How to determine Critical Path Tasks on Projects?


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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


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

Project and Program Management differences


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



Need for PM Training & Certifications


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  &

Resolving project team disputes effectively


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

Stakeholder Analysis For Better Projects


Managing a successful project needs a high level of stakeholder management on an ongoing basis. So who are stakeholders? 

Stakeholder analysis is the process of identifying the individuals or groups that are likely to affect or be affected by the project outcome and sorting stakeholders according to their impact on the project and the impact the project will have on them. It is not only a critical process in the initiation phase of the project (best practice is to revisit it at least after each project phase if possible) but also sometime becomes factor for success of the project especially for the large enterprise wide programs. The output information helps in effectively managing the stakeholders by meeting their expectations and gaining their confidence.

Stakeholder analysis can entail below activities;

  • Capture and document the characteristics of key stakeholders.
  • Capture the interests of stakeholders in relation to the problems that the project is seeking to address
  • Capture conflicts of interests between stakeholders helping to manage such relationships later in the project
  • Capture relations between stakeholders that may enable “coalitions” of project sponsorship, ownership and cooperation
  • Identify the capacity of different stakeholders and stakeholder groups to participate
  • Capture and document appropriate level of participation by stakeholders e.g. inform, consult, partnership or all of these

So chances are more people your project impacts by its outcome and activities, it’s obvious that more people will also have some degree of influence over the projects direction in a positive or negative way. Some of these “impacted “will likely benefit directly or indirectly and will become supporters in your endeavors. Similarly people who are likely to impacted negatively by the project will block the project activities or act in a manner to delay. Hence it is important to ensure to cultivate more supporters and engage affected for managing their expectations to an extent possible without digressing on the project’s deliverables or products. Therefore it is essential to analyze these stakeholders from the perspective of your project. For simplicity, project stakeholders can be classified in following types.

Classification of Stakeholders

  1. Primary stakeholders: are those ultimately affected, either positively or negatively by an organization’s actions.
  2. Secondary stakeholders: are the ‘intermediaries’, that is, persons or organizations who are indirectly affected by an organization’s actions.
  3. Key stakeholders: have significant influence upon or importance within an organization (they can be part of either two groups above)

Managing Stakeholder expectations

Essentially you will need to develop a strong working relationship with key stakeholders. Primary or Key stakeholders are required to be engaged proactively time to time for consultation, key decisions, support and selling the benefits of project outcome to ensure the strategic objectives of the project or  program are achieved. This also draws on the robust communication management to keep these stakeholders engaged and abreast of current challenges, issues and any significant success through regular communication and in person interactions to meet their information needs. The communication plan may document who receives communications, when, how and to what level of detail. Protocols may be established including security and need to know parameters.

Key Benefits of Stakeholder analysis / Managing Expectations;

  • Influential stakeholders can be identified early and their input can then be used to shape the scope and deliverables
  • Cultivating support from the powerful stakeholders will help the engagement win more resource, thus making the project or program more likely to succeed.
  • The project and program management team identify conflicting or competing objectives among stakeholders early and draft plan to resolve the potential issues
  • By engaging and interacting with stakeholders early and frequently, the  team can ensure that they fully understand and are convinced of the benefits of project goals
Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11

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