the sipoc diagram

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.

sipoc diagram

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.

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gap analysis

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?

the gap analysis

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.

 

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lean manufactoring

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.
the lean manufactoring

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.

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predictive analysis

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.

What is important is that predictive analysis can help you find solutions to different business challenges and help you achieve your business goals.

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.
the predictive analysis

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.

 

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corporate governance

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.
the corporate governance

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.

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product roadmap

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.
the product roadmap

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.

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

the project roadmap

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.
project roadmap

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.

Establish business priorities

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.

View the project roadmap

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.

Project roadmap: Conclusions

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.

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project profitability

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.

Hidden business management

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.
the project profitability

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.

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the project killers

Project Killer: the 6 main reasons for the failure of a project

The project killers are always around the corner.

What we can do as a project manager is to understand when we are not working in the most effective way on a project with our team.

Between rapidly evolving technology and intense programs, it is easy to use outdated or incorrect practices that kill the efficiency of the team and, consequently, the project in general.

Here is a list of the 6 main reasons for the failure of a project and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

Project Killer n°1: Unrealistic deadlines

Nobody can argue on this: Deadlines are important. However, the most important part of the deadlines is to respect them by keeping your feet firmly on the ground.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Find out how many people will work on a project: This information will help provide a more realistic estimate of time.
  • Ensure that team members know exactly who will work on which project task and for how long. In this way, the time spent on personal vacations, illnesses, and other possible interference will not ruin the program.

It is important to find a good estimate of how long the project should last in hours, or at least in days or months. Once this estimate is obtained, a so called emergency time must be added.

If it is a project that has already been implemented several times, 5% more of the time may be sufficient.

If it is a new project, it may be necessary to add up to 50% of the initial estimate, depending on the type of project and sector.

Unexpected surprises always happen, so it is important to always have some extra time in case of sudden problems.

Moreover, unrealistic deadlines often involve too long time frames.

If you have a distant deadline, you might run into the mistake of postponing too long.

A key tip here is:

When the timeline of a project is underestimated, the result is much more serious than a simple deadline missed in the calendar.

An example? Workers must be paid for longer working hours and the budget will go beyond what was initially planned.

Project Killer n°2: Scope Creep

Almost 75% of project managers think their project is doomed from the start. Why? The main reason is the too frequent change in the scope and requirements of the project.

How can you expect the team members to carry out the activities when the project scope and the results are not clear?

In the absence of a document that formalizes the scope of the project, it is not possible to assign activities, let alone monitor the performance of one’s team, because, first of all, the scope of the project is not clear.

Having this detailed document that highlights all the requirements of the stakeholders, is indispensable for the success of a project, as it allows the team members to understand what they have to do and establish a clear direction to follow and a goal to reach.

The scope is simply the overview of what a project will provide.

Project Killer n°3: Wrong information

If you do not know an answer, you should definitely not give – to a superior, customer, or anyone else – information that may be incorrect.

If the project manager is not sure of the timing of a project, before giving a response, he should consult with the team that will be responsible for carrying out the activities.

It is better to say “I don’t know” or “I need more information” rather than providing information that has a high probability of being wrong.

In this case, selecting the right project manager and forming a competent team is essential for the success of the project.

Project Killer n°4: Bad monitoring and risk management

In today’s world, change is happening faster than ever.

So, everybody should expect possible changes in the requirements or the presence of contingencies, problems, and risks during the life cycle of a project.

However, uncontrolled changes and ignoring such problems cause chaos and, consequently, even project failure.

Most project managers know that risk management is an important part of project management.

Projects where little or no emphasis is placed on risk management, fail to achieve their goals and go well beyond the planned deadline or budget.

Project Killer n°5: Communication issues

Everyone knows how vital it is to proactively share information and knowledge during a project. And still, poor communication continues to cause project teams to stumble sometimes.

If the project manager and his team do not work on improving communication skills, disasters can be just around the corner.

It is therefore essential to prevent communication errors from occurring.

We know that not only during a project, but also in personal life, the lack of communication can cause very important problems.

And speaking of project management, communication must not only be effective and efficient between team members, but also between the team and the project manager, with customers, with suppliers, with top management, and with all the other teams that could be involved in the project.

Project Killer n°6: Unsuitable, new, or unfamiliar tools

We are trying to understand the common mistakes that can undermine the success of a project in order to do everything possible to anticipate the damage.

An inevitable damage can also derive from the use of inadequate or unfamiliar tools by the team.

Inadequate project management softwares can certainly be one of the most terrible killers of a project. We have tried to give you advice on how to choose a project management software in this article.

Having the right project management software that works and is used correctly by the team will surely make a difference.

A good project management tool is essential for the success of any project. Whether it is a CRM system or a detailed order tracking system, these tools are a fundamental component for the success of any project.

However, a common mistake that many project managers often make is to let the team use a new or unknown tool, and without adequate training.

This can lead to serious problems during the project life cycle, as the team has to fulfil its duties for the project and at the same time learn how to use the new tool as quickly as possible.

This can easily lead to delays or problems, if the tool is too new and unfamiliar for the team.

The rule, therefore, is to allow the team to use the existing tools for any new or current project and to ensure that the adoption of a new project management tool is accompanied by adequate training and in reasonable time.

project killers

In conclusion, the first step to avoid the main reasons that can lead to project failure is to know them and to know the possible solutions to apply.

It is important to engage personally every day, whether you are a project manager or a team member, in order to avoid the mistakes we have been talking about in this article.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

the negotiation

Negotiation skills and their importance for a Project Manager

Negotiation skills for a project manager are absolutely essential and refining them will make it possible to lay the foundations for a successful project.

The Project Managers must, in fact, hold different roles simultaneously: They are leaders, mediators, delegators, and even negotiators.

So let’s see in this article why negotiation skills are important for project managers and how they can be developed and improved.

Why negotiation is important for project managers

In reality, every day we use our negotiation skills, not only at work but also in everyday life.

From reasoning with a 5-year-old child about what he can eat for breakfast to home budget discussions with the partner. We negotiate in life as well as in project management.

Here are some situations in which the ability to negotiate has a fundamental role for the success of a project; the Project Manager:

  • is involved in strategic negotiations with the suppliers of goods and tools necessary for the execution of the project.
  • is involved in the negotiation with a possible investor in a new project.
  • is involved in negotiations with stakeholders regarding support for a major change in the project. It will be necessary here to explain the reasons for the change in the right way in order to get the consent of the interested parties.

In conclusion, negotiation skills allow project managers to have more solid relationships with stakeholders, have better relationships with customers, and guarantee a more positive work environment.

How a project manager can improve his negotiation skills

As already mentioned, negotiation skills are fundamental for a project manager and to ensure the success of the project in general.

Here are 5 tips in order to improve and develop these skills:

5 tips to improve and develop negotiation skills: Practice

The first step is – as with everything – to do a lot of practice.

Probably, the project manager will find himself negotiating more often than he thinks.

It is important that in these situations, the PM analyses how he feels when he approaches a negotiation situation, how he feels during the negotiation itself, and that he makes an objective post-negotiation analysis.

The analysis will be important because only by analysing his feelings, the project manager will be able to draw the necessary experiences to improve himself in the future.

5 tips to improve and develop negotiation skills: Preparation

It can often happen that a project manager find himself negotiating when he least expects it; but when he knows he is going to negotiate, it is important to devote a little effort to its preparation.

If the project manager knows he is meeting a supplier, for example, he can think in advance about what he wants to get from the agreement.

Moreover, it is also important to consider alternatives, if the first solution is not feasible or is not accepted by the other party.

It is important to have clear in mind what results are optimal, which are acceptable and those that absolutely cannot be accepted.

Here is an example of how this plan can be represented:

  • Better alternative to a negotiated agreement
  • Worst alternative to a negotiated agreement
  • Zone of possible agreement
  • Price or removal point, i.e. the unacceptable solution

In this way, it will be possible to start the negotiation process with more confidence and knowing in concrete terms what result you want to achieve.

However, it is important to remember to remain open also to different points of view. Sometimes, in fact, there may be unknown elements that lead to a change in expectations and desired results.

5 tips to improve and develop negotiation skills: Managing emotions

Conflict situations and negotiations often highlight or make the worst out of people.

It is therefore important for a project manager to prepare and learn how to manage his reactions in a conversation that may be difficult and complicated.
negotiation

5 tips to improve and develop negotiation skills: Allow yourself enough time

It is important to remember that negotiations are often a “work in progress”. It is unlikely that a single meeting will be enough to resolve everything, especially in the case of the most complicated and important negotiations.

And even when the agreement is concluded, we can find ourselves negotiating more precise details or new terms to maintain the project in the right way.

It is therefore important not to hurry and take the necessary time.

5 tips to improve and develop negotiation skills: Listen actively

When preparing for a negotiation, a great effort is made to think about what you are going to say, how to say it, how to respond to what you think the other person will say, etc.

But we often forget that we must also listen actively. Active listening will help identify weaknesses in the other party and help you really understand what the other person wants.

When you listen actively, you are more likely to be able to formulate an answer that the other person considers acceptable.

And that’s what we want.

Negotiation skills for a project manager: Conclusions

Finally, regardless of whether a project manager is involved in formal negotiations or not, it will be easier to carry out the most diverse activities when he has confidence in his negotiation skills.

An aid in this sense can be, for example, a training course based on negotiation skills.

Negotiation is an excellent project management tool and is essential for getting the best for any project.

Negotiation goes beyond the reduction or increase in the price of an offer and is a necessary tool in the daily activities of the project manager.

Like all soft skills, knowing how to have stimulating conversations that result in good results for both parties is something that can always be improved with the time.

With the right knowledge, the structures, the techniques, and some practice, any project manager will be able to face negotiations knowing how to aim at the best for the project and for the organization in general.

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ai and pm

Can artificial intelligence replace the project manager?

When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), it is not possible today to pretend nothing has happened. We cannot ignore how this technology will play a decisive role also in project management in the coming years.

For project managers, it is normal to manage, on certain occasions, not only different teams, but also different projects simultaneously. It is therefore obvious that, for the PM, finding a way to make the process easier and more efficient is a primary goal.

By creating a smoother process, project managers are able to get more reliable results and can help guide team members more effectively.

Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more important in the tools used by these professionals. Therefore, the technology is increasing both in the project management as well as in the planning and analysis phases.

Artificial intelligence must therefore not be feared, but welcomed in a positive way as a new step towards efficiency in project management.

Let’s see what this means in practice.

What is artificial intelligence in project management?

Artificial intelligence is a system capable of performing the daily management and administration of projects without requiring human input.

The AI will not only automate simple tasks, but will also develop an understanding of the key performance of the project.

Artificial intelligence in project management can then use this understanding to discover insights, perform more complex tasks, make recommendations, and make decisions, sometimes in very different ways than people would do.

Last but not least, an artificial intelligence system will save time while improving project and team results.

Three ways in which artificial intelligence can improve project management

Artificial intelligence in project management offers a level of service that exceeds that of the robots available today. For example, a bot that allows you to quickly check the status of an activity, although useful, is not exactly artificial intelligence.

In a similar way, an algorithm that applies machine learning to predict asset estimates, is interesting, but even this is not artificial intelligence.

It is only when you begin to unify robots and algorithms that you begin to realize the potential of artificial intelligence in project management.

There are at least 3 ways in which artificial intelligence can improve project management in the near future:

 Reduce the failure rate of projects thanks to predictive analysis

Throughout its life cycle, each project encounters a series of risks and uncertainties that can cause its failure.

The team must assess and respond regularly to all the risks they identify based on their experience, knowledge, and available tools.

Risk assessment can turn into a disaster if the project manager, together with the team, is not able to register new, potential, or intrinsic risks in time, especially in the case of large projects.

And if in these cases, was it possible to use an intelligent machine that can analyse historical data and send requests in order to develop a more in-depth risk classification system?

Machine learning allows computers to use design data and sophisticated algorithms to predict results and identify threats and vulnerabilities that affect the project.

Artificial intelligence can therefore help reduce the project’s failure rate.

More accurate project planning thanks to the AI

In general, the planning of the project concerns the creation of a detailed forecast on how to best use the resources available in terms of project goals.

As a project manager, it is necessary to re-evaluate durations, costs, and progress many times during a project. This is to ensure that the same project is executed as planned and to understand which actions can be taken in order to keep the project on track.

Of course, estimates made quickly or using unsuitable and conservative methods can lead to completely wrong values ​​and, consequently, to the failure of the project.

This is why project planning can be optimized with artificial intelligence.

A system based on artificial intelligence could analyse historical data, productivity rates, time estimates, working hours, etc … All this, so that it is possible to develop an optimized model of the project management process by automating repetitive tasks.

Machine learning could allow intelligent automation of processes in which computers perform routine tasks and humans would then be directed to perform the most critical and strategic tasks.
artificial intelligence

The contribution of project managers will have a higher value thanks to artificial intelligence

The work of a project manager, thanks to artificial intelligence, will see important changes.

As mentioned above, thanks to AI, it will be possible to automate repetitive tasks and routines and project managers will be able to devote more time to strategic and tactical thinking and judgment.

A project manager will focus on more value-added activities thanks to the possibility of delegating to intelligent machines.

For example, the assignment and planning of jobs will be managed by computers that will use data mining and predictive analysis to design precise timelines and assign jobs to the appropriate team members.

As artificial intelligence becomes more effective, project managers will rely on the decisions of the machines that will advise future trends, automate time scheduling, and respond to requests coming from superiors and staff.

Artificial intelligence in project management: Conclusions

In conclusion, artificial intelligence in project management will therefore have a huge impact on team performance and project results.

The teams that will use this new technology will move very quickly compared to those that will not. And it is something to be excited about.

About a decade ago, most of us were sceptical about using artificial intelligence almost everywhere, both in business and in everyday life.

We thought that AI could only be used for repetitive tasks, and programs were created to perform simple and routine tasks.

But with big data, growing processing power and advanced algorithms, we now know that artificial intelligence systems can be designed to perform even complex tasks and that artificial intelligence has the ability to come to think and act (almost) like a human.

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scrum method

Scrum: A method to make the team work in unison

In the Scrum world, it is rare that complete and detailed descriptions of how each individual activity should be carried out in a project are provided. Much of this is left in the hands of the project team.

This is because the team will know better how to solve the problems that arise, since it works on the project every single day.

This is why in the Scrum method, for example, a planning meeting exposes the desired results, instead of defining in detail the activities as it would be the case in most other project management methods.

Scrum relies on a self-organized and cross-functional team.

The Scrum team organizes itself as there is no general team leader who decides which person will do which task or how a problem will be solved. These are all issues that are decided by the team as a whole.

Inter-departmental teams mean that all members are needed to carry out the implementation of ideas and activities.

What does the Scrum methodology provide?

Scrum methodology requires that projects proceed through a series of sprints.

In line with an agile methodology, sprints are scheduled monthly or, even more commonly, every two weeks.

A sprint begins with a planning meeting, where team members receive a list of activities to be performed during the sprint. Later, these activities are organized – by the team – and performed during the sprint.

At the end of a sprint, the team reviews the work done and analyses any factors that could influence the next sprint, as well as reflecting on the sprint that has just ended, and identifying any opportunities to improve.

It is a fact that, in any project, it is possible to accomplish more by working in teams rather than individually.

In a study conducted by Salesforce on workplace challenges, 86% of project managers agreed that failing to work together as a team was the main cause of project failure.

Teamwork is therefore an essential element for a successful organization.

The Scrum methodology can be defined as a team-based approach to delivering business value.

This method therefore promotes effective collaboration between team members so that they are able to tackle projects of any size and implement them together.

5 ways to improve teamwork with the Scrum method

Below, we will list 5 ways to improve teamwork thanks to the Scrum method. Having seen just how important the team’s collaboration can be, we invite you to pay close attention to the following.

1. Teach the principles of self-management

Scrum teams are designed to manage themselves, which means that they are able to perform activities during a sprint, without constant supervision or direction from a project manager.

This level of self-sufficiency varies based on the team’s familiarity with the Scrum principles and the complexity of the project.

Leadership and management are certainly necessary to initially establish the indications and objectives within the team structure and towards the project.

For Scrum teams, the project manager is simply responsible for the initial stages of a sprint, identifying the best team structure and helping to improve its development capacity.

Then it is up to the team members to make sure everyone is on track and take action if some members slow down or stay behind.

It is therefore important, in the Scrum methodology, that the project manager encourages the team to take responsibility and manage challenges in groups, rather than bringing their problems directly to a supervisor.

This will not only save the project manager time, but will also encourage employees to develop problem-solving skills and teamwork skills.

2. Work on internal communication skills

A Scrum team cannot function without communication. This is in fact an essential element for the trust and collaboration of the team.

Team members must be able to openly share victories, losses, and any internal problems that could prevent the team from finishing an activity during a sprint.

This kind of transparency requires that all members are able to communicate their ideas and concerns clearly in an appropriate manner.

In order to keep everyone informed, many Scrum teams use project management softwares to stay in constant contact with others.

3. Dedicate yourself to retrospective

With retrospective we mean the time when team members meet after each sprint to talk about everything that happened during that specific period of time.

Members can raise any challenges encountered that have hindered their progress or can suggest ideas to make things more fluid and easy during the next session.

With retrospective is not meant a moment of complaint or where to list excuses for poor performance, instead it is a brainstorming session, where everyone should offer ideas for positive actions that could improve future results.

A project manager should inspire this moment within the organization by holding meetings where everyone can share ideas and different points of view.

This practice will significantly help teams find solutions to their problems.

4. Focus on individuality

This advice seems to go against the concept of teamwork, however, individuality plays an important role in the success of a Scrum team.

One of the main values in the Scrum methodology is that this says that each member is important as an individual and, if a person is in difficulty, this will affect the entire project and organization.

While sprinting is definitely an overall team effort, many single tasks are assigned to individuals.

Teams and project managers must remember that each person operates differently: Some are more independent, while others want more interaction with their leaders and collaborators.

With an emphasis on the individual, Scrum teams can operate more effectively by finding systems that work for everyone.
the scrum method

5. Focus on collaborative decision-making

Scrum teams are responsible for determining the workload during a sprint and assigning tasks within the group.

In addition, they must also decide collaboratively how to handle internal problems that may arise.

Of course, Scrum teams will not agree on everything, so they must also be willing to negotiate and compromise for the overall good of the team.

This type of collaborative decision making is very useful for both Scrum and other organizations.

Studies have shown that when companies involve employees in decision-making processes, the results are better.

By involving all team members in the decision-making process, employees feel more powerful and important, which in turn increases their productivity and morale levels.

It is difficult for workers to stick to a strategy that they have not planned – at least in part – especially if they do not agree with practices or find them inefficient.

It is therefore necessary to find ways to include everyone in the planning process and encourage teams to find a solution that works for everyone.

 

Encouraging a culture of teamwork within the organization that follows the Scrum methodology could be the key to long-term success, but it is not an easy task.

Organizations are made up of people from different backgrounds and cultures and personalities may not always fit well in a group context.

Therefore, it is up to project managers to set an example of how teams should operate by implementing practices that encourage collaboration.

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skills of pm

Abilities and skills of a successful project manager

What are the most important skills and abilities for a project manager to be successful?

Being good at telling others what to do is not enough and not exactly right for a successful project manager. Instead, lead and inspire the team, this is another story.

A project manager is responsible for managing the work through the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the requirements of the project.

Knowing the theory of project management, but not having the right skills and abilities, is useless.

Similarly, having the right tools and techniques, but without the ability to use them properly is insignificant.

So let’s see together in this article what are the most important skills and qualities for a project manager.

Inspire a shared vision

A successful project manager is often described as a person who owns and inspires the group a shared vision of where to go and has the ability to articulate it.

Visionaries thrive in change and are able to draw new boundaries.

Once it was said that …

a leader is someone who gives us a reason to be and gives the vision and the spirit to change.

Visionary leaders let people feel that they have a real interest in the project and allow people to experience this vision, create it, and explore it.

Good communicatio

The ability to communicate with people at all levels has always been considered a fundamental skill in project managers.

The leadership of the project requires clear communication on goals, responsibilities, performance, expectations, and feedback.

The project manager is also the team’s connection with the organization and therefore must have the ability to negotiate and effectively use persuasion, when necessary, to ensure the success of the team and the project.

Through effective communication, project leaders support individual and group results by creating explicit guidelines for achieving results and advancing team members’ careers.

Integrity

One of the most important things a project manager has to remember is that his actions, not his words, determine the modus operandi for the team.

Good leadership requires commitment and demonstration of ethical practices.

Creating standards of ethical behaviour for themselves and following them, in addition to rewarding those who exemplify them, are the responsibilities of project managers.

Leadership motivated by personal interest does not serve the general well-being of the team.

Integrity-based leadership represents nothing less than a set of values shared by others, behaviour that is consistent with values and dedication to honesty with oneself and with team members.

Enthusiasm

In a very clear and simple way, negative project managers break down and discourage the team.

People always tend to follow positive people with a so-called “can-do” attitude, not those that always give reasons why something cannot be done.

Enthusiastic project managers are committed to their goals and express this commitment through optimism.

Leadership emerges when someone expresses a commitment in such a manner that others want to share his optimistic expectations.

Enthusiasm is contagious and successful project managers know this well.

Empathy

Empathy presupposes the existence of the other as a separate individual with his own feelings, ideas, and emotional histories.

Understanding and caring for people, as well as being grateful for their help, are some of the qualities that a successful project manager shows to his team members.

For example:

it is particularly appreciated by the team when a project leader recognizes the fact that everyone has a life outside of work.


ability of pm

Competence

Of course, to believe in another person – especially in work – we need to make sure that person knows what he is doing.

Leadership competence does not necessarily refer only to the technical skills of the project manager, but also to the ability to successfully lead the team.

The ability to challenge, inspire, enable, shape, and encourage must be demonstrated if a project manager wants to be seen as capable, competent, and successful.

Ability to delegate tasks

Trust is an essential element in the relationship between a project manager and his team.

And this trust in others must be shown through the actions of the project manager, like for example: How much he controls the work of the team members, how much he delegates, how much he allows people to participate in the project.

Individuals who are unable to trust other people often fail as project managers and find themselves doing all the work on their own to the detriment of the project’s success.

Ability to manage stress and work under pressure

In a perfect world, projects would be delivered on time, within budget, and without major issues or obstacles to overcome.

But we know, we don’t live in a perfect world: Projects always have problems, more or less serious depending on the situation.

A successful project manager will then react to these problems calmly and will not panic.

When leaders encounter a stressful event, they consider it interesting, they feel they can influence the result and see it as an opportunity and not as something purely negative.

From the uncertainty and chaos of change, successful project managers articulate a new picture of the future that still leads the project towards a positive ending.

Team building skills

A project manager is a strong person who provides the substance that keeps the team together in a common purpose towards the final goal.

In order for a team to move from a group of strangers to a single cohesive unit, the project manager must understand the process and the dynamics required for this transformation.

He must also know the appropriate leadership style to use during each phase of team development.

Last but not least, the successful project manager must also understand the different styles and characters of the team members and be able to take advantage of everyone at the right time.

Ability to solve problems

Although it is said that an effective project manager shares responsibility for solving problems with the team, it is still expected that the project leader has excellent problem-solving skills.

In conclusion, creating realistic project plans, budgets, estimate times and efforts, etc. are certainly skills that a successful project manager must possess.

But keeping the work organized and the team informed and happy is fundamental and these skills are what a project manager needs to succeed in his work.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

the rolling wave

The rolling wave in project management

The rolling wave technique is a method that allows the project manager to plan a project while it is taking place.

In short, this technique requires iterative planning.

This type of planning is very similar to that used in Scrum or in other Agile methodologies.

In essence, the rolling wave method allows you to plan until you have visibility to implement the plan, while the next steps are planned while working directly to the previous phases.

An example of rolling wave

A simple example of rolling wave is one where you expect to complete a project in eight months, but you only have clarity for the first three months. In this case, the first three months are planned.

As the project progresses and greater clarity is achieved, the following months can be planned.

The rolling wave technique uses progressive processing, which means processing work packages in more detail as the project unfolds.

But be careful that it does not mean that this planning method does not exempt the project manager from creating a list of milestones and assumptions for the project.

It is necessary to provide milestones and the key hypotheses as they will help stakeholders to understand why they are using the rolling wave method and what to expect while the project progresses.

 When to apply the rolling wave method

This method can be applied when:

  • It is not possible to define a detailed project plan shortly.
  • It is not clear which deliverables should be produced.
  • It is not possible to organize the different phases of the project.

The rolling wave method is particularly useful in projects with high uncertainty. Therefore, it is necessary to use the best risk management practices.

The rolling wave planning, therefore, is the process of breaking down the work breakown structure into time intervals.

At the end of each phase, the project manager will study the structure of the WBS and will expand it to include more details.

It is particularly suitable for projects where the work involved in a phase is highly variable and depends on the result of the previous phase, such as projects that require prototypes and, in general, in the engineering sector.

The advantages of the rolling wave method

This type of approach to project management is particularly useful when the availability of the information needed to plan future work packages in detail is based on the successful completion of the previous phases of the project.

This technique can also help reduce turnaround time in two ways:

  • By allowing the start of productive activities without waiting for every detail of the work to be determined in advance.
  • By eliminating downtime for additional planning in the middle of a project, since planning is performed continuously.

This type of planning also has the following advantages:

  • Encourages adaptability
  • Encourages planning
  • It is excellent for research and development projects, high technology and inventions
  • It is excellent for projects with variable capacity

The rolling wave planning is done in 4 simple steps:

  • Create the WBS.
  • Divide the project into phases.
  • Provide a realistic level of detail for each phase.
  • Once the considered phase is completed, return to step 1 to manage the next phase.

The steps of the rolling wave planning

rolling wave

Now let’s look at these steps in detail.

Create the WBS

The work breakdown structure is the nucleus around which all the other project management planning processes take place.

This involves splitting each project into single work items.

Each work item requires an identification number, a description, and a member of the team responsible for that particular activity, and sometimes it has additional elements such as budget, expiration date, and dependencies with other tasks.

Throughout the project life cycle, these work items are monitored and progress is recorded and reported.

Divide the project into phases

The phases are more simply the points in which an important moment for the project in general takes place.

For example, if we consider the creation of a prototype, a phase could be concluded with the presentation of a first prototype model.

From this stage others may follow, depending on the result – which is still uncertain. For example, the prototype could be accepted, thus starting the large-scale production phase, or it could be declared unsuitable, thus starting the re-elaboration phase.

Provide a realistic level of detail for each phase

Clearly, as you continue planning on the timeline, the phases will have less and less detail.

This is a clear concept in the rolling wave methodology, given that information on future steps is few or there are no information at all.

The work breakdown structure will therefore contain less details regarding the successive phases, but these will be reviewed and completed when the phases begin to be near in time.

Once the considered phase is completed, return to step 1 to manage the next phase

There is not much to say at this point. As explained above, as the project continues in its cycle, it will be possible to determine and manage the phases that come near in the future.

In general, it is always important, before starting with the execution of a project, to have a plan at the beginning of any project.

If the project will be known in detail immediately, it will be possible to continue with traditional planning, otherwise the rollign wave method can be used.

Choosing the wrong planning methodology can lead to loss of control over the project.

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manage complex projects

The management of complex projects

Complex projects represent a great undertaking for a Project Manager.

It means coping with a variety of tasks, having different people to manage and with which to communicate and having multiple goals to achieve.

How can a project manager reach the goal with so many factors in the game? Let’s seeit in this article.

What makes a project complex?

It is important to understand that there is a difference between a complex project and a difficult project.

A complex project is not necessarily difficult. Conversely, projects can be difficult due to cost or performance, but this does not automatically mean that they are complex.

Complexity refers to projects that include ambiguity or uncertainty and are therefore surrounded by unpredictability.

There are a variety of factors that cause the complexity of the project, for example:

  • Technology: The technical content of a project can cause complexity. This could depend on the technology used or the development of the software.
  • Cost and budget: The project may have to face problems such as not attracting enough capital to achieve the goals or have problems in directing the funds towards the right aspects of the project.
  • Program: Complexity can come from the time of the project.
  • Very different political stakeholders: Projects can bring together different stakeholders, which can be a problem, especially if politics is involved. Different political interests can increase complexity, since the project must handle different requirements and expectations.
  • Legal: Even legal issues related to a project can increase complexity. Sometimes the legal complexity can be linked to the political one.
  • Social: This may be due to the fact that the members of the group come from different social contexts or it can be the case when the project works within a specific social context.

It is therefore necessary, first and foremost, to identify why a given project can be considered complex and then proceed to address it.

The essential skills needed to manage complex projects

 The management of a complex project requires different capacities, including:

  • Adaptability
  • Cooperation
  • Communication
  • Competence
  • Leadership

A project is constantly evolving and project managers must evolve with it. It is not always possible to think that there are “white or black” solutions.

The time will come when the project manager will be forced to adapt his management style based on the change in the situation.

The communication is probably the most important project management skill. It is essential that PMs effectively convey and manage vision, ideas, goals, and problems.

Moreover, project managers must also produce and display reports, also using disruptive technologies and presentations that are informative and clear.

Communication is closely linked to collaboration. A project manager must be willing to collaborate with the project team. Working with others in order to achieve goals is important for any type of project, especially if it is complex.

Competence and Leadership to manage complex projects

Finally, competence and leadership go hand in hand. Leadership consists of guiding, directing, and motivating the team to do its best and make the members understand how their tasks contribute to the overall vision. Leadership develops with experience, through practical and real work.

Having these essential skills is the key to identifying what makes a project complex and managing it.

So let’s see in practice how to manage a complex project.
complex projects

Manage complex projects: Document regularly

Project can be divided into perfectly manageable mini-projects, but without clear documentation on the single tasks and how they relate to the whole, the project remains unclear.

Clear and up-to-date documentation is the answer to this problem.

This allows the project manager to define everyone’s roles and their results and ensures that the overview is clear to all team members.

The project manager has the task of documenting everything and regularly sending the project status to the team and to the stakeholders – as agreed.

Managing complex projects: Continuously clarify goals

If you do not understand the “why” behind the project, it is very difficult to succeed.

When a project manager delegates without clearly defined goals, the team will fail. It is therefore important that team members understand their role and the tasks that they have to perform.

Clarifying the goals regularly also ensures that the project remains aligned with the initial plan.

Managing complex projects: Make everything more visible

 During a complex project, the team is often confused by the details and it becomes problematic to continue when it is saturated by too much information.

To create greater visibility within a project, a good practice is to adopt a project management tool that works for the project manager, the team, and the stakeholders.

This tool will allow all project users to stay informed and clearly see the status of the project and what is happening, using this tool as a unique source of information.

Managing complex projects: Be flexible

A constant in complex projects is the continous changing and for this, a project manager must be able to adapt and be flexible.

It is therefore important to ensure that processes are set up in such a manner to allow the team to remain agile and respond to changing requests.

The project manager adds value by making things more efficient and effective and / or reducing risks, precisely thanks to his ability to adapt.

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break down a project

How to break down a project. Examples of WBS

To ensure the success of a project, it is necessary that the project Manager knows how to break down the project and, consequently, structure a WBS.

WBS is the abbreviation of Work Breakdown Structure, which, in other words, means a division of the labor required to complete a project.

The WBS is widely used by professional project managers to represent the scope of the project and the results in a hierarchical manner.

Generally, creating a work breakdown structure is one of the first steps in project planning.

For project managers at the beginning of their careers, sometimes the WBS can be confusing and difficult to manage, but it is good that they quickly become familiar with it, because it is the key to success, especially in the case of complex projects.

The Work Breakdown Structure, in fact, is used to make complex projects more manageable. In essence, the WBS is designed to help divide a project into manageable blocks that can be effectively assessed and controlled.

How to break down a project: why do you use a WBS?

Obviously, a simple list of the activities and the people who will follow the project is not enough to clearly divide the project into smaller pieces.

Therefore, the use of a work breakdown structure provides a clear view of the project’s scope of work.

In a work program, the activities are grouped under certain levels of decomposition.

For example, in a construction project program, the electrical wiring activities are grouped in the level dedicated to the electrical system, while the piping activities are grouped in the level dedicated to mechanical works.

Therefore, the WBS allows to improve the quality of planning, traceability, and reporting and this is why it is used.

It should be kept in mind though, that the WBS describes the final results and the activity groups, not the activities in detail.

In short, some widely used reasons for creating a WBS include:

  • Help with an accurate project organization
  • Help to assign responsibilities
  • Show project control points and milestones
  • Allow a more accurate estimate of costs, risks, and time
  • Help explain the scope of the project to stakeholders

How to break down a project correctly

To start, the project manager and the experts determine the main final results for the project.

Once determined, it is possible to begin to break down these results into smaller and smaller work blocks.

But how small? This depends on the type of project and the management style, but some sort of rule should be established in order to determine the size and scope of the smallest work blocks.

For example, the two-week rule could be chosen, in which no piece / activity is smaller than two weeks of work required for completion.

Or, another method is the 8/80 rule, where no block should take less than 8 hours or more than 80 hours to complete.

Determining these rules for block sizes can take some practice, but these make WBS definitely easier to use and structure.

Regarding the format chosen for the WBS design, some project managers prefer to create tables or lists, but most use graphics to visualize the components of the project, such as a hierarchical tree structure or a diagram.

How to simplify a project: some examples

The WBS diagram starts with a single box or another graphic element, usually positioned at the top, which represents the entire project.

The project is then divided into main components with related activities or items listed below them.

In general, the superior components are the final results, while the lower level elements are the activities that lead to creating the final results.

Here are some simple examples of WBS:

Developing a computer:

Suppose your organization intends to start developing a computer.

To speed up the work, you can assign specific teams to different aspects of computer construction, as shown in the diagram below.

break down a project_chart 1

In this way, a team could work on the configuration of the frame, while another team will be dedicated to protecting the components.

Developing a computer game:

Let us now think, for example, that your organization wants to manage a project dedicated to a software, specifically the creation of a computer game.

To be the first to launch the game in the market, it is necessary to assign specific aspects of the game to different teams, as shown in the diagram below.

break down a project_chart 2

Construction project:

The convenient format of a Work Breakdown Structure allows you to use it for any type of project and, therefore, it is also useful in the case of a construction project.

This example of a work breakdown structure shows that all the elements are listed in the various levels of the WBS.

The lower levels of the structure show the results of the project. Tasks and activities will be grouped under these lower levels.

Level 1 is the overall project. Level 2 represents the main phases of the project. Level 3 shows the main final results, while level 4 represents the minor results.

break down a project_chart 3

The construction of an effective project work sharing structure can, in the long term, determine the success of the project.

The WBS provides the basis for project planning, cost estimation, resource planning and allocation, not to mention risk management.

The WBS simply provides a visual presentation by graphically organizing the project results. This structure shows everything that is needed in order to complete the project on a single graph.

In the ideal case, the high-level final results included in the WBS should correspond, word by word, to the goals and results written in the scope description of the project.

As a result, the WBS is one of the first documents created in the project management life cycle. This will be created even before creating the project plan.

This means that the WBS is often the first product in a project and defines the hierarchy of final results.

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RAM matrix

Assign responsibilities. The RAM matrix

The RAM matrix is used by project managers to assign responsibilities or to identify the role of the various members of a project team.

This matrix is a structural diagram in which it is visually clear what should be done by whom and what are the tasks and responsibilities of each of the team members.

The acronym RAM derives from Responsibility Assignment Matrix.

The RAM matrix

This RAM matrix is sometimes also called RACI matrix or VERI matrix or linear responsibility chart (LCR). Specifically, RACI stands for:

  • Responsible: the person who carries out and assigns the activities
  • Accountable: the person responsible for the correct completion of the task. In other words, an “accountable” must approve the work the “manager” provides.
  • Consulted: those who are asked for help in carrying out the activities.
  • Informed: those who are kept up to date on progress and with whom there is only one-way communication. In other words, the stakeholders.

A RAM matrix is used to designate roles, responsibilities, and levels of authority within a project team for each component of the work structure, also called Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

The matrix format allows you to show all the activities associated with a person and all the people associated with a single activity.

the RAM matrix

This ensures that there is only one person responsible for each activity and this allows to avoid confusion.

Despite the simple nature of all the information in the matrix, it can be very time-consuming to assign each member the right tasks and responsibilities.

Moreover, the appropriate roles must be defined in advance before being included in the assignment matrix.

7 steps to complete the RAM matrix

In order not to make mistakes, here is a 7 steps guide thanks to which the matrix can be written in a correct way:

  • Step 1: Identify all the project participants.
  • Step 2: Identify all the final results for the project.
  • Step 3: Discuss with all team members which kind of support is required for the best performance and the best results. It is important to define the responsibilities of each participant so that there are no misunderstandings.
  • Step 4: Create the initial draft of the assignment matrix, with the activities in the left column and the project team members in the first column on the right. Enter the roles that each person will have in the cells.
  • Step 5: Ask the participants to approve the assignment matrix. Once again, to avoid misunderstanding, it is best to receive written approval.
  • Step 6: Any comments on changes in the assignment matrix can be submitted by the participants. Finally, the responsibility assignment matrix will be reviewed and, once approved, the project can begin.
  • Step 7: It is important to remember to carry out continous analyzes and assessments during the project life cycle. When it seems that it is better to change the assignment matrix, it will be necessary to return to step 3, where the changes must be discussed with all team members.

 Responsibility assignment matrix and complex projects

The responsibility assignment matrix is also suitable for complex projects.

When activities are neglected and the matrix contains incomplete and / or inaccurate information, efforts and work will duplicate without any sense.

It is therefore advisable to ensure that all information is included in the matrix and that all information is and remains accurate and up-to-dated.

The following suggestions contribute to a greater chance of success of a RAM matrix in the case of a complex project:

RAM Matrix: Graph Hierarchy

Divide the assignment matrix into separate graphs, so you can make a distinction based on priorities.

The responsibility assignment matrix with the highest levels identifies high priority activities within the project.

From here, it is possible to develop matrix charts of assignment of responsibilities derived from this higher level.

RAM Matrix: Involvement and feedback

By involving all members ft he project team in developing the responsibility assignment matrix, everyone will know exactly what is expected ft hem and will be more engaged during the entire project.

Moreover, by involving the entire team in the development of the matrix, it will be easier and more immediate to receive feedback from people who should be specialized in the single activities.

RAM Matrix: Written representation

By writing the assignment matrix, you can identify any errors or problems. Moreover, all the participants will have a better understanding of their role and responsibility within the project.

Finally, the RAM matrix is a project management tool that improves team communication and increases the efficiency and speed of project completion.

If used effectively, it helps in keeping everyone informed and, therefore, increases individual and group productivity.

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the scope statement

The Scope Statement and its importance for the Project Manager

The Scope Statement is a document that is extremely important for the success of a project. The project manager will develop the scope statement by processing the project start-up document (or project charter) produced by the project sponsor.


The project manager will be responsible for defining the scope of the project in this document, providing measurable goals.

Saving a project with the scope statement

It can also happen to be part of a project that, for different reasons, is delayed or out of budget. In these cases, the scope statement becomes vital. The project manager will ask the project team to explain the reasons why the project is not respecting the schedule.

Once the appropriate information has been taken, it is obvious that the PM will have to make decisions. Often, a real change of program will be indispensable together with the approval of a possible new budget in order, in the best case, to get everything back on track.

These situations can occur especially when the scope of the project has not been effectively defined. In these cases, if the Scope Statement is not implemented or not properly managed, the project will seriously run the risk of going astray with respect to the initial planning.

What is it and why the scope statement is important

Since a project is defined as a temporary effort that creates a product, a service or a result, the scope of the project is fundamental. The scope of a project, in fact, defines which activities are part of the project and which are not, what the project will carry out and what will not.

In short: The scope statement defines the project. The creation of a detailed scope statement will therefore help the project manager to bring the project to success.

In particular, the scope statement is fundamental for these three situations:

  • Define the boundaries of the project. The scope statement guarantees a common and clear understanding of the project between the interested parties and helps to manage the so-called scope creep. In other words, it describes what is included in the project and what is excluded and, therefore, forms the basis for the project plan.
  • Ensure a common understanding of the project among stakeholders. In addition to being the foundation of the project plan, the scope statement will also help ensure that all interested parties are on the same page. By setting the right expectations with stakeholders, the PM can reduce the chances of misunderstandings that could arise later and that could derail the project.
  • Help manage change requests. Another way in which the description of the scope can help the project manager to manage the project effectively, is to use it as a guide to evaluate all the modification requests that are made. If the change request does not fall within the limits defined in the project, this must necessarily be rejected.

According to the Project Management Institute changes in scope – due to little clarity at the initial stage – are the main cause of the failure of a project.

This is quite common in almost all sectors, and for this reason project managers must learn to define, communicate and control the scope of the project.

To avoid the unpleasant possibilities that derive from a poorly defined project scope, project managers must write a good scope statement.

This will facilitate the acceptance of the scope of the project by the stakeholders , will put on the same page the project team and will prevent the start of unauthorized activities.

A scope statement is a useful tool for outlining project results and identifying the constraints, assumptions, and key factors for success.

The affirmation of the well-written area clearly defines the boundaries of a project.

The scope of a project has a direct impact on the other two elements of the triple project constraint, ie time and resources.

Moreover, the project manager can consider the scope statement a formal documentation of the project scope.
scope statement

How to write a scope statement

The instructions in the scope statement must contain as many details as possible, but only up to a certain point and without exaggeration.

The minimum length of a scope statement is that which describes the primary risks of the project.

For example, stating that the project is to “build a fence” will communicate basic information, but these are certainly not enough. Everyone knows this already and there is no added value. It would therefore be preferable, in this specific example, to define the start and end points of the project, the height of the fence, the type of fence, the meteorological hypotheses, etc.

There is no default or maximum length for a scope statement, but this needs to be specific and to report the primary risks.

A good scope statement includes the following elements:

  • General description of the work. Returning to the previous example, here is where it is stated that the project is “building a fence”.
  • Final results. What will be produced by the project and what are its main features? Which customer must be satisfied by the output of the project?
  • Justification for the project. In order to provide a complete understanding of the purpose, sometimes it is necessary to deepen the justification of why the project was started in the first place.
  • If the project faces certain physical, legislative boundaries, etc. these can be a source of risk and therefore should be defined.
  • Hypothesis. All projects have taken certain conditions as part of their existence. For example, the fence construction project has assumed good weather conditions, availability of tools, etc. What are these hypotheses and what is the impact in the case of an inaccuracy of these hypotheses on the project?

A suggestion is to write a scope statement following the so-called SMART goals.

Of course, predicting the future is impossible. However, the Scope Statement represents a commitment to the project based on what is known “today” and what is realistically expected to happen in the future.

If and when situations change, it is necessary to evaluate the effect of the changes on all aspects of the project and propose the necessary changes in line with the Scope Statement in order to ensure the success of the project.

All this, however, only if the scope statement has been optimally implemented.

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business case

Business case: 7 key steps to build it and use it

A business case is essential whenever a new product needs to be launched or a new service must be created.

Once the business case is prepared, it must be presented to stakeholders, investors, supervisors, department managers … In any case, whatever the public, the project manager needs to be prepared to make a good impression and be convincing.

Today, we talk about how to build and use a business case that can convince the target audience.

What is a business case?

In short words:

A business case proves to the customer or to the stakeholders that the product/output wanted is a good investment.

The business case is traditionally a document that defines the main advantage of a project in order to justify its expense.

It often describes how the project aligns with the strategic goals of the organization.

Why create a business case?

The preparation of the business case allows the project manager to adopt a disciplined approach to critically examine the opportunities, alternatives, phases, and financial investment of a project. All this in order to formulate a plan for the best course of action in order to create business value.

A well-structured business case will increase the perception of the benefits and value of the project and reduce the risk perception. Moreover, it will create more chances of getting support from investors, both internal as well as external to the organization.

A business case is needed when:

  • We want to demonstrate the value of a product or service proposed for the organization;
  • We want to get investor approval;
  • It must be decided whether to outsource a particular function;
  • It is necessary to relocate and reorganize the commercial operations and the productive structures;
  • Priority must be given to projects within the organization;
  • It is necessary to ensure funding and financial resources to implement the project.

By working well and correctly on a business case, the project manager is able to competently present the project to stakeholders whose approval is essential.

The documented business case will provide security and a good level of certainty that the proposal will be accepted.

How to write, build and use a business case

the business case

A project manager needs to take the time to write a business case that can justify the costs of the project. It will have to identify the benefits for the business in general and has to emphasize the profits for the stakeholders.

The following 7 steps will show you how to effectively build and use a business case:

Step 1: identify the business problem

Projects are not created solely for the sake of the project itself, but they also have broader goals.

Usually, they are initiated to solve a specific business problem or create a business opportunity, but in the end, they have to benefit the company in general.

Therefore, the first task when drafting a business plan is to understand what the “general” problem or opportunity is, describe it, find out where it comes from, and then identify the time needed to deal with it.

Step 2: Identify alternative solutions

How to know if the project you are undertaking is the best possible solution to the problem defined above? Of course, choosing the right solution is difficult.

One way to narrow the focus and make the best solution clear is to follow these six steps that go from examining alternative solutions:

  • Record alternative solutions.
  • For each solution, quantify its benefits.
  • Predict the costs involved in each solution.
  • Understand the feasibility of each.
  • Discern the risks and problems associated with each solution.
  • Document everything in the business case in order to make the preferred solution clear.

Step 3: Identify and recommend the preferred solution

Once the solutions are classified, it is time to identify and recommend the preferred one.

A method that can be applied is to assign a score between 1 and 10 depending on the cost / benefit ratio of the solution.

Step 4: Predict the risks of the project

In order to predict the risks of the project, it must first be foreseen what the scope of the project could be. Once this has been done, it is possible to proceed with the forecast of the possible risks.

Here are the questions to ask in this case:

  • What will be the main goal?
  • How long will it take to make it happen?
  • What actions are included in achieving this goal? And which ones are excluded?

When we talk about risk, we will ask instead:

  • What are the obvious risks of undertaking this project?
  • What are the less obvious risks (such as opportunity costs)?
  • What is the point of taking these risks?
  • Does the benefit outweigh the cost?
  • What are the intangible benefits?

Step 5: Estimate the budget and search for funds

This is where we estimate the money needed to complete the work related to the project.

It is also a good time to indicate where the funds are expected to come from: will they be collected? Borrowed? Donated or transferred in the budget?

Moreover, the following questions must be answered:

  • What amount of money will be allocated to each of the necessary resources?
  • What is the interval you can expect to wait to pay for each resource?

Step 6: Describe the implementation approach

At this point, the business problem – or the opportunity – and how to reach it is identified. Now is the time to convince stakeholders of the advantages of the project by describing the best way to implement the process in order to achieve the goals.

Here, in short, a preliminary project plan is made and this will include:

  • Goals, preferably SMART
  • Deliverables
  • Scope
  • Project phases
  • Tasks required at each stage
  • Communication systems
  • Dependencies between resources
  • Budget

Clearly this part does not need to be detailed and precise for now, but it should still be a fairly credible and a truthful draft.

Step 7: The executive summary

An executive summary is simply a summary – a page – of everything that has been analyzed so far.

The easiest way to do this is to provide quick summaries of:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Costs
  • Return on investment potential
  • Time frame
  • Who is involved

To make the executive summary as clear and concise as possible, the project manager should aim for an average of one sentence for each point above.

To conclude, by clarifying the goals, identifying the value that the project will bring, and explaining the implementation with clarity and security, the project manager will already be on his way to building and presenting a credible business case.

The facts are important and the numbers are just as important.

But there is an additional element to consider when it comes to exposing a business case to the stakeholders: It is necessary to connect with the public also on an emotional level and tell “a story”.

When a solution is presented and a new story around it is created, it will be very unlikely that stakeholders will give a negative feedback to the presentation.

 

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The Project Management Plan as a project compass

What is a project management plan? You probably already know it, but if this is not the case, or if you still have doubts, read this article and we will try to explain it.

Contracts have been signed, handshakes have taken place and a new project is officially on its way.

But when it comes to planning a new project, a project manager might not know exactly where to start. This is where the project management plan comes into play.

But what is a project management plan? How do you accurately predict the duration of activities? How are the expectations of stakeholders translated into concrete outputs? What happens if something goes wrong?

The project management plan is the answer to these questions and the key to a successful project.

What is a project management plan?

The project manager creates the project management plan based on the input of the project team and the main stakeholders.

A project management plan is an approved formal document that defines how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.

It can be a summary or a detailed document and can include baselines and other planning documents.

As work progresses, project performance is measured and compared to the base included in the project management plan.

If, while the work progresses, a deviation from the baseline occurs, the project manager will take care of it by making the necessary corrections.

If these corrections fail to correct deviations, formal modification requests to the baselines become necessary.

What are the components of a project management plan?

A project plan is composed of three basic elements:

  • Activity: status of the activity, priority, time, allocation of human and financial resources, notifications, etc.
  • Tasks: the smallest jobs that make up the largest project.
  • Resources: what you need – people, equipment, site, etc. – to complete the tasks of the project.

Obviously, these are the indispensable macro elements that have to be taken into account, but starting to go into detail we can see how the plan must consider other countless aspects.

The details of a Project Management Plan

This is why a project management plan is further divided into many parts, each of which will be elaborated in detail and will be decisive for the success of the project. Let’s see what:

  • Determine the scope of the project: establish the limits of the project and the responsibilities of each team member. This is established by determining and documenting specific project goals, results, characteristics, functions, tasks, deadlines and costs.
  • Project phases: this is the life cycle, from initiation, planning and execution, to monitoring, control and, finally, project closure. So, here you are breaking a project’s schedule into smaller, more manageable parts. It is possible to think of these as mini-projects that can be marked by milestones.
  • Activity planning: this is basically a list of things to do to complete the project. It is here that all that concerns the flow of the project is collected from the beginning to the end.
  • Identify the key points of the activities: those activities that signal the end of a phase of the project are called milestones. These milestones are generally indicated in the plan with diamond-shaped icons and help to break down the project into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  • Tasks: these jobs should be small incremental steps towards the final output. They can be extracted directly from the program of activities that was created in the previous step.
  • Duration: here the project manager calculates how much time he thinks that each activity and project phase will require. These are estimates, but are based on the general deadline of the project and the project manager must still be realistic about them.
  • Dependencies: here we talk about the activities that depend on the completion of other activities; before the previous ones are not completed, the next cannot begin. It is possible to link these dependencies and set notifications so that the team knows when they are complete, so as not to block the work and make the process more fluid.
  • Resources: they are what is needed to carry out the project. These can be anything, from the people in the project team to the material management software they will need to complete their tasks, from the workplace to external suppliers and contractors, etc.
  • Timeline: it is the determination of how much time is available for each phase of the project. A timeline provides a view of the schedule and activities that lets the project manager know how to distribute the workload.
  • Budget: here the costs involved in assigning all the resources needed are determined. This number will generally have to be approved by the directors of the organization and / or by the project sponsor and normally lies within a number range; it is therefore necessary to be realistic when making estimates.
  • Monitor progress: clearly during the project, the project manager will have to keep track of the progress of the project plan. The actual progress compared to the planned one must be monitored, if possible, in real time, which allows changes to be made in the event of problems before they become unmanageable.

Clearly, at the end of a project, it is important to analyze the entire progress of the project from beginning to end, especially in the case of problems encountered during the life cycle (link to https://twproject.com/it/blog/ciclo- the-life-of-a-project-phase-and-features /).

It will also be necessary to compare the results obtained with the forecast results included in the project management plan. You will have to reflect on any mistakes you have made, to ensure that the next similar project does not fall into the same mistakes.

Creation of the project plan and support tools

As we could see a project plan includes many elements that have to be considered. This is why project management tools can make the creation of the project plan and its management much simpler and more efficient.

The market offers several project management tools, each with its own features and its own unique graphics.

A Project Management software such as Twproject, for example, also allows the sharing of the project management plan among all users.

Team members can use this tool to update their activities, which means getting real-time data on the project that will allow the project manager to manage it more productively.

The project management plan is practically a process of organizing the various small pieces in order to achieve the final goal outlined in the project.

You can have a good plan, but a project manager also needs the right tools to implement it correctly, especially in the case of more complex projects.

Even more so in the case of changes to the project management plan, PM tools can be particularly useful.

If you have never used TWproject you can try it for free by clicking here in order to evaluate all its features.

Conclusions

Although the project management plan is developed as part of the project, it should be a living document that evolves as the project progresses and is updated with the most recent relevant information.

This project management plan should be available to all project members, as it can provide essential information about the project itself. We are indeed talking about the main communication document for the project.

Creating a complete and strategically valid project management plan is essential to ensure the success of a project. Our guidelines can help you a lot in the making and creating it and this might not be as difficult as you think.

With a well-designed project management plan, the project manager will have a high probability of keeping the project on track and of fulfilling the promises initially made to the different stakeholders.

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