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How to Schedule Resources across Multiple Projects

It is not uncommon for organisations to have several projects running concurrently. That means thorough project resource planning is important because usually team members are active on several different projects at the same time. This can cause a scheduling issue when the same resources are shared across divisions, with different project managers. Or when different projects have competing priorities from leadership. This can create conflict among teams and have impacts on schedules.

It can also lead to the best resources becoming burned out. They will need to have their tasks actively managed, not just on one project but on all of them together.

The following are 9 tips for scheduling resources successfully across multiple projects:

1. Minimize the Overlaps

Schedule resources so that they are given as much time as possible to focus only on one project. That might mean a few days on one project here, then a bit of time on another project, then a week back on the first project and so on. It will feel as if they are jumping around, but in reality it is avoiding having them multitasking.

2. Schedule for the Busy Times

All projects have times of peak activities. This can be worked out from what the resource demands are – normally there are high demands on the team during the delivery/build stage of the project and also during testing. Then there is another peak just before the project ends as everyone it overly active trying to get last-minute things done.

Look at all the projects and establish where the busy times are. Try to stagger the busy times so that there aren’t two or three projects in build at the same time – even offsetting the schedules by a couple of weeks will make a big difference to the resources.

Watch out for when projects are due to go live at the same time and make sure the resources can be managed over one or more projects needing the same person.

3. Collaborate on Scheduling

Ask team leaders, work-stream leaders and staff themselves about how they would manage any resource conflicts. Work together – they will probably have some great ideas about how to juggle tasks and make sure all projects deliver as expected. This can be done easily with an online project scheduling software.

When working in a culture where employees trust one another to do the right thing and to make the right decisions, then they can be relied on for their responses. If they are overloaded, trust them! Then make plans to adjust their workloads accordingly.

4. Where to Focus Your Resources

Look at the schedules and make sure that e everyone is working on what is important. It’s not sensible to have someone working on a low important task that isn’t holding anything else up on Project A when they could be better place working on a priority task on Project B. When they have completed their Project B task other people can carry on working but at the moment they are stopping the project progressing.

Think about whether projects could slip in order to move more important work forward. Then adjust the resources so they are working on the priority tasks first.

5. The Right Level of Scheduling

No one works at 100% efficiency. Everyone needs a little downtime during the day to get a coffee and a bite to eat at lunch time. People have off days where they come into work feeling under the weather or they have to take a personal call.

When project managers schedule resources to one project there can be an impact on workload and many experienced PMs know not to schedule anyone at 100%. Around 80% is a more realistic amount to aim for. However, when thrown more projects into the mix that approach can get lost and suddenly…resources are scheduled at 100%. Don’t do it!

6. Talk to Other Project Managers

Resources may be working on projects that are managed by several different project managers. In fact, if they are all being managed by one project manager then the job of resource levelling is much easier. As there would be good visibility across all initiatives and tasks so planning for the busy times is easier and applying the right level of scheduling.

But what happens when there is more than one project manager involved?

The best way to deal with this is to make sure the project managers share their plans. Get them to talk to each other. Set up conversations if required, or consider having a weekly (or monthly) resource review meeting where progress and obstacles can be discussed.

7. Use Workload Scheduling

Take advantage of the resource scheduling features on an online project management software. Use the workload scheduling tools and reports to see where project resources are overloaded. It’s easy to see who has too much work and who can take on more tasks when shown on graphical reports. Then resource levelling can be applied (adjusting the workload so it’s within acceptable boundaries and no one is overstretched).

8. Use Dashboards

When using workload scheduling tools at a project level, they can be configured to use project dashboards to bring several projects together and compare resource allocations. This is hugely helpful as in an instant it can be identified which projects are the biggest drain on resources when looking at it from a portfolio level.

The great thing about dashboards is that many can be created, so there is a view of all Commercial projects, one with one view for the projects that involve the IT team and so on. It’s an easy way to get the data to manage resource clashes and make sure that everyone has enough time to do their priority work without holding any projects up.

9. How to Manage Absences

The thing that catches many project managers is absences – planned or otherwise. When there is no line management responsibility for the team, it’s not the project manager’s job to approve vacation request forms. Because of this a resources can be scheduled to work on tasks during the time they are actually away. If a resource is scheduled to work on several projects during that time then a hit could be taken on a number of initiatives – it’s not just one project at risk but many.

Remember to build good relationships with the line managers and also constantly remind team members to advise when they are out of the office.

Projectmanagementcompanion.com can manage resource allocations across all projects. The reports and dashboard features show workload across projects, and manages schedules so that everything gets done on time. Upload current plans now with a free trial to see resource allocation in real-time.

Just the facts Ma’am

Never underestimate the strength and requirements for facts when undergoing project delivery, without facts then the truth becomes the victim. As project managers, a stigma can be attached, not only throughout the actual project but your career. Accurate and factual information is the cornerstone and lifeblood of successful project delivery. The ability to gather, analyses, and explain the facts of a situation is the foundation of good decision-making. Without all the facts it is difficult to have a thorough and clear understanding of all the possibilities and consequences that may exist in defining the project path. How it will impact a business or a decision-maker’s ability to make an appropriate decision or come up with an appropriate solution.

Good project management deals with the projects hygiene and has basics like requirements gathering, stakeholder engagement, and setting realistic deadlines as some of the more fundamental things that are part of project delivery. Most project managers have had to, at some point, front a steering committee or the executive to get their endorsement for a complex or major decision. Influencing people that can be peers, senior or even hostile to agree to a contentious decision is not easy. Typically, in this sort of situation, to have any chance of being successful, there are three basic rules to follow;:

  1. Provide all the detail – This is more than just a description of the issue and how the project got to where it is. It also needs to include the details of a proposed solution – pros, cons, benefits, risks, opportunity costs and so on. In essence: bring everything to the table even if it’s buried in the appendices and be prepared to have it scrutinized.
  2. Never go alone – A project manager—or any leader—is not there for their subject matter expertise; they are there to lead the initiative and facilitate an outcome against various measures such as time, cost and quality. They can’t know all of the details and do their job 100% effectively. A good project manager will try to surround themselves with a good team of people that know the content and have the confidence to leverage their expertise at key points. This will include inviting the critical project players to key steer-cos to help explain and influence a decision in a positive direction.
  3. Set realistic timelines – There are many perspectives on ‘reasonable’ timelines, and this is never truer than when trying to get a group of disparate people to make a difficult and complex decision. Driving an aggressive timeline that limits time for a considered review of information will, by design, limit the level of considered input a person can provide. This will, in turn, introduce the significant risk of alienating the very people whose support is needed to have on board, to the point that good ideas can get rejected on principle.

Project managers should not hide the facts but rather do the opposite – bring them out into the open and shine a spotlight for full scrutiny.  Secondly they should be surrounded with people who can explain difficult and complex content in an unbiased, clear way. And finally, always respect the decision-makers by giving them ample time to review the facts and form their own opinions.

The decision that the steer-co reaches may not be the one wanted, even if it is for the right reasons. It may simply be that once all the facts were known, they didn’t stand up to scrutiny and thus a different and potentially more successful path is chosen which should ultimately benefit the business. It may not be a picture of a comfortable scenario but once in the open the right decisions can be made, because if misinformation is provided and a project is delivered and has nothing but issues, then this does not bode well for the project manager or the team.

Communication for effective project delivery

Communication for effective project delivery

Regardless of how good a project manager is, it means very little if they are unable to communicate. It is understood that the ability to communicate extends beyond the professional field. The ability to communicate, via the written word, speech and listening should never be underestimated. The adept Project Manager is able to navigate around communication risks by utilizing communication as a tool to forge long lasting, positive working relationships and leveraging them to execute and deliver successful projects.

Which are the points to be considered when evaluating communication skills, they should include;

  1. Understanding the audience and connecting with them.
  2. Be diplomatic
  3. Establishing the preferred communication type
  4. Timing and Anticipation
  5. Keeping Leadership engaged and involved
  6. Managing through a “Communicate, tell, roundtable” method.
  7. Practicing delivery.
  8. Ending Positively.

The Project Manager must have the ability to accurately, astutely and concisely convey project information and details to stakeholders, resources, vendors and third parties. Providing just the right amount of information to each, and avoid information overload. It should be with great care, precision and accuracy that project managers must gather, integrate and disseminate information to those involved and depending on the project’s success.

Understanding the audience and making a connection, people are different, and what one finds humorous, another can be offended.  At project inception it’s a good idea to meet one-on -one with each team member to assess their comfort level with different communication vehicles. Experience has proven that individuals are extremely receptive to this dialogue and quite frankly surprised when PM’s take the time to go to such lengths. Up front planning in this respect establishes rapport and a path for effective, respectful dialogue, and eliminates risks and guesswork that would otherwise exist.

Being diplomatic can take the project manager a long way, by utilising effective communication to establish trust and authority as well as to motivate, influence and control. Political effectiveness begins with knowing key project stakeholders and their goals and motivations. Remember that people respond to and are motivated by positivity.  Be inclusive and ask for suggestions, insight and assistance to solving an issue.

Establishing the type of communication is preferred, would a weekly report suffice as opposed to face to face meeting.  Face to face interactions are preferred for those that value “extras” such as body language, the subtleties of facial expression, etc. Some individuals prefer to work strictly with E-mail messages. Once this is understood, outline these in the communication Plan.

It is best not to procrastinate when delivering information, remember it is best to communicate sooner. As projects occur at a fast and furious rate, and keeping communication relevant and timely is paramount. The ability to anticipate “next moves” and responses is an acquired skill. Consider the audience’s reaction to the information and how this may shift the climate.

Keeping senior leadership engaged and involved is very important; remember to provide updates as to business viability, alignment with relevant strategic objectives, key issues and risks.  Also, while senior leadership should have access to project details, their concern and appetite is generally reserved for higher-level detail and information.

For all meetings, have a specific agenda that outlines what the team will accomplish during the call or meeting. Communicate the topics that will be covered and the overall goal of the meeting. This conveys preparation to lead dictates purpose and direction and provides the opportunity for team members to speak up if there’s a topical question or additional clarification needed.

Consider holding a “round-table” check-out where each team member has a final opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, air complaints, etc. This is an informal way of making sure there is feedback and participation from all team members.

Post an immediate communication summary of each point discussed, key decisions reached, action items, owners, due dates and overall project team next steps. Key decisions are an important item and may later be used to justify a particular course of action. This can’t miss approach provides a timely and relevant chronological retrospective and mitigates communication risks.

Practice the delivery, in front of a mirror, a few people at a time or consider attending toastmasters or offer to speak at a local chapter meeting on a familiar topic. This will further hone communication and delivery skills. Not being familiar with everyone in the room, should bolster additional self-confidence when nailing delivery.

Ending on a positive note by highlighting individual and team accomplishments as well as recognize resource contributions. This will provide the team with hope and a sustained sense of accomplishment.  The goal of the project manager is maintain positive momentum while reinforcing the projects goals and viability.

Make a point to end meetings and communications enthusiastically and on a positive up-swing. Remembering that teams feed off the energy and drive of the project manager and utilizing the ingredients will greatly reduce communication risks and allow teams to benefit.

How to Resource Plan

How to Resource Plan

When managing a project or a project portfolio, it’s critical that resources and workload for each are intelligently distributed. Without proper resource allocation, projects can quickly get out of control in terms of expense and duration.

With the right resource planning techniques, effective planning and management of resources in any industry can set you up for success. But before the break down on how Projectmanagementcompanion.com provides the perfect tools for resource planning and management, there must be a firm understanding on what resource planning is and how to compose a resource plan.

Resource planning is one of the steps required when writing a business plan where all the resources in a proposed project are identified. This is achieved by creating a summary for managing workload that is comprehensive enough to make sure all the resources that are needed to complete the project are clearly identified. This summary is going to help get a buy-in from the sponsor and team.

Resources can be anything from equipment to project sites to people. Below is a short list of some resources which should be identified when planning a project?

  • Type of team needed
  • Roles and key responsibilities for each team member
  • Number of people required to fill each role
  • What equipment  needed and its purposes
  • Job locations or meeting rooms required
  • Types and number of equipment needed
  • Total amount of material needed

All these can be entered and tracked with the tool found in Projectmanagementcompanion.com for more accurate resource planning and management. 

The creation of a project plan is achieved by;

  • Schedule the dates for using the planned resources. That includes when and for how long they are needed, the people assigned to the team, equipment rental, project site rental and anything else.
  • Identify the amount of resources required per project activity. Each day many resources will be used, this part of the plan is used to detail them on a daily basis.
  • Create a detailed resource use schedule. Take those durations and amounts and collect those on a calendar or timeline to make sure the resources are allocated correctly.

In order to include all the information required to have a process in place. Basically, it’s a three-step process of listing, estimating and then constructing. This entire process can be expedited by using tools from Projectmanagementcompanion.com resource planning tools to map out projects. Before this is performed, it is best to go through each of those steps in more detail.

Step 1: List the Resources

Simply start a list in the project management software. Write down all the different resources needed. Use the above bullet points as a structure. Who are needed to do the tasks that make up the project and identify all of those roles. That includes full-time, part-time and contractors.

Equipment should be included, the same steps should be performed as were done for the labour component, and identify all the equipment going to be needed to get the project completed. That list should include anything from office equipment such as computers, photocopies and other devices to telecommunications and machinery.

The next item on the list is the materials. What is the non-consumable materials needed to complete the project activities? These can be materials necessary to build physical deliverables, such as IT devices, wood, steel, and concrete.

Step 2: Estimate How Many Resources

Next is to determine how many of the listed resources will be needed throughout the life cycle of the project. For example, how many hours will be needed from the team? Break that down per role. Do the same for equipment. How many pieces of equipment are going to be necessary?

The same goes with material, estimate what amount of material, in terms of square footage, number of units, etc., is going to be necessary for the project. How much hardware is needed to buy, including the required license software?

Get as accurate an estimate as possible, and enter that data into the project management software. If possible, try to note the date the resources are needed and what the consumption rate per day, week or month is.

Step 3: Construct a Resource Schedule

Use the information collected in the first two steps to build a detailed resource schedule in the workload management tool. Also specify the resources required to complete the project, the time-frames for the consumption of each of those resources and the quantity of time each resource is going to require per week and/or month.

Add up the total quantity of resources consumed per week and/or month. Don’t forget to identify the assumptions and constraints which are going to arise through the projects life cycle. Once these steps are completed, the resource plan is good to proceed and the data can be entered into the preferred Project Management tool.

Avoid these Mistakes When Selecting Project Management Software

There is a plethora if project management software on the market and the advent of Mobile Apps hasn’t made the choice any easier, and can at times feel overwhelming. Selecting the wrong software program lends itself to a wide array of problems, such as reductions in the flow of communication, reporting, billing, and overall productivity. Basically, choosing the wrong project management software can increase the risk of making larger, unforeseen mistakes that cost money.

Needless to say that proper software selection is important, and it can start by avoiding some all too common mistakes. Failing To Examine Your Business Processes And Match Them To Software Offerings.Just as with any type of selection project, it pays to start with a clear idea of what the requirements are. It is imperative to consider how projects come into being within an organisation, including which teams are usually involved, and what they need for optimal collaboration. Many project managers should become more aware of what’s typically included in project management software solutions before making a purchase. They can accomplish this by spending more time analysing project management software programs beforehand.

It’s worth considering revising how projects are managed to take full advantage of all of the software’s efficiencies. This is because many professional software products are designed to incorporate industry best practices. If the company’s project management practices have remained unchanged for a very long time, it’s possible that some proven best practices are being missed. However, this is not always the case. If some software provides features that seem to match up well with the way a company works and other software products do not, you obviously need to look for the ones that offer a good degree of compatibility.

The key here is to begin by performing a thorough needs analysis before making a final purchasing decision. An analysis will allow project managers to address the needs of the company’s projects in their totality. This includes:

  • Assessing how the organization communicates with all those working on projects, including both internal and external team members
  • Considering how file sharing is performed between team members
  • Analysing how the company tracks resources such as costs, material, and human resources
  • Determining the types of reports that need to be prepared and their frequency

Basically, project managers should perform a detailed and thorough analysis of every step of the project management process. Beyond just accurately tracking projects, they should consider all aspects involved in the project management process to formulate a precise listing of their requirements.

Another mistake to avoid is the gravitation to project management software solutions that offer a wide array of features. The problem is that having too many features that will likely never be used can overwhelm and complicate the learning curve and sometimes even the software implementation process. This mistake leads to overspending and to staff members underusing the system. This is mainly because the more complicated the system is, the more difficult employees will find using it, and that increases the chance of errors.

A larger system, like Microsoft Project, might be perfect when working on long-term projects spanning many departments that require long-term planning. But if the projects are much smaller in scope and shorter in duration, consider a lighter application like BaseCamp or Trello. Regardless, careful thought and consideration should be put into software-related purchasing decisions long before making the purchase. And remember, the more features a software program has the more likely there will be additional costs to purchase and implement it. If many of those features are unnecessary, that extra expense will have been wasted.

There is an effective approach to minimizing the risk associated with selecting software solutions that have it all. Project managers can do something as simple as creating a checklist with criteria and weightings. Create a list of prioritized features in the following order:

  • The “must-haves,” meaning the features that are absolutely necessary
  • A list of features that are not necessarily required would be nice to have
  • A list of features that are not completely unnecessary for your company

Prioritizing with needs of this type will help make a better informed software purchasing decision.

Ensure that consideration is placed on future needs, and not just current issues. When evaluating software solutions, imagine it growing with the business. In other words, long-term considerations should also be taken into account during the initial evaluation stages. Project managers should look out for software that offers things such as flexibility as well as scalable solutions that meet both their current immediate needs as well as their projected future needs.

An alternative that could support a company‘s growth plan is adding features to the software as a company grows and requires more licenses for new staff members. Project managers that do not plan ahead in this regard often end up causing companies to spend more money in the long run.

Successful businesses are profitable, and this leads to expansion in most all cases. Failing to plan ahead often results in higher costs and a reduction in production. Avoid this mistake by ensuring the solution is open to updates, upgrades, and the addition of custom features. Ask if the software tools being considered have the flexibility to handle other types of projects that may emerge in the future.

If reducing risk associated with purchasing the wrong project management software, then careful attention, planning, and forethought must go into choosing the right software solution for a company. That includes giving careful consideration not only to the company’s current needs, but also to future needs that can be anticipated due to growth.

Lastly, project managers and business professionals who invest time into seeking out the right project management software program should experience the best results. By seeing a more streamlined flow of information and processes that improves areas including the tracking of projects, billing, task assignment, and reporting.

Helpful Project Management Phone Apps

The advent of project management tools whether they are used to run the entire project or used as reference tools have made the running of projects easier. Hence the quality of the results can be correlated to the tool used.

As time management being an imperative component of any project, using it wisely is very important. For that reason, project managers need to have the right tools to accomplish projects fast and without stretching the budget allocated. Understanding and using anyone of the available project management mobile apps are a necessity for every project manager.

Given that project managers are always on the go, having a tool to work on the project anywhere at any time is convenient, with most apps available on android, iOS, and web-based.

There are many project management apps to choose from, and those listed within this article are only but a few. Just like most things in life, the choice is based on the ease of use and how comfortable the project manager using the tool. It has been determine via studies, that 77% of successful projects use project management tools.

The importance Of Project Management Apps, cannot be underestimated as they;

  • Are useful for assigning and scheduling resources.
  • The apps help managers to keep track of the progress of projects at any time.
  • They are useful for the execution of project plans.

Considering the three points mentioned the following list of project management apps are ones in particular to consider, not all are found on projectmanagementcompanion.com, but they are considered worthwhile for further investigation.

1. Trello

Trello is a powerful and flexible web-based project management app that can be used by individuals, small, and medium-sized organizations. The app is easy to use and is designed with drag-and-drop features such as collaboration, issue tracking, task management, budgeting, etc.

What’s more, it supports iPad, android, iPhone, desktop and can also be used on browsers such as Firefox, Google Chrome, IE, and Safari.

The good thing about Trello is that it integrates Pivotal Tracker, Dropbox, Zappier, Hubstaff, Bitium, Desk.com, and more.

Besides, the app offers different plans starting with a free plan, business-class plan, and an enterprise plan.

Overall, Trello is a powerful tool for collaboration and communication.

2. Asana

Asana is also another incredible project management app that is also useful for task management, agile management, Excel project management, team collaboration, and many other tasks.

Similar to Trello, this app is also accessible on Android, iOS, Windows, and mac OS. It is also a web-based application that is useful for agile management, creation of customizable to-do lists, resource management, bug tracking, time and expense tracking, testing/QA management, and budget management.

Asana is also a powerful tool for collaboration. This allows managers and teams to work collaboratively on projects.

With Asana, project managers can assign tasks and completion dates, plan their day, communicate priorities, etc.

The good thing about Asana is that it integrates with multiple platforms including Dropbox, WordPress, MailChimp, Google Drive, Zendesk, GitHub, Slack, just to mention a few.

The tool offers a free plan for a few members, a premium and an enterprise subscription.

3. Wrike

Wrike is another awesome project management app for task collaboration and online project management. It is a suitable app for companies of all sizes and helps to enhance communication, accountability, and transparency.

Wrike is a cloud-based project management platform that is also available on Android, iPhone, iPad.

Similar to Trello, this app comes with remarkable features including milestone tracking, project planning, status tracking, time and expense tracking, file sharing, bug tracking, budget management, just to mention a few.

It also integrates Dropbox, Zapier, LinkedIn, Slack, Evernote, Salesforce, Google Drive, GitHub, and Adobe.

The free plan supports up to 5 members but the tool has two other plans including the professional and business plans.

4. Teamweek

For project planning and task management, managers can find Teamweek a useful tool for the work.

The app offers four plans in addition to the free one that supports up to five members.

What’s more, Teamweek integrates with Slack, calendar, Asana, Trello, GitHub, Jira, etc.

The good thing about Teamweek is that it is built for novices and techies alike and is accessible on browsers and mobile devices.

With this app, project managers can create and assign tasks to team members using drag-and-drop features. Another good thing about this app is that it offers Gantt-chart visualization so project managers can keep an eye on crucial milestones.

Overall, Teamweek is a flexible, easy to use and useful project management app for project managers and team members alike.

5. Basecamp

With Basecamp, project managers can organize projects under one roof. Given that it’s a web-based project management platform, users can work on their projects anywhere at any time. Besides, Basecamp supports any team size at the same price.

What’s more, project managers can use Basecamp to create to-do lists, share files with team members, track time, collaborate with a team, etc.

Besides, the app can integrate with Usersnap, Zapier, TestLodge, Automate, Kilpfolio, etc.

It is also accessible via mobile devices including iPhone, Android, and iPad.

6. Monday.Com

When it comes to project management tasks such as Calendar, time tracking, reporting, planning and many more, managers can never go wrong with Monday.com

With this app, team members can collaborate effectively. It also has four plans in addition to the free trial.

7. Podio

Podio is a web-based project management app introduced by Citrix. The app was developed to simplify workflow management, project management, and team collaboration.

What’s more, the app is useful for file sharing, task management, team collaboration, etc.

Podio integrates with multiple platforms including Campaign Monitor, Dropbox, Email, Google Drive, Evernote, GoToMeeting, and many more.

8. Smartsheet

Smartsheet is also another incredible web-based project management platform for task collaboration and data integration.

The tool is useful for businesses whether large or small.

What’s more, the app comes with a user-friendly interface.

Similar to other tools discussed above, this app is useful for bug tracking, Gantt chart, project planning, collaboration, file sharing, resource management, task and time expense management, milestone tracking, etc.

9. Nifty

Nifty is a sought-after project management platform when it comes to team collaboration, automation of projects, reporting, and project planning.

With Nifty, managers can manage projects through Kanban-style Tasks.

What’s more, the tool features an easy-to-use and intuitive interface.

10. Projectmanagementcompanion.com

Unlike the tools mentioned above, projectmanagementcompanion.com, is a web-based project management reference tool which provides understanding for effective scheduling of projects, creation and assigning of tasks and much more. It essentially covers why each phase is important and what is required to successfully deliver the project.

There are many more on the market to choose from, take the opportunity to review them and make up your own list of preferred tools. Each is easy to use and come with plenty of incredible features to take your project management to the next level.

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.