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Social Not Working ?

photo by John.Karakatsanis

photo by John.Karakatsanis

Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, Digg, Linked In ! Include to that services like Skype, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk ! What about wikis, blogs, forums, podcasts ?

Uff ! Many are the social networks and many are the possibilities and services offered.

What is the problem ?

The concept of “networking” gained a boost by technology, the called Web 2.0. In this new era it is not enough to surf the web but to participate, to share. Collaboration and community are keywords on the subject.

The down side of it has referred as “Social Not Working”.

According to the Urban Dictionary the term is?referred?as

The practice of spending time unproductively on social-networking websites, especially when one should be working.

What does that mean for Project Management ?

But what does that mean in a project environment when working at the customer site whit a collocated team ?

Some companies take the policy of deny access to any social website and any attempt to do so is a violation of corporate policy. Others have a more liberal view and allow his employees to have free access to social networks.

If you are a Project Manager working for a consulting firm that means that you and your team will much like being monitored not by project performance in general but for individual performance. Most commonly the project team follows the customer policy in this situation.

If a customer policy is not in place it is up to the project manager to establish in cooperation with the customer and project team for the sake of the project and the good team morale.

Inevitable to remember the lack of confidentiality of the social networks which can represent a not affordable?tradeoff?for most of the commercial projects.

The bright side

Social Networks can be valuable tools for any team, specially for the called?new workforce: young workers from early twenties on, those are the tipical users of social toolbox. ?According to the writer Don Tappscot (author of?Wikinomics; Growing up Digital and Grown up Digital) that is the?platform on which they grown up.

Typical?applications of the tools could be :

  • knowledge exchanging
  • research of solutions for common problems?between?projects
  • brainstorming with a broader public than the project team

It is?inevitable?to say that the social networks are a reality for most of the projects and the PM is required to use his communication and negotiation skills to the edge to balance the project objectives with the personal objectives of his team.

What is your experience on the matter ? Share your experience with the community !

source: leonardonogueira.com

Saying Goodbye at Work – 6 Tips When Someone Leaves

empty-cubeMy friend called this morning for advice.? He couldn’t understand why the email he had sent to a person he met Friday had been returned.? It turns out that the person had been fired without notice late Friday afternoon.? Perhaps she worked for one of the Bobs (Bob Slydell and Bob Porter) from Office Space.

Sudden or lengthy, work goodbyes are a reality for all of us.? Here are some points to keep in mind the next time you find yourself watching a co-worker packing up for the last time.

Don?t Lie

Some people are not all that pleasant to work with.? If the person leaving is someone you don?t care for, the saying, If you can?t think of anything nice to say, don?t say anything at all is good to remember.? It?s sometimes far easier to say all kinds of falsehoods.? If you have to say something, instead of making something up, why not try this: I sincerely wish you well.

As the Rabbi said in Fiddler on the Roof when asked to provide a blessing for the Czar, May God bless and keep the Czar far away from here!? It?s okay to be happy that someone is going out of your life.

Remember Successes

This is a wonderful opportunity to recall genuine project and task successes that were accomplished through the efforts of the person who is leaving.

What do you Admire?

Take the time to come up with one or two traits or skills that you truly respect about the person.? It?s good to tell them in person, and to give some examples of how you?ve seen them in action.? If it feels uncomfortable to speak this out loud (guys – this is directed to you), it?s even more effective to send in a private email direct to the person.

Don?t be surprised if such an email is treasured for years to come.? Most people very rarely get true and positive feedback out of the blue.

Offer to be a Reference

If you respect the person and believe that you can give a glowing recommendation, offer to do so.? Better yet, write a paragraph or two and send it to them by email or post it on LinkedIn.

Feel free to make a Clean Break

Feel comfortable making a clean break – if that?s what you want.? If you don?t plan on remaining in touch, don?t imply anything to the contrary.? It?s a small world – and a very big one, too.? You really may not see them again unless you go out of your way to do so.

Make a Point to Stay Connected

If you like the person, and want them to remain in your life, set an intention to do everything in your power to make that happen.

  • Set a specific date to meet for lunch 2 weeks from now – and keep it.
  • Add them to your twitter and IM accounts.? Make them one of the people that you contact regularly.
  • Invite them to dinner or for drinks sometime in the next month.

Transitioning relationships from work into other parts of our lives requires a little work – but can happen.? It won?t happen automatically though.

Goodbyes are sad and hard for most of us.

They remind us of our own vulnerability.

What do you do when it?s time to say goodbye?

This post was previously published as How to Say Goodbye When a Workmate Leaves.
(ccPhoto credit: ssssteve.o)

Activity Based Costing in Project Management

1.0?????? Introduction & Background of the Case
The purpose of this descriptive case study is not to elaborate on the complicated details of EVM, but to elaborate on the fundamentals of activity based costing (ABC) in the context of project management. The opportunity is to develop an integrated management system utilizing ABC concepts to plan, measure, and control costs that allow managers to focus on process performance and to make informed decisions along the product/service/project life cycle.

It is assumed that the reader is familiar with common project management terms. However, Figure 01: Wideman Comparative Glossary in the appendix contains a web link to Wideman Comparative Glossary of Common Project Management Terms v3.1 for those readers unfamiliar with project management terminology.

Click web link: http://www.maxwideman.com/pmglossary/index.htm

Figure 01: Wideman Comparative Glossary

(Wideman, 2002)

1.1?????? Discussion & Analysis of Critical Issues

Organizations are faced with many challenges during this time of economic recession. The most common organizational reactions are to button down the hatches, secure the turf, and start chopping staff positions. Dysfunctional organizations tend to always look in the rearview mirror and employ managers that make snap decisions without sufficient data, which often result in organizational demise. Forward looking organizations that seek out opportunities during a time of economic recession tend to focus on process improvement initiatives such as, business-process analysis; activity based costing, life cycle compression metrics, among other things.

This case study assumes the forward looking perspective. The next section introduces activity based costing, which is followed by a brief discussion of concepts and methods found during the research of several other independent case studies. Then an introduction and description of some basic project management processes. Finally, continued by a simplicity case and finally the conclusion.

2.1?????? Activity Based Costing (ABC) – Introduction
ABC was developed as a continuous improvement initiative of the accounting information system. Original, ABC was used as a product costing methodology, but is now being used as a cost management tool in many different functions of business (Awasthi, 1994, p 8). A couple of differences between ABC and traditional cost systems are 1) costs are traced to cost objects by identifying cost drivers and 2) costs are traced on the basis of the structural or hierarchical level at which costs are incurred. Therefore, ABC provides more accurate cost estimates of the product or service and the corresponding activities than traditional costing (Kee, 1995, p 49).


2.2?????? Activity Based Costing (ABC) – Discussion

It is important to note that in traditional costing the assumption is that products consume resources. ABC contrasts traditional costing by assuming that products consume activities and activities consume resources. Once the product or service activities are identified, costs are allocated to the product or service according to the amount incurred by those activities. This method of allocating costs provides a benefit for making decisions regarding different types of profitability and project accounting (Awasthi, 1994, pp 9-10).

There are two sets of costs related to the accuracy of ABC cost information, 1) cost of measurement and 2) cost of decision error. As the accuracy of measurement goes down the cost of decision error goes up. Detail is an important factor in the success of a ABC system, but the detail must be value add. It is important to control changes brought on by environmental factors (competition, volatility, profit margins, etc…) while still allowing for diversity throughout the life cycle of the product or service (Awasthi, 1994, p 11). So how can one ensure accuracy in measurements for better decision making? The key is to identify and analyze the most optimal cost drivers that trace the costs of the activities back to the product or service.

2.3?????? Activity Based Costing (ABC) – Activity Identification & Analysis

Cost drivers are linked to business process mapping and activity analysis in order to obtain rigid data for measurement analysis. Figure 02 depicts a two stage process that traces expenses through activities to cost objects.


Figure 02: Basic ABC Flow

The first stage traces expenses from the department or organizational level budget to activities that are assigned to resources (labor, space, materials, and suppliers). For example, a labor resource is allocated to an activity at 100% over a duration of time equating to a unit of work converted to an activity cost. In the second stage, activity costs are traced through the activity cost drivers to the cost objects, i.e. products and/or services. This stage is concerned with explaining the causes of work and what things cost. Managers that focus on process drivers and cost drivers have a more detailed understanding of activity costs and associated activity dependencies. Therefore, managers can make better decisions on areas in need for process improvement instead of shooting from the hip (Brandt, Levine & Gourdoux, 1999, pp 22-25).

ABC provides a hierarchical structure of detail. The challenge for managers is to ensure an optimal amount of detail that achieves balance and accuracy. Next we discuss cost driver optimization.

2.4?????? Activity Based Costing (ABC) – Cost Driver Optimization
Managers chose cost drivers for planning and control purposes. Choosing too many cost drivers? and the system is bogged down creating extra costs and inefficiency problems. Managers must strive to strike a balance between accuracy benefits and costs of data management. Babad & Balachandran indicate in their article, “Cost Driver Optimization in Activity-Based Costing”, that an optimal number of cost drivers generally discriminates and captures most of the incurred costs, and identify a priority order that specifies which low-priority and relatively insignificant activities will be combined to save costs without sacrificing much accuracy (Babad & Balachandran, 1993, p 565).

At this point the concepts of ABC have been introduced and discussed as a process object for organizations to utilize. The next section expands on the project management context as it relates to ABC.


3.0?????? Project Management and ABC – Introduction & Background

The project manager is responsible for the scope, schedule, and budget (triple constraints) at the project level. A project is characterized as a progressively elaborated temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result (PMBOK, 2004, p 5). Projects generally exist as a sub-set of the organization.

3.1?????? Project Management and ABC – Project Life Cycle

Project managers or organizations parcel projects into phases for better management control. Phases are typical identified within a life cycle. The phases of the project life cycle are depicted in Figure 03: Project Life cycle. The project life cycle is not intended to represent the project management process. The project life cycle typically defines 1) what technical work to do in each phase; 2) when the deliverables are to be generated in each phase; 3) who is involved in each phase; 4) how to control and approve each phase (PMBOK, 2004, p 20).


Figure 03: Project Life cycle

(PMBOK, 2004, p 68)

3.2?????? Project Management and ABC – Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

In this process, project deliverables and objectives are subdivided into smaller more manageable components. A WBS is a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work. This is the activity analysis concept mentioned previously in section 2.3 Activity Based Costing (ABC) – Activity Identification & Analysis. Work is planned to the lowest-level WBS component called a work package. Work packages can be scheduled, monitored, and controlled.

Figure 04: WBS Example 01 in a generic representation of a WBS. Notice the phases and deliverables located throughout the WBS. Also notice the work packages at lowest-levels of the WBS. Figure 05: WBS Example 02 is a software development representation of a WBS. The activity costs are traced to the first level and are also the phases of the project. The deliverables are at level two, where as the resource and activity drivers are at the lowest-level. As mentioned before, the lowest level is a work packages and can be scheduled, monitored, and controlled.


Figure 04: WBS Example 01

(PMBOK, 2004, p 114)


Figure 05: WBS Example 02

(PMBOK, 2004, p 116)

3.3?????? Project Management and ABC – Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM)

To define the cost objects a PM will use a RAM. Max Wideman defines the RAM as an important tool that correlates the work required by a Contract Work Breakdown Structure (CWBS) element to the functional organization responsible for accomplishing the assigned tasks. The responsibility assignment matrix is created by intersecting the CWBS with the program Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS). This intersection identifies the cost account (Wideman, 2002). Figure 06: RAM Example 01 and Figure 07: RAM Example 02 are great examples of how cost objects are realized as cost accounts. All the activity estimates, risks, and incurred costs related to the cost account are summarized at these management control points. This gives the PM tremendous insight to the health of his/her project.


Figure 06: RAM Example 01

(Valuation Opinions, Inc., 2008)


Figure 07: RAM Example 02

(Performance Management Associates, Inc., 2008)

3.4?????? Project Management and ABC – Resource Loaded Network (RLN)

A RLN is an integration of schedule and cost and is represented as a network of time phased resource loaded activities sequentially ordered across the phases of the project life cycle. A resource loaded activity is also called a work package. The longest path through the sequential network of activities is known as the critical path. The PM uses what is known as the critical path method to focus on those activities along this path to ensure the project delivers on time and within budget. A PM can exercise a critical path analyses, what-if drills, and PERT analyses to monitor time and cost impacts.? Figure 08: Critical Path represents a network of activities with the critical path indicated in bold red.


Figure 08: Critical Path

(Construction-planning-and-control.com, 2008)

3.5?????? Project Management and ABC – Descriptive Case

Project staff utilize ABC concepts throughout the project life cycle and may not even know it. One of the first jobs for the project manager (PM) and team to conduct is a delineation of the deliverables and objectives defined in the statement of work (SOW) using ABC concepts. A simple example of this is when a project sponsor initiates the transfer of scope (deliverables and objectives) to be performed within a stated timeline and within a specific budget to the PM via the project charter. Before establishing the activity costs, the scope must be decomposed into a work breakdown structure (WBS). The PM aligns the WBS with the organizational breakdown structure (OBS) to determine control accounts and assign control account managers (CAM). CAMs develop the scope description in the WBS dictionary, which is comprised of inputs, outputs, assumptions, constraints, risks, deliverable milestones dates, among other things. The resources are assigned to activities and time phased within a resource loaded network (RLN) or more commonly known as the schedule. It is the basis of estimate (BOE) artifact that explains the rationale behind the costs related to the time-phasing of activities and substantiates the activity cost estimates. All of the appropriate technical, schedule, and cost artifacts are captured into one project management plan (PMP).The technical baseline, schedule baseline, and the cost baseline are integrated into a performance measurement baseline (PMB), which establishes the foundation for performance tracking and estimate to complete forecasting.

4.0?????? Conclusions & Recommendations

ABC is absolutely applicable in the context of project management. Organizational managers and project managers alike need a method to manage vast amounts of activities. Tracing cost to the product/service/project element gives managers an advantage to make informed decision for process improvement. ABC is one method of many and project management is the discipline of tactical processes to implement business strategy. Organizations that focus on opportunities and process improvement initiatives may just come out on top as winners in this most uncertain time of economic despair.

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Retrieved January 24, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
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Kee, R. (1995, December). Integrating activity-based costing with the theory of constraints to
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Retrieved January 24, 2009, from EBSCO MegaFILE database.
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January 24, 2009, from http://www.pmassoc.com/images/matrix.gif

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knowledge (PMBOK Guide) (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: PMI
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from http://www.valuation-opinions.com/ev/ram/lasso

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