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

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  &

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

Challenges in managing global programs


  • Communication:Nearly 70% of large projects and programs fail due to poor communication. Hence it is important that you tailor your communication plan by understanding communication needs of your stakeholders in terms of
    1. Who needs what information
    2. When will they need it
    3. From who

Ensure that everyone part of the program understands their roles & responsibilities, program objectives and as some items may not be explicit. It may be possible to have different type of communication techniques for different audience e.g. sponsors & senior executives may only want executive summary with key issues and achievements in a dashboard instead of detailed report. The same thing is not true for the other stakeholders so don’t assume unless you are sure. Also know when and where to use written or verbal communication tools.

  • Language: Language is probably last frontier of international trade. More than 65% of world workforce does not speak English. Therefore it is a key challenge in most global programs. You can reduce the damage to some extent by:
    1. Using simple sentences
    2. Avoiding jargon
    3. Speaking slowly
    4. Using multiple channels
    5. Confirming understanding
    6. Seeking acknowledgements
  • Culture: In some regions business culture has significant impact on ways of life. For example in the Middle East, Islam guides most social and business behavior whereas in China, same can be said about Confucianism, Japan poses many intricacies of etiquette & protocol developed out of their uniquely hierarchical society.
  • Time zones: Though this may sound like a non-issue but pay attention here to ensure the meetings outside time zones of some teams are well notified in advance and only set to accomplish critical decisions or discussion not for routine and mundane tasks.
  • People & politics: In an outsourcing environment with multiple vendors, there are process and political challenges in knowledge transfers, hand offs and roles and responsibilities unless carefully defined in advance as older vendors had better inroads into the client’s management chain. Same can be assumed in case of an outgoing person in charge in captive IT department. Therefore it is of utmost importance to do some groundwork to have clear queries to have the information and support you need.
Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio Mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy1

Managing Project Scope Effectively


For most projects, keeping the project schedule and cost in control pose the biggest challenge and stake holder expectation after the level of quality. A tight definition and active management of project scope can not only deliver instant results but also relive you of unnecessary squeeze on your project resources. Here are some ideas that can put you back in track or give you some directions on your next high profile project!

  • Scope statement: at times the scope of your project is not very clearly defined from the beginning or is under defined to say the least. Please remember the scope statement that was prepared at the time of Pre-Sales stages or before the actual analysis phase may not be sufficient or complete. So spend some time verifying the fact if some additional things made their way or something that was cut to meet timeline or budget constraint. It is a good practice to serialize key business requirements for estimation of time and cost. Also remember the initial scope statement is only for an interim period until the scope definition is completed as part of planning phase.
  • Objectivity of outcome: compare the statement “Improve service by providing an information system to respond to customer inquiries.” With “Able to answer customer queries last 2 monthly statements and last 60 days transaction over the phone.” Clearly focusing on the outcome brings more clarity and saves lot of vagueness and future disputes with your customer over actual intent. It is recommended that scope definition or project charter is developed in iteration essentially with customer involvement using an authorized document format.
  • Managing Scope Creep: This is a common problem where requirements are not clear and complete. Essentially this is due to incorrect interpretation of the requirements or due to requirement gaps in the scope definition. Sometime additional requirements come up after more clarity emerges or there are changes in stakeholder expectations due to changes in external environments. Therefore it is essential that your project plan has provision to incorporate and approve new requirements and modifications in existing one after careful consideration of impacts by project CCB (change control board) or governance board
  • Project deliverables: An internal deliverable is something that project produces as part of the project for internal use e.g. E-R diagram while an external deliverable is something that project team provides to the business users. I have seen some PMOs require that assigned PMs define internal and external deliverables (with agreed templates) and track at least phase by phase to ensure timely delivery and sign off with customer. This is a good practice and provides a level of comfort and confidence to the stakeholders as well.
  • Functional specifications: Scope definitions could be done using multiple techniques. This could also help in closing missed gaps. One of the techniques is to capture major functionalities by using decomposition. This could be done at the same time with data definition if possible. However if that is not practical the functional specification could provide the required data requirement.
  • Specify Assumptions: Each project initiatives have some or the other dependencies represented by assumptions. It is recommended that each of these assumptions are documented at relevant deliverables and followed up at the earliest. As the false assumptions could pose potential challenges to the project plans in terms of schedule milestones, resources, quality and cost constraints.

While most project managers focus too much on these two constraints however the biggest issue that results in to time as well as cost overrun is not able to manage scope of the defined project. Therefore, a tight definition and active management of project scope can not only deliver instant results but also relive you of unnecessary squeeze on your project resources.

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

Creating Excel WBS


So you are small team working on projects and don’t have MS Project or similar automated tools to plan your project WBS? Don’t despair your very own MS excel can do the trick for you. Here is how!

Decompose Your Project

Before you begin to create your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in Microsoft Excel, you should first decompose your project. Decomposing your project means identifying deliverables, and breaking each deliverable down into its component tasks. You will keep doing this until you get to the smallest work packages possible. You then should assign an ID to each work package based upon the relationships between the task items. These work packages will then make up the items of your WBS. For information on decomposing projects, you will want to check out my series on decomposition, especially How to Decompose your Projects.

Setting up Excel

Once you have properly decomposed your project, you should set up Microsoft Excel to receive your data. Open a new worksheet. Across the top, create at least the following columns:

  • Task ID
  • Task Description
  • Predecessor
  • Owner
  • Role
  • % Complete
  • Start Date
  • Finish Date
  • Deliver To

After creating the columns, you will format the cells. The first cell to format is the Task ID cell. To do this, highlight the column you have designated for the task ID numbers by clicking on the letter at the top of the column. If you do not format the cells, when you type “1.0”, the computer will automatically reformat it to “1.” Right click on the selected column and choose “format cells” from the drop-down menu. Then, in the “Format Cells” menu, choose “Number” and set “Decimal Places” to “1.” The next cell you will need to format in the same way is the “predecessor” cell. This cell will track task dependencies, so you will need to be able to have accurate decimal points here. Set this cell up the same way you set the task ID cell up. Set the duration cell up to accept numbers and the start and finish date columns to accept dates entered.

Enter Your Data

Once you have your Excel Worksheet set up, you can enter your data. Enter in everything you have from your papers where you decomposed your project. Once you have entered your data into the Excel Worksheet, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

Using Conditional Formatting

Once all of your data has been entered into the Excel worksheet, you can play around with the conditional formatting feature. Say you wish to create a report of all the tasks due within a given time range. Highlight your start and finish date columns by click-and-dragging over the two letters representing those columns. Next, select “Conditional Formatting” from the Excel toolbar. Once you have done this, select “Highlight Cell Rules” and then “A Date occurring….” From the drop-down menu that appears, you will select “next week” and instantly all of your tasks due next week will be highlighted.

You can use conditional formatting to highlight tasks that have been assigned to a specific person, tasks that are on the lowest end of completion, and tasks associated with a specific milestone or deliverable. One more useful feature is “data bar.” This bar will graphically represent percent complete column. Access it in conditional formatting menu. Read more:http://www. Brighthub.com/office/project-management

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

10 PM Tools to Turbocharge Your Project Planning


 I am frequently asked by new PMs and some experienced PMs as to what are the other PM tools that could be used for managing projects in addition to vastly popular PM tools offered by the Top 5 Industry majors. I noticed that majority of the people were looking for free or inexpensive tools which are efficient and affordable. So in this post, I would touch upon some of these options for you as project management professionals to explore.

PM tools are not just  for managing software based projects but they also contribute in bringing standards and consistency in practice. They  can be used for variety of other tasks to increase personal or team productivity too through collaboration, remote access and notification features. Though there are numerous tools for planning, organizing and managing resources to achieve project goals and objectives, there are few notable and relied by large number of professionals.Pl note each tool would have some advantages and some drawbacks but I am sure you would find something that may suit your current requirement.

  1. Daptive: It’s Software as a Service delivery model ensures a high value web based project management capability including robust task management, fully interactive Gantt Chart, and integration with Microsoft Project. In addition it gets teams collaborating around Documents, Issues, Discussions and News with portal approach. Starts at $50/year for a group license.
  2. @Task: This wed-based tool focuses on An easy-to-use interface. The Gantt charts shows some impressive utilities. You can drag and drop information to avoid unnecessary typing, easily schedule individuals for specific tasks, and view real-time reports showing your project’s status claiming superior scheduling power than MS Project!. It offers a variety of pricing plans depending on the number of users and the number of projects you need to manage.
  3. ZOHO Project: It’s a web-based application, meaning that you don’t have to install project management software on every computer you use. You can access your schedule from anywhere and, if you’re only working on one project, ZOHO Projects is free. ZOHO Projects can generate Gantt charts, but doesn’t offer PERT charts.
  4. Open Project: It’s a good fit for enterprises that have deployed Open Office as cheaper alternative to MS Office. It runs both on Mac, Windows as well as Unix machines. For a few dollars a month, users can host a virtualized edition of OpenProject on Projity’s servers, making this tool an ideal hybrid of desktop and web-based project management software.
  5. Active Collab: It is a PM & collaboration tool that one can set up on your own server or local network. It allows team collaboration with access control features or differentiated privileges & time tracking. Starting with $ 299 it can be answer to your global projects management requirements.
  6. eProjectTracker: It is a web based project management software focused exclusively on helping project-intensive businesses manage their entire project portfolio lifecycle, including projects of all sizes. It goes one step ahead & provides the project execution and control capabilities at program and portfolio level. Other notable features are Executive Dashboard, Project Management, Task tracking and Management, Issues tracking and Management, Resource Management, Customer Management, Document Management. It starts at $29 for up to 15 projects.
  7. GanttProject: GanttProject is a cross platform desktop project scheduling application featuring gantt chart, resource management, calendaring, import/export (MS Project, HTML, PDF, spreadsheets).
  8. FastTrack: Available for both Mac and Windows, it is easy to update and offers an easy introduction to the software and a gentle learning curve for new PMs while robust enough for experienced project manager wanting to put it through its paces. A license for FastTrack is significantly lower compared to one for Microsoft Project.
  9. ProjectPier: It is a Free, Open-Source, self-hosted application for managing tasks, projects and teams through an intuitive web interface. It is completely web based, has great usability to provide an easy to use solution. It organizes projects into Milestones, Messages, Task lists, Tasks and Files. You can set E-mail notifications for new milestones, tasks, messages and comments to stay in loop for changes.
  10. RedMine: It is a flexible project management web application. Written using Ruby on Rails framework, it is cross-platform and cross-database. It includes calendar and gantt charts to aid visual representation of projects and their deadlines.

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