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How to support teams during times of CONVID-19, no matter the barriers

We are facing unprecedented times, and businesses across the globe are having to adapt rapidly to the new challenges presented by the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home will become the new normal and in many instances the necessity for the well-being of workers.

Being able to play a critical role while delivering projects during testing times will not only the lead to the success of the team but just as importantly the overall well-being of the team. As organisations begin to make this shift to working remotely it is crucial that employees or team feel they are still in touch with each other and have the opportunities to thrive!

It is best to be equipped with the tools needed to maintain ‘business as usual’ as much as possible, and inoculate the team and company against the uncertainties of the current health crisis.

In particular tools to master strategies to boost productivity and eliminate procrastination.  By fostering healthy work cultures that transcend geographical obstacles and hone sophisticated communication skills to enhance collaboration.

Remote work has been a catchword in the financial papers, but for many it’s never been a reality until faced with a worldwide pandemic. What to do when the office isn’t open, but still expected to carry on and keep up productivity? There are tools and practices already in place to ease the transition to a remote working environment. The following is a collection of the best tools to maintain connectivity, in communication and collaborating successfully.

Projectmanagementcompanion.com is an online reference tool which provides access to the most common online project management software that lets teams plan, manage and track projects together in real time. Everyone on the team is connected no matter the location or time. Tasks can be provided to the team from any of the multiple project views, such as the Gantt chart, and attach directions and documentation as needed. Team members can manage their work with a task list, calendar or kanban board view.

Once an assignment has been sent, working together with teammates is easy. Projectmanagementcompanion.com references collaboration by creating a virtual office space. Team members can comment on their tasks and bring others in on the conversation by tagging them. They can also add as many files and images as needed to communicate effectively. No more scrounging through email histories; the information they need is always at their fingertips.

The online tool should enable team updates, always be available, and project progress is visible. The real-time dashboard should reveal task progress, project costs, project slippage, team workload and more—as it happens. This high-level view keeps everyone on the same page.

When a more granular view is needed, ensure the tool has one-click project reports for a variety of different metrics, including variance, progress and cost. These reports can be filtered to show just the data needed. It’s an ideal feature for tracking team productivity, but also for reporting back to stakeholders and showing them that work is getting done, even if the office is dark.

It can be difficult to know if people are overworked or have nothing to do when they’re not in the office. All of the better online project management tools provides a workload page that is colour-coded and shows at-a-glance who has too many tasks and who doesn’t have enough, so keeping track of work balance across the team shouldn’t be an issue.

Other tools to consider are;

2 Slack

Slack bills itself as an alternative to email, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an online communication and chat tool that keeps the entire organization connected. Organizations might already have embraced the technology. It’s become a darling of the working world and for good reason.

Slack makes email all but antiquated. Attachments can be added and messages sent individually or in groups. Groups can be set up to include company-wide correspondences, which is great for general announcements. Channels can be set up as well for more targeted sectors of your company, such as IT, marketing, etc. Plus, GIFs and emoji’s add much needed levity to lessen the sense of isolation and stress because of the coronavirus.

3. G Suite

G Suite is Google’s answer to Microsoft Office. It offers a number of online tools, but Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google slides are the most useful for collaborating on work. Unlike MS Office, it’s free, at least for personal use of up to 15 GB. That means a word processing program is available, spreadsheet and slideshow software for free.

G Suite helps with collaboration, as files can be private or shared. When they’re shared, they’re updated in real time, so there aren’t multiple versions of a document floating around and creating confusion. Instructions can be given, comments can be made and teams can work together on tasks.

4. Dropbox

Dropbox is like a digital file cabinet that’s been supersized. It’s a cloud-based way to share files, so it keeps all of your company files in one place. These files can be shared or kept private.

From a home office, with only a few keystrokes, get the documents and assets needed to complete tasks.

5. Dia

Dia is an open-source tool for making network diagrams. Possibly considered as a free version of Window’s Visio, though it’s more for making informal diagrams for casual use.

It can make many different kinds of diagrams, such as relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams and others. These diagrams can help illustrate ideas in an email or during video conferences. They can be saved and exported in a number of different formats.

6. Evernote

Evernote is a cross-platform app (desktop, apps, web apps, mobile apps) for taking notes. Notes, of course, are the seeds from which great ideas spring. Evernote makes it easy to jot down a note or share ideas with others, even while in the middle of working.

But, Evernote does more than simple note-taking. It integrates with many other app, has browser extensions, syncs with iOS and Android devices and can even save a web page with just one click. Wherever information is being collected, it’s all saved and easily accessible in one place. It’s safe, simple and makes sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

7. Zoom

Zoom is a virtual meeting space. Meetings will not be denied, coronavirus or not. Teams will need to talk, and managers will need to lead. Zoom provides a virtual conference room for anyone with a computer and an internet hook-up.

Zoom acts as a phone, instant messenger for business, video webinar and a conference room. It’s a social way to stay socially distant.

8. OFFTIME

OFFTIME is an app for iOS and Android devices to curb social time. Social distancing doesn’t apply to social media, but when it comes to wasting time its epidemic. People can’t help but distract themselves from a stressful assignment with cute cat pictures.

OFFTIME restricts social media time on smartphones, it can set limits on usage and schedule timeouts.

9. Pocket

Pocket enables articles to be saved whenever something interesting is encountered. When in the course of a day, an article or video is shown that captures interest it can be saved. Pocket allows saving, no matter where it was published. That way, remaining focused without getting pulled away from work.

10. Noisli

Noisli is an app that uses music to both soothe and be more productive. It doesn’t provide pop, classic rock or hip-hop, but the app does have over a dozen sounds, from nature to trains and coffee shops.

Noisli sets the mood and creates an aural soundscape that improves focus and productivity. The sounds can be mixed, adjust levels and curate a perfect chill vibe to provide calm during stressful times.

Tips for Working from Home with Remote Teams

Now that tools have been covered, the following are some tips that will help better regulate time and improve ability to collaborate, even with people in different time zones.

Daily Scrum

One thing is the daily scrum. Scrum is a framework for working in a more agile fashion, which means faster and more iterative. An essential part of scrum is the daily scrum, a meeting where the team gets together and briefly states what they did yesterday and what they are doing today.

Whether working that way or not, just having a moment at the beginning of the day when the team can video conference and talk about what they’re all working on is helpful for context and morale.

Set Up a Productive Work Station

If forced to work from home, then a workstation would need to be setup, a quiet location away from family to ensure concentration. Therefore, find a private place, preferably with a door that can be closed, so there is space and silence necessary to work. Ensure there is a good desk, chair, computer, lighting, etc., just like it would be expected in a work office.

Keep Regular Hours

It is suggested to keep regular hours when working from home. By setting a schedule and sticking to it, at least most of the time, it will give the day more structure.

With structure comes discipline and, believe it or not, most will need more discipline without the group modelling productive behaviours. So, follow the same morning routine every day to get in the right mindset, have lunch at the normal time and take periodic breaks—but act as if the boss is watching.

Go Outside

It might sound counter intuitive with a pandemic, but leaving home is important. It is possible to go stir-crazy being locked in a house. That’s not going to help with productivity.

A change of environment is essential. It refreshes the senses and brings you back to your desk with a new and better perspective to handle the coming challenges of the day.

Considering the infectious nature of coronavirus, though, keep away from public spaces, don’t go to coffee shops or restaurants and keep a safe and recommended distance from other people. But do get out and walk.

Stay Sharp by Diversifying your Downtime

Finally, take advantage of your home office. Instead of taking a break and chatting with a co-worker, do the laundry, prep for dinner or take a break to read. That doesn’t mean slacking off on work responsibilities, but rather managing time wisely.

Set Deadlines

Tracking a team’s progress with one of the online tools found in Projectmanagementcompanion.com and daily scrum meetings will also help, but there are other things that can be done to make sure the team is focused and staying productive when working from home. For example, set more aggressive deadlines for the team and assign them concrete tasks. This will promote productivity.

Managing the Stakeholder and Management Strategies

Building Stakeholder bridge

Experienced project managers understand the importance of stakeholder management. Stakeholders can influence many aspects of a project, including its budget, resources and overall progression. In order to manage stakeholders well, a fluid line of communication must be established. This requires that a project manager deliver regular reports to stakeholders and actively listen whenever stakeholders provide feedback. To properly communicate this with the stakeholder then they should be identified first.

The term stakeholder includes anyone that is affected by the project, both within the organization and without. Typical stakeholders can include investors, regulatory bodies, vendors, project teams, senior managers, board members and more. Obviously, not all of those stakeholders will be impacted by the project to the same degree, so the next step is to identify how and to what extent each stakeholder is affected.

Once the stakeholders have been identified, then analysis must take place in respect to their interest in the project and their influence on its outcome. These two metrics combined will help prioritize which stakeholders to focus on as the project is being managed.

For example, if a stakeholder has a lot of influence over the project, but isn’t that interested in its daily progress, then they shouldn’t be pestered with status reports every day. For help with prioritizing project stakeholders, it’s common to perform a visual process called stakeholder mapping.

Keep in mind that a stakeholder mapping matrix will only give part of the story, as stakeholders are human beings and will naturally react to events and communications in unique ways, even if they have similar levels of interest and influence. Some individuals might have endless patience, while others might be quick to anger. This is important to consider as communication plans with the stakeholder is being composed.

Once this has been conducted, then it is time to create an overall plan for managing them as the project progresses. Because without an agreeable relationship with stakeholders, the project is in for some rough sailing.

Communication is essential for a positive relationship with each of the stakeholders. Stakeholders need clear business communications, free of jargon that fits busy schedules and provides the information that applies to their project interest. Some stakeholders will like phone calls, others emails. Some stakeholders will demand in depth task reports, while others will want overall project status reports.

If a project management software is chosen, it must be able to efficiently communicate with the stakeholders, allowing for leverage of relationships and promote progress and avoid any bureaucratic roadblocks. Projectmanagementcompanion.com has a selection of easy reporting tools that can create status reports, task reports and project progress reports, making it easy to quickly distribute tailored reports to stakeholders.

Remember communication is a two way street, the stakeholder must be listened to throughout this process, and not just feeding them with reports and updates. That’s where a strategy to adapt to changes comes in handy.

It’s important to actively listen to the stakeholder when feedback is given. Always ask questions to really understand what they are wanting from the project. It’s better to ask questions now then have to deal with another meeting later that takes up even more time. Of course, implementing changes to a project plan will require a redistribution of resources. Resource management tools can be absolutely critical in this instance.

Use software which has workload tools that allow quick overview of the workload assigned to the entire team on a single calendar view, and then easily reassign work and project resources with just a few clicks. This allows the adoption of changes put forth by stakeholders in just a matter of minutes.

Naturally, the stakeholder won’t always be right, ensure to pick battles carefully. It’s okay to say no to a stakeholder, be ready to defend the argument with solid data.

Use regular communications with stakeholders to not only converse, but to monitor their emotions and reactions. If there are any abrupt changes in attitude noticed, then something might be amiss in the relationship.

Stakeholder relationships can also take a hit if there are errors in the overall project execution, such as missed deadlines, inaccurate budgets or employee turnover. In such instances, it’s smart to make an extra effort to reach out and keep everyone informed.

In addition to managing the stakeholders themselves, it’s also import to monitor any project changes they might have suggested. The best way to do this is with a project dashboard that provides a bird’s eye view of all the important data.

Given everything that’s been mentioned, the importance of project stakeholder management is clear. Without their cooperation, it’s impossible to bring a project to a successful conclusion. That’s why, as a project manager, it’s critical that an atmosphere of positive stakeholder relationships will leave them happy with the team’s performance, the project manager, and outcomes.

Project Team Definition and covering the resource gap

Resourcing is a key component of any projects success or failure, to underestimate the importance of a project team, is at the project managers peril. Frequently, projects are executed with teams of inadequate size and composition, due to budget or internal skill-set. Other factors include poor comprehension of the nature and amount of the work to be done, and a superficial or in-existent analysis of the required skills in the team members.

To engineer the project team is an important process to be done carefully. To do that, it’s fundamental first to have a clear understanding of the nature of the scope of the work. A good requirements elicitation, a correct project scope definition and a detailed work breakdown structure are key process to ensure the comprehension of work that the project involve.

Once the work breakdown structure is clear, is the moment to meditate on the preassigned human resources to the project team. Is it suitable in quantity and quality? The organization has a fixed staff, or the organization hire people to create a dedicated team for the project? Probably the answer will depend on the organization and in the particular project.

To define the team, the first step is to assign to each activity or work package, the required number of people with their associated qualifications or expertise. Once finished this exercise, it’s necessary to check the time frame of the execution of the tasks. For instance, if several activities that requires the same specialists can be done in sequence, the number of persons to consider in the team are few than in the case if the activities should be executed in parallel.

This optimization can only be possible when the problem is quantitative (number of people), but not in the case in which the resource gap is qualitative. For instance, if the project requires a doctor in robotics, the project cannot be delivered with who don’t have knowledge in robotics, even if sponsors provide double or triple the time. This is obvious, but frequently is forgotten. In this instance there is a degree of freedom: by trading off the number of people with the execution time. The same set of activities can be executed slower with less people or faster with more people. Therefore, there is an optimization analysis to be done. Off course, this analysis is constrained in certain limits. For example, a task originally planned to do with three people can be accelerated if there is an introduction of two additional persons, but if ten extra people are added, they will obstruct the fluid development of the task. In this case entropy is being produced, and the task will not be finished early.

An instrument or tool to identify the gap of skilled people in the project team is the resource gap table, as depicted below

Being conscious of the project team resource gap is important in the planning process. It is useful to ask for resources, time or, in the worst case, at least to be conscious of the risks and communicate them opportunely to stakeholders.

How to Support and Develop effective sponsor engagement

Hire PMP Certified Professionals To Standardise Project Management Abilities

Large projects are the life blood for any organizations. Big budget projects can breathe a new life into a dilapidated company and can kick start its revenue generation cycle. Such projects are absolutely necessary to transform a company image and reputation. It can easily create business value and help it to survive in the toughest competitive environment. Companies also seek such people/managers who are PMP certified professional and can easily and effectively undertake mega projects and can manage them in the best possible manner. Here best possible manner means, with the limited resources and in the restricted time. It will not only increase the value of the company, but also improve its bottom line. PMP certified professionals have the ability to perform in the smartest possible manner with greater precision and efficiency.

Business leaders want to standardise their operational abilities

Today, business leaders want to improve their working conditions, standardise their operational abilities and optimize their project working processes in order to improve the delivery time. In this way, they will not only generate huge profits, but also gain the confidence of their clients. In pursuit of the same, they hire then most talent professional who are skilled and experienced while having the required certifications to handle the projects.

In has been observed that the professionals who have PMP Certification tend to work smarter and in a much scalable manner. They have the extra insight into the project management and the overall working methodology, which helps them to carry out their work in the optimized fashion.

PMP certified professionals understand the business criticalities

Such PMP certified professionals understand the business criticalities and take challenges effectively. They oversee the project, IT architecture, business context, time frames, technology-involved, project road map, and take decisions. They also evaluate the size of the project and nature of the task. They take initiatives in developing smooth working processes and implementing those changes to complete the project flawlessly. They also help in cultivating skills in other employees who have passion to succeed. Such professionals share their knowledge of the business and projects as well as combine their acumen to complete the project on time. In addition to that, they take calculated risks to align and streamline a project while mitigating the risks.

Companies also hire PMP certified professionals

Companies also hire such PMP certified professionals because they want to keep the projects on track. Today, it is quite difficult to monitor the project as it requires discipline and tight management that extends across the project team. It can help the members to stay alert, competitive, as well as proactive. It also regulates the task as well as methodologies.

Influence a business and improve its image

It can influence a business and improve its image. Companies not only improve its market image, but also gain scalable competitive advantage. They exhibit their ability to delivery projects on or before time, while winning the trust of their clients. By showing the measurable results to the clients, companies solidify their portfolio and amplify their overall ROI and stimulate their growth cycle.

How to Manage Your Day Better

People often ask me how I stay organized. I guess I look like I’ve got it all together LOL. But that’s not always the case!

I do have a great system in place and it works well.

Working with multiple clients, we can often lose focus and the priorities can shift from hour to hour.

So I have one tip for you that will help you get and stay organized:

Find a task or project management system that works for you and use it.

My system is simple. I use GQueues and a spiral notebook that stays on my desk all the time to manage what I need to do.

After I have a production call with a client, I go in and update my GQueues with the tasks and the deadlines that we discussed on our call.

Every morning, I add the tasks for the day to my spiral notebook so I don’t have to leave GQueues open all day. When further instructions or more tasks come in, I add those to my spiral notebook and GQueues.

Here’s the key to this piece of advice:

Develop a routine so that you are not dropping any balls that should remain in the air.

When your client phones or emails you, go directly to that project management system and update it.

That way you won’t miss out on anything that needs doing, and you can appropriately schedule time in your calendar to complete it.

I have relied on my memory a lot over the years and honestly I’ve made mistakes that way by forgetting to do things.

I find that keeping on top of what you have to do every day is the one thing that helps you manage your workload.

This not only helps you to make sure you don’t miss any tasks, but it helps you stay more productive because you are never wondering if something is missing. You have a complete task list all the time, and you can pick and choose what you will do from it.

I love the system I use. It’s simple and I use it.

That’s the main thing you need to figure out – is what will work for you. Some people love online project management systems. I like the simplicity of my spiral notebook – with one page per day it’s versatile and complete.

I add phone calls and other meetings to it too, so I can see my whole day at a glance.

It also helps me to know when I can easily slip in a break or lunch!

Being productive is a result of being organized. And being organized is easy when you have a system in place that works for you that you use properly.

The Art of Project Management, a discipline for initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team to achieve a specific goal. A project is a temporary endeavour designed to produce a unique product, service or outcome. The end to end delivery of the project, known as the project lifecycle is affected by resource, time management and a fixed budget. The purpose of project management is to enhance a particular situation through the avenue of delivery and change. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all the project goals within the given constraints, normally defined in a user or project manual, created at the beginning of the development process. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary and more ambitious challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet a pre-defined objective.