Tag Archives: project management

Review of PRIORITY MATRIX – a workflow system that will revolutionize how IT managers work

This is a BOLD CLAIM, I know, , , but I believe wholeheartedly this system is going to create a paradigm shift in how IT managers work. Let me explain below or go view the video I created to learn more:

https://appfluence.com/it-management-software/

A paradigm shift is needed
IT managers have three major challenges and now there is software available to attack all three.

The “BIG THREE” challenges are:

  • Prioritizing work
  • Managing projects successfully
  • Communication

These three challenges are the sources of what I have called the Triple Threat To IT Success for many years.

Appfluence, a Palo Alto company, released a new version of their PRIORITY MATRIX software this week that includes specially designed “IT Manager Templates” to help address these three challenges.

Having used the system for a few months I can tell you that it addresses these three major challenges very effectively.

PRIORITY MATRIX is a very powerful workflow system that places an emphasis on improving productivity and accountability. It even eliminates a considerable amount of your email.

I know what you are saying to yourself, “Right Mike, , , eliminate most of my email, , , who are you kidding?”.

It’s the same thing I thought when I first heard this statement. Well, I saw it happen first hand when I used the system in a real project. It eliminated 90% of the email I would have had with the people working on this project and we completed the project much more productively.

It’s just one of the reasons I have been so impressed with the Priority Matrix system and wanted to make IT managers aware. This is going to be a major step in my company mission of, “helping IT managers of the world achieve more success“.

How Priority Matrix works
The PRIORITY MATRIX system provides a simple interface that uses the Eisenhower Principle for Decision Making. This principle has been around since the 1940’s and is actually well known. Many use this method in their work including:

  • Dr. Stephen R. Covey in his highly acclaimed book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • David Allen’s book titled, Getting Things Done
  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Evernote even has an Eisenhower template

The Eisenhower Principle uses the “4 quadrant concept” where the two boxes in the top row are “important” and the two boxes in the bottom row are “not important”. The left-hand column of two boxes is “urgent” and the right column of two boxes is “not urgent”.

So you have:
Quadrant 1 – Important and Urgent
Quadrant 2 – Important but Not Urgent
Quadrant 3 – Not Important but Urgent
Quadrant 4 – Not Important and Not Urgent

You can use the 4 quadrant concept any way you wish, not just how General Eisenhower (and later 34th President of the US) used it.

Flexibility and adaptability to what you need is the “name of the game” when it comes to the PRIORITY MATRIX workflow system and how they use this 4 quadrant concept.

The 4 quadrant layout in Priority Matrix’s user interface allows you to organize and categorize tasks, projects, or virtually anything you want.

The possibilities in using the 4 quadrant methodology are virtually limitless.

The real power is behind the simple user interface
PRIORITY MATRIX uses the 4 quadrants as the main part in their approach, but there is a big difference in what I see with their implementation. They have a powerful workflow engine beneath the simple 4 quadrant user interface you see.

This engine automates many workflow things we always had to do manually, and it places an emphasis on prioritizing work and completing the work productively. You would never know this unless you worked with the system.

Here is a sample of P/M’s key features and benefits:

  1. Organize virtually anything you want. The 4 quadrant structure is very flexible; you decide how you want to use it.
  2. Prioritize tasks or items by assigning a due date. When you do, the system automatically tracks this and notifies you with alerts and reports.
  3. Assign tasks to teammates. The system keeps track of this automatically so you and others of your choosing can see what is getting done and when things are coming due.
  4. Collaborate in real time to resolve issues. This aspect improves productivity considerably and will eliminate a major part of your email. I didn’t believe this at first but it definitely does reduce email significantly.
  5. Easily include notes, attached files, screenshots, url links and more in your communications.
  6. The system maintains detailed documentation of all communication and notes on all tasks. This is great for documenting what actually happens for future reference. If you work in an environment where tracking work activity is important then this system is definitely worth looking into.
  7. GANTT charts are created automatically and you can even work from the GANTT chart interface to update projects, change dates, reassign tasks, etc.
  8. The CALENDAR interface works the same way.
  9. Manage dozens of projects and easily see all that’s going on by project, by quadrant, by teammate and more.
  10. Build a project from scratch or use one of the predefined project templates to get up and running quickly.
  11. Tag projects, tasks or items so you can filter views or reports by tag. Very helpful.
  12. The system is a great place for storing reference material and other resources.
  13. The system is cloud based so all your devices have access.
  14. Tremendous scalability and security using Amazon Web Service’s S3 storage capability.
  15. Communication updates are automatic when people are assigned or participating in a task or project. This is a major benefit for IT managers.
  16. Easily monitor employee workload when you define tasks with “effort required” and “start & end dates”.

I discovered PRIORITY MATRIX by accident a few months ago and now that I’m familiar with it I’m wondering, “Where have you been all my life?”

The manual To Do List system I’ve used for 30 years is obsolete with a tool like this so I’ll be using PRIORITY MATRIX from now on.

I was so impressed with the PRIORITY MATRIX system that I wanted to invest time and energy to help the company create IT Manager awareness of their system.

I created 6 IT manager templates and they are available for free to new users from the Appfluence web site. Create projects in these categories in just a few minutes, , , there will be more templates created and available soon.

IT Manager Resources
IT Manager TO DO LIST
Employee Performance Planning
IT Project Portfolio Process
IT Project Risk Analysis
IT Project Value Analysis

FREE TRIAL
Go to: https://appfluence.com/it-management-software/ and take advantage of the FREE 30-day TRIAL offer of the PRIORITY MATRIX System for IT Managers.

I encourage you to take a look at the PRIORITY MATRIX system. Believe me, it’s going to revolutionize the way you do things and make you much more productive in achieving more success.

The Debate about Project Managers

project managementAre project managers really needed for IT success?

GREAT QUESTION !

What do you think?

The question is, , , “Can you be successful without having an IT Project Management focus?” Give me your perspective in the poll below before reading the rest of the article:

 

OK, I hope you responded to the poll above and checked the results.

Now, it’s time for me to give you my opinion.

question

The question is, “Do you need project management focus to achieve IT success?”

My opinion, , , , ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Projects are not successful on their own, , , they are successful because project managers make them successful.

Without a project management focus, the tasks that need to happen when they need to happen simply do not get completed without a project manager pushing them along.

Let me repeat, , , project managers make projects happen, , , projects do not get completed successfully on their own, , , they just don’t. In fact, projects will not be completed successfully unless someone:

  • pushes the project forward
  • checks to see that all tasks are completed on time
  • anticipates the obstacles that might jeopardize the project’s success

I’m a big believer in placing project management focus on the projects we undertake within an IT organization. To me, it is absolutely essential.

Let me back up just a second. Certainly, an IT organization can achieve some level of success without project management focus. Thousands of small and mid-size companies do it every day. However, your success will be limited and exposure for failure is significant, , , especially with large complex projects.

So, where does the project management debate occur?

What happens is that organizations that apply traditional project management methodologies tend to require quite a bit of overhead, , , too much, in some cases.

My sense is that there needs to be a reasonable amount of “monitoring”, “reporting” and “management” when you manage a project.

I’m not a proponent that says you need to produce all the reports and do all the things that are defined in PMI’s PMBOK (Project Management Book of Knowledge) or similar resources. I believe it requires too much overhead and administrative time.

What I do endorse is that you need a certain amount of structure (methodology) you follow and regularly scheduled status checks to help move a project along.

Operations people often do not want to spend the time to meet every week to discuss project status, identify risks, or discuss problem resolution strategies. They just want IT to complete the project so they can get on with their work.

The bottom line is that operational business people don’t always see the need for project management. Their approach is often, “Just do it, and leave me out of it.”

This is where the debate happens. How do we manage a large complex project so it doesn’t require an excessive amount of time and administrative effort but is sufficient to do the job, , , i.e., deliver the project successfully?

Without the process, odds are extremely high your project is going to fail. “Just doing it” simply won’t be reliable.

At a minimum, projects need seven things to consistently be completed successfully – on time, within budget and meet client needs:

  1. Requirements definition – Some call this a scope document. No need to create a voluminous document here but you must quantify:
    1. Project goals and objectives
    2. Specific deliverables
  2. Project Sponsor agreement on Item #1
  3. Project Schedule that lists all tasks to be completed, completion time frames, and responsibility for completion
  4. Budget that has reasonable amount of buffer
  5. Staff the project with capable resources
  6. Project Kickoff Meeting to get project team members on the same page and to reinforce commitment required
  7. Weekly Project Status Meetings to check status and keep the project moving (i.e., to monitor and manage the Project Schedule)

All of these elements can be accomplished practically and simply, , , without lots of overhead. The point that needs to be made though is that each part needs focus and must be addressed if you want to deliver projects successfully.

it project management ebookFor additional insight on managing successful projects, take a look at my book,
IT Project Management: a practical approach

6 Keys to Successful IT Projects plus a secret

projectDelivering projects successfully is critical for your IT organization; in fact it is the key to IT credibility, , , not just the IT organization’s but your credibility as an IT manager as well. That means you need to do things that position your organization for project success.

What is “project success”?

Simply put, project success includes delivering projects that are:
–  completed on time
–  delivered within budget
–  achieve the stated goals and objectives
–  meet client expectations

In my experience, there are 6 keys to delivering IT projects successfully:

1.  Manage the project’s scope
There are two parts in managing scope – defining the project goals and quantifying the deliverables. Being specific about what the project will achieve and what you will deliver is how you manage your client’s expectations. First rule of delivering a successful project is that you must establish realistic and achievable expectations with your client in the beginning before you actually start working on project tasks. If you don’t, you have no chance in delivering the project successfully.

2. Develop a solid project schedule
A good project schedule identifies all the tasks that must be completed to deliver the project successfully. Once you know exactly what must be done, you can staff the project appropriately and budget the project. Project schedules define:
– tasks that must be completed
– task responsibilities (accountability for completing each task)
– task completion timelines

In a nutshell, a good project schedule defines what, who and when.

3. Staff the project with competent people
It goes without saying that you won’t be very successful if you do not have competent people taking care of the required tasks. Once you identify the tasks required to deliver the project successfully, focus on the people that have the required skills who need to take responsibility for each task.

4. Be conservative when budgeting and estimating task completion time frames
There is a golden rule in IT, , , “Things take longer and cost more than you think they will.” Believe it, it’s true. If you do not have buffer in your budget and project timeline estimates, odds are high that you will either be over budget or deliver the project late, , , or both. Be conservative when estimating project costs and task due dates. You want to position your project team to over deliver. No one gets upset if you complete the project early or under budget.

5. Schedule a Kickoff Meeting to get everyone on the same page.
A great way to get the project started on the right foot is to hold a Project Kickoff Meeting with all project members attending. It allows you to set expectations with the project team members, to identify bottlenecks or key risk areas that might prevent project success, and to outline the guidelines for future project status meetings, , , i.e., “come to status meetings with your tasks completed and prepared”. An effective Kickoff Meeting helps you get everyone on “the same page” and started on a positive note.

6. Manage the schedule with weekly project status meetings
Projects don’t happen on their own. They are successful because project managers make them happen, , , they push and guide projects to the finish line so they are delivered on time and within budget. An important tool project managers use to do this is by holding weekly project status meetings to understand issues that arise, make corrective actions as needed and to push the project forward. You can build a great schedule and budget, but if you do not “manage the project” with regularly scheduled status meetings, the project won’t be delivered successfully.

meeting-3OK, these are what I consider the 6 keys to managing projects successfully, , , but there is a secret component you need to know about. Three of these key elements require strong communication. Unfortunately, IT managers have a tendency to be weak communicators. I’ve discussed this issue many times in prior posts. It’s a very real problem.

The bottom line is that poor communication is the root of much of our IT failure.

That’s right, in order to complete three of the six key parts of successful project delivery, you must communicate effectively:
1. Manage the project’s scope – This requires you to quantify the goals and objectives and spell out specifically what will be delivered to your client so you can gain agreement. It requires you to communicate with your client.
2. Hold a Project Kickoff Meeting – This requires you to communicate the schedule and obtain “buy-in” from all project team members that they can complete the tasks by the scheduled completion dates.
3. Hold regular Project Status Meetings to manage the project – Again, strong communication skills are required to make this happen.

My sense is that 70-80% of projects that fail are caused by poor communication and not doing these three key parts just listed effectively.

Let me give you two quick examples:

1. Often, IT people are so eager to start the work on a new project, they don’t spend time to define the scope and gain commitment from their client on the specifics that must be delivered. In many cases, they don’t even take the time to define what they believe are the requirements of a project, , , they simply start working. Doing this will spell “disaster” every time.

2. Another example is that I’ve seen IT organizations stop holding Project Status Meetings and updating the project schedule because “it takes too much time”. Yes, it does require time, but if you fail to monitor and manage the project by reviewing the weekly tasks that must be completed, , , you might as well go ahead and ring up another project failure to your list.

it project management ebookRemember, projects don’t happen successfully on their own, , , they are successful only when someone manages the project and pays attention to the details. A big part of this detail work is the communication aspects of three of the six key parts of successful projects that I have laid out to you.

If you are interested in a practical resource and tools to help you deliver projects successfully, check out my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach.

Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 3

project successThe path to IT credibility is by delivering projects successfully, , , and more.

In Step-1 we discussed the most obvious – building an appropriate project schedule and managing your projects so you deliver them on time, within budget and meet your client’s expectations.

In Step-2 we discussed the need to communicate the status and key issues of active projects, , , in other words, what’s going on in your IT organization.

Effective communication is just as important, if not more so, than actually completing a project successfully.

Step-3 is also about communicating effectively, , , and this one may be the most important of all.

IT organizations need to make others aware of the value they contribute to a company. If you don’t, I can assure you people in your company won’t have a clue about what you are getting done for them and the contributions your team is making.

It’s even worse than that. If you don’t continue to communicate your value and keep this in front of your client, , , they soon forget. You see, clients have very short memory when it comes to the IT organization, , , unless it’s something bad that has happened.

Most do not remember what you did for them last week or last month, , , and if you haven’t been telling them they won’t even know how much you are doing to help your company succeed at all.

I’ve heard IT managers say quite often things like, “My clients know what we are doing, , , how could they not know? Surely, they can see how hard we are working.”

Let me make something very clear, , , most of your clients aren’t paying attention to IT and how hard you work. They are focused on trying to meet their objectives and to take care of their own issues.

Now, it’s not necessary that everyone in the company know what IT is doing and what you are accomplishing. The people who do need to know are senior managers and department managers, , , these people are your key client groups.

Value, , , value, , , value. Most senior executives have a very difficult time determining what the IT value is for the company. They know we spend lots of money on IT support and technology but it’s difficult for them to quantify the value. In most cases, they simply do not know.

If they can’t place a value on their IT investment, , , even if it’s as vague as Good, Average, or Poor, , , it puts you and your organization in a difficult position.

Let’s get to the point. Your key clients, especially senior managers, need something that can help them place value in what your IT organization is accomplishing, , , and you certainly want them to view IT as a GOOD INVESTMENT .

Your clients need to know two key things:
– How successful you are in completing projects on time and within budget
– The benefits (value) your company receives from the projects you deliver

Are you aware that some studies suggest there is as much as a 70% failure rate in IT projects? That’s right, the studies point out that 70% or more of IT projects fail to be completed on time, are over budget, or do not meet the client’s needs.

Well, let’s say that this is grossly over exaggerated. Even if it’s only half of that, say 35%, , , this is still a huge problem. Project failure costs companies billions of dollars in lost capital and productivity every year. It’s recognized worldwide as a big problem.

What you want to be able to show is a positive track record of delivering projects successfully that contributes tangible value to your company.

You want everyone to see that while the world experiences as little as a 30% success rate in IT projects, your team has an 85-90% success rate or higher.

While other IT organizations struggle about how to show value, you want a report that shows the benefits and value derived from every project you do for the company.

I like to use an IT Initiatives Portfolio to do this.

I’ve written about this tool before. It is possibly the one tool that has helped me in my career the most. The reason – it shows in clear terms how good my IT organization performs in regards to delivering projects successfully and the value we are contributing in a very simple report.

Here it is:

IT Initiatives Portfolio

There are six key parts, , , this report tells you a lot:

1.  Success in completing projects on time

2.  Success in completing projects within budget

3.  Benefit results. In this report I have columns for expected results and achieved results for both 6-month and 12-month intervals. You won’t use these columns for every project but it is certainly helpful to list some type of business value benefit for every project you work on, , , this is the value contribution your team is making.

4.  Success in meeting client needs

5.  Overall success rate of each project – on time, within budget, achieving expected results, and meeting client needs.

6.  Ongoing run rates of completing projects on time, within budget, and meeting client needs plus overall project success rate. This is your track record and you want people to know how good your team performs in completing projects successfully.

Let’s take a closer look at this report, , , click on the image for a larger view:

it initiatives portfolio_results

In this example I’ve rolled it up so you can see the results of three projects. The nice thing about Excel is that you can summarize all the projects to calculate overall performance indicators at the bottom as I’ve done here.

In the example it shows we have achieved the following performance track record:
– On time percentage – 66.6%
– Within budget – 100%
– 6-month actual benefits of $21,500 which is $500 better then expected
– 12-month actual benefits of $63,500 which is $5,500 better than expected
– Meets User Needs percentage of 100%
– Overall project success of 66.6%

It helps to prepare an annual report that lists every project the IT team completed during the year and keep copies for every year to show progress and to analyze to determine how you get better. You will find this information becomes valuable to have handy at times.

Something else to consider. When people know you are tracking performance and you are serious about it, , , two things happen:
1.  Your IT team focuses harder to complete projects successfully.
2.  Senior managers view you more as a business manager than a technical manager.

Both of these are important for your credibility.

Summary
Project success is the path to IT credibility, something you must establish if you are to attain any level of IT success. To get there you need to do more than just complete projects successfully, , , you must also communicate the status of active projects and make others aware of the track record and results your team achieves in delivering projects successfully.

The tools and insight provided in this 4-part series will help you do all of this.

it project management ebookMore details of the entire project management process and customizable tools I use are available in my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach

Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 2

success6Continuing with the three key things you need to do in regards to delivering projects successfully on your way to establishing IT credibility, , , this is Step 2 of 3.

Let’s review the three things I listed in the overview article. They are:
1.  Build an appropriate project schedule and manage projects to deliver on time, within budget and meet your client’s expectations.
2.  Communicate the status of active projects.
3.  Demonstrate your organization’s project success rate and the benefits derived from your efforts.

At any given time, your IT organization will have several active projects. It’s obviously important for you to execute and complete them successfully, , , on time, within budget and meeting client needs as we talked about for Step-1 in the last article.

It’s also important for you to keep interested parties aware of where you are and what’s going on in your IT organization, , , specifically senior managers of your company. You must communicate effectively.

Let me share a recent experience. Last year I took on a consulting engagement to provide interim IT management services for an organization while they looked for an IT Director. When I got there it was clear there were many projects in the works.

What was not clear was that there was nothing in place so we could see the landscape of active projects. What I mean by this is that nothing was in place so we could even tell how many projects were underway or being positioned to get started.

blindfoldedAs I mentioned in the overview article, this is like trying to drive blindfolded, , , pretty much impossible to be successful.

Understanding the need to be able to see the active project landscape and to communicate the status and key issues of each project, I quickly developed a simple monthly Project Summary Report. In fact, I think I developed this the first week I was there because I needed to know what was going on.

When I completed my initial discovery work and finished the report for the first time it showed we had over 30 projects underway. It was a surprise to some. Over the next few weeks we discovered even more projects so the actual total was over 40 active projects being worked on or projects that were getting started.

Here is a blank form from the one I created. Click on the image for a closer look.

Project Summary Report

Let’s go through it so you better understand how effective this simple tool can be in communicating the status of active projects.

There are 4 main parts to this monthly project summary report:

1.  Project Name – Descriptive name of the project.

2.  Project Manager – Who you look to for additional information and who is accountable for the project’s success.

3.  Key Issues List – Below each project name there is room to list up to 6 key issues or important comments for each project.

4.  Timeline – I used the area shaded in beige to show milestones that I thought  important enough to communicate. I’ll give you an example in just a minute.

We had all types of active projects underway, , , big ones, smaller ones, , , projects that involved many people to projects that involved very few people, , , expensive and not so expensive projects, , , and projects that would take many months to complete to those that completed in just a few months, , , all types.

Many of our projects required 4 to 6 months or longer to complete. For these, I felt it important to be able to communicate certain milestones. For example, if we were installing a new software application, I wanted to show the installation date, file build time frame, testing and training time frames and targeted Go Live month.

Below is an example:

Project Summary_sample

First thing to notice is that I updated the month cells to reflect current time frames.In this sample, I just made up two fictitious projects and used upcoming months for 2013 and 2014.

Under each Project name are the key issues I think need to be communicated.

And finally, I color coded and inserted short descriptions in the top row of each project to reflect:
– when we are starting the projects (green shaded cells)
– when certain real project work takes place (yellow cells)
– when the Go Live or launch month is targeted (red cells)

You can use any color code you desire, , , the important thing is that this helps you see the key timeline milestones of each project as well as the key issues for each project.

Not only will this simple tool help you stay abreast of what’s going on in your IT organization, it’s a great aide in communicating IT project activity to others who need to know, , , including your boss.

Another thing you can do if you want to be able to view everything on one or two pages is that you can copy your workbook to a new one and delete all the key issues rows to create a higher level summary of all projects. This is great for senior executives because they usually aren’t so much interested in the key issues as they are in just having an idea of what the IT organization is working on.

Here is a sample:

project summary_sample-executive

What I’ve found to be the easiest is to update the workbook that includes the key issues. Then, when you are done with updating it copy the entire workbook to a new tab called “Executive Summary” and then strip out the key issues rows. It’s quicker and insures both worksheets are consistent with one another.

This tool is simple and quick to start using. More importantly it helps you communicate every month where you are and what’s going on in your IT organization, , , something you cannot afford to neglect.

Effective communication contributes to IT credibility as much as completing the projects successfully, , , both are required!!

it project management ebookMore details of the entire project management process and customizable tools I use are available in my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach

Project success is path to IT credibility – Step 1

Clock helpIn the first article of this “IT credibility through project success” series I outlined three key components required of you in delivering projects successfully in order to gain IT credibility.

1.  Build an appropriate project schedule and manage projects to deliver on time, within budget and meet your client’s expectations.
2.  Communicate the status of active projects.
3.  Demonstrate your organization’s project success rate and the benefits derived from your efforts.

In this post we will discuss the first component – building an appropriate project schedule and managing projects.

First, let’s identify a few key tips that will help you manage and deliver projects successfully:

  • One of the biggest reasons projects fail is because IT people do not clearly define the goals, objectives and specific deliverable of a project. We charge off to do the work before getting it all defined and agreed upon by the project sponsor, , , when this happens, the project is already doomed.
  • IT people like to be “exact”. To manage projects successfully, you have to be conservative and add buffer to the budget and timelines. There is a golden rule to follow when managing projects. Always remember, , ,

projects take longer and cost more than you think they will

every time

  • Conduct a Project Kickoff Meeting to get project team members on the same page and to set their expectations on what you expect from them. It may be their first real project so spell out in clear terms that you expect them to have their tasks completed on time.
  • Explain to the team that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. IT employees don’t like to ask for help, but asking for assistance early gives you an opportunity to overcome something that might cause the project to be late or over budget.
  • Projects don’t get completed on their own. Good project managers anticipate early and often and they push the project along by having weekly project status meetings to keep their projects on target.
  • Identify key bottlenecks or critical tasks in the project and get after them quickly. These are the culprits that jeopardize completing projects on time.
  • Hold project team members accountable and expect them to complete their tasks on time. In the Project Kickoff Meeting, get commitments from everyone that they can complete all their assigned tasks by the designated due dates.
  • Inspect, , , inspect, , , inspect. Remember, what gets inspected gets done. If you are surprised to discover someone is late on a task at the status meeting, , , shame on you for not inspecting. If you don’t inspect, you will always be surprised and surprises usually spell trouble.
  • Managing client expectations is a key ingredient for project success. To do this, you must communicate effectively and regularly.

Simple tool for building a project schedule
Developing an appropriate project schedule and using it to manage the project is key.

I use a very simple tool to develop project schedules. It’s an Excel spreadsheet template. I’m experienced with Microsoft Project but I’ll always revert back to this spreadsheet tool whenever possible because it’s quick and easy.

Believe it or not, before we had laptops and spreadsheets I used a paper form similar to my spreadsheet template and a pencil (and eraser 🙂 ) to manage many large computer installation projects as an IBM Systems Engineer.

Managing a project schedule is not about the tool as much as going about your work appropriately and in a manner that works.

Here is what my blank project schedule template looks like, , , click on the image for a closer look:

project schedule template 2013

There are three key parts:

1. Task – These are the specific tasks required to complete the project. I organize my tasks by major groups or categories. For example, in a large systems conversion project, I might set up a group of tasks by the following categories:

  • Ordering and Setup
  • Infrastructure
  • Programming
  • File Build
  • Training

This organizes the tasks into logical groups and saves time when you work through a project status meeting to determine the status of this week’s tasks that are due to be completed.

My approach is to quantify the tasks to complete a project first. I focus on identifying and listing all the tasks first and then work from there.

Something else to consider as you develop the tasks is that some tasks will be bottlenecks or key tasks that can jeopardize your project if they are not completed on time. You want to identify bottleneck tasks as quickly as you can and place priority on getting them completed early. Eliminating a bottleneck may actually give you a time advantage.

2.  Responsibility – Each task needs one person assigned to be responsible in getting the task completed. It doesn’t have to be the person who actually works on the task, but it needs to be someone on the project team who sits in the weekly status meetings so you can look the person in the eye when you hold them accountable for the task.

Another note on this, , , keep responsibility for each task to 1 person, even if multiple people work on the task. It’s hard to hold more than one person truly accountable for a task and it’s easy for them to point at the other person if a task is not completed.

3.  Timeframe – These are the columns you see titled Month-1, Month-2, etc. Under each month, there are 5 columns. These are weekly columns for the month, , , five because some months have 5 weeks. I use Friday dates. More on this in a second.

So, let’s say the project starts in January and the first Friday is the 7th. I would put in the weekly columns: 7, , , 14, , , 21, , , 28 underneath the month of January to designate each of the Fridays in the month of January. Put in the Friday dates for the other months that are required to complete the project.

Once you have the week ending dates established, , , work through each task to determine the week the task needs to be completed in order to complete the project successfully. What I do is to key or write in a “/” (slash). When the task is completed, I change the “/” to an “X”. This creates a visual effect that makes it very easy to see the status of all the tasks. You will see an example of this in a minute.

You may have a very large project, , , 20 pages or more with hundreds of tasks. By using the “/” and “X” notations, you are able to work through a project status meeting quickly and thoroughly. You just focus on the tasks that are due this week and possibly next week plus bottleneck tasks you know exist in the future.

I mentioned bottleneck tasks earlier. You may want to highlight these by shading the cell background of the completion time to bring attention to the team that this is a key task that can cause the project to fail. It also makes the task easy to spot in status meetings so you can ask about its status weeks ahead of when it is due. Remember the point I made earlier, , , get after these bottleneck tasks quickly!

I also mentioned that I use Friday dates. Friday is the last day of the work week in the US so I show the tasks as needing to be completed by the end of the week. I hold my weekly status meetings early in the week on Mondays or Tuesdays and as we work through this week’s tasks it gives us a few extra days to complete a task if it’s not already completed.

Project managers have to push the project to completion, , , it’s not going to be completed on time if you don’t push to make it happen. By holding project status meetings early in the week and showing tasks required to be completed by Friday it gives you additional time.

Quite often, project team members will procrastinate and wait until the last minute to start focusing on their tasks, , , they think they have plenty of time. This can cause a project to fail because sometimes a task is bigger or more complex than anticipated and takes longer to complete. The additional few days after a project status meeting will help you keep the project on track.

Below is the first page of an actual project where you can see the visual effect of what I described in designating completed tasks with an “X”. You can easily see that we are about to hold a status meeting for the week of October 19th. Click on the image if you need to see a larger version.

projectplan

In the next post we will talk about communicating the status of active projects and I’ll share a simple tool I developed and used recently to do this.

it project management ebookMore details of the entire project management process and customizable tools I use are available in my book, IT Project Management: a practical approach

IT Project Management: a practical approach

IT Project Management: a practical approach
The key to IT credibility is delivering projects successfully. Doing this is not as complex as you might think, , , I’ll give you a simple yet effective process to use and tools that will help you make it happen consistently.

Managing projects effectively is crucial for any IT manager. Establishing a reputation that you deliver projects on time and within budget with minimal problems will position you for many more responsibilities in your company.

This publication provides a “short cut” to effective project management techniques that I learned at IBM and other companies that have helped me for over 30 years. Tools are included to simplify the entire process.

Table of Contents

Book Excerpts

Tools

————————————————————

Buy the entire
Practical IT Manager GOLD Series

$279.00

Download this simple project scheduling tool

Managing projects does not have to be complex, , , the simplest of tools can be very effective.

While there are plenty of tools you can use to keep track of everyone’s tasks and responsibilities, here is one that is easy to use and understand.

I’ve been using it since my IBM days in the late 1970’s, , , before spreadsheets and PC’s. I still use it today and teach others how to use it to deliver projects successfully. You don’t throw something away when it works well and gets you positive results.


How it works
Here are some instructions for using the spreadsheet template. These are also included in an Instruction workbook in the spreadsheet tool:

  1. Fill in the Project name.
  2. Fill in the Project Manager name and contact information (e-mail, phone number, etc.).
  3. Fill in the month at the top of the column groups (Jan., Feb., Mar., etc.).
  4. Fill in the week ending dates for each weekly column. There are five columns for each month to provide for five-week months.
  5. List the tasks required to complete the project.
  6. List the person responsible for each task.
  7. Place a slash mark (/) in the cell of the week in which the task should be completed.
  8. List the resource participants and their initials at the bottom of the first page for reference.

CLICK HERE to download the Excel spreadsheet tool.

Project scope creep is going to get you

Do you know what “project scope creep” is?

Who do you think are the main cause of scope creep in your company?

Scope creep happens after you define the scope and deliverable of a project and make a commitment to deliver it. As your team works on the project, over time you discover your client’s expectations of what you will deliver has increased, , , in some cases quite substantially more than what the original project scope was defined to be.

Here is an example. Your original project to develop a new software feature was going to take 300 hours but 60 days into the project the client thinks you are going to develop functionality that will probably take 500 hours, , , your project has mysteriously grown by 40%.

As a result, your project will not be successful, , , you will either deliver less than expected or you will complete the project much later than expected.

Why did this happen and what caused this huge increase in scope, , , better yet, who caused it?

The phenomena of scope creep comes back to “who caused it”. Most think the client is the culprit.

It’s usually not the case, , , most of the time scope creep is caused by your own IT people. That’s right, , , we are the primary cause of scope creep. It is like “shooting ourselves in the foot”.

Here is what happens. Your people, in this case programmers and business analysts, are very bright and conscientious people. They want to do a good job for your clients.

As they begin working on a software feature enhancement to address a client issue, they think of things that could make the product even better, , , little things, mind you, , , but great ideas that will help the client beyond the initial scope of what we originally agreed to do.

Before you know it, the client is all excited about what he is seeing and hearing about his new software feature. As parts of the code are completed, more discussions take place because the programmer and business analyst identify additional things that can be done to improve the situation, , , all good things.

The problem is that these “good things” add work to the project and will make the project run longer and cost more than originally planned.

In many cases, these discussions take place in the background and the project manager is not even aware he is literally being set up for failure, , , albeit unintentionally and more of people trying to do good things for the client.

Coach your employees and teach them about scope creep. You want them to be creative and to come up with good ideas, , , you just need them to bring these ideas to the project manager first to discuss them, , , not to get the client all excited and have his expectations get out of line with what has been committed to.

If the idea has value, we will take it to the client together to evaluate the situation. If it has enough value to change the scope of the project, we will do it in a way that will manage the client’s expectations as to delivery date, cost, etc.

Teach your employees about scope creep and ensure they understand there are only two people who can add additional scope to a project, , , the project sponsor or the project manager. All good ideas need to go through one of these two people.

Projects have to be managed and one of the elements of project management is to manage scope creep.

IT Project Management: a practical approach

In my last post, I discussed the importance of project management in creating IT credibility. You won’t be credible unless you deliver projects successfully. Period, , , end of story !!!!

My company mission is to “help IT managers of the world achieve more success”. The very first thing I did in this effort was to write a few books (10 actually) to provide insights and tips on things that actually help you achieve more success as an IT manager.

One of the keys is to deliver projects successfully, , , so naturally, there is a book on project management.

Delivering projects successfully is so important. The book is based upon my experiences in delivering projects successfully, , , both as a young IBMer and later as an IT manager and CIO.

IT Project Management: a practical approach is straightforward and includes the simple process I use and the tools to help you deliver projects successfully. It also includes insights and tips from my experiences that will give you an advantage or edge, , , something we all need.

Short, straightforward, practical, , , and to the point. That’s what we want so that’s how I wrote this one. It is one of my best sellers.

Buy the e-book for $29.95.

Buy the whole series of 10 e-books plus BONUS IT Manager ToolKit (a $175.00 value on its own) for $279.00

$279.00 — Full series + IT Manager ToolKit