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Project Board Duties and Behaviours for effective leadership

The operation of effective leadership in a project board comprised of executive, sponsor, senior user and suppliers is essential for the success of the project outcome. Although their role can be demanding, combining responsibility for business as usual operations with operational improvement and developing new products/services.

To understand how project board members, need to face these challenges, the following should be considered:

  • What should projects expect from the project board?
  • What should the project board expect from project managers?
  • How does the project leadership delegate and still retain control?
  • What kind of decisions are the project leaders expected to make?
  • What is the composition of an effective project board?

By establishing an environment which is clear about how a project will be run, which includes defined roles and responsibilities, helps ensure the project leadership does not micromanage the project manager.

Creating this controlled environment means that everyone should understand the project management method or framework adopted by the project or organisation as a whole.

As a result, this allows project managers to make decisions by providing a mechanism for this to happen. It also determines the tolerance levels exercised by the project board. This is ‘managing by exception”, one of the principles of the PRINCE2 framework.

The project framework or method should be clear about the role of senior management and the project board. Above all, that should incorporate the specific duties and preferred behaviours of senior leadership throughout a project. They include:

  • Accepting that the project executive and board member, are ultimately accountable for project success – supporting, directing and steering the project to completion
  • Assigning a project manager but not, thereafter, relinquishing responsibility and effectively “disappearing” for the duration of the project
  • Organizing and endorsing an integrated, cross-functional approach typical of many project team structures
  • Ensuring there is ongoing user involvement and commitment to the proposed change
  • Employing the continuous business justification concept (or adding value in Agile approaches) to ensure the business case remains valid and therefore the project is viable, deliverable and desirable. If so, senior management will be responsible for authorising each subsequent stage of the project
  • Ensuring there aren’t too many projects running in parallel to maximise success
  • Providing unified direction, communication and being an effective leader for the project manager in a collaborative and facilitative way; this is essential in Agile project scenarios where transparency and collaboration keeps the project on schedule and de-risked
  • Ensuring project managers and teams are empowered to make decisions – absence of this is a principal reason for project failure
  • Escalation: to make sure decisions are made at the right level and avoid “decision latency” – another reason for project failure.
  • Having regular project board meetings scheduled, but also reviewing their necessity when there are no key decisions to make, such as moving to a next stage or altering project scope
  • Diagnosing and avoiding problems – where are the weak spots in the plans? What are the risk management and mitigation plans?
  • Taking responsibility for delivering benefits to the organisation.

By hosting project board awareness sessions is one, effective way of improving the overall performance of project boards, interaction with project managers and overall project leadership.

In facilitating these sessions, it helps project boards to fully understand the project management method principles adopted by the project/organisation and ensure they too know how to adhere to the principles.

It’s also an opportunity to discuss the ideal behaviour of senior management in the project, such as accountability, offering unified direction, knowing how to cope with delegation, effective communication and allocation of resources.

Equally, it’s useful to project boards to recognize the importance of building relationships with their project managers. For example, knowing what keeps the project manager awake at night helps project leadership identify when and where to take action to ensure success for the project and organisation.

Having a greater awareness among project board members about the factors that contribute to either project success or failure will help them make the connection to the abilities and skills they need for effective project leadership.

And that might also include gathering facts on the ground in their own organisation about which principles and practices are needed to improve their project board performance.

Developing and being able to deploy a wide variety of project leadership skills is essential throughout the life-cycle of a project and, not least, at the points where project boards are required to make significant decisions. This demands serious understanding and preparation as, at the point of decision, they need all the knowledge and evidence to commit the organisation’s budget and resources with confidence. Let us know your thoughts on the role of the leadership team and if they have assisted or hindered your project delivery. All the very best on your project management journey.

Setting up for Successful Project Budget

Funds are always needed to deliver a project, the amount received will depend if it will be delivered as scoped, successfully and to the stakeholders satisfaction. SO planning out the project budget is very important, as it’s the lifeblood of the project. The following discusses how to secure the funds necessary to support the project through every phase.

The first step is to define the project budget, which is the total projected costs needed to complete a project over a defined period of time. It’s used to estimate what the costs of the project will be for every phase of the project. The project budget will include such things as labor costs, material procurement costs and operating costs. But it’s not a static document.

The project budget will be reviewed, evolve and be revived throughout the project. In simple terms a project costs money, but there is much more to it than that. Because, the budget is the engine that drives the project’s funding. It communicates to stakeholders how much money is needed and when it’s needed. It’s not only a means to get things that the project requires, that is paying teams, buy or rent equipment and materials, however that’s only half the story.

The other part of the importance of a project budget is that it’s an instrument to control project costs. The budget is the plan, which acts as a baseline to measure performance as the actual costs is collected once the project has been started.

Being able to create a project budget is an art, there are many components necessary to build a budget, including direct and indirect costs, fixed and variable costs, labor and materials, travel, equipment and space, licenses and whatever else may impact project expenses.

To meet all the financial needs of the project, a project budget must be created thoroughly, not missing any aspect that requires funding. To do this, outlined are several essential steps towards creating and managing a project budget:

1. Use Historical Data

The current project is not likely to be the first to try and accomplish a specific objective or goal. Looking back at similar projects and their budgets is a great way to get a head start on building the budget.

2. Reference Lessons Learned

To further elaborate on historical data, learn from previous projects successes and mistakes. It provides a clear path that leads to more accurate estimates. It should also be able to provide information on how responses to change affected the budget.

3. Leverage Your Experts

Another resource to build a project budget is to tap those who have experience and knowledge—be they mentors, other project managers or experts in the field. Reaching out to those who have created budgets can help a project to stay on track and avoid unnecessary pitfalls.

4. Confirm Accuracy

Once the budget is in place, that is only the beginning, as the budget should be reviewed and ensure figures are accurate. During the project is not the time to find a typo. Seek out experts and other project team members to check the budget and make sure it’s right.

5. Baseline and Re-Baseline the Budget

The project budget is the baseline by which a project will be measured throughout the duration of the project. It is a tool to gauge the variance of the project. The budget should be re-baseline as changes occur within the project. Once the change control board approves any change then the budget can be re-baseline.

6. Update in Real Time

The sooner a change is identified, then the better for the outcome of the project. This can be better managed with the use of cloud based software which allows for real time changes and status updates.

7. Get on Track

The importance of having a project management software that tracks in real time, can easily provide information needed to get back on track sooner rather than later. Things change and projects go off track all the time. It’s the projects that get back on track faster that are successful. If project expenses are managed using these building blocks then a sound foundation will be set for a project’s success.

Once tasks are broken down for the project and the team in place. Next is to review materials which will be needed, that could be laptops, other devices and equipment, all must be accounted. When this is in place, other line items need to be addressed such as travel expenses and renting space to house the team. Then there are fixed items that are true for any project. These are things where the cost is set and will not change over the course of the project. There should also be an entry for any miscellaneous costs that doesn’t fit elsewhere in the budget.

The budget must have a forecast versus actual documented, as this is a way to track the expenditure to make sure the budget is on track.

It’s clear that building an accurate budget is key to setting up for a projects success. If a budget template is required it can be downloaded here. Please share your budget planning experience, it would be great to receive your input.

Steps for Building Projects Success

Planning for a project’s success starts by creating a project plan, it saves on resources, time and effort.  Regardless of the project size, success is achievable, what are needed is the right mindset and the tools to make it happen. The following outlined steps can assist in creating project plans, goal definition, and the ability to communicate with the project team and determine the right tools to use for success.

Creating a project plan is the first step in achieving project success—it also saves on resources, time, and effort. A project plan is a document that can be used for internal and external purposes—it outlines the scope, deadlines, budgets, and approximate resources required for a project.

Write the project plan before implementation begins—this will give your team direction to achieve their goals.

For assistance, look at the downloadable project template. The plan should include an overview of the project, resources, and the methodology to be used. It also outlines goals and objectives for the project, along with deadlines, thus ensuring that everyone involved—team members and clients—are on the same page.

The project plan can also include an executive summary with information about the company.

A risk plan should be included, high level overview is enough and  let the client know what could go wrong and how it will be handled..

2. Goal Setting For Project Success

Setting a goal up for project success is a must, providing relevant goals helps with deliver results that will please clients. The approach to take is to use the SMART goal-setting system to plan out the direction of the project:

  • Specific: Project goals should be specific—build X number of properties, or generate X amount of revenue—so teams can aim for something concrete.
  • Measurable: When you create specific goals, it becomes easier to measure the success or failure of a project—and to determine what needs improvement.
  • Attainable: Clients want to go big with their goals—and it can be tempting to go along with them. But if your goals are too ambitious, you will fail to achieve them. Worse, you could stretch your team too far and fail to complete the project by the deadline.
  • Relevant: The goals you set need to be relevant to the vision of your project and the abilities of your team. That is what will make the goals achievable.
  • Timely: Creating timelines for your project’s goals ensures success. Give your team enough time to complete elements of the operation so you can deliver results to your client on time.

With the core goals in place, being able to plan out the project and give clients a realistic idea of what will be completed and by when should be easier to achieve.

A mind map is an excellent tool for achieving project success—especially during the planning stage when outlining the goals.

Use a mind map to generate and narrow down ideas—this is a process that can be conducted within the project team as well as with relevant stakeholders.

The key to creating a mind map is to settle on one core idea from where strategy can be expanded. Visualizing the idea makes it easier to examine, using multiple faculties to study the concept, which generates more critical thinking.

When designing a mind map, colours can be used to code the divisions in ideas, processes, or project steps. This will make absorbing the concept easier for everyone involved.

Companies would do well to hire project managers if they want to deliver successful projects. There are certain aspects of project execution that can be handled in-house, but project management requires specialized skills.

Successful project managers have excellent leadership skills, which are required no matter the size of the project.

As overseers of the operation, they direct the team forward without pushing anyone to do too much, and keep track of deadlines.

Managers also have strong communication skills—they speak with team members, suppliers, brokers, stakeholders, and clients.

Projects have many hands on deck—and everyone has their specific demands. Negotiating peace between the departments is a specialized skill that not everyone has.

The agile approach to project success prioritizes people and collaboration, while also acknowledging the importance of software.

Project agility includes the following;

  • Creating a motivational environment for project teams
  • Encouraging innovation and autonomy
  • Delivering customer satisfaction using project tools
  • Adaptability to changes
  • Team collaboration
  • Regular communication
  • Measuring success and failure

Agile project management is focused on delivering excellent results, as well as on building sustainable environments that are long-lasting.

Use the same guidelines across multiple projects and years—improving along the way, depending on what teams have learned—to achieve a high standard of results.

This method also mitigates a lot of the risks that come with project planning—changing goals and supplies are built into the system.

More importantly, the agile system helps create autonomous teams who innovate, experiment and learn, thus making them efficient and happy.

Creating a communication workflow and feedback plan—outline tools or services teams need to use.

Communication is not just one way, if team members or employees are not being listened too, it wouldn’t be understood why they are struggling with tasks.

While communication is necessary, too many meetings can get disruptive—set a meeting schedule that everyone can plan their day around.

The right tools and software make it easier to achieve project success—they improve workflow by sharing instant notifications for any developments.

Use a tool like JIRA to manage projects and Monday.com for task management. With social distancing still in place, using remote work tools for assistance. These tools help to collaborate and keep track of resources, budgets, and project progression.

There are also provisions to set deadlines to improve productivity and importantly, the software helps to avoid overlaps in tasks, missed deadlines, and gaps in communication.

Outlined were approximately seven essential steps for achieving project success, no matter the size of the operation at hand. These included

  • Create a project plan for success
  • Set your project goals
  • Use mind mapping to strategize
  • Invest in project managers
  • Be agile in your project management
  • Keep communication lines open
  • Invest in the right tools

Let us know your approach to project success, are there steps taken to ensure project success.

The brave-smart project manager and their effect on delivery

Brave Smart Project Manager

The project manager’s behavior or ego can either have a positive of negative effect in project delivery. Regardless if it is an asset or distraction, it is very important to point out behavior that isn’t acceptable. For the seasoned project manager, it’s pretty likely that they have come across many people challenges.

Whether its problematic stakeholders, absent or inexperienced sponsors, misalignment between those at the top and those on the ground, or ineffective communicators within the team, there are many different personalities that intersect on a daily basis.  One of the common denominators in these challenges is ego and how it plays out within dynamic and fast-paced environments. There’s little doubt that people need to have thick skin to be in the project management game, however, there are many examples on what happens to projects when egotistical behavior directs the project path and how it can threaten success.

It can be incredibly difficult to speak truth to power or call out behavior detrimental to the outcomes being aimed for, particularly when the environment doesn’t support it or it’s coming from sponsors and stakeholders who haven’t heeded warnings about problems or risks.

However, there is a leadership trait that can make a big impact on how to navigate through landscapes dominated by ego. It’s called being brave-smart. The environment within an organization can be shaped by ego and high performers. Corporate politics can place pressures by applying rapid changes and its demands on people. So when high performers emerge and deliver what look to be successful projects, it seems they are allowed to shape how projects get delivered, particularly when they demonstrate high levels of confidence and seeming ability to get the job done.

High performers often come with egos that, for better or worse, can leave their mark on teams charged with delivering big change and consequently in the cultures that they work within.

Healthy egos belong to people who know they are good at what they do and utilise their knowledge and experience in productive ways. In healthy and supportive cultures, this sort of confidence is a huge enabler to delivering success. But it’s also personal.

Life experience allows individuals to offer the best of themselves only when they are content with where they are. When people feel good about what they’ve done, how they are doing, and themselves in general, it’s easier to tackle even the most challenging problems, regardless if it’s their own problems or someone else’s.

Brave-smart project managers implicitly understand that for a successful team, confidence is a must, but there’s a big difference between confidence and egotistical behavior.

In toxic or deeply challenging environments, what often emerges is a perform-at-all-costs culture that can be deeply detrimental to success, as it allows egotistical behavior to thrive. When egotistical behavior becomes a factor in how projects operate, it’s a huge contributor to increasing the risk of failure. If all of the indicators are pointing toward success, it’s easy to overlook, but when things start going wrong or off-course, ego can become a very big problem.

Good leaders have the competence and ability to see beyond the egos in the room, the smarts to make the right decisions, and the courage to tackle egotistical behavior head-on.

A good leader will make decisions on what is best for the project or the company and not focus the egos in the room.  They will evaluate situations on facts, seek clarification, get several views on a given situation, and they will ask for guidance where it’s necessary.

They’ll ensure that people understand their roles and responsibilities are clearly understood, that the right people are in the right roles, and they will adhere to the principles of strong governance.

Most importantly, an effective leader is only as effective as the sponsor they are delivering for. If the sponsor isn’t listening, project leaders need to be adept enough to find a way to communicate news – be it good or bad – to the sponsor.

Brave-smart leaders implicitly understand how important it is to spend time with the team to gauge how each of them is feeling and use positive reinforcement and other fit-for-purpose techniques to help create a positive environment to get the best from them.

Setting the tone is a valid – and invaluable – starting point for eliciting the kind of behaviors that leave ego at the door. Examples may include:

  • Agreeing what is acceptable behavior upfront
  • Listening and allowing others to speak
  • Valuing the input, opinion, and perspective from various viewpoints within the team
  • Remain focused on outcomes that the project is aiming to achieve as a team so that contributions remain in context, are not easily parked, and do not side-track or personalize matters
  • Ensuring that those with the egotistical behaviors need to back up what they say with facts
  • Setting the platform that enables Brave-Smart conversations to be had from the outset

Brave-smart behavior should always be the goal. When a team is clear on some of the above behaviors, it makes it easier – though not easy – to call out behavior like that of the egotist that is never conducive to fostering a long term productive delivery environment.

What are your thoughts on the brave-smart project manager, leader we would like to hear from you.

A comprehensive guide to the importance of Time Sheets and project management

Importance of Time Sheets

Time sheets assist in keeping a track of resources working on a project, the time spent and the cost associated. The ability to track time, for both internal and external resources is a wonderful tool in keeping on top of finances. There are many tools available to the project manager to assist in tracking costs. A time sheet is a physical or software-based tool used by businesses to give their employees a means to record the time they’ve spent on a task or project. When paying employees or bill contractors in units of time, a strict record of billable hours should be kept. Time sheets are therefore a critical requirement for many service industries.

Tracking time with time sheets isn’t merely a way to pay teams and contractors, it provides detail to project-based work, time sheets have also become invaluable for businesses to monitor their time and keep projects on track.

The use of time sheets and project management, their utility has only increased as project management tools have become more advanced. Project management is modern, knowledge-based work, which requires the tracking and processing of large amounts of data, and that includes time spent on tasks. Some project teams working in consultancy or agency environments will bill for the time that their team spends on projects using this data.

Seasoned project managers, though, make full use of rigid adherence to online time sheets to identify avenues of optimization and improvement. The real value of time sheet tools is that they provide an easy way to see what the team is working on, at any time, and if that work is being properly executed.

With proper use of a team’s time sheets, determining the following becomes evident;

  • Who is working on what
  • What tasks are still outstanding
  • What tasks are going to overrun their scheduled time
  • Who is really busy and logging lots of hours
  • Who isn’t recording many hours and may have capacity to pick up more work

The following are elements of project time sheet data essential in ensuring tracking of time and cost is thoroughly covered;

  • The name of the user: This is the person who is completing the time sheet. Managers may have access to complete time sheets on behalf of other people in the team.
  • Date: Time sheets typically show a week to view. The date field provides navigation through the calendar, where working time for a particular week is entered.
  • Project: Time sheets can group tasks by project to make it easier for the user to see what they are recording at a glance.
  • Task: The list of tasks that the user has been allocated to work on that are not yet marked as complete.
  • Copy Last Week: If working on similar or the same tasks each week, time sheet can be auto-populated with last week’s tasks rather than have to input them again.
  • Days of the Week: The rest of the time sheet columns display the days of the week. Mark the hours worked on each task against the correct days.
  • Percentage Complete: See what percentage of tasks are done.
  • Auto-totals: Columns and rows will automatically total so it can be seen at a glance how many hours have been worked in a day or on a particular task.
  • Submit: If an approver has been assigned, the time sheet when ready can be sent to that person to review.
  • Notes: Add comments and upload files to time sheet entries as a reminder of what the task was about or to note why it took longer (or less time) than expected.

There should also be lines on the time sheet that do not directly tie back to tasks on the project schedule. These lines could represent things like sickness, vacation time, team meetings, training and so on. These tasks take up time during the working week, but don’t necessarily contribute directly to a project.

The easiest way to compete a time sheet are those that link automatically to the project schedule. A lot of time can be saved on entering the task data if all that has to be done is pick the tasks from a list. Whether it’s automatically integrated, and therefore pre-populated, or not, a list of tasks on the time sheet is needed before completion.

Time sheet software is a key component in tracking time spent on tasks and projects by;

1. Create Your Project: Time sheets are much easier to manage when there is an idea what tasks employees will be working on ahead of time. This can be achieved by creating a blank project to start with in the software.

2. Invite the Team: Assemble the team, choose members who have the experience and skill set to tackle all the tasks required to get the job done. In the software, invite team members to the project. They will be notified by email that they have been added.

3. Add and Assign Tasks: Tasks are the building blocks of projects, and thoroughly planned out task lists direct teams throughout the entirety of the project. Therefore, practicing proper task management, with clear direction and other details, is essential.

Assign tasks to team members and add labor costs. Add the estimated hours for each task for team members to know what’s expected of them. Once hours are logged, the budget can be monitored.

4. Designate a Time sheet Approver: Assign someone from the team who will receive the submitted time sheets. This person (usually a manager) will make sure that the billable hours match the tasks completed.

Under the Manage Users tab, choose an approver who the team member will submit their time sheet to for review. This person will be the gatekeeper between the team member and payroll/HR.

5. Have Team Members Log Their Hours: Each team member is responsible for tracking the hours they work on a task. This information is then collected on the time sheet. Log hours on individual tasks, or log them on the time sheet.

6. Review the Time sheet: There still needs to be a person who looks over the time sheet to make sure it’s correct before passing it on to payroll. After the requisite amount of time has passed (typically weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly), it’s time to review the time sheet before submission. View the time sheet by clicking time on the primary navigation menu.

7. Submit the Time sheet: Submitting the time sheet to the approver on the team who approves them is the next step of the process.

8. Approve Time sheet: The approver will receive the time sheet and must look over the hours and tasks to make sure there are no mistakes. If there are discrepancies, then the time sheet needs to go back to the person who submitted it.

9. Make Reports: Now that the time sheet is approved, time tracking can be taken even further by using reports. Reporting is useful to go over all of the data and identify bottlenecks, overages and other discrepancies. They are also an essential tool for keeping stakeholders in the loop.

There are many uses for time sheets, and goes beyond just tracking time and paying employees. The data output from time tracking comes in the form of time sheets that show how long an individual spent doing a particular task. This is valuable data, because many of those tasks will happen again in the future. This time tracking data repository will provide better estimate in the future because it can draw from real-life data.

The billing of clients, if the commercial model relies on charging clients for time, then you need to know how much time to charge them for. Time sheets also provides detail which task was being conducted at any given time. This is useful if ever invoices are queried, and especially when work takes longer than planned because of changes the client requested.

Managing workload, People are often surprised when they start to track their time, because they can see exactly where they are spending the most effort. And it isn’t always where it should be. Time sheets can be really helpful in pointing out inefficiencies and flag up where time is going. This helps manage workload more efficiently, both during a single day and also over a longer period of time like a week.

There is no hard and fast rule about frequency of filling out a time sheet, but generally it’s better to complete them as soon as a task is completed. If there aren’t that many tasks, then completing once a week should be sufficient. If there are a lot of separate tasks to do in a day, though, then it’s better to spend a few minutes recording time just before logging off for the day.

At times recording time against project activity may not be possible because a staff member is off sick or on annual leave. The easiest way to manage this is to set up an ‘admin’ task called ‘Sickness’ or ‘Vacation’ and have them record their normal working hours against that instead. When a period of downtime affects everyone, such as closing the office for a holiday, the working hours can be changed in the master calendar so that the team doesn’t have to record time on those days.

Time sheet data shouldn’t be kept confidential because, in theory, the team should know what is being worked on and vice versa. There’s really nothing sensitive in the high level task name for the vast majority of project scheduling information. If it has been scheduled, the team can see the scheduled task anyway.

Are time sheets worthwhile or not, managers tend to fall into two camps when it comes to time tracking, they either understand the value of doing it and are huge supporters, or they don’t see the point and believe it undermines trust in the team. Successful project managers know how far through their project they are at any time. This information helps them establish whether they are ahead or over budget and whether they are likely to hit their upcoming deadlines. Unless it is known how long a task has taken, and can compare that to how long it was scheduled to take, then understanding the performance of the project is much harder.

One of the concerns that may be heard from managers is that the team will hate using time sheets. Because of this seemingly commonly held sentiment, it can be daunting to move to time recording when it hasn’t been performed previously. Introducing time tracking where it isn’t already in practice is a huge cultural change for many organizations.

If there is resistance within an organization, take a step back and ask why there is that level of opposition. It could be because

  • They feel time sheets are a lot of work.
  • They feel micromanaged.
  • They feel that time sheets could be used to penalize staff who don’t log enough hours.

The best way to deal with these concerns is to sit with the team and explain what is being done to address them. For example, if they are worried that completing their time sheets will be a hassle, show them how easy it is to click and submit using online time tracking software.

When it is known why team members are resistant to tracking their time, their concerns can be better managed.

Time tracking in itself is an additional task to do. However, it doesn’t have to be onerous. If regularly completed the same tasks for the same projects, then the common “Copy Last Week” feature to auto-populate the time sheet for this week can be used. Either hit save straightaway, or make a few tweaks and submit it.

Time can also be saved when creating a bespoke time sheet for the week. If time tracking software links to the project schedule, it can “Auto-Fill” to pull through the tasks that have been assigned, saving the job of typing them out. The added benefit here is that it will automatically feed time data back to the project schedule, which updates the task to show how much effort has been spent on it to date.

The easiest way to see if time tracking will be of benefit is simply to commit and start recording time on tasks. The hardest aspect of keeping time is maintaining the habit. When applied properly, time sheets will quickly become the norm for the team, and completing them will be another aspect of collectively achieving success. It won’t be long before estimates are improved, confidence in hitting deadlines is bolstered and project success rates increase.

Please download a time sheet template here, let us know your thoughts on time sheet, we would like to hear from you.

Download the free time sheet template below

There is more to Information Security than just IT

Being vigilant on how security is managed within an organisation, in particular when managing projects must be crucially and heavily evaluated. At a time where there is an increased expectation for transparency and privacy. Security breaches will be strictly punished, security should be at the forefront of thoughts and not just for what the projects are meant to deliver but also how they are run.

Customers often expect to be able to interact with organizations digitally and this creates additional concerns and risks.  Whilst we should of course keep the clear and present cyber-security risks front of mind, we shouldn’t ignore the broader information security risks which might have nothing to do with the particular technology or process that is being worked on.  In fact, it’s an opportunity to ask some crucial questions about existing processes that may have emerged years ago that are no longer fit for purpose today.

There have been projects conducted to develop online portals for customers, these type of projects are becoming more and more common. When conducting projects of this nature, interaction with security experts, architects, and having very robust non-functional requirements with testing is a must.  However, this can also create a “Rod for your back” when the focus is on security, the online processes becomes so secure that even authorized users can’t access the portal.  Having a password that expires after one month for example is probably pretty irritating if an ‘average’ customer accesses their account once or twice per year.

This creates an issue and dilemma for the team, especially when the scope or remit from the stakeholders representing customers want to focus on ease of use.  Then there are another group of stakeholders who have an interest in ensuring compliance and managing risk who wanted to focus on impenetrable security.  The challenge, it turns out, is to find a sensible balance between the two. 

When examining a situation of this nature, two questions become pertinent.

  •  “How else can customers engage with us?”
  • “What security protocols are there via those channels?”

Focus on these questions can find out if a customer the information provided by a customer is actually accurate. Especially when basing identification on pieces of information that were held on file—typically things like full name, address, postal code, date of birth and so on.  All this information sounds quite acceptable and sensible. However thinking broadly, who knows this information about you?  Possibly neighbours, distant relatives and a proportion of colleagues. Let’s not mention if the post is used, meaning how is a signature validated?

It should be understood that Cyber Security is important but don’t forget about the broader information security. Situations arise where new processes are subject to checks and balances that may not exist on other channels. This in turn creates a useful opportunity to ask: “are we being too risk averse here?  If not, do the same risks exist for other channels? And if so, shouldn’t we strengthen them too?”

In many cases, it’ll be completely sensible to continue with a focus on cybersecurity, especially when introducing new processes, while also tightening up older processes that might not have been examined for many years.  This assists with promotion of a more holistic view on risk, and helps reduce the risk of fraud or information leakage.  Whilst large-scale IT system breaches might mean that a huge quantity of data is compromised, and this should be avoided at all times. It also shouldn’t be underestimated the reputational damage of one or two personal records being misappropriated for fraudulent reasons.

As with so much of what is performed as project managers, business analysts, ensuring a systemic and holistic approach, working with our customer and stakeholders to zoom out and see a clearer picture of balancing cyber-security, information security and what is trying to be achieved by the project, is a very careful balancing act. Let us know your thoughts on cyber-security, Information Security when running your projects, we would like to read your comments.

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.