corporate change 3

Corporate change: the 8 reasons that cause difficulties and resistance

Today, the resistance to change in the company is a very important, and the same time delicate, subject.

In fact, in business, it is assumed that – big or small – organizations must change to remain competitive and survive in an ever-changing market.

However, facing this (big) change leads to face resistance barriers.

There are many different types of organizational changes.

Organizations can change:

  • their strategy,
  • their use of technology,
  • their structure,
  • their culture,
  • any combination of these aspects.

That’s why having a perspective view becomes fundamental.

Only by looking forward and defining the new organization and the new way of working of the people involved it is possible to identify the key aspects of the change process.

In short, it will be appropriate to plan “how the hypothetical change must take place” and to define the necessary actions that can counter the potential obstacles that may arise.

It is necessary to understand to what extent the people, in this case the employees, are ready to accept the changes and if the process threatens them in some way.

For a manager who must effectively manage the process of change implementation, it is important to know the reasons why people might resist change. The comprehension of motivations is essential to find and apply ways that encourage cooperation.

Resistance can delay or slow down the process of change, hinder its implementation and increase its cost. A manager can not afford it.

Why do people resist change?

In practice, there are 8 reasons why people resist change at work place.

A good manager must recognize these signs easily and understand the emotions that employees feel in this phase. Let’s try to examine one by one the causes of resistance to change.

1.Loss of work

In a company, any technological progress, process or product change will include more optimized work. This means a reduction in costs, an improvement in efficiency and a focus on faster completion times.

All this means that there will be changes that can affect certain roles and jobs. The team will tend to resist to protect their role.

2.Fear of the unknown

Employee responses to corporate change may vary. It can be fear or total support.

During times of change, some employees may feel the need to stick to the past because it is safer, more known and more predictable.

If what they did in the past worked well for them, they could resist change because they fear this comfortable situation will change in the future.

How can you blame them?

What is known is definitely an anchor, a safe haven, whatever the area.

This is why listening and dialogue become fundamental in this situation. Periodic meetings, comparisons and communication on change can be therefore very useful.

corporate change (2)

3.Loss of control

Asking to change the way the work is made can make employees feel helpless and confused.

People are more likely to understand and apply changes when they feel they have some control over them.

The key is therefore to keep the communication doors open and to encourage input, support and help from employees.

4.Lack of competence

This is a fear that employees will hardly admit openly.

Some people will feel that they will not be able to make the transition. This is because of their (few or insufficient) skills.

Therefore, the only way for them to survive or not to show their “ignorance” is to counter change.

Some employees express reluctance in learning something new in general. In this way, however, besides hindering change, they also hinder their personal growth.

5.Wrong time

It is important to consider that change is, itself, an event!

For this reason, change must be introduced when there are no other important initiatives in progress.

In this case, it is essential to prepare a strategy for change management since the beginning. The general situation of the organization must be assessed and the analysis should be complete.

In some cases it may be useful to hire a business change management consultant. This serves to design an effective and objective change management strategy.

6.Lack of rewards

Employees can resist changes when they see no reward. It is the simple question “Who makes me do it?”.

Without reward, in fact, there is no motivation to sustain change in the long run.

Therefore, to support change management, it is important that the organization’s reward systems are modified accordingly. The change must be seen as a rewarding system, an improvement for the company itself.

7.Social environment

Each company has its own internal policy. Thus, some employees resist change a priori, like a “political strategy“. It is simply a way like another to go against the management.

Employees can also join forces against change. They can do it, for example, to show that the person leading the change is not good for the task.

In the same manner, employees can resist change in order to protect their work colleagues. They do this when, for example, there is a risk of layoffs.

Sometimes even managers themselves could resist change in order to protect their working teams.

8.Lack of trust and support

A corporate change can not succeed if it takes place in a climate of distrust. Trust implies faith in the intentions and behavior of others.

In this case, any change in the workplace can be a cause of fear for the employees. The fear that their roles within the company may change.

In companies where a high degree of trust exists and employees are treated with respect and dignity, there is less resistance to change.

corporate change

Recognize resistance to change

How do you know if there is resistance to change in the company?

Sometimes people say or demonstrate quite directly that they are not happy or that they will not follow the plans.

Often, however, resistance is less obvious. It tends to act in a hidden way.

Those who remain silent can resist just as firmly as those who openly communicate their dissent.

Silence does not always mean consent. It is more difficult to manage a silent dissent than an open resistance.

Others may question the methodology. They could do it by undermining the process by which the changes were decided. In short, they will tend to weaken the initiative of change.

Then, there are those who are too busy to think about implementing changes.

Running everywhere the whole day, sending messages and continuously answering calls, they simply do not have time to make changes to their operating modes.

 

So, how do you handle the obvious and less obvious resistance to change?

Strategies to overcome resistance

If new initiatives seem to fade before moving on and the best plans go nowhere, these can be signs that employees are resisting to change.

Even if not all resistances are negative, the inability to adapt to change can have disastrous consequences.

Several studies have shown that around 70% of corporate changes fail due to the resistance of the workforce.

So what do you do to face resistance to change? Here are some suggestions.

Link the change to other issues that affect people. To improve the perception of change, one can think of connecting it to other issues that people care about (eg work safety). By showing how change is linked to these factors, it is possible to make resistance less likely.

Show attention and understanding of concerns. Communicate with employees about new initiatives and their progress. Ask them which are their worries that they see behind the change. Listening to others’ opinions is the first step to influence them.

Identify team members who support change. These people are the supporters of the new way of working. They can be the link between change and the rest of the team. Ensure that they participate in the forums and to the change initiatives so that their voices can be heard.

Communicate openly. It is essential to give precise information on what will happen and when, which aspects will change and what will remain unchanged. People are more likely to get stressed when they do not know the details of the situation.

Offer resources and tools. In a change, one of the biggest obstacles can be employees who are unprepared to manage changes. It will be necessary to provide training courses, equipment and everything that will not only help them to adapt, but also to excel in the changed environment. In this way, not only they can stop resisting, but they can even feel encouraged and confident about the new situation.

Timing is everything. Good timing is crucial when it comes to change. If you try to make important changes all at once or too quickly, employees may be more likely to resist. It is good practice to introduce change in measured doses in order to give employees the chance to acclimatize. This not only guarantees less interruptions to the activity, but also makes employees more inclined and therefore more productive.

It is a cliché, but it is true that change is difficult, in every sector, both in the working as well as in the private sphere.

By following a few simple strategies and a well designed plan of change, it is possible, however, to reassure the employees that the company’s commitment is to ensure, as never before, their well-being and success.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation of corporate change? Which side did you stand for? Tell us about your experience.

Manage your change process.

time-management-1

From time management to schedule management: the new time management in a project

Schedule management or project scheduling is the process of project time management through milestones, activities and final results, usually indicating the expected start and end dates.

A schedule or scheduling is the project or program calendar.

This shows how the work will progress over a period of time and takes into account factors such as limited resources and the uncertainty estimation.

This process begins with the work necessary to meet the requirements of the stakeholders.

This includes the technical / practical work that creates the results and the management activity that deals with aspects such as risk management and stakeholder management.

Definition of types of work

Some types of work can be defined much more easily than other types.

Engineering work, for example, tends to have detailed and complete specifications from the start, while some IT activities follow a more iterative approach to define what needs to be done.

The approaches to time calculation must be equally flexible.

In some cases, you can use rigorous techniques to model the work and calculate the detailed times.

In other cases, general estimates have to be made from the start, then, as the project continues, they are constantly refined thanks to the information available.

A detailed model can be used to perform “what-if” calculations and analysis to test the result of potential events.

For example: “what happens if the X resource is not available in February?” Or “what happens if there are unfavorable weather conditions in March?”.

Rolling Wave Planning

The detailed high-level planning approaches usually follow the so-called  “rolling wave” planning.

Short-term work is generally better defined and can be subject to more rigorous and comprehensive planning.

Long-term work is more vague and subject to changes and will be detailed working progress.

The detail window then moves along the program like a “rolling wave”, literally a rolling wave.

The most commonly used graphic planning form is the Gantt chart.

In its simplest form it uses bars on a horizontal chronological scale to show the beginning, duration and end of the various activities.

Variants of the Gantt chart can transmit all types of information adapting to the circumstances.

At the end of the work scheduling shows what has been planned and what really happened and can be an important tool in identifying and determining the lessons learned.

How to perform project scheduling

Before deepening  project planning, let’s examine the basics.

You have to ask yourself three questions to start project planning:

  1. What must be done?
  2. By when will it be done?
  3. Who will do it?

time-management-to do list

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start planning dates, linking activities, setting duration, milestones, and resources.

Following are the necessary steps  to plan a project:

  • Define activities: Using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) structure and a deliverable diagram, you can begin to perform these tasks and organize them by mapping the activities needed to complete them in an order compared to what is necessary;
  • Making estimates: Once the activities have been defined and divided, it is necessary to determine the time and effort required to complete them;
  • Determine dependencies: Tasks are not isolated and often it isn’t possible to start a new one until the previous is not completed. This is the so-called dependence of activities;
  • Assign resources: The last step to finalizing the planned program is to decide which resources will be needed to perform these tasks on time.

You will have to choose the project team and the time of the collaborators will have to be planned exactly following the planned activities in the planning.

As the complexity of work increases, it becomes impractical to maintain a single detailed program.

Large-scale projects will often use wave planning in which only short-term work is shown in detail with the long-term work that is shown in summary.

As the amount of management activity increases, it may be useful to create separate delivery plans for different areas such as a communication plan, a technical plan, a marketing plan, etc.

The need for multiple plans is inevitable as the complexity of project increases.

To be effective, the project manager must ensure that similar programming policies are adopted throughout the program.

These policies can be defined in a planning management plan.

The scheduling management plan has essentially three parts:

  • Development planning
  • Control
  • Planning of changes

Development planning

In this section the procedures for the development and revision of the program are established.

The personnel responsible for the development is identified and the potential contribution of the project team members is discussed.

Written procedures for estimating asset duration and budgets, contingency levels, and resources are specified for the project.

Moreover, if the project is complex, a project planning software is very often a useful tool to have.

Scheduling check

In this section the procedures for measuring and monitoring the project program are implemented.

Throughout the project, planning deviations and costs should be known or calculated regularly, which requires an estimate of the percentage of completion of each activity according to scheduling.

At this stage it is necessary to have clear answers to the following questions:

  • How will the program be measured?
  • Which units will be used to measure completeness of activities?
  • Who will measure it?
  • How often will it be measured?

Scheduling changes

Normally, any change to the initial project planning must be communicated and approved.

In fact, in most cases, someone has initially approved the project budget and deadline and expects to receive results accordingly.

That person is usually called the “project sponsor“.

And it is the project sponsor together, often, to the stakeholders who must be informed and approve all the changes to the initial planning.

time-management-desktop

Here are the basic questions to consider in this case:

  • What are the appropriate reasons for a change of program?
  • How much notice do you need?
  • Who must approve the changes?

Project planning is probably one of the most difficult jobs of a project manager, but the coordination of delivery dates on estimates can be simplified and made more efficient when you have gained experience and when using appropriate software management.

What are your experiences with project scheduling? Write us your comment here.

Start planning your projects.

Project documents: best practices to manage them better

A clear and detailed project documentation is essential for the success of the project itself.

Every good project manager knows it well!

In fact, it is necessary to be constantly updated to stay on track with the project.

However, project documentation drafting can be a difficult and unloved task.

For some organizations and projects there are even legal requirements to be met for the drafting and storage of documents. These are mandatory requirements that, if not respected, can make in trouble not only the single project, but the company itself.

All clear then, project documentation is important and its correct drafting and conservation is essential.

So what’s the problem? The problem is actually very simple: most people hate to compile documentation.

It’s a time-consuming process!

It is considered boring and often underestimated or ignored not only by the collaborators who have to deal with it, but also by the people who requested it.

Each project is unique and therefore requires unique documentation to help to guide the project to a successful conclusion.

Hence, it’s very important to identify which documents are critical for each project.

Below we provide a simple project classification that could help to identify relevant documentation:

  • Small projects: these projects last one to four months. The emphasis is on speed and completion of the project as quickly as possible. Examples of such projects are the creation of a website or simply an upgrade of existing systems.
  • Medium-sized projects: these projects take up to 12 months to complete and are the standard for most companies. They are not that fast and usually involve external suppliers. The risk level and control of changes increases with respect to small projects.
  • Super dimensional projects: these are the largest and most complex projects. It may even take years to complete them. An example of this project is the construction of a building.

Determination of project documentation needs

An important question to ask itself for each project is: what is the minimum project documentation needed?

In fact, written documentation requires time and money. Therefore, project size has an impact on the number of documents needed.

Furthermore, the development of project documentation becomes even more crucial when working with public administration and public institutions.

project documents

It is, for example, the case of the medical, pharmaceutical or defense sectors.

An Australian study of CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) link to the target = blank site, which took into consideration about 350 companies, found that incomplete documentation caused a reduction in the efficiency of the project.

In cases where there was very little documentation, the projects had an average completion of 11% which, to say it is superfluous, is a very low percentage.

For small projects, the emphasis is therefore on minimum requirements and minimum documentation.

Medium-sized projects gradually require more documentation, while large projects require maximum documentary effort because they require a high level of communication and coordination.

Create the right documentation

Sometimes project managers do not want to create new documents for each of their projects.

As an alternative, they can use a wide range of proven project models.

This allows the project manager to have more time to focus on the actual project, rather than wasting time on developing new documents from scratch.

Whether the project manager manages the entire project lifecycle or simply a phase, he will still have to deal with details and information from various sources.

Thinking to the input coming from customers, users and sellers, at some point he will have to write something.

Specifically, the project documentation focuses on:

  • Define the purpose and scope of the project;
  • Identify results and key points;
  • Document the technical parameters and the technologies to be used;
  • Address the way deliverable will be built or distributed;
  • Evaluate elements such as quality, scope, resources, risks, training and costs;
  • Document any backouts or unexpected events that may occur;
  • Communicate progress and update project stakeholders.

Once again we can understand how much correct documentation is fundamental for the success of a project.

Whether it is simple paper documents or documentation sent in electronic format, it is necessary to plan and develop the project documentation before starting the project itself.

Hence, project managers must anticipate the time required to develop these documents within project planning and update the plan every time a change occurs.

What you need to document

Regardless of the organization’s structure, the ability to record and document all aspects of a project is vital to be a successful project manager.

Reports, graphs, documents, change requests and status updates must also be kept throughout the life of a project and, very often, even beyond.

project documents

It is important to consider the following to determine what to include into documention:

  • Customer documentation: a simple example is sufficient for this topic. Imagine that a customer ask to the project manager information about a decision made a couple of months ago. The customer claims to have clearly chosen a direction, but the company has decided to follow another one. Clear documentation on customer meetings, with specific dates, times and participants, will help everyone to remember the decision made and to clarify any misunderstanding.
  • Legal documents: For some projects there are legal requirements that require making specific documents. For public projects, for example, supervisory and review processes may be necessary to analyze a project after its completion. The legal requirements of a project must be clear already at the beginning of the project itself.
  • Process documentation: important processes within a project must be documented. This documentation may also be useful as a resource for any similar future projects. In case of doubt, the best approach is always to document.
  • Project Change Documentation: Project updates are essential to document when objectives, or project execution, change due to internal factors or external causes. Stakeholders must also be informed of these changes and receive the relevant documentation.

Documentation best practices

What are the best strategies to use to maintain effective, efficient and timely documentation? Here are the best practices:

  • Taking the time: many people think that the calendar is only used to setup meetings. It’s not just like that! The calendar can be used to program blocks of time to to reflect and for drafting of an essential document for the project. We need to take some time to write an official document. This can‘t happen when you keep answering the phone, writing emails and talking with your co-workers. Likewise, you can plan 10-15 minute blocks every week to review and update the documentation.
  • Enter the right details: depending on the documentation target, this must contain more or less details and, depending on the role of the target audience, the details must be of a certain type or another. For example, an engineer will need the project technical details, while a marketing manager will be focused on other factors. The project manager must to consider the right level of detail in the documentation.
  • Smart Storage: documentation must be easy to identify and easily accessible. This also includes the use of clear and easily identifiable keywords.
  • Share: the documentation must be shared and must not be saved individually on the project manager’s PC. Sharing the documentation, with the right collaborators, also allows you to receive constructive feedback if changes are necessary.
  • Updating the documentation: as the project progresses, it is necessary to ensure that the project documentation is correctly updated. Needless to waste time in writing initial documents and then lock them in oblivion.

In conclusion, documentation is certainly a difficult topic for many project managers, but it is a fundamental tool that in some cases can even simplify the execution of the project.

Hence it’s important to give the right value to the project documentation.

That’s why in TWproject we have made the life easier!

Document management is a large topic, so there are dozens of specific applications (called DMS).

In Twproject we don’t want to compete with these specific tools. We are, in fact, aware that every company has its own system of document storage, tested and structured.

That’s why we have chosen to keep the management of documents to the essential. At the same time we have decided to integrate this aspect with some powerful and simple technique.

Therefore, we have created an intelligent system for managing and archiving project documents in Twproject.

Your documents will always be one click away from your projects (and resources, and even from issues).

You will be able to connect and access to your documents in two ways:

  • Uploading a document directly to TWproject
  • Creating a link to a file archive
  • Adding a link, if you already have a document repository,

In this way you will have access to your documents directly from Twproject: a single place from where to manage everything and put everything available to the team.

Not bad, right?

All while working, also remotely or accessing from mobile.

In short, we have tried to meet all the needs of the PM to concretely support the need to manage project documents.

And what is your relationship with the project documentation?

Is it a difficult task for you or are you part of the project managers who not struggling dealing with it?

Give us your opinion, but above all, tell us what are the needs about that.

We would like to know what else we may implement in the software to improve your work.

Manage your project documents.

organize team work time

Organize team work time: leveling or smoothing resources?

Being able to organize the work time of your team is essential for the success of each project.

This is also because a project manager does not always have all the necessary resources to complete the project.

And even in the case when the resources are sufficient, during the execution of the project there are situations and potential risks that can, even suddenly, cut out this “luxury”.

Even when all the necessary resources are available, it is the responsibility of the project manager to use resources efficiently and save on company costs.

To achieve these goals, resource optimization techniques are required. Today, in particular, we see two of them:

  • Resource leveling;
  • Resource smoothing.

These techniques allow to complete the project with minimal obstruction.

Resource leveling

Resource leveling is used when resources are limited.

In these cases, project planning can be extended and one or more deadlines can be postponed.

If the resources are not available, in fact, the duration of the project could change.

Resource leveling is mainly used when:

  • An important resource may not be available for a certain period of time;
  • An important resource may not be available at a given time;
  • One or more resources must be shared with another project;
  • The demand for a resource is greater than the supply. If the demand for resources exceeds their availability, at any time, some activities may be delayed until the availability of resources becomes acceptable again.

This technique is also used when the use of resources has to be constant.

In the resource leveling, in fact, the limited resources should be optimized.

Resource leveling answers the question of when it will be possible to complete the project with the resources provided.

Resource leveling is sometimes also called resource constrained scheduling (RCS).

In this case, a project must be completed with the available resources, therefore the concept of “limited resources”.

Let’s make a concrete example of resource leveling that causes an extension of the planning and, therefore, a delay of the project.

We are developing a program for a two-story building project.

The construction of the first floor takes place without problems, but for the second floor an additional scaffolding is needed.

We find out that we have an extra scaffolding available in our company and that we can take it from another project, BUT we have to wait a week longer than the date we had set.

As a result, construction activities will be delayed by a week.

Resource smoothing

Resource smoothing is used when resources need to be optimized and planning can not be extended.

Since it is not possible to postpone one or more deadlines, the completion date of the project should remain the same.

In the resource smoothing, it is necessary to do everything possible to avoid any delay as it could affect the life cycle and planning of the project.

Time here is the main constraint.

organize team work time

There is a fixed and immutable program and therefore the resources should be optimized accordingly.

Resource smoothing is also known as time costrained scheduling (TCS).

TCS emphasizes the completion of a project within a certain period of time. Here, the start and end dates of the project are fundamental and have to be respected.

TCS also considers supply (availability) and demand (requirement) of resources. Here, however, there is a default limit for the resource request, which can not be exceeded.

Also in this case we make a concrete example.

Let’s sppose that a student has to take an exam and has allocated 60 hours in three months for studying. This means 20 hours a month.

However, while planning the exam date, he discovers that the only available appointment is in two months.

In this case the student must distribute these 60 hours in those two months, ie 30 hours per month.

This is a concrete example of resource smoothing.

Since the exam date can not be postponed, the student will have to work harder to reach his goal.

Otherwise, he will not pass the exam, which corresponds to the failure of the project.

The differences between resource leveling and resource smoothing

Let’s see some differences between resource leveling and resource smoothing:

  • In the resource leveling the end date of the project can change, while in the case of resource smoothing it does not change;
  • In resource leveling, the critical path of the project changes (generally increases), whereas in the case of resource smoothing it does not. The activities can also be delayed only within their float, planned at the start;
  • Generally, resource smoothing is performed only after the resource leveling;
  • In resource leveling, the resources themselves are the main constraint, while in resource smoothing the end date of the project is the constraint to be taken into consideration;
  • Resource leveling is used when resources are under or over-allocated. Resource smoothing is used instead when resources are allocated unevenly;
  • Resource leveling can be applied to activities during the critical path, while in resource smoothing, activities and the path generally do not touch.

The similarities between resource leveling and resource smoothing

The following are some similarities between the two:

  • Both help optimize the use of resources;
  • Both help to plan the analysis of the network.

Resource leveling and resource smoothing are different techniques that are used in different situations.

It is not always necessary to use both techniques; depending on the case, you can choose only one of them.

However, if both are used, as mentioned above, it is usually the resource leveling that preceds the resource smoothing, since it is necessary to consider the constraints of resources first, before being able to optimize them.

Resource leveling and resource smoothing are two optimization techniques for the resources.

If used, in any project the chances of completing the project successfully within the deadline and respecting the initially approved cost limits increase.

The essential difference is that resource leveling is used to balance the demand and supply of resources, while resource smoothing helps to ensure a uniform use of resources.

In Twproject, it is always possible to check the workload of your resources, both in the planning, as well as in the daily management of the project.

The more complete theinformation in Twproject, the more your graphs will approach reality.

For example, when you start a project, the first thing you have to say to Twproject is how much you intend to work on a project: you have to make an estimate.

organize team work time

The estimate is set by mutual agreement. This is also a way to engage the team.

Evaluating the necessary time, even with some variation and inaccuracy of estimation, is always an excellent exercise for the team members that are confronted with tasks and responsibilities.

But let’s get back to the potential of TWproject.

After setting the estimated time, accessing the “operator load”, you will obtain something like this:

organize team work time

On this page, for each resource of the selected team, you will have a graphical representation of the total load per day.

The representation is detailed: each color represents a different task.

By clicking on a column you will have a detailed explanation of the components of the load.

You can verify the collaborator’s load and use TWproject to improve work distribution.

In TW project plan and workload interact, collecting data from each source and in real time.

Have you ever implemented a resource smoothing or resource leveling during one of your projects?

Have you encountered any difficulties? Which?

Tell us about your experience.

Plan the work time of your team.

earned value

The Earned Value Method: What is it and how to use it

In project management, the Earned Value method is one of the most appreciated and well-known project management tools.

It is a project management technique that allows to measure performance and progress.

It combines the measures of the project management triangle: scope, time and costs.

In a unique integrated system, the Earned Value Method is able to give accurate predictions on the performance problems of a project.

Therefore, you can understand how important its contribution to project management can be.

What is the Earned Value Method?

The Earned Value Method method is also known as Earned Value Analysis (EVA).

This method allows the project manager to measure the amount of work actually performed on a project.

Thanks to the EVA, it is possible to measure the project according to the progress achieved.

Using the measured progress, the project manager is therefore able to predict the total cost of a project and its completion date.

Often the term “earned value” refers to the Budgeted Cost of Worked Performed or BCWP.

This value allows the project manager to calculate the efficiency indices of the project.

Moreover, it provides information on how the project is progressing in relation to its original planning.

These indices, if applied to future activities, allow to predict how the development of the project in the future will be, provided that the performance indices do not fluctuate.

The requirement for the Earned Value Analysis

In order to have an accurate Earned Value Analysis, the creation of a solid project plan is needed.

In particular, it is possible to use the Scope Statement, the real fondation of a project.

In short, the Scope Statement is a document wrote by the project manager on the project start-up.

It includes project goals and objectives, final product requirements, major milestones, and project risk analysis.

In order to develop that common understanding of the work required for a project, another key structure should be created, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

The WBS is a proper list of all project activities, a hierarchical decomposition which focuses on the deliverable of the project.

Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project’s work.

A WBS records the hierarchy and description of the tasks that have to be performed and their relationship with the final product.

The WBS breaks down all working sectors into appropriate planning elements.

Budget definition, cost accounting, progress measurement and management control.

Project planning is therefore a necessity not only for using the Earned Value Method, but also for the success of the project in general.

Once the bases have been established, let’s look at the three necessary information that allow to calculate the EVA.

The fundamental concepts of the Earned Value

The Earned Value Method allows the project manager to answer the following three questions about the project:

  1. Where were we?
  2. Where are we now?
  3. Where are we going?

Unlike traditional management, in the Earned Value Method there are three data sources:

  • Planned value – PV;
  • Actual value – AV;
  • the earned value of the concrete work already completed.

Starting from these three sources, the Earned Value Method extrapolates the data and is able to compare them.

earned value

The planned value

The planned value describes to what extent the activities of a project should be at a determined point in the project schedule and in the cost estimation.

The baseline of the project schedule and of the costs refer to the planned physical work and the budget approved in order to complete the planned activities.

Together, these two values define an important value: the planned value (PV).

This value can be analysed in two ways: cumulative or current.

The cumulative PV is the sum of the approved budget for the planned activities that have to be performed in general, througout the project.

On the other hand, the current PV is the approved budget for the planned activities that have to be performed during a given period.

This period could refer to days, weeks, months, etc.

The actual cost 

The actual cost (AC), also called the actual cost of the work performed (ACWP), is the real cost incurred for the execution of a task for a project.

This value refers to what has actually been spent and, as in the case of the planned value, can be either cumulative or current.

The cumulative AC is the sum of the actual cost for all the activities performed up to the historical moment in which it is calculated.

On the other hand, the current AC is the actual cost of the activities performed during a given period. Here too the period can refer to days, weeks, months, etc.

The earned value (EV) of the completed work 

The earned value is the quantification of the value of the work actually performed up to a certain date.

In other words, the EV refers to what was achieved during the project.

The cumulative EV is the sum of the budget for the activities performed up to the date when this value is calculated.

The current EV is the sum of the budget for the activities carried out in a given period.

Variance Analysis

The variance analysis is a method where the achieved results of a project are compared to the expected results.

When a project is approved, certain expected results are established, as well as a planning in order to achieve them.

The variance analysis, in case of failure to achieve those results, helps to understand the amount of difference between the expected results and those actually achieved.

After having evaluated the gap, it becomes fundamental to understand what were the causes of this failure.

This technique is used to highlight cost and time variances, ie the cost variance and the schedule variance.

Cost Variance (CV)

This value indicates how the project is evolving with respect to the initially estimated budget.

The cost variance is calculated by subtracting the earned value from the costs actually incurred, here is the formula: CV = EV – AC.

If the result equals 0, it means that the project is perfectly respecting the budget.

If the result is negative, this means that the project is out of budget, ie the costs incurred are greater than those planned.

It is therefore necessary to take action.

On the other hand, if the result is positive, it means that the project is under budget, ie the costs incurred are lower than those planned.

Schedule Variance (SV)

With respect to the scheduling initially approved, the project may be late, in advance or in line with the initial planning.

This value represents the Schedule Variance (SV).

It is essential to understand how this value does not provide data on the impact that any delay in work has on the project and its results.

It simply indicates whether the work is in line with the planning or not.

The Schedule Variance, which shows the actual situation of the project with respect to planning, is obtained by subtracting from the earned value the planned costs up to the moment in which the analysis is carried out.

Here is the formula: SV = EV – PV.

If the result is 0, it means that the project is in line with the planning.

If the result is positive, it means that the project is ahead of schedule.

On the other hand, if the result is negative, it means that the project is behind the schedule and it is necessary to take action.

Project efficiency indexes

Another analysis that can be performed using the Earned Value Method is that of project efficiency.

In particular, there are two types of efficiency analysis: the Schedule Performance Index (SPI) and the Cost Performance Index (CPI).

The SPI is an indicator of the efficiency of the program of a project.

In fact, it is the ratio between the earned value (EV) and the planned value (PV): SPI = EV / PV.

If the SPI is equal to or greater than one, this indicates a favorable condition. This means that the project is being carried out efficiently.

On the contrary, a value lower than one indicates a negative situation.

The CPI is the indicator of economic efficiency of a project and is the ratio between the earned value (EV) and the actual costs (CA): CPI = EV/AC.

A CPI equal to or greater than one indicates a favorable condition and a value below one indicates a negative situation.

Therefore, in general, it is possible that our project is in line with the planning or is efficient or inefficient.

But which are the most frequent causes that determine these deviations? Let’s see them together.

The efficiency of a project can be reached thanks to the following conditions:

  • Less complex work than expected;
  • Less revisions and re-elaborations;
  • Favorable market fluctuations in labor or material costs;
  • Decrease of expenses in general.

On the other hand, the possible causes that lead to an inefficiency of the project could be:

  • More complex work than expected;
  • Many reviews and re-elaborations;
  • Unclear requirements;
  • Scope Creep or uncontrolled change of scope, ie the deviation of the project scope from what initially agreed and planned;
  • Unfavorable market fluctuations in labor or material costs;
  • Increase of expenses in general.

Estimate and budget upon completion

Let’s now how to analyze the future.

We are not talking about magic, but about what is expected to happen in a project, given the measurements of the progress recorded until the moment we perform the analysis.

These estimates allow us to see when the project will be completed and how much it will cost to complete it.

Therefore, we examine the Estimate At Completion (EAC) and the Budget At Completion (BAC).

earned value

The EAC is the total cost expected for a scheduled activity.

It is considered that the remaining work is performed on schedule and based on the current CPI and SPI.

The EAC is a periodic evaluation of the project.

It is usually carried out on a monthly basis or when there is a significant change in the project.

A common formula that allows to determine the EAC is expressed as the budget to completion divided by the current project IPC: EAC = BAC / CPI.

The BAC indicates the total value of the costs initially foreseen for the project and is calculated by summing the initial costs foreseen for each individual activity.

The BAC must always be equal to the total PV of the project.

If these two values do not match, the calculations related to the earned value will be inaccurate.

In conclusion, here are five basic rules for effective Earned Value Management:

  1. Organize the project team and the project scope using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS);
  2. Plan activities in a logical way so that the lower level elements support the following elements and the higher level milestones;
  3. Check the budget regularly;
  4. Establish objective means to measure the realization of work. The budget should always respect what is planned.
  5. Control the project by analyzing the cost and time deviations, evaluating the final costs, checking the changes with respect to the project baseline and developing corrective actions when necessary.

It must be clear that applying the Earned Value Method is certainly more complex than it may appear in this article.

A lot of discipline and detailed information are needed to manage it properly.

But we think, it is useful to simplify the concepts in order to make the approach easier for those who want to experiment with this method.

What is essential to remember is that everything starts with good project planning.

Have you ever put the Earned Value Method into practice in one of your projects?

How was your experience?

Tell us about it.

Start planning your project.

how to manage remote working team

How to manage remote working teams

The idea of  how to manage remote working team until just 20 years ago was pure madness.
Internet has changed the history, and companies are adapting to it.

In the ever-changing and rapidly developing modern world, it is almost impossible to imagine something stable and stationary.

Communication, teamwork and society itself have changed radically.

In fact, today more and more companies and freelancers offer their services on a global level, transforming the virtual workplace from a mere exception to normality.

This trend offers countless opportunities for professionals and companies from all corners of the world.

In Italy more and more companies are activating remote working processes, transferring part of the personnel work remotely.

Managing a team remotely in efficient way, is therefore the new challenge for project managers!

Following there is a series of suggestions to help the project manager in organizing and managing a remote work team.

How to manage remote working team: Choose the right members for the team

Everyone dreams working from home, but only a few can do it.

Actually being able to work professionally and without being overwhelmed by everyday activities is not easy.

In a traditional office, the environment is necessarily more social. It interacts with colleagues also because avoiding them is practically impossible.

Some people need that extra level of social responsibility to work properly.

But there are also other people who manage themselves pretty well.

They organize their workload and keep aligned themselves with the working team.

They can do it even remotely.

Hence, It’s essential to hire this second type of worker in a team that has to perform the job remotely.

This person does not need to be with others to properly to his task.

Effective remote teams are composed of self-motivated individuals who can complete tasks on time without being managed closely.

These workers must be engaged in communication.

They have to know that clear, detailed and continuous communication is vital for a healthy team.

They will work hard and make every effort to interact with the rest of the team every day.

In general, however, it is much easier to appear as a professional worker on the Internet than in real life.

Therefore, before hiring someone, you need to make sure of his expertise, experience and knowledge of the industry.

But how do you know if a person is really the right one for the job?

A possible and simple solution is to start with a test.

It will only take a couple of weeks to find out if the worker is valid for the project or if it is better to find another employee.

 How to manage remote working team: Communication is the key

Clear and regular communication is the key to the success of any team work.

In the case of remote teams, continuous and fluid interaction is the lifeblood.

Nowadays there are a lot of free or paid services and tools that facilitate the management of the virtual team.

Depending on the purpose of the communication and its urgency, you can choose the most suitable tool for team members.

In Twproject we have created a very popular tool for business discussions, both formal and informal: the chat.

Its use among our customers was immediately appreciated and widespread.

how to manage remote working team

The TWproject chat was designed and implemented to allow all communications to be centralized.

A single place to communicate, talk about individual projects and having the history of what happened.

And not only. In fact, it often happens that in the discussions emerged activities to be done, not planned or planned.

Here is that thanks to the TWproject chat, it’s possible to mark any message and turn it into a task / issue.

how to manage remote working team

Chatting with colleagues, even without always talking about work, certainly does not damage the process.

On the contrary, it will help people to bind themselves more closely, just like a team. It will help them feeling important for the other team members.

This is why in TWproject the chats can also be created between colleagues only.

Because if it is true that everyone likes to talk about work, it is true that sometimes you can keep the relationship even by discussing a good movie.

To improve the reading of the chats, the log of these chats is visible only by the participants.

Twproject chat is included for free on every floor. (a further money saving, beyond that of time)

So if usually, the best strategy is to have everything in one place, there are some cases where you need to use other communication tools.

This happens when situations become complicated: there are problems that must be managed “face to face”.

Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting or other video-conferencing software are essential for successful remote collaboration.

Sometimes, you need to see a person’s emotions and talk to us directly to understand how things are going.

It serves to know what is really happening on the other side.

It is also advisable to plan regular, weekly or monthly meetings.

The frequency will depend by the frequency of communication with the team.

In this way, it is possible to understand the spirit with which the collaborators are working.

It will help the Project Manager to be sure of the team’s alignment on the project objectives.

How to manage remote working team: Keeping track and reporting of progresses

The tools that are used for communication and control within the team are important. But they don’t affect the success of the project you are working on.

The success of the project in fact, always depends on the people hired and the way in which the overall work process is built.

When dealing with a remote team, the answer to a project manager question may not be immediate.

Sometimes the project manager could wait several hours before receiving an answer. This is due, for example, to a time zone difference.

This is why it is necessary to implement an easy and transparent system for tracking and reporting progress.

Every professional should have a clear vision and understanding of the step he is taking and of what will come next.

Remote team management tools such as TWproject help all team members to be on the same wave line.

They can also obtain the assistance of the right person when necessary.

These tools usually help people to:

  • stay organized;
  • plan work effectively;
  • be more productive.

Clearly defined roles, objectives and expectations help each team member to perform tasks more productively and independently.

 How to manage remote working team: The importance of feedback

Every healthy relationship is based on trust and communication.

Remote team management is no exception to this rule.

The project manager must be aware of the team’s expectations.

Collaborators in the same way, should know exactly what the project manager expects from them.

It is easy to lose motivation and “the track” when working away from the rest of the team and when communication is not excellent.

This is why building an empathic listening is essential.

A good remote team manager should not just worry about completing tasks.

It should also show genuine interest in the general well-being of team members!

how to manage remote working team

Take an interest in their job satisfaction and be alert to any further expectations.

The self-motivation of an employee is a must for remote working.

It will not last forever without proper communication, feedback and interaction.

Furthermore, even asking the team regularly for feedback is essential.

If people have been hired prepared and available, why not ask them how satisfied they are with the way things are going?

Why not ask what their ideas are on any business process improvements?

A new perspective and an idea received from the remote team can greatly improve the development of the project.

How to manage remote working team: Real Meetings

The world of technology is great and can make almost anything possible.

But we are humans, and for us “relationship” is a fundamental element.

In the age of technology, the other aspect of the coin is being shown in all its fullness.

It’s the biggest and least obvious digital disadvantage … we’re talking about loneliness.

The remote worker is alone.

And if at first, when the team is formed, it can be an opportunity to start the activities with greater concentration, in the long run this aspect can become a boomerang.

That’s why team building activities for remote teams are as important as those for people who work physically in one company.

how to manage remote working team

If the company allows it, real meetings, even if only annuals meetings, they should be done!

They are perfect for increasing cohesion and team closeness.

The connectivity that can be obtained in real life is difficult if not impossible to reproduce digitally.

Even for the project manager himself, these real meetings could be useful.

Personally meeting colleagues from different cultures will help you understand them better.

Also the overall management will be easier.

Managing remote teams is certainly a challenge.

Remotely, organizing the work process, monitoring team members’ activities, and keeping track of workflow is much more difficult than in an office.

However, the simple tips of this article will help in this task.

In this way, it will be possible to have a group of loyal, hardworking, productive and satisfied employees who will help to achieve company objectives quickly.

Have you ever involved with managing a team at a distance?

What kind of problems did you deal with? What did you like?

Tell us about your experience.

Start managing your remote working team.

lessons learned

Lesson learned. Use the “lessons learned” to reduce the chances of failure of a project

With lessons learned, we talk about learning from the mistakes, and not only, of the past.

We could apply infinite proverbs to this statement, but we want to recall only one: “Errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum”

Lesson Learned: the study of Axelos PPM Benchmark

According to the recent study by AXELOS PPM Benchmark, almost half of project managers who rarely (or never) revise projects have faced a project failure in the last 12 months.

On the other hand, only 34% of those who always (or almost always) review the project, have experienced a failure during the last year.

These results give further importance to the argument that “lesson learned” from past projects should be an integral part of project management.

So why is this aspect so often overlooked?

Learning from past projects and activities should be a continuous effort throughout the project life cycle.

This mentality should be strongly encouraged by the project manager right from the beginning.

Whether the lessons learned are used to prepare ongoing projects, or used to identify any improvement within the project, learning from the failures or successes of past projects becomes a very important element.

Not considering what went wrong during a project is simply stupid. It means to be in a position where we will repeat the same mistakes.

On the contrary, even not to highlight the successes of a project and how these have been achieved is a mistake.

You lose the opportunity to implement good processes and best practices that can contribute to the successful completion of an existing or future job.

In short, the lessons learned are documented information that reflects both the positive as well as negative experiences of a project.

They represent the organization’s commitment to excellence in project management.

For the project manager, it is an opportunity to learn from the real experiences of others.

The process of learning occurs during and at the end of each project, whether short or complex.

The best way is to hold a session to identify the lessons learned.

It should be conducted at different times according to the critical issues and complexity of the project.

The more complex the project, the more the sessions should be.

If you wait until the end of the project, especially if it is long and complex, you could lose some key points.

Project managers, team members and stakeholders can all be interested in reviewing the lessons learned and making decisions about how to use the acquired knowledge.

How does the process of lessons learned work

The process of collecting and evaluating lessons learned includes the five following steps:

  • Identification;
  • Documentation;
  • Analysis;
  • Archiving;
  • Recovery.

1) Identification of lessons learned

This first phase consists in identifying comments and recommendations that could be useful for future projects.

The project manager, or the person responsible for data collection, should give all project’s collaborators, and possibly also stakeholders, a project survey.

The project survey will help identify input and lessons learned.

Thanks to the survey, all the points of view and the experiences will be collected.

Three key questions should be included in the survey:

  1. What went well;
  2. What went wrong;
  3. What should be improved.

2) Documentation of lessons learned

The second step in the lessons learned process is to document and share the results.

After the lessons learned have been acquired, they should be reported to all project stakeholders.

The final report must be kept and stored together with all the project documentation.

lessons learned

This report should give an overview of how the process of lessons learned works.

It must also contain a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the project as well as the recommendations for the future.

3) Lessons learned analysis

The third phase of the process consists of analyzing and organizing the lessons learned in order to apply the results.

Information is shared with other team members during organizational meetings.

As a result of the lessons learned, improvements in the project management process or training needs are often identified.

4) Archive the lessons learned

The documents on the lessons learned are archived together with other project documents.

They must always be easy to consult.

For this reason, organizations often set up a portfolio of lessons learned in the shared unit.

This allows to make the reports available to everyone that might be interested.

5) Recover the lessons learned

Although the lessons learned reports are stored on a shared unit, without the possibility to search for keywords, it is difficult to find them.

Therefore, it is important to store them in an orderly and easily retrievable manner, so that even those who have not directly participated in the project can find them.

Organizations have different approaches with which they manage – or do not manage – the lessons learned.

Let’s see this in detail.

Management of lessons learned: Type 1

The organizations belonging to this first type do not collect the lessons learned.

Almost always there is no defined process for analyzing and evaluating them.

Lessons learned, if taken into account, are managed without standardized tools or consistency between the projects.

This makes them unreadable and uncomparable.

What organizations of this type need is a defined process and basic tools and techniques.

In this type of business it is important that the project manager sees the lessons learned as constructive.

He must therefore transmit this conviction to the project team and to the stakeholders.

Management of lessons learned: Type 2

Here organizations have a defined process and basic tools to identify and document lessons learned.

The process is already part of the corporate culture.

It is applied consistently to projects and processes that have been revised to achieve greater efficiency.

Although the organizations of this type are constantly taking into account the lessons learned, they do not use them in a correct, complete and effective way.

What these organizations need are effective tools.

It is necessary to identify the actions that can be undertaken within the company in order to strengthen weak areas.

After that, these actions have to be implemented during each project.

This can be done through better training of the project manager and / or of the team members.

It could also mean procedures or processes added or improved.

The people responsible for analyzing the lessons learned should have a role within the company that allows them to implement the solutions.

It is also important that data collection takes place using consistent processes and forms.

The coherence of input information enables faster identification of recurring problems and proactive resolutions.

An example of an effective tool for collecting lessons learned is the construction of an input form.

This document consents a consistent collection of data as well as providing a means for easier recovery.

lessons learned

The model should include fields such as: category, lesson learned, actions taken, how the action was taken, keywords, etc.

Keywords will be essential for an easy and quick recovery.

Management of lessons learned: Type 3

This third type of organization is normally able to perform a complete analysis of the lessons learned.

It is also able to convert this information into concrete actions.

The reports are well structured, using charts and diagrams, everything is consistent and maintained in a centralized unit.

Let’s repeat an important concept:

collecting, analyzing and learning from lessons learned should be a continuous effort throughout the life of the project. 

Everyone from the project manager to the project team, from bord of directors to stakeholders, should contribute to the collection, documentation and archiving of lessons learned for the benefit of future projects.

Do you collect and correctly use lessons learned in your company?

Is there a lesson learned that you remember the most or has left you important ideas to improve your project?

Share your experience in a comment.

Start planning your project.

Project milestone

The project milestones: planning objectives and results

Milestone or project milestone is the management tool used to define a specific point in the project planning.

The points define, in fact, the beginning and the end of work and mark the end of an important phase of the work.

Milestones can be used to symbolize all started and finished stuff.

If a milestone focuses on the main points of project progress, it becomes useful as a planning tool.

Just as the tasks break down a larger project into manageable parts, the milestones split a project into milestones.

So, when starting a project, milestones can help immensely with programming.

Milestones are usually present in project management software, and of course also in TWproject.

They have their own specific icon in the Gantt chart function, and are diamond-shaped.

Project milestones: the planning

Project milestones are a way to estimate the time needed to complete the project more accurately.

Hence, they become essential for precise project planning.

With milestones, you can better calculate project planning by segmenting it into more manageable and easier-to-control time intervals.

They are also a flexible tool for planning.

With a little bit of flexibility, they can do much more than act as mere indicators of the project phases.

For example, milestones can be used as reminder of important meetings for the project or to report other interesting events, such as workshops or training courses.

project milestone

In an important editorial plan, for example, a digital project manager, can use them to define the release of individual articles within the blog.

In short, using this diamond icon is a great way to make sure everyone is aware of upcoming deadlines and upcoming important meetings.

Naturally, milestones can indicate the deadlines for anything related to the project.

For example, they can report a result from another linked project or an impending delivery from a supplier.

In addition, milestones are good to mark a point where there is a transition between two phases of a project.

Milestones, like activities, can be linked and connected to each other.

This happens for example when a milestone’s phase can’t begin until the end of the previous phase, linked to another milestone.

Project milestones: Keep track of progress

Part of a project’s planning is the ability to monitor and keep track the progress of that program in real time.

Milestones are a way to see both at what point is a specific single activity, and the general state of progress of the project itself.

This is useful when dealing mainly with stakeholders.

In fact, these are generally not interested in a detailed report of the project progress.

What they want to know is if the project moves forward or not as initially planned.

Milestones are ideal for this type of report because they show the main phases completed.

Project milestones: Simple task or milestone?

Discern between what to consider a task and what to consider a project milestone can be difficult.

More projects are complex, more difficult is to recognize the difference between task and milestone.

To resolve the doubt it is essential to ask itself the following questions:

  • Is this a task or a final result?
  • Will this affect the final deadline?
  • Is this an important moment in the project that will indicate future progress?
  • Are stakeholders to be informed about this particular point?
  • Is it an event that has an impact on the project?

Answering these questions will help you understand if we are talking about a task or a milestone.

Basically, the most important events of your project must be reported as milestones, so that they can be easily visualized and mapped by the project team.

The milestones have, in essence, a greater mean than “simple” activities.

Project milestones: Why use them?

Milestones can improve project planning and execution in different ways:

1) Monitor deadlines

No plan is complete without a list of deadlines. The best way is to use the project milestones to indicate them.

The milestones, as already mentioned, are usually marked as a diamond-shape icon in the project planning software.

Hence, this icon represents a delivery, a presentation of the deliverable or in any case a deadline that mustn’t be forgotten.

2) Make it easy to identify important dates

Are there important days that may have an impact on the project?

Perhaps a training course for the project team or a workshop?

Or a meeting with the stakeholders?

It is important to keep in mind all these events in project planning.

project milestone

These are events of such importance that they can have an impact on the whole project and it must be easy to identify them.

3) Identify potential blocks of the project

Many projects rely on work produced by external teams or partners in order to progress.

If these external factors are not monitored, the probability to forget or not following them increases.

So, if you are working on a project that depends – even – on someone or something of external with which you do not have frequent contact, it is important to list these results as milestones.

As we have seen, milestones are a very useful project management tool.

It is also an easy-to-use tool for project planning and reporting.

In Twproject a milestone always coincides with the beginning or end of a task, this because normally a milestone is linked to a delivery or a kick-off phase.

In order to support the team in achieving the goal, TWproject also sets up a milestone notification system.

The notifications make even easier the work of the team that will automatically receive the alerts of the activities expiring or delayed and they will complete the tasks.

By default the alarm (milestone of the neighboring task) is 3 days before the milestone, but it is also possible to change it from the configuration pages. (insert a screen)

Reaching and overcoming a project milestone is also good for the morale of the team and of the project manager himself.

This is why every tool (like the alert) that facilitates the task is always very well received.

Have you ever used the milestones in your projects? What is your opinion?

Leave us your comment.

Set the milestones of your project.

project handover

Project handover: how to manage it

Project handover can be very simple or extremely complicated. It all depends on the organization of the Project Manager.

Projects can be short and can last up a few days or can be complex projects with a lifecycle that can even reach several years.

It is precisely for the duration of some projects that some project managers may find themselves in the situation of having to “handover” a project to a new project manager.

A retirement, a new job challenge for the outgoing project manager and other situations can be the reason that leads to the handover.

The most important thing is that those who take over is in the best conditions to continue the work.

Obviously, project handover requires much more than the transfer of office keys and software access information.

Hence, there are six steps below that can help to successfully complete a project handover:

1. Setting handover objectives

Outgoing and incoming project managers should hold a meeting and set goals that must be met during the transition.

This allows both parties to review and evaluate the status of the project in relation to the project’s basic planning, timing and budget.

Project team members should also, for obvious reasons, be involved in this meeting.

2. Keeping the customer up to date

Project team members, the workers and the customer must understand how the existing project manager intends to make the handover to the successor.

In some cases, the project manager could explain why knowledge transfer is underway and what could change in the future.

Clarity is always a winning element.

3. Having short daily meetings

During the transition between the existing project manager and the new one, all team members should meet each other to evaluate and review the status of responsibilities and activities.

It is an extremely important phase because it allows the incoming PM to evaluate the state of things and the capabilities of the individual elements of the Team.

4. Showing project benefits and utility for the upcoming project manager

Some projects revolve around the development or use of resources or products.

When specific products are involved, the project manager in charge should help the new project manager to understand how this product or service works.

The outgoing project manager should also show and motivate the new PM the benefits of the project and its strategic importance for the company.

5. Meeting the stakeholders

The existing project manager and the new one should meet project stakeholders together.

This will allow interested parties to ask questions, expose any doubts and discuss. This is what usually happens in a Kick off Meeting.

6. Being available to ask support

Sometimes, incoming project manager may not be sure of some project’s aspects.

For example, the new project manager could not understand the organization management processes.

When this happens, the incoming project manager must be available to (follow the good practice to) ask support from the existing project manager, the project team, and top management.

This will allow both project managers to work together to achieve common handover targets.

project handover

Checklists are always very useful for summarizing actions and timeline of events that otherwise would be complicated to explain.

Here are two checklists that can further support project handover between project managers.

Outgoing project manager should:

  • Obtain and deliver the project status – if one exists – or collect the project start-up documentation (for this reason it is important to always keep it in order);
  • Collect the documents involved in the initial offer, make sure to clearly indicate what the signed copy is (important to understand the expectations);
  • Collect all change requests (amount, description and times for each instance);
  • Write down the roles client-side (who is the sponsor, who will check the quality of the final results, etc.);
  • List all important contacts for the project, writing the frequency of communication with each contact and which topics to discuss;
  • Present the new project manager to the client;
  • Present the new project manager to the team;
  • Suggest the next steps to the new project manager.

Here, instead, there is a checklist of practical things to be managed during the handover:

  • List the people who are working on the project, or who have worked on it, along with their skills, competences and roles;
  • Give information on the work environment (password, keys, key card, …)
  • Give information on technical or practical dependencies, for example: if the X system should fail, this could cause project A to fail; the Z project depends on the Y service, etc.
  • Explain how long handover will take;
  • Notifying customers and stakeholders with much frequency of contact, that they may be less reactive during the transfer;
  • Explain to company leaders what you are concretely “transfer” to the new project manager;
  • Keep track of project delivery time.

In all these steps it is easy to understand how document management plays an essential role.

To support this transition phase, we have provided in TWproject a simple and flexible document management system.

In opposition to the complex management of documents that could be found in other software, document management is deliberately essential in TWproject.

With some powerful and simple techniques you can meet most business needs, for example reliability and usability.

Testing Twproject you will discover an intelligent system to manage and archive project documents and always have them at your fingertips.

One last observation must be made: each project manager has his own style.

For this reason, the incoming project manager does not necessarily have to follow everything that his predecessor has done, even imitating his working style.

Some people, especially younger managers, will probably feel obliged to do so, but our advice is to follow their own style and personality, without forcing themselves.

“ He who loses his individuality loses all.”

MAHATMA GANDHI

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The kick off meeting: how to set up a project start meeting and get the best results

The kick off meeting: how to set up a project start meeting and get the best results

A project lifecycle often involves many meetings with different purposes.

One of these meetings is the so-called kick off meeting or preliminary project meeting.

This meeting is an important communication tool between project manager, team and stakeholders.

If organized and properly executed, a preliminary meeting can help the project manager in order to handle the project more easily and with fewer obstacles.

What is a kick off-meeting?

More precisely, a preliminary meeting is one of the first meetings held among project stakeholders at the time of launching a new project.

This meeting can include all project stakeholders, up to the highest levels, such as project sponsors, management and project managers, as well as team members.

The target of this meeting is to offer the project manager the opportunity to define the common goal and create an agreement.

When does a kick off-meeting take place?

If the project is small, the kick-off meeting usually takes place after the start-up process with all team members. In fact, the same team is involved in planning and execution of the project.

Furthermore, if some team members don’t know each other, this could be their first meeting together.

In small projects usually only one preliminary project meeting takes place.

If the project is a big project, however, the kick-off meeting takes place when the project planning is completed and the project is about to start.

In a multi-phase project, preliminary meetings can be scheduled at the beginning of each phase.

If the project is complex and distributed over a large geographical area, the meeting will be a virtual kick-off meeting in which all participants can communicate each other in an online call or video call.

What is the purpose of a kick off meeting?

A project team can be made up of new team members, so it is important to have one session to allow team members to meet each other.

This meeting also helps to improve the feeling of trust and promotes discussion and mutual agreement between team members.

kick off meeting

Then, the meeting helps all team members to become aware of the objectives of the project, of the hypotheses, of the constraints, of the deliverables.

The challenges, methods, procedures, plans, work environment and roles of each stakeholder, etc. are also taken into consideration.

A successful kick off meeting can be a boost for the future of the project.

How to perform a successful kick off meeting?

If the project is large and complex, you can have internal and external meetings.

Internal kick off meetings are scheduled between team members and the project manager to better understand the project, aligning each other.

In an external kick off meeting, all the stakeholders comes into play and the customer is taken in consideration also.

Then, they will discuss about the project, the objectives, the context and the responsibility of each team member.

It is also important to discuss about the communication and reporting system within the team and with project stakeholders.

Generally, the meeting is closed with a question and answer session in ordert o help the team in the problem solving.

Once the internal kick off meeting is finished, the next step will be schedule an external kick off meeting with the customer.

This will be the opportunity to fully understand the customer and his expectations, clarifying any doubts and to explain how the project manager is going to handle planning and execution of the project, etc.

Following are some steps to follow to achieve an effective kick off meeting.

1) Schedule the meeting

The project manager decides the topics to be discussed during the meeting.

For example, it may include a session about the team presentation, the introduction of the project and the objectives, milestones, constraints, etc.

The PM must send the invitation to all the participants in advance to allow them to prepare for the meeting.

2) Lead the meeting

The project manager, as project coordinator, leads and directs the meeting as previously scheduled.

It is important for the PM to set and communicate the expectations and requirements to the participants.

The team will have to know exactly how many days it will have to work, the roles within it, the practical issues, for example how to request holidays, how to communicate with the project manager, etc.

Explaining the communication and reporting system is important as well.

Clarifying in which format the reports are needed and how often meetings or communications will be essential.

kick off meeting

It should be never forget, the explanation on business needs and why the project is important for the customer and for the company.

Each project presents risks and, even these, together with possible solutions, must be exposed during the meeting.

3) Close the meeting

As said before, at the end of the meeting it is appropriate to hold a question and answer session.

Here the participants can ask all the questions and receive – hopefully – all the answers.

The meeting generally closes with thanks to the project manager.

Furthermore, the PM will leave an open communication channel, emphasizing his availability to be contacted for any further questions or clarifications.

Once the meeting is over, it will be necessary to prepare a summary meeting summary and send it to all the participants and interested stakeholders who could not be present.

Kick off meeting benefits

Following a short list of the benefits you get from a preliminary meeting:

  • It helps team members to know each other;
  • Defines the roles and the authority of the project;
  • It helps team members to understand project goals;
  • It helps team stakeholders to understand milestones, risks, project requirements and constraints of the project;
  • It helps the project manager to get support, consensus and trust from all stakeholders;
  • It allows to all participants to ask questions clarifying their doubts.

A preliminary meeting is the key to completing the project.

An important tool to make all team members meet each other and to motivate them to reach the target.

This is also the moment when the project manager can show his leadership qualities for the first time and start building a relationship of trust with the team and the stakeholders.

For all these reasons a project manager must adequately prepare the kick off meeting and must consider it an important step towards the future success of the project.

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project workload

Project workload: how to plan it to the best

A project manager has to deal with customer expectations, project deadlines and evolving priorities, all of this while trying to coordinate and manage the team and respond to stakeholder demands.

Let’s face it, it is a demanding job that takes time and effort to manage all the parts and sometimes hours are never enough!

Project managers are involved both in managing the workload of their team as well as managing their workload.

The organization and time management skills are therefore essential to ensure that the work is done as efficiently as possible.

This is why it is so important to think about how to prioritize and organize the workload.

Keeping the workload under control saves time, simplifies processes, reduces costs and improves productivity.

Here are four suggestions for effective workload management.

1) Set clear expectations

We spend most of our working life managing the expectations and priorities of other people.

And when those expectations are not clearly communicated, the project team does not know the limits and rules in which it should operate.

Clearly establish goals from the beginning and organize regular meetings for each new project and during the lifetime of a project, clarify the situation with the entire team.

All those involved in the project should know the general vision, the role they play and how they should behave.

These meetings serve to set the basic rules, answer questions and doubts and make sure everyone is moving in the same direction.

Internal planning documents are valuable for these initial conversations.

These documents serve as a framework for project expectations and typically include:

  • Context on the problem that the project should solve and the motivations;
  • Goals and requirements of the project;
  • Summary of the solution;
  • FAQ, frequently asked questions about the project.

The planning documents also serve as official documents to consult during the entire duration of the project.

The project document can also be reviewed during meetings with customers and other stakeholders to remind them of the goals and direction of the project.

Establishing clear and realistic expectations at the beginning of a project and ensuring that these are accepted and respected by all stakeholders is the key to avoid potential disappointments and mistrust.

2) Communicate consistently

Even the smallest misunderstandings can cause stress, frustration and resentment among the employees.

A clear and coherent communication from the beginning can help to avoid these negative emotions and feelings.

A structured communication process is essential, especially when activities become more complex.

project workload

Not only it is necessary to make regular meetings with the team in order to remember the goals of the project and to align on the activities, but also to share the feelings the various members and if they have particular worries.

This dialogue also helps to understand how and when it is necessary to make transfers of resources to provide better support to the team and make it work better.

Even if everything is done for the best, deadlines and costs are in line, and the team is doing a good job, it is right to inform employees that their work is appreciated.

The key is to help them understand and stay focused on the big picture and goals, support them and continuously recognize how their contributions are driving the project.

3) Distribute the workload

What are the skills of the project team?

Who is actually available during the entire duration of the project?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of each collaborator?

Often there is the temptation to overload the best employees at the expense of others.

However, this behavior will not only lead the top performers to a possible crisis, but also the other collaborators to get bored and lose interest in the project in general.

A solution could be, for example, to leave to the more performing team members the most complex tasks and everything else is distributed evenly in the team.

Clearly, staffing needs will change during project execution.

For this reason, you need to be aware of how each member of the team spends their time, so that there is space for flexibility to adjust the course when necessary.

The resource program, like any project activity, must also be strategically planned.

Moreover, it is also necessary for everyone to understand expectations and how everyone is contributing to superior goals.

In case of doubts or problems, the team should not be afraid to communicate or and should not find blocks to communication in the work environment.

It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure a fair amount of work for all team members, based on their individual knowledge, skills and experience.

4) Always analyze

You can not manage what is not measured.

Therefore, it is essential to have workload management software available to keep track of project successes and challenges.

However, in particular situations, such as meetings, it is possible to use also other effective tools for managing workload … such as a notebook and a pen.

Every day, when analyzing the situation of the project, it is possible to take note of any opportunities or possible risks.

During meetings with employees and stakeholders, you can take note of doubts, questions, feedback, impressions that are exposed.

Over time, by reviewing the notes, you will be able to keep track of project results and resource trends.

Perhaps a customer’s projects exceed the budget everytime?

One of the team members is constantly overloaded with work while another continues to ask for more responsibilities?

If you create a constant habit of taking notes and examining them every week or month, you can identify what works and what does not and start solving the recurring problems, so that they do not persist.

Some useful questions to ask are:

  • What worked well in this project?
  • Why did this project exceed the budget?
  • Has this project been profitable?
  • Who is overburdened with work?

Understanding and recording these data helps identify which process changes are needed, so you can iteratively improve your priority and organize the workload.

It is clear that the use of a special software is essential to simplify and optimize the outputs of this analysis.

In fact, the classification of data allows an analysis of them, as well as the strategic use with a view to improving the company.

Proactively making intelligent decisions about the flow and workload of the team becomes functional thanks to the use of integrated project software.

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stakeholder management

How to manage project stakeholders

Stakeholder management in a project can be vital for the very survival of the project.

Therefore, including everyone who is interested in the project, as well as all those that can influence the project, is a fundamental step for an optimal start.

Stakeholders identification

Before starting a new project, each project manager should take the necessary time to identify all the stakeholders.

As a first step, it is therefore necessary to analyze the stakeholders, is to conduct an analysis of the stakeholders, or an evaluation of the key participants in a project.

Subsequently, it is necessary to identify their individual characteristics and interests, define the roles and level of participation and determine if there are conflicts of interest between stakeholders.

Furthermore, it is necessary to evaluate how the project will influence them and their needs.

After that, we move on to assess the influence of a stakeholder, ie the degree to which the interested parties can influence the project.

The more a stakeholder is influential, the more the project manager will need his support and consent.

The project manager, knowing what each stakeholder expects from the project, will be able to adjust the level of support accordingly.

How should a project stakeholder be managed?

To make everything even more complicated, there may be many stakeholders, with different characteristics.

The answer in this case is simple. You have to treat them in the same way as you treat any other task in the to-do list: ie classifying by priority.

During a project, one stakeholder may be more influential than another, while some stakeholders may require more attention than others.

With stakeholder management, we mean to create a positive relationship with the stakeholders, meeting their expectations and the goals they agreed upon at the beginning of the project.

However, this relationship is not granted a priori, but must be earned.

The advantages of good stakeholder management

A positive relationship with the stakeholders can be built through proactive communication and listening to their needs.

One way to do this is to interview the project’s stakeholders, of course not all of them, but certainly the most important.

It could be the case that you need to speak with experts to get the basic information you need regarding particular groups.

This in order to get the most out of individual conversations with stakeholders, without unnecessary or superfluous words.

When talking to a stakeholder, it is necessary to understand his project expectations.

In case of doubts or when a concept has not been completely understood, it is necessary to ask for clarifications.

Moreover, each stakeholder can have a different idea of what “project success” means and, discovering it only at the end of the project, is a certain failure.

A project manager must collect this information in advance and include it in the objectives.

This would give him the guarantee that all the stakeholders support the final results.

Stakeholder management and the passive communication failure

Another key concept is to maintain the stakeholders involved and not use just a passive communication.

Ask for their contribution, learn to know them better, maybe during a coffee break, a lunch or a fast meeting, in short, make them participate; this can change everything.

Stakeholders must also be regularly updated on the project status.

Every day can be exaggerated, every month is not enough, unless this schedule is agreed.

Usually a weekly update is the best strategy.

Regular communication is always appreciated and can even soften the situation when there are bad news to share.

These are the bases in order to build strong relationships with stakeholders.

stakeholder management

But as in any relationship, there are subtleties that every successful project manager should understand.

For example, a project manager should learn to recognize differences and “adjust” behavior to better relate to different types of stakeholders.

How to relate with different types of stakeholders

By conducting a stakeholder analysis, project managers can gather sufficient information on which to build solid relationships, regardless of the differences between them.

For example, the needs and requirements of a marketing director will be different from those of a chief information officer.

Therefore, the commitment of the project manager with each one must be different.

All project stakeholders will have different interests.

Some of them will be more interested in the ROI of the project, others will want to improve operations, others will want to increase market share or production, etc.

Keeping in mind the expectations and needs of each one of them is crucial during every conversation, relation or e-mail, regardless of how casual or formal the communication may be.

Regardless of the needs or desires of a stakeholder, all interested parties will respect a project manager who:

  • is always honest, even when he tells them something they do not want to hear;
  • becomes the „owner“ of the project;
  • is reliable;
  • is firm in his decisions;
  • takes his responsability for errors.

Achieving the goals of a project requires a focused and well-organized project manager able to engage with a proactive team and able to get the support of all the interested parties.

Building solid and trustful relationships with stakeholders from the start can make the difference between success and failure of the project.

Tools to help stakeholder management

There are many “decelerating” factors in a project, the lack of support from stakeholders is one of those.

How do you make sure you have their support?

As previously mentioned, the key lies in identifying who the stakeholders are and what influence they have on the project.

Just because they are important in the organization in general does not necessarily mean that they are important for the project.

Just because they think they are important does not mean they really are.

Just because they do not think they have to be involved does not mean they do not have to be.

Not all stakeholders are the same, so understanding how to deal with each of them is essential.

To help you identify them, you can use this simple matrix:

stakeholder management

  • People with a lot of power and a lot of interest in the project (manage closely): these people have a great interest in the project and they have the power to help to successfully complete it. It is therefore essential to fully involve these stakeholders, to pay attention to their inputs, to implement their ideas when possible and to ensure that they are always satisfied. You have to follow them closely.
  • People with a lot of power, but less interest in the project (keep satisfied): these people have little involvement or personal interest in the project, but they are very powerful. Surely it is better to keep them satisfied, but you must disturb them as little as possible. They can be involved in the most important decisions, but in general you must “only” make sure they understand how the project will have a positive impact on them.
  • People with little power, but a lot of interest in the project (keep informed): these people have a real passion for the project, but they have little influence on it. The best strategy is to keep them informed about any important developments. The project, in most cases, can have a direct impact on this type of stakeholder, so they are usually more than willing to help when they can.
  • People with little power and little interest in the project (monitor- minum effort): these represent the most apathetic stakeholders, the least interested in the project and which, in general, require little time and attention. If they are not disturbed or no damage to them is caused, a project manager will hardly have to deal with it.

Ensuring that stakeholders are listened and appreciated will certainly increase trust and support.

Building positive relationships and understanding motivations takes time and effort, but in the long run it will make the whole work easier.

Projects are more successful when everyone is on board and rowing in the same direction!

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triangle of talents

The triangle of talents: which skills for the project manager?

The triangle of talent, not just a simple shape, but the golden triangle of the Project Manager.

Would you like to know more? I will try to explain it to you.

Let’s briefly think about what are the most important qualities for a successful project manager.

Everybody, both those who have worked for years in this world, as well as those who have just started, will certainly report the qualities of the project manager that are in line with what we will see in shortly.

Considering the many skills, talents and competencies required for this role, it is clear that project management requires many qualities and skills.

And in order not to leave any doubt, the Project Management Institute (PMI) outlined the ideal set of skills of a project manager in a model called the “Triangle of Talent“.

This model synthetically analyzes the art of project management in the three categories we will now see.

Let’s find out what skills make a project manager, a successful figure.

The three sides of the Triangle of Talent

triangle of talents

The Triangle of Talents contains the ideal set of skills for project managers.

Its three sides include the following skills:

  • Technical skill;
  • Leadership;
  • Business strategic management.

The beauty and charm of the Triangle of Talents lie in the combination of skills, elements of business management with technical skills in project management, and human and social skills.

The most successful project managers use all three of these areas in order to grow in their work.

The first side of the Triangle of Talents: Technical skill

A project manager could not excel in his work without the technical know-how of the sector in which he operates.

This includes not only the specific skills of project management, but also the knowledge of the industry in general.

Proper technical skills and knowledge are in fact fundamental to successfully complete the project.

A project manager needs to know how to calculate the so-called earned value, how to manage costs, how to do a risk analysis, etc.

The PMI outlines some of the specific technical skills that the project manager should possess, including:

  • Agile practices;
  • Earned value management;
  • Project life cycle management;
  • Management of project requirements;
  • Schedule management;
  • Time, budget, cost estimate;
  • Data collection and analysis;
  • Governance;
  • Performance management;
  • Risk management;
  • Scope management.

As previously said, a successful project manager needs a solid understanding of the industry in which he operates.

In fact, the daily work of a PM can vary depending on the sector in which he works.

If he does not know the environment surrounding a project, he will have difficulties in understanding any problems and in finding solutions.

Moreover, due to lack of technical experience, the project manager may lose the respect of the members of the team.

In short, the lack of technical knowledge could lead to problems related to the understanding of project details and technical problems.

Both of these factors could jeopardize the future of the project.

Technical knowledge, commonly known as “hard skills“, can be learned, studied and refreshed through training courses, seminars, webinars, etc …

This side of the Triangle of Talents certainly represents the most concrete and easy to learn quality, but in order to have it, dedication is certainly necessary.

The second side of the Triangle of Talents: Leadership

The second core competency of the PMI‘s Triangle of Talents is leadership.

A successful project manager must guide his team – or more teams – through all phases and processes of the project.

Leadership can have different forms.

triangle of talents

Leadership expertise includes coaching and mentoring, influence on employees and stakeholders, team building and brainstorming, interpersonal skills and negotiation.

Even problem solving and conflict management are included into the leadership skills.

Project managers must guide teams towards project completion, inspiring and motivating people to continue throughout the process.

Because using leadership means
TO WIN AS A TEAM, NOT AS AN INDIVIDUAL

As an effective leader, a project manager must inspire team members about the future and offer them a vision that will help them achieve the goal.

As a leader of an effective team, a project manager must be proactive and a problem solver.

The successful project manager must have motivating qualities. At the beginning of a project the motivation is usually high, and then gradually decreases.

Here, in fact, the manager’s motivation capacity is essencial.

Motivating the team is certainly hard and complex, but essential for the good success of the project.

A project manager should also have management and delegation skills that enable him to do his job in the best way and with the right support.

He must be able to understand who to entrust with a particular responsibility or particular task, and who is not the right person.

Moreover, ensuring that the team members possess the skills required to successfully complete the work is also part of the skills of this project leader.

If skills are lacked, the project management will give the necessary training or, in general, will allow the collaborators to receive it.

The third side of the Triangle of Talents: Business Strategic Management

The third side of this magic triangle is as important as the other two.

Business strategic management makes it possible to carry out an analysis of company decisions before implementing them.

Project managers not only apply their knowledge and leadership qualities, but must also align projects with business goals.

This third side of the PMI’s Triangle of Talents includes the following skills and competences:

  • Competitive analysis;
  • Legal and regulatory compliance;
  • Operational functions, such as finance, marketing, ecc;
  • Business Acumen;
  • Customer service and satisfaction;
  • Awareness of the market, its conditions and its trend.

Understanding the purpose of the project and the way it supports the organization’s overall goals enable project managers to be able to drive their teams to success.

These professionals must understand what the organization is trying to achieve in general and how the specific project fits into this general vision.

This helps the organization achieve its long-term goals.

The first step towards success is found in the confirmation and acceptance of the strategic business plan by all the stakeholders.

In conclusion

As any successful project manager can state, the mixture and the right balance of skills and qualities make this figure a complete and successful professional.

That is why the Triangle of Talents works.

In today’s dynamic environment, a project manager must be versatile.

Having just one skill is not enough.

The balance of the three sides of the Triangle of Talents is not just about the possession of complementary skills.

These are all the critical areas that a project manager must master in order to succeed in his career.

The technical skills of project management help to perform specific functions or tasks, leadership skills help to achieve business goals within the organization and strategic business management helps to achieve better overall business results.

So, this is the ideal recipe for a successful project manager.

Do you agree with what the Triangle of Talents expresses?

Do you think there are other qualities that deserve to be mentioned?

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project estimation techniques

Project estimation techniques

The techniques for estimating a project in project management can be different.

Unfortunately, project managers do not always use them.

In some cases, project managers choose to do a planning without having supporting data.

Of course, even the best project estimation techniques are not perfect, but at least allow to show the client, the project sponsor or the boss how to get to estimate the duration and costs.

In this article we will see different options for estimating a project:

  • Analogous estimation;
  • Parametric estimation;
  • Order of magnitude estimation;
  • Bottom-up estimation;
  • 3-point estimation.

Each technique requires specific data and specific mathematical and statistical procedures.

Once defined, it is possible to decide which one to use, keeping in mind that different estimation techniques can be used for different sections of the project.

Project estimation techniques: analogous estimation

This type of estimation uses certain parameters referred to past projects and considered similar to a new project that must start.

To apply this technique correctly, not only similar past experiences are required, but also the ability to understand the factors of similarity and diversity between experiences.

For this reason the skills of the project manager who analyzes the degree of analogy are essential for a good estimate.

A company, if well-organized, should always keep projects data so that they can be used in case of similar future projects.

In fact, in the case of a new project similar to a previous one, even a less prepared and experienced project manager can inquire, study and have the opportunity to plan a new project with a minimum of base history and without groping.

If all the project managers perform the management of the project work, its planning and its documenting in a professional way, it would be possible to create a database useful for a subsequent estimate by analogy.

Project estimation techniques: parametric estimation

The parametric estimation is based on the identification of variables that can provide an estimate on the variables of interest of a given project.

Usually, we talk about parameters referring to costs, time and quantity of resources needed.

Even here, it is required the existence of similar past projects that can be studied in order to understand the causal links between input and output parameters.

Perhaps it is better to make a concrete example.

In a construction activity, the hardness of the rock is a variable from which it is possible to know the speed of execution of the work and which tools suit best.

Project estimation techniques: order of magnitude estimation

The most difficult estimate that is required to the project manager is certainly at the beginning of the project, during the conception phase.

The president and the board of directors want to know how much this new project will cost and how long it will take.

However, the project manager may not have enough information about the project when these questions are first asked.

Usually, however, if the project manager makes an approximate assumption about costs and duration at this initial time, his superiors and stakeholders will consider it as an official response.

project estimation techniques

This is why a shrewd project manager should use the order of magnitude estimation.

For example, here is what a project management should say: “I believe, that 90% of the project can be completed within a period ranging from 50 to 95 days and I am also 90% sure that the project will cost between € 75,000 and € 100,000. ”

The directors do not like this type of estimation because they normally want defined numbers: cost and duration.

They do not want to hear probabilities or intervals.

However, at this stage, the project manager knows very little about what the project will imply, so given a specific response would literally be “suicide”.

The best thing a project manager can do is to explain that the level of certainty will improve as project planning progresses.

With this explanation is likely that the superiors and the stakeholders will be more condescending.

Project estimation techniques: bottom-up estimation

Bottom-up estimation is performed when the planning process has already produced a structure of the various activities and a project team is appointed.

Specifically, in this estimation technique the more detailed elements are taken into consideration and then aggregated in order to provide an overall estimate.

There is a relationship between the detail level of the breakdown and the accuracy of the estimate.

A level of breakdown that is too general and insufficient does not make it possible to fully understand the work that has to be done.

On the contrary, an excessively detailed breakdown will lead to the loss of the overall vision and the probable underestimation of the work of the entire project.

It is a good idea to involve and use the experience of team members in creating estimates.

Beware, however, that in some cases, employees tend to “enlarge” their estimates in order to “protect themselves” from any delays in the project or in the case of an unforeseen event that causes an exceeding of the budget.

Project estimation techniques: 3-point estimation

The concept of 3-point estimation is very simple.

Regarding times or costs, three possible values are assigned, ie the most optimistic case, with the lowest value, the most pessimistic case, with the highest value, and the most probable one.

A continuous probability distribution is then constructed on these three values.

This is an estimation technique developed by NASA especially for its space programs.

In situations like those that NASA was facing, for example the landing on the Moon, the other methods of estimation were not suitable because there were no data from previous similar projects.

This technique is in fact a good choice when a project manager is in charge of managing unique projects that do not have a defined history.

In such circumstances, the project manager asks the team members for more estimates for each activity.

This allows to consider potential positive events that could simplify and accelerate the work, as well as evaluate project risks and any increase in costs and delays in delivery.

The 3-point estimation also provides statistical data to the project manager regarding the probability of duration and different costs.

Concluding this overview, we can assert that, in general, there is no right or wrong method.

The estimation of a project is an art!

A mixture of knowledge of the project, of the industry, including a historical review, a customer survey and a large part of instinct.

In Twproject it is possible, for example, to manage future projects using skills as resources; create projects by assigning skills instead of resources.

This is very useful during the project planning phase.

Furthermore it is possible to:

  • manage actual open projects with real people;
  • model future projects with skill assignments.

Having both possibilities in the same system makes it possible to share, for example, the creation of the project tree and its maintenance between the planning project manager and the production project manager.

A single space to monitor ongoing activities and plan future ones, directly estimating their impact on projects.

An advantage not to be underestimated.

And what estimation method do you prefer?

What are the strengths and weaknesses you’ve noticed?

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effort

Effort and duration: key differences in the estimate of project

Time management is one of the most important aspects in managing a project.

In order to estimate the time accurately, it is necessary to have a correct understanding of the two concepts of effort and duration.

What is effort

Effort is the number of units of work needed to complete a task.

It is usually expressed in hours, days or weeks worked.

The effort is therefore the number of hours of work needed to complete a task, ie the actual time spent working on the project.

In order to estimate the duration of a project, first we have to determine the effort.

Let’s try to give an example to simplify the concept: if you estimate about 30 hours of active work to complete a fence, the effort will be 30 hours.

Be careful, however, that this does not mean that the fence is ready within 30 hours – unless you plan to build it for 30 hours non-stop.

The duration is the total number of work periods (excluding holidays or other non-working periods) necessary to complete an activity, so in other words it is the total time needed to complete an activity.

effort

The duration is usually expressed as working days or working weeks and depends on the availability and capacity of the resources.

For example, if you spend 3 hours a day working on the fence, the total duration would be 10 days (30 hours of total effort divided by 3 hours / day).

But if, for example, a friend helps every day, then you would have two resources working for 3 hours a day on the fence = 6 hours a day.

The duration in this case would therefore be 5 days (30 hours of total effort divided by 6 hours / day).

However, if the friend could work only 2 hours a day, the duration would extend to 6 days because the resources would only work for a total of 5 hours a day.

The total effort is always 30 hours, no matter if there are one, two or more people working on the project.

It is not possible to reduce the effort to 15 hours if two people work on the project, but it is possible to reduce the overall completion time.

The concept of Schedule Padding

The estimates represent one of the most critical and complex areas for a project manager.

It is never certain that these are correct and there is always the doubt that they may be mistaken for excess or defect, despite all the good will in formulating them.

The estimation techniques , such as the analogy or bottom-up estimations, can provide more or less reliable estimates, but all have the same problem: they depend on the capabilities of those who formulate them.

The concept of Schedule Padding means adding more time / value to the estimate, a sort of “pad” (hence the term Padding) that can soften the “fall” in case of unexpected or errors of evaluation.

When there is not enough information or experience to make a realistic estimate, it is very easy to fall into the “Padding” technique.

In other words, there is the tendency to increase, even exceedingly, the estimate of duration due to excessive prudence.

Clearly, if everyone in the company, including the project manager, uses this technique, the final estimate would be totally exaggerated and misunderstood.

So, how to avoid Schedule Padding?

In project management, it is advisable to first estimate the effort and after that duration.

The effort is the total estimated time for the realization of a task, of an activity.

The duration is instead the time interval required for the realization of the task / activity based on the availability of resources and the project calendar.

With respect to the 8 hours that correspond to the normal working day, the TenStep methodology considers productive only 6.5 hours.

This is also a value that should be kept in mind and that is not always considered during the scheduling of a project.

Techniques to avoid Schedule Padding

There are several possible techniques to decrease the risk of Schedule Padding:

  • Ask for the opinion of a disinterested professional regarding the project;
  • Use the PERT method (Program Evaluation and Review Technique), also known as a 3-Point estimate, which provides a more optimistic, a more pessimistic, and a more probable estimate.
  • Grant the time it takes for those who have to make the estimate without putting pressure or haste.
  • Add extra time to the overall project, avoiding doing it on every single activity.
  • As mentioned previously, determine the effort first and only then the duration of the activities.

Not all collaborators have the same productivity and they do have different knowledge, skills and experience.

This is why the ability to make an estimate as well as the time needed to do it can vary.

Advice for a correct estimate of the effort

Everything starts from the estimation of the effort. So let’s see some tips to better identify it:

  • Estimating is an activity that is always open and should happen regularly during the project. The initial estimate will thus be increasingly deepened and gradually perfected.
  • During the initial phase of a project, make sure that everyone agrees on what should be delivered and therefore estimated. With everyone, we mean the project manager and project team in the first place, but also directors and all project stakeholders.
  • Involve experienced people in the analysis and estimation process and brainstorm with the people who will actually have to do the job. It is useful to have different groups of people giving an estimate to the same thing. If comparing the results shows a large disparity between the numbers, it means that the uncertainty on that specific activity, or on the project in general, is high.
  • All estimates bring an intrinsic degree of uncertainty, especially in the early stages of the project in which there are more unknowns. It is essential to quantify the percentage of unknowns in the estimate and to compensate with an equivalent level of contingency.
  • It is important to always consider the project risks and contingencies; never make estimates only considering the best case.
  • It is essential to take into account all the phases and activities of the project, including analysis, planning, planning, realization, eventual re-elaboration, delivery, project closedown.
  • Research and experimentation with different tools and estimation techniques. The estimation tools will help to consider all the different aspects of the project and will automatically add further contingency.
  • Estimate the effort in points or working hours with respect to the calendar time to cope with the fact that the team is never 100% effective. You can also apply a separate conversion factor to translate the estimated effort into calendar time. This will make it easier to track the accuracy of the estimates. If, for example, the team spends 30% of the time of an average day in meetings, answering the phone and email, an appropriate conversion factor must be added, in this case corresponding to 1.4 (1/70% ).
  • Formally record estimates and document how they were found, from which information and through which processes. It is important to make clear the purpose and the hypotheses estimated and highlight what is out of scope. This will not only put the project manager in a better position to defend numbers, but will also help to review and improve the estimation process in the future.

Understanding the difference between effort and duration of an activity is therefore fundamental for the correct planning of a project.

In Twproject, it is possible to estimate how much work is needed to complete a task or close an issue.

These estimates are taken into account in the assessment of the workload.

Twproject supports a third way to track the workload: planning, by task and by resource.

Each assignment can have a business plan, in terms of daily working hours. This is the highest level of detail to plan the activities of the resource.

effort
So, we hope that the suggestions we have given you can be useful for your next project.

What do you think about it? Leave us your comment.

Start planning your project

workload

How to manage the workload of a project: 6 key suggestions

Managing the workload of a project, is getting the right balance of tasks for each team member, is one of the most critical tasks that a project manager has to face.

In fact, the equitable distribution of the workload in a team is definitely a challenging task, and the temptation to entrust more projects to the best performing worker is always lurking.

But in the planning of a project, it is also necessary to be fair.

The excellent management of workload and team performance are therefore a essential goals.

In the continuos dialogue with the Project managers, we receive frequent and common questions:

  • What matters to customers and / or stakeholders?
  • How is it possible to obtain the best results?
  • How is it possible not to overload resources?
  • How can resources be used wisely?
  • How is it posible to obtain more from low-performing resources?

Here, then, a simple 6-step approach to ensure the correct management of activities and workload within the team.

1. Check the current workload

If you the project is starting from scratch, it is necessary to examine the current situation of the team.

Are the team members also following other projects? What are their other daily activities to keep in mind?

It is possible to manage in an optimal way only what is known.

Some people may be available to work on the project activities just for a limited time of their day / week, on the other hnad, others may be available full-time.

It is therefore essential to know this aspect in details in order to manage the workload equally.

2. Report of skills and absences

It is possible to better manage the workload of the team, if the project manager knows when the individual employees are absent: holidays, company outings, etc.

It is important to include these absences in the planning in order to not assign work during these periods.

Assigning an activity to a resourse that will be out of office or not available will certainly end up in a delay of the delivery.

In the same manner, it is important to speak with each employee in order to be sure to know all of his skills and competencies.

Each person can be a valid “player” if his strengths, skills and responsibilities are well known.

In this way it will be easier to assign an appropriate job and thus move towards excellence.

A collaborator may be able to work in different areas thanks to new knowledge acquired, or to deal with more technical tasks thanks to new skills developed.

workload

Therefore, the suggestion is to cyclically verify the “new skills” learned from the individual collaborator.

Normally, during the planning of the project, a list of all the work and the various activities is drawn up.

The tasks will be assigned according to the function, position and specific strength of each worker.

3. Set expectations

Setting goals and skills is not enough.

The task of the Project Manager is also to constantly remember the pre-established goals and to underline the level of commitment expected from each team member.

This helps the team to focus.

There must be a clearly expressed and shared value to which everyone should equally contribute with his talents, skills and energy.

One of the difficulties in ensuring that a workload is fair is that employees never work at the same pace.

In other words, even when the workload seems “fair and even”, it may not really be that way.

It is important to ensure that employees understand that hours can not be compared with productivity.

In fact, for two hours worked, two employees can produce different results.

The best way to do this is to praise the truly satisfying and successful performance of the project, regardless of the working hours.

A project manager should pay attention to what people are realizing in practice and not just to the number of working hours.

Granted that the time required by a resource to finish a certain activity is not really exaggerated.

4. Identify the overworked staff

This means to identify those resources that have already received more work than they can actually do in the time available.

If a collaborator really has too much work, it is possible to divide the activities into smaller blocks to distribute to several other resources.

Or postpone the deadline of a certain activity in order to lighten the daily workload.

Also for the overall workload management, it is possible to follow the 80/20 rule.

  • People should be assigned to specific tasks only for 80% of their time.
  • The remaining 20% will be used to answer phone calls, attend team meetings, deal with the clients and so on. This 20% should be distributed evenly throughout the week. It is better to fill people’s time for – for example – 6 hours a day, rather than giving them a fixed day “free” from specific activities.

There may also be the case where a person seems overburdened with work, even if this is not the reality. This can occur when the resource is not able to manage its work efficiently.

There are possible interventions to offer in these cases, such as a coaching with a more efficient colleague or a training course.

But we must also consider the fact that some people do not belong to the jobs they are in and therefore may not be suitable for the task assigned.

In this case, it may be necessary to change the role and function within the organization.

5. Identify the “free” staff

Team members are motivated when their day is full of meaningful tasks.

This makes them feel important for the project.

A time management system will help to understand if the employees are working on priority activities, or in general on activities important for the project, or not.

In some situations, the collaborators themselves can ask for more work. On the other hand, they could also say that they can not take on further tasks.

This is where the workload management capability of a project manager comes into play.

Are the team members really too busy or are they just working on the wrong tasks? What if they were just incredibly unproductive?

Some people do not give the right importance to their work and they do only the bare minimum.

With this kind of people we need to be clear.

They will have to know that the level of commitment could have consequences in terms of the possibility of promotion, financial incentives and prestigious assignments.

The more the team’s strengths and working patterns are known, the easier it will be to correctly manage the workload.

6. Inform about changes in planning

Obviously, even with the best planning, the development of a project may require an immediate change of priorities.

If you intend to change an assignment in the resource planning or workload system, it is absolutely necessary to speak first with the relevant stakeholders and collaborators.

This is one of the main tricks to keep the team happy.

Communication in this situation is essential.

It is necessary to explain the reasons behind structural interventions, as well as to highlight the requisites of the resources needed to complete the project. It is strategic to emphasize the need for a project and not make it a personal issue.

The key points to remember

What to do:

  • Spend time on planning in order to reflect on the delegation strategy.
  • Create a list of all the activities that need to be done and then assign tasks based on the specific function, position, and strengths of team members.
  • Create a culture that enhances productivity beyond the hours worked by openly praising an important and successful performance.

What not to do:

  • Being excessively rigid regarding the workload delegation strategy; when priorities change, it is necessary to be flexible.
  • Burn the top performer. Before loading him further, identify if and how it is possible to break down a more complex task into secondary tasks.
  • Let a collaborator “rest on his laurels”. It is necessary to be clear and direct on the general project expectations, as well as on the personal ones.

There are real risks involved in not distributing the workload fairly.

Indeed, if the high performers are overloaded, they will start to resent the fact that they are doing more than their colleagues, in addition to risk the burn out.

If work is taken away from slower people, they will inevitably lose interest.

People also work to achieve success – albeit small – to grow and to be recognized. When this opportunity is not given to them, the risk is high.

This is why in the TWproject software we paid special attention to managing the workload of each team member.

From the planning phase to the monitoring and control phase, it is possible to have a clear picture of the progress of each collaborator’s work.

workload

For each resource the Project Manager can have a graphical representation of the total load per day, (where each color represents a different task), as well as a detailed explanation of the load components.

The functions available are so many! The best way know them is by testing our software

In our software Work and load plan interact in order to provide – in real time – the strategic information for the successful outcome of the project.

What are the difficulties you have encountered in managing your team’s workload?

Leave us your comment.

Start managing the workload of your projects.

agile methodology

Agile methodology: advantages and disadvantages of an innovative method

The Agile methodology is a project management methodology that uses short development cycles, so called “sprint”, to focus on continuous improvement in the development of a product or service.

The key principles of the Agile methodology in the project management

The key principles that guide the project management according to the Agile methodology are 12:

  1. Customer satisfaction is always the highest priority and is achieved thanks to fast and accurate delivery;
  2. The evolution is adopted at any phase of the process;
  3. A product or service is delivered at a higher frequency;
  4. Stakeholders and developers work closely every day;
  5. All stakeholders and team members must remain motivated in order to achieve optimal project results. The teams have all the necessary tools and support to achieve the project goals;
  6. Face-to-face meetings are considered the most efficient and effective form of communication for the success of the project;
  7. A final product that is working is the final measure of success;
  8. Sustainable development is achieved through agile processes where development teams and stakeholders can maintain a constant and continuous pace;
  9. Through a continuous attention to technical excellence and correct planning, agility will be improved;
  10.  Simplicity is a fundamental feature in every phase of the project;
  11. Self-organized teams are more likely to develop the best ideas and projects and to meet the requirements;
  12. Teams make changes in behavior in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work.

The advantages of the Agile methodology

The Agile methodology was firstly developed for the software industry.

The task was to optimize and improve the development process and to try to identify and quickly correct problems and defects.

This methodology allows to provide a better output, more quickly, through short and interactive sessions / sprints.

In the era of digital transformation, where many organizations are migrating to a digital workplace, the Agile methodology suits perfectly in companies that are looking to transform the way in which projects are managed and the way they operate as a whole.

If we consider the benefits for the company, the digital workplace and the Agile methodology provide:

  • More flexibility;
  • More productivity;
  • More transparency;
  • Products of superior quality;
  • Decreased risk of missed goals;
  • Greater involvement and satisfaction of stakeholders.

agile methodology

In the field of project management, the Agile methodology gives teams, sponsors, project managers and customers many specific advantages, including:

  • Faster implementation of solutions;
  • Waste reduction thanks to the minimization of the resources;
  • Greater flexibility and adaptability to change;
  • More success thanks to more focused efforts;
  • Faster delivery times;
  • Faster detection of problems and defects;
  • Optimized development processes;
  • A lighter/less complicated structure;
  • Excellent project control;
  • Greater attention to specific customer needs;
  • Increased collaboration frequency and feedback.

The disadvantages of Agile

As with any other methodology, even the Agile approach is not suitable for any project.

It is therefore recommended to do an adequate analysis in order to identify the best methodology to apply in every situation.

Agile may not work as expected, for example, if a client is not clear about the goals, if the project manager or the team has no experience or if they do not “work well” under pressure.

Because the Agile methodology has less formal and more flexible processes, it may not always be easily included into larger and more traditional organizations.

Here, in fact, processes, policies or teams could be rigid.

The Agile methodology is also difficult to implement when clients follow rigid processes or methods.

Furthermore, given that this methodology focuses mainly on the short term, the risk that the long-term vision will be lost does exist.

The sixth edition of the PmBok and the Agile methodology

At this point it is appropriate to make some small considerations according to the fact that the PmBok, ie the bible of Project Manager, is mainly based on the so-called “Waterfall” approach – which explains a sequential development in phases, in the life cycle of the project.

In some of these phases, the PmBok contemplates possible application of an Agile approach, provided that this is in line with the goals of the project.

The advantages of the Waterfall approach are:

  • Defined, agreed and formalized requirements;
  • Possible defects or risks are already assessed in the initial phases of the project;
  • Detailed and punctual documentation;
  • Due to the detailed project documentation, even non-expert colleagues can manage the project.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of this approach are the following:

  • Analysis and planning activities can take a long time and thus delay the actual launch of the project;
  • The requirements, as soon as they are formalized, can only be modified through another process, which – again – takes time;
  • During project development, new needs or new tools may arise that can require more flexibility.

The Agile methodology focuses mostly on optimizing the process.

The PmBok, and therefore the Waterfall method, focuse more on managing goals and risks and on forecasting and controlling costs.

An Agile approach works at its best in situations that have a relatively high level of uncertainty, where creativity and innovation in order to find the appropriate solution are more important than predictability.

A very simple and clear example is the research for a cure for cancer. In this case, for instance, it would be ridiculous to develop a detailed plan on the strategy to follow.

A traditional approach, such as Waterfall, works well in situations that have a relatively low level of uncertainty and where predictability, planning and control are essential.

Here the best example can be the building of a bridge that must always follow the same system.

Many project managers have seen – and still see – these two approaches as competitive with each other.

A high level of skill is needed in order to see these two approaches in a new perspective, as complementary to each other.

agile methodology

In fact, both methodologies are valid, but require a great interpretative capacity – beyond experience – in order to apply the correct principles in every situation.

In the development of the Twproject software, we came to a very important consideration.

Particular approaches can help to solve certain classes of problems, but they will never cover all the work activities of a company.

Therefore, it would be extremely non-agile to have a specific software for “agile” projects, and one for others.

And even “agile” projects can present many variations, which will fit into the agile metaphor at different stages, and hardly in a single “software model”.

Therefore we have reached a basic assumption: agility is in the methodology, not in software.

A software should be flexible enough to let you map projects, tasks, issues, to people and customers, in endless ways, but so that all data from different projects and methodologies are collected in the same place.

For this reason, we made Twproject a real project management tool, regardless of the chosen approach.

Which methodology is applied in your business?

According to your experience, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Leave us your feedback in the comments.

Start managing your projects.

project stakeholders

Project Stakeholders

Who are the stakeholders? When we read the title, this is the first question that comes to mind.

If we take the definition of the PMBok, a stakeholder is an individual, a group or an organization that can influence or can be influenced (or perceive itself being influenced) by a decision, activity or result of a project.

Shortly, a stakeholder is a person, a group of people, or an organization that has an interest in the project or is influenced – directly or indirectly – by its result.

This can include, for example, project team members, project sponsors, members of the organization, and people outside the organization.

But let’s try to analyze all the aspects that can be of interest of the subjects directly or indirectly involved in a project and the evaluations and actions that inevitably are in the hands of the Project Manager.

Project stakeholders: interests and necessities

In a certain manner, a stakeholder has an interest in the outcome of the project.

It is therefore essential to identify all the stakeholders in a project, and it would be trivial to say the reasons.

The identification of the stakeholders must be done from the beginning of the planning phase in order to create a strategy to manage them.

This will help in managing the project with minimal obstruction from them. The sooner the stakeholers are identified, the sooner we can start to communicate and to involve them in project decisions.

In this way, they will feel a connection to the project. They will be able to understand the benefits and they will support the project manager everytime he needs it.

The project is successful, if all the stakeholders are happy and satisfied with the result.

It may happen that even if the project is complete and all the deliverables have been accepted by the client, the project is not successfully completed because some stakeholders are not completely satisfied.

Therefore, in order to successfully complete a project, it is very important that a project manager can keep all stakeholders satisfied.

Normally, if the project is simple, the list of project stakeholders is probably small.

However, if the project is more complex and perhaps spread across a large geographic area, it is possible that the number of stakeholders is huge.

In a big project, in fact, project stakeholders can also be communities or the general public.

The important thing is to keep in mind that the stakeholders are not all the same.

Every stakeholder has different needs and expectations.

So, each stakeholder must be treated according to its needs and expectations.

Not doing it can compromise the success of the project.

For this reason, knowing all the stakeholders, their needs, expectations and requirements will increase the chances of success of the project.

project stakeholders

If we forget or disregard an important stakeholder, this could lead to difficulties in the later phases of the project.

The Project could suffer: delays, cost overruns and, in the most serious cases, the closure of the project itself.

Type of Stakeholder

Project stakeholders can be divided into two categories:

  • Internal stakeholders;
  • External stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders are directly within the organization. For example:

  • A sponsor;
  • An internal client (if the project arose because of an internal need of the organization);
  • A project team;
  • A project manager;
  • A portfolio manager;
  • A manager of another department of the organization (for example, trade manager, administrative manager, ecc.).

On the other hand, external stakeholders are external to the organization. For example:

  • An external client (the “standard” type of clients);
  • An end user of the project result;
  • A supplier;
  • A subcontractor;
  • The government;
  • Local communities;
  • Media.

Moreover, stakeholders can be positive and negative.

A positive stakeholder sees the positive side of the project and benefits from its success.

These help the project management team to complete the project successfully.

On the other hand, a negative stakeholder sees the negative result of the project and can be negatively influenced by the project or its outcome.

This type of stakeholder is less inclined to help.

Perhaps we will appear boring, but it is fundamental to understand the importance of identifying the project stakeholders in the early pahses of the project.

It is also necessary to note down the details, requirements, expectations, power and influence on the project in the stakeholder register.

Some of these stakeholders will have a minimal interest or just a relative influence on the project.

However, the project manager must also take care of them.

Indeed, you can never know when secondary stakeholders can become the dominant stakeholders and if the dominant stakeholders become less influential.

The register of Stakeholders

After having identified all the stakeholders, their information will be recorded in a so-called stakeholder register.

This register is a project management document that will contain all the aforementioned information.

In this document all the people, groups and organizations that have any kind of interest or involvement in the project will be identified.

Here we can find the names, titles, roles, interests, requirements, expectations, type of influence, etc. of each one of them.

The stakeholder register will be created as soon as the project statute is signed.

project stakeholders

Doing this in the first stage of the project will help complete the project with minimal effort.

Once the register is created and all the stakeholders are listed, a strategy to manage them will be easily drafted.

The contents of the Stakeholder register

Usually, the stakeholder register contains three types of information about each stakeholder:

  • Identification;
  • Evaluation;
  • Classification.

In some cases, the register can also contain the stakeholder management strategy.

In the first section, we will have the following information:

  • Name;
  • Title;
  • Contact information;
  • Role in the project / organization.

In the second section about the evaluation of the stakeholders, we will have:

  • Stakeholders requirements;
  • Communication necessities;
  • Communication frequency;
  • Expectations;
  • Influence on the project;
  • Interests and power.

The last section will classify the stakeholders on the basis of various criteria.

They can be divided according to their power and interest in the project, whether high, medium or low.

It is also possible to assign other attributes to the stakeholders, for example, if a stakeholder is internal, external, positive, a supporter, a resistor or a neutral stakeholder.

After completing the evaluation, it is possible to edit the stakeholder management strategy.

This strategy will help to interact with each one of them based on individual needs, influence and interest in the project.

The stakeholder register must be kept up to date throughout the project life cycle.

While the project goes on, it will be possible to identify new stakeholders or it can happen that other stakeholders should no longer be considered. The register should be therefore contain these changes.

Moreover, during the project life cycle, the interest or power of one or more stakeholders could change. This must also be duly noted in the register.

As it appears clear, the identification of stakeholders is a continuous process. This is why the stakeholder register must be considered an “open” document during the entire life cycle of the project.

Because this registry contains names, e-mails, classifications, and management strategies, it may not be shown to everyone.

It is therefore necessary to keep this document in a safe place with limit access.

Every project manager must therefore remember to always take the project stakeholders into consideration.

In fact, a deficiency in this sense could have serious and negative repercussions on the whole project.

Have you ever had any difficulty in identifying one or more project stakeholders?

What are your experiences?

Leave us your comment.

Identify the stakeholders of your project.

leadership skills

Leadership skills of the Project Manager: the key elements of the role

The leadership of a project, in very few words, is the act of guiding a team towards the completion of a project.

It is obvious that it is a simplistic definition and that the true meaning of Leadership in a project is much more than that.

It is about obtaining something well done through other people who, in turn, are happy to have done it.

Leadership is a soft ability; part art, part science

Everyone is obsessed with this topic, from professionals to companies.

It represents an important – and necessary – quality for a project manager.

We have been asked the following.

Can everyone be a Leader?

Can leadership be learned and taught or is it an innate talent?

This is still an open point on which there are discussions.

But one thing is certain: successful leadership can be monitored and studied.

Different leadership styles

If we analyze the management style of everyone involved in a project, we can find different ways in which project managers try to reach goals and set their job.

Most of these differences are based on the personality of the professional and on the style of leadership.

We tried to reproduce these differences graphically and this is how the Project Leadership Matrix was born, which you can see below.

leadership skills

It’s a tool that says what kind of leader you are, and with this knowledge it is possible to correct or change the style to become a better leader.

This matrix divides the leadership into four main types:

  1. Reactive people leadership;
  2. Reactive task management;
  3. Proactive people leadership;
  4. Proactive task management.

It is unlikely that a project manager fits perfectly in a single quadrant.

It is much more likely that every Project Manager is a mixture of two or more leadership styles.

However, in general, the best project managers are those who emphasize a proactive leadership style.

It is important to remember, though it may seem obvious, that people are not like activities.

Managers are often more comfortable with processes and methodologies, rather than with human beings.

However, the work is not done by automata and treating the team, which is made up of human beings, in an abstract and cold way means risking the disaster.

Here is where excellent project leadership must come. As a leader, the goal is to inspire and empower the team.

Planning, monitoring and reporting are certainly fundamental for the construction of a project, but the morale of the collaborators may not be quantifiable like a milestone on a timeline.

How (as project manager) do I become a GOOD project manager?

Knowing what good project leadership means leads to the inevitable question: how is it possible to apply this concept to reality in order to become a good project manager?

The aspects that many – excellent – leaders share are the following:

  1. Keep the focus on the goal;
  2. They are aware;
  3. They create solutions;
  4. They are analysts;
  5. They can evaluate the risks;
  6. They can generate a sense of urgency when necessary;
  7. They are perspicacious;
  8. They promote cohesion among collaborators;
  9. They motivate the team;
  10. They reach results.

These represent ten pillars on which it is possible to build a good leadership.

Leadership is difficult to teach through books, videos and courses.

Of course, you can learn the basics by reading, but the “practice” at work is another story.

What does the sixth edition of PmBok on leadership say?

It can be more difficult to manage a team, and a project in general, through leadership rather than authority.

However, leadership is usually more effective because it is built on trust and respect.

Leadership is particularly important at the beginning of a project to define the vision, communicate it to the team and start this necessary relationship of trust and respect.

This let all employees take part in the project objectives.

Good leadership skills will also keep the collaborators inspired and motivated to do their best.

In order to be a project manager with good leadership skills, it is important to recognize situations and select the appropriate action.

The PmBok summarizes the leadership as:

  • Lead team members and stakeholders towards a common project goal;
  • Doing things “through” the project team members;
  • Manage with respect and trust;
  • Communicate with, motivate and inspire the team;
  • Maintain the vision, strategy and communication of project performance;
  • Evaluate the performance of the project team.

Communication is the key

Clear communication is the most valuable tool that a project manager has.

Clear communication not only with the team, but also with the possible leaders and with all the stakeholders.

This quality is probably what firstly characterizes a good leader.

Communication is not only a means through which needs and desires can be explained but, if used correctly, it clearly transmits to the team what are the expected objectives, the requirements and the limits to respect.

This allows everyone to act correctly in an autonomous way.

The more team members know, the more they can act autonomously and make the right choices.

To ensure that communication skills are clear, a simple pattern, both for written as well as spoken communications, can be followed:

  • First of all, communication has to be compelling, as the message must arouse interest and involvement in the topic.
  • Secondly, commication must be persuasive. If you are not able to influence the person with whom you are communicating, you will not be able to change her/his way of thinking or her/his habits.
  • Finally, communication must be powerful. This means that we need to communicate effectively and efficiently. The correct result of communication should be the action.

Leadership for a project manager is a term probably easy to describe but represents a goal to pursue and to try to achieve throughout the whole working life.

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Which are the most difficult aspects for you in the field of leadership?

Tell us about your experience.

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SMART goals to plan a project

Having Smart goals or, if preferred, a Smart approach to a project, is becoming more and more crucial, in the planning made by the project manager, for the success of the project itself.

Let’s try to analyze why.

The goals of a project: the premises that lead to SMART

A project goal describes the desired outcomes of a project, which are often tangible elements.

Goals can be used by companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and even by private people for personal use for project planning.

A project can have a single goal, many parallel goals or different goals that must be achieved sequentially.

Goals must be settled at the beginning of the project life cycle, ie in the planning phase, in order to achieve maximum benefit.

A well-written goal is fundamental, because it can have an influence on every phase of the project life cycle.

When a specific goal is created and communicated, the team has a greater chance to achieve it, because the collaborators know exactly on what they are working.

Every kind of effort can benefit from the goals.

As an individual, it is possible to use a goal in order to choose exactly what and how to plan.

Regardless of the type of project, the models can simplify the work, from the development of the goals to the planning of the project.

SMART goals: what they are and why they are important

Identifying a clear goal can be very difficult.

The difficulty is due to the many variables that each project presents.

Fortunately, there are many ways to simplify this process.

First, we have to take into consideration that the goals will contain key performance indicators.

They will be specific to the company or area of interest.

The fundamental questions are:

  • how can we be sure that the project was successful?
  • What has to be achieved?
  • What change do we want to see as a result of the project?

An easy way to make sure that sufficient details are included in the goal – or in the different goals – is to follow the SMART approach.

smart goals

SMART goals are:

  1. specific;
  2. measurable;
  3. achievable;
  4. relevant;
  5. with a deadline.

SMART goals: are specific

The word “specific” means to clearly defines the goals, in detail, without leaving room for wrong interpretations.

Consider the so-called Five Ws, where the five W stand for the following questions:
Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Specific means, for instance, that you must be able to answer all these five questions.

Being specific requires commitment. It means preparing and activating an in-depth research on the problem you want to tackle.

General statements should be absolutely avoided, like for example: “this project will improve the employment of young people”.

There is the need to be specific, for example, what is the unemployment rate among young people and why is the situation like this, what strategies have already been implemented, why they have not worked and why the new project should be able to solve the problem.

Moreover, we recommend that you use a bullet list for the goals, which is easy to structure and visualize.

SMART goals: are measurable

The goals to be SMART must be measurable.

The word “measurable” refers to the measures and specifications of the performances that will determine if the goal has been achieved.

Everyone needs to know how to evaluate the success of the project.

For this reason the goals must allow to monitor the progress of the project and evaluate the final results.

A point of reference or a standard for success is something which measure progresses.

Measurable goals answer questions like “How much?” or “How many?”

In the previous example, this would mean to indicate “how many unemployed young people will be able to find a job within the end of the project”.

SMART goals: are achievable

The word “achievable” refers to the fact that the team has a reasonable expectation of completion with success.

Every project manager should give achievable goals to his collaborators.

If they work on extremely difficult jobs, their productivity can be reduced and this could have a negative effect on motivation.

The feeling of never being able to achieve the project goal within the deadline can bring the project to failure.

SMART goals: are relevant

A goal is “relevant” when it is in line with group or business goals.

If the goal of the project has no relevance to the general vision, it is practically useless and can not be defined as a SMART goal.

SMART goals: have a deadline

The last feature of a SMART goal is “having a deadline”.

It is necessary to include a project deadline or the specific period within which the goals has to be achieved.

A deadline helps to create the needed urgency.

It solicits the action and helps the responsibles to focuse on the commitments they have made.

This comes from the fact that they have a specific time frame within which to complete the task. It is not possible to go beyond this deadline or the performance will be lower.

This also is used to measure the efficiency of a team in achieving a particular goal.

Not having a deadline reduces the motivation and urgency of collaborators.

A big mistake for a project manager.

Suggestions for writing successful project goals

Analyzing results from similar projects and looking at what happens in the company or in the community in general can be a big help.

It can be a great advantage, for example, when we decide how long it will take to complete a task.

It is also necessary to consider all the individual steps to do, as well as consider potential events that could transform into an obstacle and not allow to achieve the goals in time.

smart goals

Here are some useful suggestions to write successful project goals:

  • Identify and write the goal, or goals, before starting the project;
  • A goal can not be written in isolation. If the team does not believe in the goal, it will not work according to it. If the stakeholders do not agree, they will not provide resources. If the stakeholders do not agree with the goal, it is necessary to work with them until a vision that everyone shares is reached;
  • Be short; so the goals can be read and understood;
  • Be clear; do not provide a list of options. Just ask for what you need and what you expect;
  • Use a simple language so that everyone can understand the goal and there is no misunderstanding;
  • Goals should be controlled, make sure that your goals allow to do this.

A goal without an appropriate planning is nothing but a desire.

Clearly, this attitude is unacceptable in the business, because only thanks to a necessay planning, it is possible to win.

SMART goals exist to ensure that project results are achieved in an organized and caring manner, which offers a great competitive advantage.

In conclusion, life is unpredictable, and so are the projects.

Therefore, it is important that goals are flexible and negotiable.

However, this does not mean that they must be vague or general.

The goals must be extremely precise and detailed, but must also transmit the idea that, during the development of the project, the project manager will continuously work to make changes and corrections if and when necessary.

Set your SMART goals.