Measuring Project Success

measuring-project-successOne of the biggest challengers for project managers might not be something you would immediately think. When people think of a project’s major hurdles, they usually think of bringing the most qualified team members together or whether the project is tackling deadlines at a good pace.

Success at Determining Success

In fact, simply determining whether a project has been successful or not is one of the core challenges facing project managers today. Some projects bring together top talent and complete the project well ahead of schedule, but the work fails to live up the client’s expectations. Other projects exceed the client’s expectations and are handed in on time but fail to work within budgetary constraints.

A project manager’s first assignment – after finding out exactly what the client wants and assembling the best team available to accomplish that goal – is getting all team members together and hammering out a checklist for project success. Figuring out how to prioritize success factors like the project’s ability to stick within the outlined budget, timeframe and quality control standards are essential benchmarks to set early on in the project’s life.

Getting these standards of success clear early and often is extremely important for small businesses for several reasons. If the project is deemed a success, the project’s particulars are going to be emulated later by future project managers. Think about it – if you’ve incorrectly set parameters of success that are incompatible with the company’s ethos, then you’re emulating failure and disappointing your clients and shortchanging your team down the road.

Survey from Several Sources

It’s important to draw criticism of a project’s success or failure from multiple streams to ensure objectivity. Project managers therefore should be surveying management, team members, the client and the client’s customers to determine whether all parties had their expectations met or exceeded.

Obviously, the format of these surveys is going to vary based on the party that you’re surveying. A project manager finding out from individual team member’s how they felt about the project is probably going to take place in a more informal, traditionally corporate environment. Getting feedback from customers, conversely, might take place over the phone or through an online questionnaire.

Ingredients for Project Success

Project managers, maybe to their detriment, focus on hitting a time-based measure of success – was the project within the stated timeframe? While that’s an important consideration, it’s not the only one.

Under Budget and High ROI

A project that’s weeks ahead of schedule but that entails loads of botched back-end work and numbers way over budget is never going to please the client (or anybody else). A project manager should weight the important of finishing a project under budget and the benefits of extending more ROI to the client.

Quality Control Measures

If project mangers had their say every project would be completed weeks ahead of schedule, deliver unprecedented ROI, leave all team members feeling great about their contributions, and delivered wrapped in a bow to the client.

That vision is, of course, unrealistic, which is why project managers use a number of metrics to determine a project’s success. Like every other measure of success, agreeing on quality control measures that work in unison with budgetary and time constraints should be a step that all project managers take before setting out on the project itself.

That said, project managers shouldn’t underestimate the important of high satisfaction from clients, the clients’ customers and team members. It’s important to have an ongoing gauge of everyone’s satisfaction and even how well this project meshes with the company’s underlying ethos and team development for future projects.

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Project Management Best Practices: Prioritizing and Planning

project-management-best-practices-prioritizing-and-planningIn order to run a successful business, you need effective project management in place to get the job done. Business projects can range from staffing and management to products and services. Setting up the building blocks of an establishment requires project management in so many ways. Although it may seem as though the only position that should be concerned with this subject matter are project managers, it is important that everyone know various methods and tools used to effectively carry out projects. Prioritizing and planning are the crucial practices that will get your project management team in the right place to make the business thrive. With these tips you are sure to stay on task and get projects completed more effectively.

When it’s time to plan a new project for the company, there are a plethora of components that need to be navigated before any progress can be made. First, you must determine how much time will be allotted for the given project. This will be determined by the nature of the project and how important it is. Next, a team needs to be put in place to execute the project. Who can be spared to work on the project for the given amount of time? Set a leader for the team and hold everyone accountable to ensure that things will get accomplished. Then you need to seek out all available resources for the task at hand. Are there sponsors needed to fund the project? Will volunteers need to be recruited to help the project come into fruition? Once you have identified the resources, you need to establish a budget for the project. Take a look at available funds for projects and set a realistic budget to see it through.

Once you have planned your project, it’s time to prioritize the various tasks needed to reach the finished product. Now that you have a plan in place, it is critical that everything be done according to its importance. Completing less important task in the beginning can easily be thrown off if more significant matters have to change. Your team can prioritize according to timelines, data, and forecasts. You can address these issues with the use of presentations, progress reports, and research. Each person in the team will be responsible for a certain part of the project. When each person has a task to complete, everyone can come together throughout the duration of the project to give updates and keep everything in perspective.

With these tips you are sure to stay on task and get projects completed more effectively.

Running a Creative Project Remotely

running-a-creative-project-remotelyIt used to be that creative projects went from brainstorming to beta testing and release in the most efficient way possible by putting all team members in the same place for the duration of the project. This model, however, might not be as efficient or desirable in today’s interconnect age.

Creative Projects Done Remotely

When you think about it, a creative project in which all team members are expected to be in the same city and on exactly the same schedule in increasingly unrealistic. You might be conducting a web design release in California and want to remain in close contact with a skilled back-end developer in Austin and a UX expert in Toronto.

When we say that the world is getting smaller, we don’t mean that the globe is literally getting smaller in size. This might as well be the case, though. The ability to submit proposals or draft revisions and get your changes seen and commented on by a whole creative team instantaneously in a watershed moment in tech history.

You can now brainstorm on video in real time with team members spread across the globe and use digital file sharing tools like DropSend to get the word out about recent changes. Conducting a creative project remotely makes more sense in light of the fact that changes can be made instantly; you can push back (or move forward) deadlines or replace absent or underperforming team members literally with the touch of a button.

All of these conveniences, however, aren’t without some drawbacks and cautions. To effectively run a creative project remotely, you’ll need a project manager that can keep ongoing communication with everyone on the creative team as well as a forum on which to post changes. If all of these things can be navigated, running a creative team remotely is a huge leap forward.

Tips for Making It Work

As long as each team member is dedicated to communication and collaboration, remote creative work promises a tremendous payoff. A project manager can get a team member working on any phase of the project to modify or even scrap altogether what s/he’s working on and get going on something else.

In addition, websites like Elance that bring together freelancers willing to work together, yet previously separated by geographic constraints, clearly show how cost-efficient and beneficial corralling together the most qualified freelancers in their respective fields can be. An attentive project manager can spot the best talent and bring those professionals into the fold.

Cost Savings and Efficiency

So, why is this so cost saving? Simply because the project manager doesn’t have to expense moving the whole creative team around to get to work; even if the project manager wouldn’t have been expected to pay the expense in the past, forcing a developer, programmer or designer to move in the past would have been a serious deterrent to lassoing the ideal team members for each project.

Another obvious advantage to a project manager getting the ball rolling remotely is that now there’s no need to have a brick-and-mortar location to house the whole creative project. Moreover, each team member – from back-end developer to e-commerce integrator – can work from the comfort of their own homes.

You can still foster a sense of teamwork and camaraderie by having the project manager engage each team member in suggestions and ways to wring the most out of each creative enterprise you undertake. The project manager in this brave new world needs to itemize, delegate and communicate each phase’s tasks when running a creative project remotely, and when this happens the payoff is huge.

What Does Project Life Cycle Mean?

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The Project Management Life Cycle is typically broken down into four large phases: Initiation, Planning, Execution, and Closure. Each phase has a number of tasks, large and small, that complete it. While the format of this article may make the Project Life Cycle look linear, it is actually a cyclical process that constantly rotates as more projects are fed into it. Think of this cycle as a constantly moving wheel that takes projects from Initiation to Closure. Each project can be fed into this gear to help businesses drive innovation and create a larger market share for its new products. Here are the four phases in detail:

  1. Initiation. This phase begins with a Business Case. A Business Case is the justification of a new project. It identifies a business problem and its solution. It argues for a particular direction a new project should go to solve the business problem and make the business more money. The next part of Initiation is to draw up a Feasibility Study. This documents all potential solutions to a business problem. The next steps are to develop a clear structure for the project with the Project Charter, appoint a Project Team, and set up the Project Office—the best place to work on the project. Once your project is clear on its objectives and personnel, perform a Phase Review.
  2. Planning. This extensive phase is all-important because it sets the groundwork for the whole project. This phase requires workers to create a Project Plan, an overview of the project and all the tasks that must be completed. The next plan is the Resource Plan, a list of the raw materials and funding the project needs to be successful. This is closely tied to the Finance Plan, which describes all the expenditures required to complete the project. Next is the Quality Plan, which schedules all of the tasks and provides quality standards that need to be met. The Risk Plan assesses all of the potential pitfalls of the project, the Acceptance Plan describes how you plan to achieve customer acceptance, the Communications Plan is designed to keep everyone on the same page, and finally the Procurement Plan describes which suppliers need to be contracted to complete the project.
  3. Execution. Now that all of the extensive planning is done, it’s time to execute. This is the phase in which the deliverables are built, each one an add-on to the original design. As the work progresses, the leaders must manage the project. Time Management, Cost Management, Quality Management, Change Management—meant to control change effectively, Risk Management, Issue Management as issues between workers come up during this intense phase, Procurement Management as the needs of the project change, Acceptance Management, and Communication Management are all aspects of this phase. Essentially, this phase is where the leaders of the project ensure that all contingencies are taken into account.
  4. Closure. When the project work is nearly done, the project leaders produce a Project Closure Report, which describes how they intend to close the project. It confirms that the objectives of the project have been met, and the deliverables are in the customers’ hands. Each project manager completes a Project Closure Report. The project managers then draft a Post Project Review, which determines if the goals of the project were met, and what lessons for future projects can be gleaned from the success or failure of various aspects of the project. This document is the key to ensuring that the same mistakes aren’t made again in future projects, and that the aspects that worked well are repeated when the project life cycle begins again.

Top 5 WordPress Project Management Plugins

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When it comes to building user-friendly, easy-to-manage websites and blogs, WordPress is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. What you may not know about WordPress, though, is that there are plugins available which can take your project management efforts to the next level. In many cases they allow for file centralization, discussion among team members and a way to much more clearly understand a project’s progress. And since they range in price from completely free to several hundred dollars, you’re sure to find one which fits your organization’s needs and budget.

Here are five of the top WordPress project management plugins for your consideration:

WP Project Manager: This plugin is free in its most basic state, and supports unlimited sites. However, the functionality of the free version is pretty limited. Beyond that, you can choose premium versions which allow for one site, five sites or an unlimited number of sites. Assign tasks, control which team members can access which information, track milestones, see all files in one place, and archive completed projects. The calendar gives you an overall view of all of your projects.

Project Panorama: This plugin has three versions – free, single site and unlimited sites. The free version features a bit more functionality than the free version of WP Project Manager – it allows for the tracking of overall progress, defining milestones and even discussion of projects among team members, with all notes and questions on one page. The upgraded versions also include an unlimited number of phases each project can be broken into, unlimited tasks, automatic progress adjustments, the ability to upload and store project-specific documents and the ability to password protect and limit projects to specific logins.

CollabPress: This collaboration tool, which also integrates with BuddyPress, allows for management of unlimited projects and tasks and unlimited comments. It also allows for file upload for all projects, task lists, tasks and comments. Calendar view allows users to get an overview on all projects currently in progress. Conveniently, users will automatically receive an email whenever a task is completed or commented upon. And an activity log tracks all activity, making it easy to go back and look over changes and updates. It also allows for use of built-in WordPress accounts and has front-end shortcode support.

SP Project & Document Manager: This file management and document collaboration system allows users to easily upload, organize, track and share documents, files, records and images pertaining to projects. The premium version adds more features, such as mobile readiness, the ability to add custom fields to forms, custom email notifications and auto deletion of files based on a set time.

Task Freak: This free plugin allows for project creation, assigning of rights to users as well as visitors, task creation and assignment, task discussion and the tracking of progress. Projects can be classified as either public or private. This plugin offers full integration with WordPress users and roles, and users are associated to projects by their WordPress role. This plugin is mobile friendly, accessible by smartphone and tablet.

Let one of these project management plugins make the often overwhelming task of managing projects one which can be completed efficiently and with greater collaboration among team members.

What is Change Management?

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Change management is the strategizing and implementing of strategies, ideas, and skills required to effectively engage change. All of these topics are included when it comes to:

• Planning the change that needs to take place
• Implementing the change once all parties have agreed on a course of action
• Continuing the support of the change following the made improvements

The Basics Of Managing Change

Change management involves methods pertaining to organizational change, whether it us professional development, technology implementation, departmental mergers, or developing team based organizational structure. There are typically two levels of change management.

The first level applies to any type of organizational change. This might involve the development of a new department or implementing new technology. Human response to that change is examined at this level while effective strategies for achieving change are created.

The second level pertains to specific changes within the organization. This might include establishing communication for the change in regards to new technology implementations. This level could also be used for training staff, building relationships, restructuring business procedures, or developing groups to successfully manage a project.

Change management consists of strategies and skills. Without proper implementation of both, change could be affected. Leadership capacity will be monumental in regards to assessing what changes need to be made in regard to the business need for the change, while maintain positive energy for the people affected during, and after, the change.

For the strategy portion, the leader should communicate in detail every step of the plan. For the skill portion, that leader would meet with stakeholder groups, such as customers, sponsors, suppliers, and even staff. Combing both of these target areas improves the chances of discussions and resolvability of the change.

Be Prepared To Deal With Change Management

Change isn’t easy for everyone involved. Your staff may not be ready for the changes in organization structure, but you can help to ease the transition for them. Change management helps people deal with these changes by:

• Recognizing human dynamics and how to use that knowledge to achieve the best possible       outcome
• Strategizing a map for guiding action to keep everyone on course during the change
• Developing relationships needed to maximize the change in the most effective way possible

There will be stages that people go through during the changes taking place. Every person navigates differently down the road of change. As the leader, you are responsible for steering that ship so no one gets lost during the journey.

Change management is put in place so that the structure and integrity of your organization will thrive before, during, and after changes have been implemented. Use the resources at your disposal to effectively lead and guide your team down the path to success.

5 Secrets of Successful Project Management

5-secrets-of-successful-project-managementThe success of project management relies heavily on a manager with vision. A person in this position must be able to see the much larger picture of an element and prioritize communication efforts effectively. Effective project managers have the ability to lead by:

• Identifying specific goals
• Mapping out plans for achieving those goals
• Staying on top of the team while they work towards those goals

These three things may seem simple enough to perform, but as with many things in life, they are much easier said than done.

In order to keep a project on schedule and running smoothly, a project management team must implement five secret ingredients so that achieve the most success possible.

1. Develop A Rapport With Key Stakeholders.  First and foremost, it is crucial that a project management team develop positive relationships, including opening lines of communication, with everyone who will be contributing to the project. Managers work with many qualified professionals, and those professionals expect to be treated as such, by their leaders and peers alike.

Good management leaders will make a conscious effort to engage their team during each phase of the project. This will create an environment of sharing information in order to find the best possible solutions. The managers hat will be the most successful rely on teamwork, and not individuality

2. Provide Leadership Without Micromanaging.  It is important for all members of your team to understand their roles as well as any other responsibilities that may be tasked to carry out. A strong manager can delegate this with minimal interference while controlling every aspect of their team’s process. Micromanaging frustrates employees and makes them feel like they are less adequate. If your team is strong, let them be. Project management is a complex minefield that requires a delicate approach. You picked your team for a reason. You already know they are good. With the right leadership, you will complete your project successfully.

3. Do Your Homework.  A project manager does not need to have a comprehensive grasp on every part of the organization, but the more you know can only help to make your team better and stronger. Being a good leader means doing research and gaining an understanding of industry standards and practices. If you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing, neither will your team. Taking the time before you start your project to learn everything you can about your team will help as well when it comes to delegating tasks. Just remember the saying “knowledge is power” and arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can ahead of time.

4. Learn How To Identify The Right Tools And How To Use Them.  It is critical to have an understanding of the different web based project management applications available to you. Streamlining your processes and saving your steps along the way will eliminate duplication of your efforts, wasting valuable time. Identify a project management solution to fit the overall scope and focus of your company’s initiative and you will maximize your capabilities to achieve success.

5. Enhance Your Expertise Through Continuing Education.  Education is ongoing in project management. If you stop learning, you stop being an effective leader. Your team’s success will depend heavily upon your continued education being as current as possible. Train in areas that are relevant to your work and bring more value to your team. Project managers must stay on the forefront of industry developments. That is the only way to continue achieving project management success.

Is Microsoft Project a Good Solution for Project Management?

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A project manager’s desk is a busy place, packed with reports and data that need to be analyzed, shared, and displayed in a variety of formats for different audiences. And while your favorite project manager might be a dab hand at color-coding spreadsheets or keeping tabs on an ever-expanding fleet of three-ring binders, one thing that separates good project managers from great project managers is access to the right software. In this case, the industry-standard tool is Microsoft Project. But is it really the best tool for the job? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.

Who Can Use Microsoft Project?

Obviously, anyone can use MS Project – and the lion’s share of project management professionals choose to. It’s hard to quantify what makes some people prefer one piece of project management software over another – because “preference” is innately personal. However, when you’re talking about the industry standard, a lot of what makes one application superior to another is it’s availability. For project managers working with teams that use different operating systems, Microsoft Project allows great collaboration – as long as everyone involved is using a supported platform. Within that “supported” universe, MS Project allows for delegation, scheduling, goal measurement, status tracking, and much more across a massive group. But, any Mac users on your team are going to have to find a compatible alternative product.

How Flexible is Microsoft Project?

A huge part of successful project management is being able to provide flexibility without losing control of budgets and timelines. Having software that’s equally capable of this degree of flexibility is a huge asset to a busy project manager’s desk – and MS Project offers a reasonable degree of flexibility. By allowing project managers to provide different team members access to appropriate project information based on organizational demands, the software enables a higher level of flexibility for managers in terms of staff and resource allocations. Similarly, MS project allows for executive/PMO-level oversight that makes defining objectives, measuring success and deploying resources more efficient. The majority of free or paid-for competing project management solutions simply can’t measure up to this degree of flexibility. But again, failing to provide the software for those on non-windows platforms can become a huge sticking point for lager organizations.

What Competes with Microsoft Project?

There are some amazing tools out there that vie for the attention of project managers looking to push their efficiency up a notch. While we haven’t tried or tested them all, some of the leading competitors include:

Basecamp – truly universal access because it is a web-based project management solution, Basecamp offers a 60-day free trial and offers online classes to help new (and potential) users get to grips things.
ProjectLibre – an open source alternative to Microsoft project, is available for Mac, Windows and Linux platforms, what’s more it’s free.
Gantter – another web-based collaborative project tool with great reviews, Gantter boasts easy integration with cloud technologies you may already use.
Only-Office – promoting itself as a “universal cloud office” OnlyOffice will suffice for basic project management tasks, but appears a little light on the forecasting and resourcing that big projects require.
Is Microsoft Project for me?

That’s really the big question here – and unfortunately, we can’t answer that for you. MS Project is the most commonly used software solution for project managers the world over – so obviously isn’t all bad. But if you and your team work in different areas across different platforms, you might want to consider one of the alternatives we’ve profiled, or dig a little deeper into options that better suit your needs.

How To Use A Gantt Chart

One of the greatest skills anyone can have is the ability to lead others. This isn’t a skill that can be taught in schools or learned from a textbook. Inspiring others to reach their full potential can lead to a rewarding career but only if you can keep all the people involved moving in the same direction.

What is a Gantt Chart?

The reason more than 1/3 of all business projects fail is due to a lack of vision by all parties involved. Completing a large projects is like having many chefs cook a single meal. Even though all the ingredients are there, each chef may have his or her own vision. If one chef sees, tomato sauce and ground beef, he may think spaghetti, while someone else may see the ingredients and think pizza. This is what happens on many projects when the people involved aren’t familiar with the desired, end result. However, if everyone had been given a simple diagram of a sloppy Joe sandwich, everyone would have known exactly what he or she should have been doing. This is what a Gantt chart does for you, it provides a visual reference for people to use as they work to accomplish their goals. This is especially important for IT projects which fail an astounding 60% of the time.

gantt chart

Organization at a Glance

Gannt charts form a grid  crossing necessary achievements with the necessary time frames for achieving them. Best of all, the charts can be updated to reflect current progress. By utilizing Gantt charts everyone involved with the project can see exactly which areas are succeeding and which areas are falling short. This also allows the project manager to divert energy and man hours from areas that may be over achieving to areas that are in danger of missing their respective deadlines. The chart also allows people to see the data, allowing each team associated with the project to compare their performance as compared to the others. Gantt charts also simplify the process of laying out a Critical Path Method (CPM). This effective method of project modeling can be used by virtually any industry from aerospace to the Department of Defense. Fortunately, Gantt charts simplify the process of creating CPM’s which have been around for more than 60 years. 

Creating an Effective Gantt Chart

A Gantt chart can’t be produced until you understand all the processes involved. You may need an arrow or flow chart to determine the necessary steps to complete the project. Once the steps are outlined in the proper order, you can begin to build a Gantt chart to determine how much man power must be dedicated to each process to meet all deadlines. Adding the length of time each step will take allows you to set certain dates as crucial milestones. Of course you would never plan to fail, but not planning every step of a project down to the most cosmetic detail can lead to failure anyway. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and a Gannt chart can help to keep all the team members strong so the main task can be accomplished.   

Quality Project Management

Project management requires strategic planning from your initial concept until the final moments of completion and review. Each project you initiate calls for your creativity, problem solving and moment to moment decision making that is made easier with your preplanning to manage specific goals and milestones during each phase of the project.

The four critical key areas that demand consistent diligence are:

1. Budget

2. Time

3. Resources

4. People

Budgeting

From your initial capital investment to the final cheques written, budget and cash-flow will carry your project from start to finish. Accounts receivable, accounts payable, investment, purchasing, payroll, customs, and secondary expenses must be paid attention to in managing your money to continuously progress through each step in accomplishing each goal to completion.

Time

From the moment you open your books in the morning or when you put on your hard hat, time is a very valuable resource that you can control in order to elicit the best responses and output. Time wasted is money, resources, and skills wasted. With project management, each phase of the project leads into the next and by learning and adapting to each phases time considerations you will protect yourself from unnecessary stress due to delays, rushing, unforeseen problems, and accidents.

Resources

Each aspect of your project requires specific planning for the delivery of your chosen cost effective acceptable resources or supplies. Material management encompasses such aspects as delivery times, delivery cost, material make-up, safety features, warranties, dimensions, and sourcing costs for you to consider and initiate.

People

The most critical and important feature of your project are the people who will be building your project with you. From the first phone-call to the final ribbon cutting ceremony many people will be at your side and behind the scenes supporting you to completion. Professionally proven tradesmen, logistical workers, accountants, IT, sales, architects, management, administration, board members, and communication positions need to be considered amongst many others specific to your project so it is critical that the right people are hired and on your team. In trade referrals, job boards, prior contacts and associates can all assist you in your selection. In addition, not all positions or unique aspects of your project can be filled with employees and you will be selecting contractors to complete these jobs. Again, referrals, prior contacts, and business reviews can assist you with your choices.

Throughout the project, review and adjustments will be an ongoing task of yours. As you know, the best plans can go awry what with weather considerations, political and social changes, price fluctuations and a host of other occurrences. Your diligence in strategic planning, maintenance, foresight, and your excellent team of people will assist you in curtailing, side-stepping and overcoming any challenges.

When your project is complete you can then review all phases that were involved to plan for your next project. You can then initiate changes of strategy, resources, time, or people to gain the upper hand in tendering future bids, being sourced for national and international projects and to enhance the advertising and marketing of your skills, accomplishments, people and projects.