The Benefits of Including Project Sponsors in Your Training Program

Corporate America invests millions of dollars each year in project management – offices, technology, project management training, and project management consulting support. Conversely, data reflects that even with project management being a relatively common process used at most companies; project success rates do not reflect the investment. Studies show that project management success rates range between 35 to 45% – far from a sensational benchmark to brag about. Bottom line, despite many companies investing in project management infrastructure most projects are not delivered successfully (on-time, within budget and to desired quality). Though the root causes for project failures are many, one glaring deficiency becoming clearer is the lack of project management training at the sponsor level. Project managers usually garner most of the attention for project management training initiatives, followed by team members and software experts. However, project sponsors – those individuals who fill the role of resource provider, key decision maker and remover of obstacles -tend to slip through the training cracks. Including project sponsors (and executive stakeholders) in project management methodology training will help three key areas project sponsors training: (1) better project direction, (2) better project data utilization, and (3) improved cultural adoption of project management.

Common Characteristics of Productive Sponsors

  • Understands the Planning Methodology
  • Provides Active Direction During Planning Sessions
  • Stays Current on the Latest Project Status Report
  • Uses the Project Information Provided to Challenge Teams
  • Commits to Instilling PM in the Corporate Culture
  • Is Present and Engaged During Control Meetings

Better direction

The project sponsor plays a key role in defining the strategic direction of the project and communicating management’s expectations for the project. This information is often times captured in the form of a project charter. If a project sponsor has not been involved in the basic building blocks of project charter development, they often times struggle to provide
clear direction to the project manager. The result is the project manager may drive the team to successfully completing the wrong project! The project sponsor is the conduit between the executive stakeholders and the project manager. Without a clear understanding of how to communicate the objectives of the project, how the objectives of the project determine the key deliverables, and how the project manager can best deliver the project with specified deadlines; the sponsor is ultimately helping to facilitate a failed project. By ensuring your project sponsors are grounded in the same project management methodology as the project manager, you are providing your project manager and team the best opportunity to launching a successful project.

Better Project Data Utilization

Project management information is not very valuable if it is not being utilized effectively. Even the most detailed report package or visually stimulating powerpoint presentation will fall on deaf ears if the recipients do not know what they are supposed to do with the information provided. To this point, the sponsor’s key role throughout the course of the project is to allocate and redirect resources as needed, remove obstacles preventing the project from moving forward, and providing strategic direction to the project manager, among others. Without the sponsor understanding the same planning methodology as the project manager, discussions on concepts of critical/controlling path, compression techniques, and resource management alternatives, will often get confused. In the end, the sponsor and project manager may either get misaligned or the sponsor gradually becomes disengaged. By including the project sponsor in the project management training, they are able to internalize the data being presented to them, understand strategic options and provide more sound direction to the project manager.

Cultural Adoption

Successful project management initiatives are not rolled out without some discomfort involved. Project management is a process that involves the team’s time, focus and commitment to success. Without these elements, everyone is simply going through the motions and not viewing project management as a value added management tool. When utilized to its fullest, project management can be an early warning system that helps reduce organizational stress and assists the project team with prioritizing their time.  A strong sponsor that is well trained in the planning methodology and bought into its success can act as a “lightening rod” in channeling project success into a cultural game changer. By driving the team to become engaged in the planning and control process and utilizing the techniques they have been trained in, they can quickly generate momentum that illustrates their investment (time and budgetary) are worthwhile.

The project sponsor fills a critical role in the success of a project and thus should be grounded in the same planning and control concepts as the project manager and team. By not including the sponsors in the training, the message received from the project manager and team is “do as I say, not as I do” – a recipe for failure. By speaking the same project management language the sponsors are able to take a more active role in setting the direction of the project, ask the right questions when the project management data is presented, help the project manager navigate potential obstacles during the project execution and ultimately motivate the overall corporate culture to adopt project management as a value added process.

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PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE

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WHY YOUR BEST PROJECT MANAGEMENT PRACTICES MIGHT SUCK

Project management professionals often work hard to incorporate best practices into their PMOs. From creating a workable budget to conducting a useful post-project analysis, best practices stand ready to help PMs execute their projects and achieve their objectives. But sometimes, best practices become little more than words on paper (or aspirations that are discussed only when things go wrong). If your team is feeling stagnant, see if your real-world use of best practice methodologies might be less than ideal.

 

You haven’t revisited them in years. Project management best practices, like most things, can go stale after a period of time. The fundamentals are likely to stay the same, but innovations such as new technologies should be incorporated to continue moving your PMO forward. Stay plugged in to industry groups, to be sure your team has the latest information on trends. Attend conferences and seminars so you know what other thought leaders are doing.

 

You haven’t matched them to your organization. Even well-intentioned plans usually need to be tailored to fit the available resources of a company. Workflows are different in every PMO, and those best practices will likely need a bit of tweaking to be most effective. Look around and see what you have at your disposal—time, talent, and funding—and where your team is strongest. Then make the most of what you have.

 

You aren’t really following them. You probably think about them, and chances are good that you discuss them from time to time. But is your team really applying project management best practices in their everyday routines? If it seems you’re struggling to keep up, or if accomplishing the most basic of tasks feels like recreating the wheel every time, it might be time to reevaluate how well you’ve incorporated those best practices into your PMO’s workflow.

4 Benefits of Project Management Training

Most project management professionals come into the PMO with at least a baseline skill set in the art of project management. But savvy teams know that a well-crafted project management training program brings benefits that go beyond just nailing down core competencies. If your PMO hasn’t seized on the value of good training, consider just a few of potential payouts.

1 – Better participation. When team members have strong project management skills, they can more fully participate in all phases of a project’s lifecycle, from planning to execution to post-project analysis. Project professionals that are pigeonholed into a narrow sector of disciplines often miss out on new opportunities, and are less able to lend their expertise across multiple aspects of each project.

2 – More consistency. A solid training methodology available to all project professionals in an organization allows members across the team to apply consistent project management principles. This leads to better long-term project execution, as well as improved stakeholder and end user satisfaction. It’s also a launch pad for project improvement initiatives that result in repeatable successes.

3 – Increased confidence. Training gives team members the confidence to tackle difficult, complex, and critical-path projects. A strong training program introduces real-world project scenarios that allow PMs to develop good decision-making and other skills in a safe environment. It also gives them a much broader set of experiences to draw from when faced with challenging circumstances.

4 – Improved efficiency. When training focuses on a particular tool used in a PMO, such as a specific software suite, or on aspects of the project lifecycle that required detailed knowledge (planning and facilitation are two that come to mind), team members are able to become power users and experts much more quickly. They can then maximize the functionality and effectiveness of that tool or discipline.

project management training

PMAlliance has a national open enrollment training schedule
For more information on the event locations and schedules click HERE

 

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SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – RISK MANAGEMENT

SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING – COMMUNICATION

GROUP FACILITATION – SKILLS YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM IS MISSING

WHEN TO TAKE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TO THE NEXT LEVEL

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ARE YOU REALLY A PROJECT MANAGEMENT ADVOCATE?

Most project management professionals will tell you that project advocacy is part of their job, but are they really taking that task seriously? Simply being on a project management team doesn’t make you an advocate. On the contrary, busy project managers can actually undermine their role as advocate if they aren’t committed and focused. Take a look at some of the hallmarks of strong advocacy, and see if your efforts are keeping you on the right track.

Project advocates truly listen to stakeholders. Too often, a project’s objectives take over. At some point, it can even seem that PMs are beholden to the objectives above all others. Advocates stay in regular contact with stakeholders throughout the project to ensure things are moving forward as expected. They also encourage a robust two-way dialogue with stakeholders so that any concerns are aired early and dealt with as a partnership.

Project advocates recognize every group of stakeholders. Powerful project supporters wield a lot of influence, but project advocates also seek out other groups that have a vested interest in how the project goes but are often given little opportunity to participate. Advocates strive to include underserved groups at all stages of a project. This helps in developing good objectives as well as managing potential disruptions or other issues throughout the project’s lifecycle.

Project advocates understand that success is more than meeting deadlines and staying within a budget. Instead of focusing solely on completing each project, advocates work hard to maintain an overall vision that encompasses administrative objectives (dollars, schedules, etc.) in addition to stakeholder and end user satisfaction. Shifting organizational needs are evaluated against stakeholder expectations, and vice versa. Priorities that compete with management’s directives must be balanced—rather than dismissed without any real consideration—as the advocate endeavors to execute the best quality project possible.

project management training by PMAlliance

 

Check Out These Other Blog Posts on Advocacy:

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GETTING OTHERS ON THE PROJECT ADVOCACY TRAIN

THE PROJECTS OF SUMMER

Warm days are upon us, and with summertime comes some perks—and a few pitfalls—for project management professionals. Learn how to make the most of the nice weather without watching your timeline wither.

First we’ll look at the downsides of trying to tackle projects during the dog days of summer.

The vacation conundrum. Not only are many PMOs short staffed while folks take their annual family vacations, but vendors and other outside partners may also be stretched thin for the same reason. Remember to plan accordingly when putting together the project’s initial timeline and resource requirement projections, and be realistic about the level of support that’s likely to be available during the summer season.

Jostling for resources. If you’re scheduling weather-sensitive projects, be ready to compete with other similarly-minded organizations. PMOs facing this challenge typically have two avenues open to them: reserve the necessary labor and materials in advance (sometimes paying for them upfront to ensure they’ll be there when needed), or figure out a way to move critical deadlines either forward or back so they don’t coincide with the highest-demand months.

There are, however, some summertime benefits your PMO can take advantage of.

Boost morale the natural way. Events held in the fresh air often feel less like work, so plan meetings outside, schedule warm weather team-building activities, and perhaps even allow for more flexibility in work hours if possible. The team will appreciate the change of pace, and they’ll also have fun memories to chat about during the gloomy winter months.

Compress schedules when nice weather hits unexpectedly. If summer arrives early or stays late, be sure to pack in as many weather-dependent project tasks as possible. It’s often prudent to have a list of such activities handy, so the team can act quickly when good weather hits.

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3 SIGNS YOU’RE A PROJECT PERFECTIONIST

Earlier we talked about why project managers don’t need to be—and in fact should not be—perfect (“Perfection Not Needed”). Some of you probably have a sneaking hunch we were talking directly to you, but how can you tell for sure? Take a look at these 3 signs and see if they sound familiar. If so, you just might be the unreformed perfectionist other members of your project management team dread.

1 – You often say something similar to, “You know what would be really great?” Most of the time, this leads to enhancing the requirements needed to meet existing objectives and sometimes even adds new goals mid-stream. Either way, it’s scope creep, and it’s sure to undermine your team’s ability to successfully execute the project. Yes, you probably have some great ideas for making every project even better, but remember that you still have a budget and a deadline to meet.

2 – After delegating a task, you frequently take it back. It doesn’t matter if you justify it by saying that team members aren’t completing things just the way you like or you feel they’re taking too long/not devoting enough attention to it/not giving it a high enough priority, these are all warning flags that your perfectionist tendencies are taking over.

3 – Competent and able professionals in your PMO regularly ask for direction or approval on everyday tasks, or seek your input on things you know they’re perfectly capable of handling on their own. If it’s just one person looking for help, you may have a training or performance issue on your hands. But if it’s endemic to the team, chances are good they’re tired of your perfectionism interfering with their duties after they’ve invested the effort to complete a task, and are instead trying to proactively figure out what will make you happy.

 

Check Out These Other Blog Posts on Perfectionists:

3 SIGNS YOU’RE A PROJECT PERFECTIONIST 

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PERFECTION NOT NEEDED

PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING: STOP MEDDLING!

Project management leaders are always looking for ways to boost synergy within their teams. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to near-constant meddling. Not to be confused with micromanaging, the sort of meddling I’m talking about revolves around the team’s various personalities, not  its overall effectiveness. But leaders who want their PMO to resemble one big happy family should realize it’s actually detrimental to the team when they involve themselves in every disagreement. Below are some of the problems teams often encounter when members aren’t able to forge their own solutions for balancing personality differences and overcoming strife.

A lack of productive conflict may result in unimaginative problem-solving efforts. We’ve said it before: conflict isn’t always bad. In fact, sometimes it can be very good. If the team’s leadership imposes its will in an attempt to quell arguments—determining a specific course of action or a preferred solution to a particular problem, for instance—any potential innovations that might have arisen from the conflict-discussion-resolution process are lost.

Too much interference allows underlying problems to fester. Sometimes, seemingly minor issues can grow significantly worse if those involved aren’t able to butt heads and successfully devise a way forward that works for them. When this happens, whatever put them at odds in the first place may actually continue unchecked. If others in the group also become embroiled in the situation, morale in the PMO could quickly drop.

Personality clashes could consume project management time. Once the PMO’s leadership decides to take on anything but the most difficult personnel conflicts, the entire team may learn to depend on having these types of issues solved for them. And if managers are focused on individual-level conflict resolution or confrontation avoidance, high-level efforts such as mentoring and the championing of strategic initiatives could suffer in the long term.

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PMAlliance uses a team of certified professionals to provide project management training services.

WHEN DYSFUNCTIONAL PMOs SUCCEED

Nearly every project management consulting professional has watched a completely dysfunctional PMO execute a project successfully. How do they do it? When the rest of us are carefully creating solid budgets and timelines, while we’re diligently minding our progress and watching for potential problem areas downstream, these broken teams manage to succeed in spite of themselves. Is it just luck? I don’t think so. In those cases where I’ve seen a heavily flawed project team achieve its objectives, there are usually some extraordinary circumstances that contribute to the project’s success.

A lot of problems can slip past disconnected stakeholders or an executive team that isn’t paying attention. Projects that are over budget or miss a deadline may never be questioned, and even failures on a critical deliverable could glide under the radar. If your performance is never truly subjected to scrutiny, what does it matter if you do a good job or not? But beware the downside: the long-term effectiveness of projects that don’t pass muster is diminished, meaning that stakeholders might not trust your PMO’s recommendations in the future, or other projects may need to be implemented to fix what went wrong the first time.

A project team comprised of high-performing individuals will often succeed, even if a subset of members aren’t pulling their weight. Self motivation and sheer determination can usually drive those who set high standards for themselves to cover a lot of faults if it means the project will succeed. Unfortunately, in my experience these situations ultimately put the organization in an even worse position when the stars of the PMO move on in search of a team that doesn’t take advantage of them.

Have any of you ever worked in a dysfunctional PMO? What were the underlying problems, and how did your team manage to find success?

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PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management training services.

7 TIPS FOR SHARING PROJECT METRICS

Most PMOs strive for transparency, and that often includes releasing metrics related to project objectives, budgets, and a host of other data points. But there are some recommended—and other not-so-recommended—guidelines for sharing that information to best effect. We’ve put together 7 suggestions to keep stakeholders engaged while ensuring your transparency efforts remain on track.

1 – Focus on the data stakeholders ask for most often. Your team can often avoid answering the same questions a dozen times by putting the information front and center.

2 – Consider including some data points that aren’t usually requested. If there are little-known metrics that would help stakeholders understand how successful your project truly was, be sure to highlight them. If nothing else, it’s good PR for your team.

3 – Provide enough detail to make the data meaningful. Remember that most stakeholders aren’t project professionals, so include any additional information that will help them understand the data points you’re sharing with them.

4 – Let readers know where they can find more information. Part of transparency is responding to follow-up inquiries, and that’s best accomplished by designating a point person to field stakeholders’ questions.

5 – Identify who’s responsible for particularly impressive metrics. Rather than feed the notion that your PMO is a faceless mass, take the time to call out particular team members with notable accomplishments.

6 – Release a subset of metrics on a regular schedule. Things like staffing levels, number of active projects, budget overages, and new vendor agreement metrics are often helpful on a quarterly or even monthly basis.

7 – Share data in a number of places and ways. Some stakeholders may not read the corporate newsletters or frequent your PMO’s intranet site. To widen your audience, consider other avenues, such as an e-mail blast or a short presentation at each company meeting.

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.

 

4 WAYS TO SPICE UP YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAM

Project Management Training is an ongoing activity for most PMOs, but participants can get burned out if the routine gets stale. We’ve rounded up some tips to keep students interested and enthusiastic.

1 – Offer one on one sessions

Training is typically more time- and cost-efficient when multiple students attend, but individual sessions can offer a helpful alternative. They’re especially useful for students who travel or work irregular shifts, and may have difficulty blending common class times into their schedules. If you have a mentor program, you already have a list of experts potentially willing to lead occasional sessions.

2 – Go offsite

Students who are too close to their desks might not give training their full attention— it’s too easy to run back for a quick e-mail or voicemail check, which is never actually quick. Traditional venues are fine, but if you’re looking for something more interesting (and perhaps less expensive), consider the picnic benches at a nearby park or even a coffee shop for events with only a handful of students.

3 – Go online

Computer-based training is a great way to offer sessions that are efficient and can accommodate the schedules of multiple students. It works particularly well for short classes, where participants can easily tune out distractions because they know they’ll be available again before long. Online presentations can also be used during traditional training sessions to offer students access to remote experts or additional accompanying material.

4 – Turn students into trainers

Interactive classes can help to keep things interesting, and tapping participants’ expertise to expand the group’s knowledge base is a fun way to maintain a high enthusiasm level. Be sure you don’t rely on any one person too much—instead, schedule several folks to present different material. This will ensure that everyone gets the chance to be a student.

PMAlliance project management consulting.

 

Confronting Challenges by Adding a Project Management Consulting Firm to Your Team

There are many reasons that corporate executives turn to external consultants to provide project management support for their projects. The challenges that organizations face include: sub-par project performance, the potential for lost credibility, lack of experience with a particular project type, and a lack of internal project management practitioners. Project management consulting firms can supply experienced practitioners that offer high-quality solutions to the complex issues facing project teams. Here are six ways that project management consulting firms are making a difference with leading organizations.

Continue reading Confronting Challenges by Adding a Project Management Consulting Firm to Your Team

Going Beyond Mentoring

Mentoring remains an important way for project management professionals to expand their knowledge base (6 reasons-mentoring still matters), but sometimes your needs go beyond what a mentor can provide. We’ve outlined a few instances where a different kind of expert might have the information or expertise you’re seeking.

Continue reading Going Beyond Mentoring

Project Management Documentation Tips: Forms & Templates

Forms and templates are the foundation for many types of project documents. Rather than putting unnecessary effort into creating new forms for each project, the use of existing forms and templates can streamline your project’s documentation requirements, and allow your team to focus on higher-level objectives. A variety of resources are available to you when looking for ready-made forms, and a few simple tips will help keep your project’s momentum moving forward when truly custom forms are needed.

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Project Management : The Power of the Checklist

Good resource management keeps the project management consulting team running at full speed. Vendors and collaborators may change from project to project, and even from phase to phase, but checklists ensure your team knows the resources that are needed at any given time, and where to find them. Maintaining supplies, managing documentation and quickly locating a properly outfitted meeting space can all be facilitated through the use of checklists.

Continue reading Project Management : The Power of the Checklist

Documentation Tips: Archival

At the end of each project, it’s important to ensure your documentation – including e-mails, invoices, contracts, schedules, diagrams and anything else related to the project – can be easily located, retrieved, searched and referenced later.

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Conducting a Useful Post Mortem Analysis

Once a project is complete, take some time to review what was successful and what needs improvement. By evaluating each project in retrospect, you’ll be able to apply the lessons learned to future endeavors.

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Software is a Tool, Not the Answer to Project Planning & Control

No matter what the job is at hand, great tools in the hands of a trained professional will lead to exceptional results. But what about providing great tools to an untrained person? Would you expect comparable results? The answer is a resounding NO!If this is true, then why do some people believe that having good project management software tools will make them good project managers and ultimately lead to successful projects? The missing variable in this equation is a sound project management methodology to guide them through the planning and control process. Engraining a sound project management methodology in your organization, supported by a suite of great tools, is the first step towards getting great project results.

Select a Sound Project Management Methodology

All projects have three major elements that need to be controlled in order for a project to be successful. Those elements are Time, Cost, and Quality. Time is measured by using a schedule, cost is measured by using a budget, and quality is measured by using specifications. Projects are only successful if they are completed on-time, within budget, and to specifications. If the project management system you have selected does not take into consideration all three of these elements then you will have a difficult time planning and controlling your project through its completion. Your project deadline, budget, and quality constraints will require you to make trade-offs in these three variables. A sound project management approach creates an opportunity to make better decisions about those trade-offs earlier in the process and thereby increases the probability of success.

Select Tools that Support the Chosen Methodology

There are many project management software packages currently available in the market today. Finding a software tool that quickly provides the information needed to analyze and make decisions for your project is not a simple task. While many project management software tools are good for planning the initial schedule, sometimes it can be difficult to update the schedule, change resource allocations, modify activity durations or change precedence relationships. Select a tool that has a friendly user interface, easily allows plan changes and supports your chosen project management methodology.

The PMAlliance Planning Process

A good planning process is made up of three distinct steps:

  1. Define the Project
  2. Develop an Initial Project Plan
  3. Compress the Schedule and Develop a Baseline Plan

Defining the project is the first step towards having a successful project outcome. During this step the project manager is selected and the sponsor(s) of the project is interviewed to determine exactly what he/she is expecting the project team to deliver. Once the project has been defined by the sponsor(s), the project team is assembled to develop the project charter. The charter should contain a short background statement, the expected deliverables, the project objectives, the list of the project team and sponsors, a list of key dates, and any assumptions, risks, and constraints that the project team can identify. In addition, the project charter should also contain the time-cost trade-off rate. This is defined as the cost to the organization if the project is finished late or the benefit if finished early. The time-cost trade-off rate is used to make cost effective decisions for compression of the project plan. Once the team is in agreement about the project’s scope, key personnel requirements, major constraints, assumptions, and risks, those items should then be presented to stakeholders for approval. By completing this process up-front, the project team will have a clearly defined (and understood) set of deliverables and an agreed-upon direction prior to making the investment in developing the project plan.The initial project plan is developed by the project team around the deliverables identified in the charter. The deliverables are broken down into work tasks (activities) through the development of a work breakdown structure. Once this is complete, the team needs to identify the task owners, durations and the precedence relationships. The precedence relationships are developed and documented using a network diagram. After the network diagram is developed, the project plan is entered in to the selected project management software for validation and schedule compression. Upon completion of the project plan compression and validation, a baseline of the plan is saved. The baseline plan is used to measure variance as the project is moved into the control mode.

The PMAlliance Control Process

The Control Process is the most important part of managing a project once a good plan has been developed. All projects should be updated on a regular basis, typically, every one to two weeks. The main objectives of project control are to:

  1. Gain an objective indication of the status of the project and key milestone dates
  2. Keep team members focused on the project and their activities
  3. Uncover and resolve any schedule-related problems
  4. Update the schedule to reflect the most current information about the project

The first step in the control process is to collect activity status information from the team members. The project plan should then be updated and the remaining activities should be rescheduled. The plan is then compared against the baseline plan and the variance is analyzed. If necessary, based on the update, the plan may need to be recompressed to meet the project deadline/key dates. The recompression is typically done with the project team. After the schedule has been recompressed, all team members need to reconfirm that they can meet the near term commitments for their assigned tasks. A project status report is then developed and distributed to the management and project team members. In some cases, a formal control meeting is held to communicate the update results directly to management and the project team members.

Conclusion

There are many good project management software packages available on the market today, but without a team that is well trained in sound project management principles that utilize a proven planning and control process, successful projects will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. Software is not the answer, a sound project management methodology is!

PMAlliance uses a team of highly experienced and certified professionals to provide project management consultingproject management training and project office development services.

Project Management in a Down Economy

Each year, companies execute projects for the purpose of improving their bottom-line and expanding their competitive advantage. The difference between success and failure often depends on how committed organizations are in utilizing project management to monitor and control schedule delays. Schedule delays are the villain in project management and are the biggest cause of budget overruns, missed deadlines, and poor quality. During good economic times, investing in project management is financially feasible and acceptable by most companies. However, during bad economic times, project management is considered an overhead cost and the tendency is to downsize. This paper discusses the importance of investing in project management to mitigate the impact of schedule delays in good and more importantly during bad economic times.

Continue reading Project Management in a Down Economy