Tag: Project delivery

Critical Path Method Essentials

Critical Path Method Essentials

In project management, the critical path is the longest sequence of tasks that must be completed to successfully conclude a project, from start to finish. The tasks on the critical path are known as critical activities because if they’re delayed, the whole project will be delayed. By identifying the critical path, determining the total duration of a project can be made.

Calculating the critical path is key during the planning phase because the critical path identifies important deadlines and the activities which must be completed on time. Once a critical path is determined, a clear picture of the schedule becomes evident.

To find this, project managers use the critical path method (CPM) algorithm to define the least amount of time necessary to complete each task with the least amount of slack.

Once a manual task, but with the availability of project scheduling software the critical path can be calculated automatically.

The critical path method (CPM), also known as critical path analysis (CPA), is a scheduling procedure that uses a network diagram to depict a project and the sequences of tasks required to complete it, which are known as paths. Once the paths are defined, the duration of each path is calculated by an algorithm to identify the critical path, which determines the total duration of the project.

The critical path method (CPM) is used in project management to create project schedules and helps project managers create a timeline for the project. The critical path method includes:

  • Identifying every task necessary to complete the project and the dependencies between them
  • Estimating the duration of the project tasks
  • Calculating the critical path based on the tasks’ duration and dependencies to identify the critical activities
  • Focusing on planning, scheduling and controlling critical activities
  • Setting project milestones and deliverables
  • Setting stakeholder expectations related to deadlines

After making these considerations, insight is gained into which activities must be prioritized. Then it becomes evident of which resources need to be allocated to get these important tasks done. Tasks discovered that aren’t on the critical path are of a lesser priority in the project plan and can be delayed if they’re causing the project team to become over-allocated.

Projects are made up of tasks that must adhere to a schedule in order to meet a deadline. It sounds simple, but without mapping the work it can quickly get out of hand and project can get off track.

When analyzing the critical path, pay particular attention closely at the time it will take to complete each task, taking into account the task dependencies and how they’ll impact the schedule. It’s a technique to find the most realistic project deadline. It can also help during the project as a metric to track progress.

Therefore, when  doing critical path analysis, finding the sequence of tasks that are both important and dependent on a previous task. Less important tasks aren’t ignored and are part of the analysis; however, they’re the ones which can be jettisoned if time and money won’t permit.

To properly understand the concept of critical path, it is best to understand the various terms used in this method.

Earliest start time (ES): This is simply the earliest time that a task can be started in the project. This cannot be determined without first knowing if there are any preceding tasks, or figuring out other constraints that might impact the start of this task.

Latest start time (LS): This is the very last minute in which to start a task before it threatens to upset the project schedule. Calculate what the latest finish time is for the same reason. By having a clear picture of this timeframe, better scheduling of the project can be covered to meet its deadline.

Earliest finish time (EF): The earliest an activity can be completed, based on its duration and its earliest start time.

Latest finish time (LF): The latest an activity can be completed, based on its duration and its latest start time.

Float. Also known as slack, float is a term that describes how long to delay a task before it impacts the planned schedule and threatens the project’s deadline. The tasks on the critical path have zero float. Either calculate the float using the steps above, or by using project management software. If an activity has a float greater than zero, it means it can be delayed without affecting the project completion time.

Crash duration. This describes the shortest amount of time that a task can be scheduled. This can be achieved by moving around resources, adding more towards the end of the task, to decrease the time needed to complete the task. This often means a reduction in quality but is based on a relationship between cost and time.

Critical path drag. If time is added to the project because of a constraint, that is called a critical path drag, which is how much longer a project will take because of constraints on tasks in the critical path.

Once the key definitions of CPM are known, here are the steps to calculate the critical path in project management:

  1. Collect Activities: Use a work breakdown structure to collect all the project activities that lead to the final deliverable.
  2. Identify Dependencies: Figure out which tasks are dependent on other tasks before they can begin.
  3. Create a Network Diagram: A critical path analysis chart, or network diagram, depicts the order of activities.
  4. Estimate Timeline: Determine the duration of each activity.
  5. Use the Critical Path Algorithm: The algorithm has two parts; a forward pass and a backwards pass.
  6. Forward Pass: Use the network diagram and the duration of each activity to determine their earliest start (ES) and earliest finish (EF). The ES of an activity is equal to the EF of its predecessor, and its EF is determined by the formula EF = ES + t (t is the activity duration). The EF of the last activity identifies the expected time required to complete the entire project.
  7. Backward Pass: Begins by assigning the last activity’s earliest finish as its latest finish. Then the formula to find the LS is LS = LF – t (t is the activity duration). For the previous activities, the LF is the smallest of the start times for the activity that immediately follows.
  8. Identify the Float of Each Activity: The float is the length of time an activity can be delayed without increasing the total project completion time. Since the critical path has no float, the float formula reveals the critical path: Float = LS – ES
  9. Identify the Critical Path: The activities with 0 float make up the critical path.
  10. Revise During Execution: Continue to update the critical path network diagram through to the execution phase.

These steps determine what tasks are critical and which can float, meaning they can be delayed without negatively impacting the project by making it longer. The availability of this information needed to plan the schedule more accurately and have more of a guarantee that the project deadline will be met.

Also, considerations of other constraints that might change the project schedule need to be understood. The more these issues can be accounted, the more accurate the critical path method will be. If time is added to the project because of these constraints, that is called a critical path drag, which is how much longer a project will take because of the task and constraint.

Critical path software is used to automatically calculate the critical path in the project schedule. Without using software, managers would have to manually calculate the time-consuming and complicated equation.

Time is one of the triple constraints of a project, so it’s understandable why critical path software has become popular in project management. Any opportunity to gain efficiencies steers the project closer to meeting its goals and objectives.

Since critical path is a very specific technique, critical path software is usually associated with a larger project planning tool that organizes tasks, prioritizes the sequence of activities and other features that go into creating the schedule. One of the most used project management software to identify the critical path is Microsoft Project, although there are many others as well.

Knowing the critical path and having a tool to recalculate it as the schedule evolves over the course of the project is key to getting back on track when behind schedule. More benefits to using critical path software include the following.

  • Quick Calculations Save Time and Effort
  • Track Progress to Know If You’re Behind
  • Recalculate as Project Schedule Changes
  • Keep Track of Task Dependencies
  • Set Milestones and Save Important Dates
  • Get Insightful Data When Planning Tasks
  • Create Schedule Baseline for Project Variance

 

The Critical Path Method (CPM) and the Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) are both visual representations of a project schedule, but it’s important to know the differences.

The main difference between PERT and CPM is that PERT was designed to plan projects with uncertain activity times. Therefore PERT uses three time estimates for each task: optimistic, most likely and pessimistic. On the other hand, CPM was designed for projects where activity times are certain.

CPM uses a single time estimate for each task and focuses on the analysis of task sequences to estimate the total duration of a project. Another important difference is that the CPM is used to identify critical activities that must be completed on time to avoid affecting the project’s deadline, which is something that PERT can’t do.

PERT can be used alongside the critical path to help estimate the duration of activities.

The Critical Path Method is one of the many tools that project managers use when creating their project plan and schedule. It informs them on the length of time, the amount of resources and costs associated with each task and the overall project. Once they have this mapped out they can start plotting the timeline in their scheduling software and start the process of managing their project.

Critical path plays an important role in developing a schedule in project management. It is used in conjunction with PERT (program evaluation and review technique) to figure out the longest amount of time that it would take to complete a project by looking at the dependencies and duration of each task involved.

Simply put, using the critical path is a way to order the seeming chaotic complexity of any project. If deadlines are important to getting a project to deliver on time, then the duration of each task must be understood in order to better estimate where those deadlines will land on the project timeline.

Critical path analysis is charting the dependent tasks, which are those that cannot start or finish until another has started or finished. This creates a great deal of complexity, but the analysis is crucial in order to have a realistic schedule. If the project isn’t as complicated, however, it might not require critical path analysis.

The critical path is important when managing a project because it identifies all the tasks needed to complete the project—then determines the tasks that must be done on time, those that can be delayed if needed (due to the triple constraint of time, cost and scope) and how much float there is.

The reason for understanding the critical path in project management is that the more accurate and reliable the data, the better the project timeline, schedule, plan and so forth. The critical path of a project shows not only how long tasks are likely to take but prioritizes them.

When in the middle of a project and it’s running behind schedule, the critical path will show which tasks must be completed and those that can be left undone without negatively impacting deliverables. This could mean the difference between a successful project, and a failed one.

Critical path is also helpful within the project as a measurement of schedule variance. That is, it can help determine which stage of the project compared to where the plan indicated at that time. This information will quickly advise if the project is on target or lagging behind.

Another benefit of using the critical path in project management is that it helps identify and map task dependencies. Not all tasks can be done at the same time. There is an order and often that structure means that some tasks can’t start or stop until another has started or stopped. It can help avoid bottlenecks by map parallel tasks and keep the project moving.

Finding the critical path is a useful tool that project managers use to make better time estimates. It lends itself to complex and larger projects, but it can be a helpful tool no matter the size of the project.

Time is always weighing heavy on a project, and a critical path identifies which of the project tasks are not necessary to end with a quality deliverable. Completing every task is important, but sometimes that’s not possible. Critical path helps determine which are not needed.

Once the critical path is determined, keep returning to the analysis and continuing to crunch those numbers as things change when executing the project. That’s a lot of work, but when used in conjunction with a robust project management software, the first steps towards success have been taken. Let us know your thoughts on the Critical path Method, and how it has assisted you in your projects. All the very best on your project management journey.

Creating and Maintaining Project budgets

Project Budgets

A project is deemed successful based on many criteria, in particular cost, scope and time, staying within budget is paramount. There are six steps which can help create the budget and establish a dependable system to track project expenses. All projects cost money, being able to manage and track expenses is what keeps the project within a budget. Stakeholders are not likely to consider the project a success if it costs them too much.

To avoid expenses from getting away, there must be a system in place to monitor and track it. That’s the only way to control expenses and in so doing stay on budget. Have a system in place to deal with project expenses and have the capacity to track them. This can be via a robust project management software with dynamic functionality or something more static like an Excel spreadsheet.

Regardless of which mechanism is chosen, data must be collected and identify who is spending what and when. This is the bare minimum and a good place to start. Without a system in place there’s no way to know where money is going.

The next logical step is to have a system that is online. Being able to gain access to tracking system anywhere and at any time is more than just a luxury. It has become an essential part of any project management plan. Team members may not be in the office every day, hence an online tool provides access to the system.

A system is important, but it’s useless until items have been identified in the budget. Understanding where the costs are going. To create a budget, estimate the cost of all the tasks that make up the project, including all the resources needed to execute them.

For example, money on resources will be spent, such as equipment and the team; their might be real-estate costs, legal and travel expenses. All these items must be identified and listed in order for expenses to be tracked.

It’s all part and parcel to creating a budget, identify fixed and variable costs and expenses figured out before tracking them. The budget will be the umbrella under which all the project expenses will be covered.

Once the budget is created, it must be approved. This will allow parameters for expenses and help tracking and determining the permissible spend and when those costs are going beyond what has been earmarked for the project.

A system, budget and everything related to managing the project costs are all for nil if there is not a person in charge of overseeing this process. Assign someone from the team who is tasked with operating the system devised to track expenses. This person will become invaluable. They’ll be on the front lines of the actual budget and can raise concerns when costs are exceeding what has been approved for the budget expenses.

To streamline this process and make it more effective, use an online tool. In this respect online project management software has an advantage over Excel, in that it’s constantly updated and reflects actual spending on expenses. Therefore, if a spike in spending is noticed, not only has it been identified quickly but can be addressed before overspending occurs.

The six steps mentioned are critical to ensure there is a handle to a budget, and avoid expense overrun. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it should be maintained, to avoid headaches during the delivery of the project. Use templates if they are available and pay attention to details.

If you have tips and tricks on maintaining a project budget, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Project Tracking Essentials

Project Tracking Essentials

Project tracking is an essential part of staying on schedule and within budget. A project management method used to track the progress of tasks in a project. By tracking projects, it is possible to compare actual 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 helps them create an earned value analysis by measuring project variance and tracking milestones.

Key to project tracking is the use of project tracking tools and project management techniques. For example, status reports allow managers to track project progress by providing an overview of tasks, risks and milestones at any point of the project life cycle. Other types of project reports like progress reports can gather extra details that provide further insight into deliverables and performance. This data can then be distributed to the project team and stakeholders to keep them updated.

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.

The use of project management software to track projects is recommended. Online tools are updated in real time, and that data is shared throughout the software. It can then create reports with live data to help make better decisions.

Tracking the progress of projects can seem like a daunting task, but by laying out the process and planning ahead, is a pathway to success. The following are a few ways to get on the right 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. They can work with project tracking software to give project managers the details they need to hold their teams to the planned schedule and budget.

Additionally, with project tracking, it’s important to remember the triple constraint, which are time, cost and scope. The key to managing these interrelated variables is proper estimation and control. First estimate costs to create a project budget, the time that tasks will take to create a project timeline and the project scope to create the project schedule. Then control them during the execution phase by using a project tracker that allows for tracking of time, costs and tasks.

Project tracking software is the best way to keep track of projects because it monitors all the tasks associated with project and helps to stay on schedule. Most project tracker software is not used only for tasks; it can also keep track of budget and resource management.

A project tracker is useful even before the execution phase of a project. During planning, it can help manage the resources needed to complete the tasks. When in the monitoring and control stage of the project, the software can be of real assistance, providing visibility of actual progress.

Using a project tracking software is essential to manage any project. It provides a tool to control the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. Managers know when tasks are completed and that they’re not sucking up more than the allocated costs and resources.

As the execution phase progresses, it’s important to report on project progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray. Comprehensive project reports include six elements:

Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective time, cost and task tracking requires detailed information. Provide the information which is needed, even if it seems like overkill. This helps things run smoothly, and also sets groundwork for the project to be referenced as a precedent when future projects are being planned.

Report dates are the most important project status information. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.

Milestones are major touch-points for the project. They play an essential role when it comes to time tracking because they serve as a guidepost for remaining work, and the timeline for it to get done. Conducting a milestone review lets stakeholders see actual progress versus what was estimated in the project proposal.

The project summary includes a projected completion date, as well as resources and costs expended. Inclusion of issues causing delays is an important summary component. There should be a clear explanation of how these issues could affect budget and timeline, and work being done to ensure things are corrected to get the project back on track.

List issues and risks encountered, note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution. Risk assessment and risk management processes must be implemented throughout the project life cycle.

Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of the project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement. Determining metrics to measure project progress is essential for tracking tasks, time, costs and managing teams.

There are some project reporting best practices to consider:

  • Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of communications plan. However, these reports don’t have to cover everything, and be all things to all people. Writing reports in a way that delivers the right information to the right people, at the right time, should be the overarching goal. Weekly status reports are the most common to keep track of project progress.
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key. Find a format and distribution method that works for stakeholders, and stick with it. They’ll appreciate the predictability of the information they receive.
  • Set targets and measure against them: Establishing metrics is an important part of project reporting and monitoring. Accordingly, these metrics should be how project progress is measured against goals throughout its life-cycle.
  • Keep things simple: Keep reports simple to ensure effectiveness. Don’t pull in details unrelated to the issue on which you’re reporting.
  • Always verify what you’re reporting: It’s a bad idea to assume information is correct without doing due diligence to ensure it is.
  • Have some standards: Reporting simplification is made easier through creation of standards defining report structure, and how information is presented. Given this, building templates to make the work easier is a great first step.

Throughout any project, it’s important to evaluate reporting to avoid scope creep. As project teams start to work, and silos of activity develop, it’s vital to keep everyone aligned. This ensures project scope doesn’t creep.

Defining the project scope and keeping track of it must be a priority for every project manager. There are five ways to avoid scope creep:

  1. Document all project requirements: We’ve covered this at length, above.
  2. Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
  3. Create a clear project schedule: A thorough project schedule outlines project goals. It outlines tasks to be done to reach those goals. This schedule is referenced against the project plan’s requirements document to make sure everything is moving forward. If not, the schedule sets the course for tweaks or changes.
  4. Verify scope with stakeholders: It’s worthwhile during a project’s lifecycle to review scope with all stakeholders. Reviewing the schedule together, and making sure all tasks stakeholders are expecting to be done on a given timeline is also a good idea.
  5. Engage the project team: Make sure your project team is happy with how things are going throughout the project. As the change control process starts to take hold, let the team know how it will affect them. Weekly 1:1 meetings or team meetings to review tasks, and also overall project progress is a great way to keep your team engaged.

Project reporting can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taking things step-by-step can help ease anxieties among everyone involved, and ensure a winning result. Make sure you use project management software, or at least a project tracking template, to facilitate the creation of reports.

Project reporting can be tough, but also efficient with the right tools. Tool can make collaboration and development of project reports less time-consuming and more intuitive. Let us know your thoughts and methods on project tracking. All the very best on your project management journey.

Project Timeline Explained

Project Timeline

Project timelines are planning tools that allow you to organize all the activities that make up a project, in order. Create milestones, set deadlines, and manage tasks, all in one easy to view location.  Using timelines with project timeline software unlocks interactive features that dramatically improve the way they can be visualized and collaborate on projects.

Providing a visual representation, timeline are a visual list of tasks or activities placed in chronological order, which lets project managers view the entirety of the project in one place. A project timeline typically takes the form of a horizontal bar chart, where each task is given a name and a corresponding start and end date. It also provides an in-depth overview of the entire project from start to finish. When a task starts and when it’s due—and importantly, whether or not it’s dependent on another task.

Project timelines give project managers an opportunity to:

  • Organize their tasks
  • Show when in the project the tasks start
  • View task deadlines
  • Link dependent tasks
  • Break the project into phases
  • Identify team members assigned to a task

To make a thorough project timeline, follow these steps:

  • Write a project scope statement: A scope statement outlines the tasks, milestones and deliverables for the project. It’s an essential part of the project management plan and it has all the information needed for the project plan timeline
  • Make a work breakdown structure (WBS): Use this graphic tool to break down the project scope into smaller work packages. The WBS allows the visualization and organize the project’s tasks, milestones and deliverables by hierarchy to establish a chronological order
  • Identify task dependencies:  find out which of those activities are dependent on other tasks to start or end
  • Estimate task duration: Make a reasonable time estimate for each task. This is a critical step to create the project management timeline, and determine the time required to complete the project
  • Define deadlines: Determine how much time the team can spend on each task
  • Set milestones: Milestones are important dates that mark the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, which makes them an important component of a project management timeline. Milestones are reached by completing task sequences and deliverables

Project management timelines can take many different forms with varying levels of efficacy. They can be drawn by hand, or on a whiteboard, but this method is inflexible and large changes to your project might require scrapping the entire timeline.

Using a spreadsheet loaded up with macros can make for very capable, if time consuming to create, timeline. A project timeline excel template can save effort and time it takes to create the spreadsheet.

To run projects effectively and efficiently, project managers prefer project timeline software that integrates their tasks with an interactive, feature-rich Gantt chart that can schedule, assign tasks, monitor progress and report on performance. Project timeline software is more versatile than project timeline templates because it allows project managers to easily update the timeline and keep track of tasks with dashboards and reports.

As stated, software is commonly used by project managers to create their project plan timelines. Project timeline software is an integral part of the planning process and often includes additional features that help to monitor progress when executing the project.

Using project timeline software is generally regarded as a necessity for keeping a modern project on schedule. It allows managers and teams to see the status of their tasks; that is, whether they’re in progress, overdue or done.

At its most basic, project timeline software creates a graphic representation of the project on a timeline with tasks and milestones plotted across. Tasks can be assigned start and end dates, and display a duration bar that indicates the planned amount of time to complete the tasks. More powerful software offerings can also include further options to manage tasks.

Online project timeline software offers a centralized data repository in which everyone involved in the project can access the project timeline and other critical project documents and data. This means that managers and teams can access the project timeline when they need to, even if they’re working different shifts and located in different time-zones.

Every project is impacted by the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. To start controlling the time and scope part of that important triangle, create a project timeline during the planning stage.

The project timeline helps everyone on the project team by giving them a roadmap of where they are, and where they should be, at every point in the project. Timelines and schedules are essential to execute the project plan.

As planning tools, project timelines and understanding how to compose them is essential to every project manager, let us know your thoughts, tips and trick you use when creating a project timeline, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Tasks are given start and end dates and show on the timeline as a line connecting to points in time. If some of those tasks are dependent on another to start or finish, these task dependencies can be indicated on the project timeline as well.

This assists a manager by keeping those dependencies visible and preventing possible bottlenecks that could block the time during the execution of the tasks.

Work Management and managing a team’s workload

Work Management

Work management helps managers improve how they balance workloads, communicate goals and track progress. Overlooking the importance of work management is a common managerial mistake. Project management spends a lot of time on the work that must happen before any project can be executed. Researching the feasibility of the project, planning for its success, scheduling tasks, organizing resources and building a budget are all important.

Then comes the execution phase and often much of a project manager’s attention is focused on monitoring, tracking and reporting on progress and performance. While this is happening, overlooking the team can occur, when it shouldn’t.

Getting the most out of the team, making sure they have the necessary resources to match their capacity at a specific point in the project is key to maximizing productivity. To create that optimum workflow structure requires a work management methodology.

Work management is the intersection of business and team processes to structure workflow so that teams work more efficiently. It’s a way to manage the team and the way they work to assist with increased efficiencies.

This can be applied to the scope of the project or the organization of the project’s operations. Either way, the goal is to streamline these processes to better schedule tasks, meet the expectations of stakeholders, manage resources and evaluate performance to further improve productivity.

The cycle of managing work starts with identifying that work, planning and scheduling it, and then executing the work. Management of this work is important as can it improve performance.

Better performance is one of the reasons for work management, which leads to more quality deliverables on time and within budget. But work management also streamlines processes not merely to improve their performance but to reduce any redundancies that are unnecessarily taking up valuable time and money.

In short, work management is known to reduce waste. Getting rid of those activities that serve no purpose creates better projects.

But there’s more an active work management plan produces, such as fostering collaboration on tasks to work better together. Communication is the essence for all project management processes and so better communications are part of a work management program. It speaks to collaboration, but also clear direction.

Work management is about taking many of the different parts of managing a project as they relate to the team and integrating them into a system that boosts productivity. Therefore, work management touches many aspects of project management.

The elements of work management read like the features of a powerful project management tool. They incorporate resource management, collaboration, time and task management, budgeting, reporting and more. In a sense, work management is the hub around which all these spokes turn.

There are some common aspects to detail regardless of where you work. Collect these elements with the team’s involvement. The secret to a successful work management system is not to have it rigidly defined. It must be a living process that is constantly being reviewed and renewed.

Being transparent with the plan ahead, also seek feedback. This will lead to a happier, more creative and accountable team due to a building of mutual respect. Clear communication goes hand-in-glove with transparency. Good communication builds collaborative and productive teams.

Being open to feedback builds trust and retains employees, which leads to greater work productivity. Make everyone feel an integral part of the process and that their opinions are valued.

Giving the team, the tools to better collaborate is a driver to greater productivity. It also helps to solidify teams and boost morale, which in turn leads to greater productivity. This leads to trust, resources are hired for their skills and experience.

Factor to always consider is a team’s burn out, when delivering project the attrition rate of a team can be overlooked, always maintain a work life balance, without compromising the project time frame. Choose a mechanism to avoid burnout that works for the team, social events for example, collaborate with the team and determine what works.

Another problem is not dealing with issues as they arise in the project. This can be project or personnel-related. Either way, ignoring the issue will not make it go away. On the contrary, it will fester and grow, often to the point that it disrupts work.

Project Managers shouldn’t get in the way of their teams, but also need to have transparency in their work. To have access to a team management page which lists everyone, their tasks and the task percentage complete is a great help. This workload page can be used to determine if anyone is not performing because they’re over allocated. Then reallocate to free them up.

Having the tools to get a high-level view of the project with a real-time dashboard can assist. By automatically tracking project metrics and managing a team’s work load is no easy task, but following the steps mentioned should assist. Let us know your approach to managing a team, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Be SMART about benefits realization management

SMART benefits realization

Realizing the benefits, a project can bring to an organisation, is the measure of ensuring there is return on investment. This is one of the main drivers for organisations to start focusing on benefits realization. Benefits realization management is a process that is undertaken to get ready for and manage planned benefits through change. The fundamental reason for doing this is that it is possible to maximize the benefits that are realized. Taking a more structured approach to this helps to achieve it. However, many organisations do not focus effectively on benefits realization, if indeed they invest any energy into it at all. This is a problem given that the competitive environment for most businesses is intensifying, and that working towards achieving real benefits can ensure that the organisation is focused on the right activities. It is also relevant given that many projects fail and do not deliver the desired benefits.

Before exploring benefits realisation management in further depth, it is helpful to clarify what is meant by the term “benefits”. Benefits should be quantifiable and possible to measure. It is useful to make the required benefits SMART. This means making them specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time bound. Often, benefits will have either a monetary or resource value that is tangible that can be assigned to them. They should also be considered positive by one or more stakeholders. Benefits of undertaking projects usually fall into one of the following categories: increase revenues; lower costs; comply with a legal requirement; continue to deliver business as usual; or provide a tangible contribution to a business imperative. Benefits realisation management helps by turning business goals into measurable benefits that can be tracked.

SMART benefits

Benefits realisation management is important from the perspective that it helps maximise the quantifiable benefits that can be achieved for the organisation. Failing to undertake benefits realisation management is costly and means that there is a strong chance that projects are not deliver all that they could for the organisation.

Benefits realisation management is especially useful from the perspective of being able to make a good business case for the change in the first place, and in making sound business decisions on it. It enables projects to be more closely tied to business performance, and projects are more clearly linked to organisational strategic objectives. In general, this helps to drive a culture of performance in the business. Benefits realisation management is also highly beneficial in terms of making better decisions on how to invest time, resources and money within the firm. The information on the benefits realised can be shared with employees throughout the organisation, which is good for morale.

Benefits realisation management needs to be driven from the top of the organisation. It should be integrated into the process of strategic planning, to ensure that undertaking any initiative will definitely bring about quantifiable benefits that are worthwhile for the business. The focus needs to shift somewhat from outputs and deliverables, more towards benefits and value. Project managers have responsibility for driving this shift, and business leaders for ensuring that the approach is integrated within the strategic goal from the very outset.

Benefits realisation management is not a one-off event. It is something that is ongoing throughout the project or program management. Once benefits are identified, a plan for achieving each must be created. This includes prioritising different benefits and seeing if they are indeed achievable. It considers the inputs that will be needed to achieve them in terms of time and resources, including money. For example, in some cases the cost of achieving it may simply be too great to make it worthwhile. This information needs to be fed back into the strategic decision-making process, and decisions reconsidered. The project management plan dovetails with the benefits realisation process, since all projects should guide the delivering of benefits. The benefits realisation management plan ideally will also include monitoring of progress towards benefits realisation to ensure the project or program stays on track. Some benefits may be delivered faster than others, with some realised before the entirety of the project is complete. Another step is working to ensure the benefits can be sustained in the longer term.

Some organisations appoint a benefits champion to be accountable for the process throughout the project to ensure it gets followed through. This does not need to be an additional headcount. It can be a team member within the project team. Such a person can create a register of benefits and monitor the metrics to track benefit realisation for the project or program. They can also lead on engaging stakeholders in this area, finding ways to get people engaged who need to be but perhaps aren’t. Skills for such a role include good relationship building and interpersonal capabilities as well as effective communication.

Benefits realisation management helps both the strategy and the project to start with the end in mind, through aligning benefits with strategy. Having quantifiable, SMART benefits to work towards ensures that the business can achieve the desired return on investment of the project. Failing to pay attention to benefits is likely to be costly and unproductive. A benefits champion can be helpful in keeping track of benefits, monitoring progress towards achieving them and engaging stakeholders with the project or program.

Your thoughts and comments on achieving desired benefits in projects would be most welcome, please add your thoughts.