Tag Archives: project

ITIL?: A Project Manager?s Perspective

If you are a Project Manager working in an IT environment, you may have heard the acronym ITIL? (IT Infrastructure Library, a set of books similar in nature to PMI?s PMBOK Guide) or ITSM (IT Service Management – the concept of IT as a ?service? to the business). If you haven?t heard of ITIL, you will.? Why?? Simply put: in terms of industry adoption, ITIL is one of the fastest growing frameworks in the IT industry today.

ITIL helps organizations increase IT efficiency, improve quality, and control costs.? In fact, AMR Research reports that IT organizations that have implemented ITIL best practices have saved up to 10% in IT costs without sacrificing the quality of service delivery.? That is why U.S. Computer Economics has projected that approximately 45% of all organizations, both large and small, in the US and Canada will have adopted ITIL best practices in some form by the end of 2008.

High Demand for ITIL Expertise
Companies are turning to ITIL, and the demand for individuals with skills and expertise in this area is increasing.? So much so, in fact, that ITIL certifications rank as some of the highest paid certifications in technology, along with PMI?s CAPM and PMP credentials.? In recent salary surveys from ZDNet?s Tech Republic, PMI and ITIL credentials consistently rank in the top three IT certifications industry wide.? With ITIL?s continued growth in the United States, the demand for IT Project Managers with expertise in ITIL will continue.

Focus is on Process, not Technology
The most compelling and interesting similarity between PMI?s PMBOK Guide and the ITIL books is that both are descriptive frameworks centered around process, not technology.

What this means to you is that both are extremely approachable standards.? For example, the PMP exam does not ask how you would go about creating a milestone task within Microsoft Project.? Rather, it makes sure you understand the importance of creating milestones.

The ITIL books are the same way.? In order to really understand IT Service Management as a practice, you do not need to understand servers or switches.? Rather, you need to understand things like the importance of controlling change, defining service levels, and maintaining a catalog of all your services to the business in terms the business can understand.

Both are bodies of knowledge covering simple principles that are drawn from deep industry experience.? They both detail concepts that are scalable and adaptable to each organization.? For example, the Project Plan for a small, simple project is going to look very different for a large, complex one.? In the same way, the process for managing a minor software patch release is going to have a different scale of requirements compared to a brand new, enterprise-wide software release.

Frameworks on a Similar Mission
In the PMBOK Guide, the goal is to provide project results, on-time and under budget, that meet the needs of the customer.? In the ITIL best practice set, the goal is to provide IT ?services? that provide value to the business in an ongoing and cost efficient manner.

Both the PMBOK Guide and ITIL guidance have the same mission, to elevate the profession by adding structure and rigor around what is done. ?Both strive to create a common language and deliver predictable results in a repeatable manner.

For example, in projects, there is a tendency to compress planning and/or testing under the pressure of an aggressive timeline.? However, a good project manager knows the importance of planning to alleviate rework later.

In the same way, businesses want IT to be agile and quick to make changes, while avoiding unforeseen consequences.? This is done by putting processes in place to prevent unauthorized changes to the IT infrastructure.? By having the discipline to develop and follow a formal Change Management process, IT organizations can handle more changes and lessen the risk to the production environment.

My Own Experience
I found ITIL to be a great compliment to my Project Management skill set as it covers topics in Change Management, Knowledge Management, etc. ?I really wished I had become certified when I first got involved in technology as it would have set me up with an understanding?of how IT processes work (or should ideally work) and would have allowed me to better “speak the language” early on with others in IT.

Getting certified has also given me a greater appreciation of the importance of effective Service Management. I would highly recommend that other Project Managers working in (or with) technology look into ITIL certification as a way to compliment the PMP. In today’s competitive market, it sets you apart from the pack and provides you with an expanded toolset for successfully managing projects.

Erika Flora, PMP, ITIL Expert
Principal, Beyond20
[email protected]

Do you praise your teams enough?

Guest post by Erika Flora

Years ago, I heard this great quote that has really stuck with me and become somewhat of a mantra. It is as follows:

There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

General of the Army George C. Marshall

Staff Sgt. Conrad Begaye recognized for bravery under fire in Afghanistan - by US Army Africa via Flickr

Staff Sgt. Conrad Begaye recognized for bravery under fire in Afghanistan - by US Army Africa via Flickr

What a fabulous concept! Often, we are so worried about our own jobs and careers that we don?t take the time to think about those around us and make sure we help them get what they want. Ever since I started making a conscious effort to really ?let go? of who gets the credit, my work attitude has completely changed. In addition, the way my team and others around me view my work has completely changed. They realize that I am their champion, and they work hard to perform to the best of their abilities. Rather than spending time worrying about whether executive management sees all the great things I am doing, and position myself accordingly for that next great promotion, I focus on mentoring others and helping those around me get recognized for their hard work. I actually spend part of my work week thinking about how I can bring visibility and kudos to the efforts of my teams.

Too often, when employees are surveyed in their companies, many of them say that they feel their work is not valued or that no one has told them in the last six months that they appreciate them. How terrible! The best thing we can do for our coworkers, direct reports, colleagues, and project teams is to find creative ways to show them our thanks and make sure everyone in our company knows that they are making a valuable contribution. We all love to get praised for our hard work. Make sure you are taking the time to proactively do that for others.

Many companies have put great examples of this concept in place. When I worked with Pfizer, they implemented something called a Pfish program where you could send a Pfish card to a colleague for a variety of reasons (being a team player, going the extra mile, or even just making your day). Every week, the people that had received a Pfish card were entered into a raffle for a gift card. However, the very best thing about the Pfish card program was that the recipient?s boss was copied on the email that they received. It was a really fun program and one that made employees feel special and appreciated.

However, you don?t need a company program to show your appreciation for others. Here are some really easy things you can do to make a big difference in the lives of those around you ? Submit your project team for an internal company award, external ?Project of the Year?, or other award. There are lots of professional organizations that look for a variety of award submissions and, many times, are excited to get new submissions from companies or people they have not heard from before. Log onto LinkedIn and write unsolicited recommendations for people you have enjoyed working with. Send a short email to a coworker?s boss thanking them for going the extra mile on a difficult project. Start a ?Thanks a latte!? newsletter that thanks your team members by name and post it up at work, maybe even leave a small Starbucks gift card on their desk before they get into work. The more creative and silly, the better! You will be surprised by the results. It seems counter-intuitive, but we as project managers end up shining the brightest when our teams shine. What other examples have you seen or done to brighten the day for those you work with and help them get the kudos they richly deserve?

Erika Flora, PMP, ITIL Expert
[email protected]
www.GoBeyond20.com

What Is A Project?

by Andrew Abogado via Flickr

by Andrew Abogado via Flickr

A project has a few qualities:

  • Has the goal of creating a unique product at the end of it
  • Has a start
  • Has an end (at least that’s the plan)
  • Has people involved (at least 1)

That’s about it.? If a group of activities fits that list, it’s a project.

Examples include creating anything that isn’t mass-produced:

  • Building a house
  • A science-fair project
  • Writing a book
  • Creating a website
  • Launching a satellite into orbit

Not All Projects Are Created Equal

Obviously, you are not going to need the same level of project management for a science fair project as you do for launching a satellite.? A project with 100 people working on it has very different needs from a project with one person.

Some definitions out there say that if you have 1 person working on it, it’s not really a project.? I think that’s bull.

It IS certainly true that the level of complexity and effort on a project directly determine how much “project management” needs to happen.

My rule of thumb:? “Only do what adds value.”

If you spend time and money on lots of formal project management practices when you don’t really need them, you are wasting resources.

More questions?? Leave a comment below or connect with me, and I will update this post as needed to provide the best definition possible.

Deliverables

Hi,

I’m new to PMstudent and I’m developing my interest in Project Management.

Currently, I am involved in a task of trying to identify possible deliverables for an Alternative School Program with an objective to help young people unleash their intelligence and positive energy to rebuild their communities and lives through the program. Can anyone suggest possible Deliverables for this program?

The Alternative School Program is designed and targeted towards young, low-income people between the ages 18-25 where they can work towards their high school certificate while learning job skills like building affordable houses for other homeless and low-income people. Strong emphasis will be placed on leadership and community service.

I am asking about what the deliverables of this particular project could/should/would be since I’m new to Project Management and the word ‘Deliverable’ in particular. I would like to know exactly how to identify deliverables properly for my projects and how to arrive best at the deliverables myself.

I would also like to know about deliverables for a project to set up the Alternative School Program. I’ll be starting a degree program in Project Management next year and would like to start learning right now.

[Editor:? I want to thank Aniekan for having the courage to post in order to learn about project management! This sounds like an excellent endeavor.

My first comment is to not get caught up in terminology yet.? If you have someone who you are working for, be sure you understand the initial goals from their perspective.? Make a list of what you will do and will not do as a part of this project based on those high-level goals.? You can write this up as a preliminary scope statement, but there are many ways to go about all these things.

Write those high-level things you will do in the form of outputs…products or services.? There may only be a few.? Then break down these items by thinking through what it will take to produce them.? Keep breaking them down until they can be effectively managed and executed.

In the end, you will probably find that some of the high-level things are deliverables for the project, and some are lower-level things you came up with.

This is a simple way to do it that I laid out based on my (very limited) understanding of your situation.? There are many other ways to approach it.? I have found, however, that it is best to approach a new subject like this one step at a time.? Great project managers take decades to grow.

Please, everyone else lend your advice to our new friend as well. Thanks!]

Practice Project Management at home

As a Mom, it is important to know exactly where everyone is at any given time, how long they are going to be there, and what they are doing while they are there.? Other than that, it’s pretty simple.

As a Project Manager, it is important to know exactly what task each project resource is working on?at any given time, how long they will be working on?that task?, what they are doing and why they are doing it.? Other than that, it’s pretty simple.

A Mom is?the “boss” of the house.? They make the rules as they go along and everyone just does what they are told.? If they decide to change the process, they don’t need to clear it with anyone, they just announce that expectations have changed, then everyone complies with the new rules.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this actually worked?? But, that is not the case.? A Mom/Project Manager must earn the respect of their team whether the team is their family at home or their colleagues at work.? The first step in earning respect is giving respect.? When you respect the team, they will respect you.

Flickr Attribution:  cambodia4kidsorg

Flickr Attribution: cambodia4kidsorg

When Mom decides to change the rules, she should get input from her team (the children) before imposing her new rules.? This doesn’t mean that the children get to make the rules, but by feeling that they are a part of the process, they will embrace the upcoming changes and they will be more willing to adhere to them.? Likewise, a Project Manager should seek input from their team before making any process changes.

Exactly how should a Project Manager introduce a process change?? First, they need to examine the existing process to determine where and if a change is actually needed.? Take the time to map out the current process and share it with the team.? If the process was not previously documented, the team may not have fully understood what was required of them.? This may solve the process issue at hand.

Once the process has been documented and shared with the team, ask for feedback on where the team feels there are inefficiencies or room for improvement.? The team may be doing more or less work than is required at any point in the process.? Understanding and following the now clarified process may solve the issue at hand.

When the current process has been documented, reviewed and discussed, try it for a few weeks before examining where changes should be implemented.

If a change is required, the next step is to brainstorm with the team on areas for improvement.? This will satisfy two requirements for change: 1) The team becomes engaged and ready to accept a change ; 2) The Project Manager is not on their own to create the new process.

In extreme cases, a Change Management consultant should be brought in to facilitate the process change.

We are operating in a world where change is the new normal.? To succeed, we need to manage change in a way that people who are adverse to it, will embrace it.

Fortunately for the Mom, children are very adapable and will readily accept of change; however, the Project Manager is usually dealing with adults who are not as open to following the “new” rules.? By soliciting input from the team, everyone will feel that they had a part in creating the new process thereby motivating them to embrace it.

Avoid the Same Old Mistakes by Focusing on Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

It’s said there are no new project management sins, just old ones repeated. It’s also said that we don’t learn the lessons from past projects and this must be true, otherwise why would we keep making the same old mistakes.

In his article, “Lessons Learned: Why Don’t we Learn From Them?” Derry Simmel, board member of PMI’s PMO SIG, identifies two common problems preventing us learning valuable lessons from past projects:

  1. We think the lessons don’t apply to us.
  2. We want to get things done

“The sad truth is that these lessons learned are useful. That time spent in doing the work better is time well spent. That getting it right the first time is cheaper and easier than doing it now and fixing it later,” Derry says.

So if we accept that lessons from past projects are indeed useful and can prevent problems later down the line; how can organisations create a lessons learned culture where people not only take the trouble to learn from past projects, but actually want to learn. A culture where we apply best practices and discard bad ones.

Leadership

For new initiatives to succeed it’s usually best to take a top down approach. The organisation’s senior leadership need to foster and support a lessons learned culture. This is likely to be more successful and long lasting than a bottom up approach, although this could have limited success if project managers promote it strongly themselves.

Given top level support, enough time and buy-in from project managers, lessons learned will become part of the organisation’s culture and part of its continuous improvement process.

Process for Capturing Lessons Learned

If project managers are going to actively contribute to the project management knowledge within an organisation and make use of it, then we have to make it easy for them. Nobody is going to go out of their way to do it. So it’s important to have a well defined and simple process for collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating lessons learned. It could be along the lines of discover – recommend – document – share – review – store – retrieve.

Discover

Project teams should learn to identify lessons during projects and record them for inclusion in a lessons learned report at the end of the project. This might be done as part of their regular team meetings.

A sign that a project may be having a “lessons learned moment,” is when the resources or customers are unhappy and discussing problems between themselves outside team and other project meetings. Lessons may also crop up during a project when team members identify areas for improvement.

Arrange regular brainstorming sessions with the project team, with an independent facilitator, to unearth valuable lessons. Don’t leave it until the end of the project when memories have faded.

Lessons can be discovered by asking these three questions:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What could have been better?

Use the facilitator to document the lessons, keep the meeting focussed on key issues, and steer the discussion in the right direction.

Recommend

Project managers and their teams should make recommendations. What would they do differently if they could go back and start over again?

This needs a degree of honesty that some team members may find uncomfortable. The feedback needs to be constructive and avoid getting personal. We are not looking to play the blame game here; we need to understand how things could be done better in the future.

For this to work effectively the organisation’s leadership needs to reward this honesty, and demonstrate it will not have a negative impact on individual careers.

Document and Share

It is important to document and share findings. The best way to do this is by creating a standard lessons learned report and a repository with good meta-data to help with identification. This should be kept updated with lessons from the most recent projects in order to take account of the current working environment, structures and constraints.

Standard format reports and meta-data will make it easier when reviewing multiple documents and searching the repository using keywords and phrases.

Review

It is the job of the Project Management Office (PMO) to review lessons learned reports and pull out issues that arise multiple times. Recurring issues can be surfaced and presented in a general “read this first” list of lessons.

The PMO must look at what makes projects succeed and what makes them fail, and give recommendations that sit along side those of the project teams.

Store

Lessons learned must be stored in a central repository with general access. Create a system for storage and retrieval of lessons. Online systems are ideal for this, giving easy access to the lessons. Most organisations have portals and Intranets that can be used for this purpose.

Retrieve

Retrieving lessons learned on a regular basis must be part of the organisation’s culture. Project managers should be expected to retrieve and review lessons prior to commencing a project. They should have this as part of their annual performance objectives and be able to demonstrate they have retrieved, reviewed and applied lessons wherever applicable.

Summary

Creation of a successful lessons learned culture needs leadership support as well as time and buy-in from project managers. Implementation of a simple process for collecting, collating, analysing and disseminating lessons learned is essential if it’s to be adopted.

Once lessons have been captured, they need to be made available to all project teams to help them avoid repeating problems of the past. It is important that these teams understand what past projects have to tell them and act upon that information.

History has a strange way of repeating itself. If we don’t take time to learn the lessons of the past, and moreover act upon them, we will continue to commit the same project management sins again and again. And don’t think it won’t happen to you, it will.

Remember, in the words of Derry Simmel, “…time spent in doing the work better is time well spent.”

Read more about Lessons Learned

Point and Shoot Project Management

My day job entails helping companies implement new project management software. Of all the companies I have worked with, including a number of household names, I would estimate that less than 5% of the managers I work with have any formal project management training. Most managers have project management training by experience in the trenches. Unfortunately, most never leave the trenches and get a better view and experience of project management. It is my experience that while there are many project managers, there are few excellent ones.

About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to be a real photographer. I was tired of the point and shoot experience where more luck than skill was involved in the success of the picture. However, I quickly learned that becoming a serious photographer was quite the expensive undertaking. Besides the expense of upgrading to a professional camera, I was lacking training on how to actually use the machine. Not to mention, the cost of additional equipment ranging from lenses to tripods, and bags to filters. Lastly, the cost of film and development was high. These all became a large barrier to becoming the photographer I wanted to be. Being a college student at the time, I could not really afford to learn photography at a satisfactory pace.

However, over the past few years, new technology has largely reduced the barrier to entry and photography is now a hobby for the masses. In fact, my ability to take endless pictures without film and development costs along with the new built-in tools of my newest camera provides me the ability to progress rapidly. In many ways I can also make up for my mistakes using software and other photography tricks. I am no longer in the gloomy trenches of poor photography, but find encouragement and joy in my success.

I have observed that project management as a whole has paralleled somewhat the changes we have witnessed in photography. Project management also has been a skill for the few, with the barrier to entry being quite high. However, people have still been required to manage projects. Now, similar to photography, we are seeing a boom in technology that is leveling the playing field and giving opportunities for the average manager to be an excellent manager. From new software that is principle based and collaborative to online blogs, courses, books, and other excellent resources, project management is more accessible than ever.

The key to this change from mediocrity to excellence is not simply technology, however. No technology is by itself enough to make a manager excellent. Like photography, the barrier to entry is lowered, but the effort to take advantage of it still requires an investment.

Point and shoot project management just isn?t sufficient. Project managers need to learn the basic principles and best practices for project management. Many, if not most, of these principles are methodology-independent and can be learned for free or low cost through online resources, books, or even courses. The project management tools now available do not require a degree in project management or a PMP. They do, however, require a basic understanding of project management.

Most managers have grown up learning point and shoot project management. Trial and error project management is far too expensive, but it continues to be the most dominant. Organizations and individuals need to put forth the investment to learn. The lower barrier to entry should encourage us all to take project management to the masses!

Resolving Conflict

When more than one person works on a project, then we consider the group of persons as a team. When there is a team the conflict is inevitable. This is because each one will have their desire and goals. When ones goal doesn’t coincide with the other members goal, at that point conflict arises.

Conflicts arise due to incompatibility of goals.

There are five ways of resolving the conflicts

  • Forcing
  • Smoothing
  • Compromise
  • Confrontation
  • Withdrawal

The most important and the effective way is confrontation.

Forcing:

The word itself speaks about the way you are going to resolve the conflict. Use force ! The conflict is resolved by applying force (though not physical force) on one party. The team members will go along the way because they are told to do so. Here it is a win-lose technique. The person who has used the force has won. The person who has followed the instructions has lost.

Smoothing:

It’s a temporary way to resolve conflict. Someone makes an attempts to make the conflict less important than it is. The team members during the meeting believe they have a solution to the conflict and they all agree to it. Later on when someone thinks over the conflict and discovers that it is more important than what they were told in the meeting , at that time the conflict will resurface. Here it is? a lose-lose technique.

Compromise:

In this technique, looking at the situation everyone agree to give up something. Initially these team members would have thought not to give up. As a result of which they come up with a solution which is? accepted by all. If the members have made firm commitments then then the? conflict will not resurface. In this technique neither one wins nor loses.

Confrontation:

It is also known as problem solving. Here the members try to find the root cause of the issue and try to? eliminate the cause. As a result of which the solution becomes permanent. This is a win-win technique.

Withdrawal:

Unlike compromise, here one member gives up and leaves the meeting. He refuses to discuss further. It will never results in a resolution. It is the worst kind of resolution technique. This is a lose-lose technique.

Finally, the project managers who are involved in the resolving conflicts will always be inclined towards the confrontation and never look towards the withdrawal technique.

Bringing Support Activity into Portfolio Management

In an article at [email protected], Tom Mochal discusses how enhancement work not directly related to a project should be added to the managed portfolio. This way, the business can ensure that the dollars are being spent in the most effective way on these non-project activities.

I agree with what Tom is saying. A point I’d like to add is that value judgment is in the eye of the beholder, and incentives are different for a portfolio manager than they are for a developer or department. The “enhancement” being worked on by a few individuals may take a lot of effort, but is the work being subjected to cost-benefit analysis beforehand? If it is not being managed with the rest of the portfolio, maybe not.

For instance, a developer may have a great idea about migrating an internal support application from one platform to another. There are many benefits of doing so, it will be faster and he can also make it look nicer while he’s at it.

But what if it works great just the way it is? What if the changes will create dissatisfaction for the users within the company? What if the business processes already have slack time for the application because the user is doing something else, and the increased speed will not result in overall improvement because it’s not the bottleneck in the first place?

These are questions a portfolio manager may want answered. A department head or manager may be more concerned about holding on to their budget than doing ROI analysis with all of these support activities. It’s all about incentives. The department head may be able to say we “doubled the application speed” and that looks great on a quarterly report.

Bringing some of these decisions into a portfolio with defined projects would certainly help ensure that the incentives of the decision-maker is more in line with the incentives of the business as a whole.


project management basics