PM Results http://www.pmresults.co.uk Offering Project management and Procurement Services to Small and Medium Businesses Sun, 10 Dec 2017 19:53:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 5 life threatening requirements everyone forgets http://www.pmresults.co.uk/5-life-threatening-requirements-everyone-forgets/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/5-life-threatening-requirements-everyone-forgets/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 20:03:32 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2679 If you’re looking to buy something and you don’t know what you want, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll get something you don’t want. That’s why it’s so important to know what you want before talking to a supplier. However there is a class of requirements that it’s easy to forget that ironically have the potential […]

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If you’re looking to buy something and you don’t know what you want, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll get something you don’t want. That’s why it’s so important to know what you want before talking to a supplier.

However there is a class of requirements that it’s easy to forget that ironically have the potential to have a devastating effect on your business if ignored. These are commonly referred to as non-functional requirements and you need you take account of them when describing what you want:

 

1.     Scalability

  • There’s little worse than being a victim of your own success.  If your product proves to be a success but its support isn’t scalable, you could find yourself with orders you can’t fulfil or telephones that go unanswered because the call centre you outsourced or the website you built to sell it to can’t scale to meet increased demand. It’s the best way to kill your product and your reputation stone dead
  • So make sure you let your supplier know how many users you will require to be supported, both in all and simultaneously
  • Also let the supplier know the maximum number of users that you believe need to be supported in the longer term, to make sure that there is potential for expansion to cope with this
  • You’ll also need to find a way of testing this once you’ve set up a service or system. Definitely don’t take a suppliers word for it.

 

2.     Performance and Availability

  • A website that takes a long time to retrieve pages is almost worse than no website at all. Be clear about what performance you are expecting and over what hours and days of the year do you expect the service to be provided
  • With hosted systems or a service you may be looking to see the suppliers historic percentage uptime
  • Find out if and when a hosted service closes down for routine maintenance – this won’t be any good if it’s at a peak time for your business

 

3.     Security

  • Data security breaches seem to hit the news every day. Poor security could compromise your business and/or reputation as well as leaving you open to regulatory fines.
  • This could be system or data security or building security and the vetting of staff for an outsourced service

 

4.     Back-ups and Disaster Recovery

  • What happens in the case of a disaster? How quickly could a supplier recover?
  • Poor disaster recovery for a service or system critical to your business, could spell the end of your business or at the very least a financial and reputational nightmare. In May 2017 poor disaster recovery grounded the entire British Airways fleet for days and is estimated to have cost them £100M as well as a whole lot of reputational damage.
  • Is a system crash that corrupts data going to leave you without customer data for days? What data do you need to be backed up and how often do you need this to happen?
  • What happens in the event of a flood or fire or some other sort of disaster at your supplier? What plans do they have to prevent an interruption to their service and your business.

 

5.     And more

  • There may be other non-functional requirements, depending on the service that you are providing e.g. for a website tender, you will be interested in Search Engine Optimisation, where and by whom the website is hosted, browser compatibility etc.

 

6.     Contract

  • Suppliers generally hate terms covering non-functional requirements in contracts, especially ones on scalability and performance but you need to make sure this happens.

 

Want to know more?

Take a look at our on-line course Project Management for Small and Medium Businesses 

Or buy our books Project Management for SMEs or its US English version Project Management for SMBs

More than that we can provide help face-to-face, by phone, Skype or Google Hangouts wherever you are with training, processes, audit and mentoring.  Contact us on +44 07788 925027 or enquiries@pmresults.co.uk

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Good marketing wins you business, great project management retains it http://www.pmresults.co.uk/marketing-wins-business-project-management-retains-it/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/marketing-wins-business-project-management-retains-it/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 19:43:54 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2671 You don’t have to go very far if you’re involved in business to bump into a marketing person. The internet abounds with digital marketing experts, some almost at superstar level (have a look at Neil Patel’s publicity!) who have apparently turned just about every type of business into an overnight success. They’ll put your website effortlessly at the […]

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You don’t have to go very far if you’re involved in business to bump into a marketing person. The internet abounds with digital marketing experts, some almost at superstar level (have a look at Neil Patel’s publicity!) who have apparently turned just about every type of business into an overnight success.

They’ll put your website effortlessly at the top of the Google listings and make sure your tweets are endlessly re-tweeted. You’ll see business piling in from Linkedin and witness your Facebook posts being worshipped. How can any business can survive without this magical input from these alchemists, who spend their entire lives turning base metal into gold?

But let’s face it, this is easy business. It appeals to our basest fear…we all need more business and we’re never very secure about where it’s coming from.  And these guys are so good at showing how your competitors are getting loads more website hits than you and how if only you’d hire them, you could start thinking about more time on a Caribbean beach sipping Pina Colada while the business magically starts piling in.

 

The only way you’ll see your customer coming back for more is if you make a bloody good job of delivery

 

OK, let’s not get too cynical, some of this stuff works, but it is time consuming, expensive and a nightmare telling the real stuff from the snake oil. You clearly do need to get business in the first place, but as anyone will tell you, repeat business is a lot cheaper to get than new business, plus repeat business has a habit of mushrooming – you get personal recommendations and win new business.

So it’s great winning business with slick marketing but that’s when the tricky bit starts, particularly if you’re a service company or a product company selling a product with bespoke add-ons. The only way you’ll see your customer coming back for more is if you make a bloody good job of delivery.

So how do you do that? Well that’s where good project management comes in and more than that, setting your company up to support delivery and support your project managers. Deliver what the customer wants on time and on budget, communicate well and make your customer feel involved and confident and they’ll definitely be back for more.

 

About the author

 

Gren Gale is a project management consultant who runs PM Results is author of Project Management for SMEs and creator of the Udemy course Project Management for Small and Medium Business

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The Art of Negotiation – Confrontation or Compromise? http://www.pmresults.co.uk/the-art-of-negotiations-confrontation-or-compromise/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/the-art-of-negotiations-confrontation-or-compromise/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 07:42:22 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2611 In the current febrile climate over the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, knowing my history of having negotiated dozens of commercial contracts as both a buyer and seller, quite a few people have asked me what makes a successful negotiation. Negotiations aren’t a war   Confrontation and inflexibility hardly ever achieves a result.  Negotiations aren’t a war […]

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In the current febrile climate over the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, knowing my history of having negotiated dozens of commercial contracts as both a buyer and seller, quite a few people have asked me what makes a successful negotiation.

Negotiations aren’t a war

 

Confrontation and inflexibility hardly ever achieves a result.  Negotiations aren’t a war – in fact war itself is nearly always the result of a failed negotiation.  Both parties are at the table because put simply they want to agree to something.    No one ever agreed as a result of being battered by the other party – grudging acceptance maybe if there’s no other choice but not agreement.  That’s why a confrontational approach is a terrible mistake and runs a very high risk of achieving nothing.

More than that confrontation brings the enemy of agreement into play, ego.  Egos get bruised by confrontation and decisions end up being made by emotion rather than clear calm thought.

My worst negotiation ever was near the height of the internet bubble.  We were trying to buy a website content management package.  The supplier we were talking to was selling software faster than they could shrink-wrap it.  We felt they were overcharging for what was being sold.  Now any sensible negotiator would have explained that the market was very buoyant and that while his management would be resistant to too big a reduction he could shave a few percent off for us.  Instead the sales guy told us that he wasn’t prepared to offer any reduction and worse still said that if we didn’t give him an order within the next few days then the prices were going up, not down!  We left the room genuinely offended by his arrogant and confrontational style.  He’d gambled on us going for his take it or leave it offer.  We didn’t.  To paraphrase, he’d been a bloody difficult negotiator and for the sake of for thousand pounds, he’d lost an order worth tens of thousands…pretty inept!

In fact as a result of the emotions raised by this disastrous negotiation, not only did we not buy that product, we didn’t buy any product from that company ever again, so hardly a great result.

And so to Brexit.  Putting out signals like ‘I’m a bloody difficult woman’ and ‘We’re prepared to walk away if we don’t get what we want’ is a poorly judged approach and it’s already clear to see that emotions and egos are ramping up in both parties before they’ve even sat down to negotiate.  This approach might play well with some of the daily newspapers but is highly unlikely to pay dividends in the actual negotiations.

Understand each other’s thinking

 

People talk about playing your cards close to your chest and of course there is an element of this in most negotiations, but it often comes as a surprise when I tell people that the best negotiations I’ve experienced were where both sides were able to be open and honest with each other.  If you think about it, this makes sense.  It’s just about impossible for two parties to make an agreement unless you understand their thinking and they understand yours.

One of the companies I worked for got into a dispute over a big contract with a customer.  Negotiations were started to try to resolve it, however the lady in charge who would have revelled in the tag, bloody difficult woman, refused to give an inch.  She refused to see the customer’s position and refused to compromise. The customer lost and had to pay up, but egos had been badly bruised after she’d made sure there had been winners and losers in the negotiation.  The losers set out for revenge and threatened to sue over another smaller contract and won.  And worst of all, at the end of all of this they told us they’d never deal with us again.

So when the UK and EU negotiators meet, an honest discussion about the pressures on each and what they both feel they need to achieve would go a long way to helping everyone find agreements and compromises.  I’m not overly optimistic, but let’s hope this can happen.

Set tough targets

 

Anyone can agree simple stuff, but if you set tough targets then you’ve a much better chance of achieving more.  So I would recommend that both sides set ambitious, but realistic aims for what they want to achieve and get these on the table as soon as possible.  Of course politicians are desperate to be seen as successful, so there’s a strong temptation to set easy to achieve targets and hit them than set difficult targets and risk failure.   A really strong negotiator would say that everything remains on the table at the start of the negotiations and not abandon ambitious targets like staying in the single market or customs union before they’ve even sat down to negotiate.

Compromise is nearly always possible

 

It’s surprising how often apparently intractable positions end up being resolved.  It happens all of the time in commercial deals.  Sometimes both parties do walk away, but not often and usually they walk away with a handshake and a joint expression of sorrow and regret.  There have been suggestions from some politicians and newspapers that we bang the table and walk away if we don’t get what we want.  Most negotiators would find that a ludicrous notion.  Walking away is failure, not success.

It’s very popular to talk about winning concessions, but there are hardly ever free wins.  To win something, you need to be prepared to give something in return, hence the expression win-win.

There seems to be a fatalistic view that the red lines for instance around immigration vs freedom of movement are intractable. Theresa May seems to have already decided that by saying we will be leaving the single market.  This is indeed a very odd approach to take before even having sat down to negotiate.  With goodwill and persistence on both sides, it is remarkable how red lines become breachable and an agreement reached that both parties can live with.

If you don’t believe this then look at the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the very future of the world was at stake.  This was very much portrayed in the media as Kennedy standing up to and winning against the Russians but it was in fact a classic give and take.  With the whole world holding its breath and nuclear war looking inevitable, both parties reached out and found a compromise.  The Russians took their missiles away from Cuba and in return the Americans took theirs away from Italy and Turkey.  If the Russians and Americans could save the world with a bit of give and take, surely we can find a good Brexit deal with the same approach!

Visit PM Results for help and advice in Procurement, Project Management and Testing

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Do most of your projects end in chaos and panic? http://www.pmresults.co.uk/chaos-and-panic/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/chaos-and-panic/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 18:32:34 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2594 Whatever they do it always seems to ends up in chaos and panic   It’s not uncommon to meet company directors who complain that whatever they do their projects always end in chaos and panic with half of the company eventually being dragged in to try to sort out the mess.  They tell me that […]

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Whatever they do it always seems to ends up in chaos and panic

 

It’s not uncommon to meet company directors who complain that whatever they do their projects always end in chaos and panic with half of the company eventually being dragged in to try to sort out the mess.  They tell me that the last month or two of every project is a living hell that ties down senior staff and disrupts day to day activities.

They’ll say that they’ve sent their project managers on Prince 2 courses, bought good project management tools and made sure that business cases are approved before a project can start, so they can’t understand why it isn’t working.

If you fail to set your whole company up to support delivery the repercussions are much wider

Well the answer is that the single most important factor in project success is that you set your whole company up to support project delivery. If you fail to do this then the repercussions are often much wider than you might think and your whole company will experience the impact of project failures.

If you want your projects to be successful and by association, your company to be successful, then this needs to be ingrained in the culture of the company, starting at the very top.

Want to know how to fix this?

 

Take a look at our on-line course Project Management for Small and Medium Businesses on Udemy

 

Or buy our books Project Management for SMEs or its US English version Project Management for SMBs on Amazon

 

More than that we can provide help face-to-face, by phone, Skype or Google Hangouts wherever you are with training, processes, audit and mentoring.  Contact us on +44 07788 925027 or enquiries@pmresults.co.uk

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Why so many projects fail before they’ve even started http://www.pmresults.co.uk/why-so-many-projects-fail-before-theyve-even-started/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/why-so-many-projects-fail-before-theyve-even-started/#respond Tue, 16 May 2017 16:23:23 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2540 Don’t shoot yourself in the foot   Having a poor idea of what a project is going to cost and how long its going to take to deliver is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot before it’s even started.   Poor estimation and planning are major reasons why projects fail. Whatever development approach you […]

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Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

 

Having a poor idea of what a project is going to cost and how long its going to take to deliver is the best way to shoot yourself in the foot before it’s even started.   Poor estimation and planning are major reasons why projects fail.

Whatever development approach you use, no-one is going to write a blank cheque and then ask the project manager if they’d be kind enough to let them how much it cost after they’ve finished.


The best way to strike fear and doubt into senior management is to present them with an ever expanding budget and timeframe and/or reducing scope.  Confidence in a project manager has an understandable tendency to reduce in direct proportion to cost and timescale overruns.

The bigger the project or the smaller the business, a project with costs running completely out of control can become a threat to a company’s financial stability.  A few years ago, I worked for an expanding and successful medium sized company that tried to develop an ambitious new product without taking sufficient care to understand costs, timescales and risks.  This combined with customers holding back on buying existing products when they knew a better one was on its way, eventually led to the distressed sale of the company and subsequent layoffs and closure.

 


Put a lot of work into your estimates and outline plan

 

It’s not unusual that everyone is in a big hurry to get the project going and want to get this phase out of the way, but the flip side of this is that senior management are always unnerved by increases in costs and timeframe once the project is underway.

In my experience, the bigger a project is, the greater the pressure to get started fast!  This is one of the many reasons why so many big projects fail.

Try as far as possible to resist this pressure. Time spent at the start of the project will always pay rewards later. 

 

Hold a workshop

 

Get everyone on the same page.  Put the people who know what’s required together with the people who need to produce the estimates and get them talking.  The better their and your understanding of what’s required then the better chance of producing solid estimates.

And keep talking.  Successful project managers communicate well.  Keep talking to the users, the estimators and the people sponsoring the project.  Many projects fail because of poor communication.

good project managers

Ownership

 

The teams who are going do the work need to estimate costs, otherwise they will feel no ownership or commitment to them.

The project manager may have to help them if they’re not used to producing estimates, but they shouldn’t be imposing their estimates on the project.

I have seen Project Managers do just this and it’s usually ended in tears.  You can and should challenge and question estimates, but you shouldn’t estimate costs for work that other people are going to carry out.

 

Include what you need to buy, not just staff effort

 

Don’t miss what you might have to buy for your project.  People’s time will be one of your costs, but do you need to buy components, software, equipment, training, transport etc?

 

Estimates for Outsourced Work

 

If you need to estimate costs for outsourced work, don’t believe an estimate from any supplier unless they and you are very clear about your requirements.  Suppliers are fond of producing ‘budgetary’ estimates when faced with sketchy requirements.  Treat these with caution.  Suppliers don’t want to scare you off doing the work, so they’ve a tendency to provide rather optimistic quotes!  I would add at least 20% to a budgetary estimate ….and even then it might not be enough!  I’ve seen many projects fail to get off the ground when the budgetary estimate finally turns into a firm one and the costs become unaffordable.

beware of suppliers

Include Contingency

 

Carefully consider contingency, both for costs and timescales.  An effective way of estimating contingency is a risk based approach. Work out your major risks and then work out how much contingency you need to mitigate these risks.

Beware of being pressured to remove the contingency, because the project supposedly isn’t viable with it included.  Giving way to this pressure usually spells regret and potentially disaster further down the line, so I would recommend resisting this.  I’ve never run a project where everything went as expected, so I doubt you ever will.  You need contingency, it’s not an optional extra.

contingency

What did it cost last time?

 

Want to check you’ve got your estimates and plans in the right ball park?  Have a look to see what your previous projects have cost and how long they took to deliver.  Ok, so no two projects are the same, but lots of projects have similarities and you should be able to find previous projects that you can compare against this one.

This will help you feel you’ve got it right and give you a lot more confidence when you’re presenting plans and estimates to senior management for approval.

 

Want to know more?

 

Gren Gale is owner of PM Results who specialise in helping small and medium businesses run projects well

Want to know more about managing projects:

Read Project Management for SMEs or Project Management for SMBs

Take the Udemy on line course  Project Management for Small and Medium Business

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11 ways of staying awake at meetings http://www.pmresults.co.uk/11-ways-of-staying-awake-at-meetings/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/11-ways-of-staying-awake-at-meetings/#respond Wed, 14 Dec 2016 11:00:51 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2459 In a recent survey of over 2,000 people, 20% admitted to having fallen asleep at a meeting, with men apparently slightly more likely to nod off than women. When you consider that middle managers spend around 35% of their time in meetings and senior managers more like 50%, making meetings interesting, productive and efficient should be […]

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In a recent survey of over 2,000 people, 20% admitted to having fallen asleep at a meeting, with men apparently slightly more likely to nod off than women. When you consider that middle managers spend around 35% of their time in meetings and senior managers more like 50%, making meetings interesting, productive and efficient should be close to the top of everyone’s lists.

if you can't get full on support

 

 

 

Meetings, like them or not, are a means of communicating and resolving issues. If they’re not your cup of tea, tough! They won’t go away. They can, however, be made a lot more effective. There’s little point in insisting that busy people attend meetings that waste their time, so follow these suggestions and you’ll reduce the chances of it happening:

1. Communicate the objectives and agenda to all participants before the meeting starts

2. If a document is to be reviewed, brief participants to read it beforehand

3. All appropriate people must be invited – and must attend

4. But on the other hand the numbers attending must also be kept to the minimum required – don’t invite spectators

5. Everyone should turn up on time

6. It should be made clear that it’s unacceptable for attendees to use phones, tablets or laptops at meetings. This is fast becoming a real bane of meetings – how can you have a productive meeting if half of the attendees are distracted by e-mails, texts and instant messages?

7. The meeting owner needs to be prepared and shouldn’t just try to ‘take it as it comes’

8. He or she must keep the meeting to the agenda and avoid being side-tracked

9. Actions and decisions from the meeting must be minuted and followed up.

10. There can be particular issues where a remote participant dials in to a meeting being held in a meeting room. If you regularly hold meetings where one or more participants dial in, then the meeting owner needs to work hard to involve the remote participants, who otherwise can just end up listening to a hubbub of noise.

11. Videoconferencing is a lot more effective way of holding meetings between geographically remote staff than conference calls. As well as receiving better feedback in terms of body language, there is less of a temptation to try to multi-task and service e-mails and other work in a video conference than an audio conference. With Skype and Google Hangouts available, video conferencing is no longer the very expensive option that it used to be.

You also need to decide how many meetings you, personally, need to attend. It’s very easy to find yourself overwhelmed by them, so be selective. You don’t need to go to them all, and need to trust team members to run meetings, and to find their own solutions to certain issues.

However, meetings are a good medium for you to collect data. This might be hard data about progress against a plan, risks and issues, or useful information about how you think the team is working together, or concerns about a supplier.

Gren Gale is a project management consultant and founder of PM Results . He is the author of Project Management for SMEs (UK and Europe) and Project Management for SMBs (the Americas) and has published the on-line training course Practical Project Management. He can be contacted on +44 (0) 7788 925027 or gren.gale@pmresults.co.uk

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Five steps to tame the chaos – how to make projects work http://www.pmresults.co.uk/tame-the-chaos/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/tame-the-chaos/#respond Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:34:05 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2447 Projects are naturally chaotic.  If you want to retain customers and keep your staff sane, then you need bring order to that chaos and that’s the job of project management. There’s a lot of over-complicated rubbish out there about how to run projects, so here are five steps to tame the chaos Start at the […]

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Projects are naturally chaotic.  If you want to retain customers and keep your staff sane, then you need bring order to that chaos and that’s the job of project management.

There’s a lot of over-complicated rubbish out there about how to run projects, so here are five steps to tame the chaos

Start at the top

If you want to promote a good project culture then start at the top.

A company’s board doesn’t need to get into minute detail, but it does need to agree how projects will be run and then promote and sponsor that.  Employees need to know that this isn’t some middle management initiative that they can quietly ignore, it’s coming from the top, so they need to pay attention.

Agree an Approach

This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery, but don’t read a few books or go on a course and think you know it.  You need to get help from someone who’s been there and done it.  Don’t even think about trying to pick up PMP or Prince II lock stock and barrel – while they’re full of good stuff, they’re massive industrial scale project management methods and unless you are either in government or running a monster project, you don’t need this level of overhead and bureaucracy.

You also need to agree a project management approach that integrates with your development methodology (assuming you’ve got one!).  So you need to be clear how you estimate, specify, develop and test as well as project manage your products or services.

A good way to instil a consistent and repeatable approach to both project management and development is to use templates for the documents, spreadsheets and power points that you’re going to need to produce.  This allows staff to hit the ground running and makes the approach repeatable

We’d also recommend selecting and using a project management package which also offers the opportunity to standardise a lot of what you, share data and collaborate better in teams.  If you choose the right package, this should make life easier for both project managers and developers.

Once you have an approach, your company board needs to approve and promote it and staff need to buy into and believe in it.

Train

OK you’ve agreed an approach, now you need to get everyone trained to use it, not just the project managers – everyone!  This includes board members who need to be as bought in, up to speed and enthusiastic as everyone else.

Clearly board members and team members are unlikely to require as detailed training as project managers, but don’t make the mistake of training project managers and ignoring everyone else.  Projects are collaborative activities and you need everyone on board and bought in to achieve consistent success.

As well as training them, you’ll be selling the approach to your staff, so be prepared to listen to feedback and make changes where you think they’re appropriate.  Involvement usually translates into enthusiasm, so try not to make it sound like a take it or leave it proposition.

Mentor

Don’t think that once you’ve trained everyone, that you can put your feet up and declare a job well done.  You need experienced project managers to be on call to provide support and mentoring while your freshly trained project managers find their feet.  They need support when they’re really not sure what to do.

Set up a portfolio management function

This isn’t usually foremost in people’s mind when they’re thinking of setting themselves up to run projects, but unless you’re only planning on running just the one project, you need to think about how you manage your portfolio in the most efficient way.

Portfolio management will allow you to

  • Plan the project portfolio and agree priorities
  • Monitor the performance of projects in the portfolio and report on this
  • Monitor resource usage and help resolve resource conflicts
  • Measure the impact on the rest of the portfolio if there’s a change in project priorities, serious slippage in a project or the loss of a key member of staff
  • Perform what-ifs….what if we take on this new project…when can we start and finish it?  What if we throw lots more resource at project x to finish it sooner, what effect will it have on everything else?

I’ve worked with companies who have managed their portfolio of projects with spreadsheets and while this has worked well, it has been high maintenance.  Well the good news is you don’t have to do that because there are a whole lot of project management packages out there that won’t cost you a fortune (if you pick the right one!) and will automate your portfolio management.  The best packages will track project progress, costs, staff utilisation and allow you to produce a variety of reports.

Conclusion

The inability to manage projects efficiently can be corrosive for a product or service company. Staff morale falls away, project disasters start to become worryingly frequent and customers are lost. If this spiral continues the consequences can be tragic.

Want help to tame the chaos?

We can provide advice on how to tame the chaos – e-mail us on enquiries@pmresults.co.uk or call us on 07788 925027

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Agile or Waterfall? Neither…it’s your culture, stupid! http://www.pmresults.co.uk/agile-or-waterfall/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/agile-or-waterfall/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 19:11:56 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2049 The post Agile or Waterfall? Neither…it’s your culture, stupid! appeared first on PM Results.

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About twenty years ago as a callow youth, I went for a job interview with a big bank.  I was working for a large Software House/Consultancy where processes were very ordered and strictly followed.  ISO 9001 was a prized compliance, used to sell how structured and disciplined we were.  Projects had to comply with the process regardless of their size and nature and as Agile hadn’t been invented yet, all projects followed a Waterfall approach.

 

I’d flown through the first interview spouting process and discipline and had been asked back to meet the deputy head of department for a second interview. At this interview I was confronted by what at the time appeared to be some sort of Luddite.  After I’d bored him senseless with half an hour of process speak, he told me that processes were oversold and that the reason software houses loved them so much was that most of their staff were new graduates who didn’t have a clue, so needed things spelled out to them.  His approach was to get small teams of highly competent and experienced programmers together, have them talk directly to the business and churn out applications………sound sort of familiar?

 

Very little is new in the world, Agile and Scrum seem mostly to be a formalisation of what was being done at that bank 20 years ago and the guy I talked to was simply using his imagination and experience to try to find a better way of delivering applications.

 

In 2015, Wrike reported that 38% of organisations were using Agile methods frequently, so it is likely that the majority of companies are still using Waterfall.   Both methods have experienced high profile failures and both have good and bad points, so is there a ‘best’ way of delivering projects?

 

Well after many years of witnessing huge successes and abject failures, I’d advise the following regardless whether you use Agile or Waterfall:

 

Keep it small 

Big projects go wrong, no matter whether they’re run as multiple Agile teams or as monolithic Waterfall projects.  They nearly all suffer the same fate.  Insufficient understanding of scope, risk and complexity, an obsession with paring estimates and timescale to the bone and a whole lot of politics usually leads to big cost and timescale overruns.

 

I worked on a project developing a chequing account for a bank.  We were developing it pretty much from scratch and it was a massive undertaking.  Initially it was planned to be implemented in three phases, but the bank’s management didn’t like that, they wanted it faster, so instead an attempt was made to deliver it as one monolith.  It failed.  Worse still, the whole concept of doing it faster was illusory.  By trying to deliver a massive system in one go, this actually slowed the whole thing down, because it became too big and unmanageable.

Develp systems in small chunks

 

Empower your developers

Command and control is a bad approach to managing anything.  While Agile emphasises empowering teams, the best Waterfall project managers have been doing this for years.  I’ve heard programmers in an Agile environment complain that they feel suffocated by the close monitoring of everything that they do in the daily stand-ups and irritated by their business partners who take collaboration to mean handing out orders.  I’ve also seen lots of control freaks in charge of Waterfall projects, attempting to micromanage everyone and everything.

Whatever development approach you take, people make best progress and work better when they're trusted

 

Be clear about where you are going

Waterfall tends to be better at this given that you, in theory, decide this up front.  However I’ve seen plenty of Waterfall projects with ill-defined requirements that simply run out of control.  Agile projects almost have an inbuilt tendency to meander given it’s often hard to spot when you reach the point of diminishing returns, where added functionality delivers decreasing value.

So have a clear statement of your project’s objective and make sure your requirements or product backlog gives a clear description of what is required. All of this needs to be in place before you touch a line of code.

 

Provide support from the top

All projects need support.  Companies need to recognise that a high proportion of what they do is project based.  These projects need active support.

Have a clear statement of your project’s objective and make sure your requirements or product backlog gives a clear description of what is required. All of this needs to be in place before you touch a line of code

 

Conclusion

Don’t expect that adopting one or another project methodology will be the saviour of your project portfolio…….worry more about promoting the right culture.  If you have a command and control culture or one that bullies big projects to quote to impossible deadlines and costs then you’re destined to fail.  If you don’t support your project managers and you have vague ideas about what you want your projects to deliver, then expect to be similarly cursed.

 

Gren Gale is a Project Management Consultant, author of Project Management for SMEs (and its sister edition Project Management for SMBs in North America), an expert on Project Management Software and owner of PM Results

Project Management for SMEs

 

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The End of the World as we know it? http://www.pmresults.co.uk/brexit/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/brexit/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 08:34:29 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2039 The post The End of the World as we know it? appeared first on PM Results.

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Well I doubt that, but Britain’s ‘Brexit’ decision – to exit the EU – has whipped up a storm that seems to be a very long way from blowing itself out.  Initial economic indicators have been surprisingly good, but longer term, uncertainty about Britain’s link with the lucrative EU market of 500 million rich consumers is likely to take its toll.

Disinvestment by Foreign Companies

The Japanese government presented Theresa May, Britain’s new Prime Minister, with a stark paper indicating the likely actions of Japanese companies in Britain, should free access to the EU market be severed.   Britain is the 5th largest exporter of vehicles in the world, mainly to the EU and mainly by Japanese owned companies.  The paper contained dire warnings of disinvestment.

US Banks are also looking at the viability of their London bases should free access to the EU market be lost.

House Moves are in Decline

House moves are a big indicator for the British economy, with the success of a mass of industries tied to their frequency. House prices are now declining at their fastest rate since the financial crisis of 2008.  As well as new house builds; soft furnishings, decorations, carpets, kitchens and bathrooms often are all updated following a move to an existing property, plus of course financial, insurance, moving and legal services are used.

Services are forecast to decline because of Sterling’s devaluation

The fall in the value of the pound should invigorate Britain’s manufacturing sector, but the problem with that is that Britain is no longer a manufacturer of note, rather a service economy and services tend to be associated with something manufactured which more often than not is imported.  For example IT services are forecast to take a big hit given the 12% drop in the value of Sterling has made IT equipment, virtually all imported, more expensive.

Both British and EU leaders still appear clueless as to what Brexit means

Adding confusion to uncertainty, while Theresa May repeats the almost meaningless mantra that Brexit means Brexit, no-one has a clue what it really means or when it’s likely to happen.  The British government have barely having recruited enough staff to be able to support meaningful negotiations which are likely to be complex in the extreme in attempting to untangle 40 years of membership of the EU.

Uncertainty affects consumers

Uncertainty affects markets, but also affects consumers and businesses, many of whom are likely to delay significant purchases until the storm looks like it might abate. With at least two years of negotiating a messy divorce, the uncertainty will continue to bear down on markets, consumers and businesses across Britain and Europe.

What should I do?

So should we buy in the emergency supplies, dig a bunker and hunker down for the financial apocalypse?

Well not necessarily.  One man’s misfortune always tends to be another’s opportunity and there is nearly always positivity in the gloom if you look hard enough.

To quote a really terrible cliché, when the going gets tough the tough get going……

We can help you:

  • Retain your existing customers
    In difficult times you need to hang on to what you already have.  Work hard at retaining existing customers.  Good marketing gains customers, good project management retains them.
  • Improve quality 
    Quality is the value of what you produce.  Poor quality products and services become commodities, higher quality retains value and builds market share
  • Be proactive, not reactive
    The Brexit leaders didn’t have a plan, don’t fall into that trap, review the risks and anticipate the worst.
  • Banish chaos
    All work is naturally chaotic – follow good disciplines, beat the chaos and stay competitive.  Good project disciplines organise the chaos

How do we do this? :-

  • Training
    We can provide on-line or face-to-face training.  Our project management courses include integrated project templates and a project framework, so you hit the ground running and retain more knowledge
  • Mentoring
    No matter how good a course is, running a project is where learning turns into experience.  We can provide mentoring by experienced project managers, either face-to-face or remotely by video link to support and advise trainees
  • Help you source the best Project Tools
    Project management tools can help transform the management and control of projects. We’ve looked in detail at over 30 of the leading project management tools.

 

Gren Gale is a Project Management Consultant, author of Project Management for SMEs (and its sister edition Project Management for SMBs in North America), an expert on Project Management Software and owner of PM Results

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Accidental project managers..to be pitied http://www.pmresults.co.uk/accidental-project-managers/ http://www.pmresults.co.uk/accidental-project-managers/#respond Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:58:31 +0000 http://www.pmresults.co.uk/?p=2022 If you’re worried this article might be about a failure of birth control, relax! So who or what are Accidental Project Managers? Well, there are PRINCE2 qualified Project Managers, PMP qualified Project Managers, Professional Scrum Masters and finally somewhere near the bottom of the pile, Accidental Project Managers. No-one so much as whispered the word ‘project’ at the […]

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If you’re worried this article might be about a failure of birth control, relax!

So who or what are Accidental Project Managers? Well, there are PRINCE2 qualified Project Managers, PMP qualified Project Managers, Professional Scrum Masters and finally somewhere near the bottom of the pile, Accidental Project Managers.

No-one so much as whispered the word ‘project’ at the interview

 

Accidental Project Managers never signed up for project management.  No-one even mentioned it in their job interview or annual review.  They applied for a job with a title like marketing manager or product manager or back office team lead and sometimes even have the word ‘assistant’ in their job title.  The word ‘project’ was never so much as whispered.

They became Accidental Project Managers because a project needed to be run and there was no-one else to do it, or just as likely when the project ‘opportunity’ came around, their manager suddenly found themselves extremely busy with something else.

The only thing Accidental Project Managers are told is that they must deliver with these guys by that date.  They’ve never heard of estimation, project plans, risks, issues, dependencies and project costs…or at least when they start they haven’t.  Of course by delivery time with everyone asking why it’s so late and over-budget they’ve found out about risks and issues the hard way and spend their sleeping hours having lurid dreams about owning a project planner or even having a bit of training!

Put-upon and downtrodden

 

They are, in truth, to be pitied.  They are the put-upon and downtrodden of the business world, powerless, uncared for and stressed.

But hang on there’s help at hand!  Just type Project Management Software into Google and your screen will show the path to salvation.

On-line project management packages provide a much needed lifeline to the poor Accidental Project Manager.  Pick the right one and you’ll get a good intuitive project planner which allows you to share project plans with your team.  You’ll be able to measure how well you’re doing against your original estimates, share and review documents and collaborate with your team wherever they are – a sort of business version of Facebook, minus all the cute animal posts.

It will also help you decide if the team you’ve been given have enough time to do the work, or have so little to do they really will be looking at cute animal videos …or worse.  You’ll also be able to produce nice reports to surprise your manager with how well you’re doing.

Of course a little training and some decent processes wouldn’t go all together amiss either.

They can be helped

 

So if you have Accidental Project Managers in your company, please take pity, give generously and buy them some project management software…but before you do, have a quick look at our free White Paper on choosing project management software

Gren Gale is a Project Management Consultant, author of Project Management for SMEs (and its sister edition Project Management for SMBs in North America),
an expert on Project Management Software and owner of PM ResultsProject Management For SMEs Book

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