the majority of industries.
  5. Growth: It is obvious for small startups to grow if they are successful, and as an organization grows, organizational change is required accordingly.
  6. Poor performance: Change can happen even if the company is underperforming and there is a threat perceived from the environment. In fact, poorly performing companies often find it easier to change compared to successful businesses. How come? High performance can lead to overconfidence and inaction. As a result, successful companies often continue to do what made them successful in the first place.

organizational change

Tips for change management in a company

Here are five tips and strategies you can use to better manage change within a company.

1. Understanding change process

All change processes have a series of starting conditions – Point A – and an end point – Point B.

The change process is all that happens between these two points and includes several steps that are generally grouped into three phases: preparation, implementation, and follow-through.

Here’s what happens during each phase:

Preparation: the change manager focuses on preparing both the organization and its employees; this means helping employees understand the need for the upcoming transition and mapping out the vision and plan to achieve it.

Implementation: the change manager focuses on implementing changes in a way that is compatible with the company’s vision for the future.

Follow-through: the change manager focuses on ensuring that change is integrated into the company’s culture and operations.

2. Understanding forces of change

To effectively deal with change, managers must first understand why this is necessary.

Without doing so, it can be challenging to create a plan that tackles core concerns and fundamental questions such as:

  • Which pressures are driving change?
  • Are these internal pressures, like a new leadership?
  • Are these external pressures, such as the development of new technology or the arrival of a new competitor?

If people understand the factors that necessitated an organizational change, they will be more likely to embrace it.

3. Create a plan

After understanding the reason for the change, you need to create a plan.

This plan should broadly outline why the change is needed, define its scope, determine key stakeholders, build a team and provide a detailed roadmap of the steps needed to complete the transition.

By having a defined strategy in place, it makes it easier to communicate the change to employees and monitor progress.

4. Communicate

When leading an organization during a time of significant change, clear and purposeful communication is one of the most powerful assets.

In short, leaders must be able to communicate change to two very different audiences: the first consisting of employees and the second consisting of management.

In the former case, these people must understand the need for change and the impact it will have on their job responsibilities.

In the second case, these people must be convinced that the change is necessary and, once they agree, they must be regularly updated on the status of the project.

5. Prepare for roadblocks

Regardless of how much you prepare for a change, often not everything will work out according to plan.

Even at the planning stage, it is critical to try to foresee potential roadblocks.

Once these obstacles are identified, even the most complex problems can be addressed and fixed.

 

As Heraclitus said twenty centuries ago, “Everything flows.”

In other words, change is a human constant and, consequently, it is also a constant in the business sector.

Adapting to and managing change therefore becomes a fundamental skill for dealing not only with the future, but also with the present.

New targets, a new way of working.

direct costs

Direct and indirect costs impact in projects

How do direct and indirect costs impact projects? This is the good question a fellow reader asked us and we would like to answer it in this article.

Cost classification is an important concept in budgeting, accounting and project management (you may find this article about project management tools).

CONTENT

Cost classification and expense categorization helps the project team to understand what type of costs will be faced during the life cycle of a project.

When creating your base budget, you should list your costs, both direct and indirect.

Essentially, direct costs and indirect costs are two different concepts used for budgeting and accounting purposes. However, it is not always easy to come up with a definite list because direct and indirect costs are based on product and activity nature.

Typically, direct costs are ascribed to a product, good, or service. In other words, direct costs are directly related to the product.

Conversely, indirect costs are those costs required to produce the product and are therefore not directly related to the product.

Understanding direct and indirect costs is key to ensuring that business expenses are adequately monitored.

What are direct costs? Definition and examples

Direct costs are expenses that an organization can easily associate with a specific cost object, which can be a specific product, department, or project.

This can include software, equipment, and raw materials, but it also can include manpower, assuming that this manpower is specific to the product, department, or project.

For example, if an employee is recruited to work on a specific project, either exclusively or for an assigned number of hours, their work on that project is a direct cost.

If an organization develops software and needs specific resources, such as development applications, these are also direct costs.

Thus, direct labor and materials make up the majority of direct costs.

For example, an appliance manufacturer requires steel, electronic components, and other raw materials to create its product.

Typically, most direct costs are variable. Smartphone hardware, for example, is a variable direct cost because its production depends on the number of units ordered.

One notable exception is direct employment costs, which usually remain constant throughout the year. In fact, an employee’s wage generally does not increase or decrease in direct relation to the number of outputs produced.

What are indirect costs? Definition and examples

Indirect costs are more than expenses involved in creating a product to include costs related to maintaining and operating a business.

These overhead costs are those that remain after factoring in direct costs.

Materials and supplies needed for the everyday operations of a business are examples of indirect costs.

Even though these items contribute to the business as a whole, they are not attributed to the creation of any services.

Indirect costs include supplies, utilities, office equipment rentals, computers, and business phones.

Just like direct costs, indirect costs can be either fixed or variable. Fixed indirect costs include things like rent, while variable indirect costs include fluctuations in power and gas costs.

indirect costs

Differences between direct and indirect costs

A simple catch for classifying payments as direct or indirect costs is that direct costs include the costs involved in creating, developing, and releasing a product.

Direct costs include:

  • Production supplies
  • Equipment
  • Raw materials
  • Manpower cost
  • Other production costs

Conversely, indirect costs include costs that are not directly related to the development of an organization’s product or service.

Indirect costs include:

  • Utilities
  • Office supplies
  • Office tech equipment
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Employee benefits and incentive programs
  • Insurance costs

As a project manager, understanding the difference between both types of costs is critical because this helps you have a better understanding of the product or service you are producing and because you will be able to have a better understanding of accounting and better plan for the business’ future.

There are some costs that are in the gray area that should be counted as direct or indirect costs, however.

Shipping or the cost of an accountant’s work are sometimes difficult to put into a specific category, as they can relate to different activities.

What companies do is see what their use and relevance is and put these costs into their respective categories.

Main differences between direct and indirect costs

Here are the main differences between direct and indirect costs:

  • The best way to determine if a cost is direct is to compare changes in the cost with changes in the associated cost object. Indirect costs are costs that are used by multiple activities and therefore cannot be attributed to specific cost objects.
  • The direct cost concept is immensely useful for short-term decision making, but can lead to negative results when used for long-term decision making because it does not include all of the costs that can be applied to long-term decisions. Conversely, the indirect cost concept is useful for short and long-term decision making. Indirect costs are those required to keep a business or organization running.
  • Direct costs vary significantly within a given product volume and therefore are considered a variable cost. Indirect costs do not vary significantly within certain product volumes or other activity indicators and therefore are considered a fixed cost.
  • The operating leverage concept measures an organization’s set-up from fixed cost and variable cost to total cost. If a major portion of the organization’s costs are fixed cost (indirect cost), then it has a high operating leverage and can earn a large profit on each incremental sale, but must achieve enough sales volume to exceed breakeven. On the other hand, if a major portion of the organization’s costs are given by variable costs (direct cost), then this has low operating leverage and the company earns a smaller profit on each incremental sale, but it does not have to generate much sales volume to cover its lower fixed cost.
  • Direct costs are easily identifiable by cost object, while indirect costs cannot be easily identified.

Why it is important to define direct and indirect costs

It may look like a futile job from an accounting standpoint, however, properly classifying direct and indirect costs will benefit an organization and project in several ways.

 

  1. More accurate pricing: Tracking direct and indirect costs is key for determining the final product cost. If you are unaware what it costs to produce the product, how can you know how much to charge your customers? When setting prices for products, it’s important not to forget to factor in indirect costs as well to make sure you have a decent profit margin.

 

  1. Potential tax benefits: Many business expenses are tax-deductible, but these costs will need to be accurately accounted for in order to obtain any deductions or possible funding. In the case of government grants or other forms of external funding, for example, identifying direct and indirect costs becomes doubly important. Subsidies rules are often very strict about what qualifies as a direct or indirect cost, and each classification will be assigned a specific amount of funding. In some cases, this funding can largely support the direct costs of a project, which is why it is very important to classify them correctly.

 

  1. More accurate budgeting: It is impossible to create an accurate budget without properly accounting for direct and indirect costs. If you are in the process of preparing a budget for the upcoming year, it is important to know how much you are currently paying for materials and supplies, as well as how much your direct labor costs are. You will also need to budget for any other operating expenses such as rent, insurance, taxes, and office supplies.

 

  1. Accurate financial reporting: Particularly in the case of small businesses, if direct and indirect expenses are not properly accounted for, costs may be underestimated, which will lead to mistakenly overestimating one’s net income believing that one has more income than one actually does.

 

 

By being aware of direct and indirect costs, project managers can gain a better understanding of the financial health of their project and, why not, the organization as a whole.

You can swiftly identify areas where money is being wasted and areas where costs need to be reduced.

In other words, the cost classification process is very important in project cost management, as it allows you to develop an effective cost control system and proper profit planning.

Measure direct and indirect costs of a project with Twproject.

cycle time and lead time

Cycle Time to Lead Time Ratio

Lead time and cycle time are widely used terms in the Kanban world.

However, quite often, people get confused when trying to understand the difference between them and their significance.

For the sake of dispelling doubts once and for all regarding the identification and differentiation between Cycle Times and Lead Times, we have decided to shed some light on the matter with this article.

What is Cycle Time?

Cycle time is basically simply the amount of time it takes for a task to get from a “In Progress” state to a “Completed” one.

The clock starts ticking on the cycle time as soon as the task goes from a “Ready” state to a “In Progress” state and stops ticking when the work element goes from a “In Progress” state to a “Completed” one.

What exactly these states mean will vary depending on the work and context.

If the work element moves back and forth, for example because the client changes their mind or doesn’t accept the work and insists that it be modified or done again (you might be interested in this article on how to manage change requests on a project), the clock won’t reset, but it will continue to tick.

Cycle time is a very important measure that portrays the efficiency of a system in processing units of work.

However, it has nothing to do with what happens outside of that system, such as the queue to put work into that system. That’s where lead time or delivery time comes into play.

What is Lead Time?

The business environment is dynamic and produces new customer requests continuously, and these requests reach the organization as work requests.

Lead Time is the length of time between the occurrence of a new task in the workflow (“queued” status) and its final release from the system (“completed” status).

Lead Time is therefore inevitably always longer than Cycle Time.

Lead Time and Cycle Time Example

If these two concepts still sound confusing, here’s an example to straighten things out.

Let’s imagine a coffee shop with a barista, a cashier and some customers. As soon as the customer orders a coffee from the cashier, that work goes into the queue. That is, the customer has placed an order for a coffee and expects to receive it as soon as possible. The Lead Time clock has therefore started ticking. If there are no other orders in the system, the barista can start brewing coffee right away. As soon as the barista starts working on that coffee, the Cycle Time clock starts ticking.

Cycle time is simply the time needed by the barista to prepare a coffee. The only way to improve it is for the barista to become faster at brewing coffee.

cycle time and lead time ratio

If the barista can start brewing a coffee the very second an order is placed, the delivery time is equal to the cycle time.

But if orders start coming in faster than a barista can make coffees, orders will pile up.

If the barista can make a coffee in one minute, but a coffee order comes in every 20 seconds, the cycle time remains at one minute, but the delivery time will begin to increase continuously as orders pile up.

Professor John Little (MIT professor) came to the conclusion after various researches that the more work you have in progress, the greater the cycle time of the system.

The equation has come to be known as Little’s Law:

Cycle time = work in progress / productivity

How can you reduce the gap between lead time and cycle time?

Sometimes, a task can spend considerable time in a waiting status before a team member is able to start working on it.

This leads to a larger gap between lead time and cycle time, and as a result, tasks reach the completion stage more slowly.

To find the source of this problem, you can use two analysis tools:

  • Cycle time scatterplot
  • Heatmap

 

The Scatterplot provides extensive information about the cycle time of all tasks over a predetermined period of time.

In this way, you can identify the tasks that took the longest amount of time to complete.

The heatmap shows data for the total amount of time activities spend in different stages of the workflow.

It can help you understand where tasks spend the most time as the workflow progresses.

Both tools will help you pinpoint which parts of a work process are troublesome and take action to fix them.

You need to remember that work is in fact a continuous process and is constantly changing.

 

Therefore, you need to monitor the workflow regularly and use the appropriate analytical tools.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

project configuration management

Configuration Management

Configuration Management is a technical management discipline that is used to track changes in complex systems development, and was originally introduced during the 1950s by the U.S. Department of Defense.

This system received several highly technical names over the years, until consolidated guidance was published in 2001 that established the technical management system now known as configuration management.

Project configuration management is the process of tracking and controlling changes to important project documents and products. This includes project deliverables and project management documents, such as the project schedule document.

Everything that requires tracking through the project change control system is specifically identified in a project’s configuration management plan.

These documents are not generally open to change by anyone at any time.

Instead, all changes are documented and approved, only when strictly necessary, within a project’s configuration management plan.

Configuration management provides documentation that explains why changes to the project occurred, who approved those changes, and who is the assigned change owner.

What is the goal of project configuration management?

The goal of configuration management in a project is therefore to manage the project’s fundamental restrictions of scope, time, cost, and quality.

Within a project, the purpose of configuration management is to identify, monitor, and protect project deliverables from unauthorized changes.

Configuration management is a practice that provides accurate control over project resources by enabling the project manager to:

  • Specify product versions in use and existing, and store information about their status, who owns them, and the relationships among them
  • Maintain an up-to-date record containing this information
  • Monitor product changes Ensuring that modifications are implemented only with prior approval of the designated authorities
  • Check records to ensure they contain the authorized products

Within a project, the role of configuration management is to provide:

  • Mechanisms for management, traceability and control of all project products; keep the files of every product of a project once they have been checked for their quality, controlling their access and keeping records of their status
  • Store each product safely and securely in the most appropriate way, this will include managing access to the product in such a way as to prevent damage to it and to safeguard it from inappropriate access
  • A system for recording, tracking and archiving every issue related to the project

How to run project configuration management

project configuration

Now let’s look at the 5 steps to properly run a project’s configuration management.

How to run configuration management: Be ready from the get-go

The most important guideline is to begin configuration early in the project lifecycle. The project manager should assess the potential for smoothness in the early stages and create the appropriate scaled configuration management system during project planning rather than halfway through execution.

How to run configuration management: Establish a clear baseline

It is very important to establish a clear baseline plan, i.e., the project description as defined at the beginning of the project, as well as to document the different versions during development and the final phase when the project will be released.

How to run configuration management: Consider a design and product configuration

You have to consider configuration management for two areas:

  • project management changes
  • content or product changes.

How to run configuration management: Record the owner of the documents

Another best practice is to document who owns the different parts of the project. When these owners change and the next individual brings a new perspective into the project, normally there is a temporary increase in the rate of change. Stakeholder support for changes to project and the configuration management process are therefore crucial to system success. With CM processes, change acceptance decisions should be taken at the appointed and recognized change control committee level.

How to run configuration management: Record plan change

Documenting plan changes can be done with simple tools in the case of the simplest projects or with specific project management software. In order for this to work effectively, the plan document must be created with particular consideration.

Where this is the CM method, the rule of thumb is that nothing in the plan should be changed unless it is recorded in the change documentation, thus tracking all project management and any changes.

Each modification is assigned a unique ID, the date of the modification, a reference to the section number, and a description are recorded. Finally, the change to the project or product is described in all necessary details.

 

Bottom line, we can say that changes are and will continue to be an inevitable part of any project’s design and implementation.

Even the best series of design plans does not guarantee that a particular project will not undergo numerous changes.

This is particularly true when the scope involves a large-scale, multi-contract, multi-phase complex project.

The primary causes of project changes involve changes in design standards, changes in project scope, unforeseen complexities, or difficulties and delays in project implementation.

Project managers, to help control the impact these changes can have on cost, schedule, and performance, are beginning to see the value in using configuration management principles.

Use Twproject to manage your projects’ configuration.

how to perform gap analysis

Gap Analysis: what it is and how to perform it correctly

Gap Analysis is one of the most powerful tools available to Project Managers and more. If used correctly, in fact, it can really help a company correct its course and avoid catastrophic mistakes.

You’ve probably already heard about it but you’re still confused on the subject and today, with this article, we’re going to try to straighten out all the doubts on this matter.

Every business strives to grow and thrive, but what happens when you fail to achieve the desired results?

This gap between desired and actual results suggests that it’s time to perform a gap analysis.

What is a gap analysis?

A gap analysis is a formal study of what an organization is currently up to, where it wants to be, and how is it possible to close the gap between those two aspects.

The need for a gap analysis usually originates from a gap, a shortcoming.

Perhaps the sales team missed their goals? Or customer service turnaround times are too slow and customers complain?

However, it can also come from proactive leaders who want to understand how to improve the chances of success before embarking on a new strategy.

This analysis can be carried out from a number of perspectives, and as a result, there are different types of methodologies for a gap analysis. Here are the four main ones:

  • Strategic gap analysis: Attempts to understand why certain performance targets were not met.
  • Product gap analysis: this analysis examines the organization’s position in the market to estimate the gap between actual and projected sales.
  • Workforce gap analysis: examines the variance between the required and actual number of employees.
  • Profit gap analysis: examines the gap between actual and targeted profit.

Gap analysis can be applied to a department’s or team’s performance, an individual’s performance, or an entire firm’s performance.

Whenever goals are not met, it’s time to take a closer look at what could be an obstacle through gap analysis.

Benefits of performing a gap analysis

A gap analysis enables an organization to operate at its maximum potential. Here’s how this tool can help:

Benefits of Gap Analysis: Product Portfolio Opportunities

Through gap analysis, you can review your current portfolio of products and services to determine new opportunities.

Since it’s common for some sort of gap to exist between customer needs and a company’s offerings, a gap analysis helps you identify these areas to determine if you want to develop new offerings to fill this “gap”.

Benefits of Gap Analysis: Process Improvements

A gap analysis can pinpoint areas for improvement within an organization’s operations.

If, for example, the administrative department fails to pay invoices in a timely manner, a gap analysis can identify opportunities for process improvement.

Benefits of Gap Analysis: Profit Improvements

If profit goals were not met, conducting a gap analysis to find out what went wrong can help solve the problem.

For example, this analysis can ascertain if there were problems with the forecasting method that set wrong profit goals, if unexpected competition took away business, if costs increased, or other reasons.

How to perform a gap analysis

The following gap analysis model helps to pinpoint the difference between reality and business goals, thereby effectively making it easy to discover where there is room for growth.

This model can be applied to the entire organization or to a single process.

Identify areas to improve

The first step is to understand where you want to apply a gap analysis model and what you want to get out of it.

After that, you can then assess what type of gap analysis you want to apply to the given situation.

Perhaps you want to improve the efficiency of an existing operation? In this case, a performance gap analysis will be helpful.

Maybe you are trying to determine if you need to hire more staff? In that case, you should choose a workforce gap analysis.

Analyze the present status

After having identified where a gap analysis is needed and the purpose of said analysis, you need to analyze where you are now.

By examining the present state, you will determine the baseline for improvement.

For example, if customers are complaining about slow response times, you need to know what those response times currently are.

Report everything that led to the current state thoroughly in a document.

Define the ultimate goal

After understanding where you are currently, it’s time to set measurable goals to aim for.

The ultimate goal should be an improvement over the current state and should be measurable so you know when you will achieve it.

One way to determine the ideal future state is to look at industry standards or the level set by your competition.

Another approach is to look at the organization’s past data and base the ideal future state on those numbers (check the article about lessons learned).

Another solution is to use employee or customer feedback to understand the end state you should create. For example, customers might say that a key feature is missing in the products, so here’s where the goal can be to develop just that feature.

Understand the gap

The present state has been analyzed and the future goal has been established; now you need to compare these two to understand the gap you are trying to close.

This may be small and some minor changes to an existing workflow may suffice, but the gap could also involve major organizational changes that require a change management process.

This is the time to learn what obstacles you are trying to overcome.

Establish an action plan

Now is the time to set an action plan to close the gap.

This step focuses on filling out recommendations and obtaining consensus from relevant stakeholders.

Since the plan can be cumbersome, the help of a project management software in project planning can help in turning the ideas into a concrete and executable project plan.

 

To wrap up, a gap analysis crystallizes the challenges to overcome and puts in place solutions that will be able to bring an organization to the desired final state.

It is essential to emphasize that you should not spend too much time on the gap analysis, but only spend as much time as is necessary to efficiently complete the analysis.

It will be more useful to be able to quickly move on to the action plan and turn the company into a maximally optimized business.

Plan your projects with Twproject

One try is worth a million words.
project activities

Project activities: role and characteristics

In this article we will examine the project activities, their role and characteristics.

To do this, we would like to start from the basics, i.e. the definition of a project and then fully understand the activities necessary for its development.

What we want to do is create a mind map in which the individual project activities are not confused and random, but find a meaningful and temporal setting in your mind.

What defines a project?

PMbok definition of a project is “a temporary effort undertaken to create a unique product or service.”

In other words, it is any endeavor, done individually or collaboratively, designed to achieve a particular goal.

Thus, projects are a temporary effort that is carefully planned, researched, executed, monitored, and delivered within a specified period and within a given cost.

Projects can range from simple to complex and can be managed by an individual or an entire project team.

A project must follow 5 basic principles:

1. Clarify project goals and scope

Before a project begins, the overall goal, scope and scale of the project must be clearly set out and agreed upon. You can read this article about project scope.

2. Develop a work breakdown structure

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure (Work Breakdown Structure – WBS) is an important part of the project management process, where deliverables are broken down into assignments and activities required to achieve them.

3. Deliver a realistic schedule

This is arguably one of the most common mistakes that project managers and teams make during project management. People often get overly optimistic and ambitious about when a project can be delivered, resulting in getting themselves and the project results in trouble.

The best way in this case is to visualize all aspects and needs of the project in one place, visualize the time sequence of the project, estimate how long each task would take and create a realistic schedule accordingly. This can be done by using the gantt of a project management software.

4. Create a project risk plan

After you have created a thorough list of activities, sub-activities, and milestones for the project, it’s time to ascertain all possible and potential risks involved. At this stage, you need to think about any risks that could impact the project by doing a proper project risk analysis while also estimating the severity of the impact. Once finished, you need to create a project risk response plan explaining the risk management.

5. Manage change requests

A project, by its definition, is something that does not remain static over time and is subject to some degree of change that may relate to workflow or workforce for example. No matter what change, or project change requests are received, a project manager must have a clear grasp of what the impact of this change will be and how to ensure it is handled smoothly and quickly.

Project activities: planning and development

planning project activities

As you can see, a project is therefore made up of activities, and it is through these activities – arranged in a relevant way – that a project can achieve its intended outcome and be completed successfully.

So let’s look more specifically at the role and characteristics of project activities.

Project time management comprises two sets of processes for planning and scheduling project activities necessary for timely project completion.

  1. Project activity planning and scheduling.
  2. Project implementation program development.

When planning and scheduling project tasks and activities, the project manager must perform the following four steps:

  • Setting up activities.
  • Defining relations between activities.
  • Estimating resources needed to perform activities.
  • Estimating activity duration.

Let’s examine each step in more detail:

1. Setting up project activities

The first phase of planning and scheduling project activities require the project manager to establish the amount of actions and activities needed to produce project deliverables in a timely manner.

The input to this process will be the definition of the project deliverables.

The project manager should also work on developing project activity templates to help streamline the project planning process.

Specific steps – or milestones – should be identified and approved for each of the listed activities.

2. Defining relations between activities

The next step in project activity planning involves the project manager sequencing all of the activities determined in the previous step.

The manager will use the project task lists, milestone list, and project scope statement per to define the relationships between the tasks.

With the help of project management software ou can set priorities for each of the project activities and make the sequences of activities organized and sorted by importance and urgency.

You also need to define dependencies between activities, which can be either internal or external.

Activities with internal dependencies are related to any actions the project team will take to produce deliverables within the existing work environment, while activities with external dependencies are related to non-project factors that define the success of project-related activities.

Both types of activity dependencies should be addressed and added to sequenced and prioritized task lists.

Once the relationships are defined, the project manager should update the project activity templates, outline dependencies, and link them to the product scope statement.

3. Estimating resources needed to perform activities

At this stage, the project manager should review the stakeholder requirements and scope statement to assess the amount of resources needed to carry out project activities.

Expert opinion and alternatives analysis should also be used in some cases for this purpose.

The project manager should then also develop resource calendars and define the types of resources required.

Once all of this information has been gathered and analyzed, it should be used to make a resource breakdown of activities sorted by type, priority, and time.

This breakdown is crucial to creating the project implementation schedule.

4. Estimating activity duration

The final stage of project activity planning and scheduling involves the project manager defining and estimating an amount of work time required to complete each identified activity.

The amount of time will depend on the amount of work effort and resources available for the activity.

The project manager should review the resource breakdown and project activity models to estimate the number of work periods required to complete the identified activities and thereby produce the desired results.

The output of this process is the activity estimates linked to the resource schedules.

 

The four stages of project activity planning and scheduling lay the foundation for creating a detailed timeline of project implementation.

In a nutshell, a successful project is therefore based on the effectiveness of the individual project activities that are part of the project.

Plan your work and your project deadlines.

product life cycle

Product life cycle and its relevance in business strategies

A product’s life cycle (which should not be mistaken with a project’s life cycle) bears a strategic relevance for the company that produces it.

Each year, countless products are released into the market in a cleverly designed way to connect with the consumer and hope that the investment pays off for the organization that created it.

However, once the goal of connecting with the consumer is achieved, durability, or rather managing the product’s life cycle, is the key to ensuring that this product thrives year after year and makes the Company that produced it thrive as well.

In this article we will be looking at its relevance in business strategies. By the way, have you already checked out our article explaining the difference between Corporate Governance and Management?

What is product life cycle management?

Product life cycle (PLC) describes the different stages a product undergoes from launch to its potential obsolescence.

Here’s a simple example: let’s think of a product as a flower in a garden.

You can’ t just plant it, i.e., launch the product in the market, water it, i.e., create occasional promotions, and expect it to flourish year after year. At some point, its vitality will decrease and you will have to consider what to do, whether to replant it or to eliminate it altogether.

You can see, then, how managing the life cycle of a product is an important part of business strategy and helps you adapt your approach to the product.

The four phases of a product’s life cycle and related business strategies

To better understand this, it is worth breaking down the product life cycle into 4 distinct phases, which will be examined below.

1. Introduction

This is referred to as the launch phase of the new product, where sales increase slowly because awareness is currently limited.

Costs are high and include large amounts of advertisement and promotion.

In the introduction phase, the organization will operate at a loss, making this the most critical phase of the product life cycle.

Strategies for achieving success during the introduction phase:

  • Clearly identify the market so that at launch you can target and effectively engage with the consumer most likely to become a customer.
  • Build a dominant market position, stand out from your competitors, your product doesn’t have to be just one of the many in the crowd, but have a unique incentive for consumers to connect with it.
  • Be a pioneer. Being the first to launch a new product never seen before.
  • Set a strong brand identity.

2. Growth

Once awareness is built up and an appropriate distribution strategy is implemented, the product will be growing and, economically speaking, break-even will be reached first, after which the organization will begin to earn a profit.

When a product is growing, it means the market has accepted it and consumers are trying it out.

This is the moment to ramp up distribution to make sure you match the product’s supply to demand.

During growth, of course, competitors will enter the market – if they aren’t already there or otherwise increase their share.

Here are the business strategies during the growth phase:

  • Keep track of prices to ensure you will remain competitive with new offers.
  • Confirm that the actual customer fits the expected target customer and modify the message to users if necessary.
  • Find new distribution channels using sales history.
  • Improve product quality by possibly adding new features or support services to increase market share.

the product life cycle

3. Maturity

The product reaches its maturity stage when sales volume slows down and begins to plateau or, in some cases, drops slightly.

Now an action becomes necessary otherwise the product sales will start to decline rapidly.

Products reach maturity for a number of reasons, including competition launching a product that is highly valued by customers, price wars, and initial enthusiasm for the new product beginning to fade.

This obviously leads to a decrease in profit, given by both a decrease in sales and an increase in promotional spending.

Common business strategies that can help during this phase fall into one of two categories:

  • Market change: this includes moving into new market segments, redefining target markets, winning over competitors’ customers, and converting non-users.
  • Product change: for example, adjusting or improving product features, quality, prices and distinguishing it from other products in the industry.

The example of Apple best serves to show the second point. In fact, Apple is the first company to show innovative product life cycle management.

Realizing that most cell phone users subscribe 12- to 24-month contracts, Apple releases a new “modified” iPhone every 12 to 18 months. By the time the current model is approaching its maturity, the company releases a new, updated model. The result, you know, is a loyal following proud of the latest technology that is unlikely to switch to a competitive product offering.

4. Decline

This stage can be identified by both a decline in sales volume and a reduction in profits.

Allowing the product to reach decline should be a strategic choice, meaning that the organization has identified the “expiring” product and intentionally planned that this would not be upgraded, but would be discontinued at some point in the future.

For example, this choice is given by a scheduled launch of a new product that will replace the current one but will not be an upgrade.

Business strategies to minimize losses during decline are:

  • Minimize promotional expenditures on the product: rather than trying to boost sales with contests and discounts, you need to allow sales to naturally decline.
  • Reduce the number of distribution points.
  • Roll out price discounts to persuade customers to purchase your product while supplies last.

Product life cycle: bottom line

A product’s life cycle is seamless, and so should business strategy.

Knowing where the product is within its life cycle will help determine refinements or adjustments to strategy.

The most important piece of advice for using product life cycle management in business strategies is to regularly review sales volume and profitability.

Here, data that will help identify what stage the product is in can be extracted, allowing you to plan your product life cycle response strategies more effectively.

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quality control

Project quality control: which parameters should be monitored

Project quality is a major factor in achieving client satisfaction, which in turn is a key component in project success.

Therefore, nothing about quality should be taken lightly, but more importantly, quality control should not be something improvised or done afterwards.

Before a project manager can actually be planning for project quality control, they must know what are the quality expectations.

One of the key principles of project quality management is that quality should be planned for, not inspected.

The project manager must take into account the cost of achieving the expected level of quality as opposed to the cost of non-compliance.

Quality cost includes training, safety measures, and actions to prevent subpar quality.

Noncompliance cost can greatly exceed the cost of quality and results in lost customers, rework, wasted time, wasted materials.

Planning and identification of parameters to be monitored for quality

When the project manager has collected the necessary input and assessed product description and project scope, they should begin working to create a plan on how to meet quality requirements.

Since planning is an iterative process, so is quality planning.

As events occur within the project, the project manager should evaluate these scenarios and then apply corrective actions to the planning document.

In fact, during project implementation, some things are likely to go wrong and stakeholders may demand changes. Therefore, the impact of these variables on project quality must be assessed.

This ensures that project management and project outcomes are in line with quality.

So let’s look at what parameters need to be monitored to guarantee the quality of a project:

Parameters to monitor for quality: Project scope

Scope statement is a core input to the quality planning process. As a matter of fact, the scope defines what will and what will not be delivered as part of the project.

The end results and customer expectations will help guide the quality planning session to ensure that the customer’s quality requirements are met.

project quality control

Product description

Even though the project scope generally defines the initial product description, the actual product description may include supporting details that the project manager and project team will need to take into account. Consider the example of an apartment building: the requirements, specifications, and technical details of the building will need to be considered and reviewed as this information will most certainly affect quality planning.
tandards

Parameters to monitor for quality: Standards and Regulations

Standards and regulations in each area should be re-examined to determine that both the project plan and quality plan are acceptable. For example, a project to fit a building with an electrical system will have certain regulations to which it must comply.

Parameters to monitor for quality: Other process outputs

The project manager will need more than just a scope statement and product description to plan for quality.

Outputs from other processes will also need to be reviewed for quality aspects. For example, in our earlier building example, if the supplier quality level is unacceptable, the project may be jeopardized and fail.

Quality features

PMBOK® defines quality as the degree to which a set of intrinsic characteristics meets requirements.

It is said that a project meets its quality expectations when all project requirements, agreed upon at the beginning of the project, are met and thus the resulting product or service is usable for the stakeholders.

However, there are three quality characteristics that must be taken into account:

Quality is subjective

Surely quality can be measured objectively using the parameters mentioned earlier, but sometimes quality that is appropriate for one person is not for another.

Using a simple example: young people will consider a mobile phone to be of high quality based on its visual appearance, brand name, and technical specifications such as camera quality, memory capacity, and screen resolution. However, for someone in the age group of 60 and older, just the ease of answering a phone call or sending a text message may define the quality of the mobile phone.

Therefore, to understand the quality requirements in a design, it is also worth considering this factor.

Quality has many faces

The definition of quality depends on the business context and industry.

For a service-oriented organization such as a bank or airline, service quality is expressed through the level of customer satisfaction.

For a product such as a cell phone, a car, or a computer, quality means conformity to product specifications and suitability for use.

Quality is everyone’s responsibility

Quality in project management is twofold: project quality and product quality. Project quality is about ensuring that the project is executed consistently with the triple constraint of time, cost, and scope. If the project falls within the tolerance levels defined by these three factors, then it is possible to say that the project quality is high. Projects are carried out to develop a solution, which can be a product or service. If this output meets its specifications and satisfies stakeholder needs, then the product is said to be of high quality. Meeting quality expectations is therefore not just the responsibility of the project manager, but of everyone involved in the project.

Therefore, it is important that the project manager and team members understand the importance of quality and manage projects as best they can to achieve all parameters.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best project management software, you reached all milestones on schedule, and the project was completed on budget; if the output doesn’t meet quality standards, the project won’t be a success.

Choose quality. Choose Twproject.

corporate governance

Corporate governance vs management

Corporate governance and management are not the same thing, although some people might think so. Actually, they are two very different things.

Let’s make it clear in this article where we will look at the two roles separately. The purpose is to establish once and for all the differences between corporate governance and management.

Corporate governance role

Governance is the act of the management board meeting to take decisions about company direction.

Tasks such as supervision, strategic planning (which has nothing to do with project planning), decision making, and financial planning fall under corporate governance activities.

The board is responsible for creating the corporate charter, which is a set of fundamental policies that outline the mission, values, vision, and structure of the organization. As needed, the board creates and approves key policies.

Corporate governance: 7 questions to understand it

In a paper titled “Distinguishing Governance from Management“, the author Barry Bader asks seven questions to establish whether a factor falls under governance and is therefore the board’s responsibility:

  1. Is it “big”? The greater the impact of a decision, the more of a role the board should play in forming and understanding the action and its possible consequences.
  2. Does it involve the future? The board imparts the long-term vision by providing a master plan for the organizational structure.
  3. Is it the core of the mission? Corporate governance is custodian of the corporate mission.
  4. Is a high level policy decision needed to settle a situation? Decisions of this kind are usually those that require compliance with laws or regulations, those that may affect accountability, etc.
  5. Is a red flag waving? The board should focus on what are considered “trends.” As a rule of thumb, a factor or indicator becomes a trend when it repeats for at least three reporting periods. Corporate governance must then take action if events, reports or activities undermine this trend.
  6. Is a “watchdog” watching? A “watchdog” includes media, government, IRS, etc. If these are keeping an eye on the organization, the board needs to step in.
  7. Does the CEO want and need the board’s support? There is little debate on this point: if the CEO wants and needs board support, the board must provide it.

Governance duties and responsibilities

In a perfect corporate world, all managers and employees know their duties and responsibilities and act responsibly; they are honest, hardworking people with a solid commitment to ethics and integrity.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case and the board of directors is understood to be precisely that:

control and balance that supervises employees and all aspects of company operations.

Corporate governance should avoid getting involved directly in daily concerns.

Without being directly involved, boards should work closely with managers by providing guidance.

Furthermore, corporate governance allows managers to develop their operational strategies and reviews them to ensure they are in line with overall planning.

To recap, corporate governance is the “what” and includes:

  • Determining mission, policy, and strategy
  • Designating and supervising management
  • Managing governance processes
  • Providing insight, wisdom and judgment
  • Monitoring the organization’s performance
  • Identifying and strategically managing risk

Management’s role

management

Management structures can come in an infinite number of formats depending on company size and type.

For all cases, management decisions support and implement the goals and values provided by the board of directors.

Managers also make routine operational decisions and manage all the administrative work that makes operations run.

Management is virtually the bridge between corporate governance and lower-level executives.

One of their duties is to communicate the board’s expectations to employees placed at lower levels of the operation.

To achieve this, managers can break down corporate governance expectations into short- and long-term operational goals to see implementation through to completion.

While the board creates corporate policies, management is responsible for enforcing corporate policy and holding employees accountable for their actions.

Managers need a variety of skills that are significantly different from those of board directors.

First and foremost, they need good motivational skills so that they can motivate staff and create a work environment where everyone thrives. Also, it is beneficial for managers to possess good coaching skills since most employees will require some level of training and need continuous incentive to improve their performance.

Although the board can provide an overall budget, department managers often have to define their own budgets and communicate their needs to senior managers.

Senior managers communicate lower management budget needs to the board so that budget issues are reconfirmed throughout the company.

In other words, managers are in a position where they must meet or break the expectations and requirements of people at many different levels of the organization.

As a result, managerial positions are often high-pressure jobs that require a cool head even in high-stress situations.

To recap, management is the “how” and includes:

  • Policy and strategy development and implementation.
  • Defining and supervising annual operational business plans
  • Appointing managers and staff
  • Supporting governance processes
  • Board decisions implementation
  • Performance measurement
  • Service and activity delivery
  • Strategic and operational risk management

Corporate governance vs management: Conclusions

All organizations need both governance and management functions, and it is up to each respective organization to ensure that both functions are operating.

Frameworks are not standard and can be modified to meet each organization’s needs, as long as the necessary separation between corporate governance and management is in place.

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action plan

Action Plan: what is and when to implement it (in Project Management and beyond)

How can you transform a vision into reality while preventing challenges and problems? By having a sound action plan.

Yeah, a sound action plan is a nice catch phrase, but what is it really? What is it for and how can you implement it?

Let’s see it in this article and start from the very beginning.

What is an action plan

An action plan is a checklist for any steps or activities you need to accomplish to achieve the goals you set.

It is an integral part of the strategic planning process and helps improve teamwork planning.

Action plans are not solely useful in project management, but can also be used by people to draw up a strategy to achieve their personal goals.

An action plan comprises:

  • A clearly defined description of the objective to be achieved
  • Tasks/steps that must be performed to achieve the goal
  • People who will be assigned to perform each task
  • When will these activities (deadlines and milestones) be completed?
  • Resources needed to complete activities
  • Measures to evaluate progress

The most useful thing about having a comprehensive list in one location is that it makes it easier to track progress and plan things effectively.

However, an action plan is not something carved in stone. As your organization grows and conditions change, you will need to review and tweak it to meet your newest needs.

Why you need an action plan

Sometimes companies don’t invest much time in developing an action plan before an initiative, which, in most cases, leads to failure.

Planning does, in fact, help you prepare for the possible obstacles and unforeseen events that will be found along the way. By having an effective action plan, you can increase productivity and stay focused on the goal even when negative events occur.

Here are some benefits of an action plan:

  • Provide clear direction: an action plan highlights exactly what steps need to be undertaken and when they should be completed.
  • Motivation: Having goals written and phased will give a reason to stay motivated and engaged throughout the project.
  • Analysis and monitoring: With an action plan, you can monitor your progress toward your goal.
  • Priority organization: given that an action plan lists all the steps that need to be completed, this will help to prioritize activities according to effort and impact.

the action plan

How to develop an action plan

Apparently, creating an action plan looks easy enough but there are several important steps that you need to carefully tackle to get the best out of it.

Here’s how to write an action plan in 6 steps.

1) Define your end goal: If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do and achieve, failure will be unavoidable. So, the first step is to write down a definite end goal, ideally defining it according to the SMART criteria.

2) List the steps to follow: Now your goal is clear, but what exactly should you do to achieve it? This is where you create an initial rough list of all the tasks that need to be covered, the due dates and the people accountable. It is important that the entire team is involved in this step so that everyone is informed of their roles and responsibilities in the project. If some tasks are too large and complex, they can be split into smaller tasks that are easier to perform and manage.

3) Prioritize tasks and add deadlines: It’s time to rearrange your list by prioritizing tasks so that some assignments won’t block other processes. It is also time to add deadlines, making sure they are achievable. Sometimes in these cases it may be beneficial to speak directly with the person responsible for performing the task to understand their true capabilities before deciding on a deadline.

4) Set milestones: Milestones can be regarded as mini-goals that lead to your main goal. The benefit of adding milestones is that they give team members a sense of expectation and help them stay motivated.

5) Identify required resources: Before starting your project, it is essential to ensure that you have all the resources necessary to complete your tasks and if they are not currently available, make a plan to acquire them including a budget.

6) Visualize the action plan. The purpose of this step is to create something that everyone can understand at a glance and that can be shared with everyone. Regardless of whether the action plan takes the form of a flowchart, a Gantt diagram or a chart, the most important thing is that it clearly communicates the elements identified so far: activities, task leaders, milestones, resources, etc. Also, the action plan is a dynamic document that should be easily accessible to everyone.

7) Monitor, measure and update

Here you will assess your progress on a regular basis. You can tick off completed tasks, bringing attention to how you progressed toward the goal. This will also highlight outstanding or delayed activities, in which case you need to understand why and find appropriate solutions. Then, the action plan will be updated accordingly.

 

To reach a destination, you need to know how to get there, and to achieve a goal, you need a clear action plan.

This is exactly what a well-structured action plan provides: a clear path, how to get there, and the best possible results.

Using a project management software such as TWproject could be a huge advantage. Try it for free!

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top-down management

Top-down and bottom-up projects

Top-down and bottom-up management are two of the most popular approaches in the Project Management world.
What you need to know is that before beginning to work on a project, it is very important to have a management approach in place and to be consistent with it.

Besides choosing the project management methodology that we have already discussed, the choice of the style with which you would like to manage the project is crucial. Today we will focus on understanding what top-down and bottom-up management are.

When it comes to choosing a management style, in fact, there are many things to consider. For example, what is the corporate culture and personality of the managers? What kind of project management tools are being used?

The project manager’s choice of a management style is a personal choice, but it is based on certain characteristics of the “work environment” and is very important because it will affect every aspect of the activities, project and team.

What is top-down management?

Also referred to as autocratic leadership, top-down is the most common form of management.

It is the classic hierarchical system, with a chief executive officer (CEO) defining the direction for the entire organization.

Leadership is then handed down through a series of managers, mid-level staff to the last team member in an almost pyramidal system.

In top-down management, everything from the workplace to business systems is determined by upper management and passed down the chain of command.

Each role is responsible for carrying out the mission as stated by superiors, with little room for comment or criticism.

Some lower-level managers may also take part in the decision-making process, but in the end, the final decision always rests with senior management.

Most organizations still use top-down team management.

Any company with a hierarchical ladder with a CEO at the top tends to be structured this way.

Top-down project management means that all project goals, guidelines, information, and plans are defined by management and expectations are communicated to each project participant.

This approach requires extreme process formalities, as any ambiguity can easily result in misunderstandings and project failure.

Pros and cons of top-down management

• Pro: Clarity if the leader knows stuff. One of the benefits of top-down management is that it sets clear expectations, as goals are delivered by one person and that message is not muffled by multiple voices and opinions. Since the law is set from the top down, employees don’t have to be distracted from participating in the decision-making process, which gives them more time to focus on their tasks. Obviously, this kind of structure works best when the leader, o project manager in the case of a project, has thoroughly researched and considered all facets of how the decision will impact the project, business and employees.

• Cons: Lack of buy-in if the leader is weak or somewhat dictatorial. On the flip side, the idea of a domineering personality leading the project or an organization in general can veer from caring and attentive management to something more dictatorial. If this happens, the consensus of team members suffers and morale plummets, with bad influence on the project. Also, if the leader does not have a strong personality, employees will be less likely to take responsibility.

bottom-up management

What is bottom-up management?

The concept that “two heads are better than one” is the number one reason why some organizations and project managers do not implement a top-down management approach.

The idea is that there may be a lot of talent even “in the lower levels”, cthat would be wasted with a top-down approach.

In this model, it is the entire organization that is involved in the process of driving the business; in the case of project management, it is the entire team that influences the project management process.

This collaborative method gives employees a say in how to achieve goals.

This way, teams are self-directed and decide the best way to complete their tasks, rather than receiving orders and only then acting on them.

While still a minority, more and more companies are adopting the bottom-up management style.

Pros and cons of bottom-up management

• Pros: Make the most of a team’s talents. One advantage is that bottom-up management can retain talent, keep spirits high, and achieve project consensus. In fact, this management style gives lower-level employees a say. Their input is regarded as a competitive advantage. Because the entire organization feels part of the process, the company is more likely to improve productivity. If everyone feels a part of the goals, they are likely to be more dedicated to achieving them.

• Cons: Too many voices and ideas slow down business agility. In terms of downsides, having employees taking part in the decision-making process can slow things down or cause the project to follow unproven ideas that end up in blockages or problems. This can cost valuable time by creating an advantage for the competition. There is also the ego aspect. If everyone has a chance to be heard, the motivation may be purely personal (increased self-esteem) rather than goal-oriented. This can lead to divisions and conflict within the team, increasing discontent and the climate of competition in a negative sense.

 Top-down or bottom-up: choosing the direction

And so: what is the best approach? The answer is: it depends.

Top-down or bottom-up is essentially a compromise between speed and accuracy. The method you choose depends on both the type of project you are working on and the amount of time you have for completing it.

Whatever planning approach you decide to use, your main goal should always be to deliver the project output on time.

So regardless of whether you prefer top-down or bottom-up planning, at the end of the day what really matters is being able to quickly pinpoint critical issues and communicate with project team members in a timely manner.

The main goal is always to find ways to make project management and collaboration more efficient.

Work together with your team effectively.

negative feedback

Negative Feedback: 7 things to do when…

Receiving a negative feedback is never a pleasant experience.

You work hard to create a quality product and seeing your actions judged negatively can lead to anger and frustration. These are negative reactions that later can also compromise our performance.

Moreover, even though feedback can often be given objectively and with the truest intentions, it can also be inaccurate or harmful. For example, it may come from a colleague who wants to cause trouble, from a boss who has completely unachievable expectations, from an employee who is afraid to tell the truth, etc.

In any case it is difficult, indeed, to understand what is real and what should be filtered.

There are many resources that suggest how to ask for feedback, but there are relatively few indications on how to react to negative feedback received.

What you need to know is that if you are able to turn a negative feedback into something positive, it can become key for success.

How to face a negative feedback

And for those who are really averse to negative feedback, there is an excellent alternative: no negative feedback, none at all.

Is it everybody’s dream? Of course, except that the lack of feedback can only mean one of two things:

  • Work is generally good but people aren’t developing their skills any more.
  • Work is bad, but nobody says it.

And neither of these two scenarios is positive when your goal is to grow professionally and progress in your career.

So here are 7 ways to turn negative reviews into positive results.

Facing negative feedback: Better safe than sorry

When a product is to be released, especially if it is new, the project manager must already think ahead by providing stakeholders and clients with as much information as possible.

This will help to avoid a lot of questions during the project lifecycle and negative reviews at output delivery.

Facing negative feedback: Remember that you cannot please everyone

Negative reviews can happen to everyone. No matter how good a product may be, there will always be people who think it could have been done better. After all, sympathies and antipathies are just subjective opinions and someone will always be unhappy.

Facing negative feedback:  Make the right researches

When you get negative feedback, do not panic, it is not the end of the world!

It is important to make a research afterwards: if the complaint is reasonable enough, it is worth to discuss it, make a Root cause Analysis and try to improve what can be improved.

The most important thing is, therefore, to find the reason why this negative experience occurred.

Be aware that you cannot respond to feedback until you really understand it. Especially when you hear something new, it is usually a wise idea to ask some reliable sources for confirmation. Just ask them if they have noticed the same behavior or error.

This way of working not only provides you with more details about the action affected by negative feedback, but also helps to avoid over-correction based on a single person’s opinion.

Facing negative feedback: Give a prompt response

Ignoring negative feedback won’t just make it disappear, it will only make things worse.

Clearly this does not mean that you should respond to a criticism the very moment you receive it. Leaving your computer, taking a deep breath and having a moment for yourself, can be normal and even beneficial at first, especially if the feedback is about a very important factor.

Finding an activity that helps you disconnect for a moment, can improve your mood when confronted with the response processing.

However, this does not mean waiting for months. It must be done within a reasonable timeframe, depending on the gravity of the problem.

That said, the faster you deal with a negative review, the easier it will be to handle the next discussion and clear up any possible misunderstanding. Customer experience will benefit from this.

Facing negative feedback: Ask and listen

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, contact those who gave that negative feedback and find out exactly what didn’t work for them.

Naturally, some answers can be quite harsh, but don’t judge and don’t let your emotions take over.

Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes could be useful to understand their point of view and better understand the cause of the negative feedback.

face negative feedback

Facing negative feedback: Take your responsibilities

Mistakes are a natural part of human efforts and you should not be afraid to admit guilt.

The more responsible you are for your actions, the more credible you will be and the more people will trust you.

Making mistakes is human – as long as you don’t make them over and over again.

Facing negative feedback: Learn and solve the problem

Negative reviews can be an important source of knowledge.

They can help the project team find any missing links to product development and make it better than ever.

You should try to respond proactively, track the criticism received, bit by bit, and provide a solution to each one. You should avoid getting defensive and be good at keeping the points concise.

When you move on to solving the problem, you must do so with positive energy. This can make the process much more effective.

Transforming a negative Feedback into an asset

As the famous saying goes:

The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem

So, those who are afraid of negative reviews must change their attitude and consider constructive criticism as an opportunity for growth and learning.

Negative feedback is a chance to improve your weaknesses and bring the quality of your work and product to a new level.

A study demonstrated that we tend to avoid people who have given us negative feedback.

It may seem easier to consider yourself as the victim in a huge workplace conspiracy, but getting away from people who tell the truth and give negative but constructive feedback is a big mistake.

In this regard, negative feedback can be a great pretext for restoring relationships and, with the right approach, the greatest critics can become the best motivators.

Ask, listen, improve.

iterative method

The iterative method within projects: it is not an alternative, it is an opportunity

The choice of an iterative project management methodology is mandatory for keeping pace with the ever-changing market demand.

In fact, you need methods – even in project management – that are flexible and can adapt to market evolutions.

Agility is key to maintaining a competitive and profitable organization and agility begins with the application of an iterative method.

What does “iterative method” mean within projects?

The iterative approach focuses on delivering value as quickly as possible (incrementally), rather than in one go.

Iterative approach means that the product development process is split into multiple iterations or explicit versions, each of which offers objective improvements or additional functionality.

An iterative approach creates continuous evaluation and improvement opportunities in the development process and throughout a project.

And the good thing is that the design of an iterative approach is generally simple and easy to implement, regardless of the context.

Iterative method process

Unlike the more conventional waterfall model which focuses on a rigorous gradual process of development phases, the iterative model is designed as a cyclic process.

After the initial planning phase, some phases are repeated over and over again, with each completion of the cycle that incrementally improves the result.

Improvements can be quickly identified and implemented during each iteration, allowing the next iteration to be at least marginally better than the last one.

Here is more detail on how each step of the iterative method works:

  • Planning and requirements: similar to most development projects, the first step is to proceed with initial planning to outline specifications, establish requirements and generally prepare for the actual work.
  • Analysis and design: Once the planning is completed, the analysis and design phase takes place, in which the work to be done in the phase is broken down in more detail.
  • Implementation: the phase begins by following all the documentation prepared so far.
  • Test: once this phase is over, a series of test procedures must be performed to identify and pinpoint potential bugs or problems that have emerged.
  • Evaluation: It is time for a comprehensive evaluation of the development up to this stage. This allows the entire team, as well as clients or other external parties, to review at which point the project is, where it needs to be, what it can or should be changed, etc.

And then the crucial point of the whole iterative model comes: once the feedback from the evaluation process of the specific phase is collected, it is brought back to the planning level, at the top of the list, and the process is repeated again.

This process will be repeated until there will be no room for further improvements to the product.

Iterative model advantages

The benefits of the iterative model are several and we will examine them one by one.

Intrinsic version check

The iterative model ensures that the most recent iterations are incrementally improved versions of previous iterations.

Also, if a new iteration fundamentally crashes a system in a disastrous way, a previous iteration can be implemented or “cancelled” quickly and easily, with minimal losses.

Quick trend inversion

Whilst it may seem that each phase of the iterative process is not as different from the phases of a more traditional model as the waterfall method, the uniqueness and convenience of the iterative method is that each phase can be effectively scaled down into increasingly smaller time intervals, depending on the needs of the project.

Although the initial step of all phases may take some time, each subsequent iteration will be faster and faster. This will reduce the life cycle of each new iteration to a few days or even hours in some cases.

Great for agile organizations

Even though a gradual process like the waterfall model can work fine for large organizations with hundreds of team members, the iterative model really starts to be beneficial when it is used by a smaller, more agile team.

A process that follows the iterative method can be effectively executed by a number of individual team members. Execution can range from planning and design to implementation and testing, with little or no need for external feedback or assistance.

Early risk identification and response

Managing each iteration is easier than managing the entire project at once.

The iterative approach allows development teams to address problems at an early stage without requiring the team to backtrack.

Experimentation

The editable and cyclical nature of the iterative method allows teams to test new ideas for their products.

the iterative method

Iterative Model Drawbacks

As in all things there are not only positive aspects to the application of an iterative method. Let’s see what drawbacks can happen.

Expensive problems in advanced stages

While this is not necessarily a problem for all projects, due to minimal initial planning, when using an iterative model, an unforeseen design problem may appear late in the project.

Solving this unforeseen problem could have potentially devastating effects on the time and project costs as a whole. You may also like to read this article on how to create a project Budget.

Fixing the unexpected may require a large amount of future iterations just to solve this single problem.

Greater pressure on user engagement

The cascade model stresses virtually all user/customer engagement in the early stages of the project during a short critical period of time.

By contrast, the iterative model often requires user involvement throughout the entire process.

This is sometimes an unfortunate factor because, depending on the project, each new iteration may require testing and feedback from users to properly assess the changes needed.

Feature Creep

Not only can the iterative model require virtually continuous feedback from users, but this can also mean, inherently, that the project may be subject to undesired feature creep.

Users experience changes in each iteration and, as a result, are inclined to constantly submit new requests for features to be added to future versions.

Conclusions

To briefly recap what is the iterative method within projects: this is simply a model of the product development life cycle – a project output – that works through small iterations to ensure efficiency and high quality at the end of the work.

This model can be a great choice for large projects that need to include feedback and progressively review results during development rather than towards the end.

If you follow the iterative method process correctly, you will end up with a great product that is more likely to be in line with the desired functionality and requirements.

New targets, a new way of working.