Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Project Delivery Continuum

Agile, the Dark Ages, and maintaining appreciation for project delivery as a method agnostic goal.

Agile methods have emerged and become popular over last few years as a response to perceived shortcomings of waterfall delivery model. We have seen agile proponents take an almost evangelistic approach, claiming that agile methods should be used in all cases and that those who don’t agree with them are living in the Dark Ages. Conversely, the agile approach is stomped on by some as being akin to chaos, and anyone who evangelises agile is a developer who has simply never seen a project managed properly.

Just as when you choose a courier, delivery can't be ignored in project management, whether your agile, waterfall or agnostic in delivery. Image courtesy snaillad @Flickr, re-used with permission.
Just as when you choose a courier, delivery can't be ignored in project management, whether your agile, waterfall or agnostic in delivery. Image courtesy snaillad @Flickr, re-used with permission.
There is some truth in both arguments, but devotees of the "either or" position show a fundamental lack of understanding of delivery. In truth, there is a continuum – a spectrum of project delivery, in fact, there always has been. It is simple, basic, good practice.

On the one hand you have the pure adaptive approach. Welcoming change, this approach is perfect in circumstances where there's an advantage to get something partial out now rather than everything later. Or, maybe the sponsor isn't entirely sure what they want – ok, so give it to them in bits so everyone can be sure the right approach is being taken. Or, maybe new technology is involved and we want to reduce risk by delivering iteratively.

Conversely, the culture of the environment may not be conducive to the flexibility required when delivering using an agile method – governance may be very rigid, and empowering a team maybe as likely as jumping over a house. Maybe there are very restrictive regulatory requirements that remove any chance of flexibility – or maybe the sponsor just isn't interested in a flexible approach.

In truth, it is very rarely a case of "either or". Agile practices can (and often should) be adapted in traditionally waterfall approaches, and vice-versa. For example, having weekly stand-ups in an infrastructure project where the sponsor has definite requirements and is not interested in flexibility. Or including a risk management plan to keep those overseeing regulatory aspects of delivery where an agile approach is chosen. Or delivering an individual work package in a purely agile way, where the rest of the project is waterfall.

So in practice, delivery methods form a continuum, with purely adaptive methods at one end and purely prescriptive methods at the other. As delivery professionals, we must lose the temptation to evangelise about one or other of these extremes and understand that we need to learn the skills to place our project or work package at the appropriate position in the delivery continuum, based on aspects such as what we are delivering, the nature of the team, who we are delivering to and where we are delivering it.

Steve Butler, p3m global
Steve Butler is Head of Delivery at p3m global. Steve served as co-author of the PMI Standard for Portfolio Management, 3rd Edition, and has been a key contributor to other recent PMI publications, including OPM3, 3rd Ed., and Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, earning special distinction as the only co-author based in the UK.

Image courtesy snaillad @Flickr, re-used with permission.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Conscientious Project Manager

Let me start by asking you a few questions about your attitude towards administration. We all know that some of us are better organised than others.

Even so, take a moment and answer the following questions;
  • Are you one of those PMs that is excellent at planning and managing what others do, but not so good at managing your own tasks and time?
  • Do you feel as though everything is under control, as you know all that is going on and therefore, there is no need to review or update the risk register, etc.?
  • Have you learned something useful and incorporated the lesson into the project, and so there is no need to document?
  • Are you lazy?

Buried in Paperwork? Let Derek Bland and PM-Partners help you sort out your priorities.
None of the advice below excuses the lazy – sorry, guys.

There will be some of you that need to adhere to a PM method that is document heavy, and the application is not proportionate to the size and complexity of the project. It may be that there is no company-wide method or project, programme or portfolio management (P3M, for short) standards being applied. The advice below will not get rid of this problem, but may help you to organise your time. p3m global is a Portfolio, Programme and Project Management consultancy and training company that is involved with the design and implementation of project management methods; therefore, we can help define and/or streamline your processes.

The advice below should be adjusted to your own needs and those for the project.

1. KNOW WHERE IT IS - BE ORGANISED: It is essential to be organised form the start. Ensure you have a good folder structure that helps you to find documents easily as this will save you time. An example would be to have a folder for; strategies, registers, schedules and work packages and a folder for products to be produced. Let’s be honest, communication is driven by email and so it is as important to have a similar folder structure for your emails.
2. KNOW WHAT IT IS AND WHAT THE CURRENT VERSION IS: It is imperative that you version (yes, it's a verb in this case!) your documents. A good practice for documents that are being worked on (WIP) are to use a decimal place and once approved/signed off, the version is rounded up to a whole number. This process is then repeated for all subsequent versions. Example of WIP versions, v0.1, v0.2 etc. Once signed off it becomes v1.0, followed by the next version earning a label v2.0, and so on. Another option for documents or registers is to use a date format. I like to use YYMMDD. Therefore, my Risk Register will be Risk Register, PMP Project 140131. This ensures that it will always be the latest version. Make sure you have a good naming convention for all project documents and ensure that all of those producing product documentation follow these protocols.
3. KNOW WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO DO TASKS – BE DISCIPLINED: We all know that projects in a fast-paced and or complex state can throw up urgent issues. However, it is important to schedule set times so that you can review documents - even if only a quick check - to verify that they do not need updating. Make a recurring schedule item in your calendar and add a checklist of activities to the calendar appointment. Break-up mundane activities into small manageable tasks. A simple example* might be;

4. BEWARE THE MEETING, ESPECIALLY THE IMPROMTU ONES: Meetings are necessary and can aid greatly in communication and assist in team building. However, avoid agreeing to a meeting if you feel it is for said meeting's sake. I once worked on an extremely large Government Project. The main project team took up one floor, with additional staff distributed thorough the building. The floor was open plan and so it was easy to see what was going on around you; ergo, it became easier to be distracted. I estimated that around 35% of my day could be taken up with impromptu meetings or chats at the water cooler. Do not be afraid to say that you have something urgent that you are working on and arrange a time to meet to discuss. However, consider if the meeting is really necessary or whether the person just wants a chat or the person may simply want to get something off of their chest. Although this may not be a priority for you, you should try and find some time to listen to concerns, because you never know: something productive may come out of it.
5. WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED: I am not just referring to lessons to be logged in the Lesson Log; rather the way that you work. Ensure that you actively audit yourself by taking time to reflect and think about;
      • How have you been perceived in a particular instance; did you try something new which worked, could you have communicated better? Did you provide information to the correct level of detail and in the correct format?
      • How well have you managed your time? Could you have performed some tasks more quickly without compromising quality? Were some of the meeting necessary or did they drag on too long and how could you improve this the meeting next time? Remember you are the Project Manager, many of the team will want to learn from you. Anything that you can learn for yourself needs to be acted upon and so log it – learn it – embed it.
* - Please note that the above list is a very simple example and does not negate the need to update or review project documentation as required. The very act of recording a risk or issue often promotes ideas on how best to deal with it.

Derek Bland is Project Management Consultant & Trainer at p3m global. His experience includes consultancy on design and delivery of bespoke Project Management methods, conducting Project Audits and advising PMs on best practice improvements. As a trainer, Derek delivers on a variety of Project Management Courses, including PRINCE2 and MSP.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Project Management: An Exercise in Common Sense

Steve Butler PMP lays out what Project Management means to him (and PM-Partners) in conjunction with the exciting Shim Marom-inspired #pmflashblog initiative. In short, Steve feels that project management requires a lot of planning, and some common sense, too.

Project management is all about change. Strip out all the latest fads, standards and gimmicks and at its heart all project management really boils down to is a risk mitigation exercise when you are trying to effect change – be it deliver a product or a service or an update.

Keep that thought at the front of your mind when managing a project, and everything becomes common sense. You are changing something, and you want to get it right. So what do you need to consider?p3m global flashblog from Steve Butler, PMP - Project Management: An Exercise in Common Sense
Well, you need to make sure "it" is the right thing…so some sort of requirements gathering exercise and scoping exercise is needed so you can hit the target. 

To do that you need to make sure you are talking to the right people to find out the right information, and to make sure you are keeping the right people up to speed with what you are doing – so some sort of communications management and stakeholder happiness plan needs to be in place. Obviously when you gather the requirements and define the scope, a budget and a timeline needs to be defined and managed, and how they progress needs to be communicated (hence having a communications plan). Within the timeline will be milestones and deliverables and some sort of mechanism for delivering them and reviewing the milestones. Part of making sure you hit the target is making sure the quality of what you are doing is acceptable, so some sort of plan to manage that is necessary.

You can think about assembling the team, and keeping them happy and efficient. If you’re not sure exactly what you’re doing, maybe deliver in bits and make sure you are heading in the right direction by regularly reviewing with someone who knows what is required. Maybe regularly review with the team to make sure they are doing the right thing and have no blockers you don’t know about. We could call that basic concept, oh I don’t know, Agile? A concept that has been around for decades, but now has a name!

Project Management – an exercise in common sense.

Steve Butler is Head of Delivery at p3m global. He was a Co-author of the PMI Standard for Portfolio Management, 3rd Edition, and has been a key contributor to other recent PMI publications, including OPM3, 3rd Ed., and Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition. earning special distinction as the only co-author based in the UK. Join the PMI Portfolio Management debate on our LinkedIn Group page - hosted by Steve - today.

The Pitfalls of Project Estimating and How to Avoid Them

Estimating is undoubtedly one of the most complex tasks in project management. There are various, damning statistics published on the failure of projects to deliver within time and/or cost and suffice to say they don’t look good. This fact remains despite the various tools and techniques at the project manager’s disposal. The list of pitfalls below is neither exhaustive nor a panacea to answering all of your estimating challenges; rather, it’s a checklist that you should keep in mind when planning and estimating.

One scenario that cannot be reconciled by the advice below is where a high level guess is made by management and expected to be adhered to without more detailed scoping and activity planning. This top-down approach can often be aligned to the "just do it" (JDI) approach – "here’s your budget, JDI". You reply, "But what about, but what about, but what about..." At this point you receive some great advice: "work harder, work smarter, work faster" Sorry, but I can’t help you there. Just remember: if any of your constraints are not balanced, then something’s gotta give.

Pitfall 1: Uninformed or partially informed Guessing or Ball parking. How much will it cost to build a five-bedroom house? The answer is, it depends:

  • What is in scope?
  • What size does the house need to be?
  • Does it include landscaping the garden?
  • Does the project include decorating and light fittings and, and…?"

Whilst all of this may seem obvious, accurate estimates are reliant upon sufficient understanding of the requirements. Be especially careful when you hear the words, "give me a ballpark now, I won’t hold you to it" – get this in writing!!! I must admit to having asked for ballparks on many occasions both for projects and in home life. I recently asked several builders how much it would cost to build a 2-storey extension of X square feet. However, when I ask for a ballpark, I accept that this is based on a very loose specification but at least it provides me with a range of figures to enable me to make an initial decision on whether to investigate further. Let’s be honest, it is also not easy to hold a builder to an estimate.
As Pitfall 2 points out, one peril of project estimation can get down to not just the customer's explanation of what they want, and the project manager's true understanding of what they actually need.

Pitfall 2: Failure to help the customer define what they want and how much they are willing to spend. Many customers have a high level understanding of what they want but are not always able to articulate the detail of what they want or more precisely what they need. It is one of the project manager’s responsibilities to help the customer to define what they want/need. The definition of requirements needs to be coupled with how much the customer is willing to spend. It would be nice to hear, "money is no object" but this is extremely rare if not non-existent. Therefore, there is no point defining the building of an ocean liner when the customer is only willing to pay for a dinghy. I have seen the results of a detailed tender which took many man hours, only to discover that the customer’s budget was a fraction of what the scope covered by the tender would have cost.

Pitfall 3: Misunderstanding quotes and estimates. A quote is a fixed price whereas an estimate is an approximation. Where a customer asks for a quote, it is essential to ensure that you fully understand what you are quoting for. In the example of the five-bedroom house above, we would need to know, amongst many, many other things, if the quote should include the decorating, landscaping of the garden and much more. So often, fixed-price contracts are agreed without sufficient investigation and definition of the requirements. Significant caution should be applied especially where you or your organisation are keen to win business. In this instance it is imperative you spend a little more time detailing and agreeing the scope at the start. The additional time spent up front could save you from a loss making project later. I have been involved in projects where the scope was not sufficiently defined and ended up costing us considerably more than it should have.

Pitfall 4: Not identifying the activities/tasks. Larger projects are very difficult to plan in detail at the start. Where this is the case it is important for all parties to understand that the margins for error are greater and therefore, the more change control and wiggle-room or tolerance that is required. Remember, the more you can break down the activities the more accurate your estimates will be. One of the biggest mistakes made is in failing to identify project management activities required to deliver the project. This includes not only the Project Managers activities but those of the teams such as reporting progress, meetings, phone calls and emails. Consider researching Maximum Available Productivity (MAP) to get a better understanding of how much of a day is spent on project work and how much on other tasks. I was involved in a project where the customer was a global organisations and the business we did with them very important to the company. Prior to joining the project a fixed-price had been agreed. The deliverables had not been sufficiently defined and so what may have been initially envisaged and what the customer wanted were a little out of sync. In addition, whilst the key stakeholder was great to deal with, they were very particular and would ask for multiple minor changes after the initial review rounds. Some would only take an hour or so but when you add in the emails, phone calls, meetings, reformatting and other activities, it adds up to quite a significant number of days.

Pitfall 5: Good Padding and Bad Padding. Before you shout, "no, padding should be allowed, it is always bad", let me clarify what I mean. Good padding is taking into account activities that do not easily sit on a projects schedule and that these need to be allowed for when estimating. Bad padding is where a PM automatically adds time so as to come under budget knowing that the quote is excessively padded. Whilst this may work on one or two projects you will eventually get caught out. I am usually a cautious PM as previous experience has shown me that to immediately agree to time and cost estimates without fully understanding each deliverable and the tasks, is at best poor and for experienced project manager's, dare I say it, unprofessional. This pitfall should be considered with almost all of the other pitfalls in this post.

Pitfall 6: Failure to learn lessons. I think it is fair to say that there are many project managers that research lessons from similar past projects. However, in my experience, sadly these are in the minority. It is imperative that you look to lessons learned from similar past projects to ensure that you learn not only estimating errors but other issues that you may be able to avoid and that will save you time and money. Learning lessons is equally important during your project, especially if it is a long and/or a multi-staged project. Lessons from earlier work can be applied to estimating future tasks to ensure improved accuracy. I have worked for companies that make the same mistake time after time and wonder why there projects are always over time and budget.

Pitfall 7: Not knowing a reasonable cost. There may be elements of work on the project hat are unfamiliar to you and your team and that require the services of an external supplier. Where this is the case, you need to ensure you do your homework and know what a fair rate is. I was looking on eBay recently for fuel containers, and was amazed at how the price differed for precisely the same container. The lowest price was £9.99 and the highest £29.99. I am serious, this was for exactly the same product.

Pitfall 8: Failing to include the subject matter expert (SME). It is essential to include the SME when estimating. After all, they will be the ones that know the work or managing the work and therefore, their invaluable experience is a crucial input when planning and preparing estimates. I have experienced both the good and the bad. In one organisation I worked for, bids from sales would include input from the experienced project manager and SMEs to ensure an accurate quote was provided. In other organisations, the sales and other management have decided on a time and cost without full consultation with the SME. This actually resulted in the deliverables taking longer and ultimately costing the supplier more money. One reason for this may be that their ego dictates that they should know. Why should they know? A manger will not always understand the minutia to create a deliverable and should make the use of the experience of their team. Good managers and leaders understand that no one has a monopoly on ideas and utilises and publicises ideas from within their team.

Pitfall 9: Failing to allow for bias, pessimistic and optimistic. The project manager needs to be aware of their own bias and that of management and the project team. Pessimistic bias is where an individual tends to add additional time as they always consider it will take more time or something will go wrong. Let's not malign this character too readily. They often have valid reasons for this approach, most likely gained form the experience of the JDI approach mentioned above or they can see vast chasms in the detailing of the scope. This needs to be balanced against the Optimistic bias or "rose coloured spectacles". This happy-go-lucky character tends to believe that everything is easy or simple and that more can be achieved than is realistic. An example is where an SME is asked how long it will take to perform a number of activities. They quote based on them performing the task and in perfect conditions, without considering the experience of the individual(s) involved in performing the task. The most dangerous of the optimists are those that want to be seen to have a "can do attitude". A "can do attitude" is essential for a project manager, but as with many of these thrown-around terms, it needs to be balanced with realism. I recall one particular colleague that would always say, "Oh, I can knock that up in a couple of days". Whilst this was occasionally achieved, it was rare for the original estimate to be met. They also had a high sick rate without having any specific medical condition. There is also the poor soul who wants to impress and so underquotes with the intention of working almost 24/7. Invariably, this person will burn out and again watch their sick record.

In conclusion, estimating is a tough challenge. This post is not intended to cover all potential estimating pitfalls, but does provide you with a list of what I have found to be some of the main problems in estimating. Keep these in mind and with the use of this advice and the right estimating techniques and tools, I am convinced your estimating will improve.

Derek Bland is Project Management Consultant & Trainer at p3m global. His experience includes consultancy on design and delivery of bespoke Project Management methods, conducting Project Audits and advising PMs on best practice improvements. As a trainer, Derek has worked in PRINCE2 and MSP environments and delivered on a variety of project management courses.

The Stethoscope of Your Potential: 5 Reasons to Take Your P3M Pulse

Do you truly understand what your project management team's potential is?

Image courtesy 401(k) 2013 @Flickr, re-used with permission
When you consider this, it's crucial to understand that when it comes to training budgets and allocation for companies, there is often high regard for the hot button course that can solve the problems. The perspective takes hold more often than not: "PRINCE2 is synonymous with project management. Let's get everyone on a course." Picked it + learned it = back to work with a certificate in tow. So you'd think.

But whither the days, weeks, months and first year after? Fact is, the everyday measurable results of those courses (aside from those that earned the passing grade) need to be followed up on: what did you get for all of that? Higher ups, quite reasonably, are going to want to know things like:

  •  - What did that course net your company?
  •  - Were the principles taught even applied in your working methodology, or are you faced with an 'in n scenario?
  •  - Was it a good spend of our resources? Are we getting a good ROI? Minimal? NONE WHATSOEVER!?!?

Take heart: you can avoid these budgetary Doomsday scenarios from the get go, thanks in part to our P3M-Pulse Capability Assessment Suite. Before you are five crucial reasons why a Capability Assessment with the heartbeat of your project capabilities makes sense and pence that brings you the returns you're looking for:
  1. Quick to Deploy With a Low Cost of Entry - The online service of the suite from P3M-Pulse means you can establish a fast turnaround of service, complete with a simple per person pricing model.
  2. Accurate from Project Assistant to Programme Director - P3M-Pulse Capability Assessment Suite prides itself on its ability to assess, measure & report on anyone or any size of project team, regardless of company size, team member experience or familiarity with the team.
  3. Improved Resource Management - With P3M-Pulse Reports, you'll walk away with a better appreciation for the personnel you have. Namely, our reporting highlights team member strengths and even unearths potential you may not have known existed. As a result, you can allocate the right people to the most accurately corresponding projects, based on the understood areas of expertise.
  4. Personal Development Plans That Align With Business Goals - Remember the PRINCE2 example from the opening? Turns out that some of those people might have been better suited for a different course: Project Management Fundamentals, PMP, Management of Value - anything, it turned out, but PRINCE2. If you choose P3M-Pulse, our results and recommendations will help define clear areas for improvement and associated training plans which can be aligned with the company's overall HR improvement goal. So you can attack training with a plan for what you need, as opposed to irrelevant courses that care-free, dis-invested trainers in the market are pushing left and right with complete disregard for what your company's values and business goals really are.
  5. P3M-Pulse is the Smart, Cost-Effective Way to Budget for Training Needs - With individual and team reports and training / improvement plans that benefit the project delivery as a whole, you'll realise clear cost saving by only spending on targeted training in known areas of weakness. And, oh yes: the training it turns out you're really looking for?
Identify Individual and Team Strengths & Weaknesses for Better Project Delivery - take your P3M-Pulse

Dan Strayer leads the Marketing department at p3m global. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+, and be sure to check out PM-Pulse on their new Google+ page today.
Image courtesy 401(k) 2013 @Flickr, re-used with permission.

The Ins, Outs and In-Betweens on the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner

So why is there yet another "agile" course, and what is the point of it? Well, in just the 12 months from mid-2010, the number of PMI members using agile practices rose from 12% to a staggering 27% (according to a PMI survey of its membership). In response to this increase, PMI assembled a working group of industry thought leaders and authors (not just PMI folks) to study how and if PMI should respond.

During the first few meetings, only one of the group felt that the PMI should have a certification, and over the months it became clear that there wasn't a common understanding across organisations of what agile means anyway. In some organisations, agile simply meant Scrum, in others it was XP, in others it was Scrum with a bit of XP or with kanban thrown in. It was clear that a certification was needed that clarified the core of what agile means and created a common language and understanding of principles across organisations. The PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) was developed.

There are other agile certifications of course, such as DSDM, plus all of the specific certifications for agile developers, such as Certified Scrum Master etc. Where the PMI-ACP differs is that it demonstrates to colleagues, organisations or even potential employers an awareness of all aspects of agile - not just in, for example, Scrum. It is a globally recognised certification that demonstrates that practitioners are able to use agile techniques and most crucially apply them in the correct circumstances – at the time of writing it is also the fastest growing PMI certification out there.

The PM-Partners course is intended for teams and project managers at varying stages of agile adoption who need an immersion session in the how to manage an agile project. It explores a wide range of agile techniques while also preparing the participants to sit for the PMI-ACP exam. Certified practitioners will then be able to demonstrate to their organisations and colleagues when and how best to use agile techniques, and not just focus on Scrum in all circumstances.

- Some frequently asked questions about the PMI-ACP certification
The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) page
The official PMI-ACP Handbook (online PDF)

    Steve Butler is Head of Delivery at PM-Partners. He was a Co-author of the PMI Standard for Portfolio Management, 3rd Edition, and has been a key contributor to other recent PMI publications, including OPM3, 3rd Ed., and Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, earning special distinction as the only co-author based in the UK. Join the PMI Portfolio Management debate on our LinkedIn Group page - hosted by Steve - today.

    Project Neglect: Four Overlooked Tasks for Starting Projects

    I'd like to focus on four tasks from the start of a project that are often neglected or performed superficially, but done well can make a key difference to the smooth running of the project.
    1. Risk identification and analysis
    Image courtesy Todd Dailey (twid) @Flickr, re-used with permission
    Getting a project started is rarely as easy as it appears - especially when your appreciation for the four taks discussed at let is, at best, cosmetic. Image courtesy Todd Dailey (twid) @Flickr, re-used with permission.
    Early risk identification is key to project success. The high level risks should be identified as part of the bid response process, along with their potential impacts on the project scope, timescales and costs. This information can then be used to update the business case for the project and to tailor the bid response appropriately. The project risks may significantly impact the business case; in extreme cases the risk identification may cause the project bid to be cancelled.
    In planning, a full risk identification exercise should be carried out with the project team and input also sought from the project stakeholders.
    This provides early visibility of potential risks and their impacts. The project manager then has the information to run the project in a way that reduces the likelihood of their occurrence and mitigates their impact.

    2. Stakeholder identification and analysis
    A key measure of project success is the satisfaction of the project stakeholders. The project can deliver the required deliverables, on time and in budget, yet still be considered a failure if the stakeholders are unhappy with the outcome. Equally, projects that were late and over budget can still be perceived as successful if the stakeholders are satisfied. It is therefore vitally important to identify all the project stakeholders when initiating the project and to document their interests, impact and communication needs. The stakeholders can then be appropriately engaged during the project life-cycle, maximising their satisfaction with the project.
    3. Complexity analysis
    A project complexity level can be obtained by analysing criteria such as the project price, technical complexity and clarity of the scope. Defining a complexity level for a project enables selection of a suitably experienced project manager and appropriate internal governance. The complexity level also determines the project management effort and documentation to be specified, included in the contract and communicated to the customer. This communication is vital. Project management effort and documentation are often poorly defined, yet where the customer clearly understands what they will receive then the potential for conflict over the scope is considerably reduced.
    4. Quality planning
    Checking that the project deliverables have appropriate acceptance testing is highly important, but this testing by itself should nor form the entirety of the project quality management. There is a significant omission; the quality of the project management must also be planned, monitored and controlled. The quality of the project management can be determined through actions such as reviews of the project by the steering committee and customer satisfaction surveys. Quality processes appropriate to the project should be defined during project planning, and included in the project schedule to ensure that they are carried out. The quality of the whole project is then measured, understood, and if necessary, can be corrected and lessons learned documented for future projects.

    Katharine Thornber, p3m globalKatharine Thornber is a Project Management Consultant for PM-Partners. Her track record has allowed Katharine to develop particular expertise in matters related to product management, project management, programme management and engineering. Katharine is PRINCE2 certified and has worked previously in the telecommunications industry. For more on her blog posts and other posts from the P3M Blog, be sure to connect with our group on LinkedIn.

    Does Effective PM = Positive Impact on P&L and Balance Sheets?

    Most of us are all too familiar with the benefits of effective project management. Here's nine of them:
    1. Structured and consistent approach in managing and executing projects in line with project management triple constraints & customer / stakeholder expectations
    2. Delivering projects in line with Quality of Delivery, Cost / Budget, and Time, and aligning projects to business strategy, justifying business cases, and stakeholder buy-in
    3. Opportunity to expand and achieve better efficiency in delivering services
    4. Improved / Increased / Enhanced Customer Satisfaction
    5. Alignment of Projects with company strategy and business objectives
    6. Enhanced Effectiveness in Delivering Services
    7. Improved Growth and Development within your Project Management Teams
    8. Greater Standing and Competitive Edge
    9. Increased Risk Assessment, Strengthened Quality Control and Overall Quantity of Delivered Projects
    But what about the impact that effective project management can have on a company's P&L? I believe this is a point that is often overlooked, and has become a source of contention about the justification of PMOs and their direct impact on the business. According to recent statistics, the average life-span of PMOs has regressed to just four years due to executive management's perception (rightly or wrongly justified) about their direct impact on business results and business objectives.

    Long story short...

    Effective Project Management can have a direct impact on:
    • Revenue (from service delivery projects)
    • Direct Cost of Sales (effective deployment and pricing of service delivery resources)
    • Indirect Cost of Sales (effective deployment of project management outsourcing / subcontracting)
    • Operating Expenses (effective mix of in-house project management resources, and outsourced project management resources in times of excessive demand to deliver projects)
    • CAPEX (ROI from capital asset project expenditures can be substantially increased through effective project, programme, and portfolio management)
    What are your thoughts? Is the impact of effective project management on P&L and Balance Sheet transparent in your company?

    We look, in our client engagements, to ensure that with increasing organisational maturity levels, Programme Offices, or PMOs, are fully integrated in the organisation, not only as project approving, monitoring, and executing bodies; but as functionaries & change architects / agents, as a catalyst and source of "out of the box thinking". It is an extended arm of the executive committee for strategy execution, and the arm of an organization that wants to have a direct impact on business results & objectives.
    We help our clients implement project management globally or locally across the organization thereby creating a strategic value chain that enhances competitive advantage through:
    • Improved organizational effectiveness / responsiveness to change management, restructures, in delivering mission critical internal and external (customer) projects within time, scope, and cost constraints — higher levels of customer satisfaction and customer retention!!
    • Speed of execution of strategic initiatives, in post-acquisition integration of structures, systems, and processes - improved time to market!!
    • Improved skills of project management resources, effective organizational structures (e.g. PMO), project transparency, and project portfolios aligned to Strategy, and Business Objectives.
    • Improved basis for valuing, prioritizing, and assessing cost, risk, benefits of projects and programs.
    • Substantial savings in Operating Expenses in utilizing experienced PM-Partners certified project management resources on an "as needed" basis.
    So what can our project management training, consultancy and delivery services do for your business? Get in touch today.
    Lee Sargeant, p3m global

    Lee Sargeant is the Managing Director DACH Region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) for p3m global.

    PRINCE2: 2009 - Five Years On

    PRINCE2® is the de facto standard for project management developed by the UK government, used in the UK and across the world. Developed by project management specialists and a review panel of public and private sector organisations (whilst taking into account user based improvements), it has grown into a tailorable best practice tool that is suitable for use on any project.

    As the PRINCE2: 2009 update approaches its 5th Anniversary, AXELOS want your feedback on making it better.

    Photo courtesy giulia.forsythe @Flickr, and reused with permission.
    The last edition was published in 2009 which represented an evolution of the previous manuals. The basic method remained the same, but by building on feedback from users, the 2009 edition aimed to be more accessible and easier to tailor. For project sponsors or directors, this represented a revolution in that the guidance was divided into two;

    - Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 for project managers and;
    - Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 to give project board members a role-specific guide targeted for their needs.

    Now after five years the guidance is due for a revision.

    AXELOS, the new joint venture between the UK Government’s Cabinet Office and Capita plc, are currently hosting a survey on PRINCE2®, from which they will analyse the results and validate with the user community. They will then seek to involve Accredited Training Organizations (like us) and User Communities in the process to formulate plans around the need and nature of any revisions to the guidance.

    If you have not as yet completed the survey, you may do so at The survey should take about 40 minutes to complete, depending on how many comments that are left.

    Mike Austin is the Lead Trainer for p3m global. His track record is that of a highly motivated Project Management Trainer who has an outstanding understanding of the PRINCE2® methodology and M_o_R® management of risk methodology and the ability to successfully communicate it to others. Get in touch with Mike via email today.

    The London Olympics 2012: A View on Lesson's Learned

    The Olympics 2012 are nearly upon us. Of course the fact that it is right on our doorstep this year makes it all the more exciting. We expect 205 nations to take part in 300 events and 147 nations will take part in the Paralympic Games. The Olympic Delivery Authority is highly focused on the immovable deadline of 27th July 2012 and effective risk management in the preparation and run up to the event. They will have been relying on lessons learned from the previous events in Beijing, Sydney and Athens to ensure that similar mistakes are not repeated and any successes are realised early on. Here we look at project management in a large scale operation like the Olympics and the importance of acting on lessons learned.

    Lessons learned surrounding the Olympics will include the need for thorough requirement gathering, documenting developments and clarity surrounding measures applied to the workforce data and scoping development changes. There is also a need to demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions, the need for independent audit, and the importance of clear communication surrounding the point of data capture and effective escalation procedures.

    The ultimate goal of any project however is to execute and deliver whatever has been planned and promised – on time and within budget and scope. The challenges of delivery will always be present regardless of how conscientious we have been in anticipating possible scenarios and events. Thus, failure at some point is something that is inevitable.

    The likes of Usain Bolt can relate to Derry Simmel's words: Time spent in doing the work better is time well spent.

    In his book "Lessons Learned: Why Don't we Learn From Them?" board member of the PMI’s PMO SIG, Derry Simmel states "Time spent in doing the work better is time well spent". This statement supports that getting it right the first time is cheaper and easier than doing it and then fixing it later. If we accept that lessons from past projects are indeed useful then we can prevent the same problems occurring in future projects. The challenge is encouraging organisations to create a lessons learned culture where people not only take the trouble to learn from past projects, but actually want to learn - a culture where we apply best practices and discard bad ones.

    If project managers are going to actively contribute to the project management knowledge within an organisation and make use of it, it's important to have a well-defined and simple process for collecting, collating, analysing, disseminating and acting upon lessons learned. Here we have a few suggestions:

    Discover – Project teams should learn to identify lessons during projects and record them for inclusion in a lessons learned report at the end of the project. It is also important to note that lessons learned should be leveraged during the life cycle of the project, for example at phase boundaries as well as at the end so the project has a chance to learn from its own lessons. Lessons can be discovered by asking these three questions:

    • What went right?
    • What went wrong?
    • What could have been better?

    Recommend – Project managers and their teams should make recommendations. What would they do differently if they could go back and start over again? This needs a degree of honesty and the feedback needs to be constructive in order to understand how things could be done better in the future. Lessons learned need to be applied into our daily lives of managing projects as we move forward.

    Document and Share – It is important to document and share findings. The best way to do this is by creating a standard lessons learned report and a repository with good meta-data to help with identification. This should be kept updated with lessons from the most recent projects in order to take account of the current working environment, structures and constraints.

    Review – It is the job of the Project Management Office (PMO) to review lessons learned reports and pull out issues that arise multiple times. The PMO must look at what makes projects succeed and what makes them fail, and give recommendations that sit alongside those of the project teams.

    Store and Retrieve – Lessons learned must be stored in a central repository with general access. Project managers should be expected to retrieve and review lessons prior to commencing a project. They should have this as part of their annual performance objectives and be able to demonstrate they have retrieved, reviewed and applied lessons wherever applicable.

    Act – It is all very well capturing and storing lessons learned but if no-one takes responsibility for acknowledging or acting on them then the process of documenting the lessons becomes pointless and redundant. Acting on lessons learnt is the key to learning from previous mistakes and making significant improvements to the project in hand.

    Lessons Learnt From Previous Olympics – With regards to our own Olympic Games in London, there will be ample opportunity for short term gain. Both the Beijing and Sydney Olympic Games taught us not to be fooled by the location of the Games and assume it will only affect the east of London; it is likely day to day activities will be affected throughout the whole of London and surrounding areas. Rising rents in London have already been picked up on by the UK press, and no doubt rents in and around East London will continue to rise as demand will be elevated. Although, whilst taking advantage of a short term gain looks tempting, it is important to bear in mind that there will probably be a big fall on the other side.

    In Sydney and Beijing, roads and transport suffered the greatest impact due to closures and the amount of traffic causing delays. Similarly transport problems remain "one of the biggest risks" to the 2012 Olympic Games according to a London Assembly report (April 2011). Dedicated temporary lanes, similar in appearance and function to bus lanes, will be assigned for the use of official Olympic vehicles and emergency services only. The level of London traffic needs to be taken into account when organising travel and the likelihood is that journey time frames will need to be extended.

    The projects related to the London Olympic Games are continuously providing new lessons worth learning. p3m global, located on the sunny south coast, are lucky in the fact that they are not only just an hour from the main Olympic events in London but are also close by to the sailing that will be taking place in Weymouth. The coastline and popular New Forest area is renowned for its traffic jams and tail backs during the busy summer period and that is without the addition of a popular Olympic event being based in the region. It is true to say that the transport delay risk will inevitably extend outside of London in July and August and we will therefore be learning from this lesson and planning our journey times accordingly.

    Off the topic of transport, it has been reported that UK immigration is already starting to get busier due to processing Olympic-related applications, which include those related to tourists, business, sports and entertainment. There may also be an increase in employment-related visas for companies who are supporting the Olympics and need to temporarily relocate their employees to the UK. In line with current practice, advance planning is advised where possible and UK visas should be applied for within three months before the date of travel.

    Looking more specifically at the London 2012 construction programme, there are already a number of themes emerging which have been recorded for future projects. We must recognise that no two megaprojects are the same and that programme-specific characteristics will inevitably shape the appropriate organisational structure and management style. For example, the London 2012 construction programme contained a wide variety of individual projects (requiring a flexible approach to project procurement and contracting). Nevertheless, there are four key lessons that have been identified by the Olympic Delivery Authority*:

    • Invest in comprehensive project and programme management processes. Stay in the right lane to learn lessons given by previous projects.
    • Find a way to create an intelligent and broad-capability client.
    • Secure 'full funding' (having a realistic programme to work from helps to create the right culture from the off);
    • Invest in human resources and organisational development – to build skills, relationships and a supportive culture.
    • Creation of a successful lessons learned culture needs leadership support as well as time and buy-in from project managers. Implementation of a simple process for collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating lessons learned is essential if it's to be adopted.

    Once lessons have been captured, they need to be made available to all project teams to help them avoid repeating problems of the past. It is important that these teams understand what past projects have to tell them and act upon that information. History has a strange way of repeating itself. If we don't take the time to learn the lessons of the past, and moreover act upon them, we will continue to commit the same project management sins again and again.

    Project management is a game of endurance, persistence and vision. The factors to "win" at project management are not dissimilar from those required to win a race at the Olympics. The athletes taking part in the London 2012 will have trained hard, set tangible targets and goals, managed their schedule, assessed the risks, learnt from their mistakes, capitalised on what works well and tried to avoid anything that led to past failure. The stakes and stress levels are high and team morale plays a vital role in crossing the finish line.

    There is little difference between running a good race and running a good project. Success is the result of having a plan and the determination to do something to the best of our ability. Without having to learn, growth cannot not be achieved and whilst it often takes time, energy and determination, no victory is sweeter than one you have had to work hard for.

    *Source: Lessons Learned from the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games Construction Programme – Ian Mackensie 7 Andrew Davies
    This blog post was published on the PM-Partners Blog 12th June 2012.

    Helen Carter served previously as a Consultant at p3m global (then known as PM-Partners EMEA). She now works as a project manager for Zurich Insurance.

    A New Day Awaits With p3m global

    We're heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrre!
    Project people, get ready - it's time to empower your business change potential and optimise your delivery capabilities.
    We are p3m global - project, programme and portfolio management for empowering change & optimising delivery.

    Thursday, 15 May 2014

    The 5W-How on Earning the PfMP

    "What is portfolio management? I hear you say...Basically, making sure you are doing as much of the right stuff as you can – and demonstrating that you are doing it." - Steve Butler

    Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the Portfolio Management Professional certification process from Steve Butler, PMP

    Project portfolio management is an emerging practice which most people acknowledge is going to be a key topic throughout 2014 and beyond. The PMI’s Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP) qualification is now live, and with nearly 1,000 people already going through the application process it is already proving popular – so for this session we thought we would give a bit more explanation as to how and why to apply, and what the process is.


    The requirements for even being able to apply for the PfMP are strict – and necessarily so, since portfolio management is focussed on the more advanced concepts of aligning the investment in PPM and operational activity with a corporate (or in some cases departmental) strategy. So you need to know what you’re doing and be able to show you know what you’re doing! The credential is aimed at the seasoned practitioner, so applicants need to possess four to seven years of CONCURRENT project portfolio management experience, and at least eight to ten years of general business experience.

      - Establishing a governance model;
      - Defining and/or modifying portfolio processes, and;
      - Procedures to ensure effective governance, or;
      - Maybe even where you have determined portfolio management standards, protocols, policies, rules, and best practices in order to establish consistent portfolio management practices.
    * - Years of concurrent project portfolio management experience means just that: years managing portfolios. means, as an example: if you managed a portfolio for two years, and then managed a different portfolio for three years but the final year of the first portfolio and the first year of the second portfolio overlap – that means you have four years concurrent experience rather than five).


    The whole process is involved, and lays out in two stages. First is an evaluation of the application, followed by a formal exam, as follows:
    PfMP Requirements and Pre-Requisites

    ALSO: ALL applicants must have a minimum of 8 years (96 months) of professional business experience.
    The application form is complicated, and you will be required to list your experience (both portfolio management and business, separately), so it will take you a while. In detailing your portfolio management experience, it is vital you give specific examples of what you have done and how you have done it and who you have done it to, under the five headings for each of the five domains of portfolio management as follows:

    Strategic Alignment – This is an analysis of your experience in aligning a portfolio to specific strategic goals. You should focus on such things as identify prioritization criteria, rank strategic priorities, identifying various portfolio scenarios by reviewing documentation (business cases/proposals, using business planning analysis techniques – and so on).
    Governance – This is where you list your experience in ensuring a portfolio is effectively managed, or in securing authorisation for executing a portfolio. Think about areas such as:
    What’s more, perhaps you have experience of creating a portfolio management plan to ensure effective and efficient portfolio management. There is a lot to it.
    Performance Management – Managing the performance of a portfolio to ensure it runs as efficiently as possible is another domain that you will need to show evidence of your experience in. Here, the panel will be looking for details such as evidence of you collecting and consolidating key performance metrics, or maybe in managing portfolio changes using change management techniques. Perhaps you’ve analysed and conducted the allocation/reallocation of resources (e.g., people, tools, materials, technology, facilities and financials), or monitored the performance of a portfolio’s performance on an ongoing basic. All with specific examples, of course.
    Risk – Always crucial. Here, the panel will be looking for evidence of specific portfolio level risk management (not programme and not project level – there is a big difference!). Think about your experience in things like determining the acceptable level of risk for a portfolio, or maybe performing a dependency analysis. Perhaps you have developed a portfolio-level risk register or had to create a common understanding and stakeholder ownership of portfolio risks (often a challenge!).
    Communications – last but not least, you will need to describe your experience in engaging with stakeholders to make sure there expectations are met, or developing the communications strategy for a portfolio. Engage stakeholders, through oral and written communication, to ensure awareness and foster support for the success of the portfolio roadmap. Think about how you maintained your communication strategy and plan, or how you made sure what you were telling your stakeholders was accurate, consistent, and complete….again with specific examples.
    Remember: you could very well be audited on this information, so don’t tell porkies as you’ll be wasting your time and that of others. Also: your application will be reviewed by a panel of experts so try not to bluff; you’ll be found out. If you have not got the relevant experience, you will fall short at the final step, as you’ll fail the exam anyway. It is that tough. You will need to sit the exam before the date you are given when you complete the application and it is accepted by the panel. From that point forward, you usually have a year. Do know that you won’t have to pay a fee until after you have successfully applied.

    Good luck – go for it!

    This blog post was originally published at the PM-Partners blog, 23rd January 2014.

    Steve Butler is Head of Delivery at p3m global. He was a Co-author of the PMI Standard for Portfolio Management, 3rd Edition, and has been a key contributor to other recent PMI publications, including OPM3, 3rd Ed., and Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, earning special distinction as the only co-author based in the UK. Join the PMI Portfolio Management debate on our LinkedIn Group page - hosted by Steve - today.

    10 Reasons Why Project Management is like Cricket

    It is the time of year when, all over the English countryside, you can start to hear the gentle thwack of leather on willow in the parks, beside the pubs and on the village greens. With the recent success of the England Cricket Team and the advent of the domestic cricket season my thoughts turn to some of the similarities it shares with another great love of mine (or profession, at least), project management.

    Cricket parallels project management in so many different ways.

    The obvious first thing is that nobody understands either of them! Cricket is famed for its complex nature and very few people understand the true scope and value of what a project manager does. But here's a light-hearted look at how they compare in other ways:

    1. There are clear boundaries – Round the edge of the field the difference between 1&2 runs and 4 or 6 runs is a clearly defined boundary. Similarly your projects should have a crystal clear scope so there is no dispute over what has or hasn't been delivered.
    2. You have limited resources – The fielding team only has 11 men to deploy around the field. The Captain must balance these resources to achieve the best results. He must make sure his best people are in the most critical positions, such as the slips, but needs also account for the risk of a stray ball to long-on. Similarly a PM needs to allocate their best resources to the most critical tasks but be ready to divert them to troublesome areas in the project. It's also important to balance the portfolio. The captain and selectors must balance the team in the right way to achieve their goals. When selecting a team this involves finding the right ratio of bowlers to batsmen or slow and steady run accumulators to aggressive and free-scoring impact players. This is similar to the role of the project portfolio manager trying to pick the right mix of projects in the portfolio to spread risk and maximise return on investment.
    3. You must play to your strengths - The captain may set one type of field if they are using a fast bowler and a different type of field if they are using a spin bowler. Bowlers can seldom bat well and vice versa. Similarly, a PM must organise the project around the strengths of his team. The PM may need some good all-rounders in the team to cope with all situations.
    4. There are formulae and methods - In the Earned Value Method (EVM) the To-Complete Performance Index (TCPI) bears a striking resemblance to the run-rate calculations from the Duckworth-Lewis Method (D/L) used in one day cricket. (Too technical, anyone……?)
    5. There are phases and milestones – The most successful cricket teams understand that a test match goes through many different phases and these are punctuated by milestones such as wickets, declarations, lunch or taking the new ball which, when used properly, can turn the tide of the match. Similarly the PM must divide their project into clear phases to maintain control and use milestones wisely to motivate the focus their team.
    6. You have to consider your environment – Just as a cricket captain must take into account the weather, the humidity, the texture and condition of the pitch, the nature of the crowd and the direction of the wind, the PM must analyse their project environment, including the culture of the organisation, the attitude to authority, working times and to project management maturity in general.
    7. Risk is everywhere, and must be managed – Right from outcome of the coin toss, to the clumsy sweep from your cavalier batsman through to an uncertain hope that the ball will swing in the attack, the cricketer is constantly calculating risk exposure and coming up with strategies and workarounds to deal with it. Similarly, the project manager must plan for risk and constantly anticipate, review and react to it throughout the whole project life cycle.
    8. There's Padding – Quite obviously in cricket, but it's less welcome in project management. Rather than using padding as a substitute for risk management by building arbitrary buffers around key milestones, contingency reserves should be estimated and traced back to specific risks and assumptions made and calculated by the project management team. In cricket it's there to make sure that an LBW call doesn't result in a trip to casualty.
    9. It often comes down to the wire – This is a trait most often seen in limited overs games where similar run rates dictate that an entire day's play can be decided by the final ball, as seen in last season's Twenty20 cup final. The trick, like a good PM when faced with an immovable deadline, is to stick to the game plan and keep up the motivation and focus of the team, perhaps trading off some risk to meet the key constraints facing it. A surge in effort to a committed goal will often win the day.
    10. In the end it's all about people – As 9 demonstrates, you may have a well-defined project process or a well-coached batting technique but it's the people in your team that make it happen on the day in the face of all obstacles. When the project reaches a critical stage will your people want to play for you? Do they 'want it enough?' Do they know what's expected of them and are they motivated to go beyond it? Understanding how to get the most from your people and having them committed to a common goal is the key ingredient to success; on or off the pitch.
    This post was originally published on the blog for the PM-Partners website, 26th May 2011

    Ray Mead is Founder/Director of p3m global. Reach out to him on LinkedIn today, or to p3m global on their company and/or group pages.