Start your Project on the Right Foot… Do NOT start with an End Date!

Jim GrahamTip of The Week: Start your Project on the Right Foot… Do NOT start with an End Date!

Of all the project pain points that can be experienced, starting with an End Date before scoping and properly estimating, can arguably be ranked number 1. This scenario often happens in order to get project funding approval on an “if only it can be accomplished by “X” date”. There may be solid reasoning for placing the end date first on the schedule, such as a government mandate, but this does not make it an acceptable practice for all projects.

Backing into the date can create project toxicity from the start and increases project risk exponentially. Although it may be intimidating, if you determine that the project cannot be completed by the imposed End Date it needs to be communicated with supporting documentation as early as possible and also recorded on your project’s plan and risk register.

You may also provide alternatives to meet the date, such as a phased project approach. Deliver a manageable portion of the project by the proposed End Date, with subsequent phase following until full project scope is met.

Personality Trumps Everything

Personality Trumps Everything

It’s not that other factors are unimportant to Project Management. Things like experience, training, resources, budget and support are all critical to success. But if I could improve just one variable in the Project Manager equation, it would be personality.

The most successful Project Managers – the PMs who succeed regardless of outside factors – possess certain personality traits. These traits help overcome typical project pitfalls like lack of resources, difficult sponsors, compressed schedule, poor scope, etc. Here are some of the traits we look for when hiring a Project Manager.

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EPMO vs. PMO – The Differences, Pros, and Cons

Regardless of what you call it – Enterprise PMO, Program Management Office, Project Management Office, or Portfolio Management Office – project management offices exist to ensure companies 1) select and approve projects that align with strategy and help advance corporate goals, and 2) successfully complete project work on-time and within budget. If deployed and managed properly, they can also increase efficiencies and reduce the overall cost of delivery. However a poorly implemented project office can be costly – missed deadlines, burdensome red tape, low moral, and high overhead costs.

The definition and responsibilities of an Enterprise Project Management Office (PMO) and a traditional Project Management Office (PMO) are convoluted. While some duties clearly belong to one, many more can be assigned to either group. Here is a brief comparison of the two entities from my perspective and experience working with many clients.

The Enterprise Project Management Office

An Enterprise Program Office (EPMO) is typically outside of any operational business unit, and reports directly into the CEO or CFO. As the name suggests, the EPMO is responsible for all programs and projects across the enterprise. It maintains a top-down view of an organization’s portfolio of projects.
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What to do with a Creep in the Room!

Jim GrahamWhat to do with a Creep in the Room!

The term Scope Creep is commonly used to identify any change that was not within the original project scope. Keep in mind that this not necessarily a bad thing. Projects by nature are dynamic, and change is typically unavoidable. I’ve had project sponsors say, “There will be no change requests on this project!” They were obviously concerned about the project’s budget and timeline, but it is unrealistic to say that there will be no change on a project. It is important to make the sponsor and project team understand that scope changes/creep can occur due to numerous reasons regardless of the team’s experience, planning, and foresight. To remove the stigma, after project kick-off, document and present a change that does not affect the project scope, timeline, resources, or budget.

With this said there are other types of project creep that are real problems; Hope, Effort, and Feature Creep.
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Yodiz Product Review

yodizscreenshot1I recently finished managing a 14-month, software development, with a team of six developers. It was our client’s first Agile development project. In addition to teaching Scrum to the development team and stakeholders, we assisted in selection an agile management software platform. Given deadlines and other circumstances, we were looking for something 1) inexpensive, 2) easy to use, and 3) quick to deploy. After reviewing several products, we selected Yodiz.

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Leave Fighting Fires to Professionals

firefightersI recently had a fire at my house. A high voltage wire in the electrical meter box on the outside of the house exploded and caught fire. The good news we were home, the fire was quickly contained, and thankfully nobody was hurt. It was obviously unexpected and not on my radar as a risk. This had me thinking a bit about how “fires” appear unexpectedly in projects. As Project Managers we plan for the expected and also inherently face the “known-unknown”; knowing that unexpected events, circumstances, or outcomes will take place in our projects that are hard or even impossible to plan for or predict. These unknowns could be small changes in scope or even loss project funding.
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Project Lessons from HBO and Silicon Valley


The HBO hit series, Silicon Valley, is nearing the end of another great year. If you have not had a chance to watch, do not worry; there are no spoilers ahead. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it is an entertaining story about a quirky group of developers with a great software idea; and we follow their journey through funding, development, and marketing, while dealing with a multitude of project challenges, pitfalls, and successes. Season three begins with a true project leadership challenge; how to get the project team to buy-in and move in the same direction with a shared vision.

While in the show, there is a power struggle that becomes the catalyst to the project team continuously shifting their project’s direction; it had me reflecting on my project experience and a few simple steps I’ve learned to create team alignment and project buy-in:

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Software as a Service (SaaS), Project Portfolio Management (PPM) Solutions

This is the first of several blog posts in which we will evaluate Software as a Service (SaaS), Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software solutions.

During this evaluation, we primarily looked at solutions for small and mid-sized businesses (SMB), and project teams. We loosely define the SMB space as companies with between 100 and 5,000 employees, or between $20 million and $1 billion in annual revenue. More importantly, we looked at tools which are appropriate for organizations with an IT staff of less than 500, fewer than 20 project managers, and no more than 50 concurrent projects. Larger organizations should consider enterprise level solutions. Although some of the products we looked at will support enterprise implementations, there are several other products that we are not covering here.

The following are among the products we initially evaluated at a high level. About half of these we already have some familiarity with. From this initial set of PPM SaaS products, we selected several for a deeper dive and evaluation.

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Project Managers are… What!?

I did a Google search on “Project Managers are” and was surprised with what Google revealed as autosuggestions:


Top results are: Idiots, Responsible for, Useless, and Stupid!  Three out of the four are pretty cynical to put it mildly.  I certainly do not want to be generalized into these negative buckets and I’d bet nether do you!  Here are some qualities a good PM should possess that will help change these stereotypes.

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