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How to determine Critical Path Tasks on Projects?

June 24, 2013

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The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the critical path method or more commonly termed critical path as “the sequence of schedule activities that determines the shortest duration of the project.” The critical path methodology technique can also be applied to “determine amount of float” on various logical network paths in a project schedule network” that reflects minimum total project duration.

What is a Critical Task?

Any task in a project schedule network becomes critical if:

  • It has no slack
  • It has a Must Start On or Must Finish On date constraint.
  • It has an As Late As Possible constraint in a project scheduled from a start date.
  • It has an As Soon As Possible constraint in a project scheduled from a finish date.
  • It has a finish date that is the same as or beyond its deadline date.

Note that a task stops being critical when it’s marked as completed, because it then can no longer affect the completion of successor tasks or the project finish date.

Identification and close monitoring of all critical tasks in a project is a first step to ensure they can be better managed. Fast Tracking & Crashing techniques are most commonly used by Project Managers to manage critical tasks on their projects.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11


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7 Measures of Project Success

June 1, 2013

How do you define a successful project? Primarily a project needs to deliver on few basic parameters such as  

  1. Product of Project – This may be a new service, a product or a repeatable process that sponsoring organization intends to use for strategic, operational or business advantage. The customer must be able to use or validate it at project completion.
  2. Cost or Investment: Budget allocated for project should not exceed without changes to baseline scope. This is one of the primary concerns for the stakeholder along with timelines and quality in order to derive reasonable value from investment.
  3. Schedule: Project timelines are met for key deliverables so project’s product is relevant for the intent it is commissioned. This is especially true in the technology domain where go to market time can make or break company’s fortunes.
  4. Project Scope: Has project maintained the agreed scope of work and identified deliverables on time and at desired levels of utility? If there are either missed requirements or “gold plating with increased costs or time, in both cases it points to an element of failure.
  5. Reporting Metrics: Is there an agreement on measurement metrics to identify and report on key milestones and deliverables while project is in flight? If key parameters aren’t defined, it is practically impossible to measure the progress made or how much more time or budget will need to complete the remaining scope.
  6. Stakeholder Expectations: This is a tough one, especially that various involved parties have differing stakes in the project. It is important that your key stakeholder’s perceive the project outcome to be inline with their expectations.
  7. Transition to Operation: Very little thought and planning time is given on the sustainment aspects of a project delivery. It is critical that sufficient time and resources are engaged for ensuring there is smooth hand off & required transfer of knowledge between project & supporting teams at project completion & acceptance in to ongoing operations.

To conclude, your stakeholders will decide whether project was well-managed. Someone (perhaps your sponsor) will decide whether or not the project was a success. Some of the above measures may form the basis of this success. So to help stakeholders understand and decide get project success measures documented and agreed to from the start!

ProZen Global, Calgary
Project Staffing & Consulting Services
Access more resources at www.prozenglobal.com

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Project and Program Management differences

September 22, 2012

Project Management and Management of Programs is different in multiple ways. Some of these difference are described in below table. This is just a short list and in no way intended to be a comprehensive set.

 Parameter Program Management Project Management
Organization Semi-permanent in nature, resourced to address the full range of business requirements associated with achievement of a strategic business objective. Resource requirements may be programmatic in nature and applied to all or major sets of projects undertaken to deliver the program Transient organization in nature, resourced to address a limited set of requirements that may be more temporal in nature and not recurring through all project phases. Output oriented vs. outcome oriented
Organizational Alignment Analogous to building a new company with a sharply defined strategic business objective. When existing owner organizations are adopting program management for the first time, organizational change management processes are an early activity to assure that owner elements understand their changed role in a program delivery approach Team alignment around project and contract requirements. In joint venture or prime-sub project structures this alignment may include “cultural” alignment as well as team building activities
Outcome Definition Strategic Business Outcome (enterprise viewpoint) Defined scope, schedule and budget (output viewpoint)
Risk Management Management of all risks associated with achievement of the defined strategic business objectives Management of assumed risks
Requirements Establish programmatic and system technical requirements and allocate as appropriate to individual projects Manage project to meet the allocated programmatic and system technical requirements
Interface Management Management of all programmatic interfaces between defined projects as well as other programmatic interfaces with stakeholder groups Management of allocated interfaces, if any, and all interfaces within the assembled project team
Execution Planning Program wide execution planning including top level schedule, budget, performance standards, supply chain configuration and contracting strategy Project execution planning consistent with agreed to scope schedule, budget. and performance standards
Sequencing Sequencing of programmatic activities including defined projects; re-sequencing of projects and other programmatic activities as required to achieve the desired strategic business outcome Sequencing of project activities to achieve project execution requirements within any programmatic constraints imposed by contract
Timeframe Through achievement of strategic business objectives (more permanent in nature) Duration associated with completion of project activities
Stakeholder Engagement Identification and integration of stakeholders’ interests and proactive engagement to assure achievement of strategic business objectives Interaction with stakeholder groups only as contractually provided for

Comments are welcome to share other differences you find in Project and Management as per your experience!

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11



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How Projects are different from Programs

September 5, 2012

Program management differs from project management in several fundamental ways. In the simplest of terms, program management is the definition and integration of a number of projects to cause a broader, strategic business outcome to be achieved. “Projects produce deliverables; programs output benefits so as to sustain, advance or achieve organizational objectives” according to page six of The Standard for Portfolio Management.

Program management is not just the sum of all project management activities but also includes management of the risks, opportunities and activities that occur “in the white space” between projects! Especially program  directly addresses and supports the corporate strategic goals unlike project that is more concerned with a specific outcome and deals more at the work package level. From the organization point of view too, program decision on resourcing, standards and compliance typically affect associated projects. Programs and projects have different focuses but working together, they can create the right balance and momentum needed to achieve strategic goal.

Project management and program management are distinct processes, but they often interrelate. For example, a company may initiate a major program to implement an enterprise resources planning software throughout the firm.

SP Verma, PMP, ITIL v3
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional

LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11
Access more resources at http://pmpower.wordpress.com
http://www.prozenconsulting.com
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Why You Should Delegate More

June 11, 2012

Work delegation is an art that can be a win-win for both a leader and subordinates. Still rarely you find leads and managers do it right way. There are two extremes we often see in the workplace. A control freak, who is obsessed to do everything by himself, It might be a reflection of either a job insecurity or a false obsession with perfection or doing everything his or her own way. Both these approaches are killers (literally) and does not produce effective or efficient outcome.
What to Delegate:
Delegation is a fine line where one has to decide what need to be delegated and what needs to be kept. There is a clear choice between mundane or routine tasks which are not important but have to be done. These types of tasks are easier to delegate as they can be done by a junior staff with acceptable or desired level of quality. At times this may involve some on the job training. These tasks are best targets for delegation and require little or no supervision over a period of time and can be real stress reviler.
Contrary to this, there are some highly technical or complex tasks which require higher level of expertise or domain experience. For example, presentation of project report to steering committee or Proposal for an upcoming project. Delegation of these type of tasks are not easier and can’t be delegated to someone who is either not qualified so lacking the ‘expertise’ or someone does not simply have the skills or interest to perform this on your behalf. To be able to delegate this type of tasks, one has to groom someone overtime and spend quality time coaching on. Most leaders do not think delegating these tasks because these tasks are also something that reflects their key skills or so to speak USP and delegating these tasks may actually make manager’s position replaceable!
How To Delegate:
There are simple steps to ensure the delegated task get done to desired level of success and you don’t end up spending more time supervising.
• Select the task and Find a resource with suitable skills
• Provide sufficient work instructions & measurable goals
• Focus on task “Objective” of the task not procedures
• Supervise, Review periodically & give objective Feedback
• Step in to help if needed, else do not interfere.
Expect teething problems
If even after your clear instructions and support you see that the task is back on your table for your action, the delegation clearly did not work. Many managers find themselves in this position often and don’t know what to do next. Some even accept the fact that their team is not up to the mark for the responsibility.
First, in some cases, the subordinates who have been delegated the tasks bounce the task back to the manager because they don’t want to take the risk or be blamed for the failure. Second, it may also be possible that manager and the subordinate do not have the same understanding of the tasks to be performed and the empowerment going with that. Clarify the expectations and ask for his / her next action plan. Support with your inputs but do not micro manage or step in when not required.
It is important that these challenges are discussed and worked through before abandoning the idea. This is because if delegation fails, both parties loose. Subordinate doesn’t see any room to grow and Boss feels stuck with routine and mundane work load & not finding time for critical and strategic project work.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL v3
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
This article is also available on http://www.prozenconsulting.com

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Need for PM Training & Certifications

April 29, 2012

Traditional learning model

Despite the fact that here is a lot of buzz in business about importance of project management skills in resources aligned in delivery of projects, the trend of formally trained individuals is quite small or insignificant. Few years before (when PMP or Prince2 credentials were not as sought after as today) professionals as well as organizations did not feel the need to have formal training for PM professionals. Rather it was more likely that these resources gained ‘hands on’ knowledge and skills while performing the jobs in their day today work life & going through company’s existing processes, procedures in use and learning from mistakes made in the live environment. It is quite obvious that many learned the tricks & techniques with historical tried and tested ‘trial & error’ method possibly unknowingly at the organization’s expense!

PM Training becoming mainstream

It is also evident that due to lack of structure and infancy of the discipline the failure rate of projects were higher that what they might be today. make no mistakes, I am not suggesting that improved success rates of projects today compared to a decade earlier is primarily or solely due to acceptance of formal training and certifications of professionals in the industry, the must have been other factors at play as well such as improved tools and better awareness and knowledge around techniques and off course increased level of maturity of the performing organization. Over the years awareness about value of formal Project Management training has been recognized by the industry and this reflected in the fact that now there are large numbers of training schools/colleges offering variety of training programs for varying levels of needs.

What drives people for credential

Even with much greater emphasis on requirement for industry recognized credentials, the key aim of individual for gaining PMP, Prince2 or similar badges is more to do for financial benefits & due to peer or organization pressure rather to really gain additional subject and process knowledge for practical application purposes. I do believe that going through the process of preparation for the certification does help in the way that individual gains basic level of subject knowledge and terminologies, which in itself has remarkable value.

Why Skill disparity still remains

What actually is used in day today practice is mostly to do with framework established by the performing organizations which depends again on the level of maturity the organization is working. So what it means is that even though 2 individuals with same level of experience and industry recognized credentials may have quite different level of expertise in Project Management knowledge area due to the exposure and practical use will defer based on the adopted practices by their organizations. Credentials & formal training in professional fields act as minimum level of knowledge/skill expected by the Industry from project management professional, this is still an excellent value, given this is what expected out of these programs.

Shyam VermaPMP, ITIL v3
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11
This article is also available on http://pmpower.wordpress.com  &
http://www.prozenconsulting.com
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Resolving project team disputes effectively

March 16, 2012

We all know how frequently a small disagreement within the team members can  flash-over into a full conflagration in no time, scorching you and your colleagues in minutes. What it means is that you as the leader of the project team need to think on your feet and take a quick decision to douse the flames before they have any significant negative effects on the team and project outcome.

Conflict resolution does have some trusted and tested techniques that can be used as per the specific situation.  These techniques are listed as below;

  • Confronting: A resolution technique that involves face to face dialog and focuses on win-win outcome
  • Compromising: This is where stakes are small and both parties looking for a quick resolution
  • Smoothing: One party loses or obliges for the sake of achieving the overall larger goal or for future trade off
  • Avoiding: Temporary solution to postpone issue for future. Leads to recurrence of the issue
  • Forcing: Win lose situation where one party wins at the expense of other party; rarely brings a lasting solution

The best answer is to have a conflict resolution mechanism set ahead of time – for example ground rules for the project team. This is something that team already has in place and agrees to abide by and has a buy in from all affected members.

The reason this is the best alternative to choose because trying to resolve a conflict when tempers are high may lead to distrust from one of the parties.  While if you have ground rules laid out well in advance, there is no way it could be ignored by any party privy to the conflict. What has to be done is ascertain the facts and view it from the perspective of the rules already in place! Team norms should ideally be established when the unit is first formed. These are rules that help the group run effective meetings and make sure everyone is heard. Some examples of team norms:

  • Meetings will begin promptly when scheduled.
  • One person talks at a time; there are no side discussions
  • De-personalize discussion of issues – no attacks on people
  • E-mail and other communications will be answered within 24 hours.
  • In event of a disagreement, a final decision would be made by the PM/GM
  • When we pose an issue or a problem, we will also try to present a solution.
  • No responsibilities will be assigned unless the person be assigned the responsibility accepts it

Do you have your ground rules set up for your project team?

Shyam VermaPMP, ITIL

IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11
This article is also available on blog site http://pmpower.wordpress.com
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