## Innovation Scouting & Project Management: how to understand what innovations are required in project management

Innovation has become a key expertise and is essential for success in a rapidly changing strategic environment.

In a way, if we think about it properly, every project, even if it looks like a duplicate, is undertaken for the first time.

A project team may not be the first to design a particular product, but it will be the first to build THAT exact product, which must be built at that time, using that team, with those suppliers and those limits.

Project management is based on opening up new horizons and doing things that have never been done before.

This puts innovation right at the heart of what the project manager does every day.

Let’s take a look at what is meant by innovation in project management and how a project manager can approach it in the right way.

## The role of the innovation in project management

Innovation, as a management expertise, is difficult to be defined.

In a commercial sense, the term “innovation” refers to the translation of an idea into a commercially marketable product, thus giving the wrong idea that only people like Steve Jobs and other visionaries can be called “innovators”.

On the other hand, the dictionary’s definition – “doing something in a new way” – is too broad to be meaningful, since many “innovative” ideas have failed to produce real value.

Consider, for example, the mechanical bread slicer: invented in the early 1920s, this slicer was described by early users as impractical and cumbersome. .

The customers thought that the sliced bread looked unattractive, because once sliced, it was difficult to hold the bread together long enough to pack it in an orderly fashion.

The problem persisted until the baker Gustav Papendick decided to improve the device, by placing a cardboard tray that would hold the bread together long enough for the wrapping machines to work.

The mechanical bread slicer alone was therefore not an innovation and did not provide real value to the customer.

It was only when Papendick combined the bread slicer with the cardboard tray that real value was added, which was an innovation.

Innovation is in fact the origination and implementation of ideas that add value to the organization.

Daily innovation therefore comes from the combination of creativity and improvement.

## Project management: traditional models vs. innovative models

Traditional project management models have focused almost exclusively on the delivery of products and services, i.e. results with precise and measurable execution criteria.

In this context, innovation opportunities are generally only focused on problem solving.

For example, when faced with a risk that needs to be avoided or mitigated, a project manager often needs to generate ideas that add value – innovate – in order to determine appropriate reaction to the risk and emergency plan.

The most recent project management models, on the other hand, focus mainly on achieving a result.

Scope, planning and costs are important, however they are subordinate to the overall results that the organization is trying to achieve.

For example, the task of a project manager could be to improve customer loyalty by 10% in one year.

In this model, the project manager’s work is partly tactical, i.e. responsible for executing the scope of work over the indicated time period, and partly strategic, i.e. responsible for:

• Assessing the feasibility of the goal
• Analyzing the cause of the problem
• Advising and/or creating a solution
• Formulating a work environment
• Executing the project and monitoring performance
• Ensuring the achievement of strategic objectives

In this model, innovation becomes more pivotal for the project manager’s work.

The project manager must actively look for ideas that add value throughout the project lifecycle in order to ensure the achievement of the result.

The attitude of an organization towards risk will strongly influence the ability of a project manager to carry out innovation.

In non-risk organizations, in fact, compliance with best practices, that is, a traditional model of project management, is generally preferred over innovation and experimentation.

## Understanding innovation in project management

Innovation is not the result of a lone ingenious inventor – at least not in most cases – but it rather concerns the involvement of people who test the status quo.

Innovation is a collaborative process, where people in many areas contribute to the realization of new ideas.

Too often, a team member’s suggestions are evaluated or criticized or other ways are found to identify “rational” reasons why these suggestions cannot be accepted at the moment.

In short, many potential ideas are killed before they even have a chance to see the light of day.

The project manager is therefore responsible for motivating the team to openly express new ideas and creative thoughts.

Furthermore, it is necessary that any new idea does not get judged or classified negatively, however it is important that a constructive dialogue takes place in order to explain – if necessary – why one idea cannot be implemented.

In conclusion, like any other skill, the ability to innovate requires time, practice and a favourable environment.

When innovation is limited because of risk aversion or a reluctant environment to listen, competence cannot be developed.

When competence is not developed, companies struggle to remain competitive and fit for the market, leading to long-term negative results.

## Project priorities: 5 elements to know in order to define them correctly

The definition of priorities is one of project managers’ main tasks and is an area where there’s always uncertainty.

The need to set priorities comes from the fact that you don’t have enough resources to work on everything you want for the time you want.

Therefore, it is necessary to have a process that determines the sequences of activities that must be carried out in order to offer maximum value at all times, given the constraints we face.

In a nutshell, priority setting is a process that establishes which projects are most important so resources can be focused on the right delivery.

It is the first crucial step in building a strong and balanced project portfolio and making effective resource allocation decisions.

## Why give priority to projects?

Many organizations consider project prioritization as a process of budget setting, however giving priority to projects is much more than that.

If you improve the process of prioritizing your project and select a portfolio that better reflects your organizational objectives, you will gain benefits in the following areas:

• Increased project success rate. Good prioritization ensures project alignment and fewer errors.
• Greater return on investment (ROI) (link to the previous article). Projects that are better aligned with business objectives will provide more value to the organization. Naturally, value does not just mean money and can be expressed in all kinds of forms; for every organization value has its meaning.
• Improved quality of project requests. When strategic objectives are recognized, initiatives align accordingly. This allows project stakeholders to improve performance in relation to specific strategic drivers, thus increasing the quality of their demands.
• Obsolete projects removal. A structured project prioritization process will ensure that only well-aligned projects will be approved and obsolete ones will be identified in advance.
• Resource allocation. A good project prioritization process will allow the portfolio to be properly scaled up. Resources can therefore be allocated more effectively.

## Overview of the techniques for setting project priorities

Here are some of the most used techniques used to set project priorities.

### 1. MoScoW

The MoSCoW method is a priority-setting technique employed in multiple management fields to achieve consensus on what is most important to stakeholders and customers.

The term is an acronym that represents the different possible categories of prioritization – in English. The requirements are thus classified as:

• “Must have”: essential requirements that must be absolutely included in the product. If even one of these is not present, the issuance of the product is considered an error.
• “Should have”: these requirements are important yet not crucial. They generally share the importance of the requirements of the first point, but are not so necessary.
• “Could have”: these requirements are desirable but not necessary for issuance. Usually they are low cost product improvements.
• “Won’t have”: These requirements are the least critical or even those not aligned with the product strategy. They must be permanently discarded or possibly reconsidered for future versions.

This method offers a quick and simple prioritization solution. The problem, however, is: how is it possible to know which requirements should or could be more important than others?

As a result of this limitation, the MoSCoW method is probably more suitable for internal projects than for products involving many customers.

Talking to a few stakeholders about the subtleties of priorities will always be easier than contacting end customers on a large scale.

### 2. Financial analysis

Initiatives and projects are often carried out with the specific objective of increasing revenue or reducing costs.

For these situations, a financial analysis is required and, for those with the best results, priority will be assigned.

There are 4 types of financial objectives that can be addressed:

• New revenues that should be generated;
• Incremental revenues, i.e. additional revenues from existing customers who now can purchase an upgrade or additional services;
• Revenue withheld, i.e. revenue not lost due to the reduction of the customer’s withdrawal quota;
• Cost savings, i.e. any type of operational efficiency that is achieved within the company.

These targets can be estimated over a given period of time, thus providing an overview of the revenue and/or cost reductions they will be generating.

By analyzing these metrics in combination, teams can then make investment decisions based on the organization’s financial priorities and desired results.

However, these quantitative methods are all based on revenue and cost estimates, and it is known that these can easily be incorrect.

### 3. Net Present Value (NPV)

“How much money do you have to save in the bank to get to the end of the year with 10 extra euros?”

This is what is called the present value of a certain amount and depends on the interest rate. Here’s its formula:

PV = C x (1 – i)-t

C= cash flow , i = interest rate and t = time

With an interest rate of 5% today we would have to invest 9.52 euros in the bank to obtain 10 euros in a year.

When assessing alternative projects in which to invest, companies consider an opportunity cost instead of an interest rate.

This is what is not earned as a result of investing in something else.

If a company usually gets a 15% return on its projects, this is the opportunity cost to which an alternative project should be compared.

A product initiative will produce a series of cash flows over time periods (e.g. months or quarters) and each must be discounted to its present value (PV).

The net present value is the sum of these elements over a certain period of time and is determined by this formula:

$\fn_phv&space;NPV(i)&space;=&space;\sum_{i=0}^{n}&space;C&space;*&space;(1+i)^{-t}$

This method allows a company to prioritize projects by providing an answer to this question: “How much of today’s money we will have after X time, if we invest in Project A or Project B?”

### 4. Internal rate of return

The internal rate of return is a metric that expresses the performance of a project in percentage terms. In other words, it shows the speed with which an investment will increase in value.

It is difficult to calculate this value manually, however spreadsheet software offers this formula.

From this value, you can derive a return on a project and compare it with others.

However, this should not be considered separately when making decisions, as the investment time needed, for example, can be an important decision-making factor.

The longer it takes to return the money, the more risky the investment is.

Depending on the financial condition of the organization and the risk tolerance, this could be a key factor.

### 5. Value vs. Risk

A classic way of prioritizing projects is to compare the value of what needs to be done with some other trade-off measure: usually that measure is the cost.

However, there is another method that suggests considering risk as a priority factor.

There are no established ways of estimating value, and for this it is necessary to use one of the other techniques however, as far as risk is concerned, these are the criteria:

• Planning risk: the risk of not finishing a project within deadline.
• Cost risk: the risk that the project will cost more than what is allowable at company level.
• Functionality risk: the risk of not being able to execute a project.

There is a constant struggle between high risk and high value. What should be done first? There’ s no definitive answer and everything depends on the choice of the organization.

Ultimately, the most difficult part of the priority setting process is understanding what the team’s time is worth and thus to only commit to the most precious, urgent and important projects.

Once it is decided where to focus the energy, the project manager will be ready to draw up a plan and start working.

## The financial sustainability of a project

The term “sustainability” is gaining increasingly significant popularity in business development in recent decades.

Without mincing words, it is a factor that guarantees the success of a project and of an organization in general.

The current use of the word implies something that lasts a long time.

The financial sustainability of a project therefore implies the continuation of project activities without losses.

It must be acknowledged that ensuring the financial sustainability of a project requires long-term planning to facilitate stakeholder engagement and potential investors – including those external to an organization.

## Key conditions for financial sustainability

Before starting to write a project’s financial sustainability plan, it is important for a project manager to discuss the various processes and mechanisms that can be used to ensure sustainability with the team.

It is therefore important to consider what follows:

• Long-term vision: especially in the case of complex projects that span over a long period of time, it is important to know where the organization is seen after a period that can even last for several years. It is important to think about how and what is going to be achieved in the long term. Once this vision is clear, it is therefore easier to process the factors needed to achieve it. With the use of concrete data, it is possible to explain to the organization and investors the long-term goal and the processes and resources needed to ensure success.
• Integrating financial sustainability into all projects: It is always advisable to integrate financial sustainability into every project of the organization from the very start. This will help to develop positive relationships with stakeholders from the earliest stage of project development.
• Communication and awareness: It is important to develop a strong communication strategy so that the results of the project can be shared with stakeholders. Well-documented project results can help get support from stakeholders. A well thought-out stakeholder communication strategy can prevent a last-minute rush to find investors.
• Involve major players: During the entire life cycle of the project, it is possible to establish opportunities for dialogue – meetings, e-mails, calls, etc. – with relevant parties to continue to involve relevant actors in the project.
• Diversifying sources of funding: In some projects, it is important for financial sustainability, to diversify the investment base and develop long-term partnerships with investors to maintain continuous support.
• Create an inventory of resources: Some devices and equipment purchased during a project may be used in the future for other projects, making it easier for these to be financially viable because some costs are thus already met.

## How can the financial sustainability of a project be planned?

Every organization is unique and each will have its own specific way of getting things done.

However, financial sustainability planning follows some key milestones that we can summarize in these 5 points.

### 1. Decide who will develop the financial plan

If it is not the project manager himself, he will then have to decide who will be responsible for drawing up the financial plan for the project. Developing a plan is easier and more effective with shared leadership, while maintaining open communication.

### 2. Perform an internal audit

That is, to discover what resources and expenses the organization has already performed. You can’t decide where you’re going if you don’t know where you are right now. Make sure that all information is correct and that everyone working on the financial sustainability plan understands it.

### 3. Determine the budget required

This stage is divided into two parts: listing what you are currently doing and what the organization already owns and can be used and then listing what must necessarily be obtained – purchased – to carry out the project, with its related cost. In addition, it is possible to set specific funding objectives, both in short and long term. For example, a short-term goal could be to increase the size of the team with two new employees, while a long-term goal could be to purchase additional office space.

### 4. Develop a plan for financial sustainability

This draft should include all the information gathered so far, including:

• The actual financial situation, including the yearly budget
• Long-term and short-term financial objectives
• General strategies that will be adopted to achieve such goals
• History with specific actions
• An “executive summary” consisting of one page at the beginning of the document which summarizes your work

Stakeholders will then be able to comment the plan and make suggestions for improvement. Obtaining feedback at this point can be very useful for at least two reasons. Firstly, there may be suggestions that will make the plan stronger than it would otherwise have been. Secondly, by giving those who will be involved in the implementation of the plan the opportunity to change it, it also becomes theirs and, in general, people are more willing to work on something they have created.

### 5. Monitor and evaluate progress

When the parts of the plan have been confirmed and start to be implemented, the process is not yet over. As long as the project continues and remains active, continuous evaluation and monitoring of progress is required and, if necessary, actions are taken to implement the changes.

## Why is it necessary to compile a financial sustainability plan?

Drafting a financial sustainability plan certainly takes time, but it carries a series of benefits. This means:

• More attention to actual work: it is possible to perform more freely what has been decided to be done, because the focus will be on the mission and the result, not on daily survival.
• Becoming more competitive in the field: for instance, more money allows you to hire more and better staff, which, once again, enables you to do more to achieve your goal.
• Easier transitions: a plan can help the organization to successfully overcome a temporary exhaustion of funding.
• Support from investors: sometimes you have no choice, because some investors explicitly require the development of a plan for the financial sustainability of a project as a condition for their funding.

## When should a financial sustainability plan be developed?

The answer is straightforward: it is never too early to start planning the financial sustainability of a project.

Planning should take place as soon as the project begins.

Even if the organization has been on the market for some time and holds a very good position, this is no excuse to develop a financial sustainability plan for each of its individual projects.

In short, developing a financial sustainability plan, like any other plan, requires a lot of work to be done in the right way.

However, by creating an effective financial sustainability plan, members of an organization will be able to achieve more to convert goals into reality and accomplish their mission.

## Create project models with best practice

Creating project models with best practices is a good starting point, whatever the sector and the project, although it may seem similar to others, is unique.

As technology grows and changes, projects become larger and more complex, and it’s easy to understand why.

Many project teams have grown to include members who work remotely from all over the world and modern project managers recognize that shorter project cycles are key to remain on the market.

Using these best practices will allow pro-active decision-making and help manage a project to succeed.

So here are the 9 best practices for creating project models.

## Best practice n°1: Life cycle and set goals

The first best practice is about life cycle. Organizations should map and define key phases, outcomes, targets and criteria for each group involved in the project.

The life cycle of a project consists of four phases: concept, planning, implementation and deployment, and this type of management is implemented in all types of industry.

The adoption of these four basic phases provides a common understanding of the projects. Each company will then plan these basic phases of the projects in special ways.

## Best practice n°2: Stable requirements and scope

A successful project management implies that the requirements, objectives and scope of the project are substantiated and defined at the beginning of the project’s life cycle.

Answering the following questions ensures that all stakeholders share a common understanding of the requirements and scope:

• What is to be done?
• Which product or service will be produced?
• What are the objectives and benefits?
• When the result will be achieved, what will be the measure of its success?
• What are the final results?
• What physical manifestation of the result will occur?
• What are the performance standards?
• How are the validity, usefulness, correctness and completeness of the results determined?
• What are the conditions that affect performance, time and costs?
• What are the limits of the project in terms of priorities and resources?
• What are the risks to be aware of?

## Best practice n°3: Defined organization, systems and roles

In all organizations, projects must have defined roles for the project manager, project managers, project team members, and corporate executives.

Responsibilities should be identified and understood by everyone. A system of communication and involvement of the team and stakeholders is essential for success.

Project managers need sound information to successfully manage their projects. Good project management software can help in this regard.

## Best practice n°4: Quality assurance

The quality of projects requires the identification of standards and criteria to be established at each stage of the project life cycle for both the product and the process.

Each project should aim to improve this best practice, especially when a process has shown shortcomings in quality.

Quality means making and meeting agreed commitments with a constant focus on improvement.

## Best practice n°5: Planned commitments

Plans must be based on the process capacity of the organization and not just on a mere desire.

Plans should be rigorously planned as they address all elements of the project management process.

It is never too early to start planning and the project planning must continue even when there is not enough information to execute the formalized plan.

The planning aims to reduce uncertainty and insecurity and increase the chances of success of the project.

If there is not enough information to produce a plan, the planning should focus on how to collect enough data to be able to plan the next phase.

The following are the components of a project plan:

• The scope and mission, which define the limits of the project and establish the objectives.
• Evaluation of the sequences and duration of the activities in addition to the requirements of the resources.
• The budget, i.e. the development of an overall cost estimate based on the individual elements of work.
• The personnel needs specified on the basis of the activities foreseen in the project.
• Evaluation and control during all phases of the project.
• Risks and problems that must be systematically identified, assessed and managed. Proper risk management implies the control of possible future negative events and a proactive action rather than a reactive one.
• Quality, which indicates what are the established performance requirements to be met.

## Best practice n°6: Variance monitoring and analysis

Projects should be managed using a process where deviations from plans are reported and resolved. Any other way is inefficient.

An effective project management process requires regular reporting and meetings of the project team to identify when things are off-target.

Cost overruns, unfinished business, new risks and identified problems should be addressed as soon as possible.

## Best practice n°7: Corrective actions

When deviations from the plan are detected, the standard assumption is that the team or functional groups will work to get the project back on track.

Without a well-defined procedure, the corrective action can have many results, sometimes inconsistent with the company’s objectives.

Often it is necessary to make some compromises, such as increasing costs or reducing scope to save time, for example.

A key task for the project manager is to manage these compromises.

## Best practice n°8: Escalation and problem management

Often in project environments, good news spreads and bad news remains silent until it is too late.

An effective escalation procedure requires that problems are dealt with at their lowest level.

If the problem cannot be solved and ended, it must be raised to the next higher organizational level and so on until the problem is settled.

A formal process must be set, similar to a complaint procedure, to address the problems before they become fatal to the project.

## Best practice n°9: Authorization and monitoring of changes

Late changes in projects are one of the main sources of interruption leading to program deviations, cost overruns, defects and rework.

A formal system of monitoring and change management needs to be established.

A key challenge for project managers is to ensure that control is established over both ways in which work is authorized and how changes are approved.

When it comes to controlling configuration changes, the project manager is at the center of communications and must be ready to make timely decisions.

Since changes will occur, it is important to establish a change log.

This will allow the project manager to properly evaluate the proposed changes based on the most recent information.

These nine factors for creating project management models represent the best practices necessary for successful project implementation.

Experience has shown that most virtuous organizations involved in project management use these elements consistently.

## How to calculate the ROI of a project

Calculating the true value of any project has always been a challenge. This is mainly due to the ambiguity of the change from a paper project to an economic value.

Let us show you some examples, just to be clearer. It is evident, for example, that the training of employees will improve the experience and productivity of our Project Team. But how does this benefit translate into cost savings and/or increased profits?

Spending thousands of euros on automated systems and software is likely to improve work efficiency, but what is the value of this improvement in euros?

Organizations are on the market to make a profit of course, and the return on investment – ROI – is a key figure for understanding what the profit margins of a project are. Calculating the ROI of a project will also answer the questions raised above, as well as showing the value of the project and its impact on the margin.

ROI is an indicator used to measure the profit/loss, or financial “value”, of a project in relation to its cost.

Typically, it is used to determine whether a project will generate a profit and therefore will be a benefit to the company.

## Why is ROI important?

The ROI quantifies the value of the project and is capable of showing project managers, corporate executives and all stakeholders the value of a project in numbers that anyone can understand.

ROI converts the subjective into objective, which can often turn uncertainty into support.

Here’s why ROI is important:

• It can create support when it comes to stakeholders: binding a euro value to a project can help with a “go/no-go” decision. Often, stakeholders want to see what the actual euro value to decide whether or not to support a particular project.
• It may discover additional benefits: The ROI calculation process forces project managers to study benefits that may not seem obvious at the outset of a project.
• It can lead to the definition of project priorities: once it is decided to start a project, the ROI helps to determine the priorities of the various projects. Usually, projects with a higher ROI are ranked higher and get faster support from project resources.

## How to calculate ROI

The formula for determining the ROI is:

ROI = [(Financial value – Project cost) / Project cost] x 100

Considering the formula, there are two components that need to be determined: the financial value and the cost of the project. Let’s see how to do it.

### How to calculate the Financial Value

The financial value is simply the reimbursement of the project.

The estimation of the value can sometimes be complicated due to the uncertainty of assigning an actual value expressed in dollars (or any other currency) to a suggested result.

The trick is to break down the value into currently known components and then define them.

When trying to quantify the value of the ROI formula, always remember the acronym TVD – time, volume, dollars.

If you can define the time, volume and dollars/euro needed to complete the process, the value of the project can be determined.

This acronym corresponds to a formula that calculates the potential value of the project from a different perspective:

TVD(current) – TVD(project)

As for:

• T = time required for the process
• V = Volume or quantity of units, transactions, people, etc. required
• D = Dollars or cost required
• Current = current value
• Project = value that a project will have in case of success

To better understand this formula, let’s have a look at some examples.

The first is a project that will reduce the process cycle time of a given product by 10 percent.

In this example, the team calculated a single unit cost of € 2,455, based on current values for the time required (13 hours), volume (1 unit) and euros (salary of € 85/hour and total cost of materials amounting to € 1,350). It has also been calculated that, based on the production of 480 units per year, this cost will be equal to 1.178 million euros per year for this product line.

The team then calculated the project values, reducing the cycle time by 10 percent, from 13 hours to 11.7 hours; all other variables were left unchanged. The new costs are therefore €2,344.50 per unit and €1.125 million per year for the product line.

Therefore, the value of the project is: 1,178,400 € – 1,125,360 € = 53,040 € of savings per year.

### How to calculate Project Cost

The second unknown component of the ROI formula is the cost of the project.

To calculate this value, it is necessary to obtain revenue information and make a detailed cost analysis with a breakdown by different categories.

The breakdown by category can be useful if you want to evaluate different costs to build cost reduction strategies for a higher ROI on future projects.

Typical costs generally include the provision of materials, overheads for labor and employees, fuel, equipment, and work-related services.

Clearly, these factors vary according to the activity and type of project.

The cost assessment for a simple ROI analysis on a single project will not take into account annual expenses such as the lease for the construction of space and/or capital investments.

The formula is isolated for a single project and includes only costs associated with that single event.

You can forecast costs and returns based on past events before the start of a project.

Although it is not possible to obtain a perfect estimate, keeping project records allows you to know an approximate ROI interval based on available data.

## How to calculate the ROI of a project: bottom line

Ultimately, understanding how to calculate the ROI for a project is the first step without which it is not possible to get a definite picture of the objectives and benefits of the project itself.

In many cases, moreover, without ROI, it can be very difficult for company executives to approve the budget required for a given project.

ROI evaluation, whatever the type of project, will help the project manager and stakeholders to better visualize and manage the project from a financial perspective.

Project managers should therefore fully understand all the elements underlying an ROI calculation in order to obtain an accurate view of the means and resources required, as well as all the benefits that the organization will derive from it.

## 2020 Project Management Trends

It is essential to know and be aware of the 2020 project management trends.

Projects have always existed and will always exist.

Their implementation will always remain a challenge, sometimes overcome, sometimes defeated. Unique methods and solutions, however, will continue to arise in the market and take this area to a new level. It is human nature that leads to evolution and Project Management is no less important.

So let’s see what are the trends in project management for the coming year.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: Automation and Artificial Intelligence

The first trend of 2020 we want to address is artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is pushing our global society into its fourth industrial revolution.

In digital products and services, artificial intelligence algorithms are employed to customize the products and services of companies in real time to meet market demands.

Artificial intelligence technologies will help to set priorities for projects and allocate resources for production.

Real-time scheduling of operations means that organizations can adapt on the fly according to employee availability or customer needs.

Artificial intelligence can also help improve multi-level decision-making within an organization.

Consistency in decision making is achieved much more easily by machines than by people.

The more complex the projects are, the more value can be derived from automated learning strategies to understand the process, risks and results.

Artificial Intelligence research teams are developing automated learning systems to increase a project manager’s decision-making capacity by analyzing data from multiple projects. Previously, the PM used to decide in accordance with the lessons learned, now the trend is that the artificial intelligence will suggest decisions.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: increasing the commercial value of soft skills

Artificial intelligence and machines can definitely process, learn and visualize the most diverse information, but they lack a key ingredient in the management of successful projects: humanity.

Social skills, such as emotional intelligence and coordination and negotiation skills are increasingly considered to be some of the most valuable professional resources.

In fact, in a forecast of the professional skills most in demand by 2020 in the Report on the future of the work of the World Economic Forum, “social skills” have been classified as the second most desired skill by employers.

This means that as the use of artificial intelligence to manage some parts of the processes becomes more and more prominent, the project manager’s role as an empathic listener, forerunner of needs, expert coordinator, discreet negotiator and motivational leader becomes equally fundamental.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: an increasing trend towards fusion of methods

The Agile Methodology is no longer truly innovative, but to apply it well is still complicated.

And the Waterfall method, for example, is only suitable for switching from A to B, especially in those cases where the project path and the final result are well defined.

As a result of complex work environments, Agile, Waterfall and a number of different methodologies are often combined.

Organizations are adopting more and more simultaneous planning and flat hierarchies, replacing the linear and traditional method for a mix of methods.

For project managers, the mix of methodologies is a challenge, as it is necessary to recognize which parts of which methodology or combination of them will be relevant to a given case.

For this reason, PMs need to keep up with the latest methodologies and the way they are implemented.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: the shifting and globalized “gig” economy

Project managers already possess direct knowledge of the ever-increasing gig economy. In many teams we already have gig workers and the growing number of working arrangements and remote collaborations has already begun to affect project management.

More than any other trend in project management, the gig economy has direct and immediate results in the work of a project manager.

There is often a smaller pool of full-time team members within the company who are supported by a widespread mobile network of freelancers.

To PMs, the management of a a remote team poses a whole new set of challenges in terms of time, people and activity management.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: an increasingly competitive market

The margins for organizations are becoming tighter than ever, partly as a result of the commodification of the digital industry.

Customers are expecting more, at a lower cost, and are becoming more and more expert on the subject.

In an increasingly competitive environment and tighter margins, organizations are therefore driven to specialize if they want to survive.

In short, PMs need to keep up with the times and understand market dynamics and customer needs.

Also for PM, it is necessary to develop skills that surpass the competition.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: the growing relevance of human-centred design

Human-centered design is a way of developing products with people at the heart of the design and the implementation process and can be considered as a way of integrating business and technology based around human needs.

This concept has already existed for several years, but has taken on a key role with the rise of the Agile and Lean principles and their emphasis on product design based on direct user feedback.

As digital products become more prevalent in our lives, organizations are becoming increasingly aware of how to proceed with their design.

Products that meet real needs, ensure the best user experience, present the least risk and have the greatest positive impact on humans are being sought.

Increasingly, companies will therefore be responsible for creating products that meet the needs of users, driven by the vision of customers and their feedback.

Today it is necessary to produce something innovative and with a strong impact, built on empathy towards human needs and desires.

## 2020 Project Management Trends: a greater attention to data

With new project management tools you can collect large amounts of data, but you also need to use them properly.

From understanding customer needs to retailing risks, analyzing data for important information is a key activity in almost every project.

A PM has to become a sort of data translator so that it can extract the basic information for the optimal execution of the project.

Understanding project management trends for 2020 will help both organizations and project managers to coordinate new and existing business strategies.

Whatever the future trends, the main thing is to understand that the key to success will remain people’s skills and creativity.

These two components will help to create the best project team and create a high quality product, in any industry.

## The lifecycle of a project and the customer experience

Customer Experience is the set of processes that a company employs to track, supervise and organize any interaction between a customer and the organization during the life cycle of a project.

The purpose of customer experience management – also called CEM – is to fine-tune interactions from the customer’s point of view and promote customer loyalty.

To manage the customer experience, an organization must create a customer-focused strategy that includes all interactions.

Customer experience is an integral part of Customer Relationship Management – CRM – and therefore it is important because a customer who has a positive experience with an organization is more likely to become loyal.

In a nutshell, happy customers remain loyal.

## How is the customer experience different from the customer service?

In most cases, a customer’s first point of contact with an organization takes place through an interaction with an employee, visiting a store or talking to him over the phone.

This gives the organization the chance to offer an outstanding customer service.

However, customer service is only one aspect of the entire customer experience.

For example: if you book a holiday over the phone and the person you are talking to is kind and helpful, this is a great customer service. And if the tickets are delivered early, i.e. if the hotel provides an upgrade or if the accommodation and treatment meet or exceed expectations, then this is a wonderful customer experience.

Like most things in today’s market, the customer experience has changed.

This is more than just a person-to-person service and, thanks to technology, organizations can get connected with their customers in innovative ways, also thanks to new project management software that allows you to monitor CRM.

This allows to:

• Provide related products based on purchase history
• Create and deliver targeted email marketing campaigns
• Understanding the customer’s 360-degree vision

Customer service is undoubtedly very important, but it is no longer the only goal of the customer experience.

## How important is the customer experience?

An organization cannot exist without its customers. That’s why, while it’s true that companies are focusing on how to acquire new businesses, it’s even truer that the greatest efforts are being put into maintaining existing customers.

Customers’ expectations are rising and they expect every interaction with the organization to be a fantastic experience.

So how can an organization provide an excellent customer experience? Let’s have a look at it in the next paragraph.

## Top 7 ways to improve customer experience

There are many ways to improve the experience of our customers. Sometimes you just have to make your imagination run wild to try small functional solutions that can improve it. Here below we will examine 7 ways that, in our opinion, are the most important:

### 1. Establish a clear picture of the customer experience

The first step in the customer experience strategy is to establish a clear vision to communicate, focused on the customer.

The easiest way to define this vision is to create a series of statements that work as guidelines.

Once these guidelines are set, they will guide the behaviour of the organization and its projects.

Each member of the project team should be familiar with these principles and should be able to apply and integrate them into all areas of a project.

### 2. Understand who customers are

If the organization really wants to understand the needs of customers, it must be able to connect and tune in to the situations that customers face.

One way to do this is to segment customers and create “characters”, also called buyer persona.

One way to ease this process is to try to give each person a name and a personality.

For example: Anna is 35 years old, likes new technology and is quite experienced on the topic, so much so that she can manage electronic devices on her own, while John is 42 years old and needs clear instructions to follow even for the simplest processes.

By creating characters, the customer service team can recognize who they are and understand them better.

Many companies once created the buyer persona give it shape by creating real templates that represent them. They are placed in the offices of the Team to accustom the members to consider them as a real entity and not as a simple product of the imagination.

This is also an important step for the organization to focus entirely on the customer.

### 3. Make an emotional bond with customers

No sentence is more appropriate in this case that “it is not important what you say, but how you say it”.

The best customer experience is achieved when a team member creates an emotional bond with a customer.

A research of the Journal of Consumer Research has discovered that more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion and feelings shape the behaviors that drive decisions.

Customers become loyal because they are emotionally committed to a brand or product and remember how they feel when using a product or service.

An organization that prefers an emotional bond, is 85% ahead of its competitors in sales.

### 4. Receive real-time customer feedback

How do you know if you are providing an excellent customer experience? Quite simple: you have to ask for feedback and, ideally, in real time.

Using live chat tools for real-time conversations and, at the end, sending a follow-up email using post-interaction surveys is one of the most widely used approaches.

In addition, you can make calls to customers for more in-depth feedback. Always remember that the caller represents the Company and will have to be very sensitive and polite in proposing the feedback. Human contact is an essential element to humanize the Company and improve the customer experience.

### 5. Use a high-quality framework for the development of the team project

Once you know what customers think about the quality of your service, the next step is to identify the training needs of each individual member of the project team to improve your customer experience.

### 6. Act according regular employee feedback

This allows the personnel to share ideas on how to improve the customer experience and the project managers to see how they feel about the organization.

Only those in the project who are a member of the team and monitor customer reactions on a daily basis can really understand the needs.

### 7. Measuring ROI by providing an excellent customer experience

How do you know if all these investments – team, processes and technology – are working and paying off?

Measuring the customer experience is one of the biggest challenges that organizations face, which is why many companies use the Net Promoter Score, or NPS, which collects valuable information by asking a single simple question: “Would you recommend this organization to a friend or relative?

The NPS, created by Rob Markey and Fred Reichheld of Bain and Company, is a convenient reference tool for measuring the customer experience.

## The importance of the customer experience for the market

As customers gain more and more power in the market, the importance of customer experience management increases exponentially.

The customer experience is an area that needs constant and dedicated care. You should never take anything for granted or assume that the customer will act in a particular way.

With a greater focus on customer experience strategy, organizations can achieve a variety of goals more easily, from customer loyalty to product and brand positioning. This will lead to an increase in revenues.

## Project customer satisfaction: 5 tips for dealing with it in the best possible way

Customer satisfaction, it may seem obvious, is the key element in defining a successful project. The project is modified, shaped and customized to achieve this goal.

Project management activities are essentially driven by customers who must be involved from the very beginning (collection of requirements) to the very end (provision of products and services).

This is why project managers must always include customer satisfaction, or customer satisfaction, during planning.

## Fundamentals of customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is based on understanding, defining, assessing and managing customer needs so that their expectations are met.

This concept implies compliance with the requirements to ensure that the project produces the output it should create.

In project management, customer satisfaction is part of project quality management and ensures that policies, objectives and responsibilities of the project satisfy all stakeholders involved.

The concept of customer satisfaction is thus applied by project managers to generate quality products and services.

Customer experience and satisfaction will be the key differentiating factor by 2020 and will indeed be the most interesting area to work on in the future. That’s why:

• Reliable support or service = customer satisfaction
• Customer satisfaction = increased fidelity
• Increased fidelity = increase in customer base
• Increase in customer base = more profits/income

So, if one focuses on customer satisfaction, it’s obvious that business will grow and revenues will increase.

## What are the advantages of customer satisfaction?

The greatest plus of a satisfied customer is word of mouth. According to a research conducted by Neil Patel:

• 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family.
• 68% of consumers reported that a positive review led to them being more inclined to choose one organization, while 40% reported that a negative review diverted them to another.
• 93% trust online reviews to decide whether an organization is trustworthy or not.
• Word of mouth is the key influencer for 74% of consumers.

So, in a nutshell…

if you have a high number of satisfied customers, you will receive free positive advertising.

However, customer satisfaction is not an easy affair. During project execution, customers will always ask:

• What is the state of progress of the project?
• When will it be completed?
• Where can I review my work?
• Where should I give my feedback and/or to whom?
• Where and how can I see the progress in real time?

The truth is, most project managers screw up. They decide to hide the actual information and then show wrong data or information to satisfy customers.

In the end, however, the truth emerges and the customer tends to be unhappy and refuses to choose the organization a second time.

It is important to consider that negative word of mouth spreads faster than positive reviews.

## Why should customer satisfaction be measured?

• To understand how well customers’ expectations are being met. If customer satisfaction is low, it’ s necessary to group up to find new methods to meet them.
• To identify loyal customers and find ways to retain them.
• To reward employees and internal teams that contribute significantly to customer satisfaction.
• To track processes and strategies that help to satisfy and refine customers.
• To understand the gap between the perception of quality given internally by the organization and the customer’s perception of the quality received.

## 5 ways to measure customer satisfaction

### 1. Customer satisfaction survey

This is one of the most important tools for measuring customer satisfaction. To motivate customers to carry out the survey in a truthful way, you can decide to send them a small reward: a discount on the next purchase, for example, or a free sample of a complementary product.

### 2. Monitoring of customer complaints through helpdesk

This is one of the implicit ways to measure customer satisfaction. If only a few customers complain about the product, this may indicate that satisfaction levels are high. A good helpdesk tool is essential to keep track of complaints over time. A downward trend in the complaints/sales ratio is a positive reflection for customer service.

### 3. Monitoring of recurring purchases through CRM

Satisfied customers are those who are more likely to purchase again from the same organization in the future. Therefore, it should be monitored which and how many customers are recurring. If more and more customers become recurring buyers, customer satisfaction is likely to improve.

### 4. Monitoring of social media engagement

This is becoming a very important way to measure customer satisfaction. According to this method, the influence of an organization – or a specific product – on social media gets measured and the amount of involvement – likes, retweets, shares, etc. – is assessed – that you receive for each post. In general, a higher level of engagement on social media channels reflects a higher level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

### 5. Online sentiment monitoring

It isn’t just a matter of paying attention to customer sentiment in the organization channel, but also in other channels, such as personal customer blogs, forum posts, etc. Negative sentiments in blogs and forums may be a sign of decreased satisfaction and loyalty.

## Customer satisfaction conclusions

Finally, it is necessary for an organization to interact and communicate regularly with customers to increase their satisfaction.

In these interactions and communications, it is necessary to recognize and address all individual customer needs and meet them accordingly.

The higher the level of satisfaction, the greater the sentimental attachment of customers to the specific brand of the product and also to the supplier.

This helps to create a strong and healthy bond between the customer and the organization.

Hence, customer satisfaction is a very important factor on which every organization should focus to establish a position in the market and improve business and profits.

## Program Management: coordinate a set of projects

Program Management is a different sort of project management and until now we have never mentioned it in our blog. In our articles we have always talked about project management and never about program management. Let’s have a look at what it is all about.

Let’s start by saying that in both cases we have to deal with two key actors: Project Management, which by now we should know quite well, and Program Management. However, what is the difference between these two if in both cases they manage projects?

Actually, the program manager and the project manager can share similar responsibilities, but there are some key differences between the two positions.

The same applies to program management as to project management.

## Program management vs Project management: Projects vs. Programs

Before discussing the similarities and differences between the two figures, it is essential to understand what separates the projects from the programs.

They are generally limited by costs, resources, budgets and time and generally have a clear and objective end date that delivers tangible results.

The programs, on the other hand, consist of a large number of interconnected projects.

While in the Project the single project is an end to itself and once completed brings immediate benefit to the enterprise, in the Program management interconnected projects are widely discussed.

They are projects that complement and develop one another to achieve a broader and longer-term goal.

A successful program brings strategic benefits and organizational growth, rather than a single tangible result.

## What is a Program Manager?

When we talk about program managers, we mean the person who shapes the strategy and objectives of a program and assesses how it will impact the organization in general.

The Program Manager must define and supervise a set of dependent projects necessary to achieve the overall objectives of the program.

A program manager, in short, can be compared to an architect who designs a project.

Architects do not install plumbing and do not build walls, but they do ensure that all these pieces come together to create and shape a particular building.

The role of the program manager transcends the completion of individual projects – for example: the electrical system or the construction of walls – but it takes care of the long-term implementation of the entire program – i.e. the construction of the building.

The responsibilities of a program manager include recruiting teams, implement strategies, measure ROI and other large-scale initiatives.

## Program Manager priorities

A program manager typically supervises multiple projects and people, which requires strategic resource allocation and planning.

Sometimes individual projects need to be suspended or discontinued to ensure that the overall objectives of the program are heading in the right direction.

The typical tasks of a program manager are:

• Define and assign projects within the program and work with the project manager to set a time frame, budget and the required manpower and resources.
• Routine checks with project managers on the status of the project, as well as with senior managers, customers and other parties involved.
• Re-qualify, downgrade, promote or add projects to a programme, if necessary, and adjust the timing and expectations of stakeholders and staff, if required.
• Identify potential risks (company, programme and project level) to the programme and make timely adjustments and revisions to the process if necessary.

## Differences with Project Manager

Project managers, on the other hand, supervise the operations of individual projects within the programs.

They coordinate the schedule, budget and resources to complete the work within the program guidelines and report the work progress to the program head and any changes made to the initial project plan.

The role of the project manager is more tactical than the position of the program manager.

As we saw in our previous example, the program managers are the architects, while the project managers are painters, plumbers and electrical engineers.

Project managers focus primarily on the execution and management of the functional elements of the project, i.e.:

• observance of the budget,
• delegation of activities
• achievement of the results.

It is true that program managers and project managers have different roles, but their challenges are similar.

Although they have different daily responsibilities, both program managers and project managers supervise many dynamic parts and must ensure maximum organization and efficiency.

## Common tools for both the Program Manager and Project Manager

These two actors can meet many similar or equal challenges and benefit from the use of similar techniques and tools. Let’s see which ones:

• Dashboard: A clear picture of the status of activity and advancement is crucial when success depends on several people and dynamic parts. Every program manager and project manager should have a dashboard that shows exactly who is working on what. There are several project management software that allows one to have a dashboard with these properties and with the most diverse functionalities.
• Templates: Many programs feature similar projects. For example, each marketing project could involve an advertising campaign. Instead of starting from scratch each time, project managers, along with program managers, should structure their work and prepare templates that can be reused for similar jobs. This minimizes the need for new initiatives and helps replicate past success stories. In a nutshell, templates should contain best practices.
• Versatile work graphics: not all people work the same way, and each person has their own preferred working method. The work assigned by program managers and project managers is therefore much easier when the project team does not necessarily have to adhere to their work approach. It is important that a single program or project can be viewed from different perspectives and with different tools, such as tabs, charts, lists or Kanban timelines. This means that everyone involved can stay on the same page while using tools that make them feel comfortable.
• Contextual partnership: Keeping track of each resource, update and request can be daunting. Browsing through emails and spreadsheets for details is a waste of time for both project managers and program managers. Keeping all program and project communications in a single thread that is readily available and understandable is therefore extremely useful.

When the right person is the program manager, this inevitably becomes a valuable asset for the project managers whose projects are part of the program.

The program manager will tailor the program to meet the organization’s most important financial objectives to ensure the success of projects in all aspects.

## Project Manager’s intuition: why it is important and how to improve it

Is a project manager’s intuition an innate gift or is it possible to improve it?

In recent years, the theme of intuition has been the key focus of many debates, research and articles, including in project management.

Intuition is increasingly recognized as a natural mental faculty, a key element in the creative process and a possible problem-solving factor.

Intuition is now recognized as an innate ability available to everyone, not a rare and accidental talent, but rather a natural ability that anyone can develop.

Intuition occurs and can be used in professional and personal life, can allow you to be productive and proactive in any situation and, above all, can improve the decision-making process.

## What do we mean by intuition?

Intuition is often represented by phrases such as “follow your heart” or “make a decision with your gut”. Doctors even talk about an “gut brain”. However, can a Project Manager rely on his gutsy to solve problems that could jeopardize an entire project?

What you need to know is that although the gut brain isn’t really thinking, it controls the digestive system and interacts with the brain through the nervous system.

So, it makes sense to let the gut, the intuition, partly influence some decisions in project management.

Intuition, in a nutshell, is when we simply “know” or perceive something, without thinking about it carefully or without collecting complete evidence.

Clearly, the margin of error can be large, so sometimes intuition can lead to disappointment.

So, you have to be careful: an intuition can be convincing but could lead you astray.

## Developing intuition

Intuition is supported by serenity, awareness, experience and training.

Intuition, even for project managers, can be improved by practicing the development of each of these aspects:

• Immobility and serenity;
• Awareness;
• Experience;
• Training;

### How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: Immobility and serenity

The first step towards intuition is doing nothing, especially during “high-pressure” moments.

You simply have to create a quiet moment for yourself, relax in a comfortable environment, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, clear your mind.

This does not mean that intuition occurs only during periods of absolute quiet, but this can also occur during a more stressful moment. However, when a stressful moment does not immediately occur, it is a good idea to create your own haven of serenity. It is mostly in periods of calm that it is much easier for intuition to present itself.

### How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: awareness

After having freed the mental space for intuition to occur, the next step is to pay attention.

How do you make decisions? How do different situations affect you physically and emotionally? How do you process the world around you? Situational and environmental factors impact the results.

Asking these questions helps you to be aware of what’s happening and leads to intuition. Ask these questions all the time and don’t let events stop you from thinking.

### How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: experience

Studies show that the more experience you have, the more likely you are to use intuition.

We have already seen how the experience and lessons learned are a very important source of advice for a project manager. It is not sufficient, however, to repeat blindly what has already happened in the past, the situations are never perfectly identical and the intuition of the PM plays a key role.

Therefore, one way to improve the intuition is to be patient and let “everything run”.

There are, however, some so-called experience accelerators that can help you develop your intuition more quickly. An experience accelerator, for example, translates into having a mentor.

Good mentors share their experiences so that they can be used to help understand what is happening and why.

Another accelerator of experience is putting yourself in a position that allows you to increase your knowledge and skills. Working on a larger project, a different type of project or even an uncomfortable project helps to increase the skill and knowledge of the PM. This momentum on new skills will also improve the development of intuition more quickly.

### How the Project Manager can develop the gift of intuition: training

Perhaps the most powerful experience accelerator is professional and personal development.

Participating in thought-defying sessions and working on developing one’s own human-side skills of change for a PM is crucial.

Studies show that people’s skills are related to the success of the project.

In addition, professional development is a great way to meet other project managers and establish a relationship. Sharing experiences and hearing how people have achieved their successes can be a great opportunity for discussion. These people can be considered as a kind of “one-day mentor”.

## For a project manager intuition is, in conclusion, a muscle that can be trained

Training one’s skills is, even in the case of intuition, a winning trick.

However, you have to be careful. A dangerous misconception about intuition is that it should not be used to make decisions without proper checks. Intuition can give us ideas and the information that comes from intuition should not be considered separately.

The best use of intuition is not to decide whether to do something on the basis of intuition alone, but simply to add information to what is already known and perceived.

Identifying how our intuitive faculty works allows us to use it selectively for effective decision-making.

A predominantly linear process may be preferable when clear and empirical information is available, but when only a few data are available, an intuitive process could be much more efficient.

It is worth learning the techniques by which intuitive data can be clearly separated from intellectual and emotional data.

Although you may not be familiar with the process, every decision you make to some extent always uses a person’s intuition, knowledge, judgment and feelings.

## The 4 sources of information to assess situations

By simplifying the complex psychological processes that take place every day, one can generally say that situations are evaluated on the basis of four sources of information:

1. What we you know about them – our own knowledge and memories.
2. What do we think of them – our own judgments and interpretations.
3. How we feel about the situation – our feelings and emotions.
4. What can we perceive about these situations – intuition.

If we believe in intuition, we will give our subconscious a cue to allow the decision making process to work also in an intuitive way.

For a project manager, scenario planning is a perfect approach to unleash intuition and test it.

Mentally analyzing different scenarios, positive and negative, will give the intuition a series of results to reflect on and a method to optimize the decision-making process.

That’s why the best project managers tend to be cold, careful and rational calculators, however intuition is what makes these PMs so exceptional.

## Project Management for start-ups: 5 key tips

Project management may seem very formal to those unfamiliar with the project. This is due to the fact that project management draws up a specific, seemingly inflexible process for starting, monitoring and closing a project. Everything is carried out according to a consolidated methodology.

For an entrepreneur or a start-up coordinator, the inflexibility of these project management systems may appear limiting. However, the need to have a framework around which to focus team and resources is critical to every business success.

As rigorous and formal as project management may seem, it can be adapted to the most diverse situations.

There are many ways, approaches and project management software, depending on the industry and type of project. In addition, there are always new ideas being released, including hybrid methodologies that achieve the best from two different worlds.

So, how entrepreneurs and start-up teams can get the most out of project management, regardless of the start-up environment or business life cycle?

## Project Management for start-ups: Kicking off with a vision

To employ project management effectively, one must start the project with a vision.

It is necessary to have a definite idea or objective on which the team can concentrate. In order to get somewhere, there must always be a destination and this destination must have a specific result that affects the organization.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs often strive to accomplish a million things simultaneously with a limited staff, so developing a vision is essential to ensure the success of the project.

How do you establish this vision?

You need to be specific and invest some time and energy to think about what you want to achieve and the impact you want to have.

It’s not enough to say something like “We want to make our business grow”.

To give the projects some meaning, you should take this general idea and fine-tune it. Saying something like “We want to grow our business by 10% this quarter by creating a new line of services for our existing customers” is already a more specific and limited vision in its scope.

This is a rather simple example, but the bottom line is that you have to switch from a vague idea to a specific set of objectives.

This applies to any type of activity, as all projects must be targeted, whatever the sector.

## Project Management for start-ups: Developing a plan

Once the specific goal or result has been achieved, the second step in implementing project management is to establish a plan.

Even though we have just said that we need a plan, we need to know that the creation of a plan to follow can have its drawbacks. Sticking to a plan that is too strict can lead to the freezing of the team, just like a pair of handcuffs. If you do not grant your team any flexibility in the work, in the end the plan can only be counterproductive.

Creating a plan is therefore essential, but you need to be flexible in its creation and application.

As a start-up entrepreneur, you need to be at ease with the changes.

There will always be changes and, especially when you start a new path, being able to rotate is the key to success.

Whatever plan you can think and create today, it will only be a starting point for where you will go in the future.

A plan must be drawn up with the objective in mind:

• Where are we going?
• When do we want to get there?
• What kind of resources do we need?
• What other factors are involved in the completion of this project?

So, the plan is important, but it can change.

For planning, you could create a time sequence of the project with milestones, or main stages of the project. It will be used to break down the steps or activities that need to be accomplished in order to complete the project in the allotted time.

Let’s not forget about flexibility, though.

## Project Management for start-ups: Executing the project

Now it’s time to move on to the project execution stage.

When people and organizations are not optimal, the first two steps we have talked about (vision and strategic plan) are often missed and progress is made directly to this execution phase.

When this happens, the problem is that you can’t ask yourself: “Why?”. For example, if you want to develop a new feature, you’d normally ask yourself, “Why do we want that new feature? Why do we want to create a new product?”

An inefficient organization (and start-ups can’t afford to be inefficient) that lacks a vision and a plan risks devoting a lot of time and resources to things that should never have received attention.

The actual execution stage of the project, when you have created a complete plan and worked backwards, starting from a deadline to create a realistic schedule and a list of activities, should not be hindered in any way.

Obviously, it is necessary to monitor and analyse the progress of the project to ensure that the benchmarks are met, including appropriate meetings.

## Project Management for start-ups: Monitoring the progress

• “Are the plans and milestones still relevant to achieving the goal or result?”
• “Are we early or late with regard to the milestones?”
• “Is the result still relevant to our business or are we just finalizing what we started?”

These are just a few examples of questions that a start-up project manager should constantly ask himself.

A project dashboard can be invaluable when it comes to keeping track of these numbers on a daily basis.

One obstacle that start-ups and entrepreneurs encounter is the reluctance to recognize and accept a faulty goal.

The best thing to do in such cases is to drop the things that need to be dropped. Knowing when to quit is some kind of art.

## Project Management for start-ups: Archiving the documentation

A good idea, especially in the case of a start-up, is to collect all the lessons learned in a framework that can be used for future projects.

Write down the factors and methods that worked and those that didn’t and state why.

You can collect communication programs, reports and other documents that can be used to create templates for future projects.

Creating a resource that helps to accelerate the kick-off of future projects is the key to a successful project.

The word start-up is often closely related to the concept of uncertainty.

Although this uncertainty provides fresh air for many new ideas and innovative cues, it can also lead to the fall of a start-up.

In general, however, if a start-up is able to think about projects structured in these simple five phases, the use of the principles of project management will certainly be easier and more streamlined.

## Project Audit: what it is and how to perform it

A project audit for a project manager is like a judgement day. That’s because work, time and money are at stake.

The word ‘audit’ may have a negative connotation sometimes, particularly for the one who’s subjected to it. Although it is not always a joyfully expected event, a project audit can lead to a positive result, regardless of whether a project manager overcomes it or not.

Let’s take a closer look at what this is about and how to perform it in the best possible way.

## What is a project audit?

A project audit is a formal review of a project, often intended to assess the extent to which project management standards are being upheld.

Audits are generally carried out by a specially designated audit department, the Project Management Office, an approved management committee or an external auditor.

Whoever is responsible for performing the audit must be in charge of the designated authority and issue related recommendations.

The final objective of a project audit is to ensure that the project meets the standards of project management through investigation and evaluation.

Below are the five main objectives of a project audit:

### 1. Ensure the quality of products and services

A project audit acts as a quality assurance tool. It reviews the project life cycle evaluating the results yielded during the different stages, from the design phase to implementation.

When reviewing the design phase, a project audit evaluates the thoroughness of the design concepts, including the analysis of alternative designs.

Furthermore, it is assessed whether the solution is ready for the pilot test and finally, during the implementation review, the project audit assesses and confirms the implementation at each site where the product is adopted.

The identification of the errors during the process contributes to the resolution of the problems and to understand if the project should continue through a go/no-go decision at each stage.

### 2. Ensure the quality of project management

A project audit ascertains that the project management satisfies the standards by assessing whether it complies with the organisation’s policies, processes and procedures. It evaluates the methodology used to help identify gaps in order to introduce the required improvements.

### 3. Identify the business risk

Project audits support the identification of business factors where risks may reside, which could affect budget, time, environment and quality.

After all, the organization itself is keen to achieve a positive outcome to the project.

The project audit assesses the feasibility of the project in terms of affordability and performance by providing transparency and assessing costs, time and resources.

Apply a review and equalization approach when it comes to controlling the budget, examining data that includes estimated and actual costs, as well as costs of meeting goals.

### 4. Improve project performance

The monitoring of the various phases of the project life cycle can contribute to the improvement of the project team’s performance.

The audit also helps to improve the budget and resource allocation.

Identifying priorities, corrective measures and preventive actions can lead to a positive project outcome.

The troubleshooting process allows the project team to provide solutions and helps prevent similar problems from recurring in the future.

### 5. Learn

A project audit can deliver learning opportunities through assessments of project management expertise.

Providing reviews and feedback allows individuals and project teams to ponder their own performance.

## Audit policies and activation procedures

In order to achieve the benefits expected from a project audit, each stage, element and outcome of the audit process must be clearly set out and openly disclosed, including:

• Audit mission statement: this document should clearly define the purposes, objectives, authority and limits of the audit operation, as well as the type of audits to be conducted.
• Specification of audit competencies: a detailed specification of the auditor’s skills and experience, showing that the audit staff possess adequate expertise to audit the project.
• Roles and responsibilities of the actors involved: a detailed statement of all the roles and responsibilities covered by the audit, both for the person conducting the audit and for the project team – including the project manager, team members, project sponsors, clients and any stakeholder.
• ‘Trigger’ audit criteria: a complete list of all the criteria on the basis of which projects will be selected for an audit. It would be too costly and time-consuming and would defeat the purpose of the audit process itself. Thus, specific criteria should be established to identify projects to be audited on the basis of risk, complexity, internal value, costs, etc.
• Audit start procedures: a description of the procedures for the initiation of the audit, including the process by which individual project managers are informed of an outstanding audit and the related preparation requirements.
• Audit execution procedures: a list of audit procedures that cover the methods to be used during the audit. This varies according to the type and timing of each audit, but may include personal interviews with project staff, document reviews, questionnaires and more.
• Audit reporting procedures: a specification of the audit reporting procedures, which covers how and the way in which the audit results will be reported and reviewed. In order to minimize the threatening nature of the project audit, all parties should be fully aware of how the results will be disclosed and used within the organization.
• Audit redress procedures: a specification of all procedures to be followed to appeal and/or dispute the reported audit results.

When one or more projects fail to successfully complete an audit, this does not necessarily mean that the project manager or team are at fault..

Perhaps the project management standards are not adequately scaled and tailored to the needs of the project or organization?

Maybe a lack of training or communication is the cause that led to the negative result?

Basically, project audits are rarely well received and are often controversial, but if performed correctly they provide unprecedented opportunities for learning from mistakes and the identification of important problems that would inevitably lead to the failure of the project.

## SIPOC diagram: what is it and how to use it to define the purpose of a project

The SIPOC diagram is one of the most widely used tools when working in the area of process improvement.

This diagram is, in fact, a simple tool that provides a top-level overview of a process or product using a visual form that can help the team in several ways.

Whether you are trying to better comprehend an ongoing process in its state or whether you are trying to define a new product or process, the implementation of a SIPOC diagram is a simple and effective solution, for a key aspect.

The real value of a SIPOC diagram lies in the ratio between time and return information.

The completion of the diagram takes a very short time – from an average of 30 minutes to an hour – and, once completed, it provides an enormous amount of information. But above all, it indicates the scope of the project or the process you are working on.

By the way… SIPOC stands for:

• Supplier
• Inputs
• Process
• Outputs
• Customers

## The key elements of a SIPOC diagram

It is vital to understand that all the company’s activities constitute a process. A process is defined by taking one or more inputs from the suppliers and creating outputs, regardless of whether it is a service or a product.

The graphic visualization of a SIPOC diagram simplifies immensely the understanding of these business processes, identifying the key components, namely suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs and customers.

Specifically:

• The supplier is whoever provides an input into the process.
• Inputs are the resources needed to execute the process.
• The process indicates the actual actions needed to transform the inputs into the desired outputs.
• Output is the actual product or service that the customer receives..
• The customer is whoever receives the output of the process.

## When should the SIPOC diagram be used?

Now let’s see when it is advisable to use the SIPOC diagram.

This tool is useful to focalize a discussion and help team members agree on a common language  and the understanding of a process for continuous improvement.

This diagram should be used when the process is being managed or an improvement activity is in progress as it is important to obtain first of all a high level understanding of the scope of the process.

The SIPOC diagram is particularly useful when the following are unclear:

• Who provides the input to the process?
• What specifications are set on the inputs?
• Who are the actual customers of the trial?
• What are the requirements of the customers?

## How to generate an effective SIPOC diagram

To generate an effective SIPOC diagram, a brainstorming session is required.

During a brainstorming session, participants can be asked to fill in the SIPOC diagram, starting with the central column, the process one.

The process column works in a simple way: ideally, it does not list more than five stages and each of them consists of an action and a subject.

Once the group agrees on how the process is carried out, it passes to the results and customers list of the process.

Then the group works “backwards” from the center of the diagram to identify inputs and suppliers.

Since SIPOC diagrams are often approached in this way, they are sometimes referred to as POCIS diagrams, in the order in which the various points are analyzed.

But why does one work on the diagram in this way?

The SIPOC diagram is an advanced overview of the existing process and in a stationary manner.

The POCIS diagram, on the other hand, is an advanced level overview of an optimized process.

It is often used in projects to visualize, and possibly rationalize, a business process from the customer’s perspective.

This approach is usually limited to the scope of a single project and, typically, also to a single process.

## The stages for creating the SIPOC diagram

1. The first stage is to establish the name or title of the process
2. The second stage is to define the starting point and the end point of the process to be improved.
3. The third stage is to establish the higher-level stages of the process. It is advisable to keep the list within the four to eight main steps.
4. The fourth stage is to list the key outputs of the process. Usually, this list includes up to three or four main outputs, although the process may generate more of them.
5. The fifth stage is to define who receives these results or outputs, i.e. the customers. These customers can be internal or external to the organization.
6. The sixth stage is to list the inputs to be processed.
7. In the seventh stage it is defined who provides the inputs to the process.

To further clarify the use of the SICOP diagram, let’s consider a simple example, outside the normal business processes and with an easy approach: the creation of a smoothie 😊

## The practical creation of a SIPOC Diagram

To begin with, you create a table with five columns corresponding to the five words that make up the SIPOC acronym, as shown in the previous table.

First, we have the supplier who has the duty to create a smoothie for a customer. To do this, one must have a smoothie maker, a shop owner where that person works, a kitchen manager and someone in charge of the orders.

This leads to inputs, i.e. first the request or the order of the smoothie, then there is the recipe needed to prepare it, the receipt to legally certify the sale, the counter to interact with the customer and, of course, every ingredient needed to create the smoothie.

Now we get to the part dedicated to the process: the process begins with the reception and preparation of the order and the ingredients, which must be cleaned, cut and sorted. Then the ingredients are mixed as required by the recipe.

The output of this process is the completed purchase and – hopefully – a delicious smoothie and a happy customer.

This finally brings us to the customer who walked into the store with a need: in this case, hunger. However, customers are also the milkshaker and even the shop owner, who becomes a customer when he buys the ingredients.

As you can see in the example, all elements of the SIPOC diagram – suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs and customers – have been considered at a very high level.

This is the ultimate purpose of a SIPOC diagram that can be applied in any industry and to any process.

## Gap Analysis: how it can improve project management

The Gap Analysis is a highly effective method used to determine whether the project is progressing as planned.

You can plan whatever you want, but once you have executed the plan, if you don’t have a method or tool to assess whether you are meeting the requirements of the project, then you may experience problems.i.

Understanding the actual performance of a project compared to desirable and planned performance means knowing when a project is going overboard.

This knowledge is essential to pinpoint a problem and implement the necessary measures to solve it.

The Gap Analysis is a relatively simple tool that helps to assess and increase the level of performance of a project.

Its in-depth knowledge and the best use of it can be of great benefit to any project management process.

## What is gap analysis?

Gap analysis is a full-fledged study about how an organisation or project is currently progressing and where it is intended to lead in the future.

There are various perspectives that can be analyzed, from business management to business processes, from information technology to product management.

Factors that affect performance include resource planning, capital investment, technology, etc., but they also impact on the future.

To do this, it is necessary to establish, record and improve the difference between current requirements and capabilities.

## What shortcomings can gap analysis detect?

What gap analysis does, is to provide a way to measure investments in time, money and human resources needed to achieve a result.

There are a number of different gaps and results that gap analysis can identify and address. Let’s see which ones. The analysis can:

• be used to classify how a product meets specific requirements.
• also help identify deficiencies in the market. It can compare the expected profits with the desired profits and thus reveal a planning gap.
• be used to analyze a usage gap. The usage gap is the difference between potential usage on the market and the existing one. This analysis is based on in-depth marketing research and occasionally data from government or industry studies.
• also detect a product gap, such as the lack of certain features required by a customer base.

## How to perform a gap analysis

There are four basic steps to follow when performing a gap analysis. Here are the following:

### 1. Identify the current status

The first step is to know where you are at this moment. Therefore, we must be clear about what is now being described. This means gathering qualitative and quantitative information, that is, everything that can be accounted for and measured. The more data and information is collected, the clearer the picture of the current state is.

### 2. Identify where you want to head – the goal

The point of a gap analysis is to understand where you want to head and if you are on the right track to get there. Is this the desired state or the future goal? To get there you need to know the current state and what are the reasonable lengths required to get from there to the goal you set yourself. It is therefore necessary to focus on that future point to which we are aiming: to think about what must happen to achieve it, what must not happen and what must change to achieve the goal.

### 3. Recognise shortcomings – gaps

If you are where you are and not where you want to head, the space between these two points is the space you need to fill to reach your goal. The shortcomings are identified when you want to understand why this gap exists and why it occurred. Some questions that can be asked in this context are, for example:

1. What critical decisions have led to this?
2. What else could we have done differently?
3. What resources are needed to achieve the goal?
4. Should new goals be set to close the gap?

### 4. Bridging the gap

Following the analysis, it’s time for action. We know why there is a gap and it is time to figure out a way to bridge it.

In order to do so, it is necessary to take into account the implementation costs for each solution and to understand the date when the gap will be bridged. Without a fixed date, in fact, this task could end up being neglected or ignored.

To carry out a gap analysis, a project management software with the proper functionality can help. If you haven’t already done so, you can try TwProject now and for free for 15 days

After all the work has been carried out – i.e. the regular monitoring of changes – the follow-through must not be neglected, i.e. the assessment that everything is proceeding as it should. Otherwise, there is a risk that solutions designed and implemented so thoroughly will not be successful.

It is also important not to try to bridge too many gaps at once. Sometimes the gaps are interrelated and it is easy to do so, but other times you might end up “stressing” the organization and you might end up getting an unsatisfactory job.

In conclusion, the application of gap analysis in project management helps to identify what needs to be done in accordance with the objectives of the organisation in general and the project in particular. Learning to do it consistently and correctly is a priority for any project manager.

## Lean Manufacturing – what it is and how to manage it

Lean manufacturing, in Italian “lean production”, deals with one of the worst things that can happen to any organization: the wastes.

Not taking full advantage of all resources means losing efficiency and, in the worst cases, even halting the production.

These neglected resources cover everything from production project management tools to the skills of staff members.

The industry in general is obviously crammed with waste. Whether they are inactive workers or unused materials that cannot be recycled or reused, the results are the same: a hindrance to productivity.

This emphasis on eliminating waste is where the idea of lean manufacturing as a management system developed.

The lessons learnt from this methodology can be universally applied.

Lean manufacturing principles can help business processes achieve efficiencies and, as a result, become more effective and competitive in any market.

## Key principles of lean manufacturing

There are several key principles in lean manufacturing and their lack of understanding and correct implementation may result in ineffectiveness of the process.

This commitment must be embraced by the leaders and communicated to the entire organization.

Full understanding and commitment to lean principles will promote a common approach and strategy throughout the organization.

So let’s see what the key principles of lean manufacturing are and how to implement them.

## Elimination of the 7 wastes

One of the most critical and fundamental principles of lean production is the elimination of waste and many of the other principles that revolve around this concept.

There are 7 basic types of waste in production:

• Overproduction
• Waste of movements
• Inventory waste
• Defect production
• Waste of standby
• Waste of transportation
• Waste of excessive processing

Eliminating this wastage allows the company to focus on key activities and added value for the customer.

Every principle of Lean Manufacturing is, in the end, oriented to give more value to the final customer.

### Continuous improvement – Kaizen

Continuous improvement – commonly referred to by the Japanese word “kaizen” – is also one of the most critical principles of lean production.

Without continuous improvement, the progress would stop.

As the name suggests, continuous improvement promotes constant and necessary changes towards the achievement of a desired state.

Continuous improvement should be a widespread mentality at all levels of an organization.

### Respect for people

The most valuable resource for any company is the people who work for it and for this reason one of the lean principles regards precisely the workers.

Without people, organizations cannot be successful.

This approach allows the company to leverage and use the collective problem-solving capabilities of employees to help improve.

When people do not feel respected, they tend to lose respect for the organization. Team members need to feel safe, protected and challenged in their job.

An organization that supports respect for the philosophy of humanity would appreciate and value the efforts of its workers.

### Leveled production – Heijunka

The basis of this principle is that the workload is the same – and therefore at the same level – every day.

Most manufacturing companies are wrongly at the mercy of their customers for their orders. Before they produce the product, they wait for orders and this leads to an increase in delivery times that may not meet the needs of customers.

At the other end of the spectrum, some companies may produce based strictly on a forecast. This can result in over-production that is not requested by the customer.

Leveled production takes into account both forecasting and order history.

### Just In Time Production – JIT

The fundament of the “Just in Time” principle is to build what is required, when it is required and in the required quantity.

In combination with leveled production, this principle allows the movement and production of parts only when required.

This means that the components are not used in the unnecessary product and no time is wasted in building unsaleable products.

The JIT principle uses continuous flow and time to match the production directly to the pace of customer sales.

### Integrated quality – Jidoka

The idea behind this principle is that quality should be integrated into the production process.

Quality is integrated into the design of the piece, the packaging and all areas of the product, from the design to the shipping.

The Jidoka principle adds quality to the process through detection or prevention.

Each lean manufacturing process will be planned to highlight any anomalies so that the employee can interrupt the process.

Halting the process so that the problem can be resolved is a key part of Jidoka’s lean principle.

## Lean Manufacturing’s objectives

Reducing or eliminating waste is therefore essential to support project management. Let’s see what are Lean Manufacturing‘s final objectives:

• Improve quality: In order to remain competitive, organizations cannot be complacent, but must meet the changing needs and desires of customers. Therefore, processes must be designed to meet their expectations and requirements.
• Eliminate waste: waste is detrimental to costs, time and resources without adding value to a product or service.
• Shorten timeframes: Time is money, as the saying goes, and wasting time means wasting money. Shortening the time it takes to start and finish a project will create value by adding efficiencies.
• Reduce total costs: Money is saved when an organization does not waste time, materials and personnel in unnecessary activities. Overproduction also increases storage and warehousing costs. Understanding the triple constraint is the first step towards the understanding of cost management.

## Predictive analysis of project schedule and costs

Certainly, predictive analysis is not an easy thing to perform.

However, making the right predictions about project schedules and costs will save the organization money and offer greater results.

However, how is it possible to make an accurate and realistic predictive analysis of project schedules and costs?

The answer is quite straightforward: get the right data!

With the right data, you can predict future business results more accurately.

However, successfully implementing predictive analysis remains a big challenge, especially for small businesses with limited data management resources.

Collecting, organizing, and archiving the correct data are key prerequisites for the adoption of predictive analysis. Otherwise, wrong business decisions will almost certainly be taken.

## What is a predictive analysis?

The predictive analysis is defined as a form of advanced analysis that examines data or content to answer questions such as “What’s likely to happen?”.

Predictive analysis uses historical data, artificial intelligence and automated learning to predict future outcomes.

There are solutions that employ statistical tools such as regression analysis, data modelling, forecasting and statistics to answer questions about what is likely to happen in the future.

## 5 steps to begin a predictive analysis of project schedules and costs

To make sure you are generating the kind of data you need to get the right predictive analysis, you need to create a data-based knowledge within your organization.

Here, therefore, are the 5 steps that will guide the project manager in the preparation of a predictive analysis of project schedules and costs:

### 1. Define the business result you want to achieve

Predictive analysis, as we have said, allows you to visualize future results. Clearly defined objectives help to customize the solutions to be implemented to achieve better results.

However, there is the possibility of realising that the existing data is not sufficient to answer the questions that concern us. In these cases, you will have to work to collect relevant data for a given period of time or edit the questions to address the same issue from a different perspective.

### 2. Collect relevant data from all available sources

By now, you know it well, the models of predictive analysis are data-driven.

It is important, therefore, to also identify the sources through which to find the right data to answer the questions that relate to the business challenge.

Storing the data in a spreadsheet and then inserting it into predictive models, for example, can be a tedious, risky and in many cases impossible process. Instead, using special applications, sometimes also included in project management software (link to the Homepage), can be the ideal solution for archiving and processing relevant data.

These tools also provide the ability to store large amounts of data – often in cloud, helping to save IT infrastructure costs – in an orderly manner. This means one can use data mining tools to get relevant data from multiple sources.

### 3. Improve data quality by using data cleaning techniques

Garbage in, garbage out” is a terminology of the industry that refers to the fact that low quality inputs in turn generate poor output values.

Predictive analysis will be inaccurate if input data is bad. It is therefore necessary to ensure that team members, stakeholders, or whoever is responsible for data entry, log the correct data values in the specified and agreed format. This will help to reduce the time needed to clean and format the data.

Duplicate records should also be prevented and corrected, and data normalised to ensure consistency in the records.

Most project management software solutions offer data cleaning capabilities such as: data deletion, data standardization, data harmonization and data profiling.

### 4. Create predictive analysis templates to test data or choose one correctly

Building one’s own predictive analysis model requires experience in the field of project management and in science and data management.

A project manager will probably need the help of a data scientist or someone who possesses advanced analytical skills to create predictive models from scratch.

One way, if one does not possess adequate internal resources, is to outsource this work to a consulting firm that provides analysis services. However, if cost problems prevent a small business from employing experts, there are many software tools available with integrated features of predictive modeling tools.

Although these tools may not offer the advanced knowledge that an expert data scientist can provide, they still deliver integrated predictive models, are easy to use and certainly come at a lower cost.

Software with predictive analysis of project schedules and costs can be a good starting point for small businesses looking to make predictions. You can try TwProject for free for 15 days and if you don’t know how to use it, receive help from our support team.

### 5. Evaluate and validate the predictive model to ensure soundness

To verify the chosen model, the evaluation and validation of the predictive model with alternative datasets allows the identification of weak points in the model, as well as ensuring that the model works well in different scenarios.

But this is not the only technique available. There are several techniques for validating predictive models, such as cross-validation, regression validation and many more.

Even if you are unfamiliar with these techniques, nowadays most predictive analysis tools offer model validation capabilities within the software.

Incorporating predictive models into business processes and using the results, will be helpful and to make better business decisions.

## Predictive Analysis: Conclusions

The implementation of predictive modeling tools is not free of obstacles. Here are some of the challenges that a project manager may face:

Predictive analysis foresees the probability of an event, not its certainty

Although you may want the data to help you make certain and accurate predictions, what you can actually predict is the probability of an event. All predictions, including those based on the correct and relevant data, always leave some room for error or uncertainty.

Therefore, the final call to any business decision should be based on a set of elements and should not be limited to one aspect.

Creating predictive analyses can take quite some time

Predictive analysis cannot be implemented overnight. Building and implementing sound and effective predictive models can take months, depending on the level of expertise and knowledge of the individuals involved.

What’s important to note is that robust and reusable predictive models provide long-term gains and cost savings.

The adoption of predictive analysis implies some costs

In addition to the cost of any project management software that includes a predictive analysis tool, the cost of training team members who will have a direct role in performing predictive analysis should be taken into account.

It is possible to begin by identifying business cases where predictive analysis has already been successfully used and adapting it to new situations.

The tip we can suggest especially to non-experienced project managers is to start experimenting with predictive analysis on a small scale and expand further as experience is gained and favourable results are achieved.

## Corporate Governance: what it is and how it can impact on the implementation of a project

Making a profit is the primary goal of any for-profit organization and each individual company is run by its own set of standards and practices.

Said standards and practices are called Corporate Governance and affect any project that is carried out by the organization in question.

When managing a project, it is easy to lose track of the overall picture and focus exclusively on the success of the individual project. Of course, the success of a single project cannot match the business success, there are other factors at stake.

All these factors are accounted for and calculated in Corporate Governance.

We therefore try to get to know it better. We learn what it is about and what it can do about project management.

## What is Corporate Governance?

Corporate governance is a set of rules, practices and processes that are used by an organization to manage and control its actions..

It is a way to offer a balance between the different corporate entities, such as stakeholders, management, customers, suppliers, funders, government and communities.

Corporate Governance can be considered as the framework through which an organisation achieves its goals.

This includes action plans, internal controls, performance measurements and corporate disclosure.

The main arbitrators in corporate governance are the board of directors of any organization.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the board of directors is elected by the shareholders who represent the property. Sometimes members are appointed by other members of the board of directors to represent shareholders.

Some of their responsibilities are to make important decisions, such as the naming of company directors and the compensation of company directors.

However, as a representative of the property, the assignment goes far beyond the financial one and may also cover social or environmental concerns.

In a nutshell, the board of directors considers all decisions that will have an impact on employees, customers, suppliers, communities and shareholders.

The board of directors is not executive and is not directly involved in the day-to-day operations of an organisation, but is responsible for the supervision and planning, two cornerstones of corporate governance.

Clearly, the board of directors can delegate certain tasks to the various department heads and project managers, who have the time and resources to immerse themselves deeply in the issues that require expertise. They will then report regularly to the board of directors on their actions and conclusions.

## Positive and negative effects of corporate governance

Corporate governance can affect an organisation positively or negatively.

If corporate governance questions the organisation’s reliability, integrity or obligations to its shareholders, it is a problem that may lead to financial consequences.

For instance, if illegal operations and acts are carried out, this will result in a scandal, a situation that has plagued many major companies in the past. This will, at best, lead to a loss of trust in a brand and, at worst, to the shutdown of the organisation.

If organizations do not take control seriously or choose to be audited by an untrustworthy or unqualified auditor, the resulting financial reporting may be inaccurate or non-compliant. The outcomes will be dramatic.

A poorly structured board that misdirects will make change and the right choices difficult.

However, corporate governance creates a standard by which an organization can be measured against transparent metrics.

In this way, shareholders, directors, officers and managers are given clear direction and are encouraged to act in accordance with the rules.

## How does corporate governance affect the success of a project?

Corporate governance is more than just a device for controlling a company. It is also beneficial at the project level, as it provides oversight of compliance. It mitigates risks and provides guidance and direction for project managers.

By offering an ethical standard or moral choice, when making a decision, it can represent a broader context and vision, rather than focusing only within the boundaries within which the project operates.

On the other hand, there are also problems, especially when working in a flexible environment in which being able to act quickly is the essential fulcrum.

Corporate governance is a slow process that often involves many bureaucratic quibbles before decisions are actually made.

However, there is a reason for this slowness: these decisions can affect not only a single project, but the organization in general.

A project manager may find himself frustrated by bureaucracy if he is used to making decisions quickly but must bear in mind that that bureaucratic slowness can be the salvation of his company.

The same problems can arise if additional funding or a change in planning is needed. Money can be a difficult key point to be addressed when controlled by a board of directors.

## Corporate Governance: conclusions

In conclusion, a good corporate governance can help to lead a complex project, depending on the degree of organisational impact and the number of actors involved.

Without a strong corporate governance, projects can be affected by the inability to ensure a dedicated allocation of resources, vision problems, actions and risks, delays in decision-making, lack of stakeholder feedback and poor visibility of the importance of the project at the executive level.

That said, corporate governance is most often a model that has been built for a greater good than the individual project, an asset that is brought to the organizational level. The project will have to find its place within this framework to live and prosper in this environment.

The project, substantially, must create opportunities within the organization and corporate governance must monitor the general welfare of the company. The best thing any project manager can do, therefore, is to become intimate and know how to interact with the corporate governance.

## Product roadmap: How to best design it

The roadmap of a product is actually more than an unimportant detail to which you do not pay much attention. A few simple reflections are enough to change your mind quickly.

It is well known that rapidly evolving technology requires companies to innovate more rapidly and to introduce new products to the market even faster.

But good ideas do not always guarantee good products and development teams are often hindered by delayed decisions.

A product roadmap can therefore help you avoid these problems and create a market plan oriented to the future.

## What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap offers a broad overview of all aspects of a product: goals, timeline, features, resources, etc.

The roadmap indicates, in essence, what a development team is building, the problem that technology or software will solve and the business goals that the new product will reach.

But an effective roadmap will also act as a project management tool in two main ways:

• is a strategic tool thanks to which it is possible to achieve long-term goals and approximate times for the product,
• can improve communication by providing a place where more interested parties can evaluate the product’s objectives and the progress achieved.

Product roadmaps provide internal teams and other stakeholders,  information on the current status of a product.

Moreover, the roadmap should also establish clear expectations about how the product will develop in the following months.

The person responsible for creating the product roadmap should take into consideration existing technological trends, market conditions, engineering constraints, and the organization’s value proposition.

## How to create a product roadmap in 5 steps

Now let’s look at the 5 key steps to create a product roadmap.

### 1. Define the product strategy

A product strategy creates the general framework in which the creation of the product will move.

For example, in order to enable the organization to invest in product development, stakeholders expect answers to questions like:

• Which customers will use the product?
• What problems will it solve?
• What business goals will be pursued?

We also recommend that you include the main differences that distinguish this from other similar products already present on the market.

### 2. Collect the requirements

There are three main groups from which information can be gathered to define the requirements:

• Speak directly with the sales and customer support team. These departments know first-hand what the needs of the outside world are and probably have customer feedbacks that can help to prioritize new features. Moreover, their intuition can provide ideas on what to consider for future product versions.
• Interact directly with the product user community, so valuable information can be obtained from enthusiasts and experts who already spend much time using the product.
• Finally, there is direct knowledge of the product. Undoubtedly, the project manager has a deep knowledge of the functionality of the product, its characteristics, and its limits. The project manager can therefore think which components are most vital to customers. Once identified, he can concentrate on solutions to improve any weaknesses.

### 3. Allocate a large amount of time to the initiatives

The level of detail of the roadmap must leave room for innovation and agile responsiveness.

Setting strict deadlines could lead to promising a result that it is impossible to maintain.

Therefore, instead of indicating specific dates, many product managers choose to track initiatives on a monthly or quarterly basis. Alternatively, you can choose to completely omit the dates.

### 4. Customize the roadmap for interested parties

The success of a product depends on the participation of other internal teams and stakeholders as well.

To have more chances to persuade the interested parties, a solution is the personalization of the roadmap, therefore presenting details for every particular interest.

Here are some common internal stakeholders and the information they generally want in a product roadmap:

• Company executives: all the elements outlined in the product strategy, as well as all the data relating to the size of the market.
• Marketing Department: product features, comparison between the product and similar products on the market, and product potential to generate sales.
• Sales Department: release dates and specifications on the benefits that the product offers to customers.

### 5. Share the product roadmap

Sharing the roadmap has several advantages. In addition to encouraging the involvement of the team and obtaining the support of the top management, the roadmap communicates all the progress that has been made and sets the expectations for the subsequent phases.

Ultimately, the product roadmap will help developers create the best possible product.

To manage and share a product roadmap, there are several project management softwares that allow you to do it. TWproject is one of them and you can try it for free by clicking here.

You will realize how simple it is to manage everything from a single platform. From adding data to managing deadlines, from changing an activity to sharing it with all stakeholders.

## Project roadmap: What it is and why it is important

Let’s see what a project roadmap is before going into the detailed explanation.

A roadmap, also called a project roadmap, is a strategic business planning tool mostly used to outline the future vision of a system, service, or product.

This will show what changes and developments are needed to get there and will display the outputs that are expected to be delivered in a specific time period.

A project roadmap is often used in an organization that follows the Agile methodology and will help stakeholders visualize where and when planned changes are likely to occur.

## Why is a roadmap important?

If you are wondering why a project roadmap is so important, we will try to explain it with an example.

Imagine working on a puzzle: We know that in some way the pieces are all part of a whole, but we are not sure where to focus on initially. All the pieces seem random at the beginning and therefore slowly, but surely, a strategy is being implemented. An attack plan to solve the puzzle.

Some could start by putting all the individual pieces of the frame in place, others could start from the center. As you get more and more pieces in their place, you start to see the full picture.

Now, let’s imagine working on the puzzle with other people: How can you be sure that all are aligned and working towards the same goal?

This is essentially why a project roadmap is important.

Unpacking the puzzle into smaller areas to focus on allows you to facilitate and speed up the process, creating a solid foundation for tracking progress as you go.

The roadmap is essentially the action strategy. By setting up a strategy, you should be able to reach the final result more quickly than with a random or unplanned actions.

## How do you create a project roadmap?

Planning a roadmap is a continuous process and you have to take the time to define it and update it. The roadmap is constantly evolving as the aspect of the future vision of the project evolves. It is thanks to this evolution that we should minimize those situations of “because I didn’t know” that can do so much damage to the final result.

There are a series of steps you can follow to define a project roadmap.

### Identify interested parties

Starting from scratch, identifying the main end users and stakeholders is crucial. By knowing who to contact, it is possible to research what is important for the project activity.

Some priorities will be so important and critical for the organization that their timing will already be set. For everything else, it is possible to be creative.

An idea is to organize a meeting with the stakeholders and in this session encourage people to be open and transparent, keeping everyone focused on what is best for the organization in general and not on individual departments or teams.

The aim here is to obtain general coordination on what to consider as a priority based on a descending order. By involving stakeholders in defining the project roadmap, it is possible to actively integrate them into the future vision.

The roadmaps can be represented in different dimensions and formats, covering the themes, priorities, and goals that are intended to be achieved.

As mentioned above, these plans are always subject to change, but the purpose is to make them simple enough to adjust and change over time.

The important thing is always to have a good visualization of the whole; therefore, also the imagination of the PM is important. For example, a procedure that could be useful for displaying a project roadmap, is the possibility to group the elements related to a theme in a column and to scroll the time scale in the upper part. The individual results – or mini-projects – will thus become the intermediate cells, and the visualization of the “to do” tasks will be simple.

### Communication

After building a project roadmap, you can analyse it with the main stakeholders in order to get the final approval.

Also, you can make further changes based on the suggestions received. Moreover, ensuring that everyone has adhered to the process and the vision, will mean that that the PM and the team can concentrate and focus their efforts only on delivery.

Renewing the roadmap regularly or, in any case, comparing the plan with the progress of the project on a regular basis remains a necessary operation.

To conclude, here is a schematic process that can be used to trace an efficient project roadmap:

1. Set the timeline
a. How far do you want to arrive with the roadmap (1 month, 6 months, 1 year, etc.)?
b. Make sure this is a significant period of time, i.e. don’t go too far in the future.
2. Establish workflows
a. Where are the areas of focus: On resources or budget? Knowing this helps to communicate to interested parties where the activity is concentrated.
3. Process high-level activities within each workflow
a. Keep the level of detail low. For example: if the entire time sequence lasts 12 months, do not include activities lasting less than 1 month
b. Maintain a realistic image, this means: Do not overload any workflow.
4. If high-risk areas are present, add labels, such as:
a. Resource / constraint / risk issues
b. Financial issues / constraints / risks
5. Enter key milestones
a. In a timeline at the top of the roadmap, add indicators for important dates
b. Keep these dates realistic
c. Leave some contingency
d. If a date or milestone is indicative, it is necessary to indicate it
6. Clearly highlight the status of the document
a. If it is “draft”, it must be clearly labelled at the top of the document
b. Give a version number

This, of course, is just one of the possible examples in order to develop a project roadmap.

The process can vary depending on the size of the organization, depending on the priorities, and even according to the responsibilities within the company.

## Profitability of a project: how to evaluate it concretely

Is the project you are realizing profitable or not? How is it possible to measure the profitability of a project? Every organization should estimate whether its project is profitable or not. However, determining profit is not an easy task.

Many project managers can be surprised to discover that all their hard work is leading to unprofitable projects.

Let’s see then what are the elements to consider in order to understand if a project can be profitable or not and, then, how to concretely calculate the profitability of a project.

## 7 key points for the profitability of a project

To assess whether a project is affordable (profitable) or not, we can start from 7 key points.

Each of these points is essential and a good PM should always keep them in mind.

Staying competitive is clearly a key element that will affect the organization’s activity.

The key performance indicators of the organization in general are important to understand in order to increase the profitability of the company and to understand the role of the specific project based on the key company goals.

### Structured installation

Each project should be set up in such a way as to allow efficient management from the beginning and throughout its life cycle.

This means defining a set of goals for each project and reflecting this in a basic project budget.

This will be the control point for all project costs.

### Cost control

It will be possible to keep track of the costs – and therefore the profitability – of the project only if a basic budget has been defined.

In all projects, the priority should be to control the actual costs and balance them with the estimated costs in the budget.

### Always keep track of the scope of the project

You can easily lose track of the project’s scope, due to new customer needs and changes.

If the project has a fixed price, any activity that is not part of the original scope will involve additional efforts and costs, for which the team will not be paid.

And this will instantly affect the general profitability of the project.

### Increase transparency and communication

As we have discussed in several previous articles, we know that communication and transparency are the basis of a successful and, therefore, profitable project.

This can be a problem in the case of organizations that still rely on manual or dated methods to organize their data.

Moreover, project performance is difficult to predict when there is no clarity between departments and teams.

### Evaluate regularly

It is necessary to evaluate each project in relation to the basic budget, this will allow to avoid and foresee delays and risks.

It is very important to manage upcoming costs and add costs as they occur, as this will provide a clear idea of the total costs to completion.

### Use project management tools

Many project management tools are very effective. If you have never used one before, we recommend trying TWproject for free.

This type of technology will make it possible to have a single point from which control all the costs of the project.

Moreover, thanks to these tools it will be possible to obtain faster and more precise project reports.

## How to measure the profitability of a project

To concretely measure the profitability of a project, there are several methods that can be taken into consideration. Let’s see which they are.

### Present value of future cash flows

A determining factor in calculating the profitability index is the present value of future cash flows that the investment, and therefore the project, should return.

The current value formula measures the current value of a future amount that has to received, given a specific period of time and interest rate.

The current value can be calculated with the formula: Vp = Vf / (1 + r) n

where

Vp = Present value

Vf = Future value

r = Interest rate

n = Number of years

For example, if an investment is expected to return 100,000 euros in 3 years with an interest rate of 3.5%, the calculation of the present value will be similar to this:

Vp = 100.000 / (1 + 0,035) 3 = 100.000 / 1,109 = 90.194,27 euro

The calculation shows that € 90,194.27 invested today at an annual interest rate of 3.5% will be worth € 100,000 in three years.

### Net present value

The net present value, or NPV, is the present value of future cash flows deriving from the investment, less the amount invested.

This number shows the difference between what the company has to spend to get the desired return and what it is actually going to spend.

The NPV uses the time value of money to determine whether the amount spent today to provide a future return will result in a profit or not.

For example: If the actual amount invested is 85,000 euros and the present value of future cash flows is 90,194.27 euros, the NPV corresponds to 90,194.27-85,000, or 5,194.27 euros.

The positive NPV therefore shows that the investment will produce a profit. If the NPV turns out to be negative, it means that the project is not profitable.

### Profitability index

Investments with high profitability indexes can help an organization to get the maximum profit with a minimum investment.

While the NPV shows whether the investment will produce a profit (positive NPV) or a loss (negative NPV), the profitability index shows the degree of profit or loss.

Project managers can use the current value of future cash flows (PV) or net present value (NPV) to calculate the profitability index.

Profitability index = (PV / invested amount) = 1 + (NPV / invested amount)

Using the previous example: An organization plans to receive 100,000 euros in three years on an investment of 85,000 euros.

The interest rate should remain at 3.5 percent for those three years.

Profitability index (PV) = (90.194,27 / 85.000) = 1.061

Profitability index (VAN) = 1 + (5.194,27 / 85.000) = 1.061

A profitability index of 1.061 would probably be considered a marginal investment.

If the time interval was extended from three to five years, the calculation would be:

Vp = 100,000 / (1 + 0,035) 5 = 100,000 / 1,188 = 84,197.32 euros

and the calculation of the profitability index would therefore be:

Profitability index (PV) = (84.197,32 / 85,000) = 0.991

making it a slightly losing investment.

As a general rule: If the result is greater than 1, the project will generate value and the organization should proceed with the project. If the result is less than 1, the project destroys value and the organization should not proceed with the project. If instead the result obtained is equal to 1, the project can be interrupted since it brings neither a gain nor a loss and the organization is totally indifferent.

Clearly, the higher the profitability index, the more attractive the investment.

Before proceeding with a project, whatever it is, it is important that the project manager has carried out at least one of these analyses.

Without a proper profitability calculation of the project, it will be like stepping into a forest in total darkness without knowing where the path will lead.