8 posts categorized "Project Management"

08/03/2011

4 Ways to Ruin Your Day With Poor Resource Management

IStock_000005305116XSmall Resource management is important.  It can and will make or break your project.  If we have the right people, managed correctly, the opportunities for our project to succeed go way up.  If we have the wrong people, or manage our resources poorly, it will be a rough day.  For that matter, it will be a rough month.

What are some things to watch out for?  Here are four “gotchas” to watch out for to be sure that you don’t fall into the poor resource management trap as you maintain your project management software tool.  In this post, we are primarily focused on human resource management – people.

1.  Not factoring in non-project work.

It is extremely rare these days where a resource is working exclusively on your project.  People are more often working on multiple-projects at the same time, multi-tasking, and being pulled in a lot of different directions.  They may be working hard on your project, but also have to take care of operational duties.  They also must spend time answering emails, phone calls, and going to meetings.  You must factor in this non-project time.  If you need a resource to give you a solid 20 hours of work, you cannot expect that to be accomplished in 20 hours because they will be working on other things.  I have heard, but cannot immediately find validation, that 6 to 6.5 hours per day is a benchmark.  That sounds high to me.  You know your organization and its culture better than I do.  In a typical project management software tool, this will be referred to as their capacity.

2.  Not accurately estimating the amount of time you need the resources.

You need to accurately know how long you will need your resources.  This means that you need to follow good project management techniques, including building a solid work breakdown structure, and setting up a good schedule.  How long have these activities taken in the past?  How long do the resources themselves estimate that it will take this time?  Have they done these activities before so that we know their estimate is probably accurate.  These are questions you must ask so that you can accurately estimate the resource quantity (aka time) needed.  I would rather estimate more than I need and actually take less, then estimate less and take more.

3.  Not considering the difference between effort and duration.

Effort (sometimes referred to as "work") is how much time or how many hours a resource needs to work on a task uninterrupted in order to complete.  Duration is how much calendar time it will take to complete that much effort (and thus complete the task).  For example, the effort required for a task may be 20 hours, but it will take 5 calendar days (40 hours) before the task is actually completed due to other work and priorities.  Be sure that you are estimating both of these.  Do not confuse effort for duration.  Otherwise, in 20 hours you will wondering why your task is only 50% complete.

4.  Not understanding the impact of other projects.

You need to constantly be on the lookout for other projects that will become a higher priority and siphon off your resources.  This may be perfectly legitimate because another project may be more important to the organization as a whole.  However, you can and should still plan for this.  For example, if you are delivering something to a client and you need a high-value resource that “everyone” needs, plan for that.  Build some margin into your schedules to allow for this.  Set the expectations up front.  But don’t bury your head in the sand, pretend that it will not happen, and then get upset when it does.

This is obviously not an all-inclusive list.  Leave a comment if you have made some mistakes that will help someone else with their resource management.

 





03/03/2011

Flying into Project Management

Fipm_planeIf you get to know me, you will find out that I am an aviation nut.  I love flying and airplanes.  That does not mean I love being squished into an airline seat, but I do love the general sport of flying.  A while back I was reading an article in a flying magazine that I read.  The article was titled something along the lines of "Top 10 Ways to be a Better Pilot."  I thought of the similar types of articles I have seen related to project management..."Top 10 Ways to be a Better Project Manager", for example.  It got me thinking about how far aviation has come in learning how to create predictable outcomes, safe results, and managed risk.  It also got me thinking about how project management needs to do the same, and how it can learn from the lessons that aviation has already learned (and is learning).  Perhaps we just do not take it quite as seriously because the consequences of failure are not as dire.

I say all of that to let you know that I have started another blog "Flying Into Project Management at www.flyingintoprojectmanagement.com."  I have a lot of material and lessons to share with you that provide a different way of looking at and learning project management principles.  I hope that you will check it out and follow along!

 





11/19/2010

Systems Thinking

IStock_000000638838Small A project tool is not always a piece of project management software.  It can be a process or technique or system.  I recently read a blog post by Josh Nankivel on Systems Thinking.  It was actually a review of a book that Josh had read, but he brought out some interesting points.  As I read through these I again thought of the reasons that we decide to implement some sort of project management software.  What is our goal?

When we get right on down to it, is our goal not to make our project systems as efficient as possible?  To develop maximum output, to identify core causes of problems, to create predictability?  When I say "system" I am referring to the whole process or engine that causes projects in your organization to be completed successfully - your processes, tools, resources, techniques, and more.

Your project management software tools are there to support this system and should enable you to do things like:

  • Find root causes of problems
  • Identify problems and prevent them
  • Discover where performance is lagging so that efficiency can be improved

You should be constantly doing these things.  Read Josh's post and see how you are doing with systems thinking.

 





11/01/2010

Are You Insane?

What is insanity?  What does that have to do with project management software tools?  According to dictionary.com, one of the definitions of insanity is "extreme folly; senselessness; foolhardiness."  A definition that I like better is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  This has been misattributed to Benjamin Franklin, and it seems like no one knows exactly who said it.

Don't we do that - doing the same thing over and over?  What are you doing over and over and expecting a different result?  Or what new result do you need to achieve - and thus what do you need to do differently to achieve it?

Are you using the same old tools for project management and still fighting fires due to late or a lack of information?  Are there processes that are broken?

What can you change today to achieve a different result?





10/22/2010

10 Ways to Improve the Performance of Project Teams

We just released an updated version of our whitepaper, 10 Ways to Improve the Performance of Project Teams.  This is not a post specifically on project management software tools per se, but we are interested in working better - achieving our objectives through better project management and better project management tools.  I think you will find this helpful.  You can download the whitepaper here.

 





10/11/2010

3 Tips to Building your Work Breakdown Structure

IStock_000003692489XSmall It is not unusual to hear the question "How do I Build my Work Breakdown Structure?"  That can mean many things, but usually it means how detailed does my work breakdown structure (WBS) need to get?  Or sometimes that means, what is the least amount of work breakdown effort that I can do and still have a good work breakdown?

Here are three tips to building a good work breakdown structure:

 

 

1.  Your WBS breaks out into tasks that are deliverables.

In other words, your tasks represent deliverables and these deliverables can be evaluated as completed or not completed.  Why is this important?  You cannot know the true status of your project if you do not know the objective status of the deliverables in your project.  And you cannot know the status of the deliverables if your WBS is not broken down enough to track them.  The draft specification document is completed or it is not completed.  The mock up is done or it is not.  The ad has been approved or it has not been approved.  I realize I am oversimplifying this a little bit (and not factoring in the quality of the work), but you get the idea.

2.  You can easily estimate the time (and cost) of each task.

It is much easier to estimate how long it will take to write a chapter then it is to estimate how long it will take to publish a book.  You need to break down the work into small enough pieces that you can estimate them.  Otherwise, all of your estimates are nothing but a grand guess.  Likewise, if you need to estimate and track costs in your organization, you need to have small enough pieces to accurately estimate the cost for each piece of work.

3.  The duration of each task is reasonable compared to the duration of the project.

If your project is going to take two weeks to complete, you cannot have a task that is one and a half weeks in duration.  Otherwise, you will not know the status of that project until it is almost complete.  Likewise, if you project is going to take a year to complete, you probably do not need a task that is 30 minutes in duration.  That just is not reasonable when you compare it to the duration of the project.

So how do you know if a duration is reasonable?  I cannot give you a magic formula, but I can ask you a question in return.  How long can you wait before finding out that your project is falling behind, and still have plenty of time to address it?  The purpose of doing this in the first place is to manage the project well, so set your task durations so that you can do that without getting carried away with unneeded detail.

What would you add to this list?

 





09/10/2010

Rules of Project Management

Rules are great things to guide us in life.  They give us boundaries.  Check out these selected "rules of project management" that I recently found from http://www.funny-haha.co.uk.  Enjoy!

  • It takes one woman nine months to have a baby. It cannot be done in one month by nine women.
  • Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it.
  • You can con a sucker into committing to an impossible deadline, but you cannot con him into meeting it.
  • At the heart of every large project is a small project trying to get out.
  • A problem shared is a buck passed.
  • What you don't know hurts you.
  • There's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to go back and do it again.
  • I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.
  • What is not on paper has not been said.
  • A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning.
  • Everyone asks for a strong project manger - when they get one, they don't want one.
  • Warning: dates in a calendar are closer than they appear to be.
  • Anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time left to change anything.




09/01/2010

How to Stand Out as a Project Manager

 

This is a blog about using project tools.  But if you think about it, we use project tools to help us be better Project Managers, to stand out, to make a difference in our organization, to become more efficient, to help our company beat the competition or accomplish its goals.  This is true whether we are officially "Project Managers" or are tasked with fulfilling those functions.  I believe that if we understand and become proficient at properly utilizing project tools in our organization, we stand out and can make a positive difference.

 

With that in mind, I just watched a good presentation by Erika Flora on “5 Ways to Stand out as a Project Manager” at http://blog.erikaflora.com.  Erika provides some good thinking points and reminders on some great ways to stand out.  No, using project tools is not one of them.  But she makes some excellent points.  I especially like her points about taking on new and interesting opportunities, learning something new everyday, and doing something that we can be proud of.  Too often we get into a rut.

 

I encourage you to check it out.  You can click on the link below to go directly to it:

 

http://blog.erikaflora.com/2010/07/13/my-very-first-youtube-video-series-5-ways-to-stand-out-as-a-project-manager-in-todays-economy.aspx

 

 

 






 

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