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How SCRUM methodology can help you minimizing project risks

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

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

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

What is the SCRUM methodology?

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

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

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

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Why should I use an Agile Methodology?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start now managing your projects with SCRUM

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The Most Effective Strategy to Estimate Projects

Estimate projects correctly is a difficult task that every project manager has to face. It doesn’t matter if you estimate in order to evaluate resource work load (time/effort estimation) or just to create customers’ offer (cost estimation), the problem is just the same.

How can I predict exceptions, delay, bottle necks and create an estimate that is as close to reality as possible?

The answer is quite simple, you can, if you count on your team.

Identify the problem:

Estimate projects is difficult, in particular when you came to big ones that last months, maybe years. In these specific cases estimation could be just a guess. An incorrect estimation can generate several problems, for your team and your company in general:

  • Underestimated projects: this is what happens the most, particularly when project managers have direct contact with customers, if you want read more about why underestimation is so common you should read this article.
    Robert works for a small company where he is a project manager and also the commercial director. He knows that his team is doing its best but he doesn’t want to lose any new customers opportunity. For this reason he underestimates his projects, trying to convince the team that every new customer can make the difference for a small company like theirs. Doing this, the quality of the product decreases, the team is overloaded and the project manager completely loses the correct perception of the project cost. Robert knows that his company will suffer of high turn over.
  • Overestimated projects: Project managers more connected with the team tend instead to a pessimistic estimation of the project.
    John is a project manager and lead architect of a young software house. Every time a new projects begin he speaks to his team to make the correct estimation of tasks. Being near to his colleagues he knows how many problem they face and he prefers to overestimate his projects. Resources look over planned and the commercial department can lose opportunities for this lack of communication. At the end of the year John knows that his team could have released more products with a correct estimation.

Being a project manager with estimating problem you have probably found yourself in one of the two described above, maybe with different circumstances but probably with the same outcome.

Of course a correct project estimation can fix all these problems, correct schedulingresources’ workload. So, how can we improve it?

Find the solution:

Being a project manager, maybe a senior one, your management skills are probably very refined, you know the effort for managing a team conflict, you probably know how to calculate the revenue of your task, but what about developing that specific product requirements? The project manager is able to identify all the phases of the project structure, but who better knows how does it take to accomplish a specific phase than the resource working on it?

The key for a correct project estimation is in your team knowledge.

Nicole is a project manager at ACME spa. She works with a smart and diversified team. Every time she is assigned to a new project and she has to estimate it she organizes a meeting with her team to develop the Gantt of the projects. Nicole sets the milestones if she has some and tries to define the end date of the project. She identifies the best resources for the work and then she asks them a refined schedule and estimation of their small portion of work. No one knows better than Giulia how effort it takes to make a perfect email layout. Nicole asks also to her colleague which problems she encounters the most and with which delay. Nicole asks to her team members to become everyone the project manager of his own specific tasks.

The knowledge of the team is very precise and very close to every specific matter, they know most of the possible exceptions, every possible delay, every bottle neck on their specific phase. To have a complete and precise estimation you have to go deeper with your team and analyze with them all the phases, let them estimate their phases like they would be the project managers, delegate.

Also, if you work on projects that can repeat in time you could ask your team to specify every step of the work with its effort.

This to-do lists could be used as a template in time, to avoid loosing time estimating the same things again and again.

Save your team knowledge is the key to estimate projects correctly. It is what you can use to make comparison and learn in time estimating even better.

Conclusion

Using this strategy you could be able to have a better idea of the effort of the project and every possible exception that can occur.

  • Identify your project phases and your goal end date
  • Identify your milestones and discuss them with your team
  • Select the best resources for each phase and delegate the task to them
  • Let the team write down every step of their phase to estimate it.
  • Use the knowledge from the team on every phases to estimate the entire project from bottom up

Using this strategy with a project management software that can help you creating a Gantt chart, assigning your resources, checking their workload could really make the difference, estimate projects will become easier.

If you want to learn more about how to introduce a project management software in you company you can read our article.

Start now estimating your projects correctly

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Twproject as CRM: In Practice

It happens that Twproject customers ask us if they can insert in the resource list just the users that have an active login in. Twproject, actually, can be used to insert also all your contacts and customers. This is a great feature that let you use the system like a CRM.

All resources inserted without login, in fact, are not counted in the license count, so you can have many.

What if we see it in practice?

The first contact:

Say that you are at one of  your yearly trade fairs and, after some hours, you meet John James from ACME SPA, he is smart and you talk to him for a while about your company services, he is very interested. You talk about his boss Mary Stuart, and also about the last NBA Match Boston – Cleveland, he roots for Boston Celtics. At the end of the conversation he gives you his business card.

Well, if you are using Twproject project management software, it’s time to save all these information, and you can do that very easily. For example I would simply take my IPad and create a new resource. I would create a new lead for John James from ACME SPA, I would record that his boss is Mary Stuart and all the other information written in his business card. I would also save in the notes that John roots for Boston Celtics…we never know.

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Follow the lead

Now that your lead is inserted, you can search for the project you use to save pre-sales information and insert a new activity for the conversation you had, just to remember everything you said.

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At the moment what you have is just a lead, so there is no need to create a specific task for this activity, it could be just a phone call. The best way to manage this situation is to create a new pre-sales activity (a new issue in Twproject), a reminder, to call John after a week and talk about what your company can do for him.

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After a week the system will remind you about your call, thanks to the link you can check all resource’s detail and may start the conversation with the Boston Celtics. If your conversation is profitable you can finally create a dedicated pre-sales task for ACME, for registering in details your first contact, maybe a demo, your offer and the final contract.

A new Pre-Sales Project

Now that your lead has become a real pre-sale project you can insert it in Twproject to check its progress.

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Thanks to Twproject all pre-sales activity can be monitored, managed and saved like all the other projects:

  • Contacts and projects together
  • Agents assigned on pre-sales activity
  • Pre-sales progress monitored
  • Pre-sales budget and expenses management
  • Pre-sales effort registered for future report and considerations

All this because, with Twproject, you can have both a CRM software and a Project Management software, together.

CRM software and a Project Management software, together.

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How to be an Innovative Project Manager (Infographic)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Old pattern only bring to old results”

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

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Source Entrepreneur.

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Does Twproject use Twproject?

If someone would have asked me the most frequent question I get since I worked here at Twproject, I would answer without hesitation “Does Twproject use Twproject?” This is the most asked question by our customers and then of course “How do we use it?

If I was a good marketer I should probably say:

“Yes, of course we use it, we have created a fantastic project management tool and we could not be able to find anything better out there!”

But you know that I am always honest with you so my real answer is:

“Yes, of course we use it, the most important rule in developing software is to eat your own dog food, if possible, and we are doing it every day”

Since the very beginning of Twproject development, we have used it internally to simply find the best answers to every day works problem and questions.

Twproject has born and developed to answers our own needs and at the same time the needs of thousands of company like ours.

Using it internally has helped us finding the most interesting ideas and of course tons of bugs 🙂

Now that Twproject is a well grown software we can actually say that use it internally also for managing our projects and here it comes the second most asked question “How do we use it?”

Here at Twproject we have several great people working in the design department, in the accounting one, we have the development team and the marketing one from which I belong.

Each of us use Twproject in a different way, and the great thing is that it works perfectly for all of us.

I have already written how to use Twproject for managing marketing strategies and this is mainly how I use it everyday so I though it could be interesting to find how one of our development guys use it, so I asked Roberto, our Twproject Lead architect.

Roberto manages the Twproject project with Twproject…. it’s our own tongue-twister 🙂

Roberto manages releases creating one task for each one of them, right now his working on Twproject 6.1, wow, I really said that? Twproject 6.1 is about to be released with some great new features so stay tuned!

“At the very beginning managing all features requests, bugs and ideas was really difficult, we were covered by ideas from our customers and from our self, moreover we had a lot of bugs to solve and excited customers that asked us a lot of customization”

Roberto and his team decided to organize all features and developments in different task releases (each of them under the main task called Twproject) creating a real road map of features and ideas for the future. In time, Roberto’s team has created great features like the Gantt editor (also released as javascript Gantt editor component on MIT license) with dependencies and critical path management, the great Twproject to-dos management with prioritization, personal order, gravity management, impact bar and scheduled to-dos notifications.

“Now managing Twproject road map is very easy, following a software product development is very easy with Twproject”

And here are his everyday Twproject tricks:

Collect all ideas, features and bugs in your current release

Use all Twproject classifications to insert your ideas, bugs and features in your current release, use Twproject issues for this kind of things. You can classify issues by tag or type and prioritize them with gravity to define an order of importance. Classifications can be refined during meeting with your team.

Give to the most important things a due date and let Twproject remind you of them

If you have things to do that you want not to forget about, just add a due date, in your Twproject home page you will always see all things requiring your attention.

Subscribe to all important events and cut out meetings

Twproject will notify you of all updates you have been subscribed, finally you will know exactly what your team is up to and you will reduce a lot of time spent in meetings.

Move forward to the next release

When you have closed some interesting features, bugs and you are ready to go out with your release, clone your task and bring to the new one all the open issues you have not closed yet. In Twproject every task can be a template for others! In this way all ideas and open bugs will follow you and you will never lose any of them again.

Record your time closing issues

Developers generally close a lot of issues in one day and every time you will do that Twproject will ask you “how much time did it takes?”, no better moment to record your worklog, no additional effort at the end of your day.

 

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I really hope that this post will be helpful to all of those searching for a project management tool for managing software products.

Follow our blog to read more case of study!

We have the tools, we have the culture.

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Twproject security model: you are on a solid ground

Twproject security model has been designed and refined in years, and it’s now the most complete and safe model you could have.

Since we added a new permission in the latest release, dedicated to assignment expenses management, we decided to write a new post to explain in details how the Twproject security model works, and what you could expect when you start working with it:

What is a role?

In Twproject a role is a set of permissions, telling to the system what a user can do. We have 2 different kind of roles: a global one, giving you permissions on all entities in the system and one at project level, defining permissions on projects’ connected entities only.

The global role is assigned to a resource when you activate its login.

When, instead, you assign one of your colleagues (“resource”) on a task you have to specify a project role. In this way you will be sure that resources will see only what they are involved in.

For more details about how create and modify roles check our user guide here:

https://twproject.com/support/using-twproject/security/

Pre-loaded roles

When you first start using Twproject, no matter if you are on your  local machine or on our demo, you will have a pre-loaded set of roles and permissions.

This roles have been created and refined in years and fits 90% of cases, so you will probably not need to change them at all.

When you create your first assignment you will find these roles:

Project manager:  Can manage the entire project, for example can change dates, create subtasks, add todos and assign new resources.

Worker: Can insert worklog, manage issues and documents on the project .

Stakeholder and Customer: Can monitor the project without changing anything and add todos.

Choosing one of them, you will define the allowed operations for that resource on that task.

The main permissions involved in managing projects and resources are the following:

Resource read:  Allows to read resources. Used with the “assignment create” and without the “resource manage” permission, it lets you assign from your team only.

Resource manage: It allows to manage the work of all resources, and assign all of them if used with the “assignment create” permission.

Task read: Allows to read tasks.

Task create: Allows to create tasks.

Task write: Allows to write tasks, for example change dates and status.

Assignment create, read, write: It allows you to create, read, and write assignments, the list of assignable resource depends if you have the “resource manage permission” or if you manage a team.

Worklog manage: Allows to manage worklog, approve it, bill it of resources  involved in the project.

Expenses manage: It allows you to manage the expenses of  resources involved in the project

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Roles have several other permissions for managing costs, documents and much more but they are not the focus of this post. Checking the roles’ page you will see that we have a permission for almost every entity in the system,  making of Twproject the most flexible project management software.

The resource chart – manage your team

Another way to give permissions to a resource in Twproject is creating teams with the responsible person. When a resource is defined as the manager of the team he will be able to check his team allocation, active projects, inserted worklog, resource workload and so on.

This will be possible even if the manager is not assigned on the same task of his team, simply by creating the company structure in the resource section.

Who & What (real life examples)

We have a senior project manager that can assign all resources on his projects and a junior one that should assign only resources from its team

In this case you need two different roles: the senior will have the default permissions, the junior instead, will not have the “resource manage” permission, in this way he will be able to assign only the resource on his team (he is manager of).

In my company there is single person, not assigned on any task that check worklogs and assignment expenses and mark them as approved for billing, how can I manage this?

In this case you have to give an higher level role (security tab in resource editor) to this resource including the “worklog manage” and the “expense manage” permissions.

We have a pmo managing the workload of all our resources, he is not assigned on any task

Here you will need an higher level role (security tab in resource editor) including the “resource manage permission”, in this case the resource will be able to monitor and change the workload of all resources and their plan.

We want to always assign resources from our own team

Just create your resource chart according to your team structure and then remove from the project manager role the “resource management” permission.

 

Customizations:

As I said analyzing examples above, you may need to customize your roles to let Twproject fits your work habits, this can be easily done from the admin section where there is a dedicated page to roles where you can add and remove permissions.

When you do that always remember the mining of the different permissions as explained above.

Conclusion:

Twproject security model is really refined, it lets you manage permissions both, at company and task level easily, having everything under control. Having such a complex structure will ensure your that your resources will be allowed to see and manage only things they can actually work on.

For more details about Twproject security model check our user guide here:

https://twproject.com/support/using-twproject/security/

 

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We need to talk: collaboration trends and mistakes to avoid

Companies becoming “liquid”, teams spread over thousands kilometers: workspace has changed, it is wider and faster. This is the reason why you need the right collaboration tools to… make the work work!

Collaboration tools: what is happening right now

It has already happened and it is happening.

Despite being a big, medium or small company, the concepts of colleague, team, meeting are now different.

And, despite being a big, medium or small company, one of the most important trend – and need – is about being everyone on the same page, at the same time.

And, believe it or not, this trend has something ancient within.

Ockham’s razor in today collaboration

William of Ockham was a Middle Ages (c. 1287–1347) Franciscan monk, a philosopher and theologian.

He is still famous for his Ockham’s razor, a principle which reads:

Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

The original use of the principle was in theology, but it is a heuristic technique as well, and it definitely is a principle which should be applied to your collaboration environment.

To have your whole team on the same page, at the same time you need a cloud and a real time communication tool. The cloud allows you to have the whole team working almost literally in the same (yet virtual) place.

A real time communication tool is what you need to break space and time barriers between the team members: it is the way to have everyone knowing everything is needed when it is needed.

So far so good, isn’t it? And everything seems so easy and smooth. But you still have to avoid the dark side of cloud and real time communication: the lack of management of the workflow and communication flow.

This is the reason why cloud and communication tools need a project management tool: a “meta level” of organization, another – wider – virtual place which ties the tools together. And what do you need from your project management tool? To track changes: you need to trace everything that has been done and still needs to be made. A great project management tool has to show you the path to follow helping you getting your projects done.

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6 Qualities Of Great Leaders – Infographic

In our experience with thousands of great companies, that we’ve met thanks to Twproject, we have analyzed so many teams at work, encountering always the same characteristics defining great leaders with successful and happy collaborators. Being a leader is not an easy job, you have to carefully balance humility, strength and integrity, being always steps ahead and empathetic with your team. This interesting infographic show 6 characteristics on how to be a great leader.

Have a Vision – Communication is a key point being a leader, a vision is not enough, you have to be able to describe it to your team in order to transform it into an executable plan. You need to anticipate problems embracing change. Read the following post if you want to know more about more about improving communication within teams.

Be Modest– being a great leader requires humility, you need to admit mistakes being open to criticism and ready for improvement.

Manage Emotions – Emotions lead a team like a leader, and for this reason you have to be able to manage them, in particularly yours, in order to always positively effect others.

Be Honest – Be always sincere to build lasting trust in your team.

Appreciate the journey – Show commitment to your team and stand by your ideas.The key to making things work, is hard work

Help Others – Helping your team growing will help your projects too, acting with generosity always affect positively your people.

We found this infographic really helpful, summarizing all main qualities you need to attain for being a great leader, read below for the full list of tips.

If you want to manage your projects efficiently and improve your team communication you can try Twproject, the best project management software that helps thousands of companies getting things done everyday!

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Infographic courtesy of: Eliv8group

We have the tools, we have the culture.