9 Documentation Mistakes Project Teams Make

Documentation is a huge part of project management. Everything from background reading to comparing old and new contracts happens with the material your PMO has already gathered. But project management professionals have a lot going on, and sometimes their documentation practices get sloppy. See if your team is making any of these 9 documentation mistakes.

1 – Documentation isn’t vetted before being sent offsite. When workloads are hectic, the first inclination of many project teams is to throw everything and the kitchen sink into several boxes and archive it. That means out-of-date versions of important documents are probably lurking in a box somewhere, just waiting to confuse someone later.

2 – Background materials aren’t readily available. PMPs frequently need to reference documentation from previous projects. When hard copies are sent offsite for archival, thorough records aren’t always kept of where the different types of documents are located. Recalling specific materials becomes cumbersome and time consuming.

3 – Only one person understands the filing system. It makes sense that many PMOs designate an administrator or other point person to oversee filing, electronic document storage, archival, and retrieval tasks. But if that’s the only person who knows how to find anything, Murphy’s Law says they’ll be out of the office when someone needs to review an old budget spreadsheet.

4 – Electronic copies aren’t treated as part of the official project record. Digital documents are easier to distribute and store than their paper brethren. Unfortunately, that sometimes means they’re treated more casually than hard copies. Changes made to digital documents aren’t always captured in the project’s master files during the wrap-up phase and electronic records often languish rather than being deleted according to the organization’s records retention schedule.

5 – Security isn’t taken seriously. With very few exceptions, there is likely at least some amount of sensitive data stored in your PMO’s project files. That confidential information can range from internal communications outlining strategic market research to hiring records to classified vendor pricing. Sensitive paper documentation too often sits in unlocked file cabinets, and electronic documents aren’t always protected by a password.

6 – Things are scattered. Electronic files live on the computers of the various people who created them. Some paper records are kept in file cabinets within the PMO area but budget documents are stored in the Accounting department. Contracts are retained by Legal. Sound familiar? This usually leaves multiple versions of one document in circulation, and important records are sometimes overlooked when items are eventually archived.

7 – The information retention schedule is ignored. Throwing a document away (or deleting it, now that most of what we do is digital) gives some people the willies. This leads PMOs to determine that nearly everything their team creates warrants an exemption from the organization’s formal document retention schedule. The group ends up with far more material than they really need and the organization could potentially face legal and other liabilities if out-of-date documents come back to haunt them.

8 – Formats are inconsistent. Today’s PMPs are using more than a few methods to access and create documents—desktop computers, tablets, smartphones, web interfaces, and old fashioned paper to name just a few. But can everyone read that spreadsheet on their phone? Does the web portal render older drawings and schematics accurately? Incompatible formats typically lead to multiple versions of the same document, increasing the chances for errors and miscommunication later.

9 – Information is missed. It’s that old classic tale: Everyone thinks someone else will record important data or update an existing file, but ultimately no one does it. This leaves the team’s documentation sorely lacking, likely causing problems (and inefficiencies) later.

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Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance

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.

project sponsors training

 

BUILDING YOUR PMO’S PROJECT PORTFOLIO

 

Most project management professionals have their own project portfolios—they come in handy during job interviews, performance reviews, etc. But your PMO should also have a portfolio. It’s a great PR tool when your team hosts networking events, and it’s also helpful when introducing your team to a new executive or key stakeholder. We’ve put together a quick guide to get your PMO’s portfolio started.

 

Select a handful of projects to include. You can’t include everything, but look for a variety of projects that showcase your team’s versatility. Include at least one very large project, one high-visibility project, and one project that directly affected the company’s bottom line. Projects with particular significance (improvements to a manufacturing facility, for example) or that demonstrate your team’s expertise in niche areas (perhaps a project completed under regulatory oversight) would also be good additions.

 

Create a project summary for each project. Viewers of your PMO’s portfolio will want to quickly understand the basic objectives and parameters of the various projects your team has executed, so give them the basics at a glance: a short list of key deliverables, information on the project’s duration or timetable, cost data that includes budgeted and actual figures for expense and capital line items, a list of key project team members and their areas of responsibility, and other notable resource allocations or project details. Keep each project summary to just a single page for easy viewing.

 

Pull some photos together. Few things can help viewers understand the scope and impact of your projects like pictures. But you don’t need many—select one or two large photos that best describe the project’s challenges and final outcome, along with a few smaller pictures that highlight particularly interesting aspects of the project. Any more than that, and your viewers will likely lose interest.

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

 

Do You Need Project Management Training? Infographic

Check out PMAlliance’s infographic on the importance of  Project Management Training. It has some great statistics on the benefits that proper PM Training can bring to your projects. Even if your organization’s processes have been refined over the years, it’s up to YOU to follow and further improve them.

Also check out our other Training Infographic for more great stats: PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING INFOGRAPHIC

 Project Management Training Infographic PMP

Maintain your project management training with PMAlliance and keep up to date with the latest project management techniques to have more successful projects.

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

 

More posts on Project Management Training:

6 SNEAKY WAYS TO GET MORE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

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

DO YOU NEED PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING? INFOGRAPHIC

4 BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

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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TURN PERFECTIONISM ON ITS HEAD

We’ve talked about why Project Managers don’t need to be perfectionists (“Perfection not needed”), but if you suspect that you are one (“3 signs you’re a project perfectionist”), what can you do about it? Seeking perfection can be a difficult habit to break, even as it wreaks havoc on the rest of your PMO. Fortunately, we have some tools to turn your perfectionism on its head.

If you’re constantly identifying new ways to improve upon projects that are already in progress (or are already done!), it’s time to refocus your attention. Try turning over as much of the management of your PMO’s current projects to others in your group, and instead put your creative energies into those projects that are still under development.

When you find yourself taking back tasks you’ve delegated to others, consider the status of everything else you’re already doing. Is it all current, or are some areas behind schedule? If anything is running late, it’s crucial that you get those items delegated to the right person on the team right away. Next, step back and evaluate your role and its responsibilities, along with the goals of others in your group. If a task doesn’t fit into your job, ask yourself if it would give one of your teammates an opportunity for growth and development.

Handing out advice (whether it’s requested or not) can seriously undermine morale even if your PMO is full of high achievers, so breaking this habit will do the entire team some good. The next time you’re ready to open your mouth and offer your opinion, do an about-face and instead ask those you’re working with for their perspective. Even if you end up giving your point of view later, your teammates have had the opportunity to speak their minds and there’s a good chance their input influenced the direction you gave them.

 

Check Out These Other Blog Posts on Perfectionists:

3 SIGNS YOU’RE A PROJECT PERFECTIONIST 

TURN PERFECTIONISM ON ITS HEAD

PERFECTION NOT NEEDED

BANISH THE BULLY: PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING

Earlier we looked at some of the signs that indicate you might have a bully in your PMO (Bullying In The Workplace). But once you’ve confirmed there’s bullying going on, what can project management team members do about it? If the bully is the leader of the team, affecting their behavior will likely be difficult. You may also be hesitant to raise the issue with someone in a position to fix the problem—the bully’s boss, for example—for fear of reprisals. There are other options, though, that may help your project management team address the situation in a positive way.

Get HR involved. Employers today typically won’t tolerate any measure of bullying in the workplace, so bringing an HR rep into the conversation may be the best way to resolve the situation. They’ll work with the bully to modify and improve their behavior, and may also be able to address issues the problem has caused within your PMO. Be sure to pull together several examples of the bully’s problem behavior ahead of time, to help illustrate exactly what’s going on.

Establish alternate communication channels for stakeholders. Help project supporters and end users avoid the bully by designating a point person for these folks to contact with project questions or concerns. Beware that this may not be an option in those cases where the bully has purposely made themselves the sole communication conduit into and out of the PMO, as they’re unlikely to relinquish such a powerful, visible role.

Create new opportunities for team building. If one person’s domineering behavior is hurting group morale, take the time to schedule some activities designed to pull folks back together and rebuild trust. Even a simple team lunch can work wonders. Plan something offsite, and keep your intentions quiet so the bully doesn’t catch wind of it and show up.

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

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.

THE TASK CONUNDRUM

In project management, there are two schools of thought on doling out tasks to team members—assign all tasks at the beginning of the project, or assign them as they come up in the project schedule. Each method has merits, along with some notable pitfalls. Here we examine both strategies to see what’s good about each, and where problems may lurk.

Assign at the beginning of the project

Benefits of this approach are felt at both the team and individual levels. Project professionals often feel they are better able to juggle tasks for multiple projects simultaneously when they can budget their time early in the process. From the team’s perspective, assigning tasks during the initial project phase may allow resources to be more efficiently managed across the overall project load. Possible downsides include increased susceptibility to delays, due to the unavailability of the person responsible for the task. If one individual gets behind, the effects may be magnified across the entire team.

Assign when the task is ready to begin

This strategy may enable PMOs to eliminate delays by leveraging available resources on a just-in-time basis, rather than wait for a specific individual to begin the task. It may also facilitate a generalist approach to project management by ensuring team members have opportunities to oversee a variety of tasks, rather than just those in their areas of expertise. Potential concerns include the delays that may occur if a task languishes before being assigned, and the unavailability of a team member suited for the task if there is a requirement for a specific skill set.

A team comprised of high performers could likely use either strategy successfully, assuming that some things—communication channels, stakeholder expectations, etc.—were well established and carefully managed. How have these approaches worked in your own experience?

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

MAKE YOUR PROJECT MANAGEMENT PHOTOS SING

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it’s time your PMO made its project photos earn their keep. Stakeholders across the board rely on good pictures—to help them understand what your project will correct as well as to see all that you’ve accomplished so far. We’ve put together some guidelines to help you take great project management pictures that support your message.

Pay attention to quality. Grainy, dark, and out-of-focus pictures aren’t what you need. For photos to convey information and have impact, viewers must be able to see things clearly. And while some cell phones take great pictures, a quality point-and-shoot camera is often a worthwhile investment. Also, consider if you’re likely to enlarge pictures for display at open house events or to show greater detail. In those instances, it may be helpful to use a high-resolution camera.

Give some perspective. Photos that are too close-up or too far away may not give viewers the kind of understanding you want them to have. Be mindful to offer information on scale (a ruler often works for small items, a desk chair or even a car for larger objects, structures, etc.) and take the picture from an angle that makes it clear what you’re focusing on. Also, do your best to minimize the appearance of unimportant items or clutter, so the photo is easy to view and comprehend.

Offer additional information. Supplemental graphics and text will often help to explain the finer details of your photos. If someone in your PMO is skilled with PhotoShop or a similar software platform, you can add all kinds of extra information while also cropping, rotating, and shrinking or enlarging specific areas of a photo. Low-tech solutions, such as post-it notes and arrows drawn with a felt-tip marker, can also get the point across.

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

THE DANGERS OF OVERPLANNING

Can you really overplan a project? It turns out you can. When schedules are adjusted too frequently, or when task durations are forecast too optimistically, the project can quickly fall into the overplanning trap. Most people recognize and quell the occasional bout of overplanning when they see it in themselves, but what happens if that gene runs wild? There can actually be downsides to too much—or too frequent—planning.

The moving target syndrome. One pitfall of updating plans too frequently is that milestone dates can become too fluid. Unless you’re the only one involved in bringing the project to fruition, others will already have target dates in mind for items they’re managing. Manipulating those dates too often can make it difficult for others to achieve their milestone objectives.

Whittling down contingencies. It’s not uncommon for project management teams to build contingency time around key tasks, where variables make tight planning less precise. When a project timetable is managed too closely and updated too often, there’s a tendency to chip away at those contingency days. If everything doesn’t line up perfectly and that additional time is actually needed, the rest of the schedule may again need to change to accommodate the wiggle room that shouldn’t have ever been removed.

Unrealistic targets. This becomes a problem when one person updates the entire project schedule based on their own progress, rather than communicating with all stakeholders to ensure that time savings in one area actually affords the opportunity to adjust target dates in other areas. It’s particularly troublesome if equipment installation schedules or other dates along the project continuum are fixed, and changes create a milestone date that another team member can’t possibly meet. If changes aren’t communicated well, deadlines may be missed simply because someone didn’t know their target date had changed.

PMAlliance Project Management Training

Control Your Project’s Reality

The reality of a project—its objectives, its hurdles—don’t always match the perception that stakeholders have in their minds. When a project management professional discovers a discrepancy between how things really are and how people assume them to be, it’s time to do some proactive damage control that often goes beyond simply resetting expectations.

First, see if you can determine where the incorrect information came from initially. There’s a chance that the data is actually accurate, but was passed through inappropriate channels, such as a vendor providing someone other than their primary contact person with updated lead times, etc. This will help you determine if the information floating around is indeed incorrect, or if it’s just old and needs to be refreshed.

Next, send accurate (or perhaps updated) information to everyone involved in the project. This includes not only stakeholders—end along with champions, funders, and even the executive team if it makes sense—but also anyone in your PMO who may have the project on their  radar. This will alert folks to the fact that erroneous data is floating around, so they can be on the lookout for it. It also ensures that everyone with the potential to provide information to stakeholders is working off the latest approved data.

 

Finally, reinforce where information should enter your PMO, and who is responsible for passing it on to stakeholders. If updated data bypassed your team and was given directly to stakeholders, either by others in your organization or by business partners, you will likely need to let folks know from whom they should expect to receive new data points. If a vendor released information to end users or others outside your PMO, it’s time to re-educate them that all data is to go through a specific point person on your team.

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THINK BIG

Setting objectives is nothing new to project professionals, but sometimes it’s too easy to let stakeholder expectations drive progress. Resource constraints will always be with us, but try injecting one or more of these tips into your next project to see how much your team can accomplish if they aim beyond users ask of them.

Take standard projects to the next tier
Most PMOs have a handful of repeating projects—software development, employee relocations, equipment design, etc.—that sometimes cause the team to go on auto pilot. Rather than applying the standard template to the next such project, step back and choose one thing improve upon. Make the enhancement of the target area its own objective, and see how much you can boost results. Choose a different area of focus during the next project and repeat the process.

Examine the potential for insourcing or outsourcing
If your team is stretched thin juggling too many disciplines, consider turning over one particularly resource-intensive task to an experienced contractor or vendor. Conversely, determine if it’s feasible to bring an outsourced task in-house (this works especially well if you’re interested in gaining better control over the cost or quality of a particular function). The change might result in your PMO beating the pants off the typical project schedule or budget, but even if it doesn’t, your team is likely to learn some new ways to streamline old processes.

Establish areas of expertise
Generalists are crucial to a PMO’s success, but everyone has at least one area they’re particularly skilled in. Talk with your team to identify those niches, and then encourage people to beef up their individual expertise even more. By developing next-level competence in each of their focus areas, your team members can significantly add to the sum total of the group’s knowledge.

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PMAlliance Project Management Training

EMBRACE THE NON-MEETING

We’ve covered how to hold effective meetings “MAKE THE MOST OF MEETINGS“, but sometimes a meeting isn’t the most efficient way to move your team forward. Below are some instances where other approaches may be a better choice than the typical project management meeting.

Confirming information.
If no new data will be revealed and all that’s necessary is to corroborate information for the team’s general knowledge, don’t bother bringing folks together. E-mail is often a better choice, allowing large numbers of team members to respond when convenient. It also offers an easily accessible trail of what’s been confirmed and which data points are still outstanding.

Asking questions.
Yes, gathering information is sometimes best accomplished during a meeting, but think carefully about whether a different methodology might be more efficient. If all you really seek are answers (and not a discussion surrounding the questions you’re posing), then e-mail or even individual conversations might be a wiser use of your team’s time.

Raising concerns.
Don’t wait to bring up potential problems, especially if the bulk of the group isn’t available for a last-minute meeting. Instead, bring your concerns to the team leader or—if that’s you— seek out the one or two people with the expertise to help identify the true scope and nature of the problem, or who are best equipped to begin developing solutions. Once these initial steps have been taken, you can then call a meeting to deal with the issue on a wider scale.

Going through the motions.
Admit it: sometimes your PMO holds meetings simply because they’re on the calendar, not because anyone has anything to contribute or requires anything from the rest of the team. Rather than spend time on an unproductive get-together, consider sending an e-mail before each regularly scheduled meeting to ensure the team will actually benefit from it.

project management meeting

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

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

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.

Continue reading Documentation Tips: Archival

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.

Continue reading Conducting a Useful Post Mortem Analysis

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