7 Measures of Project Success


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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Costing traps in IT Projects


One of the major challenges with large and complex projects (spanning several industries) is cost overruns from original budget making the initiative too expensive to be worth eventually. A noteworthy example is recently concluded Common Wealth Games held in New Delhi where the budget overran by large magnitude. While whole of that overrun may not have been due to pure project management but also governance issues but such events do compromise the position of lead Project manager and credibility of project management discipline overall. To avoid cost overruns one has to be very careful with planning of the project resources, defined deliverables and constraints from the beginning. Let’s take a common example as to what can go wrong!

So you have landed a project that has a defined and well documented scope and deliverables. You also have the required authority and power to manage the resources required to deliver the product of the project. Before you start using the resources you may want to double check who are these resources are and how much they would cost the project to deliver. This is especially true in case you are dependent on any external resource or consultant to bring in that much needed expertise your internal resources do not have. The trap essentially is the hidden costs that do not seem quite obvious in the beginning.

Let’s say you need an architect to design the database of your new application and internally either you do not have resources with relevant expertise or these resources are not available to your project. In your budget, you may have considered X Hours for this activity at the @ of Y dollars. However when this consultant arrives to start work on the database, you may realize that he needs a laptop to work on with all required software fully loaded!

Did you consider the lodging and boarding expense if applicable along with software license cost in your budget? How long will it take to get these required software and laptop to arrange? Will this consultant have any other productive project activities to do in the meantime or will those hours be a strain on your pocket? Are there any other tasks that might be impacted due to delay in database creation costing you additional dollars? It may not be possible to fully estimate all the unforeseen expenses but with some careful advance planning you can minimize the damage or have cheaper alternates in place!

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

Why Corporate Culture Matters!


What exactly is corporate culture? The dictionary defines culture as “the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions and all other products of human work and thought.”

Jason Young, maintains in his article “High Performance & Corporate Culture” that it is not a set of core values developed by a small group of people at an off-site leadership meeting. It is not always what a chief executive describes in an annual report or shareholder’s meeting. In fact, corporate culture is not always what the leadership team of an organization says or thinks it is. What an organization assumes, believes values, accepts, and promotes, produces and the way in which behavior occurs frames its corporate culture.

Why is culture so important? Strong corporate cultures outlast the influence of even the strongest leader. That’s the reason Apple will not only survive but also thrive in post Jobs era if it is able to maintain its culture that Jobs build during that last decade and half. The importance of corporate culture in success of an organization and longevity cannot be overstated. “An organization’s norms and values aren’t formed through speeches but through actions and team learning. Strong cultures have teeth. They are much more than slogans and empty promises. Some organizations choose to part ways with those who do not manage according to the values and behaviors that other employees embrace. The above is outlined by Harvard Business School professors Jim Heskett and W. Earl Sasser with co-author Joe Wheeler in their new book “The Ownership Quotient”.
Culture, the human terrain of an organization, has real bearing on organizational success and performance. It affects communication, co-operation and learning. It can help explain why changes will prompt some employees to quit even when compensation is not affected, why a talented leader may flounder in a cultural mismatch and why incentives and individual psychology alone don’t predict results. Defining and delivering on the promise your organization’s culture can deliver tremendous internal and market-facing benefits.

Nurturing corporate culture: According to Jason, “In some companies, culture develops by default. In others, culture develops in ways that are conscious, intentional, and tangible.” Noting, Southwest Airlines is one example of a company that has created a work environment where people can do their best work. In fact, in the words of its former CEO, “We are looking for a particular type of person, regardless of what job category it is. We are looking for attitudes that are positive and for people who can lend themselves to causes.”

Several organizations have built a unique corporate culture over the time to meet demands of changing global competitive market place to reap a unique advantage. I remember a mid-size Indian IT firm initiating a successful, multiyear internal campaign in late 90s to focus the centricity of customer among thousands of its employees to cultivate high quality delivery & deeper customer engagement. It was a well thought out strategy that was dictated to materialize firm’s ambition to differentiate its position among global customers & transition in to tier 1 IT vendor at global level.

This underscores the fact that, the buy in among the people of entire organization is very critical as it accelerate the motivational environment and allows people to do what they do best as they start seeing alignment between organizational values and individual behavior in broader context. The whole process needs active support from top leadership, constant communication to keep people focused on stated or desired culture.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL-F,
Program & portfolio Management
LinkedIn: spverma. Twitter: Shammy1

Increasing Value of Project Management Office


The PMO does not necessarily  manage projects, so in many organizations the PMO does not have a direct project connection or it is indirect. Hence, the value proposition for a PMO can be less tangible and more subjective. A centralized PMO makes great sense to ensure that all project managers have a core set of project management skills, common processes and templates.

The PMO also acts as the owner of the project management approach and supports project managers to utilize common project management practices, procedures and process templates. In addition, the PMO will serve as a place for providing organizational view of the status of all projects and can report on the improvements being made to project outcome over time.

Although PMOs can be established to provide a narrow or broad set of services, this list includes many of the common responsibilities a full PMO would perform.The key value of a  project management office includes:

  •     Optimizes delivery cycle time due to better insight in to delivery processes
  •     Optimizes delivery costs by pruning to non value added activities
  •     Improves quality of project deliverables in mid to long run
  •     Early identification and proactive management of project issues and risks
  •     Fosters sound project management best practices
  •     Better containment and management of project scope & risks
  •     More opportunities to leverage and reuse historical project knowledge
  •     Improves accuracy of estimates by applying standard organization baselines
  •     Better communication with clients and stakeholders
  •     Improves perceptions of your organization by your clients
  •     Improves people and resource management ensuring optimized uses of scarce resources
  •     Reduces time to get up to speed on new projects by applying client specific tailored processes

At an industry level, a PMO is increasingly being seen as an important component required to the  success of projects, and hence, major contributor to the future success of the entire organization. At a more operational level, the value provided by a PMO is indispensable.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL-F
Program & portfolio Mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy1

Why good estimates are only 50% correct!


As per one of the experienced project manager even a good project estimate using one of the widely used methodologies there is only 50% chance of it being correct. What it says is that if your estimates are even 50% correct on delivery, you should be happy and actually did a good job! This despite that Monte Carlo estimate is supposed to give you over 95% correct estimate and if you are using agile you don’t really need to make a full estimate because you iterate the development for multiple deliverables concurrently.

Sure there are tons of article on the ways to employ better delivery estimation debate with so very divergent views from each practitioner. The truth is that you deal with so many dynamic factors that are play at the same time; it is really an art to repeat and beat your estimates each time you take a plunge. So even if you have the past historical data on your side for a similar project type, a team as experienced (or inexperienced)

As the one which completed the project in the past, and you are using the identical technology in your project with same project methodology, you would face your own set of project issues which could take your project completely off track. In short, you can only plan and have mitigation approach for what you know and that should be done however as a project manager one deals with many different dynamics it is almost impossible to have all your risks managed and assumptions validated to be sure of more than 50% of project success.

The another prominent factor quite evidently came out through a recent survey is that when estimating a project, most managers tend to have narrow estimate ranges than what is required to have over 90% confidence. When asked to put estimate ranges for specific tasks, PMs came out with estimate ranges which were narrower than something required to have 90% confidence. In fact the estimate ranges were only comfortable for 40-50% confidence.

So when you ask someone for a range that provides 90% confidence, expect 30% confidence on average Reason? We are naturally hesitant to provide wide ranges-because we feel that narrow estimates are a sign of a better estimate. But narrow estimates are really self defeating unless you have specific data to support the narrow estimates.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11 

Common errors in project costing


One of the major challenges with large and complex projects (spanning several industries) is cost overruns from original budget making the initiative too expensive to be worth eventually. A noteworthy example is recently concluded Common Wealth Games held in New Delhi where the budget overran by large magnitude. While whole of that overrun may not have been due to pure project management but also governance issues but such events do compromise the position of lead Project manager and credibility of project management discipline overall. To avoid cost overruns one has to be very careful with planning of the project resources from the beginning. Let’s take a common example as to what can go wrong!

So you have landed a project that has a defined and well documented scope and deliverables. You also have the required authority and power to manage the resources required to deliver the product of the project. Before you start using the resources you may want to double check who are these resources and how much they would cost the project to deliver. This is especially true in case you are dependent on any external resource or consultant to bring in that much needed expertise your internal resources do not have. The trap essentially is the hidden costs that do not seem quite obvious in the beginning.

Let’s say you need an architect to design the database of your new application and internally either you do not have resources with relevant expertise or these resources are not available to your project. In your budget, you may have considered X Hours for this activity at the @ of Y dollars. However when this consultant arrives to start work on the database, you may realize that he needs a laptop to work on with all required software fully loaded!

Did you consider the lodging and boarding expense if applicable along with software license cost in your budget? How long will it take to get these required software and laptop to arrange? Will this consultant have any other productive project activities to do in the meantime or will those hours be a strain on your pocket? Are there any other tasks that might be impacted due to delay in database creation costing you additional dollars? It may not be possible to fully estimate all the unforeseen expenses but with some careful advance planning you can minimize the damage or have cheaper alternates in place!

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

Project management 2.0


What really is Project Management 2.0? A project per definition is a unique, transient endeavor undertaken to achieve a desired outcome using a methodology (implicit). In recent times, the discipline has positively been influenced by growing trends in technology and social media adoption of processes, tools and agile management approaches. These major influencers combined together to deliver a more relevant, contextual and transparent practices sometimes called social project management or Project management 2.0.

How Project management 2.0 is different: The term is subject to wide interpretations but it is clear that team collaboration is at the heart of project management 2.0.The social or project management 2.0 rapidly uses innovative tools brought about by web 2.0 technologies and social media tools such as Such applications include: Blogs, Wikis, Collaborative tools or SAAS software. The advent of faster communication technologies e.g. broadband and 3G services and dramatic fall in communication costs has made virtual teams collaborate more effectively by using web conferencing and instant messaging tools.

As a result the way projects have been defined, elaborated, implemented and managed have improved over the last few years because of advantages of new set of tools and more matured methodologies in play. Thereby improving project success ratio with matured and repeatable processes. Which in turn is effecting changes in perceived project roles e.g. project team & Project Manager. The later is now recognized to be facilitator and mentor rather someone issuing orders.

Social Media Impact: Imagine the best of social media features working for you in your project! PM tools based on Project Management 2.0 or Social project management such as Wrike and Liquid planner have these featured embedded in the tools and workflows to work for you. Consider you send email to your team mail integration updating project plan for you! Micro blogging feature is an easy way to clarify things within project teams, casual discussions or avoid unnecessarily meetings. This specific feature is really designed to help virtual and remote teams work effectively without being co-located. Project is about people running the show putting a social element in the tools people use brings knowledge pool to the best use and synchronized.

Need for Project management 2.0: The traditional project management is too much dependent on project manager control and provides absolute power unto him making the project outcome dependent him. In most cases the communication channeled to the upper management through one single person e.g. PM sometimes creating a bottleneck. This not only introduced a risk element but also undervalued contribution of the diverse skills of the team. The latest PM tools driven by social media and web 2.0 make team collaboration easier and simpler. A project is led and developed by the whole team, and each team member has the full information on the project while PM oversees the process governance and manages stakeholders.

Future ahead: Project management 2.0 continues to build on Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 tool set to represent power of many and or collective intelligence to create, support and present transparent operation view to the stakeholders. The evolving practice is expected to grow with underlined concepts and gain momentum. The best thing about project management 2.0 is that it allows bottom up and top down approaches to work in tandem when PM aligns those activities at the same time not only cutting routine and mundane activities but providing the complete project picture to all involved.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11