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Tracking Projects

Tracking Projects

Project tracking is an essential part of staying on schedule and within budget. Without it, you cannot keep an eye on progress and create accurate reports. It is a project management method used to track the progress of tasks in a project. By tracking your project, you can compare actual to planned progress, and identify issues that may prevent the project from staying on schedule and within budget.

Project tracking helps project managers and stakeholders know what work has been done, the resources that have been used to execute those tasks, and help them create an earned value analysis by measuring project variance and tracking milestones.

A project tracker is a tool that lets managers measure the progress of their team as they execute tasks and use resources. It’s an essential tool to keeping projects on schedule and within their budgets.

Tracking the progress of your project can seem like a daunting task, but by laying out the process and planning ahead, you can set yourself up for success. The following are a few things you can do now to get on track:

  • Start with a project outline
  • Create deliverables and milestones
  • Set realistic, clear and measurable goals
  • Use a project tracker template or a project tracking software to keep track of time, costs and tasks
  • Meet regularly with team and stakeholders
  • Have clear deadlines
  • Support transparency

These suggestions are structural and should be set up for every project. Additionally, with project tracking, it’s important to remember the triple constraint (time, cost and scope). The key to managing these interrelated variables is proper estimation and control. You first estimate your costs to create a project budget, the time that tasks will take to create a project timeline and the project scope to create your project schedule. Then you have to control them during the execution phase by using a project tracker that allows you to track time, costs and tasks.

Many types of project reports are created during the execution phase in order to track the progress of a project. Project status reports act not only as an important communication tool during project execution but also as important historical documents that inform the development of future projects. This makes estimating the scope of future projects less of a shot-in-the-dark, and more of an educated guess.

Project status reports have a few key objectives, including:

  • Making communication across the organization seamless
  • Simplifying the communication process
  • Keeping stakeholders in-the-know as the project moves forward
  • Delivering the right information, to the right stakeholders, at the right time
  • Enhancing organizational support for everyone involved

Project monitoring, tracking and reporting are a highly-collaborative process. Without monitoring and tracking the progress of a project, the reporting is not accurate. Therefore, teams must collaborate when creating reports, so communications are clear. This collaboration and communication is facilitated by the right project management tools. Project tracking software helps with critical project management areas and processes such as task management, time tracking, and resource management.

So, how do you track your projects? Using a real-time dashboard is one great way to see data about tasks, costs and more in a customizable view. Let us know your approach, we would like to hear from you. Our next blog will look into The Six Elements of a Project Report which is a carry on from this blog, all the very best on your project management journey.

Minimizing Risk in Outsourced Projects

Minimizing risk on outsourced projects

In our series of risk management, the focus has been on internal project risk, their identification and mitigation. However, when accounting for risk, there must be an understanding on outsourced risk, the process of contracting a third party to do work on behalf of a client that has neither the skills nor resources to perform in-house. It is usually more cost-effective to contract out work than hire someone to complete the project in question.

The other benefits include being able to perform several parts of the project in parallel, thus reducing time to market. Taking advantage of geographic differences in the cost of implementation in IT projects can also help bring costs down; outsourcing development to countries such as India and those in Eastern Europe, for example, is a common practice.

The benefits do, however, come with some pitfalls. Chiefly among them is the lack of control experienced when outsourcing and care must be taken to ensure that the gains in cost and time are not lost in over-managing the outsourcing process.

Involving third parties as brokers in these situations can alleviate this risk. In essence, the project management is outsourced to a middle-tier service provider capable of marshaling the best capabilities of the open market.

The riskiest path to take is that of total outsourcing, placing the project entirely in the hands of a third party. This may be because the project is so labor intensive or technical that the client cannot service any parts of the project themselves.

Thus, trust is placed in the experts to produce something, which would not otherwise be possible. With that trust, the additional burden of risk management. The danger is always there that the lack of control will lead to project overruns and higher costs than anticipated.

Since the project is outside the client’s expertise, they can often neither control nor verify that the lack of control is a natural phenomenon. This is compounded by the fact that the contractor could effectively blind the client with the science of the service that they are offering.

In IT projects, this is one of the key risks involved in outsourcing.

How do we combat the risks associated with total outsourcing? Outsourced projects should stay within the available competence, which sounds obvious, but really is not. Given that the reason for outsourcing is that the project cannot be achieved in-house, the logical conclusion is that it must lie outside available competence.

The paradox is easily solved; hire staff with equivalent or related competencies. This avoids all the issues associated with total outsourcing but can prove as expensive as having the project performed in-house.

The alternative is to find a project management team with technical and non-technical skills. If the project to be outsourced is a single project within a portfolio of business activity, then it follows that hiring permanent staff to perform this function is probably going to be out of the budgetary scope of the company.

This is where Co-Sourcing comes into play. It is essentially two-tier outsourcing, using the third party as a buffer between the highly technical project staff and the (usually) less technically competent client.

The key is in minimizing the number of project firsts. The most significant risk is when the client is outsourcing for the first time a new project with a technology they have never used before. Co-Sourcing reduces three project firsts to one.

Co-Source provides a single interface to many competencies, enabling an approach that can fulfill the entire project lifecycle. Even if some aspects were not designed to be outsourced, clients can often find that the Co-Source model allows them to find economies of scale within the projects as they unfold.

It is a win-win-win situation; the client enjoys superior service while making a significant cost saving. The contractor saves time by communicating with a technically minded project management team, and Co-Source can continue building on a solid base of experience. Let us know your thoughts on outsourcing the project; we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Risk Management Tools & Techniques for PM’s

Risk Management Tools & Techniques for PM’s

Risk is inherent in project management and so is the need to create a risk management plan to control it. That methodology is called risk management, which is as important as planning to making sure a project comes in on time, within budget and of quality.

The following some of the risk management tools which can be used during a project;

1. Root Cause Analysis

The root cause is another way to say the essence of something. Therefore, root cause analysis is a systematic process used to identify the fundamental risks that are embedded in the project. This is a tool that says good management is not only responsive but preventative.

Often root cause analysis is used after a problem has already come up. It seeks to address causes rather than symptoms. But it can be applied to assessing risk by going through the goals of any root cause analysis, which ask: What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? Once those questions are addressed, develop a plan of action to prevent it from happening again.

2. SWOT

SWOT, short for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, is another tool to help with identifying risks. To apply this tool, go through the acronym.

Begin with strengths and determine what those are as related to the project. Next, list the weaknesses or things that could be improved or are missing from the project. This is where the likelihood of negative risk will raise its head, while positive risk comes from the identification of strengths. Opportunities are another way of referring to positive risks and threats are negative risks.

When collecting SWOT, illustrate your findings in a four-square grid. The top of the square has strengths to the left and weaknesses to the right. Below that is opportunities to the left and threats to the right. The left-hand side is helpful to achieving the objective of the project and those on the right-hand side are harmful to achieving the objective of the project. This allows for analysis and cross-reference.

3. Risk Assessment Template for IT

While this tool was developed for IT projects, it can be expanded to speak to any project. What a IT risk assessment template offers is a numbered listing of the risks, to keep them in order. It provides a space in which to collect the risks of a project, which is also helpful when executing the project and tracking any risks that become reality.

One of the aspects of the risk assessment template for IT is that the spreadsheet has a built-in calculator that figures out the likelihood of a risk in fact occurring and then multiples that against the impact it would have on the project or the organization. This way, a project manager knows the potential harm of the risk and so can prioritize their response to it if or when the risk happens.

4. Risk Register

Similar to the risk assessment template for IT is a risk register. Basically, what a risk register does is identify and describe the list. It then will provide space to explain the potential impact on the project and what the planned response is for dealing with the risk, if it occurs. Furthermore, the risk register allows a project manager to prioritize the risk, assign an owner responsible for resolving it and gives a place to add notes as needed.

The risk register is a strategic tool to control risk in a project. It works to gather the data on what risks the team expects and then a way to respond proactively if they do show up in the project. It has already mapped out a path forward to keep the project from falling behind schedule or going over budget. Pick up a free risk register template here.

5. Probability and Impact Matrix

Another tool for project managers is the probability and impact matrix. It helps prioritize risk, which is important, as you don’t want to waste time chasing a small risk and exhaust your resources. This technique combines the probability and impact scores of individual risks and then ranks them in terms of their severity. This way each risk is understood in context to the larger project, so if one does occur, there’s a plan in place to respond or not.

6. Risk Data Quality Assessment

With a risk data quality assessment technique, project managers use data that has been collated for the risks they’ve identified. This is used to then find the level to which information about the risk is relevant to the project manager. It helps the project manager understand the accuracy, reliability, quality and integrity of the risk as related to the collected data about it.

For each risk listed, the risk data quality assessment requires that the project manager determine the extent of the understanding of the risk, collect what data is available, what the quality and reliability is for that data and its integrity. It is only by examining these parameters of the risk can an accurate assessment be reached.

7. Brainstorming

To begin the brainstorming process, you must assess the risks that could impact your project. This starts with reviewing the project documentation, looking over historic data and lessons learned from similar projects, reading over articles and organizational process assets. Anything that can provide insight into issues that might occur during the execution of the project. Once you’ve done your research, start brainstorming with anyone who might have insight.

The better a project manager identifies and responds to risk, the better the outcome. That’s why there are never enough risk management tools and techniques to have at your disposal when planning for a project. Let us know your thoughts and which risk management tools you use when delivering your project, we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.

Streamlining Communication between Remote Teams

Streamlining Communication between Remote Teams

Whether trying for executive buy-in or conveying regular updates to stakeholders, managing teams, and communication plays a critical role in every facet of the business landscape. It helps convey the requisite information at the right time, facilitates the exchange of innovative ideas, strengthens team bonding and collaboration, and improves work efficiency.

However, ensuring effective communication becomes challenging when the team is dispersed across remote locations. When team members are working in varying time zones and locations, it creates silos, and thus, bringing them on the same page becomes cumbersome for a project manager.

These communication barriers can lead to loss of trust and transparency over time and negatively impact the project’s progress. Therefore, it is vital for a project manager to walk the extra mile and take suitable initiatives to enhance remote team communication.

This can be achieved by defining clear roles and responsibilities which help every remote team member understand what is expected of them and align their efforts with the project’s end goals. However, while conveying key responsibility areas (KRAs) in person is easy in a typical in-office work setup, remote work settings make it more arduous. Nevertheless, by using the right tools, the project manager can convey KRAs to remote teammates effectively.

For example, they can use a video conferencing tool for one-on-one meetings or send an email to explain the responsibilities to individuals.  Moreover, an initiation meeting at the start of every project can also help the team members get to know each other better. Additionally, the project manager can elaborate on inter-dependencies. It will enable the team to comprehend each other’s responsibilities, communicate and collaborate effectively, and synchronize their efforts better to achieve milestones.

As communication is predominantly online, formulating new policies to streamline asynchronous and synchronous means is the need of the hour. Standardized rules help avoid communication gaps or discrepancies and facilitate fast information exchange. To begin with, the project manager can decide on the communication channels to use for various purposes. For instance, synchronous channels such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc., can be suitable for scrum meetings, brainstorming sessions, training, etc.

On the other hand, asynchronous channels like emails, Slack, etc., can be better for instant messaging, casual communication, file sharing, etc. Besides that, setting protocols for away messages, one-on-one meetings with teammates, breaks, etc., can also help save time and regulate communication.

One of the ways to combat this challenge is to organize daily stand-up meetings. Considering everyone’s schedule and availability, managers can fix a time to ensure no one is left out.

Along with updating the progress, team members can mention the roadblocks, if any, and brainstorm on viable solutions. If issues are significant, scheduling separate meetings can be a good option to discuss them. Further, urgent meetings to communicate unprecedented changes or risks can also boost communication and coordination.

Communication is not confined to messages or video calls but goes beyond that. Equipping virtual teams with the right tech inventory is essential for a remote team to enhance it further.  So, besides providing a video conferencing tool or messaging app, a project manager can also leverage various project management, workflow automation, and visual collaboration apps. It not only helps convey and visualize the critical updates in real-time but also centralizes them, thereby minimizing any discrepancies.

A resource management tool can also prove beneficial as it provides enterprise-wide visibility of resources. They can view resources schedules, their utilization, productivity, and even project schedules on one platform. For example, they can see an individual’s forecast-vs-actual time report and note any variance in the time predicted to complete a task and the actual time ten. Further, they can conduct a one-on-one meeting and understand and resolve the cause accordingly.

Virtual team-building sessions play a pivotal role in strengthening communication and collaboration. They replicate those water-cooler conversations and casual cubicle meet-ups in the physical office settings and help get rid of the monotony and isolation that set in while working virtually. Further, as different team members participate and interact more, they get to know each other better, which breaks down the silos of communication. All this paves the way for stronger team bonding, transparent communication, and cohesive work.

To make every session more inclusive and productive, the organizer should consider every participant’s preference and customize activities accordingly. This will pique everyone’s interest and elevate engagement.

Effective communication is the bread and butter of remote team management. It facilitates team collaboration, ensures the alignment of efforts with final goals, and eventually boosts productivity.

The aforementioned tips will help you build a powerful communication strategy and build synergy between team members. Since remote work is the new normal, it is high time you took the right measures to improve communication within your dispersed team and seal every project’s success. Let us know how you manage communication between remote team. All the very best on your project management journey.

Ways to Measure Project Success

Ways to Measure Project Success

As the year comes to a close, so do many projects. Stakeholders may wonder if these projects were truly successful, and these five ways will help you provide a definitive answer. See some of the ways to measure project and understand how your project is really performing.

Project managers often wonder if they are measuring the right things on a project. It’s difficult to know how much time to spend evaluating past performance and how much time to spend on keeping the work moving forward.

At various points during the project, you want to evaluate the most important factors, such as schedule, quality, cost, stakeholder satisfaction and performance against the business case. You should be doing this informally anyway. A formal project evaluation is of use during the end of a phase or stage as it can give you a clear indication of how the project is performing against the original estimates. This information can then be used to grant approval from moving on with the next chunk of work.

Project management success is often determined by whether or not you kept to the original timeline. Experienced project managers know how hard that is, but it’s a little bit easier if you continually evaluate your progress as you go.

You’ll update your project schedule regularly; the schedule evaluation is something you can do more formally at the end of the stage or phase, or as part of a monthly report to your senior stakeholder group or Project Board. It’s easy to update your project schedule if you build it on an online Gantt chart, where tasks and deadlines are made into visual timelines.

Look at your major milestones and check if they still fall on the same dates as you originally agreed. Work out the slippage, if any, and how much of an impact this will have on your overall project timescales.

The end of a project phase is a good time for a quality review. You can check both the quality of your project management practices – are you following the change management process every time and so on – and also the deliverables.

A quality review can evaluate whether what you are doing meets the standards set out in your quality plans. Best find out now before the project goes too far, as it might be too late to do anything about it then.

Many executives would rate cost management as one of their highest priorities on a project, so evaluating how the project is performing financially is crucial. Compare your current actual spend to what you had budgeted at this point. If there are variances, look to explain them. You can use a project dashboard to check your actual spend in real time.

You’ll also want to look forward and re-forecast the budget to the end of the project. Compare that to your original estimate too and make sure it is close enough for your management team to feel that the work is on track. If your forecasts go up too much it is a sign that your spending will be out of control by the end of the project – again, something it is better to know about now.

Your wider team – your stakeholders – are essential in getting much of the work done, so it’s worth checking in with them. Find out how they are feeling about the project right now and what you could be doing differently.

This is a difficult measure to document statistically, although there’s nothing to stop you asking them for a rating out of 10. Even if you are evaluating their satisfaction subjectively, it is still a useful exercise. If you notice that stakeholders are not fully supportive, you can put plans in place to engage them thoroughly to try to influence their behavior.

Finally, you’ll want to go back to the business case and see what you originally agreed upon. How is your project shaping up? Check that the benefits are still realistic and that the business problem this project was designed to solve does still exist. It happens – project teams work on initiatives that sound great but by the time they are finished the business environment has moved on and the project is redundant. No one bothered to check the business case during the project’s life cycle and so no one realized that the work was no longer needed.

Don’t work on something that nobody wants! Check the business case regularly and evaluate it in light of the current business objectives.

You can add other items to this list. In fact, it should reflect what is important to you and your team – you should be evaluating things that matter, so feel free to add extra elements or ditch some of the ones that you are less worried about. 

When your project is over you’ll want to carry out a full and final evaluation. This could be as part of a lessons learned review, but typically it is different. Lessons learned review is where all the project stakeholders’ comment on what worked and what didn’t. You take away key messages and tasks to improve how projects are delivered in the future. It’s an essential part of project closure, but it isn’t a formal evaluation. You get a lot of feedback, anecdotes and stories but even the most structured lessons learned workshop generally gives you narrative rather than statistics.

There are numerous project performance areas that need to be monitored, including the schedule, the cost, the quality and overall stakeholder satisfaction. Let us know your thoughts, we would like to hear from you, all the very best on your project management journey.

Project Managing with a Hybrid Team

Project Managing with a Hybrid Team

The one thing that has resonated during 2021 has been that the pandemic has changed project management subtly and significantly. Since the pandemic, change surrounds us and we just have to get used to it. As PMs, we’ve come to expect change and to shift our project management mindset accordingly by understanding what it takes to meet the needs of the project.

Managing a hybrid workforce represents one of the most significant changes ushered in by the pandemic. While we might have dabbled in it before, widespread adoption of hybrid is here to stay. Leading a dispersed workforce demands that project managers drill down to an individualized level. It requires looking at the work differently, identifying each employee’s strengths, weaknesses, and availability to determine how they can best contribute to the team.

Operationally, there are several aspects of project management to consider with a hybrid workforce, some being;

1.     Realign the Hybrid Workforce With Project Needs  

Working 9 to 5 in an office used to be the norm, with limited flexibility about where and when employees worked. The pandemic proved that many employees can be productive remotely and outside of core hours. PMs need to realign project tasks with new flexibility, mapping a new path to project milestones, by

  • Work anywhere during set hours
  • Work in the office during set hours
  • Work in the office anytime
  • Work anywhere, anytime.

By dissecting the elements of project work and identifying specifically which item falls into which quadrant of the model, we can manage all employees with predictability and stability. The goal is that each person on the team knows what they must accomplish and the deadline so they can schedule day-care, uninterrupted work time, collaboration, and a work-life balance.

2.    Manage Individuals For Engagement And Productivity

Once we reassess the project needs, we also need to reassess the available resources – our employees. That starts with knowing each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. With metrics in hand, you can balance your teams in terms of strengths and hybrid availability, ensuring the right coverage and resources.

This individualized approach is time-consuming, but when correctly applied; this approach can save PM’s time over the lifecycle of the project. Consider sharing strength results with each employee within the context of how the strengths help the employee meet organizational goals, project goals, and personal goals. These insights often reveal what truly motivates each employee.

3.    Policies and Governance for Hybrid Teams 

With a hybrid workforce, your employee handbook and project guidelines need to become living documents. You’ll need policies designed for maximum flexibility. Rather than focusing on what employees can or cannot do, policies need to be written to ensure employees have all the tools they need.

Some policies might require trial and error to get things right. For example, when we have team meetings now, we ask everyone to dial in to the conference line individually to listen, regardless of where they are working, and to turn on their camera when they are talking. This saves bandwidth and makes “face time” equitable between those in the office and those working elsewhere.

  • Developing A Dispersed Culture

Many PMs manage teams who are in multiple locations, and large organizations have shown us how culture and values can span the miles. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the value of communication, Weekly emails, quarterly leadership calls, daily check-ins all help to replace the face-to-face interaction of the past.

Establishing new routines, like having teams eat lunch together once a week via a video call, provide a casual ‘watercooler’ environment that helps employees get to know each other on a more personal level. We understand others better when we communicate face-to-face and can pick up on the nonverbal cues, whether in person or via video.

When the communication is two-way, and employees feel heard, hybrid culture really shines. Since everyone’s work preferences are being met through hybrid flexibility, you have an organization where everyone buys into the culture and people recognize that their behavior and their contribution matter.

5.    Metrics for a Hybrid Workforce 

PM has undergone a shift in metrics that highlights a hybrid workforce. The trend now is to focus on the outcome rather than output.

The outcome mindset measures value based on individual contributions to the end result. Were objectives met? Is the client satisfied? Are teammates satisfied with the balance of contribution across the team? These are metrics we need to measure for a hybrid workforce. The focus shifts to determining if teammates are contributing in substantial and meaningful ways. The team dynamic becomes so important that you may want to consider adding 360-degree feedback from peers as part of your PM processes.

Bottom Line

Project management with a hybrid workforce comes down to three factors: flexibility, individuality, and communication. It’s a change brought on by the pandemic but exactly the shake up the working world needed.

The same flexibility that allows our teams to accomplish tasks at various times and places drives agility in other areas of the organization. The focus on individuals and their contributions to the collective outcome pushes us to take a deeper look at the human beings on our payroll and gain insights into what satisfies their personal and professional goals.

Communicating differently, and more purposefully, has helped with a greater understanding of the organization and project goals. And it gives a voice to each individual and drives a deeper level of team engagement.

So even though we may be dispersed, our teams are closer than ever before. What are your thoughts? We would like to know what you think. Have a wonderful and safe festive season and let’s see what the New Year brings. From the team at project management companion, thank you for sharing another eventful year with us.

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.