Essentials of Project Kick off


For most project managers the project kick off is the first real experience in meeting and interacting with key project stakeholders.  An effective kick off meeting at the beginning of the project can give you the needed momentum and push you need to cross several initial hurdles and put you firmly on the steering wheel.  On the other hand a poorly conducted kick off can actually undermine your authority as project manager but also confuse people about the importance of the whole initiative.

I attended a project kick off meeting recently that announced a critical client organization initiative. The kick off apparently was scheduled in a jiffy and at the end of the event many felt as if the event was intended to confirm to some internal process as spirit lacked the action. Let’s understand what a kick off is all about and why you need to make it as impactful as possible;

  • Announce the start of a project

The project kick off is the official start of the project and brings the initiative in public domain. Here are some basics that you may want to take note of;

  1. Attendees: The attendees should include the core team, sponsor of the initiative, members of steering committee and other stakeholder.
  2. Project Overview: Since the objective is to bring everyone on the same page, you don’t need to drill down to the specifics of the project but a concise and clear project overview is necessary.
  3. Project Org: If possible share the project organization chart and escalation chain as a chart/diagram is easier to comprehend than spoken words.
  4. Team introduction: Introduce the members to the group and their respective roles and skill sets they bring to the project.
  5. Implementation processes: you may want to briefly touch upon the implementation process to be followed per agreement.
  6. Scope and exclusions: It is pertinent to touch upon the scope and out of scope items from the project perspective.
  • Set forth the objective and success criteria
  1. Client perspective: Emphasize on what the organization wishes to achieve & how the project outcome would benefit the sponsoring organization during the project overview.
  2. Outline benefits: This could be tangibles such as increased sales by 20% over next 3 years, a new product line or intangibles like better customer satisfaction ratings.
  3. Quantify: If you can quantify the objectives, it would have more impact and understanding. You must ensure that you are in control and everyone sees you that way!
  • Set clear expectations from support teams

There aren’t many projects where core team is doing everything that needs to be done. Apparently the effort is team based where teams interact and depend on each other shape the project product. Hence it is imperative that you:

  1. Set the right expectations and accountabilities of these teams
  2. Deliverables where you expect them to play key role.
  3. Share at least the key project milestones & deliverables

You may want to document this in your meeting minutes to seal it. Kickoff is a perfect time to provide these teams much needed heads up.

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

Project Management in nutshell


We all PM professionals know that project management is application of various factors such as knowledge, skills, tools & techniques to project work in order to meet stakeholder needs and expectations. PM being in-charge of managing day today details of the project. He may be designated as project manager, a coordinator or lead and makes use of the his skills to understand the tangible and intangible factors which drive the outcome of the project amid balancing conflicting demands at the same time.  some of these are termed as below;

  • Project Scope, Time and Quality
  • Client (stakeholder) expectations and priorities
  • Available resources e.g. material and human resources
  • Project Methodology & deliverables

To deliver the outcome one has to use various tools and techniques that have been developed over the years and one’s individual experience and past project learnings.

Why Project Charter?


Have you ever wondered how most IT projects get started in a hurry as if they were required last month! Delay in project launch adversely affects the appointed PM in particular and delivery organisation in general because there is generally not much time to put required project processes in place because the focus is more on getting the work done! In such a situation you are more likely not find an approved statement of work from sponsors or a Project Charter summarizing business needs and objective of the project and it’s deliverables defined clearly.

So, what do you do if you are in such a position? Unpleasant as it mind sound to some in your surroundings, you must insist to have one on your project even if it is a one page document. You must insist because it is not only the Project Charter that names the Project Manager officially assigned to the project but also it specifies the authority of PM on the project & other key stakeholders.

Coming to the structure, most charters have the followings, depending on your specific requirements you can modify the same as applicable;

  1. Business Need: Evidently, this describes why the project is there in the first place or what opportunities it want the organization to take advantage of.
  2. Project Sponsor: This identifies the business group head that would assign the budget for the project and would have all encompassing authority in terms of project finance & at times to stop or terminate the project mid way.
  3. Project Manager: This section has the name of authorized project manager who is supposed to run the show and be accountable.
  4. Project Description: This section should outline the project scope in short highlighting what would project cover and what it would not cover as project activities or requirements. This can be found in Statement of Work if it exists or provided by the end customer.
  5. Project Duration: Here it specifies as to what is project start and project finish dates and year.
  6. Aim or Goal: This section highlights the project goals in specific and measurable terms e.g. reduce cost of quality of organization by 25% from current in 3 months
  7. Assumptions & Constraints: Here it highlights assumptions that are applicable for the project e.g. cabling and wiring work to be done by the customer where project aims to provide installation and ongoing support for POS systems of a retail store. Similarly the constraint can be that vendor teams would can work only between non business hours of the store.
  8. Risks: This covers high level risks to the project such as delay in system procurement or exchange rate risks in case of international procurements.
  9. Resources: It is important to note how and which resources would be used as they directly impact the project work  along with reporting relationships. Mention the resource skills and their requirement duration.
  10. Budget: This specifies how much budget is made available for the project on a high level. In your planning phase you would ensure to keep for contingency and known unknown!
  11. Approach: You may like to touch upon the project methodology to be used e.g. Waterfall, Agile or Spiral

Remember, if there is no project charter for your project, or none has been provided to you by the sponsors, it only going to affect you as PM. That’s the reason PMI says in absence of a project charter, the PM should create one and have it approved from sponsors of the project. Good Luck!

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

Running effective Meetings


In a typical day, being a PM, how many meetings you attend or organise? Well it may depend on the nature of your project and your managing style but meetings do take quite a significant part of PM’s time. And if you spend your valuable project hours, these hours better be well spent! Believe me, effective meetings would surely go a long way in helping your project be better organized and executed. Here are few useful tips to get most out of your daily meetings!

  1. Define meeting objective: Don’t set up that meeting only for the sake of meeting. Before scheduling that team meeting, define the objective of the meeting & how meeting would help in that. Ask if you need this meeting to communicate or update team about something important or routine developments. See if an email would do for the same & it might do if the meeting objective is to keep the team abreast of the latest project developments. If the meeting objective is to seek ideas or gather feedback or individual inputs quickly, you may need that meeting. Typically meetings face to face help in building team consensus & confidence. Once the need is clear, invite only those who really need to be there to participate and contribute. Let people skip the meetings if their inputs are not critical for the objective and they can spend their time better on assigned tasks. 
  2. Communicate meeting agenda: This is a basic rule still highly ignored one! I see several managers, supervisors and sr. executive skip the agenda when calling for the meeting. This not only confuses people about the objective. The meeting agenda should tie & take forward the meeting goal. It’s better to distribute the agenda prior to the meeting so participants are fully aware and prepared to share what is required of them. You may also indicate agenda owners & duration in your communication if they need to present this to the group. This is especially helpful in a meeting that has large number of participants. You should have someone to keep the time to ensure presenters don’t stretch the meeting duration longer than planned. Meeting organizer should appoint someone as notes taker. 
  3. Take charge: Better meetings are a result of a good leader & affect organization culture. Statistics show that, “Nonverbal Communication,” only 7 percent of communication is what we say — the rest is how we say it. Pitch, volume, and rhythm carry 38 percent of a message, while body language, facial expressions, and eye movement account for a whopping 55 percent” If you are the organizer of the meeting, it is your responsibility to take charge of the meeting goal and drive it effectively to accomplish the meeting goal. You can do that by being attentive; keep the discussion relevant & useful. Don’t hesitate to remind people why they are there in case discussion strays from the topic.  Secondly, ensure that all participants are prepared for the meeting, if some homework was expected. It may be better to call off the meeting or re-schedule if earlier action items are not worked on. Finally, to have an effective meeting, you should start & end on time. This would give a clear message to all and they won’t be late next time. Having said that, if there are people who are senior to you or of your rank, be diplomatic by reminding with them in advance about meeting time. 
  4. Ensure equal participation: only a few people dominating the discussion are very common during meetings. As a leader you should see that all participate and contribute in healthy discussion to have everyone’s view point and comments. This helps in boosting motivation of less active team members to open up & share with others their opinion. In addition, if you invited the right people for the meeting you must have their involvement! So don’t be circumspect to pitch in and give relevant direction if you find that only certain individuals are hijacking the discussion. 
  5. Close with action items: Summarize your meeting outcome and clarify if something is missed out. Spell out the action items to take forward the meeting goal. In fact, each meeting must end with action items clearly specified and distributed. The action items again should be time bound and owned by individual people e.g. what’s expected of them and when — by the end of the week, the end of the cycle, or the next meeting. If the ownership is on a certain group, you should name the group leader. There is a saying, if all are responsible, effectively no one is responsible! So make sure all understand what is expected of them as next step.
  6. Follow up: ideally send out meeting minutes to all participants and people owning the action to keep track of what was decided and what assignments everyone agreed to take on, so you can follow up and keep things moving. Set the reminder threshold e.g. weekly, 2 days before next meeting or a day before action due date. On critical issues, it may help to keep your supervisor or department heads in loop.

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

5 traits of an effective Team Leaders


 Leading a team brings with it a number of challenges and can make you feel like no matter what you do, someone will always be unhappy. So you may wonder if you are doing the right things to succeed as a team leader? Here are 5 common things, as per my experience and observation that can be a great help.

1: Be an effective listener: One of the most important and yet most challenging things for all of us including the team leaders is effectively listening to others. It can be very tempting to try making things happen unilaterally hoping for quick results. This may help in the short term but it is highly unlikely to work in the long term. Make it a priority to listen actively and effectively during your interaction with your team and stakeholders. Also it might give you more than enough inputs to resolve open issues.

2: Treat one & all fairly: It’s possible you connect more with some people than others, also it’s possible that some people in your team do better work than others do. However you must realize that when it comes to treatment, you must set a benchmark in treating one & all fairly based on their contribution. Never have any personal biases for or against despite your own preferences. This would not only earn you respect from all but set the team up as a cohesive unit which is the real strength needed for successful project.

3: Translate vision in to roadmap:It is expected of you to provide clear and unambiguous directions to your team in your day today life. The team comes to expect timely and effective communication on what is being required by them on their duties and tasks. Hence it is of critical importance that you lead from the front and be on top of all issues and affair on which your team might need our guidance, advice or mentoring. A leader who is able to translate his vision in crystal clear roadmap is not only revered by the team but also trusted by the customer.

4: Decision making: It’s not possible that you would always make the best decisions. It is also not possible that you would be appreciated for all your decisions. However, it is your ability to take decision that separates you from your team. It is what provides you authority to carry out your plans & in turn motivates your team. If you are perceived to be depending on others for making critical decisions, chances are you would come out as a weak leader and lead to erosion credibility.

5: A genuine interest in others: At the end of the day, remember things get done by people working for you. Mutual trust and camaraderie among teams gets a boost when you are genuinely interested in them. As a leader, if you take interest in your people and their interests, it opens them more to you, allowing you to influence them more positively than if you treated them like a resource.  

Pl do not this list is by no means the complete, you sure need to add on to this as per your own learning

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

Beyond Project management certification


I recently flip through a few employers’ career sites out of curiosity for what they expect from a PM candidate for their projects. Some of these companies were top level IT consulting and Outsourcing firms while some others were in retail and manufacturing domains. What I found was on expected lines or nothing new: more and more firms now believe a PM certification is more desirable in the candidates. While few years back it was a preferred criterion, now this is more of a default qualification!

While we know that merely passing the PMI exam is not the only thing employers are looking for, it does give them a sense of assurance of the basic understanding of the discipline in the candidate. As importance of project management grew up to ensure success of project initiatives during last decade due to emergence larger and more complex projects fueled by greater rate of technology adoption and globalization, more and more IT Directors/managers across the globe preferred to entrust their projects to experience and trained PMs. As per Standish group’s latest report as many as two third of them regarded these credentials ‘desirable” while more than one third felt this to be mandatory for the prospective PMs. This is higher than 10 percentages from the 2005 figures.

Being myself a project manager and programme manager, I feel having a certification really helps PMs in two ways. One, it instantly establishes your credibility and evokes respect from the stakeholders. Second, it opens more professional opportunities for them including prospects of higher pay! For the employers, though it brings them a sense of assurance having a capable hand on their project, though it need not translate in the anticipated project success. The reason being, each project has unique circumstances and product. There are cases of failed projects despite having some of the best project managers working on them. These projects failed due to reasons normally not under PM controls e.g. change in technology, lack of resources and change of client requirements/priorities.

As an example: several projects that saw budgetary cut back in 2009 are tottering at the verge of failure, delayed closure or sizable cost run up making them un-viable. Also there is no guarantee that conceptual knowledge gained by certified PM from Certification/Training is actually used in the project or not. Project success is a combination of multiple factors contributed equally by the individual and organization. As mentioned in my earlier article, even organization culture can have a deeper effect on project success. Typically the first person to get blamed for the failure is project manager, however an organization with low process maturity may not command higher project success rate despite having certified project managers because PM as an individual will have to follow the established processes and will have lesser influence on the organization processes.

One more thing that I want to emphasize is that even for the certified Project managers, it is not the end of learning. Actually they should bear more responsibility to bring best practices in their projects and mentor juniors e.g. project leads to imbibe these practices. In another word, is that PMs should strive for spending more time in self learning and passing on the knowledge to the organization. In fact, PMI makes it a qualifying requirement to engage in ongoing learning & knowledge imparting process to be re-certify after 3 years. Not doing that can lead to certification expiry

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