Tip 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.
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.
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.
What 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.
I 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.
I 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.
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:
LiquidPlanner is one of the more robust solutions we have looked at, with an enterprise level set of features. The user interface is slick and modern, with lots of drag-drop and right-click menu features.
At a task level, LiquidPlanner is capable of tracking more detail than most comparable solutions. Tasks allow for multiple resources, and separate work estimates for each resource. You can set daily hour limits, to spread work across multiple days for part-time resources. Tasks can also track notes, comments, links, documents, links, dependencies, and lists of sub-tasks.
Wrike is one of my personal favorite SaaS PPM tools. You get a lot for your money. While priced for medium size organizations, Wrike contains many enterprise level features, like gantt charting and resource management. It also has a very clean, easy to use, and modern user experiences – lots of drag-and-drop, split screens, an interactive views.
Wrike has a few different ways to view and work with schedule and tasks. The simplest is a split screen with tasks on the left and details on the right – easy to pick a task and make quick changes. An expandable work breakdown view gives a better picture of task relationships. There is also an interactive gantt chart view which shows everything across a timeline.