Practical papers and quick-to-read presentations contributed by people doing project and portfolio management in the field.
This paper arose from the authors' work facilitating 100 virtual meetings, both for the Navy and other related organizations. These meetings included idea generation, planning, decision-making, issues surfacing, status briefings, environmental scanning, collaborative writing, training, and expert briefings. From this experience the authors identified their set of lessons learned, and honed a set of best practices for addressing these lessons. The lessons and practices cover specifics in areas like effects on virtual meetings when the groups are in different timezones, how to get all parties to follow an effective meeting process, and how to deal with issues with virtual meeting technology.
The idea of using outside partners to increase what your organization can get done, or get access to a competency your group doesn't have, sounds wonderful. But we can't overlook the difficulty of actually achieving truly synergistic partnerships-and ultimately successful projects-using such team members outside the corporation. If not created and managed properly, these teams actually can seriously threaten a firm's critical time-to-market goals. This paper provides some ideas for assessing and selecting team members, planning a project considering the specific ramifications of remote members, and managing communication and the project's activities to successful completion.
Project managers vs. technical managers and developers. Respect for process and schedules vs. the cult of creativity (read: invitation to project chaos). One of the most challenging aspects of implementing project management in an organization is reconciling the viewpoints of the project managers and the team members. Project management tools and talk can leave technical contributors bored, resistant, or outright rebellious. Are project managers and technical team members hopelessly far apart? Or do we just have a language and perspective problem? Experience from the field says it's the latter.
In this paper, Cinda Voegtli looks at this issue from both sides, with a legitimacy that comes from having extensive experience in both worlds. Using examples from actual projects, she shows how to create a partnership between project management and technical teams based on a mutual recognition of value, concerns, and needs.
Even the best-planned projects often end up in a painful endgame. In this in-the-trenches look at the late stages of a project, Warren Craycroft discusses some of the breakdowns and crises that occur and offers some tips, tools, and advice on how to deal with them.
What do you do when your company has to have a project completed in an unreasonable timeframe, or else? You get your cross-functional team together and hash out a one-to-two page consensus vision of what can realistically be done in the time available. Teams aligned to powerful product visions can finish projects rapidly. Using real project examples, this paper discusses how to arrive at a Vision, what it must contain to deliver a super-urgent project on time, and how to combat the number one reason for project slippage: changing product definitions that force teams to deal with a moving target.
Is conflict inevitable in projects? If conflict occurs how should a project manager, resolve it? The underlying premise of the PRE-EMPT method is that conflict resolution is a parallel activity to risk management. It is a daily, intentional effort. Just as risk, action items and issue logs should be addressed daily, so should the framework for resolving conflict. including both micro conflict (defined as conflict that occurs between individuals or within a team), and macro conflict (which occurs between the team and key stakeholders or external forces). This article was contributed by member David Kohrell, PMP, who is currently a Senior Project Manager with FiServ ITI and an experienced PM in both the public and private sectors.
This two-item set provides a paper and presentation on the concept of doing project closeouts. At the end of a tough project, often no one is really interested in these late activities. The paper and presentation discuss activities that generally should be a part of project closeout management; why closeout is vitally important; the factors that prevent organizations from managing this time in the project effectively; a new perspective on project closeout management -- its function as a part of a knowledge management system; and steps that organizations can take to improve the practice of project closeout.
There's no worse "super-urgent demand" than the looming end-date of a critical project that's behind schedule: a schedule that was probably highly aggressive to start with. Time-to-market demands can't be ignored, so how do you course-correct, get back your momentum, and succeed in spite of the setbacks? This paper, describes how to pinpoint and fully understand the project's past problems, revitalize your plan and your team, and get that product out the door.
Complex software systems often benefit from unit testing for implementation before moving to higher-level reliability tests. This overview of software unit testing -- contributed by Rodney Parkin, Technical Director of IV&V Australia Pty Ltd - defines the practice, as well as issues to consider when building unit testing into your overall plan. The discussion also includes factors like formality, thoroughness, and the best test environments for typical development projects.
An overview of the role of "business-savvy" project managers' mindset and responsibilities—PMs who lead their teams relentlessly toward the business results a project is meant to achieve. Helps project managers see a critical type of value they can bring to projects and provides guidance for developing new skills and mindsets for new career options.
This paper provides a comprehensive picture of valuable skills to develop as you move through your career, with the very important context of why you need them (from the "customer's" viewpoint), and an integrated understanding of how presentation skills, technical expertise, meeting management skills, networking, business understanding, etc. can provide incredible career leverage. It also covers how to come up with a personal strategy for developing those skills, and how to continually "market" yourself – communicating and using your capabilities to maximize your opportunities, your success, and your overall career satisfaction. This paper was originally written for an audience of technical contributors at a professional development conference, and thus may be something you'd like to show technical team members, to encourage their career growth in areas that will benefit your projects.
Are leaders born, or are they made? How is leadership taught? How is it learned? In this white paper, Warren Craycroft takes a look at the study of leadership and compares the approaches of two leadership scholars, Warren Bennis and John Gardner, as they wrestle with these and other leadership questions.
As knowledge management evolves from fad to business imperative, many organizations are discovering the limited ability of information technology to capture and share ideas, insights, and know-how. Richard McDermott presents communities of practice as a better vehicle for knowledge sharing and discusses ten critical success factors in building vibrant, effective communities.
Recent developments in information technology have inspired many companies to imagine a new way for staff to share knowledge and insights. Instead of storing documents in personal files and sharing insights with a small circle of colleagues, they can store documents in a common information base and use electronic networks to share insights with their whole community. But most companies soon discover that leveraging knowledge is actually very hard and involves more community building than information technology. This is not because people are reluctant to use information technology. It is because they often need to share knowledge that is neither obvious nor easy to document, knowledge that requires a human relationship to think about, understand and share. Ironically, while information technology has inspired the "knowledge revolution," it takes building human communities to realize it.
Effective project managers learn to deal with the political aspects of change, rather than being run over by them. This paper by Randall L. Englund (Executive Consultant, Creating an Environment for Project Success) discusses approaches PMs can use to manage the politics of change. It includes a detailed outline of a political plan for overcoming obstacles through maximizing stakeholder support, coalition building, and focusing efforts where they are most likely to be effective.
Many companies today are moving to a new organizational model in which cross-functional teams are the key building block of the organization. While cross-functional teams are great vehicles for producing products and services, they have some key limitations. Cross-functional teams can become insulated from each other, focusing on team goals and reinventing ideas and analyses from other teams. The "double-knit" organization links cross-functional teams together through communities of practice and enables teams to systematically learn from each other.
Knowing how to successfully accomplish all the tasks, issues, and challenges a PM faces often requires more than formalized training. We need support mechanisms that help managers continually apply what they've learned in courses and expand their knowledge and capabilities as they encounter a wide variety of projects and situations. This presentation discusses how communities of practice and project support groups can promote ongoing knowledge and best practices exchange among their project managers, project facilitation and consulting help, and online how-to resources to ensure just-in-time learning throughout our projects.
This presentation discusses career options and career development for project managers, including our "customers" and how we can think about "marketing" to them; career-expanding skills - traits and behaviors that are valued by executives; PM-related career opportunities, and what skills matter most to each opportunity; and your career development plan - what you can do personally to grow your abilities in key areas and seek out the new opportunities.
In many organizations, functions are king and getting work done cross-functionally is difficult at best. For years companies have tried to solve this problem by changing the culture or restructuring, but functional silos still don't necessarily cooperate with one another. Business processes are riddled with rework and long cycle times; projects are late and don't satisfy their customers. This paper by Paula Martin, who has extensive field experience with matrix organizations, discusses what it takes to make it all work, including getting alignment around goals, projects, and roles, achieving collaborative management, and what's required of individuals.
This presentation covers concepts and techniques that the author has found extremely useful for introducing some high-impact project management fast. These techniques are especially helpful in organizations with little or no prior project management background and experience. The focus is on using techniques that do not involve a high level of project mechanics or new tools to help teams avoid problems that drive project failures. The techniques also do not require long process improvement efforts to see some fast results; they are simple to explain and implement, and they can be deployed just-in-time on a project. Key subjects include using team kick-off meetings, setting up relationships with outside vendors and development partners to avoid project-killing issues, and determining the highest leverage project techniques for your situation and getting them working on multiple teams fast.
Project management is about more than charts and controls. Project managers in modern organizations need "an ever-expanding arsenal of skills, especially 'soft' or interpersonal skills." But you can't be all things to all people. This paper by Robert Wourms of PM Solutions discusses an emerging role in project management—the Project Controller—that some organizations are using to free up project managers for more strategic work. It includes comparisons of proposed complimentary project manager and project controller roles, proposed duties, and suggested qualities for a good controller, as well as advice for building a business case for the shift of functions.
You know that an effective project management process can help your organization achieve its business goals. So how do you convince the different levels of executive management? In this slide presentation, Bill Kern shows how to effectively champion the adoption of PM process by tailoring solutions and value propositions to each level and each individual in your management "audience."
This paper by ProjectConnections Director of IT Content Kent McDonald provides an overview of the key historical statements created by members of the agile community to codify the value set and principles shared by agile software development and agile project leadership methods. It includes some of the history behind the creation of these statements and suggestions for applying these values and principles in a non-agile environment.
Data warehousing, or Business Intelligence applications, are becoming increasingly important to organizations as they seek to be able to utilize all of the information generated by their business to make better decisions. The general consensus is that data warehouse development requires a great deal of design work up front, and could never be delivered in an agile manner. This paper contains some advice on how to counter the general consensus, based on experience with a real-world project. Being agile—whether on a data warehousing project or a typical development project—is really all about focusing on the right things and doing them in the most efficient means possible.
Legacy system migrations are one of the largest and most common software development projects organizations undertake. These projects are often considered to be too big or too unwieldy (or too critical) to use agile development methods. But many key agile practices can be even more important in migration projects.
A practical presentation that gets to the heart of how the risks and uncertainties we face on projects must influence how we manage. The core theme of this presentation, delivered at the IEEE International Conference on Management of Innovation and Technology in Singapore, is that the way you manage a project should be driven by the dominant type of uncertainty you are confronted with. The talk covers several types of uncertainty on projects, including complexity, schedule variability, foreseen risks, unforeseen risks, and market and technology "chaos". For each, it indicates the "Project Manager style" that best fits that type of project, and summarizes how the project manager would manage tasks and people on the project, during the planning stage and during the execution stage. This presentation is a great thought-provoker for anyone kicking off a project, as they select a project manager and team and determine how the project should be managed.
In-depth conference presentation, contributed by Dean Leffingwell, author of Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises, on how to use Agile practices "at scale" for larger enterprises and their complex programs. The presentation covers in detail the key techniques for software team agility, plus critical areas for making Agile work at the enterprise level. The latter area covers philosophies and approaches for handling system architecture, large scale requirements, release trains, distributed development, cross-functional impacts, organizational implications, and measuring business performance according to Agile principles and in a way that integrates well with the Agile development activities in sub-teams. The presentation also includes valuable overview material on all the benefits of Agile to an organization.
Collaboration is central to team work—reviewing deliverables, communicating status, dealing with issues—but it doesn't come easily. Talk to team members from any given project long enough and the same frustrations are heard again and again: "I can't find that spec I'm supposed to review." "Where's the latest version of the project plan?" "Our remote team members aren't getting all the docs!" These cries are obvious signs that email is not enough. It is simply inadequate to support the collaborative needs of most project teams, and valuable knowledge is often buried in widely scattered inboxes where it can't be found, let alone transmitted for the benefit of future projects. This paper by Tony Christopher of Digital Places proposes that the solution to these frustrations lies not just in the tools, but in how the organization goes about implementing them, and how seriously they take the tools management process. He outlines a five step approach toward creating a Networked Tools System that will allow organizations to truly capitalize on networked tools, instead of ending up with a robust but unused server-based repository.
Misconceptions about agile development abound, especiallythough not exclusivelyamong people unfamiliar with agile methodologies. This paper by ProjectConnections Director of IT Content Kent McDonald debunks ten of the most common myths about agile development so teams and organizations will approach their agile efforts in the right mindset, and with the right expectations.
"Common sense says that when working on a project with results that matter, teams should agree on a plan of how to achieve the goals, consider what might go wrong, and make sure everyone who needs to deliver results is committed to doing what needs to be done to make it happen. Here's a bit of news about the real world of project management: Common sense isn't common practice. It's not even common knowledge." Chapter 5 of Scrappy Project Management offers a no-holds-barred view of project management in the real world, along with some of the funniest and most accurate project flowcharts ever drafted.
To enable an organization that executes well to its strategic plan, your Project Management Office (PMO) can make the difference - IF it is set up to effectively eliminate typical ongoing fights over resources and project priorities. This paper from International Institute for Learning and EPM Solutions takes an executive-level look at the elements of the PMO that can dramatically increase the probability of your organization meeting its goals. It focuses on four major processes: Choosing the right projects via a new kind of strategic planning, permanently linking strategies to projects, managing the project portfolio correctly, and measuring the PMO correctly.
This presentation is a great intro for companies thinking of implementing or in the process of implementing portfolio management for the first time, or companies who are thinking about how to use online resources to support managing their portfolio of projects. Dave Davis from AT&T gives his take on how portfolio management maps to a company's project management maturity - specifically how good you need to be at project management to have most success with a portfolio management process. He then covers important characteristics of a good portfolio management process, including project lists, project sponsors, understanding project value, and more. Finally, Dave covers a case study of how his group implemented an online "home page" for the portfolio, providing a web-based framework of the master project portfolio list and central access to key project documents and status.
Executives need to be aligned with our portfolio management approach, and contribute to decision-making in the right way, so that new projects are championed and interjected atop our current portfolio commitments in alignment with our portfolio strategy. This presentation, contributed by K.C. Yelin of ICS Group (www.icsgrp.com), compares the role of a project portfolio manager to that of a "financial portfolio manager," and the executive to that of a client with a personal financial portfolio. The client communicates his financial goals and often decides the targeted allocation of assets, but does not select the individual investments in each asset category. The financial portfolio manager shares the performance of the portfolio relative to the client's goals and counsels the client, allaying fears of situational ups and downs and keeping the focus on the longer term. This presentation discusses how to adapt the best of the financial portfolio-client model to the project portfolio-executive scenario.
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