Kanban method

How to apply the Kanban method to project management

The Kanban method was developed as a methodology to improve production efficiency.

The Japanese word “Kanban” means “billboard” in English and it was born in the company of Toyota, in Japan.

Today this method is widely used.

Nowadays, the Kanban method is not only used as a planning system for lean production, but also in Agile projects in order to manage the backlog of activities.

Actually, thanks to the popularity of Kanban, there are now countless project management tools that follow this method. The goal is to help people plan and prioritize.

The advantages of this method are different.

Kanban cards work like visual panels with virtual notes that can be added.

These notes can be moved to organize the order of activities or in order to prioritize the things to do.

Kanban method

Therefore, the Kanban method enables more flexible planning options, a quickier output, as well as more carefullness and transparency throughout the project life cycle.

The Toyota company, where this system was first implemented, has created six rules that permit to apply the Kanban method to the production process.

Today, people and project managers of the most different sectors use the Kanban method for planning and managing activities and their priorities.

In fact, Kanban is a structured process of prioritization.

What is a Kanban Board?

A Kanban Board is like a blackboard.

A space in which Kanban cards  stand for the individual activities that have to performed and are categorized based on priority and delivery.

Nowadays, Kanban cards are used mainly as online softwares, or in some cases are directly integrated in more complex project management softwares.

In general, they allow to track the work flow not only of a team, but also of the single collaborators.

It is particularly used by the software development teams that follow the Agile methodology.

It is used to define user history and the activity priorities in the backlog or as a collaboration tool for innovation.

If we consider the most basic (and more structured) form, the Kanban card can be divided into three levels:

  • Work/activity in standby;
  • Work/activity in progress;
  • Work/activity completed;

Obviously, the complexity of the card depends on the goal of the project.

As every task is completed, team members move Kanban cards through the different sections of the board.

Kanban cards allow to:

  • Visualize the workflow;
  • Limit the number of activities in progress;
  • Move an activity from one section to another;
  • Monitor, adapt, and improve the process.

What are Kanban cards?

The Kanban method can be considerated as a system of knowledge and the cards permit to represent each singular object of work or activity.

Each Kanban card includes the critical data for the specific activity to which it refers.

The cards have different colors that indicate the type of task performed.

Different colors can also refer to other distinctions that have been agreed upon at the beginning of the project.

Some of the ways a Kanban card helps teams and project managers: 

  • Quick understanding of the details of every activity/task;
  • Easy communication within the team;
  • Information on documents;
  • Support with the future workflow.

How to use the Kanban method in project management

In order to manage different projects in an efficient and productive way, different methodologies are required.

In general, the Kanban method is an excellent tool for planning the project and prioritizing the activities.

It can increase team efficiency, optimize time management, as well as allow a more fluid and simple overall project management.

It is also excellent for supporting with resource allocation, workflow management and waste reduction.

Here is why in more detail:

Use the Kanban method to: Assign resources

The first step is to create the activities and then assign them to a team member.

It’s fundamental to make sure that the right people are working on the right job in the proper manner.

This will help to correctly manage the work, without blocking any other member of the team or delaying production.

Everytime a new project activity is added into the workflow, the right resource can be assigned to it in a easy and quick way.

Use the Kanban method to: Workflow management

The Kanban method is a perfect tool that allows to visualize the workflow of any project.

The workflow is a sequential series of activities and the Kanban card with its visual representation makes everything more understandable.

Kanban method

Thanks to the observation on how activities are related, collaboration within the team will be promoted and at the same time greater efficiency and productivity can be achieved.

Use the Kanban method to: Reduce waste

The reduction of waste, whether of resources or costs in general, is not only the rule of a lean system.

Every project manager is interested in obtaining results in this sense.

Kanban cards help in the identification of a probable expensive process.

Something that does not work as planned, an overproduction or a situation where team members are blocking the workflow are easily detectable.

The big advantage lies in detecting these factors before they become problems.

There is no limit to the number of cards, integrations and workflow management that the Kanban method allows.

This method can work not only in a small company with a single office, but also in a multinational company with offices all around the world.

The Kanban method in the software

The common thread that permits to use all the advantages of this method is a project management software.

For this reason, we added in TWproject the Kanban functionality in order to organize the to-do-list of the project.

The Issues that in Twproject are used as to-do can be easily managed with the Kanban multi-dimensional of TWproject.

Indeed, it allows to organize the issues in a fully visual way.

It is possible to move them and organize them by task, assignee, status or severity degree.

Shortly, a very flexible multi-dimensional Kanban.

Kanban method

Do you also use the Kanban method for your projects?

Give us your suggestion and tell us about your experience.

Use the Kanban feature to organize the to-do-list of the project

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Project risk analysis

Project risk analysis

The project risk analysis or risk management,  is the process of identification, analysis and response to any risk that occurs during the life cycle of a project.

Analyzing the risks that may lie behind the execution of a project, predicting the possible obstacles and having a vision of the solutions in advance is certainly vital for any project.

It serves to help the latter stay on track and reach his goal.

But risk management can not and must not be just an action in response to something.

It should itself be part of the project planning process, in its evaluation phase.

In fact, during the planning of the project, the potential risks should be assessed and, obviously, also the possible solutions in order to manage these risks should be evaluated.

But what does “risk” mean?

A risk is anything that could potentially affect the timing, performance or budget of the project.

Risks are considered as potentialities and, in a project management context, if they become reality, they are classified as “problems“, which must be addressed accordingly.

Thus, risk management is the process of identification, categorization, prioritization and risk planning before they become problems.

Risk management can be managed differently depending on the project and its scope.

If it is a large-scale project, for example, risk management strategies could include detailed planning for each risk.

This is to ensure that mitigation strategies are activated in case of problems.

For smaller projects, risk management could mean a simple and prioritized list of high, medium and low priority risks.

Project risk analysis: How to identify risk

To begin with, a clear and precise definition of what the project will have to produce, the objectives and the final results is essential.

In this way the risks can be identified at every stage of the project, even with the help of the team.

Some companies and industries develop risk control lists based on past project experience.

The team’s past experience, the project experience within the company and industry experts can be valuable resources to identify potential risks on a project.

Project risk analysis

Identifying the sources of risk by category is a possible method to explore the potential risk of a project.

Some examples of categories for potential risks include the following:

  • Technology;
  • Costs;
  • Timing;
  • Clients;
  • Contracts;
  • Financial situation;
  • Political situation;
  • Environmental situation;
  • Persons.

Each defined risk must then be included in the risk monitoring model and marked by its priority

Consequently, a risk plan that shows the impacts on the project, both negative and positive, must be created, as well as the actions to use and implement in order to manage the problem.

In the context of risk management, it is also important to maintain regular communication with the team throughout the project.

Transparency is fundamental, so that everyone knows what elements to take into account to recognize and react to a problem.

Project risk analysis: Risk assessment

After identifying potential risks, the project manager, with the help of the team, assesses the risk based on the probability of occurrence and the potential loss associated with the event.

Not all risks are the same.

Some risk events are more likely to happen than others, and even the cost of a risk can vary greatly.

Therefore, evaluating the probability that the risk presents itself and the concrete repercussions on the project are the next step in the risk analysis.

Having criteria for determining high-impact risks can help narrow attention to certain specific and more critical risks to the project.

For example, suppose it is established that high-impact risks are those that could increase project costs by 5%.

Only a few potential risk events will satisfy this criterion.

These are therefore potential risk events on which the project team should focus on creating a mitigation plan.

The probability and impact of risk are both classified as high, medium or low.

A risk mitigation plan normally concerns events that have high results on both factors.

There is a positive correlation between the risk of the project and the complexity of the project.

In the case of highly complex projects, an external expert can be included in the risk assessment process and the risk assessment plan can take on a more prominent role in the project implementation plan.

Project risk analysis

Project risk analysis: Risk mitigation plan

After the risk has been identified and assessed, the project manager with the team develops a risk mitigation plan, a plan to reduce the impact of an unforeseen event.

The risk can be mitigated in the following ways:

  • Risk avoidance: it usually involves the development of an alternative strategy with a greater probability of success, but usually linked to a higher cost;
  • Sharing risk: involves collaboration with other stakeholders, in order to share responsibility for activities at risk;
  • Risk reduction: it is an investment to reduce the risk on a project. For example, hire and rely on consultants to take care of high-risk activities;
  • Risk transfer: it is a risk reduction method that shifts the risk from the project to another part. For example, the purchase of insurance on certain items is a method of transferring risk. In fact, the risk is transferred from the project to the insurance company.

Each of these mitigation techniques can be an effective tool to reduce individual risks and the overall risk profile of the project.

As far as the project manager is concerned, not everyone conducts a formal risk assessment on the project.

The lack of formal risk management tools has also been seen as an obstacle to the implementation of a risk management plan.

In addition, the project manager’s personality and management style differentiate the approach to risk.

Some project managers are more proactive and will develop risk management programs for their projects.

Other managers are reactive and are more confident in their ability to handle unexpected events when they occur.

Others, on the other hand, are risk averse and prefer to be optimistic and not consider risks or avoid taking risks when possible.

Whatever the case, the ability to accurately analyze the risks of a project must fall within the skills and tasks of a project manager.

In any project, a proper risk assessment becomes fundamental to a successful plan.

What about you? What kind of project manager are you? How do you manage potential risks?

Tell us about your experience.

Analyze the possible risks of your project.

digital project manager

The digital project manager: when the project meets the web

What is the Digital Project Manager? It is quickly explained!

Nowadays, our routine goes in parallel with the digital world, we are connected 24 hours a day and – almost – anything is possible thanks to the Internet.

The work itself is largely digital.

For these reasons, the figure of the digital project manager is born, a specialist who knows the online business and knows the modern tools for managing online projects.

A digital project manager is not so different from a traditional project manager.

Even a digital project manager, in fact, manages tasks related to projects, such as the planning of the project, the communication with stakeholders, the management of the team and, of course, the delivery of projects within the deadline and without exceeding the given budget.

The difference is that they work in the digital space.

digital project manager

A digital space that is growing day by day and that offers ever more performing instruments.

One might think of the digital project manager as an exclusive figure for high-tech and software companies, but this is not the case.

Digital impregnates our lives, we are increasingly connected and this hyper-connectivity and hypertechnology becomes more “normal” every day.

Almost all commercial companies now have an online presence, that they try to improve and take care of.

Many people are beginning to understand that the presence on the web is no less important than a physical presence, like a branch of the company or the company itself.

This is the work space in which the digital project manager moves: a space of innovation, but no longer futuristic.

His figure is every day more requested by the market and its importance in a company that faces the web or intends to improve its online presence is increasingly essential.

Any company that pushes sales through its website, through search engine optimization, newsletters, social media marketing and copywriting may want to seek the help of a digital project manager.

The digital project manager: What does he exactly do?

The projects of a digital project manager work similarly to any other project, but we can find subtle differences.

Digital project management usually follows these five steps:

  1. Discovery: the idea generation stage, in which new concepts or new technologies are explored, solutions are identified and risks assessed;
  2. Project planning;
  3. Production: work in concrete;
  4. Distribution: that is, the work of evaluating and analyzing the product of the project, for example, a social media marketing campaign;
  5. Maintenance: the digital project rarely has a definitive ending, but remains open for corrections and re-elaborations throughout its life. For example, a social media marketing campaign, while active, can be directed to another target audience, can be modified in the image, etc. depending on the results of the data analysis.

The digital project manager will assess the risks, plan the work and coordinate the tasks, direct the team and maintain the project “on time”.

He is also involved in the business development process that will go hand in hand with the brand and business development on the web.

In addition to managing the team and the project, these new digital managers have to deal directly or indirectly with customers and their needs.

Indeed, their relationship with the customer could have more influence than that of the sales team.

In fact, they will collect the “humor” of the customers, perceive their desires and direct the company management towards choices that could prove decisive for the business development.

What are the tools and skills required to be a good Digital Project Manager?

The set of skills and competences required for a digital project manager will be slightly different than those of the traditional project manager.

We can list the following:

  • CMS – Content Management System: software that allows the management of web content, without the need to use the webmaster. These changes can be made directly by the digital project manager, thus freeing developers who can concentrate on more complicated tasks;
  • Information Architecture: structure and categorization of information, content and digital processes;
  • Analytics: digital project managers need to know how to analyze and use data collected from tools such as Google Analytics. The data obtained are in fact fundamental for understanding and correcting the performance of the website;
  • HTML: this competence allows the digital project manager to perform some programming jobs personally, allowing developers to concentrate on more complex tasks;
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): being able to position your website in the first results of Google and search engines in general is crucial for online success. The digital project manager must know all the SEO tools that allow to promote the site in the best possible way;
  • Social media: these are used by a company mainly to drive traffic to their site and to improve brand awareness and online reputation. Knowing platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is therefore essential for a digital project manager.

Job Description

Digital project managers are responsible for managing digital projects, which may include, for example, the launching of websites, online tools, applications for mobile devices, social media advertising campaigns and more.

They are experts in technology and innovation, with a deep knowledge of how technology works in order to achieve business objectives.

Digital project managers are methodical, have excellent time management and communication skills, both personal and online, and effectively manage projects respecting the requirements of quality, time and budget.

This involves drafting supporting documentation, such as risk analysis and plan and requirements specifications, to ensure that actual progress is in line with planned progress.

Digital project managers highlight risks and develop plans to tackle, stem and proactively solve these problems when and if they occur during the project life cycle.

In addition to risk management, they will also always be looking for business opportunities to explore in new potential projects.

Another task includes the creation of effective communication channels with the team and with stakeholders.

Gaining consensus on the project and ensuring that all the activities delegated to them are clear is one of their main objectives.

A digital project manager must also have great adaptability.

The digital space can present big changes every day and without warning and flexibility and a high spirit of adaptation are therefore fundamental.

Last but not least, the digital project manager must possess a technical and marketing language, but at the same time must understand and speak the language of the people of the web.

Speaking the right “language” will help the digital project manager better understand what online customers say, in order to contribute to the conversation and effectively communicate messages to others.

Are you a digital project manager? What are your digital projects?

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How to make a project budget

How can I create a budget for a project if I have no historical basis on which to orient myself?

When starting a project, it is difficult to know how much it will cost.

If we are dealing with a repetitive project, we will probably have a history on which to base ourselves.

In this case it may be easier to draw up a project budget, but different is the case when it comes to a new project.

Project managers are required to account for their budget estimates.

Given the great uncertainty that usually prevails in the initial phase of a project, this can be one of the major challenges of a project manager.

The ability to create an accurate budget is an essential skill for a project manager.

It can be a daunting task, especially for new project managers; however, once the first budget is created, you will have a first reference system.

From then on, it will be easier to manage this aspect for future projects.

The approaches to drafting a budget

There are two main approaches that can be adopted when drawing up a budget:

  • Top-down approach: decide how much the project will cost in total and divide the amount between the various phases of work;
  • Bottom-up approach: estimate the total cost of the project, calculating the individual work steps, starting from the lowest level, and then adding the whole.

Both approaches, like all things, have their advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s try to evaluate them together.

How to make a project budget: The top-down approach

The top-down approach, literally from top to bottom, is more than simply a guess of the total amount on which to base the whole project.

In fact, it is necessary to explain how the work will be carried out and structured within the amount of budget allocated for each phase of the project.

One should ask oneself if the balance sheet seems realistic on the basis of the experience of past projects, if there are any.

The advantage of the top-down budgeting approach is that it focuses on achieving the project within the allocated budget and leads to efficiency and reduction of costly practices.

A disadvantage is that it presupposes that the person who creates the budget has sufficient knowledge and skills to make a reasonable cost estimate.

If this is not the case, a conflict may occur when a team member is assigned an unrealistic and insufficient budget to complete his work phase.
In fact, there is the risk that deliberately low budgets are created with the – false – belief that this will encourage cost savings and waste elimination.

How to make a project budget: the bottom-up approach

In the second approach, bottom-up, literally from bottom to top, the project budget is built starting from the individual work stages, from the lowest level, and adding them up until reaching the total cost of the project.

The team is often involved in identifying the tasks and activities needed to complete the project and to estimate the various costs.

The advantage of the bottom-up budgeting approach is its accuracy, assuming that we have not forgotten any activity, and consequently its cost.

It is good for team morale because the project manager involves the team in budgeting.

For this reason, this approach is sometimes called participatory budget.

A disadvantage of the bottom-up approach is the difficulty of obtaining a complete list of activities and tasks necessary to complete the project, especially if it is something new, or if we are dealing with a young and / or inexperienced team.

In fact, the risk in starting new projects or in the involvement of junior resources, may be that of not contemplating entire phases of activity and process.

This inevitably leads to totally unleashing not only the costs, but also the time required to complete the project.

The different types of cost in creating the budget

In creating the budget the Project Manager must take into account different factors and above all the different types of costs.

There are basically two types of costs that affect project managers when they create a budget:

  • Direct costs
  • And indirect costs.

The former are uniquely attributed to the project and can be easily definied, such as: the cost of personnel, equipment, travel, consultants, ecc.

Indirect costs, on the other hand, are related to expense items loaded simultaneously on more than one project. Only part of their total cost is charged to a single project.

For example: telephone bills, office rent, company insurance, office equipment, etc.

How to calculate these costs?

For example, if the project will take 6 weeks and the internet bill is € 50 per month, the total cost of the project will be € 75.

To get an idea of the other costs, you can take a look at the previous year.

It will be necessary to see what has been spent on the whole and then divide it by 52 (the number of weeks in the year) to obtain an average weekly cost.

This can be valid for an indirect cost such as that of the equipment.

How to make a project budget: the management reserve

A management reserve or contingency reserve is usually added to projects and usually corresponds to a percentage of the total cost and time of the project.

This fund is used when events related to unexpected costs occur during the project.

The management reserve should be adjusted according to the level of risk identified for the project.

Clearly, the more risky the project is, the greater the management reserve will have to be, and viceversa.

A routine project, already carried out several times, will have a lower management reserve than a totally new project.

The budget will therefore be made up of direct costs, indirect costs and the amount that serves as a management reserve.

 How to make a project budget

How to make a project budget: ineligible costs

There are also costs that are generally not eligible in a project and therefore can not be included in the budget.

In general we can identify them in the following:

  • Non-accountable costs, such as voluntary work;
  • Capital investment costs;
  • Financial charges;
  • Passive interests;
  • Losses caused by the currency exchange, among other things not quantifiable given the volatility;
  • VAT in the case it is a recoverable cost;
  • Costs covered by EU funding or by another type of state funding;
  • Sanctions.

Manage budget changes

Projects rarely go according to plan in every detail.

It is therefore necessary that the project manager is able to identify when costs vary from budget and manage these changes.

A project manager must regularly compare the amount of money spent with the amount provided and report this information to the managers, the company president and the stakeholders.

It is therefore necessary to establish a method on how these progress will be measured and reported.

A widely used method for medium and high complexity projects is the earned value method.

This is a method of periodic comparison of the estimated costs – budget value – with the actual costs during the project – actual value.

The earned value method can provide information not only with regard to cost variances, but also with regard to time deviations, ie if the project is on time or not.

A simple way to evaluate the progress of the project is to take two values:

  • Direct cost percentages pertaining to an activity;
  • Sum of already worked hours on the activity and the forecast of the hours until the end of the project.

The progress of the activity will therefore result from the product between these two indicators. If it less than 1, it means that we are facing a project delay.

At the end of a project, it will be necessary to evaluate if a budget deviation has taken place and what were the reasons that caused it.

Regardless of the approach a project manager chooses to make the budget, it is essential to take the time to monitor it throughout the whole project.

In fact, for project management, cost monitoring is a strategic aspect.

For this reason in Twproject, we have developed the functionalities able to insert and manage both the costs generated by the work (direct costs) and the additional costs (indirect costs), reserving, of course, such access only to the Project Managers.

how to make a project budget

The importance of monitoring and managing a budget is crucial! Here is a small example of the support that TWproject can give you.

how to make a project budget

In this example (an integral part of the previous screen) your forecast margin (calculated from budget and planned costs) is 850.

This is the first estimate you’ve made, and it’s probably very close to what you told your client.

Then, in a second phase, you have refined your estimate: the second line represents how it is going in relation to what is planned.

The last line is the “real” situation, you have a budget of 2500, and you have spent 1285.

Great! There is a margin of 1215, better than expected!

In short, build, customize, monitor the Budget: fundamental aspects for a winning project!

What are the biggest difficulties you have experienced while creating a budget?

What strategy did you use?

Leave us a comment and share your experience with us.

Start now to create an accurate project budget

how to manage winning projects

7 tips on how to manage winning projects

The success of any project depends on the ability of a project manager to have a specific methodical approach to each project.

The approach must be in line with the needs of the client and with the strengths of his team.

In order to manage a winning project, it is essential to create an effective working structure that is not a task that anyone is able to do.

Of course, most project managers know that workflow management, like any other tool that contributes to project management success, is important, but how to do it properly is often not so obvious.

Any project manager knows that the best project management tips and tricks come with time, with experience, but also with the advice of more experienced project managers.

Therefore, today we want to give you 7 valuable tips for managing winning projects.

How to manage winning projects: Plan the day using time management techniques

For a project manager, time management skills are essential because we are dealing with a series of activities that often require rapid response times.

Planning the day will therefore be essential to maintain the overall organization and increase productivity.

For the planning of the activities there are appropriate project management software that can be a valuable help and that allows to keep track of the work done.

If you are not very tech savvy, even a simple to-do list, ordered by priority, can be a good organizational tool.

how to manage winning projects

The most important and priority tasks will therefore be placed at the top of the list, while the less important ones at the bottom. Another idea is also to use different colors depending on the urgency of the activity.

Having a visual plan of daily activities helps to have a general picture. It helps to be aware of how to manage time for each specific task and for each individual resource.

As a visual tool we can only recommend the use of Gantt charts.

How to manage winning projects: Include stakeholders in important decisions

Despite having many responsibilities regarding the project, the project manager must never forget customers and stakeholders.

Good communication is essential to keep the parties informed about the progression of the project and the need for program changes.

Some customers may have different expectations when it comes to communication, so already in the planning phase of a project, it is important to establish the frequency and the communication system to be used, which can be e-mails, phone calls, meetings, etc.

Establishing communication expectations in advance helps alleviate the uncertainty of stakeholders on the frequency and on the arrival of communications.

In addition, it can also help the project manager set the limits for when he is free to talk about the project and when he can consider himself too busy to have a conversation – unless it is an emergency.

How to manage winning projects: Communicate regularly with the team

Daily communication with the team helps to control misunderstandings and unclear needs.

Keeping your team informed at every stage of the project is essential for successful project management.

Good communication skills are a cornerstone of project management.

In other words, clear and frequent communication positively influences the way in which team members see their project manager as a leader, helps to control product quality and project duration, as well as foster risk management.

how to manage winning projects

Furthermore, a study published by Procedia Technology found that some methods of communication are more effective than others.

The researchers found that communication works best in the following order, from the most to the least effective:

  1. Electronic communication (with the right tools);
  2. Written communication;
  3. Verbal communication;
  4. Visual communication;
  5. Non-verbal communication.

How to manage winning projects: Anticipate the possible deadlock situations of the project

Even the best plans can go wrong. Even with a high level of planning and attention to detail, the project could still encounter some difficulties.

Paying attention to complaints from stakeholders or colleagues and other warning signs, such as a deadline or a cost overrun, is crucial.

Preventing a crisis will allow the project to continue without too many hitches, saving a lot of time and maintaining a cohesion among team, stakeholders and the project manager.

Unfortunately, not all complications can be avoided. Crisis management capabilities are essential to tackle the unexpected.

Project managers must be flexible and pragmatic, improvise and make precise decisions when needed.

How to manage winning projects: Know your limits as a project manager

Many projects are destined to fail from the beginning due to unrealistic expectations.

Establishing impossible deadlines or assigning too much work to team members will undoubtedly lead to untidy jobs and often to failure to meet deadlines.

Errors and delays in the work can direct the project towards failure, necessitating adjustment and “patching” work, extension of the calendar and going to undermine the trust of the stakeholders and of the team itself.

Taking the time to get to know the team you work with, will help you understand each person’s strengths and weaknesses and then assign the right tasks.

Delegating tasks to the right person is very important, because success depends on how team members can and are able to perform their tasks.

How to manage winning projects: Stay focused on the details

A common problem encountered by project managers is that project goals are not in line with business objectives.

A good project manager will define a strategic plan for the project that will bring the company back to success.

It’s too easy to get lost in minor details and forget what the goal is, so a well planned project goal is essential to success.

Having a fixed deadline and budget will help maintain a project structure, marked by milestones and a written list of requirements.

How to manage winning projects: Be updated on the latest project management trends

Upskilling is very useful, if not essential, for project management.

Unfortunately, with the high workload and stress of full-time work, it can be difficult to find the time to attend training or refresher courses.

On the other hand, there are many project management courses that are conducted online and most companies will be happy to reimburse their cost.

Professional development should never stop. The workforce is constantly changing, adding new tools and project management roles that did not exist until a few years ago.

To conclude, a project manager must be an expert in leadership, communication and organizational skills.

With the high workload and stress, it is essential to have the necessary skills to reach every goal.

Remaining responsible and aware of all aspects of the project will lead to success.

What are your suggestions for managing winning projects?

Learn how to manage your projects with Twproject

One try is worth a million words.
Gantt charts

Gantt charts for a project: productive advantage or disadvantage?

Gantt charts for projects are the essential weapon of the Project Manager, but they can be extremely useful and effective even for anyone who wants to organize their activities in a structured way.

This planning tool appeared in the early twentieth century and has since been widely used for project planning.

The main reason for the success of the Gantt charts is their simplicity and the focus on the quick visualization of the activities.

Gantt charts are also an excellent way to plan the project in a temporal way, allowing to define roles, responsibilities and effective use of resources.

In fact, they provide an immediate vision of how the project is developed and structured and act as a guideline to the end.

What is a Gantt chart?

The Gantt chart, also called scheduled bar chart, is a tool used to plan a set of activities that, generally, are part of a single, more complex project.

On the horizontal axis there is the time span, whose unit of measurement depends on the project calendar – days, weeks, months, etc. – while on the vertical axis we find the list of the various activities.

Each task is represented by a colored bar that goes from the start date to the end of the activity.

Once all the activities have been inserted, there is a visual scheme of how the project is structured, which tasks come first, which ones overlap and which ones happen later.

The resources that carry out every single activity are easily identifiable.

With such a graphic structure, it is easy to understand, at first glance, if the processes are taking place on schedule and if the progress of the project is in line with the deadline.

Gantt charts

Many software have, in the Gantt, their sore point because the Gantt is not very effective or even non-existent.

Only some software, including TWProject, allow not only to obtain a Gantt chart of the project that is easy to read, but also to get even more details, indicating for example:

  • who is the resource assigned to a given activity;
  • if the resource works full-time or part-time;
  • how much work has been done and remains to be done;
  • the cost associated with each activity.

What are the advantages of the Gantt chart?

As a company we are convinced that the Gantt chart, if well structured and managed, can bring various benefits to the management of a project.

Here is a list of advantages that this system inevitably presents.

The Advantages of Gantt: Visualization

The Gantt chart allows to clearly visualize the workflow and the project structure.

When we insert the various tasks, or analyze the schema after inserting them, we can immediately realize any inconsistencies.

The linear scheme allows you to understand in advance if you will be faced with potential organizational or technical problems and allows you to prepare in advance.

The distribution of the activities allows to identify the intermediate goals and to understand if the project is in line with the schedule or not.

The Advantages of Gantt: Flexibility

As already mentioned, an advantage of the Gantt chart is to clearly show the start and end date of a given activity.

The timing of each task will be set after a direct comparison with the managers of each sector, in order to have a realistic value.

For this reason, the Gantt chart is also useful for the feasibility analysis of a project.

Once the entire project structure is set up, it makes no sense to run to complete certain steps before the set date – unless there is really a valid reason – as this may be reflected in the lack of completeness and / or accuracy.

If you have agreed on a certain date speaking to the direct responsible, it means that this is the time necessary to carry out the work correctly and completely.

Forcing time would affect the quality of work.

The Advantages of Gantt: Efficiency

These charts allow an intelligent and effective use of resources.

It becomes really difficult for the resources to be reliable when they are grappling with too many processes and find themselves submerged.

All conflicts and problems that follow an overload of tasks can lead to a definitive blockage of the whole project and, inevitably, to its failure.

Using Gantt charts as a project planning tool gives you an overview of the project timeline so you can easily see where and when a particular resource is used.

So, it is possible to allocate resources in such a way that the activies are not slowed down or blocked.

Once a process is finished, you can transfer the resource to another activity.

The Advantages of Gantt: Motivation

Gantt charts are great for morale!

Probably we all had those days where we felt completely lost and submerged from work and projects and we could no longer see the direction in which we were going.

In this case, the Gantt chart can be a valid psychological aid.

Looking at the diagram, in fact, you can immediately see how activities are taking place and how each process leads to the completion of the entire project.

It is a very effective method to raise morale and motivate the team.

Moreover, seeing the achievement of a goal – however small it may be – is still a gratification. It allows to concentrate, step by step, on the different blocks of activity without feeling disoriented by a project that can be long and complex.

The Advantages of Gantt: Communication

Gantt charts are not just a useful tool for planning the project.

Team members can use these diagrams to see where they are in the project, what they need to complete certain tasks and the inputs they need.

The project diagram shows them exactly who they should contact and who they should collaborate with during each phase.

This makes them able to communicate better not only with each other, but also with the Project Manager.

Thanks to the Gantt charts, it is also possible to help improve cohesion, communication and understanding of and in the team.

The aspects (disadvantages) of the Gantt chart to keep under control!

As with any high performance tool, even for the Gantt Chart, there are some aspects to monitor.

Aspects that if not properly managed could result in real disadvantages.

Let’s list briefly the aspects to pay attention to, so that everyone can make his evaluations:

  • It can become extraordinarily complex. Except for the simplest projects, a Gantt chart will present a large number of activities and resources used to complete the project. There are special software that can handle all this complexity. However, when the project reaches this level, it must be managed by a small number of people, or often by one, able to handle all the details. Large companies often employ one or more prepared Project Managers. In companies not used to this type of management, this may not work as it should.
  • The size of the bar does not indicate the amount of work. Each bar on the graph indicates the period of time in which a given activity will be completed. However, by observing the bar, it is not possible to determine what level of resources is needed to complete these tasks. For example, a short bar could take 500 hours, while a longer bar could take only 20 hours.
  • The length of a bar in fact indicates the timing of a given activity and not its complexity in terms of working hours.
  • It must be constantly updated. After starting the project, things can change. If you use a Gantt chart, you need to be able to change the chart easily and frequently.
  • Difficult to see on a single sheet of paper. The software that allows you to manage these graphics are mostly suited to a computer screen and are not meant to be printed. It therefore becomes difficult to show the details of the plan to a broad audience. It is certainly possible to print the chart, but this normally involves a job of “cutting and pasting” of the individual pieces, rather expensive in terms of time.

All in all, the biggest advantage of the Gantt chart is the pure simplicity and the clear overview of the activities and their duration.

This makes it ideal for projects where facilitated access to all relevant information is required and where these should be easily understood by all those involved in the project.

This is why we thought of an evolution of the TWProject Gantt.

In fact, we have built an instrument capable of modeling situations in real time and that can easily be modified over time.

This is in contrast to the traditional project management methodology where the projects are immediately defined in detail (unrealistic method for most of the working situations).

Twproject’s focus is to capture the work done in real time, to guide the Project Manager during the entire project development.

Our customers’ experience in this direction encourages us by providing us with guidance in future development.

What is the greatest benefit you find in the company, thanks to the use of Gantt?

Tell us about it!

Do you want to create your first Gantt?

Project Life Cycle

Project Life Cycle: phases and characteristics

The Project Life Cycle consists of four main phases through which the Project Manager and his team try to achieve the objectives that the project itself sets.

The four phases that mark the life of the project are: conception / start, planning, execution / implementation and closure.

Each project therefore has a beginning, a central period, a completion and a final phase (successful or not). All phases that we will analyze in this article constitute the so-called Project Life Cycle .

Obviously, those mentioned are only the main phases of the project, which means the starting point for a further subdivision in sub-phases, activities and tasks, increasingly basic and detailed, necessary for the development and allocation of work among the resources.

For each phase or lifecycle activity, the project manager must have two clear things in mind:

  • The objectives of each project phase: based on company constraints ranging from quality to timing and costs;
  • Products (derivable): every activity must lead to results that can be tangible goods or a documentation or specific services, etc.

But now we specifically enter the four main phases of the project life cycle.

Project Life Cycle

Project Life Cycle: The initiation phase

During this first phase, the objective or “need” of the project is identified.

This can be, for example, the resolution of a business problem or the analysis and creation of a concrete opportunity.

An appropriate responce to the need can be documented in a business case with the recommended solution options.

A feasibility study is then conducted to verify if each option is in line with the objective and a final solution is determined.

The feasibility study asks questions about the feasibility of the project. Questions such as “can we do the project? Do we have the resources to do it?”.

Furthermore, a justification study phase of the project is also carried out, for example by answering the question “is the project necessary for this objective?”.

Once these analyzes have been carried out and the project is considered feasible and necessary, this is officially started and, in case it has not already been identified, a project manager is appointed.

The project team is thenidentified and involved, thus starting to take shape.

At this point we can then move on to the detailed planning phase.

Project Life Cycle: The planning phase

In this phase we start from the objective of the project and move on to develop it in as much detail as possible, planning the steps necessary to reach the final solution.

The individual tasks of the project are then identified, as well as the requirements that the resources must have and the strategy to follow.

A project plan is created that illustrates the activities, tasks and timelines.

The project manager coordinates the preparation of a project budget by providing cost estimates for labor, equipment and materials, if needed.

The budget is used to monitor and control the expenses incurred during the entire project phase.

Once the Project Manager has identified the work, prepared the strategy and the performance and estimated costs, the basic components of the planning process are complete.

It comes then the right time to identify and address any factor that may pose a threat to the success of the project. This part is called risk management.

Potential problems are identified, as well as the action that must be taken to avoid them, solve them or at least reduce their impact.

This is also a good time to identify all stakeholders and establish a communication plan that sets out the information needed to keep all the parties involved in the project informed.

Finally, the project manager will draw up a quality plan that includes the quality objectives, the control measures, also listing the criteria to be met  obtain the acceptance of the client – customer that can be the company itself.

Arrived here, the project has been discussed and planned in detail, and is ready to run and move on to the next stage.

Project Life Cycle: The execution phase

During the third phase, that of the implementation, the project plan is put into motion and the work is performed in concrete, following the steps structured in the planning phase.

It is important and fundamental to maintain control and communicate how – and when – necessary during this whole phase.

Progress is continuously monitored and appropriate  changes are made and documented as variations with respect to the original plan.

Whatever project  it is, a project manager usually spends most of the time at this stage.

During the execution of the project, people perform their tasks and progress information is exchanged through regular team meetings, so-called progress status meetings .

The project manager uses this information to maintain control over the project direction by comparing progress reports with the project plan, to measure the performance of activities and take corrective actions if necessary.

The main strategy should always be to bring the project back to its original course,that of the project plan drawn up in the previous phase. If this is not possible, the changes from the original plan must be recorded and the modified plan must be formalized.

During this step, project sponsors and all other stakeholders should be regularly informed about the progress of the work.

Each product result should be analyzed and accepted.

Once the results of the various steps have been produced and the client has accepted the final solution, the project is ready for closure.

Project Life Cycle: The closing phase

During this closing phase, the emphasis is placed on:

  • the final results;
  • the delivery of project documentation;
  • the termination of supplier contracts;
  • the release of project resources;
  • the communication of the closure of the project to all the stakeholders.

The last remaining step is to conduct an analysis of what went well and what did not.

Through this type of analysis you gain experience and knowledge, are gained, factors that will help the project manager, and the team in general, for future projects.

Unfortunately, the closing phase is often underestimated and in many companies the project is delivered without further evaluation; it only matters if the project was a success or not.

In reality, it isn’t only important to conclude a project successfully, but also to be able to execute it in the way that was set in the original project plan.

There is no shortage of cases in which the objective has been achieved despite having experienced a phase of execution full of changes, delays and problems.

The closure phase also serves to analyze this, in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future and not adequately assessing certain risks.

The four phases of this life cycle may vary according to the sector and the type of project, but in general they are valid in any area.

When a project manager follows Project Life Cycle taking into account all the factors of each individual phase, he will have already taken the first step towards success.

Tell us about your personal experience of success.

Get familiar with the phases of your project.

the sixth edition of the PMbok

The sixth edition of PMbok

General overview and differences from the fifth edition

At the end of 2017, the sixth edition of the PMbok was published. 

Let’s start from the base: what is the PMbok?

It is the Project Management Body of Knowledge, a guide, published by the Project Management Institute – PMI, which aims to document, gather and standardize the practices generally used and recognized in project management.

“Generally recognized” practices means the ones that can be applied to most projects and on which there is a widespread consensus on their value and usefulness.

This means that sometimes the latest project management trends promoted by some consultants, even if interesting from an evolutionary point of view, may not be part of the latest version of the PMbok, because they are not “generally recognized” practices.

The PMbok made its debut in 1987 and it has evolved over the years, up to the current sixth edition of 2017.

But which are the PMbok changes from the fifth edition to the current one?

Let’s summarize the differencies in this article.

PMBOK sixth edition: Increase of total chapters

In the fifth edition of PMbok five groups of processes were listed:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Execution
  4. Monitoring and Control
  5. Closing

The number of processes remain unchanged in the sixth edition, but what changes is the number of sub-processes within each process.

Furthermore, in the fifth edition there were a total of 13 chapters. In the sixth edition we find instead a new chapter that deals with the role of the project manager and its functions.

In addition to this, the skills and competences that a project manager must possess are now aligned with the so-called Triangle of Talent.

It is not enough to have technical skills, but due to the dynamism of the working environment and the evolutionary trends in the sector, it is necessary that the project manager possesses also additional skills. The most relevant include:

 

  • Strategic and corporate management: It is necessary to understand the progress and the functioning of the company business in order to adapt the project to it. The project manager must therefore possess the skills to analyze the competition, the market, know the legal implications, business models, etc.
  • Leadership skills: In the fifth edition of the PMbok, this skill is already explained, but the new edition gives it more emphasis. Among the leadership skills, we find emotional intelligence, problem solving, team building and the ability to influence and motivate the team;
  • Technical skills: This refers mainly to the sector in which a person works and the specific skills required for the project.

 The sixth edition of the PMbok: The knowledge areas

In the fifth edition of PMbok 10 areas of knowledge were listed.

These still remain in the sixth edition, but two appear with new names, as specified in the following list:

  1. Integration Management
  2. Scope Management
  3. Time Management is replaced by Schedule Management
  4. Cost Management
  5. Quality Management
  6. Human Resource Management is replaced by Resource Management
  7. Communications Management
  8. Risk Management
  9. Procurement Management
  10. Stakeholder Management

Why these two changes?

The new term Resource Management refers not only to the human workforce, but also to the physical resources (such as materials, equipment, licenses, etc.) that can be part of a project and contribute to its success.

Time Management has been replaced with Schedule Management, so that the importance of project management planning is emphasized.

 

the sixth edition of the PMbok

Moreover, in the sixth edition of the PMbok, each area of knowledge has four additional sections:

Furthermore, in the sixth edition of the PMbok, each area of knowledge will have four additional sections:

  • Key concepts;
  • Tailoring considerations: they must help to focus on the important processes of a project depending to its size and, of course, on the scope of work;
  • Developments and new project management practices;
  • Focus on the Agile  and adaptive Methodology.

PMBOK sixth edition: The three new processes

The sixth edition of the PMbok lists 49 processes, 2 more than the last edition.

In reality the changes to the processes are 4 because the three processes have been added while one has been eliminated.

The Close Procurement process has been removed. This refers to the closing of vendor contracts, a task that in most organizations is not performed by the project manager.

Among the new processes added we find:

  1. Manage Project Knowledge: born from the need to process the data of the market and the business in which the company operates to transform them into knowledge and “wisdom” on which certain decisions will be based. Knowledge is a power that will help the project manager to use data processing technologies and make decisions based on concrete analysis;
  2. Implement Risk Response: PMI surveys have stated that most project failures are due to improper risk management. Therefore, implementing the risk response in the management of the project is a necessary addition;
  3. Control Resources: this new process refers to the monitoring and control of the various resources present in the project and is aligned with the modification, seen previously, in the area of knowledge from human resources.

PMBOK sixth edition: 6 changes in existing processes

6 processes are renamed in the current PMbok edition, even if their content remains unchanged:

  1. Perform Quality Assurance becomes Manage Quality.
  2. Plan Human Resource Management becomes Plan Resource Management.
  3. Control Communications becomes Monitor Communications.
  4. Control Risks becomes Monitor Risks.
  5. Plan Stakeholder Management becomes Plan Stakeholder Engagement.
  6. Control Stakeholder Engagement becomes Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.

From Perform Quality Assurance to Manage Quality. This refers to the fact that, while quality assurance is a way to manage quality during execution, in reality there are also other qualitative aspects to consider.

This overall quality management is what reflects the name change.

The change from “Control” to “Monitor” indicates that, during the execution of the project, we monitor it to understand what is happening everyday and personalize the strategy to meet the changing needs.

the sixth edition of the PMbok

Points 5 and 6 on stakeholders refer to the essential factor of understanding how to involve the stakeholders to ensure that everyone agrees with progress and results.

Who will be affected by these changes?

The role of the Project Manager is becoming more and more important and is spreading in every sectors; this is why the need to certify its skills increases.

The PMbok then becomes a fundamental text for all those who are dealing with an official exam to get the title of Project Manager.

Nowadays, there are five internationally recognized certifications:

 

  • CAPM – Certified Associate in Project Management
  • PMP – Project Management Professional
  • PgMP – Program Management Professional
  • PMI-SP – PMI Scheduling Professional
  • PMI-RMP – PMI Risk Management Professional
  • PMI-ACP – PMI Agile Certified Practitioner

Regardless of the type of certification, students and prospective Project Managers will refer to the Pmbok and, consequently, their work will for sure be influenced by the changes in the sixth edition of PMbok.

But not only.

Even a certified Project Manager must be updated on the changes contained in the new edition of PMbok.

Being up-to-date is the best quality of a serious and competent professional.

A careful reading of the new edition of the Pmbok will certainly be useful and a source of interesting reflections that could help guiding any type of project in an efficient and professional manner.

Leave us your comment or your impression on the new edition of the Pmbok.

 

Get familiar with the phases of your project.

project management.

The 3 trends of Project Management

Project Management is not a static topic but evolves from year to year and follows the trend of industry and the world of work in general.

There’re trends, that we can clearly see, that are increasingly influencing this profession. Some of these started some years ago and gradually take hold, others have been born only recently and abruptly.

Knowing them is necessary to maintain a strategic vision of the profession and the sector.

Let’s see then what are the trends that will affect the project management sector.

The Trends of Project Management: the advent of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a very current topic and there’s a real debate around it.

As with any new trend, there are also in this case two currents of idea:

  • those in favor who announce it as the “reality” of the future;
  • and those who are skeptical, or even frightened, of the consequences that this evolution can have not only at work but also in everyday life.

Project management can also be influenced by artificial intelligence.

Therefore should we be favourable or frightened?

In particular, when we talk about artificial intelligence applied to Project management, we talk about systems that can manage projects and their progress without the need for human input.

Not only the simplest tasks will be automated, but an understanding of the key points of the project can also be developed. In this way artificial intelligence is able, thanks to this knowledge, to perform more complex tasks, make recommendations and even make decisions.

Moreover, an artificial intelligence system can save time by improving the results of a project.

 

project management

Project Management managed by artificial intelligence is a service  more developed and that goes beyond what is currently offered, for example, by so-called bots.

Not even an algorithm that applies machine learning to predict activity estimates can be called artificial intelligence, although interesting and useful.

The true potential of artificial intelligence in Project Management can only be seen when you start to connect boats and algorithms.

Now we try to hypothesize what artificial intelligence applied to the Project Manangement can do.

Here some concrete examples:

  • Combine the right resource with the right role: Artificial intelligence will allow not only to match the right resource to the right team / project, but also to select upstream the resources suitable for a given project
  • Reduce downtime: Artificial intelligence is able to analyse the performance and the progress of each resource and assign a task / project based on the real capabilities of the individual;
  • Create an ecosystem for knowledge management: When an employee for whatever reason leaves the company, part of his knowledge is non-transferable and goes away with him. In this sense, artificial intelligence can be used to centralize knowledge. This will avoid the so-called “starting from scratch” when a change takes place;
  • Improve the performance of the resource by reducing the effort to a minimum: How many times we have those days when we are not in “the right mood” and spend a lot of time on a simple task? How many times, on the contrary, do we manage to complete complex activities in a very short time? Artificial intelligence can help the project management system associate the best task to the right resource at the best time of day, suggesting the planning of activities in a personalized, unique and variable way;
  • Provide objective evaluation and vigilance without getting tired: By their nature, human beings can get tired and this can affect the quality and precision of work. An artificial intelligence system, on the other hand, is tireless and available 24 hours a day.

Of course, a system that integrates all these functionalities is not available yet, but in the near future all this can become a real.

There is still a long way to go and the potential of artificial intelligence in Project Management is not yet fully developed.

However, the goal of the new technologies is to realize and integrate these functionalities.


Project Management Trends: Wearable technology

The tendency in Project Management to the increasing use of Wearable Technology seems unstoppable.

By hearing wearable technology many think about glasses, headphones, and smartwatches, but the concept goes well beyond these.

Wearable technology devices not only help us count how many steps we take in a day or how many calories we burn but can even improve our productivity in a project.

In fact, wearable devices can provide data in real time and perform monitoring and localization functions.

These devices will establish a connection between workers and the digital platform.

In this way, the data can be used to analyse the workforce in order to increase efficiency and productivity.

 

project management

Wearable technology can also simplify the process of managing daily activities. Time, as well as the progress of the activity, can be scanned and collected on virtual worksheets to obtain a precise image of the flow.

But the advantages of wearable devices are not finished yet, they can also help increasing the level of employee health.

Already today, a growing number of employers and companies are encouraging their workers to wear fitness trackers to measure their health.

In fact, it is widely demonstrated that an increase in fitness levels is related to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

In addition, many wearable technology devices have the ability to enable Project Managers to keep track of strategic aspects, such as the heart rate of the employees and the level of stress and fatigue, in order to maintain workplace performance.

This can lead to a decrease of the burn out cases due to projects that are too demanding for a resource.

For this reason, if an employee shows a high level of fatigue during a given activity, the employer can choose to delegate this task to one collaborator who proves more suitable and “fresher”, allowing the first employee of the team to concentrate on a lighter job.

Some companies all over the world are also using wearable technology for fitness tracking and they offer incentives to their employees according to these values. (For example, in America, cheaper health insurance is offered to employees who increase their fitness levels.)

The potential that wearable technology has in increasing productivity is the factor that is increasing its use in the workplace.

There are already studies and reports that highlight how the use of this technology actually increases productivity.


Project Management Trends: Smart Working and Remote Team

The sharing economy is proving that more and more companies are implementing the use of project teams with resources that operate remotely.

More and more workers are looking for flexibility. The ability to organize one’s time and hours of work and not being tied to a desk is becoming more and more important.

This trend is definitely destined to grow.

 

project management

In Italy, Smart Working (or agile work) is a reality: 305,000 workers have switched to this modality of work. And the numbers will grow, especially in the large companies.

This is confirmed by the data from the latest research of the Smart Working Observatory at the Politecnico di Milano.

The benefits of Remote work are undeniable for the company:

  • Productivity is improved;
  • Absenteeism is reduced;
  • The costs for physical spaces are greatly reduced; in fact, several large companies are redesigning their offices, reducing the surface area.

Moreover, the Observatory registers a productivity increase of 15% for a worker who adopts an already tested smart working model.

The benefits of distance work and Smart Working also have an impact on the worker:

in fact, the Smart Workers are more satisfied than their colleagues who don’t adopt this working method.

Thanks to remote work the smart worker:

  • Reduces travel time and costs. As the Observatory also shows by implementing only one working day a week remotely, an employee could recover even 40 hours in a year.
  • Improves the balancing of professional and private time and space (the so-called work-life balance).

In the end, Remote teams offer great opportunities: more economy and more productivity if managed effectively and with the right tools. We’ll talk about it later in this blog.

In the meantime, a final reflection. The scenarios change but the basic objective of the project management remains the same: deliver a project within the pre-established time frame and without exceeding the budget.

This our analysis, we would like to know yours. Do you see other trends that can help to innovate and simplify the Project Management?

Leave us your comment or your impressions on the evolution of Project Management.

 

project status meetings

Project status meetings: what to monitor to make them work!

One of the main responsibilities of a project manager is to know the progress of the project at any time.

To this end, project status meetings become a fundamental tool throughout the project life cycle.

Unfortunately, however, too often, these appointments turn into a waste of time losing sight of the objectives of the meeting itself.

In this article we will try to unveil some secrets to carry out effective Project status meetings.

The aims and times of the meetings on the progress of the project

The frequency of these meetings obviously varies depending on:

  • the complexity of the project;
  • the number of project team members;
  • the level of information required by the project owner, by customers, stakeholders, etc.
  • from the level of involvement of the project task manager.

Once the timing has been established, it is fundamental for the Project Manager to evaluate, during the meetings, the progress of each of the following elements:

  • Updates of individual activities.
  • Progress of the project compared to planning: are we late or early?
  • Budget status: are we under or have we exceeded the budget?
  • Quality status: are we maintaining the expected quality levels?
  • Current or hypothetical problems (such as changes, problems with resources, dissatisfaction with the customer or supplier, etc.).
  • Next steps to be taken.

 

project status meetings

Project status meetings are essential for the Project Manager and must be scheduled periodically.

Thanks to these meetings the Project manager has the possibility to:

  • Keep the focus on the project.
  • Orient the team to look in the same direction.
  • Report to the company management clear and updated information on the progress of the entire current project.

Unfortunately, too often these important meetings are ineffective and fail to bring benefits to the project in the intended way.

The most common reasons why project progress meetings turn into a waste of time.

There are some recurring reasons why project status meetings fail. Here is a list of the most frequent:

  • Unclear or even missing agenda.
  • Team members not adequately prepared for the meeting.
  • Inability to manage the time during the meeting.
  • Inability to maintain focus on the subject matter of the meeting.
  • Absent or ineffective feedback from team members.

Unclear or even missing agenda

When Project status meetings doesn’t have a previously defined and shared agenda, they will inevitably become unclear and ineffective.

Without a roadmap that marks the road, the meeting is easily dispersed and time is often misused or even lost.

In addition, team members will not be able to provide effective feedback as they are not prepared to face the meeting.

The purpose of a project status meeting is to obtain an update on the status of activities, identify problems and so on.

Therefore It’s essential that team members prepare themselves on time and collect specific data before the meeting to be prepared to answer certain key questions.

Without specific predefined objectives, the meeting will not bring any benefit.

Team members not adequately prepared for the meeting.

It often happens that some team members do not perceive the importance of the meeting and think that all they should do is just show up and attend the meeting.

When this happens, the whole team loses precious time.

Unsupported feedback can delay the resolution of the problem, causing frustration and delays in the project itself!

Inability to manage the time during the meeting

“Even today an interminable meeting …”.

This is the classic phrase that the team members, exhausted, exchange each other out of the meeting room.

If the time is not managed properly you will get three boomerang effects:

  • Team demotivation.
  • The need for a further meeting on the same topic.
  • The possibility of arriving at hasty and ineffective decisions.

In addition, team members may try to skip the meeting by perceiving it as a waste of time.

Once team members begin to miss project status meetings, the overall effectiveness of this tool is bound to deteriorate inexorably

Inability to maintain focus on the subject matter of the meeting.

Closely related to the previous one, it is the inability to stay on the pre-established tracks.

This incapacity is very frequent.

In fact, participants often tend to digress, considerably reducing the time dedicated to the purpose of the meeting.

Thus we arrive at the crucial issues with little time available, often taking decisions of poor quality dictated by haste.

Absent or ineffective feedback from team members.

One of the most difficult tasks of a project manager is to deal with several different personalities within the team.

The most aggressive personalities tend to dominate project meetings, while the more passive types tend to contribute much less to the discussions being much less talkative about their views on a given problem.

We all know the saying that the creaking wheel gets more oil and that’s what often happens during project meetings.

Sometimes a project manager or team leader will be overly influenced by a team member with a more aggressive personality.

When some team members dominate while others sit passively (without providing critical input on a problem), the quality of decisions taken by the team suffers.

Another big problem with this dysfunction is that the project manager often develops a distorted view of some fundamental project problems because one or two team members express very strong opinions.

Such opinions may not be representative of the group at all, but without a balanced response from another team member, the project manager may conclude a progress meeting with an inaccurate view of the team’s views on a particular issue.

project status meetings

Conclusion

Project status meetings are a key tool in the project manager’s toolbox.

Unfortunately, a few project managers have adopted methods and techniques to ensure that these sessions are concise, productive and valuable.

Too many project managers assume that a project status meetings means sending an invitation to the meeting and simply showing up.

Project status meetings require a lot more!

The good news is that when project status meetings are effective and efficient, the results are huge!

The productive meetings on the progress of the work:

  • increase the morale of the group.
  • Provide comprehensive information on the status of the project.
  • Discover potential risks.
  • Provide a forum for the timely resolution of problems.
  • Encourage the sharing of relevant information among team members.

Finding the best time to plan a meeting on the progress of a project is very important.

It may be obvious, but it’s not just about finding a day when the team is available, it’s about finding a day when none of your colleagues have important deadlines, scheduled appointments or high-priority activities to close.

Using a project management software like Twproject, with shared agendas, is essential to manage a focused team.

Introduce your team to Twproject.

One try is worth a million words.

5 Project Planning Mistakes to Avoid (Part 1 of 5)

Managing a project is complicated and making mistakes that can compromise the progress of all activities is very simple.

One of the most delicate phases from this point of view is the project planning one, errors made in this phase are in fact the most serious and can negatively affect the achievement of the entire project.

The problem is that often you notice that something is wrong when it is too late and there is nothing more that can be done to limit the damage.

In this article we will explain what are the most common project planning mistakes and what strategies you can put in place to avoid them.

Commons management errors are grouped into 5 categories:

  • planning errors
  • errors in priorities management
  • communication errors
  • errors of responsibility
  • errors of organization

Today we will help you identify those in the first group.

Planning a project is generally composed of two main phases. Both of these phases can face different critical issues:

 Project analysis – phases and dependencies

When you start analyzing a new activity and you are about to schedule it, you need to keep in mind these 3 commons mistakes that could compromise the success of your business:

1) The scope of the project is too wide

Issue: Even if the goal of the project is clear, even described in detail with specs and agreed with the client, be focused only on the final goal, especially if the end date is long-term can lead to serious consequences. Managing big projects is very complicated, the variables involved are numerous and focusing on the final target can make you underestimate many small contingencies that make the project grow without control.

Solution: The best way to avoid having a wide scope is to brainstorm with your team until you are able to outline small goals that are easy to manage. This brainstorming is also very helpful to divide your project in phases. Sub-phases do not necessarily have to overlap perfectly with the sub-goals, they will be the guideline, the short-term fundamental steps you have to focus on to keep everything under control.

2) Micro management

Once goals have been identified both in the long term and, even better, in the medium and short term, it will be necessary to break down the project in phases with the help of what you identified above.

Issue: Regardless of the tool used to manage your project diagram, you don’t need to be too ambitious. Pay attention and do not fall into the opposite error of point 1: break your project down into too many activities, whose maintenance can become extremely burdensome.

Solution: When to stop? A phase, in particular if the root project lasts more than 6 months, should not last less than a week. This is not true in general and depends on a case-by-case basis but applies well most of the time. Under this value (activities that last just few hours) you can manage tasks with to-do lists, checklists, flexible than a Gantt chart. Using such tools will help your team work better, without needing your constant assistance, making them more involved.

3) The project does not follow a standard management methodology

Issue: For scheduling and manage your activities it is essential to use a tool that supports you in this work. If you do not use a software or, more generally, a planning methodology, the probability that the project become chaotic increases exponentially. Different projects, managed by different people, could be organized in diametrically opposed ways and can also use a completely different vocabulary that can disorient your resources.

Solution: Rely on a methodology, no matter what, as long as it is shared by your team. Initially it could be hard but over time, making it yours and modifying it to fit better with your needs, it will help you keep the team united under one method and one terminology. Use a software that embraces this methodology, a correct management of phases, of dependencies and schedules will reduce the delays and the misunderstandings drastically.

Analysis of timing and effort

Once diagram and phase dependencies have been created it is necessary to estimate effort and schedule them in time:

4) Too ambitious plans

Issue: A common planning mistake is to be too ambitious following exactly the expected time for the activities. When you face several phases, it is important to evaluate a certain margin of error that saves the project from numerous  adjustments. Relying on the knowledge of your team is essential because they have a detailed knowledge of all the activities and possible risks.

Solution: Learn from your  team and evaluate with them risks of each phase in order to give a realistic estimate. Relay on them not just on your experience.

5) Fail to plan due to customer pressure

Issue: It could happens that you fail to plan a project just because of  customer’s pressure, who often have lots of requests, reduced budgets and no time at all. One of the most common mistakes is to give the customer the feeling that some activities are easy to implement or maybe free, errors made to acquire the project offering a convenient price.

Solution: Even if you want to offer a convenient price, talk about the project for what it is without discount in time of effort, this will help you avoiding misunderstanding with your customer. When you estimate a project, both in effort and in costs, do it without thinking about the agreed end date and the budget set. Once the realistic estimate is completed, match it with what the client expects and try to align the two versions. In this way you will immediately understand if the project is at risk of loss or at risk of delay without unpleasant surprises during its development. A correct assessment of reality and expectations avoids frustrations in the team and communication problems.

Conclusion

If you are a project manager you probably know that the list of mistakes you can make is much longer, but without a doubt these 5 issues are not only very common, but are also 5 of the most risky for achieving your goal.

As you see from the listed points we firmly believe that the use of a project management software, such as Twproject, could facilitate all of your work by avoiding many of the possible errors in planning a project.

A project management software will help you solve each of the 5 problems listed:

  1. You can associate to your project discussions and meetings that highlight all goals to help you in the drafting of the phases
  2. You will have a Gantt Editor that will help you create phases and dependencies and that will allow you to manage to-do list and checklist to avoid micro management
  3. It will help you embrace a methodology and help you to standardize the terminology throughout the team
  4. It will help you take advantage of your team’s knowledge for a realistic project estimate
  5. You will be able to manage plans during quotation phase and development phase, always having clear times and costs

If you want to start now to rely on a project management software to help you avoid all these errors try Twproject.

Start now to recognize these errors and avoid them.

5 Most Common Mistakes in Managing Projects

There are no two identical projects, at the same time all projects seem to suffer of similar problems.

Even the best project manager can, in case of important tasks, particularly long-lasting or if subjected to continuous requests for updates, fall into common errors that could lead a task to fail.

These frequent mistakes in managing projects can be avoided if you make a continuous analysis of your way of work and team health.

Commons problems, faced by every manager, can be grouped into 5 different types:

Mistake #1 Wrong Planning

The most common mistake in managing a project and certainly the one with the greatest impact is the wrong planning.

Starting from an in-depth analysis of your own internal processes is crucial. A correct identification of the activities, their duration, the dependencies and the effort that each of them requires will help you to identify a realistic task end date and to avoid critical stages. Tasks that start with a wrong planning, often too optimistic, generally suffer of great delays and frustration for the whole team.

A typical example is to repeat the error of selling a product at a certain cost, maybe to be competitive, despite the fact that it uses more resources than expected, so, without having a clear idea of ??how much it costs to your company. The solution could be to use a Gantt chart tool and templates that you  can refine over time, this will help you improving your analysis, step by step. Ask your resources to describe in details the work done to create a knowledge base on which you will be able to make predictions increasingly consistent with reality.

Mistake #2 Priority Vs Emergency

As a project manager, you should have always clear the progress of your activitites, which are in late and on which you need to focus on your energy. Instead, your resources often find themselves involved in multiple tasks, with different managers, different habits, which make their organization very complicated.

Clearly highlighting their priorities is essential to ensure that they do not work by emergency, simply supporting the most demanding or pressing project manager. The analysis of priorities must be done with all the managers working with your team. The choice must be made by mutual agreement and respected by all without interference, the list of priorities consulted by the team must be valid and always updated.

 

Mistake #3 Broken Communication

Another common mistake in project management is to underestimate the importance of communication: One of the main causes of delays in projects is the lack of communication. The goal of the project must be clear to the team from the very beginning,  desired end dates, and in general the whole planning.
It is also important to communicate with the working group in a constant and active way: resources must always be aware of how the task is going. You are late? Everything is alright? Tell your team, because they will adjust their to do list according to this information. Schedule weekly meetings and always keep everyone updated even using a dedicated messaging software.
To improve your communication and resource management you could start scheduling weekly meetings where each resource can share with the group the progress of their work: you could choose Monday to share not only what was completed but also to plan the activities of the new week, check the load of the operators and always make sure that your team is not overloaded.

Mistake #4 It’s Your Responsability

The responsibility is certainly on the project manager’s shoulders and for this reason you could often make the mistake of not trusting your collaborators always wanting the last word on every decision. It is actually known that delegating phases and therefore making the team responsible increase productivity significantly, the only precaution to be taken will be to have a solid communication with frequent meetings in order to recognize immediately if a phase is late or on a wrong path. Trust your team, it is the basis for the success of every project.

Mistake #5 Paper Management

We often underestimate how a project management software can help a work group to manage activities. A common mistake in management is to rely on a simple list of excel, maybe not shared, absolutely not usable to increase the productivity of individual resources, an aid that in reality turns out to be ineffective and obsolete. The latest project management software includes advanced features that drastically lighten people’s workload. A tool like Twproject, for example, includes interactive Gantt, prioritizable to-do lists, task chats and customizable dashboards. Features that will help you solve each of the problems listed above.

Probably reading this post you’ve found yourself in one of these descriptions, I hope not in all of them 🙂 however, do not miss the next 5 in-depth post in which we will analyze one by one these errors with practical suggestions to avoid them.

Critical Path in Project Management – How to

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is an algorithm used to plan a set of project activities, its purpose is to highlight the steps involved in the longest path that determines the project end date.

To use this method, you must build the model by paying attention to:

  1. Define all projects’s phases
  2. Highlight dependencies between phases
  3. Calculate the duration of each phase correctly

The critical path analysis allows you to highlight what activities are “critical” but also those that can be delayed without increasing the project lifespan.

If you have never used this methodology, let’s try to apply it to a simple example: imagine we have to install a shelf in the house.

First, you need to split the project into phases:

  1. Buy the shelf
  2. Buy the fixing bars
  3. Choose the wall and the height
  4. Make the signs on the wall
  5. Do the holes with the drill
  6. Install the fixing bars
  7. Mount the shelf

Once you define each steps, you can try to identify the dependencies: at a first analysis you immediately realize that some activities can not be started until others are completed, for example, you can not do holes with the drill until you make the signs on the wall, also the shelf can not be placed until the fixing bars are fixed. At the same time you see that the choice of the wall, the purchase of the shelf and fixing bars are activities that you can do in parallel. Here is the Gantt of activities with dependencies:

This type of activity can be easily planned using the Gantt diagrams that also shows the critical path calculation in red. The chart shows the sequential activities, they are in orange because suspended waiting for predecessor completion.

All these sequential activities are the fundamental steps that determine the length of your project. The critical path of the projects is the longest sequence of activities.

It is essential to pay close attention to phases on the critical path to manage the timing of your Gantt. For example, if you have a task that lasts 100 days, a 5-day delay on one of the sequential activities will result in a total delay of 5 days for the task.

Another important aspect to consider is the human resources availability, for example, we have said that some phases can be done in parallel such as buying fixing bars, shelf and choosing height in the wall, but these can be done in parallel only if you can count on three different resources available, in case you are alone to complete the project the Gantt changes drastically. Phases become all consecutive.

So, project critical path can be calculated according to tasks dependencies, but to determine task end dates it is necessary to identify the resources at your disposal and the correct duration of each phaseOnly after analyzing these two aspects will you be able to handle project times by using a Gantt diagram and see a correct schedule.

From this simple example it is clear that critical path analysis is not trivial, this method is particularly used for complex but predictable activities.

In the real world, in fact,  it is difficult to follow exactly the established plan, moreover,  you can have external new requirements or constraints not considered at an early stage of planning.

In our example, if you did not find the fixing bars in the store and you have to order them online you could introduce a delay that could reflect on the overall project’s duration, even if this phase was not in the critical path.

Conclusion:

To keep track of the progress of your plan, you must:

  1. Update your data frequently.
  2. Carefully monitor the steps on the critical path, but also the ones outside.
  3. Keep the availability of resources under control.

That’s why, relying on a software that manages easy-to-update Gantt diagrams, it’s crucial to quickly add dependencies, as shown in the previous images, but also to include phases duration and calculate the end date automatically. An interactive Gantt diagram will also allows you to quickly re-schedule tasks.

If you rely on a project management software such as Twproject, which includes, in addition to the interactive Gantt with critical path analysis, also a tool to monitor resources, you can easily manage the load to provide the flexibility you need to act promptly on any critical issues and finally have everything under control.

 

Start now planning your projects easily

Project Management Basics: 4 Reasons to Use Gantt Charts

What is a Gantt Chart? Why it can be useful to manage your project?

If you have never heard of it, it’s important to know that Gantt diagram is a very versatile tool to visualize and track the timing and progress of a task.

Its representation is very simple: it is a Cartesian diagram, on abscissa you find the time scale from the beginning to the end of the project, while in the ordinate there are all the activities to complete it. The planned time to perform a task is visually represented with a colored bar that runs from the start date to the end date of the task.

Managing projects with Gantt diagrams allows you to see at a glance the set of activities to be performed, which have closer deadlines, which can be done at the same time, and the entire dependencies grid. They are universally used to plan and manage all types of jobs, from complex ones to simple personal ones, thanks to their immediate comprehension.

Below we explain how you can use them to manage your work project.

4 reasons to use Gantt diagrams:

1) Understand your project better

With the creation of the timeline, you and your team will have to highlight and break your project into phases and sub-phases. This brainstorming will help you classify the entire work plan more accurately, highlighting more clearly the deadlines, the dependencies between the various steps, and also which figures will complete the various tasks. This analysis is a key point in project planning and the Gantts will help you visualize it more clearly.

The first step is to create a table within which you can enter phases and sub-phases. For simple projects, you can use a Excel spreadsheet, for the most complex ones, always in the interest of optimizing time and resources, you can use a project management software that allows you to quickly and easily set up various activities. Here there is a small example where we inserted project sub-phases, we also tried to identify each phase duration.

2) Define dependencies and deadlines

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, once the phases and sub-phases are identified with their duration, it will be much easier to set milestones and their dependencies. Once you create these links you will be able to easily understand what impact can have a delayed task to a specific stage. Being aware of this information at the beginning of the project, exposing what is called “critical path” (the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the end date), will allow you to pay more attention during its course. Below we create dependencies between phases identifying the critical path.

3) Delegate

Identifying sub-phases will also help you figuring out which resources are going to accomplish them and so properly distribute your resource work load by improving human resource management. Establishing the timeline will help you manage your project optimally, balancing your entire workload and avoiding overloads that would affect your team’s operational capability.

4)  Check your progress

Project Gantt Diagrams, if created with a specific software, are dynamic and evolve as a result of completing the various activities. Thanks to this, you can constantly monitor job development by identifying progress and delays.

Applying Gantt’s diagrams to your project can therefore bring significant benefits:

  • Improve analysis and planning
  • Reducing errors and risks
  • Better resource management
  • Greater control

These aspects are crucial for every project manager who seeks to manage the work and the team optimally. Gantt’s diagrams are, from this point of view, a powerful and immediately applicable tool.

If you want to deepen your use by simple tests, by decomposing and analyzing your projects you can try Twproject for free, a comprehensive work management tool that includes an interactive tool for creating these diagrams.

Once you’ve downloaded the demo, you can start creating your own charts right away by dividing the job at various stages, assigning them to your employees. Twproject interactive tool will graphically show you the sequence of activities you enter by updating them progressively. You can do all the tests you need and evaluate in depth the benefits this tool can bring to your work!

Do you want to create your first Gantt?

3 Useful Tips to Improve Work Time Management

Have you ever had the feeling that everything in your to-do list has maximum priority? If yes, which method do you use to identify what can be postponed?

Being a project manager, you know that managing project timelines is crucial; with a correct and realistic plan you will be able to work better, and all your team as well, if organized, will give its best.

There are several methods for improving work time management, each one focused on a different aspect of the problem: minimizing interruptions, identifying realistic deadlines, correct project planning, and organizing activities according to their importance. You have to find the method that best reflects your work strategy to maximize productivity.

Here are 3 effective methods that will help you improve your organization:

Define real priorities:

You think to have a high priority to-do list, but sometimes  what is urgent can be confused with what is really important. Thanks to instant messaging systems such as Skype or Slack, working together with the team has become much easier, however, the number of interruptions has grown exponentially, with the result that you often receive urgencies that were not yours. The same e-mail, if used as a to-do list, introduces an incorrect concept of urgency, transmitting a sense of rush away from reality. The last mail always seems the most important.

You need to learn to recognize what is really important, what is urgent and what can be postponed.

The best moment to set and categorize your priorities is in the morning, as soon as you arrive at the office, even before checking your inbox.

To determine if a to do is really important you need to make some considerations about its effort, its due date, and its cost. Properly planning your job will greatly help you improving work time management, when a project has a clear end date and your effort has been established, you will be able to define its importance more easily.

How much is missing at the end of the project? How much time do I need to close this activity? Can I postpone it?

Once the sequence of project activities has been established, you can analyze the urgencies by placing them in the list already created. In general, interruptions are perceived as urgencies and must therefore be minimized. If an urgency, interrupting your concentration on a specific activity, leads to waste resources and reduces your productivity, it must be postponed. It is therefore important to use some strategies to minimize interruptions, for example check mail only in the morning and after lunch or use tools that tell your colleagues that you can not be disturbed.

Ask for help and delegate:

If you cannot complete an activity within the established schedule without delaying the project, it is important to ask for help. Hiring a colleague with a lower workload can save the project from an undesirable delay. In general, whenever possible, it’s always a good idea to involve and delegate your team. In this case, controlling their workload is crucial, not to overburden those who already have a dense to-do list.

A method that works very well is to analyze the list of priorities in a shared meeting so that you can balance tasks across all project resources. This improves the management of the entire team’s work time by maximizing productivity and improving team culture.

Using an agile approach to project management, for example, greatly helps the entire team to work on the time allocation and distribution method. This method requires that the team meets regularly to analyze deadlines on a small and selected activity list. By dividing the entire project into recursive steps it will be easier to keep control.

Stay organized:

To organize your team’s activities, it can be of great help to use a tool that tracks your things to do and lets you set up priorities. Writing a list of activities on a paper is risky: every change requires effort and you can not show it to anyone who works with you in real time.

If you rely on a software to manage your project timings, it will be easier to have a look at what to do and when, for yourself and for your team. For example, by entering a project with milestones, you will receive a notification when approaching, that will allow you to act promptly in case of delays, or by entering assignments to all resources, you can facilitate communication and swap activities, speeding up the process.

Another advantage, planning your activities with an ad hoc tool, is to be able to control your colleagues’ workload by identifying who is less committed, as well as having a history of how much they spent dealing with certain activities for an increasingly precise and realistic organization.

Conclusion:

By following these simple work time management tips you will learn how to manage your processes better:

  1. Create a list of realistic priorities and minimize interruptions / urgencies: learn to identify important things against urgent things/interruptions
  2. Share your tasks with your team by optimizing time:  learn to balance work within your team, count on your colleague and delegate.
  3. Use a project management software to maximize productivity: rely on a tool that can help you checking your ordered to-do list, keeping you focused on what has to be done.

If you want to learn more about how a project management software can help you, download Twproject and begin to improve your organization right away.

Want to know more about Twproject?

One try is worth a million words.

How SCRUM methodology can help you minimizing project risks

Most of project managers have to face projects whose planning was done incorrectly, not in line with customer expectations, with the bad result of  big delays and budget overflows, and maybe this has happened to you too.
It is true, companies are being renewed, working groups are heterogeneous and distributed, increasingly flexible, and often, this flexibility forces the project managers to review their processes in order to make them more flexible too. Agile methodologies is the perfect response to this need.

In the 1990’s, there was a significant deviation of the projects from planning and, above all, customer requirements, particularly in the software development sector that used the standard waterfall approach.
Now, as then, companies plan and evaluate the project according to the requirements initially established by making only one final product release that could leads to misunderstandings. The project, so managed, often ends late and out of budget.

Agile methods, such as SCRUM, arise from the need to move the project from the planned and contracted part to bring it closer to the client, its needs and satisfaction throughout the entire development process.
A company that decides to use this framework is able to minimize the risks by keeping track of the progress of the project cyclically. By involving the team and the customer throughout the process, it is much easier to stay aligned with planning and stay in times and budget.

What is the SCRUM methodology?

It is the most famous of the agile techniques, it is a framework, a set of procedures, for the iterative management of the development process from a default set of tasks. It is based on the idea of refining, iteration after iteration, the initial idea of the customer, according to what is released from time to time and to his feedback.

At the beginning of the project we defined a task list (backlog), then, cyclically, we select a prioritized subset executable in about 1-2 weeks (sprint), tasks are completed and at the end of the sprint is submitted to the client for the test. Each sprint includes meetings for prioritizing activities, sharing work progress, and a final one for review and analysis. These cycles are repeated until the end of all activities.
The aim of the SCRUM methodology is to have no misunderstanding, so that the customer can work with the team cyclically to guide the product in the right direction without any unpleasant surprises at the end of the project. Thus, there may be not a final release date, the project closes when the activity list is empty and the customer is satisfied.

This framework also facilitates the estimation of the project, in fact it does not require a complete and total estimate, just a cyclical estimate that protects both the customer and the company from incorrect estimates: if the customer has a limited budget will be limited his list of activities, if the customer has infinite budgets, he can refine and add activities until project completion in agreement with the company.

cicli-metodologia-scrum

Why should I use an Agile Methodology?

Although the SCRUM methodology has born in the field of software development, it can be of help to many companies, not only by getting into it but by embracing the general philosophy.

We have recently applied the scrum method to digital marketing finding that also such companies can benefit from this framework, some examples:

1) Define a list of requirements / activities / desires with the customer as detailed as possible: this will help you estimate your project’s effort, make the client aware of any critical issues and protect you from any extra requests.

2) Prioritize the activities and estimate them with your team: this habit can be of great help in carrying out the project, involving the team in estimating, it will be involved and empowered, obtaining from them accurate information that resides only in the knowledge of the technicians. Not only that, the team that prioritizes activities, in fact manages its own workload and becomes more aware of it. Involving the team is the most effective strategy to estimate projects.

3) Organize management in production iterations: whether the customer interacts or the cycles are internal to the company, organizing productions into iterations forces each team to make the point of the situation on regular basis, immediately recognizing any deviations from the expectation avoiding useless delay.

4) Daily meetings for work progress: this activity, often underestimated, is in fact crucial. Updating the team on the progress of their work allows them to share more stressful moments and to help with delays by saving the project from bottlenecks.

The list of benefits that you may have by approaching agile methods are numerous, whether you follow the letter, or just apply the philosophy. The system cyclicity will allow you to improve over time, understanding with your workgroup what works and what does not.

If you decide to use a project management software that supports this technique, organizing  your work better will be even easier, a software like Twproject, can guide you in improving internal processes giving you back control on your projects.

Start now managing your projects with SCRUM

Scrum With Twproject for SEO & Digital Marketing

I recently read a very interesting post about how to use Scrum methodology in a SEO & Digital Marketing Team. The post has been written by Marcus Miller (@marcusbowlerhat) and you can read it here:

Using agile project management for SEO & digital marketing

This post gives me the idea to write a new one explaining how to use Twproject with Agile methodologies and, following the Miller’s post, how a SEO & Digital Marketing Team can use it.

Scrum: What is it and why with Twproject?

How it is well explained in the post, the Scrum methodology is a project management approach helping small teams, and in particular software development ones, releasing products in an incremental and iterative development.

This approach defines a flexible and cohesive environment where a team can develop a product as a unit, self-organized, with common goals.

A Scrum team usually consists of several people, with specific roles, that, starting from a project with a well defined list of features (“the backlog”) , works together in short time cycles, on prioritized  sub-sets of features (“sprints”).

Team communication is encouraged with daily scrum meetings and a retrospective meeting at the end of each sprint.

Even if Twproject works fine, both with Waterfall and Agile methodologies, the second approach meets perfectly the idea behind our software.

Encouraging team communication, self organization and a more practical approach to what needs to be done, saving time and energy, are just some of the key ideas of Twproject.

Scrum Roles

Product Owner, Scrum Master and Team member, these are the specific scrum roles that you find already loaded in Twproject, and this will be the only roles required for managing your Scrum project, I refer to the post at the top for roles definition and usage.

You can activate these roles from the Twproject admin page ->  New area creation wizard -> Create an area with SCRUM specific roles.

ScreenShot068

 

Once the scrum area has been activated, in the project section, you will find a new “create scrum” button.

Thanks to this functionality you will create your scrum project in minutes, just selecting your team members, the system will create the project assigning the correct resources with the chosen roles.

Agile tools

Once the project is created and all your team is assigned with the correct role you have to insert the backlog. This can be done easily with Twproject using issues.

An issue in Twproject is a task activity, a to-do, a ticket, a backlog item, something that needs to be done in a specific task.

Twproject backlog issues can be prioritized, ordered, and have customizable status (open, in test, working, closed, is up to you), a time estimation and a due date.

ScreenShot070

 

Managing your backlog with Twproject is very practical thanks to the Kanban tool that lets you visualize your items by priority, by status, assignee and so on. Thanks to the Kanban you can see the status of the work, what is assigned to who, checking with a click all the progress your team is making.

ScreenShot072

Once the backlog is created you can create your first sprint.

The sprint creation includes also the set up of an agenda event for all the team members for the stand up meeting.

At this step you will also select the backlog items that you want to move to the new sprint:

ScreenShot071

Once your sprint is created is time to work. The team members will see in their dashboard all their items with priorities. Team members can communicate with a dedicated forum, working together to get things done.

At the end of the sprint, you can create a new agenda event, starting from the project work group to analyze what has been done, what you can improve, and how to go further.

This procedure will be repeated until you finish all the backlog and your project is closed.

Twproject includes also a set of reports that you can use to control your product developments, one of them is the burn down graph, a specific chart showing how the team is performing.

Conclusion

As Marcus Miller pointed out in his post “No matter how efficient we become, the work still has to be done”: no matter how a software can help you managing the project, you still have to do the job, that’s true, but we really hope that our tool can make your life easier.

I think that one of the best features of the Scrum methodology is that it is meant to be improved on the go, you do not actually need to be a master to start organizing your work, you can refine from sprint to sprint.

Using Twproject you can start immediately and without effort using this methodology and test if it works for your company too.

I suggest you to read the post of Marcus Miller that explains in a very intuitive way how this methodology works and how to introduce it in your team.

Using agile project management for SEO & digital marketing

The post is focused also on how to use this methodology in a SEO and digital marketing company, but, as you can imagine this approach can be used in every fields, try it out and contact us if you have questions!

Try Twproject now for managing your SCRUM projects

How to Introduce Project Management Software & Succeed

One of the biggest challenges, a project manager can face in a new team, is to change things for the better and let this changes take effect without the resistance of the team.

One of the most frequent examples is when a project manager decides to introduce a new tool for project management.

This moment of change, even if it is felt like very stressful,  is actually a great opportunity for a company to improve its strategy and organizations.

So,  what if you are that project manager? What if you really want to change things in your company organization with a new project management software?

Fix your expectations:

One of the most important things you need to do, before introducing a new software, is identifying your goals. You have to answer these 2 questions:

  1. Which are the main reasons that bring me to search for a project management tool?
  2. Which are the key features of the tool I chose?

these very simple questions can let you analyze what you are missing in your team now and which are the milestones you want to achieve in the future. Here are some examples:

“I really need to let everyone see what they are working on, stop wasting time with e-mails, pointing out problems and delay. The software I’ve chosen has great dashboards with the list of active assignments by priority.”

“I started searching for a project management software because we really do not know how much our projects cost. We wanted to track time and extract reports with resources costs. We chose the software that lets us manage resource costs easily, together with a time tracking tool”

Once you have your goals in mind be realistic and set some small achievements for your near future. Having realistic expectations is very important, actually it is a key point, if you expect to achieve unrealistic goals  you will immediately face a sense of fail in your team, and this will bring the software to fail.

At the same time, if you do not communicate your expectations, no one will understand how much  helpful will be this change and they will abandon the software.

No one said it was easy….

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stereotype metaphor leadership or exclusion

Team communications, change is for the better..

The other key point about introducing a new software in a company, is to let everyone know, that this will actually help everyone working better, not just the project manager.

This, in some cases, is very difficult.

If you are the project manager of a cohesive team, maybe this will not affect you, but now I’m talking to all those pm, having a big team to manage, maybe a distributed one, with several people working in different ways. So, how to let them feel that changes are for the better?

It is not a software to control who is working and who is not. It seems a bad thing to say, but most of the time, these kind of software are felt like tools to control. They are not and you have to tell them clearly. It doesn’t matter if in the future you will get amazing reports of all worked hours, or if, thanks to the software, you will be able to see who is overloaded. The reason for changing is not to control, or at least it shouldn’t be ;-).

Be your own pm and organize your work better. Once the project manager has created the structure of the task, with dependencies and time frames all the team will be able to check their priorities, organize their to dos and manage their work in autonomy. If you, as pm, are able to let them understand the utility of this new responsibility you will have them on board.

These are just two examples of what you can point out to your team to let them know how helpful can be a project management software, let them know that is a tool for the whole team.

Get the best from the software

Following this easy yet effective strategy to introduce the new software in your company you will get in time amazing results. If your team will use the software, inserting and updating data with no effort, you will get something like:

Inserting estimation and worklog -> team workload and cost tracking

When the software is well introduced you will start inserting projects charts, assigning your resources with estimation and hourly costs. Thanks to this, and having your team inserting worklog you will be able to see your resources workload, control tasks progress and check costs, all data updated in real time.

Managing teams and agenda -> meeting and documents sharing

If you start using a shared agenda, you will be able to share appointments and create meeting easily according to task work-groups. check unavailability and the same connection will be created to easily share documents.

Read more here about managing distributed team agendas.

Using task checklist -> self management and responsibility

When a pm software is introduced, it can give you also the possibility to track to-do lists connected to projects. This is a very useful way for all users to organize, prioritize their work, finally they will stop using notes on the desk and no ideas or messages will be lost.

If you feel that your team needs a more structured way to work, it is probably time to introduce a project management software. Yes, it will be a big change but you can really get results if you follow our strategy. Our software, Twproject, can really give all the results mentioned above, all those features in one software only.

Introduce your team to Twproject.

One try is worth a million words.

How to be an Innovative Project Manager (Infographic)

Despite what people think, being a project manager requires a lot of creativity. A project manager has to be creative managing his resources and their productivity lacks , emotions or peculiar ideas,  be creative in communication with his own bosses, be creative managing large projects with unexpected delays…

So, how to stay creative even when your are managing complex projects? Here there are some suggestions:

Do meditate and don’t stay up all night – this is good suggestion in general. To be more productive and yet creative, studies show that you have to rest at least 6 hours per night. In addition to this, learning to meditate, can teach you the art of patience and to avoid to much stress accumulation.

Do be a sponge and don’t wait for inspiration –  project management methodologies are there to try them out and find the best one fitting your projects.  Agile methodology, waterfall, GTD, these are just few examples of methodologies to experiment. Try to be open minded to new strategy and learn to walk on unknown paths, teams are generally positive to a more structured organization that let them feel more secure and followed. If you are facing problems managing your projects and checking their progress you can use a project management software like Twproject that lets you work in different ways according to your needs.

Do trust yourself and don’t go it alone – even if you are the project manager do not forget about your team opinion. Trust yourself ideas and creativity but ask for their opinion too before going forward with an important decision. If a choice will fall back on your team too, it will be easier if they participated to the final decision. This will reinforce your team culture.

Do pay attention and don’t pass judgement – projects, from start to end are like a big creativity process, that requires your attention constantly. In this sense, you need to pay attention to everything happening in your company, if there is a problem that can impact on your projects too you have to operate immediately even in a creative way.  Never stop analizing your delay and their causes because they may happen again, and a deep study can help you facing them in the future.

Do say “Yes, and…” and don’t say “That never works” – Do push back and don’t argue – here we are talking about team building, because you can’t be an innovative project manager if you do not have an innovative team and a team can perform its best if everyone is free to express his opinion, and you , as projects manager, have to learn to listen to them, even if you do not agree. To have the most innovative team you have to look outside of the box.

“Old pattern only bring to old results”

“New ideas require risk. People need to know it’s safe to express new thinking”

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Source Entrepreneur.

How To Manage Distributed Teams – Sharing is Caring

These days, companies has to face an ever growing need for dynamic teams, shared groups of people working together through the internet. This need increases hand by hand with the difficulty of managing team dynamics and project updates.

For this reason, using conventional software like Microsoft project, built for managing projects in their best case scenario with clearly identified teams, could not fit the needs.

Many Projects – Lots of Teams

Big companies, and small ones too, with a high number of projects can see their number of teams increase accordingly, and when I say team I mean people that are actually working on the project.  Even if your company has just seven colleagues like ours, and you have one team working on several different projects,  you can face the same problem: a meeting for a project, a meting for another, uncounted e-mails refer to a projects, many refer to another, what a mess!

For this reason we cannot underestimate this trend and we better try to manage it.

Sharing is Caring

Actively work on a project often involves sending  tons of e-mail to keep everyone updated on what is going on, share documents and information about progress and commitment, schedule meeting with customers and colleagues, share the list of to-dos to get the project done.

This continuous flow of information assumes that you have always in mind all those who compose a specific team. How many of you spend more than a minute checking the list of attendees to be sure that everyone has been added? What if someone is forgotten?

Distributed Teams – Somebody Help!

It’s clear now that we need something helping us managing distributed teams. But what if I told you that the solution is at one step distance? Dynamic teams are implicitly defined by your projects. No one knows better, who is involved, than project management software.

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Node by node, different people could be assigned and different information could be shared. Simply looking at the team from the project’s point of view, you will see the work-group changing.

This simple yet effective idea, let you start from the point of view of your project: when you have an information to share you just need to focus on which is the specific project related, your team is already there!

Just open you projects management software, your changing teams are saved there!

If you have not introduced a project management software in your company you can try Twproject that solves this problem with a suite of functionalities that starts exactly by the work group created on a project.

Finally we will have the distributed teams problem solved and nobody will be forgotten.

If you want to read more about how to introduce a project management software and succeed you can read this post:

https://twproject.com/blog/how-a-project-manager-can-introduce-a-significant-change-and-actually-succeed/

We have the tools, we have the culture.