The power of a WBS…

Shortcut to get to a full project overview and develop integrated management plan

Project management is a complex skill/art to master. It is my endeavor to assist those new to the field to gain “hindsight” driven insight into what makes projects more successful.

Today we are going to discuss a reasonably technical element – Work Breakdown Structures (WBS).

The name is even daunting, but I can assure you that it is quite simple once you have grasped the concept, and the benefits are numerous and powerful.

So what is it?

What does it do?

How can it help me?

The way in which you should approach this is as follow:

  • Can I break up my project into smaller (logical) pieces? E.g. if you bake a cake you can separate preparation, baking and decorating quite easily.
  • Ok now if we look at these pieces, are there logical pieces inside of them? E.g. in preparation there are 2 other pieces – wet ingredients and dry ingredients that have to be mixed separately (depending on the recipe of course)
  • Carry on until it stops making sense or all the pieces have been broken up into elements.
  • If I ignore outside influences, what do I – and my team – have to do to achieve success in each of the lowest pieces? E.g. all the dry ingredients have to be mixed BEFORE the wet ingredients. As a general rule, you will now be in the task or actions level where stuff has to done by people.
  • If it becomes clear that you may have missed a piece (measure the ingredients) simply add them in on the level that makes the most sense.

wbs1

What has happened here is astonishing:

  • You have actually planned the work that would be required to achieve the overall goal in a structure and logical manner
  • You have determined what has to be done in some sequence (e.g. measure before mix)
  • You can see where tasks can occur simultaneously (e.g. switch on the oven and gather ingredients)
  • You know that there are dependencies (e.g. you cannot pour the dough into the baking pan before you have greased the pan.
  • You have an idea of the time (work and duration), the number of resources (ingredients, equipment, and people) and sequence of events – I would call that a basic schedule with time and cost management capability.
  • You know what can be measured – when, where, who… – I would call that a quality and milestone plan you may even want to base your communications plan on this…

I know this sounds like stuff you have heard of before, but if you do this early enough (it’s never too late) in your project, you will be able to isolate the areas that you and your team are not too clear about. You can now focus on these areas to gain the knowledge or information required to properly plan – I’m so sorry, would this be your risk log?

I promise you just knowing what you don’t know is justification enough to do the exercise.

Every document and tool (e.g. Project Charter, Scope of work, Schedule, Resources plan, Communications plan, Quality plan, Risk / Issue management plan, Cost management plan) now have a BACKBONE from which they can be developed.

If the WBS is used in developing your project management infrastructure, you will discover that you have an integrated management plan.

If that does not impress the boss??????

integrated-management

The most important benefit that the WBS provides a project team is – – – – UNDERSTANDING!

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Now you and your team simply have to get up, show up and execute…

Please follow, share and comment. I love to hear from you.

 

Rules about implementing a PMO

Implementing a PMO is a SIGNIFICANT undertaking for any organisation. Is the implementation of a PMO really worth it?

To start this post we have to clarify a few concepts. All of the specific definitions given may be contested but for the purposes of this post, I would like to utilize these descriptions as a foundation.

Definitions:

Project – A project in business and science is typically defined as a collaborative enterprise, frequently involving research or design, which is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim. Projects can be further defined as temporary rather than permanent social systems that are constituted by teams within or across organizations to accomplish particular tasks under time constraints. (wikipedia.org)

Program – A group of related projects, subprograms and program activities that are managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually. (pmi.org)

Portfolio – Projects, programs, sub-portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives. (pmi.org)

Assumption:

PMO (Portfolio/Program/Project Management Office) as a concept is used interchangeably to denote any organisational construct that attempts to govern, administer or standardize project (used singularly to denote inclusion of Portfolio/Program/Project Management throughout this article) related activities with the intent to improve the success, benefit realization or efficiency obtained from these efforts.

Discussion:

There are two very contradicting, but real, statistics related to the project management industry/discipline. The first is the unquestionable advantage that disciplined project management provides in achieving short and medium-term goals, affecting change, mobilizing resources and converting resources and effort into value. The second undeniable reality is an alarming failure rate of projects. Much has and can be said about the failures, and it is probably one of the most enduring sources of research for professionals and practitioners.

I wish that I could sever PMO’s from these statements, but unfortunately, I could not do it with a clear conscience.

Most of the PMO’s I have been exposed to are an attempt to overcome the realities like – governance practices afforded only lip-service, resources over-allocated and multi-tasked, project sponsors invisible and project commitments made without proper planning or justification – “normal” project management environments.

Online Business Cycle

The Rules:

  • A PMO cannot address business problems from outside the business. If you have a problem with squirrels, putting down all the rats you can find will not solve the problem. Similarly, addressing problems with project governance will not be solved by implementing a PMO; it would probably just make things worse. If you have a business problem, resolve it using the appropriate business methodologies and practices.
  • Project Management maturity cannot be achieved by implementing a PMO – Teaching a seven-year-old all the principles of medical diagnostics does not make a doctor. Management maturity and skills can only be achieved through – exposure, training, hiring, failure and other similar actions. Only by learning from mistakes and responding in a prevention orientated way, will organizations gain the experiences which then provide maturity.
  • PMO’s do not provide instant results – You cannot build an ocean liner by converting a houseboat. The design, implementation, and embedding of a PMO consume resources (hopefully high-quality i.e. expensive resources) that can only be recovered on in the tactical or strategic realm. The PMO will have to steadily grow into a value-adding entity OR the organization has to realize that value is obtained from combining benefits yielded by contributing processes at least in the early life stages of the PMO.
  • PMO’s don’t survive cold boardroom air exposure – A losing team can be inspired by the addition of a single player, but it will not overcome dependency on that player until the original team members acquire new skills. Implemented PMO’s HAVE to permeate every level of the organization involved in project management, and it has to become the unquestionable mechanism of choice from the executives to the shop floor – every man and his dog have to understand their contribution or requirement. If it is only used and promoted by senior staff it will die.
  • PMO’s work like web sites – Any programmer can develop the Google landing page in a matter of minutes. However, one millimeter behind the screen there are servers, and processes that consume vast resources that allow Google to conduct the search, filter results and respond with relevant information. This is also true of PMO’s – setting up an office, hiring people, setting down standards and processes is the landing page; getting those processes and standards to work and return relevant results will consume vast resources, require hard work and know-how.
  • PMO Accountability – PMO’s cannot be held accountable for project execution success if they have no say in which projects get selected, who the project managers are and which project manager is executing which project. Beating the teacher because of a high failure rate of a poorly defined course.

The achievement of a working PMO is the pinnacle of project management. The benefits that can be achieved through getting it right can be compared to the introduction of production line manufacturing into the automobile industry.

The implementation of a PMO can easily be likened to changing an automobile manufacturer that produces handcrafted wood frame vehicles into a production line that produces metal frame vehicles. Many different things will have to change. Think of the impact the following concepts will have on the business culture of the organization experiencing the change – tolerances, specialization, supply lines, parts inventory, production floor management techniques, quality control and assurance, production throughput management, process sequencing, etc.

Summary:

Implementing a PMO is a SIGNIFICANT undertaking for any organization irrespective of size or market and should be considered in the order group of implementing a project management production (not just assembly) line into the organization.

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Is the implementation of a PMO really worth it?

Ask any major automobile manufacturer.

– Unquestionably and Irrevocably –

YES

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Portfolio, Program and Project Management

From a distance, it seems that people use these terms interchangeably. They do however represent many different undertakings.

Trying to steer away from the “official” definitions provided by the various project management institutes and organizations I hope to explain it in a way that would be easily understood, and can be agreed upon by all professionals in the field.


Definitions:

Project Management – the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to meet specific goals. A project is a temporary undertaking with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverable), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of these two systems is often quite different, and as such requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management)

Program Management – the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization’s performance. In practice and in its aims it is often closely related to systems engineering and industrial engineering. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_management) I would like to add that it could temporarily include the management of areas that are business as usual (or operations). Programs are also focused on obtaining business benefit observable from outside the program environment.

Portfolio Management (Project Portfolio Management) – centralized management of processes, methods, and technologies used by project managers and project management offices (PMOs) to analyze and collectively manage a group of current or proposed projects based on numerous key characteristics. The objectives of PPM are to determine the optimal resource mix for delivery and to schedule activities to best achieve an organization’s operational and financial goals ― while honoring constraints imposed by customers, strategic objectives, or external real-world factors. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_portfolio_management)

Just looking at these definitions does not distinguish large projects, from small programs, portfolios from very large programs and so on. So let’s look at what is different and then we should be able to tell them apart.

Finite Focus Components Related Objective
Project Yes Functional Delivery Yes Single
Program Yes Strategic Objectives Yes Multiple
Portfolio No Strategic Intent No Varied

This will give us some basis for comparison.

  • Portfolios do not have an end date
  • Portfolios are entirely strategic
  • Portfolios contain projects, programs, and operations that do not require a specific relationship to each other
  • Portfolios don’t intend to reach a specific strategic objective, but rather address a strategic value or intent
  • Programs have a specific strategic goal that it must satisfy
  • All components in a program are included to deliver or contribute to reaching a measurable strategic goal (Could be more than 1)
  • Programs may temporarily include the management of operations
  • Programs have a start and end date within which they have to deliver on the agreed objectives
  • Projects deliver a specific outcome (product, result)

Example:

A specific aircraft manufacturer has a project portfolio in which they intend to enhance the organization’s image, improve service delivery and secure the medium and long term financial future. Within this project portfolio, a program exists to design, develop and implement the manufacturing of a new aircraft. The program contains many projects, one of which is concerned with the building of the manufacturing facility in which the aircraft will be built.

Now that this picture is becoming clear -> I have a gift…

Sorry I simply had to include this graphic J it just keeps on growing…

Please ask questions, offer differing views and comment at will.

Follow this blog, share, link, spread the news…

Have a great day.

Introducing Agile into business – Affordably

One of the most revolutionary and exciting events in recent business management history has been the introduction of agile management techniques into the business environment. (outside of IT)

agile

However, through our experience, this has come at the expense of “proper planning” of work with specific reference to the attainment of business value aligned to a strategy.

Secondly, many organizations have not been able to respond by updating their Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) frameworks which leaves them vulnerable during audits.

Thirdly, Company executives are only now warming up to work breakdown structures (WBS), Gantt charts, and multi-year program budgets.

The disruption advantage that Agile provides practitioners is translated as risk and unstructured (unplanned) work by executives (and auditors). The current “language barrier”  between Agile practice and acceptable business communication is significant and the reporting produced does not provide them with the insight they desire.

It is in exactly this space that we would like to introduce our company’s products and services.

If only there was a tool that allows all of these elements to work seamlessly together on the same data. Why can’t we have a system that can show an Agile Scrum Kanban board in a Gantt chart format? Why can’t we show our burndown chart in a Gantt baseline format, our resource utilization as well as capacity planning in an easy way?

Now there is…

Note: We only offer products and services that return below 12 month ROI as well as deliver measurable and directly attributable value to your organization from the outset.

One of the professional services we render is a rapid business and project planning rectification program. We unfold the fundamental principles of how to plan appropriately (irrespective of the methodology used) which usually reside within your employee development program.

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The products below allow the management of agile projects and events within a structured format, at an implemented price that could conceivably be lower than your current system’s annual renewal. We have provided hyperlinks to each product in the graphic to allow you to browse the features and pricing of the product.

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Obviously, these systems offer significantly more benefits that we have not highlighted in this post. We can assure you that there are several very good reasons the fine organizations listed below elected to utilize these products.

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Do not delay – Contact us today – future-trust.net@future-trust.net.

Project Management 102

Post aimed at positioning and considering standards and approaches to manage projects. It takes a look into phases, knowledge areas with some detail.

You should already know that you have a project and you can do some planning to get things done – From the previous post – Project Management 101.

Now moving swiftly along…

There are many standards and approaches available to manage projects: (From Wikipedia)

Approaches

International Standards

There have been several attempts to develop project management standards, such as:

For clarity sake, we will only delve into one of these “flavors” of project management – Project Management Institute (PMI). The most important next step in your discovery of what project management revolves around phases.

Phases
Phases

The phases are intended to allow us mortal beings to group things together logically that will allow us the greatest chance of succeeding. We have to remember that some learning and bitter experiences have contributed to the knowledge that constitutes the groupings.

Initiation

You have to know a few things before you really start to attack a project. These things are absolutely vital to the success of the project.

  • What MUST the project achieve (not from the project’s view, but from the client’s view)?
  • How many funds are available to achieve what (and how will you be able to get it – what does the project have to do)?
  • Who are the people involved (probably the list of stakeholders already identified in Project Management 101)?
  • Get written signed approval of your understanding of what the project has to achieve (project charter).
New Team - Fresh Young...
New Team – Fresh Young…

Planning and Design

We have discussed planning before, why again now? In Project Management 101 we explained planning to give you enough detail to define the project. In this phase, you will have to plan to achieve the results… You have to plan to an “appropriate level of detail” to allow you to manage project risk by estimating the time, resources, cost and other factors that will affect the chances of delivering the project successfully. (more on project planning)

Planning Discussions....
Planning Discussions…

Executing

Do the work that you said that you were going to do in the planning phase. This is where the tire hits tar, things get serious and things will have to happen…

  • People will have to know who does what when, why and for how long…
  • They have to work hard (I can almost guarantee you that you will not have enough time or people to get all the stuff done),
  • They will have to be accurate and precise (cannot re-do stuff here),
  • You will have to do it cheaply (yes, I know – haha).
Getting it Done....
Getting it Done…

Monitoring and Controlling

You have to constantly evaluate what people are doing…

  • Is it in line with what has been specified?
  • How do we overcome this unanticipated problem?
  • If we lose time doing this, how do we get it back?
  • If that thing now cost more than what we were told, how do we recover the extra expenditure?
  • If we pay more for a better person, will we save enough time to make it worth our while?
  • How does the client perceive all the activity?
Insider View...
Insider View…

Closing

One of three things will cause a project to close:

  • Achieved all of the project deliverables (YAY….. )
  • Stopped due to requirements shift (the reason why the project existed has changed or disappeared)
  • Will never reach the project deliverables (many reasons within and external to project can cause this)

Remember any project you can walk away from…

Project Team - Older Wiser...
Project Team – Older Wiser…

To give you some idea of how projects will tax you as they move through the phases, the line drawing below is a good approximation of how most projects behave.

Phase - Consumption
Phase – Consumption

Phew… Glad that’s over with… So I’m a fully-fledged project manager now?

Well yes and no…

To be a project manager you have to know a little bit of each of these:

The ten knowledge areas are: (Sixth Edition)

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

We will look at this next time…

Have to wait... for... more...
Have to wait… for… more…

Have a fantastic day…