Communicate with the project team

Communicate with the project team: the best techniques to use

A good communication with team is the main method for excellent project management. In fact, effective communication allows a project to have a successful conclusion, but on the other hand, bad communication could be fatal.

The project teams are in a constant state of communication: e-mails, videoconferences, phone calls, messages, face-to-face discussions, and non-verbal interactions.

Whatever the type of media used, project teams can increase the chances of reaching goals if the right communication strategies are developed and if everyone is kept informed about what is happening.

Here are some suggestions for the project manager in order to communicate effectively with the team during the project.

Adopt an “open door” policy

An “open door” policy allows anyone to ask questions and expose concerns and ideas at any time.

This is an important part of building trust within the team. Knowing that it is possible to ask questions about any concern is a great motivation for team members. It makes them feel important and an integral part of the project.

Another suggestion is not only to “open the door” figuratively, but also literally. Removing physical obstacles between employees creates a sense of mutual trust and encourages an open exchange of ideas.

Be open to mutual feedback

Nobody is perfect, so we all need a feedback from time to time.

A criticism or feedback is useful when it is constructive and, to be effective, it must be clear and detailed.

And we must not forget that feedback or criticism, whatever it may be, must be accepted and processed by the person who receives it. A good Project Manager must be ready to carefully examine the feedback received from the team and to take, where necessary, the right measures and / or corrections.

Be clear about the activities so that everyone knows his responsibility

No one can complete an activity if he is not sure what his responsibilities are.

For a project manager, it is essential to make sure that the whole team knows the purpose of the project and that each individual has a clear idea of what exactly is expected of him. In this a RACI matrix can be very useful.

Bringing the team together regularly in order to monitor progress, ask questions, and tackle any problem is another effective way to keep everyone on track. Make sure all team members are aware of their responsibilities within the project.

Do fun things to boost morale

Team building exercises have long been used to improve communication between team members.

In addition to organizing role-plays or other workplace activities, it is also possible to organize a dinner (for example once a month).

The goal is to create socialization among team members. When colleagues are comfortable with each other, they communicate better.

The feeling of having a second family at work makes people more willing to work harder towards a common goal.

Give a purpose to coffee breaks

coffee break
Linked to the previous point and team building: a coffee break allows everyone to interact informally while still in the workplace.

Coffee is the fuel that allows most people to “survive” during working days, so why not make it enjoyable and productive at the same time?

Communication training courses

This can be very effective for improving group communication.

Communication-focused training is not just about basic conversation skills but, depending on the course, it could include presentation skills, writing skills, and training on managerial skills.

Decide which form of communication works best

Different situations require different ways of communication.

For a project that involves team members working remotely, for example, a video conference is an excellent way to keep in touch and exchange information on progress and goals.

For projects with an internal team, face-to-face meetings are often the best method of communication.

In short, depending on the type of project and team, the most efficient form of communication could be different. Therefore, it is important to choose it well.

Use project management software for greater transparency

Project management software enables transparency across the team, giving the possibility to monitor progress, collaborate with other members, and check details and deadlines.

With a simplified system, everyone has access to project specifications and can leave comments that others can see. Moreover, a chat inside the software, will greatly facilitate the communication between members.

Identify group leaders

In most project teams, there may be several leaders (below the project manager) who coordinate team subgroups.

It is important to make clear from the start who those leaders are, let the team members, but also the project manager himself, know exactly who to contact in case of problems or questions.

This process distributes work more equitably among leaders and reduces stress on individual team members.

Understanding diversity problems

When people of different nationalities, ideologies, and languages collaborate, the ideas that come from them can create something really special.

But diversity does not come without its challenges: accents, dialects, and cultural dialogues can sometimes lead to confuse communication and create misunderstandings.

To avoid these difficulties, team leaders, together with the project manager, must work on a strategy to minimize these problems.

Identify the strengths of each individual

Not all people like to communicate in the same way.

Visual people, for example, tend to prefer written forms of communication, such as e-mail or software, whereas other type of people benefit more from a phone call, video chat, or face-to-face meetings.

Taking note of the fact that everyone is different and prefers a different form of communication, not only does it improve the spread of information, but it allows us to recognize people as individuals and not as mere numbers.

Be open and honest with team members

Perhaps the most effective way to improve interpersonal communication in the workplace is to spread a sense of trust among team members.

Transparency is the key. If team members feel that some information is kept secret, any trust that has built up over time goes away.

Obviously, some sensitive information must be kept secret, but when it comes to something related to team members, they have the right to know.

The project manager must therefore be open and honest with them and ask them to do the same.

Mutual trust is important in every relationship, including professional relationships.

Take advantage of mobile devices

mobile devices

Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone or other mobile device connected to the network.

So why not take advantage of the opportunities that technological progress gives us?

Some software solutions for project management, for example, can offer an app for project managers and team members, with which it is possible to stay up to date on project developments in real time. In Twproject, for example, you can use the chat.

Make an anonymous survey

In many workplaces, it can be difficult for team members to always be honest.

In order to understand the needs and concerns of the team, a solution can be that of an anonymous survey.

In this way, it will be possible to collect all the concerns that are not directly communicated and find out possible problems that the project manager could not know.

People are more likely to be honest if they know their opinions are and will remain anonymous.

Take responsibility for errors

The best managers are those who assume their responsibilities, even – and above all – when it comes to errors.

Everyone makes mistakes, so by confessing his own fault, a project manager will show to be a human just like his employees.

Using these suggestions, you can bring the team together, improve communication and, in general, make the workplace a better place.

These factors lead to an improvement in the quality of the project, better control over the budget, and greater customer satisfaction.

When the workplace becomes a second home and colleagues become a second family, this cohesion translates into maximum team productivity.

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comitato direttivo

Steering Committee

As the name suggests, a steering or coordination committee helps guide and coordinate a project from beginning to end.

Sometimes, the committee is formed entirely by the team that is directly involved in developing and implementing the project.

More often, however, the steering or coordination committee is composed of representatives of key organizations who are partners in the project and / or who have particular experience in the project sector or whose clients are the final users of the project output.

In general, it is very important and useful to include at least one client or potential user of the output of the project. Their feedback, in fact, can be useful for the success of the project.

A steering committee must be useful to the project manager and not be a distraction or a cause for disturbance, which is why its members should be carefully selected.

What is the role of a steering committee?

The role of the steering committee is to provide advice and ensure the achievement and delivery of project results.

This can include activities such as:

  • Provide input to the development of the project, including the evaluation strategy;
  • Provide advice on the project budget;
  • Define and help achieve project results;
  • Identify the priorities in the project, ie the activities where most of the energy must be directed;
  • Identify and monitor the potential risks of the project;
  • Monitor the quality of the project as it progresses;
  • Give advice, and if necessary make decisions, on project changes

In short, the steering committee provides support, guidance and supervision of progress.

As a rule, the project manager will attend the meetings of the steering committee in order to report and inform on the development of the project and to answer any questions raised by the committee members.

The role of the steering committee is to provide advice and ensure the achievement and delivery of project results.

What role do individual members of the steering committee play?

The members of the Steering Committee are not directly responsible for project management and activities, but provide support and guidance for those who directly work on the project, ie the project team.

Committee members should:

  1. Understand the goal, strategy, and expected results of the project;
  2. Appreciate the importance of the project for the organization and its customers;
  3. Be sincerely interested in the project and the desired results;
  4. Be a supporter of the project by doing everything possible to promote the results;
  5. Have a broad understanding of project management problems.

 In practice, it means that the members of the steering committee should:

  • Ensure that the planned strategy matches the purpose of the project;
  • Review the progress of the project with respect to milestones;
  • Consider ideas and problems;
  • Provide guidance to the project team;
  • Help balancing priorities and conflicting resources;
  • Promote positive communication outside the committee;
  • Actively promote project outputs;
  • Contribute to project evaluation.

Often, a President of the Steering Committee is also elected. It will be a member of the committee that will moderate and ensure that the meetings run smoothly.

It should therefore be emphasized that the first responsibility of the members is to achieve the success of the project and only in the second place, there is the interests of the organization as a whole.

For this reason, members who have experience in a particular area should avoid focusing only on that part. They have to remember that they work on the general project support.

Sometimes, it is useful for the project manager to prepare a simple description of the roles of the members of the steering committee, in which the expectations and the commitment required are defined.
il comitato direttivo

How often should a steering committee meet?

The frequency of the Committee’s meetings is determined by the size and scale of the project.

Usually, for smaller projects it is sufficient to schedule a meeting during the planning phase, another around half of the project in order to monitor progress and a final meeting to evaluate the project results and contribute to its evaluation.

For larger projects, the committee should instead plan meetings that coincide with the milestones of the project.

It is a good practice to set meeting dates in advance, thus ensuring the commitment of committee members to attend.

Steering Committee: meetings

At least one week before the meeting, the Project Manager should distribute the necessary documents for the meeting to all the members of the committee.

These should include:

  • An agenda, including the time scheduled for the meeting, so that members can organize their times accordingly.
  • A report from the last meeting, including an updated action list.
  • A report on the status of the project.
  • Any other documents to be considered in the meeting

The chairman of the committee will conduct the meeting according to the agenda, making sure that all members are encouraged to provide input during the meeting.

It is important to check the list of the actions agreed in the previous meeting (if any), confirm the actions taken and the problems solved and find an agreement on how to proceed with actions that have not yet been completed.

As soon as possible, after the meeting, and no later than one week, a report of the meeting should be sent to the members.

This is important to ensure that members move in the same direction and follow the procedures.

The report should, in fact, include the list of actions agreed during the meeting, marked with the name of the „owner“ and the expected timing for its implementation.

Copies of any additional documentation discussed or produced during the meeting should also be included.

Moreover, the details of the next meeting should also be indicated.

 In conclusion, a consideration is here quite clear.

A steering committee is not in charge of running the project in place of the project manager; if, however, the members of the committee have been selected and adequately informed, their involvement and their experience will have a very positive impact on the achievement of the project goal. If we have this in mind, we can understand how this organ can become fundamental in the economy of the project.

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Project Leader vs Project Manager

Project Leader and Project Manager are two terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. But are they really synonymous?

We will see in this article the differences and similarities between this two roles. We will explain their tasks and responsibilities and how important it is to know the difference between the two.

In general, a project leader can be a project manager, but the project manager is hardly a project leader.

However, both are part of a project and make sure that everything is finalized in the best way, even if their roles are not the same.

The difference between Project manager and Project leader

To understand the difference between managers and leaders, it is possible to use some definitions of leadership and management.

John C. Maxwell in his book “The 360 ​​Degree Leader” provided one of the simplest yet profound descriptions of the distinction between a manager and a leader.

He said that managers work with processes, while leaders work with people.

John Paul Kotter goes even further, stating that management involves planning, budgeting, organization, human resources, control and resolution of problems, while leadership involves setting the direction, aligning people, motivating and inspiring the group.

Kotter describes leadership and management as two different complementary action systems, each with their own characteristics and functions.

However, both are necessary for change and for the organization as a whole.

On the basis of these definitions, it can therefore be argued that management is clearly different from leadership.

Leadership is necessary to initiate change, innovate and create new products, systems, and services. Leadership also means motivating people in becoming agents of change, risk managers, and innovators.

Management, on the other hand, deals mainly with the correct and effective functioning of processes.

This does not mean that project managers should not be leaders; on the contrary, to become a good project manager, you need to be a good leader.

Responsibilities of project leaders and project managers

Project leaders and project managers are often considered interchangeable positions in smaller project teams.

However, in larger teams dealing with more complex projects, these professionals must work together in order to keep the project on track.

Project leaders can, for example, use a project budget and motivate team members, while project managers help set the budget based on cost analysis and review team efficiency.

Let‘s take a closer look at the responsibilities and tasks of this two roles.

Project Leader

Probably the most important task for project leaders is to be a link between project team members and company leadership.

In software development teams, project leaders are also known as scrums masters and development sprint leads.

The job responsibilities of a project leader include:

  • Assisting and planning meetings with other leaders, such as the project director.
  • Developing reports on project progress and financial conditions.
  • Testing the product prototypes.
  • Keeping the team focused and motivated
  • Guiding people throughout the project; the project leader is always present in case of problems.
  • Ensuring that the project is carried out in the best possible way.
  • Motivating, giving clues, providing ideas, listening to the team.

In general, the project leader has more freedom than the project manager when it comes to giving orders and controlling people.

In essence, the project leader adds value to the project and the team, gives meaning to the work as a whole and makes people feel that their work is appreciated and important.

In short, the project leader is a spiritual support for the team.

Project Manager

Project managers define the goals of the project after meeting the company leaders and learning the specifications of the requested and commissioned output.

Together with business leaders, the project manager also approves project plans and work orders, prioritizing the tasks.

Moreover, the project managers create a document, similar to a contract, which specifies the plan and the characteristics of the deliverables.

The job responsibilities of a project manager include:

  • Providing quality assurance tests on the final product.
  • Supervisioning of the technical staff.
  • Ensuring that employees adhere to contracts or company policies.
  • Breaking down the project into smaller tasks (WBS – Work Breakdown Structure)
  • Ensuring compliance with deadlines.
  • Taking care of the budget, the program, deadlines, documentation, human resources, etc.
  • Reporting progress; the project manager is responsible for providing updates on project progress and possible obstacles.

 

In a nutshell, the project manager should not motivate people, but keep things organized.

The importance of Project Leader and Project Manager

Being a project manager or project leader requires a lot of work in terms of managing and analyzing data and all information relating to the progress of the team or the organization in general.

Both roles are fundamental for the success of a project and for the motivation of the team.

Since both roles must know and follow every detail of the project carefully, it is extremely important that they have access to all the data.

A leader, like a manager, must act in an intelligent and thoughtful way and that is why he needs to use certain tools to improve the work, such as a project management software. Twproject was built precisely on the basis of the needs of the Project Leaders and Project Managers but also paying close attention to the needs and requirements of the Team. If you haven’t tried it yet, try Twproject now for free (link a https://twproject.com/it/prova-twproject/) and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to use and how Twproject can make things easier for you.

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

the resource management

Resource management

Resource Management, or the ability to manage resources useful for the execution of a project, is one of the skills definitely required in the case of a Project Manager.

It is logic that an organization uses different resources for the execution of a single project. These resources typically include people, equipment, information, materials, time, and money. Most organizations, however, have a limited amount of resources available and, therefore, their allocation planning is essential for their effective management and use.

Project resource management involves not only the implementation of internal and external resources necessary for the delivery of a project, but also their procurement.

Having said this, it is obvious that Resource Management focuses primarily on the use of resources, on monitoring their use and productivity, and on measuring the effectiveness of the resources used.

 Plans and Processes for managing the resources of a project

Resource management also involves the creation of plans and processes that facilitate their management and there are several ways to implement them.

For example, one can create spreadsheets, documents, use project management software or use a combination of these three tools.

The main goal, regardless of the method chosen, will always be to successfully manage all the resources until the end of the project.

Let´s see the steps for a good management of project resources.

7 secrets for the good management of project resources

1. Resource estimation

Estimating the need for resources, internal as well as external, is one of the first steps in managing project resources.

One of the most common techniques used for resource estimation is the judgment of the experts, ie the estimate made on the basis of the experience acquired in previous projects.

Here every resource is evaluated, from people to machines and even to any physical space, such as an office, which is needed during the project.

It is necessary to focus well and spend sufficient time at this stage; the more complete the list of resources, the more accurate the program will be.

 2. Data collection

There are some data not only necessary but indispensable for the efficient management of resources in a project. Among the data that should not be missing, we can include:

  • Available resources
  • Requirements for resources
  • How resources will be able to meet the demands

If these details are not deeply investigated, the PM could have serious difficulties in completing the project.

resource management

3. Resource plan

As already mentioned, each project plan must have a separate resource plan that contains various aspects relating to the need, allocation, and use of resources from the beginning to the end of the project.

Just like any other aspect of project management, also when planning resources, you should start with a plan. This will be the basis on which the management process will be built.

In the resource plan, a project manager can create, for example, a hierarchical list of resources needed to complete the project.

Since this is a plan, it is necessary to involve the other members of the project team, too. In fact, some team members may require additional resources.

4. Plan the development of the plan

Planning for development involves setting the start and end dates of all project activities in order to create a final program.

The resource plan, containing the hierarchical distribution of resources, also called Structure Breakdown Structure – RBS, is then combined with the breakdown of project activities. This helps to assign the required resources to each activity more efficiently.

These basic hierarchies should include at least the staff and, preferably, all the resources on which the project budget will be spent, but it is up to the project manager to define which type of hierarchies are relevant for each specific project.

5. Verification of over-allocations

 A project manager must ensure that the over-allocation of any resource is avoided.

The over-allocation occurs when a greater amount of work is assigned to a resource that, consequently, will not be able to complete the activity within the normal working hours.

This can lead to overtime, which will consequently affect the budget, or could even block or derail a project.

It is therefore essential that resources are balanced.

6. Negotiate for resources

Smaller projects generally rely on the organization’s internal resources. In more complex projects, however, resources can easily come from the outside.

This implies that the Project Manager should have excellent negotiating skills in order to obtain the necessary organizational resources, both internal and external, at the best cost.

7. Monitor the work schedule

You need to be able to monitor the hourly and daily availability of individual resources, and keep track of their vacations and absences.

In the case of a remote team, it is also important to take into account the time differences, as well as the various global holidays that may differ from the national holiday calendar.

The team’s workload is another metric that a project manager needs to monitor closely.

If all the work is done by a few team members, while the others are inactive, resources will need to be redistributed.

Another method could be to level the resources, ensuring that the activities are equally distributed within the team

Conclusions

In conclusion, resource management is strongly linked to project management planning.

These are different but complementary disciplines. The more resource management is implemented with a holistic approach, the greater the possibility of being able to act in a timely manner in order to keep the project on track and direct it towards success, respecting the pre-established times and budget.

Therefore, it is necessary for a project manager to have the right tools to have information about the resources while the project is in progress.

Using a Gantt chart provides a visual approach to project activities, durations, and dependencies that link one activity to another.

Other project managers could use an Excel spreadsheet or a specific and more reliable project management tool.

In general, when managing the resources of a project, there are several elements to monitor, and this process can become complicated and confusing.

However, with the right tool, it is possible to plan, monitor, and generate reports on resources with great control and precision.

We have the tools, we have the culture.

how to manage agile team

How to manage an Agile team

Learning to manage an Agile Work Team is not easy. For many companies, becoming more “agile” requires a significant change in the way leaders and managers seek success.

The frameworks of managing projects established as Agile are too often considered as models to copy and paste. But if you really want to work fast, deliver the results in time and achieve the goals, you need to adapt the Agile method to the team.

How an Agile team works

An Agile team is an inter-functional group of autonomous people. The people in the group can deliver the product without having to rely on expertise outside the group.

 

It is indeed a “complete team“. It does not need anything and nobody more in order to carry out the activities.

Agile management has been developed as an alternative to the traditional project management, directed towards an important and unique final result.

The Agile methodology, on the other hand, reduces the goals to different (sub)independent products that can be developed and released quickly.

The two main styles of management of the Agile project are Scrum and Kanban. Both use a tab to view the activities in columns that represent the tasks that have to be done, those in progress and those that have been completed.

There are some features that define an Agile workflow:

  • Daily stand-up: a daily meeting in which contributors and managers discuss the work carried out the previous day, the activities planned for the day, and all the questions that arise.
  • Sprint: short intervals in which the products are planned, developed, reviewed, and released. They are projects within the projects.
  • Periodic and retrospective reviews: an Agile team manages itself, but there are integrated measures to ensure that work is delivered with consistent quality. Periodic reviews take place before activities are completed.

With short intervals of tasks and demanding schedules, an Agile workflow requires a coordinated team.

The roles must be fairly assigned so that people know exactly what they need to do at any time, but flexible enough to allow people to take the initiative and exceed expectations.

The roles within an Agile team

Since an Agile development team must be “everything”, it is important to have the right and defined roles in the group. The most common Agile team roles are:

  • Team Leader. If you are using the Scrum method, this role will be the Scrum Master. The focal point of this figure is to facilitate the work of the team. The Team Leader or Scrum Master is responsible for finding resources for the team and ensures that team members can work safely with everything they need, allowing them to go ahead and do a great job.
  • Product owner. This role is more or less similar to a project sponsor in the case of non-Agile projects. This is the person who represents the interests of the client / stakeholder, ie the person who will own the product on which the Agile team is working.
  • Team member. Any person who is part of the team and / or has something valuable to make in order to successfully complete the deliverables.
  • Tester. Since much of the Agile work is still done in the IT world (Information Technology), software testing is still an important part of the Agile teams. Even in non-IT teams, a figure that can act as a tester could be useful. Because Agile projects are provided incrementally, the test is very important.

On larger teams or specialized products the following figures may also be present:

  • Experts in technical sectors or in other sectors. They may not be entirely part of the team and could be released as needed to support the core team.
  • Architect. The role of the system architect is to ensure that the solution fits into the scope and fits into the rest of the corporate architecture.

manage agile team

Building the Agile team on a solid foundation

Once the team is chosen and structured, it is important to remember that agile teams are like individuals: they need time to grow.

Agile teams go through four key phases as they develop:

  1. Forming: at this stage a very high level of leadership by the project manager is required. Individual roles are still unclear and the processes have yet to be established.
  2. Storming: here we begin to understand how the team’s decisions are made, the purpose is clear but the relationships within the team are still confused
  3. Norming: relationships are now well understood within the team, a general commitment is made to achieve the goals and process optimization begins.
  4. Performing: in this phase the team is at the peak and has reached maturity, therefore it needs little surveillance.

When a change is introduced, such as a new hiring, retirement of a member, etc. The team returns to the forming phase while absorbing the change.

Two pillars that characterize the great Agile teams

  • Continuous Mentoring. One of the great advantages of working in a team is that colleagues learn from each other and help each other. Mentoring is not just an activity for junior members who learn from senior members. All team members learn from each other so that the impact of the team as a whole is greater than the sum of the impact of individual members.
  • Shared skill sets. Shared skills unlock the power of the team to deal with heterogeneous work. Whatever the role, it is always important to learn new skills because it makes an individual more valuable for the organization and better equipped to support the other. This way, team members will always discover new and better ways to perform tasks. This factor will bring forward not only the project, but the entire organization.

Ultimately, the people of an Agile team count as much as the structure and plan of a project.

If people have been addressed and assigned to roles in which they can excel and establish clear standards that make them responsible, it will be possible to obtain not only better products and results, but a team and an organization that improves measurably with each project.

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the next generation pmo

The next generation PMO

Our journey into the future continues with the analysis of the second report on disruptive technologies presented by the PMI. You can read the first article here.

This time the focus is on the PMO, the department that manages the projects within an organization.

The massive chain effect of disruptive technologies is like a powerful accelerator of the way in which the Project Management Office adapts to new methods and new tools.

Next generation PMOs are at the forefront of adopting and implementing disruptive technologies and are also taking a more strategic role within the organization.

The PMO in a disruptive world

One thing is certain:

Only those organizations that will succeed in developing capacity for change and speed of response will survive.
If companies fail to innovate and integrate the new technologies, they will be destined to disappear from the market.

Of course, this statement may seem too drastic, but the changes and contaminations from different sectors are already visible.

The rapid emergence of disruptive technologies combined with the speed of the market are the factors on which organizations must focus.

So here is the need for PMOs to:

  • Quickly adapt to changes made by these technologies
  • Support initiatives based on disruptive technologies
  • Discover how to apply these technologies to the functions of the PMO

So far, the PMOs have been slow to change, but the rise of disruptive technologies, together with the change of global market priorities and the drive towards continuous innovation, should act as a stimulus to start a real transformation.

The PMOs moving towards change understand that in today’s environment, the success of an organization depends on both an effective and dynamic strategy, both from a creative and resilient execution by an enhanced PMO.

The skills of the next generation PMO

Project managers and PMOs must be ready, available and able to work in new ways in order to make the most of disruptive technologies.

The skills required within the PMO will surely be influenced by the existence of disruptive technologies.

And what are the skills that will be most requested? The report shows an interesting series of facts. We quote the chart with the answers that seem more interesting.

From the following table, it is possible to see, for each of the skills or activities, the increase in actual or requested use in a PMO during the last year:

next generation pmo

Agile Approach, leadership, informal communication, in short, the knowledge of the PMO are expanding. Often this happens with the addition of new approaches, combined with the traditional basic concepts of project management.
Today’s disruptive technologies are a call to action that aims to reformulate the role of the PMO.

In fact, the PMO is recognized as a driving force by 92% of managers.

As disruptive technologies create new models and strategic opportunities, the new generation of PMOs is evolving from passive entities that manage goals, costs, and plans to active partners who drive and execute strategic initiatives.

The PMO of the next generation is therefore no longer inextricably linked to traditional measures of success such as planning and budgeting, but it must be a strategic factor, bridging the gap between the vision of a company and the way in which that vision comes to life.

This evolution will not only ensure that the organization is ready to take full advantage of disruptive technologies, but also that it can withstand future challenges and reach future opportunities.

The best PMOs are leading the way, changing their systems, adapting their approaches, and reinventing their processes to allow their organization to begin a new era.

And are you ready with your group to ride the disruptive technologies?

You can download this second report at the following address
https://www.pmi.org/learning/thought-leadership/series/disruptive-technologies/the-next-generation-pmo

We have the tools, we have the culture.

the multigenerational work team

Multigenerational Work Team: Know them to manage them

We talked a few articles ago about the Project Manager and how the management of the project teams should function, not considering the generational difference.

We have described, in that article, how today, in a job or in a team, up to 5 generations can be co-present, and this aspect must be managed at best if a project has to be successfully concluded.

Developing and mastering the generational skills within your work team is therefore essential for the project manager. Thanks to it, it will be possible to better understand the behaviors (“what” the team members do), and clarify the convictions and basic attitudes (“why” the team members do it).

As a result, project managers will improve leadership, time management and communication in order to foster respect and maximum productivity among team members.

How to overcome the generational differences of the work team

According to industry experts, the so-called generational gap is, in large part, the result of misunderstandings fueled by common insecurities and the desire for influence.

In an integration process, three relevant areas have been identified for project managers who wish to develop their generational competence and reduce this gap.

  1. Leadership (hierarchy and authority between generations),
  2. Time management (personal and work time between generations)
  3. Communication (favorite styles across generations)

Leadership: hierarchy and authority through the generations

The teams that work on a project are never homogeneous both for age as well as for culture and life experiences.

Therefore, in order to affirm one’s leadership, it is fundamental to understand where a generation tends to see the hierarchy and the authority. By hierarchy and authority we mean the whole package, including the way the rules are set, the way teamwork is displayed, and how management styles vary.

It will be appropriate, therefore, to make a roundup on the characteristics of the various generations in order to understand them more thoroughly.

multigenerational work team

Loyalty and respect are a common denominator for Millenials (Generation Y). The Millenial is faithful to people, respects and seeks the guidance of those who hold positions of authority.

It is important to involve this generation, to really give them a “seat at the table” and to seriously consider their ideas, their creativity and the innovation they offer.

Of course, this can go against corporate hierarchical systems, but it is good to think that, despite their young age, in many workplaces they are no longer the younger generation, or if they are, they will soon pass that role to the Generation Z.

The Baby Boomers, on the other hand, support teamwork and fairness, but think that the rules can be challenged. It is important to be prepared to clarify the reasons for the proposed changes, since it is a generation that easily questions authority.

Due to the propensity of this generation, it can also be strategic and effective to ask them to guide new employees in the organization.

Many people belonging to the Generation Y are sons of Boomers and for this reason there is a high level of synergy and understanding between the new “younger” generations and the “younger” generations in the workplace.

Generation X, on the contrary, believes that the rules are dynamic and established by individuals rather than by institutions. They tend to test authority and do not like too much supervision or micromanagement. This generation of individuals is often guided better by exploiting their independent and entrepreneurial instincts. The best way to value this generation is based on new ways and individual approaches towards things.

Strategic time management and priorities: work and personal time in all generations

In a spectrum of time management, we need to consider the different priorities in terms of work-life balance and related obligations.

The Baby Boomers consider work as a high priority. If involved, they commit their work hours to projects, regardless of productivity.

This is a generation that has invented the concept of the workaholic and strongly believes in visibility in the workplace.

Generally speaking, it is a generation which is reluctant to take a break and lose the so-called “place in the team”, resulting, for many, in a state of imbalance between work and family.

Many strategies to work effectively with Baby Boomers are focused on recognizing the time spent on projects. A public recognition of their work, in addition to benefits based on financial criteria (for example, expense accounts, travel), more flexible working hours, and interactions with the highest roles of the company, help motivate them and communicate the value attributed to their work.

Generation X, on the other hand, is characterized by the desire to control and set up one’s career path, personal ambitions, time and place of work. It is paid to do a job, but has also time for other areas of life.

Many individuals of this generation is still rebellious against Boomer parents who have never found this balance between private and professional life.

Generation X shows much more than a “work to live mentality” and sacrifices balance when necessary, but not as a general rule.

The best X Generation management best practices indicate that you focus on your business while leaving the greatest possible time management freedom. At the micro level, this can take the form of allowing them to work alone or reward them with a price in form of free time for a job well done.

At the macro level, it is possible to provide them with options to control their professional development path. Prizes and awards should not be visible – like in the case of Boomers – and should focus on the results of the project, rather than the time spent on a project or even an organization.

The Millennials generation is driven by a strong need for work-life balance and benefits that enable a rewarding career and life, including personal development and community involvement.

For this generation, lifestyle and meaningful experience count and they are looking for an organization that allows both.

It is important to recognize the Mllennials’ desire for frequent and ascendant change, and organizations can do so by offering a variety of career paths in project management and exposure to a myriad of project experiences.

Communicate with the multigenerational work team: communication styles

In a communication approach, we need to be aware of what types of communication are most appreciated by each group and how they are used.

Baby Boomers believe a lot in face-time, that is in the interpersonal relationship, although they often like a written follow-up.

It is important to understand that this “workaholic” generation often expects more than anything, and this includes not only the hours, but also the follow-through, the project documentation and the organization. Although they are almost at the top of the organization considering the age, their technological capabilities should not be underestimated.

Generation X and Millennials both have a lower value in terms of face time, having grown with much greater technological influences than the Baby Boomers.

Generation X tends to look for open communication regardless of organizational hierarchy and status. This techno-literate generation often uses e-mail as the primary method of communication, preferring to keep short messages. It is a generation that appreciates giving and receiving regular feedback.

Millennials like communications anytime, anywhere and can be described as techno-savvy (techno-experts).

It is the first generation that needs to be connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a generation that requires real-time communication as text, chat, Twitter.

What at first sight may seem like a distraction is often their way of working and doing multitasking. Technological social networks have also translated into a more natural ability to work in teams, interact with different people and connect between different cultures. This generation seeks positive reinforcements from superiors and respects their opinions.

Some strategies for communicating with multigenerational work teams

In addition to specific strategies for the already mentioned generations, it is good to always have a general overview, an alternative point of view.

For this reason, we want to provide you with some strategies for the leadership of successful multigenerational projects:

Strategy n. 1: Do your research

Although we often think of generations in terms of age, as we have seen, each generation is defined much more by common experiences than by birth years. So, just like you would do with a national culture, do your research.

Understanding the key factors and events that have shaped the group’s behavior in each country will help you understand more and judge less. Do not create stereotypes based on age. Age is just a number.

Strategy n. 2: be ready to embrace change

In the last ten years, the US labor force has changed dramatically. The generation of Baby Boomers has shrunk from 18% to 2% and Gen X and Millennials have come to dominate the workforce with a percentage of 64%.

As a leader in high-performance organizations, we need to be aware of both the current generation situation in the countries we are working in and changes in the horizon. Being ready to embrace change, we need improve our ability to conduct effectively.

Strategy n. 3: Develop your “generational competence”

Through our educational and professional efforts, we focus on skills development. Demonstrating “cultural competence” has become popular, but have you thought about management changes that you can make to show “generational competence”? For example, in general, the Chinese Millennials are motivated by a tough work, while European Millennials often seek work-life balance, and US Millennials seek work that offers personal satisfaction, taking into account differences like these is now a critical part of achieving organizational success on a global scale.

Strategy n. 4: focus on being relevant

Rather than equating “different” with “bad”, today’s leaders should think more about how to be relevant. As we modify our products and strategies for different markets, we need to change our leadership and communication style for the different types of teams we come into contact with. We have to adapt to different cultures. We must also strive to change behaviors and expectations, whenever possible, trying to be the most suitable leader for each generation. Our goal, in essence, is to reap the benefits of the different project management environment in which we find ourselves from time to time.
As for the national culture, the first step is to become aware of the differences. Be open about what you notice and make it a topic of conversation within the team. Do it while working to maximize synergies between generational and national borders.

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Stakeholder engagement Plan

Stakeholder engagement plan: how to plan stakeholder engagement

Stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management are, without doubt, fundamental for project success, but, despite this, they are often considered a marginal activity.

Stakeholder engagement is instead an essential and at the same time broad topic.

It includes gathering and sharing information, managing concerns and complaints, measuring the impact and importance of different stakeholder groups, efficient communication and more.

This is why we decided to dedicate this article to how to plan stakeholder engagement.

The stakeholder engagement plan

As with any other business process, the stakeholder engagement process should be systematic, logical and practical.

This process can be represented in cyclic form. It is a constant process and lessons learned from past experience determine future planning and commitment.

The process is not linear, rather it is an iterative process.

The organization learns and improves its ability to engage with significant stakeholder involvement. This improvement takes place while relations of mutual respect are developed, which replace the one-off consultations.

Let’s see the various phases of the stakeholder engagement plan:

Planning

Identify the basic goals, the problems that have to be faced and the stakeholders to whom the critical priorities for the organization should be assigned.

Understanding the stakeholders

Identify the urgency they feel for their problems, the legitimacy of their interest and the power they have to impact on the organization in general. Have an understanding of their motivations, goals and problems, and which of these are actually the problems of the project. In this way it will be possible to outline the priority stakeholders.

Building trust

The different stakeholders will come with different levels of trust and confidence. Recognizing this and the way in which we interact with them will therefore have to adapt to the level of trust.

Consultation

For general success, it is important to get during this phase:
Fair representation of all stakeholders.
Provide information and proposals that respond directly to the expectations and interests of previously identified stakeholders and not only to information that responds to internal goals and activities.
Provide detailed background information to stakeholders who must draw fair and reasonable conclusions.
Be realistic in the negotiations regarding expectations, needs and goals. This will help to reach an agreement and create trust.

The consultation process includes personal interviews, workshops, focus groups, public meetings, surveys and other participatory tools. It is important to choose the relevant process for each stakeholder group; one model does not fit everyone.

Respond and implement

Decide a course of action for each issue. Understanding the possible reactions of stakeholders to a proposal.

Monitor, evaluate and document

Knowledge management is essential in order to acquire information and share what is learned. The transparency of the process is greatly helped by accurate documentation. Remember to report to stakeholders on progress, in a form and language understandable by them.

The golden rules for optimal stakeholder engagement

the Stakeholder engagement Plan

  • Internal alignment of the organization in terms of expectations, roles and results. Being flexible will help achieve this, as well as appreciate the different points of view, pressures and business goals.
  • Building a relationship of trust with the stakeholders is very important, helped by an understanding of their points of view and their motivations. Project managers must therefore evaluate the level of trust in relationships but not be too hasty in their judgment.
  • Understanding the motivations of stakeholders and the organization and being transparent can help overcome differences. Recognizing that the fundamental motivation of each part may be very different from another. However, understanding and articulating this difference can already help fill in the gaps.
  • The organization must recognize the importance of the opinions and commitment of the stakeholders. It is essential that the organization as a whole appreciates the contribution that stakeholders make to the overall success of the company.
  • It is important to plan commitment and communication in a way that encourages everyone’s point of view.
  • The organization’s culture will have an impact on how stakeholder engagement occurs. For this reason the assessment of the corporate culture is important to identify the enabling factors and the obstacles to the activities of stakeholder involvement.
  • Evaluating a past non-productive involvement will help the organization learn from past experiences. It is therefore important to collect this information from the point of view of the organization and the stakeholders.

In conclusion, organizations can no longer choose if they want to interact with stakeholders or not; the only decision they have to make is when and how to successfully engage with them.

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Emotional intelligence3

Emotional intelligence and project management

When the concept of Emotional Intelligence entered the mainstream for the first time, the skeptics labeled it as a temporary fashion that would soon be forgotten.

However, since the publication in 1995 of Daniel Goleman’s book “Emotional Intelligence”, emotional intelligence has increased its credibility in the business world more and more, becoming an important skill for managers.

Today, indeed, the project manager’s work is not limited to defining the project scope, creating a plan or keeping track of costs and timing.

Other activities are entering the field and the agenda of the PM. We talk about activities such as relationship development, team building, influence, collaboration and negotiation.

Attention to the business climate has also increased. In order to optimize the results of the project, while maximizing the use of resources, it becomes essential that those who manage the project understand and apply the principles of emotional intelligence.

The project manager must be able to create a climate in which customers, team members, stakeholders and management can communicate clearly. A climate in which it will be easy to manage challenges more effectively and make choices in order to act strategically and quickly.

 

Emotional Intelligence: the capabilities of the Project Manager

In fact, project managers must be able to do the following:

  • Operating in complex environments: project managers must influence, negotiate and collaborate with other departments and teams and understand the interdependencies of projects. The ability to build relationships and understand how to get the best out of others is a critical skill that the project manager must inevitably possess.
  • Creating effective teams: people are the key to the success of any project and project managers rarely have direct control over the staff they work with. They must therefore be able to motivate the team, manage members from the most disparate sources and manage conflicts, all skills that require the ability to understand people and their particular needs.
  • Managing change: by their very nature, projects cause change. Building a technical solution is just a component of a project; understanding and managing the impact of this solution on a population of users and the effect of this change is a critical skill for a project manager.
  • Leadership: project managers must have the role of leader with respect to the people involved in the project, to the stakeholders and to the other groups with whom they interact. In addition to the ability to make decisions based on analysis of the situation, the ability to make decisions based on understanding the impact on people is also an important aspect of leadership.
  • Results: the complexity of the environment and the degree to which the collaboration must be successful are unprecedented and the simple ability to draw a project plan is not sufficient to make a project manager succeed. Understanding your emotions, the emotions of others and how these can be managed more effectively, can have an important effect on the ability of a project manager to deliver results.

The ability of emotional intelligence is based on an individual’s ability to recognize, pay attention and understand the emotions in oneself and others.

This refers to the critical skills that demonstrate empathy, differentiate between emotions, and identify the impact that emotions have on a situation.

Research shows that about 55% of what we perceive from someone comes from body language, about 38% from the tone of the voice and only 7% from the actual words the person is using.

The perception of emotional signals for project managers is therefore a critical skill.

For example, misunderstanding the body language of a stakeholder when trying to negotiate a given factor within a project will not only be a critical factor in the outcome of that single situation, but also on the tone of the relationship throughout the whole project life cycle.

So let’s see in detail the role of emotional intelligence in the routine of a project manager.

Emotional Intelligence and Management: control and management of emotions

In this sense we mean the ability to manage, control and effectively express emotions.

Identifying our moods and the impact of our moods on our behavior is a critical aspect of self-awareness.

For example, if the project manager is stressed out and goes to the team directly after a negative meeting without understanding his personal stress level, there is a risk that this stress will be passed on to the team members. The consequence will be a dramatic reduction in staff motivation.

Emotional intelligence

In this case, the project manager must take time to calm down and rebalance himself and only then he can talk to his staff.

It is therefore essential to be able to perform a self-analysis in order to understand the emotions that are being experienced and how to manage them.

Emotional Intelligence and Decision-making: on whom do I impact?

With emotional intelligence in decision-making, we mean the ability to apply emotions appropriately in order to manage and solve problems, something that a project manager has to do on a daily basis.

Project managers must be able to make decisions by analyzing all aspects of a situation, without distorting reality in a positive or negative way, and understanding the aspects and impacts of people on any decision made.

Decisions often translate into changes and therefore part of the decision is the ability to identify and understand the emotional impact of change on other people.

Emotional Intelligence and Realization: inner motivation

Emotional intelligence with respect to realization is the ability to generate the emotions necessary to motivate oneself in the pursuit of realistic and meaningful goals.

A manager should be able to set goals and, if he fails, to step back, analyze what mus be corrected or changed and continue with corrective and proactive action.

Determination and vigor are feelings that help to advance towards action and realization and for project managers these are fundamental skills for success.

Emotional Intelligence and Influence: being the leader

Influencing, in the concept of emotional intelligence, is the ability to recognize, manage and evoke emotions in others in order to promote change.

It is the ability to assess a situation, interpret the emotional tone and understand the impact of this in the ability to build and maintain social relationships.

How a project manager manages his own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, can have a significant impact on the nature of a relationship.

Emotional intelligence2

Positive emotions tend to translate into a more collaborative relationship. while negative emotions tend to reduce the likelihood of collaboration.

Since a project manager almost always has a variety of heterogeneous groups to influence in order to succeed, the ability to positively influence relationships in order to obtain collaboration can have a perceptible effect on results.

Emotional Intelligence: Conclusions

In summary, project managers work in increasingly complex environments, and it is not enough for a successful project manager to just bring technical skills into the role.

Relationships must be developed, teams must be motivated, changes must be managed.

Improving the ability to perceive the emotions of others, allows you to empathize and adapt the style of management to get a better result.

When a person is able to manage his emotions, he can be sure that these are the right ones in every situation.

If it is possible to use emotions to improve decision making, then it is possible to improve the ability to solve problems.

If it is possible to self-motivate ourselves, it is possible to achieve more realistic goals.

Finally, if it is possible to improve the ability to interpret the emotional tone, it is possible to build more effective relationships and influence the goals and results of a project.

In this way, project managers can be more effective leaders and, consequently, experience greater success in project delivery.

Project managers who truly understand the talents, values and potential of themselves and their teams, who know how to manage their emotions and the emotions of others, and who can connect with team members have the opportunity to create a project environment that will not be second to none.

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process-project2

Process or project? What differences? What goals?

People often confuse projects with processes.

Some might argue that this is only a question of semantics and that saying “project” rather than “process” does not change much.

In fact, there are some areas where projects and processes can overlap (which is why confusion arises), but there is also an essential difference that impacts the way in which the activities are managed in one case or the other.

Project vs. process: the definition

A recognized definition is that:

Projects concern actions never done before, while processes are actions that are done repeatedly.

A project is about creating something new or implementing a change. On the other hand, a process is designed to create value by repeatedly executing an activity.

In a project, the goals and plans can be modified by the stakeholders. The processes, on the other hand, are established procedures for work and can be generally modified only with planning and investments.

In fact, a project is ideally needed to change an established process within an organization.

A project is temporary because it has a defined beginning and end date, and therefore defined scope and resources.

Moreover, a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to achieve a singular goal.

Projects are designed to create changes.
On the other hand, processes are designed to resist change because they establish a repeatable and executable workflow.

Project vs. process: the common points

Both processes and projects aim to achieve something through a sequence of planned activities.

In general, they both need teams and resources that can execute them.

Moreover, they can coexist, as in the case where people work on processes and have a project going on.

process-project


Project vs. process: the differences

It should be underlined that between projects and processes there is a significant difference: the frequency with which the activity is repeated.

The projects are in fact one-off, even if there are cases in which the projects become repeatable.

In this situation, if the project becomes repetitive, it becomes a process.

The processes are in fact repeatable and create value by producing a given output on demand.

The fact that the activities are repeated means that it is possible to efficiently cushion the planning effort thanks to the many repetitions.

Instead, in the case of an already planned project, the effort must be repaid by the outcome of the single time it is performed.

When dealing with a project, much of the effort goes into the initial planning. After this step, the effort is focused on checking that everything is following the plan.

The process works differently. In fact, you can review the result from a process and learn from it, you can make changes to the process and you can experiment and see what works and what does not.

The “management effort” is less focused on keeping things on track and is rather oriented to learn how to optimize the process.

So this is the big difference regarding the “management effort” in projects and processes.

Further differences between process and project

In addition to this, projects and processes are supervised differently, making most of the tools incompatible for managing both of them.

Projects are supervised by a primary authority, usually a project manager, who guides the project towards its goal.

The processes are instead managed by all the people involved in the workflow in progress. In other words, they are everyday actions that are formalized with the goal of improving overall efficiency and productivity.

process-project1

Project management is a consolidated methodology for managing and executing changes within an organization.

It is interesting to see that the project management itself is a defined and repeatable process. Ultimately, all the work involves a process and the project management functions in the same manner.

The correct management of the project proceeds according to well defined principles and procedures that allow to manage organizational changes and new initiatives.

It is simply a very specific and carefully designed process that is repeated and performed every time the company makes a major change and is doing something new for the first time.

The process of implementing these changes is called project management and each change must be managed as a project.

Projects, projects and TwProject

All of what has been said so far shows that there are several reasons for extending project management with processes; often projects or processes are presented as alternatives for the organizational needs of the team.

With Twproject you can get benefits from both, in an integrated solution.

Surely it has happened over time to repeat some of the company’s projects and to standardize them and transform them into “business processes”.

Well, in our software you can find the solution to this situation …. And many others!

In TwProject, the integrated tool for managing business processes greatly expands the possibility of modeling in relation to the project tree. It improves usability even for complex cases, keeping the organization based on the project.

In our  meetings with customers we often present two ways according to which they can model their business processes:

  • with the projects, aimed at giving a minimal structure to work and collect a maximum amount of feedback, worklog, etc.,
  • using business process models, which are workflows. Workflows are more rigid but more accurate. They are more complex to plan but often easier for the end user, who has just to say “go ahead” on their tasks when this is the case.

In conclusion, we can say that there is no difference in importance between a project and a process. In fact, everyone plays an important role in achieving goals within an organization and it is necessary to make sure that they are both used appropriately.

Processes are continuous and repeated procedures that help to achieve business goals, while projects are ways to change processes, launch new products, or otherwise make changes within the organization in order to develop the goals in new ways.

Did you already know the difference between a project and a process? Are there any further differences that you consider relevant? Give us your opinion.

Projects and processes in an integrated solution.

earned schedule 2

Earned Schedule

The Earned Schedule (ES) is a rather recent methodology.

It was first introduced in 2003 and it is a method of analysis that extends and completes the benefits of the Earned Value Management.

Currently, the Earned Schedule method is used globally in projects of any type and size.

This method is taught in academics, is included in project management manuals and standards dictated by the PMI and is also a research topic at the university.

Not only theory but also practice. It is now widely demonstrated that the ES is useful for project managers for the analysis and control of project performance.

Why is the Earned Schedule born?

Everything is born and takes its cue from the EVM (Earned Value Management) method that offers the project manager and other stakeholders the possibility to visualize the actual costs of the project during its entire life cycle. This, as it is easy to deduce, allows a more effective management of the project itself.

In its original form, the EVM was used to evaluate project performance and predict the cost of the project upon completion.

Normally, project control is established at the level of the work package or the cost report.

In fact, however, this control, although helps in cost management, does not contribute to the control of implementation times. EVM data indeed are not generally used to estimate the time needed to complete a task, a work package or a project or to predict the completion date.

This can lead the project manager to make bad decisions about the Project in general.

It is precisely to fill this gap that the concept of Earned Schedule (ES) is born.

In fact, the ES can transform EVM metrics into time or duration metrics in order to improve the evaluation of the project planning performance and to predict the duration required for its completion.

When combined with an appropriate analysis, this approach can improve the understanding of the estimated time for the Project completion.  It can also provide further insights that allow to make better decisions about project planning and other related parameters.

So let’s see more in detail what it is.

Measure and indicators of the Earned Schedule

The idea of Earned Schedule is similar to the concept of Earned Value (EV). However, instead of using the costs to measure project performance, the reference unit is time.

If we consider the projects that are late, in fact, using the Earned Value, we will have unrealistic indicators. The obtained values will, in a misleading way, make the state of the project look better than it actually is.

The problem lies in the fact that the Earned Value is a value indicator and not a scheduling indicator.

This then brings the planned value at the end of the project to coincide with the budget upon completion even if the project is late.

Therefore, the fundamental concept of the ES is to determine the moment, in terms of time, in which the planned work should have corresponded to the value of the work carried out at that precise moment.

earned schedule

The formula of the Earned Schedule

The Earned Schedule formula corresponds to
ES = C + I.

Where  C is the number of intervals in which EV is equal to or greater than PV and I is the share of the intervals after PV.

In the researches carried out, the question asked was whether the ES is a better method of predicting the duration of the final project than the EVM methods.

The answer is that the ES is way better than any other method related to Earned Value Management.

Of all the methods and data sets studied, the ES is referred to as the best duration prediction method of a project.

For sure, this method is useful for project managers when they have to make decisions in order to meet delivery dates.

While the Earned Value provides an estimate of when the project is likely to end, the Earned Schedule produces an understanding of the probability of completion in precise moments over time.

The ES can also provide useful information to the project manager and analysts and is not difficult to calculate.

Of course, additional work is needed, but it is not as time-consuming as a complete bottom-up review of the entire project program.

EVM and ES have been integrated with statistical confidence limits in order to obtain probable results for the final cost and duration of the project.

The results of this work have shown that the proposed approach is sufficiently reliable for the general application of the forecasting method, both in terms of cost and duration.

earned schedule 1

Moreover, it is shown that the ES approach can be applied effectively no matther what the type of work or the extent of the cost and duration of the project.

Big deviations between the project status and the forecasts usually attract the attention of management and translate into corrective actions. Small deviations are usually not taken into account.

By quantifying and highlighting these deviations, it is possible to bring the focus of management on projects or work packages that require more attention.

As a result, these tools support the effective management of projects and improve the management of the portfolio of business projects.

Consistent use of these techniques that predict project outcomes provides an optimal approach to project reviews, increases confidence in project delivarables as time progresses, and improves management’s ability to take corrective action and appropriate decisions.

Conclusions

In conclusion, we can say that the EVM is a powerful methodology that helps project managers and other stakeholders managing projects and programs more effectively.

By integrating it with the ES method, it is possible to produce valid indicators and reliable predictions on the duration of the project.

The research found out that, compared to other methods based on the EVM, the ES produces the best predictions on the duration of the project.

The Earned Schedule method has a lot to offer to the project manager in order to help him drive and control his project from the beginning to the end.

Have you ever had the opportunity to apply the Earned Schedule to one of your projects? What are your observations? Write them in the comments.

Analyze your projects with the right tools.

delegating project activities

Delegating project activities effectively: (7) key suggestions

Delegating project activities is a delicate task, but most often necessary in the management of complex projects.

By working alone you can only do a limited amount of work. Indeed, the hours in a day are limited.

Often, however, especially in the case of the project manager, it will be required to do much more.

This can lead to a real sense of pressure and overload, leading to situations of stress and unhappiness, if not to a real burn out.

One of the most common ways to overcome this limitation is to learn how to delegate the work to other.

If it is done correctly, you can quickly build a group of strong and successful people.

This is why delegation is such an important skill in project management.

In fact, delegation is the main key to maximizing the productivity of a single person.

The problem is that many managers do not know how to delegate effectively, or are not willing to do so unless it is absolutely necessary.

But do not worry, the delegation of the project activities is a skill that, like any other, can be learned and improved over time.

Here are then 7 key suggestions to effectively delegate the project activities.

Delegating project activities : Learn to let go

For the project manager, this is probably the most difficult thing to put into practice.

The biggest problem faced by most managers is, in fact, the inability to abandon part of their work in favor of third parties.

Sometimes you feel so involved in the project and in meeting the deadlines that one can refuse the help of other people.

At other times, it is feared that no one else has the skills or abilities necessary to perform the job effectively. In both cases, we end up overloading ourselves and, paradoxically, moving away from the positive outcome of the project itself.

This is why learning to “let go” becomes fundamental for the success of the project.

But as in all things, the beginning may seem so complicated that is postponed.

“This project is too important … for this time I complete it, next time maybe I will delegate …” (And next time never comes.)

Then a suggestion in order to begin with the process is to start with small steps, thus delegating only the smallest and most basic activities, and then progress.

Delegating project activities : Establish a priority system

Obviously, this system will vary based on experience, sector and types of activities that are normally managed.

Generally speaking, however, it can be helpful to create categories, based on the degree of effort required by a task and the degree of skill.

The category with the highest skills should contain activities that the project manager will have to perform in the first person, while those in the less specialized categories can be delegated.

The degree of commitment is a good reference point in order to understand which are the most important activities to delegate: for example, delegating responsibility for a task of high intensity and low skill will save a lot of time for the project manager.

In order to define the right approach the matrix that Eisenhower, or Covey Matrix, is very interesting and we will discuss about it in a future article.

What we wanted to create in TWproject (in line with this aspect) is the possibility to plan the right priority for each assignment.

Thanks to this the PM can see the assignments for the week, change the priority or remove the points of change: and can do it for every resource involved in the workgroup.

delgating project activities

And not only that: Twproject shows the priority assignments wherever possible, even for the individual participant. In this way each component of the project is able to display and monitor the priorities of his assignments.

delegating project activites - priority od assignment

Delegating project activities : Evaluate the strengths of the team and employees

A project manager should know each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, including his current and potential range of skills.

When delegating, you need to evaluate your team and assign tasks to anyone with the skills most relevant to that activity.

It would seem obvious, but the mistake in which many fall is to delegate to those with the lightest workload or where is most convenient.

Furthermore, it is also important to be consistent. For example, delegating the same type of task to the same team member will increase that individual’s attitude to perform those tasks.

Delegating project activities : Always include instructions

Although the process in the eyes of a project manager seems obvious, you need to make sure to include the instructions for each activity that will be delegated.

If you have specific preferences about how the task should be carried out, this information must be included. If there is a deadline or strict targets, this need to be clear.

Including simple details and instructions from the beginning will avoid much of the communication gap and will allow the colleague to perform the tasks effectively.

Here, then, inserting a specific document, visible only to the operator with the indications of the activity takes only a short time with Twproject, but its benefit is lasting.

This proactive strategic action will definitely be appreciated by the collaborators.

Delegating project activities : Teach new skills

The lack of someone in the team who can perform a certain activity does not mean that work can not be delegated.

Have you ever thought about it?

Most skills can be learned, so do not be afraid to teach these skills as part of the delegation process.

Even if the initial assignment of the first tasks will take more time than is actually saved, this must be seen as an investment.

By transferring these skills, it will be possible to assign all similar activities to that individual in the future, thus saving more time in the long run.

Delegating project activities : Trusting is good, communicating is better

Once a task has been delegated, it is right to trust the collaborator.

This will allow the person to do the job in a serene way.

However, do not be afraid to intervene from time to time and verify that the activity moves as planned.

For example, if the delegation has been done a week ago, it is fair to trust that the team member is working on the task, but activating direct communication is not a wrong step.

This encourages trust and respect within the team and helps to prevent interruptions in communication or understanding.

Delegating project activities : Use feedback

Feedback is the most important part of the delegation process and works in both directions.

If the collaborators have done well a task, it is good to thank them; if the work was not done in the best way, it is good to criticize them constructively in order to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Likewise, team members must also share their feedbacks and opinions on how the delegation process is working.

This is a fundamental moment in order to determine if the project manager is providing enough information and if the right activities are assigned to the right people.

Delegation is not always easy, but the sooner you start, the sooner you will develop the skills to do it effectively.

At first glance, delegation may seem more problematic than it actually is, but by effectively delegating it is possible to vastly expand the amount of work that can be offered.

Do you regularly delegate in your work? How do you manage the delegation process? Tell us about your experience.

Delegate in effective way.

top performers 1

How to manage a highly productive team: top performers and key aspects

We all know that managing a team is not easy. When then, in the group there are also top performers, the situation becomes even more complicated.

Yet a highly productive team is a great advantage for everyone as long as one can manage it.

Let’s see then how to manage the top performers for the benefit of the group and the project itself!

Top performers represent the elite troops of any organization. Few, highly esteemed and sometimes difficult to manage, they represent a great corporate value.

Studies have shown that top performers, on average, reach 400% more than the average employee in the companies in which they work.

Let’s try to analyze them better.

The characteristics of a top performer

Positivity: the top performers tend to have a positive attitude towards everything.

They believe that through hard work, concentration and persistence there is little they can not accomplish.

This vision not only helps them overcome difficult situations, but also inspires the people around them to support them in their missions.

Having a growth mentality: top performers are always looking for ways in order to learn new skills, refine existing ones and learn from their mistakes.

This mentality allows them to find innovative solutions to the most complicated problems and makes them also highly flexible and adaptable.

In short, they follow the concept “you never stop learning”.

Do, not talk: these people are incredibly result-oriented.

They live to accomplish things and want to demonstrate to themselves and others that they can complete the most demanding tasks and projects.

In general, they do not waste time in chatter, but they focus on doing.

Self-taught: the drive to reach the goals and to act comes from the deep and it is almost never necessary to encourage them.

They have their own agenda and are ready to show themselves and others what they can do.

Hard workers: often they do not even seem to notice the hours that pass.

You may receive e-mails, reports, questions and worksheets at impossible times, on weekends and on public holidays (sent from them)

Their drive to progress, improve and complete things regardless of time and public holidays.

Moreover, their performances are not sporadic, they are continuous and consistent over time.

Constructive feedback: top performers are always looking for improvements.

Getting constant and constructive feedback is a fundamental part of this process, and they expect it.

Learning also outside the organization: not only do these people seek approval from managers and colleagues, but they also look outside the organization for elements and advice that they can use in order to become even better at their jobs.

Top performers management

Once we have seen the characteristics that, on average, we find in all the top performers, let’s now see how a project manager can deal with them.

As we have mentioned, a top performer can be difficult to manage, but with the following suggestions it will certainly be easier to establish a good working relationship.

top performers

Agree upon clear goals and align expectations

With top performers it is essential to be clear when defining goals.

These goals should be agreed on both sides and be measurable.

It is possible to use a framework, such as the SMART one, in order to both agree on specific, measurable, responsible, relevant and binding goals.

In general, however, as well as for any worker, it is necessary to ensure that the goals are ambitious, but not unattainable.

In this case, in fact, even a top performer could quickly lose motivation and confidence towards himself, towards the boss, in the project and in the company in general.

Offer them the tools in order to succeed

The role of the project manager is to set up a strategy, provide direction and give employees the resources they need in order to succeed.

It is therefore important to ensure that the top performers within the team have the tools they need (people, budget, training, etc.).

Get out of the way (Let them be free)

Once agreement is reached on the goals and the necessary tools are provided, a manager must leave the top performers completely free to act.

These high-level employees love their freedom and autonomy to do things the way they want. If they need help, they will ask for it.

If the manager continues to disturb them, they will feel frustrated and the situation could quickly get worse.

Plan meetings

Top performers are extremely allergic to non-productive meetings, whatever they are.

It is therefore necessary to make sure that you have a clear agenda and know how to manage meetings in a productive way.

The “1 to 1” meetings should help to find out what obstacles the top performers are facing, where they need help, if they need more resources, or if there are important changes that could affect their priorities.

The 1-1 is also a great opportunity to provide constructive feedback, highly appreciated by top performers, as said before.

These meetings can also be an opportunity to make sure that the top performer is focused on the “right” projects. He could, in fact, be distracted by other requests or new projects that awaken his interests.

Provide growth opportunities

As explained above, growth is like oxygen for top performers.

The growth can come from online courses, work on part time projects in other teams or even attend a part time course at a local university.

A lack of clear growth opportunities can be particularly frustrating for top performers. It often becomes a reason why they look for their future elsewhere.

top performers (2)

Gather players of the same level

One of the best ways to motivate top performers is to surround them with other au pair workers.

This is one of the main reasons why people stay in companies like Google or Amazon.

Top performers want to surround themselves with others of the same caliber. They want to be able to learn from them and improve the overall success of the team.

Encourage them to decompress

These people are like high-performance sports cars, they will continue to go to the maximum, as long as possible, until they run out of gasoline.

The problem is that some of them can stress a lot and even suffer from burnout.

As a manager, it is important to pay attention on how they feel, both physically as well as psychologically.

Having “burned” one of them is not only unpleasant for the person, but also means increasing and complicating the workload of the rest of the team that can no longer rely on the driving engine.

Work to trace a path for career advancement

Top performers are willing to invest more time and energy than many other collaborators, but they are also often more demanding and more ambitious.

With these people, it is important to discuss regularly on the progress of work role and on a possible increase of role with tangible and agreed metrics that must be respected by both parties.

It is therefore necessary to ensure that these progress metrics are in line with human resource policies. It will also be necessary to ensure that there is an internal support when the moment of promotion arrives.

Finding and hiring top performers is certainly difficult, keeping these people loyal to the company is even more so.

We hope these suggestions can make this process a little easier.

Have you ever found yourself in front of a top performer? Did you manage him/her? What were the most complicated situations you experienced in this sense? Tell us about your experience.

Coordinate your top performers effectively.

A try is worth more than a million words.
time-management-1

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

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

A schedule or scheduling is the project or program calendar.

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

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

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

Definition of types of work

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

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

The approaches to time calculation must be equally flexible.

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

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

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

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

Rolling Wave Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to perform project scheduling

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

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

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

time-management-to do list

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

Following are the necessary steps  to plan a project:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These policies can be defined in a planning management plan.

The scheduling management plan has essentially three parts:

  • Development planning
  • Control
  • Planning of changes

Development planning

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

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

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

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

Scheduling check

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

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

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

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

Scheduling changes

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

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

That person is usually called the “project sponsor“.

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

time-management-desktop

Here are the basic questions to consider in this case:

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

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

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

Start planning your projects.

organize team work time

Organize team work time: leveling or smoothing resources?

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

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

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

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

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

  • Resource leveling;
  • Resource smoothing.

These techniques allow to complete the project with minimal obstruction.

Resource leveling

Resource leveling is used when resources are limited.

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

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

Resource leveling is mainly used when:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resource smoothing

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

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

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

Time here is the main constraint.

organize team work time

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

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

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

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

Also in this case we make a concrete example.

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

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

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

This is a concrete example of resource smoothing.

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

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

The differences between resource leveling and resource smoothing

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

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

The similarities between resource leveling and resource smoothing

The following are some similarities between the two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

organize team work time

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

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

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

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

organize team work time

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you encountered any difficulties? Which?

Tell us about your experience.

Plan the work time of your team.

how to manage remote working team

How to manage remote working teams

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

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

Communication, teamwork and society itself have changed radically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They can do it even remotely.

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

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

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

These workers must be engaged in communication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How to manage remote working team: Communication is the key

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

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

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

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

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

Its use among our customers was immediately appreciated and widespread.

how to manage remote working team

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

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

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

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

how to manage remote working team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These tools usually help people to:

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

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

 How to manage remote working team: The importance of feedback

Every healthy relationship is based on trust and communication.

Remote team management is no exception to this rule.

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

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

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

This is why building an empathic listening is essential.

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

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

how to manage remote working team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to manage remote working team: Real Meetings

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

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

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

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

The remote worker is alone.

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

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

how to manage remote working team

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

They are perfect for increasing cohesion and team closeness.

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

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

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

Also the overall management will be easier.

Managing remote teams is certainly a challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your experience.

Start managing your remote working team.

project handover

Project handover: how to manage it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Setting handover objectives

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

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

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

2. Keeping the customer up to date

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

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

Clarity is always a winning element.

3. Having short daily meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Meeting the stakeholders

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

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

6. Being available to ask support

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

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

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

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

project handover

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

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

Outgoing project manager should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“ He who loses his individuality loses all.”

MAHATMA GANDHI

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

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

A project lifecycle often involves many meetings with different purposes.

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

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

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

What is a kick off-meeting?

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

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

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

When does a kick off-meeting take place?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the purpose of a kick off meeting?

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

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

kick off meeting

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

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

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

How to perform a successful kick off meeting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Schedule the meeting

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

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

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

2) Lead the meeting

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

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

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

Explaining the communication and reporting system is important as well.

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

kick off meeting

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

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

3) Close the meeting

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

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

The meeting generally closes with thanks to the project manager.

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

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

Kick off meeting benefits

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

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

A preliminary meeting is the key to completing the project.

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

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

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

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project stakeholders

Project Stakeholders

Who are the stakeholders? When we read the title, this is the first question that comes to mind.

If we take the definition of the PMBok, a stakeholder is an individual, a group or an organization that can influence or can be influenced (or perceive itself being influenced) by a decision, activity or result of a project.

Shortly, a stakeholder is a person, a group of people, or an organization that has an interest in the project or is influenced – directly or indirectly – by its result.

This can include, for example, project team members, project sponsors, members of the organization, and people outside the organization.

But let’s try to analyze all the aspects that can be of interest of the subjects directly or indirectly involved in a project and the evaluations and actions that inevitably are in the hands of the Project Manager.

Project stakeholders: interests and necessities

In a certain manner, a stakeholder has an interest in the outcome of the project.

It is therefore essential to identify all the stakeholders in a project, and it would be trivial to say the reasons.

The identification of the stakeholders must be done from the beginning of the planning phase in order to create a strategy to manage them.

This will help in managing the project with minimal obstruction from them. The sooner the stakeholers are identified, the sooner we can start to communicate and to involve them in project decisions.

In this way, they will feel a connection to the project. They will be able to understand the benefits and they will support the project manager everytime he needs it.

The project is successful, if all the stakeholders are happy and satisfied with the result.

It may happen that even if the project is complete and all the deliverables have been accepted by the client, the project is not successfully completed because some stakeholders are not completely satisfied.

Therefore, in order to successfully complete a project, it is very important that a project manager can keep all stakeholders satisfied.

Normally, if the project is simple, the list of project stakeholders is probably small.

However, if the project is more complex and perhaps spread across a large geographic area, it is possible that the number of stakeholders is huge.

In a big project, in fact, project stakeholders can also be communities or the general public.

The important thing is to keep in mind that the stakeholders are not all the same.

Every stakeholder has different needs and expectations.

So, each stakeholder must be treated according to its needs and expectations.

Not doing it can compromise the success of the project.

For this reason, knowing all the stakeholders, their needs, expectations and requirements will increase the chances of success of the project.

project stakeholders

If we forget or disregard an important stakeholder, this could lead to difficulties in the later phases of the project.

The Project could suffer: delays, cost overruns and, in the most serious cases, the closure of the project itself.

Type of Stakeholder

Project stakeholders can be divided into two categories:

  • Internal stakeholders;
  • External stakeholders.

Internal stakeholders are directly within the organization. For example:

  • A sponsor;
  • An internal client (if the project arose because of an internal need of the organization);
  • A project team;
  • A project manager;
  • A portfolio manager;
  • A manager of another department of the organization (for example, trade manager, administrative manager, ecc.).

On the other hand, external stakeholders are external to the organization. For example:

  • An external client (the “standard” type of clients);
  • An end user of the project result;
  • A supplier;
  • A subcontractor;
  • The government;
  • Local communities;
  • Media.

Moreover, stakeholders can be positive and negative.

A positive stakeholder sees the positive side of the project and benefits from its success.

These help the project management team to complete the project successfully.

On the other hand, a negative stakeholder sees the negative result of the project and can be negatively influenced by the project or its outcome.

This type of stakeholder is less inclined to help.

Perhaps we will appear boring, but it is fundamental to understand the importance of identifying the project stakeholders in the early pahses of the project.

It is also necessary to note down the details, requirements, expectations, power and influence on the project in the stakeholder register.

Some of these stakeholders will have a minimal interest or just a relative influence on the project.

However, the project manager must also take care of them.

Indeed, you can never know when secondary stakeholders can become the dominant stakeholders and if the dominant stakeholders become less influential.

The register of Stakeholders

After having identified all the stakeholders, their information will be recorded in a so-called stakeholder register.

This register is a project management document that will contain all the aforementioned information.

In this document all the people, groups and organizations that have any kind of interest or involvement in the project will be identified.

Here we can find the names, titles, roles, interests, requirements, expectations, type of influence, etc. of each one of them.

The stakeholder register will be created as soon as the project statute is signed.

project stakeholders

Doing this in the first stage of the project will help complete the project with minimal effort.

Once the register is created and all the stakeholders are listed, a strategy to manage them will be easily drafted.

The contents of the Stakeholder register

Usually, the stakeholder register contains three types of information about each stakeholder:

  • Identification;
  • Evaluation;
  • Classification.

In some cases, the register can also contain the stakeholder management strategy.

In the first section, we will have the following information:

  • Name;
  • Title;
  • Contact information;
  • Role in the project / organization.

In the second section about the evaluation of the stakeholders, we will have:

  • Stakeholders requirements;
  • Communication necessities;
  • Communication frequency;
  • Expectations;
  • Influence on the project;
  • Interests and power.

The last section will classify the stakeholders on the basis of various criteria.

They can be divided according to their power and interest in the project, whether high, medium or low.

It is also possible to assign other attributes to the stakeholders, for example, if a stakeholder is internal, external, positive, a supporter, a resistor or a neutral stakeholder.

After completing the evaluation, it is possible to edit the stakeholder management strategy.

This strategy will help to interact with each one of them based on individual needs, influence and interest in the project.

The stakeholder register must be kept up to date throughout the project life cycle.

While the project goes on, it will be possible to identify new stakeholders or it can happen that other stakeholders should no longer be considered. The register should be therefore contain these changes.

Moreover, during the project life cycle, the interest or power of one or more stakeholders could change. This must also be duly noted in the register.

As it appears clear, the identification of stakeholders is a continuous process. This is why the stakeholder register must be considered an “open” document during the entire life cycle of the project.

Because this registry contains names, e-mails, classifications, and management strategies, it may not be shown to everyone.

It is therefore necessary to keep this document in a safe place with limit access.

Every project manager must therefore remember to always take the project stakeholders into consideration.

In fact, a deficiency in this sense could have serious and negative repercussions on the whole project.

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Identify the stakeholders of your project.

How to make a project budget

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

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

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

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

Project managers are required to account for their budget estimates.

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

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

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

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

The approaches to drafting a budget

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

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

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

Let’s try to evaluate them together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The different types of cost in creating the budget

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

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

  • Direct costs
  • And indirect costs.

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

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

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

How to calculate these costs?

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

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

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

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

How to make a project budget: the management reserve

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

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

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

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

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

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

 How to make a project budget

How to make a project budget: ineligible costs

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

In general we can identify them in the following:

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

Manage budget changes

Projects rarely go according to plan in every detail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

how to make a project budget

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

how to make a project budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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