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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

October 23, 2009

The problem with team-building (remote or co-located) is that sometimes it feels like you’re trying really hard to be a good teammate, but other people are letting you down - it feels like it’s not you, it’s “them”.

Whether “they” are head office, our guy in Birmingham or that inscrutable group in Bangalore, it’s impossible to create a truly effective team unless you start thinking “us”. We develop trust when our goals, motives and competencies are aligned. But when you are miles apart, how can managers ensure people are pulling in the same direction?

Without getting all soppy, here are some tips for helping create stronger ties between team members.

Who are these people?

Studies have shown that when you have a visual picture of someone, you immediately begin to form a tighter bond with them. Putting faces to names is an important part of how we assess the strength of information we receive, whether we can trust people and whether we want to make an effort to work closely with them.

Read the entire article at BNET.

October 21, 2009

Scope management becomes one of the key activities once the project has entered the execution stage. I have had a lot of discussions with my colleagues and students alike, especially in recent times, regarding the appropriateness of the scope management process on various projects. Some of them complained that their customers have treated the scope management process with a certain degree of hostility and their management is convinced that the procedure contradicts the best practices of customer satisfaction. Yet others took the discussions further by asking a more appropriate question, "How extensive and formal should the change request procedures be for projects of varying size and complexity?"

While it is practically impossible to provide everyone with a universal framework that would fit the needs of any project, I tend to believe that the principles discussed in this article are applicable to all ventures, large and small, simple and sophisticated. The only difference would be the degree of formality associated with this methodology. On a small, simple endeavor, all the principles discussed below can remain at the verbal level with probably one summary e-mail exchanged between the parties. On the other hand, on a very complicated mega-project there would be a lot of documentation, formal meetings and sometimes sophisticated negotiations accompanying every change request.

Consequently, here we are targeting "somewhere-in-between" projects with an assumption that an experienced project manager would be able to fine-tune the degree of formality to the complexity of the project he is working on.

Read the rest at Project Times. Free registration required.

October 19, 2009

Last week we talked about how the integration of various systems such as time tracking, payroll and billing can simplify administrative work and reduce overhead. But did you know that system integration has positive effects on project management as well?

We've talked to a lot of professionals at a lot of companies about how they manage their projects, and some of the insight we gained was surprising. For example, many large companies take a disjointed, splintered approach to PM. Each department manages their projects in their own system, be it a sophisticated PPM tool, a planner like Microsoft Project or simply Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. No one has insight into which resources are already booked on another person's project. The right hand doesn't know what the left is doing.

It is not difficult to imagine how having one project management solution to interface with Microsoft Project and contain all project data, large and small, can bring positive benefits to a situation like this. No one has to chase after anyone else for project status updates. No one has to book a resource to their project, only to find out that the person is unavailable. No executive has to guess at which projects are on time and on budget, or which are most profitable and should receive the best resources. It is all there - not in email attachments or printed reports to be lost on someone's desk, but in one central system.

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

October 16, 2009

Project risk management had seemed straightforward enough to me when I first became a project manager. But over the last decade I've started to appreciate the nuances of what now seems to me to be more of an art than a science. Since our theme this month is risk, I'm going to muse about some interesting aspects of risk management that are sometimes overlooked.

Documenting Your Demise

Quite a few years ago I attended a talk by Donald G. Reinertsen, author of the fairly famous book Developing Products in Half the Time. He claimed that the biggest mistake people make in managing risk is to identify the risk but do nothing about it. That certainly rang true for my experience. And it makes perfect sense, since there are never enough resources to address all possible risks. In most projects you just can't afford to prepare for every possibility. With that in mind, I consciously put less emphasis on making a comprehensive list of all possible risks, and focus instead on a shorter list (just those at the top of the pile, usually prioritized by calculating likelihood x impact for each risk), and preventing or mitigating the biggest, baddest, and ugliest of the bunch. Long lists of risks you do nothing about are just documenting your demise.

Read more at ProjectConnections.

October 14, 2009

Welcome back to the world of ‘Productive Laziness’, a world that will help you focus on what really matters and still deliver the results that you and your sponsor demands.

Here we explore the often forgotten part of the project, the very end, that point in time that is usually rushed or ignored in favour of far more attractive offerings in the shape of ‘the next big project’.

But this is a point in time for one last effort, to make life easier in the future. The Lazy Project Manager’s Theory of Projects, from a Productive Laziness aspect states:

'All projects are thick at one end, much, much thinner in the middle and then thick again at the far end.'

Now is not the time to declare the project a success and rush off for a Bloody Mary at the bar.

No, now is the time that you can apply a small and final amount of effort but gain enormous amounts of knowledge so that future projects are likely to be even more successful and potentially with even less effort. And by less effort we know that means so much more time in the ‘comfy chair’ being lazy but in a productive way.

Read the entire article at PM World Today.

October 13, 2009

Our partner, Cognitive Technologies, recently released the findings of its 2009 Project Resource Management Survey.  Over 145 C-level executives and senior project managers from across the United States were polled on how resource management tools and processes are currently being used in their organizations. The results might surprise you. To download a copy of the findings, visit Cognitive Technologies.

October 13, 2009

This is a tale of obsession, passion, and guilt. You guessed it: The subject is time management.

Six months ago, I embarked on a mission to wring a few more hours of productivity out of my week. I chronicled my work with a coach in an article in BusinessWeek. If you missed it, shame on you. But I'll save you the time of thumbing through past issues or firing up your laptop and recap: I'm the executive editor of the magazine you are holding, and I work a frightening number of hours each week while keeping my fingers crossed that my 11-year-old is eating at least a gram or two of protein and has not taken up smoking... read more

October 13, 2009

From now through the end of October Journyx is offering a free house call from one of our Timesheet Doctors, aka Journyx Professional Services Consultants, with the purchase of one of the following:

  • 25 or more Timesheet user licenses
  • The Organization Chart Manager for Journyx Timesheet
  • The Organization Compliance Viewer for Journyx Timesheet

Yes, we will come to you anywhere in the continental US. No charge for the time or travel. When you make your purchase we will schedule an on-site visit from one of our consultants who will come to your location and spend a full day with your Timesheet Administrator, analyzing performance and identifying any roadblocks & issues that are giving you a fever.

Better still, the doctors will fix what they can right then and there, and will provide you with a prescription for any bigger issues that ail you. On the house.

To take advantage of this deal please contact the Journyx Sales Team today.

October 13, 2009

"Want to avoid work? Call a meeting!" I've seen that cynical comment on office posters. While I sympathize with it, I don't agree. Far from sapping productivity, a well-run meeting is often the most effective way to get work done. "Much teamwork is accomplished in meetings. We gather
and distribute information, coordinate activities, uncover new problems, assign tasks, and make decisions." (Verzuh, p. 274)

The catch is leading a well-run meeting. Meetings are critical for communication on projects, so I'm mystified by how many of them are poorly run, often by project managers, the very people who should excel at effective meetings. NASA program manager James T. Brown complains, "You would be hard pressed to identify a bigger consumer or waster of organizational resources than meetings. The fact is that a lot of meetings are unnecessary, and often the necessary meetings are poorly run..." read more

October 13, 2009
  • In Timesheet, how can I have common time entries for groups of employees?
  • In ProjectXecute, how do I make assignments when creating new projects and tasks?

Get the answers to these and other questions in the Journyx Tip Archive.

October 12, 2009

A friend of mine who works at a successful design firm once told me about their timekeeping process. Every employee is required to fill out their timesheets and submit them to an administrator, who then has to reformat them and manually enter them into their financial software system. These administrators - being only human, after all - frequently make mistakes and errors which then affect the quality of the data for project and budget tracking. Not to mention the fact that this company is essentially paying people to do double data entry, when the employees have already entered the data themselves. Many of the employees believe, and rightly so, that this is an inefficient way to track time.

Aren't business solutions like time tracking systems supposed to work for you, and not the other way around? It seems like so many companies today are spending countless hours of resource time on re-entering data into multiple systems, emailing it to interested parties, and other menial tasks that, quite frankly, are better left automated. Sadly, they often do not realize that the initial cost of such a system is nothing compared to the ROI it brings in terms of less margin of error and quicker processes (such as billing, for example). Not to mention the fact that it is likely cheaper than the cost of 1, 2 or more employees to do this kind of work.

Which of your processes can be simplified and automated for better efficiency and higher return on investment? Now, when times and tough and budgets are tight, might be a good time to learn.

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

October 9, 2009

While I'm passionate about many topics, risk management is at, or near, the top. This is because I've seen it work and, more importantly, I've seen and lived the results of poor risk management. On one instance, I was leading a project that experienced a $250,000 cost impact as a direct result of a completely avoidable risk. These are lessons you want to learn through someone else, not through experiencing them yourself.

Standard risk lists are filled with items like "not enough resources" or "aggressive timeline." Are these actually risks? NOW HEAR THIS...More than likely, you're never going to have enough resources and timelines will always be aggressive. Get used to it. These are certainties, not risks. This is, in general, the nature of the modern project environment.

But beyond their obviousness, risks like these fail to provide the project manager or the team any useful direction. As an example, consider the statement "not enough resources." What does that mean in the context of the project? Is it the cause of something else? Is it a statement of what your project is experiencing at this moment? There is simply no way to know from the description provided.

Read more at ProjectConnections.

October 7, 2009

Many projects face problems for multiple reasons: problems of scope, insufficient planning and bad risk assessment are frequent nightmares in any project manager’s life. The root causes of these problems are diverse, but some difficulties are common to many projects, and, for this reason, should get more attention from the project manager and his/her team. However, when fighting against these most frequent project enemies, the project manager will reinforce his/her capacity for risk response planning and increase his/her chances for success.

This paper presents ten situations that can bring project failure, with the objective of alerting project managers to some key risks that are frequently ignored during project planning and execution. In a humorous manner, I’ll approach the common causes of these problems, not with the purpose of proving that only these 10 situations should command all the project manager’s attention, but to highlight that risk prevention IS the project manager’s greatest responsibility and IS the decisive factor of success. I will, as well, offer suggested courses of action that can be taken by the project manager to face each and every one of these 10 risk situations and in this way keep the project “floating”.

Download the PDF at ASAPM.

October 5, 2009

Here at Journyx, we hold meetings about our customers. Each month, we choose a different customer and invite everyone who has ever interacted with this customer to a meeting. These meetings bring together a range of people, from the salespeople and account managers who speak to the customer regularly and learn of their needs to the implementation and professional services teams who work, sometimes on-site, to meet these needs. Often, employees who rarely have meetings together find themselves here, where their combined presence provides insight into every aspect of the customer experience. Is this customer having a problem? What can we do to solve it? Is that feasible? And solutions are born.

It is extremely useful for departments to meet every so often - Marketing, Sales, IT - but familiar faces lead to familiar insights, from which springs complacency and stagnance. Want to shake things up in your organization? Schedule a meeting that brings together people with different backgrounds, skill sets, values and opinions, and then take advantage of this group to address an important company issue. You just might be surprised by the results.

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

October 2, 2009

Things are as bad at your company as you’ve ever seen them. You’re doing the work of three managers, yet you know your job could be eliminated tomorrow. What does your gut tell you to do? Bear down. Get deeply involved in your team’s work. Make sure every single member of your team is doing exactly the right thing. Let your bosses see how hard you’re working.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Now, more than ever, you need to remind yourself of the old leadership koan: The best managers manage least. Remember your team members are also scared, overworked, and flailing. The last thing they need is you, spread too thin, sending them off in random directions.

Read on at BNET.

September 30, 2009

Hello Gentle Reader. This month I am going to regale you with some of the top "rights" that people seem to assume they have, as seen from an IT perspective. I'm sure you all know some of these people.

1. I have the right to do 50% less of a job and assume that someone else will clean it up.

Wow. I don't even know where to go with this one. I should have started with something else.

No, really, you don't. You do not have the right to do half of a job just because you think it might be easier for someone in IT to complete it for you. This reminds me of working at UT when frazzled freshmen would come running into the lab at the Zero Hour needing a computer and waving a sheaf of papers, begging me to do everything but actually type their paper which was about to be late. They were 17 or 18 years old; I sort of expect it from someone that age, but after that? Really, people?

2. I have the right to a 2nd (or 3rd) monitor because someone down the hall has one.

No. No, you don't. If you need extended real-estate for some BUSINESS reason, we can probably make that happen, but unless the business makes the standard desktop setup include 2 monitors, you don't have any right to that whatsoever. Citing that "so-and-so has an extra monitor," doesn't work for two reasons. First, in all likelihood, "so-and-so" needs two monitors, and that would be why it's there. Second, I assure you that "so-and-so" didn't whine to IT that he/she needs to keep up with the Jones' - they requested it with a good business reason.

3. I have the right to a new machine because:

    a. "She" just got one, and I was hired before "her."
    b. I constantly complain about mine being slow.
    c. I install every extension I can on the machine.
    d. I've had it for over a year.

This is a common misconception. You have the right to a new machine when your manager budgets it a thing for you. If it is up to IT to provision the entire company from our budget, then you have a right to a new machine based on an end-of-life policy determined by IT and agreed to by the principals in the company.

4. I have the right to have my problem prioritized much more highly than someone else's because:

    a. It's mine.
    b. I've told you about it 5 times in 30 minutes.
    c. I emailed, called, and opened a helpdesk ticket.

You have the right to get out of my office. The squeaky wheel might get the grease, but it's a temporary fix. The squeaky wheel gets replaced or stuck in the trunk as a spare. The squeaky wheel rarely remains part of a well-tuned machine. Remember that the next time you think that a problem should be prioritized. Perhaps you should just ask where on the list you are and why. If you don't understand, that's fine. If you'd like to discuss prioritization based on importance, that's fine too. But do not walk into IT with your head held high, assuming that because it's You, we will drop everything.

5. I have the right to complain about things not getting done after I have willfully violated procedure.

Ahhh, yes. When you have not followed procedures and things get dropped through the cracks, do you really think that we did it on purpose, or is it possible that we put these procedures in place so that things would NOT drop through the cracks? Think about that for a second. Is it possible that we like our jobs? Is it possible that we want to keep them? Is it possible that we would prefer to go through the day without pissing people off? Is it just
possible, then, that these procedures are there to help you as much as us? They are.

To be honest, though, sometimes when you violate them, we do ignore your request entirely then pretend to have forgotten it. You can tell this because when we do, we usually make a pointed comment about the fact that something got violated, and that must be why we forgot
about it.

6. I have the right to violate policies of other departments because they are inconvenient to me.

See above, and be careful, guys. I know a few people who got fired over doing this consistently. Really, we usually put policies and procedures into place to protect (in order), ourselves, our clients, and you. When you violate them, you usually cause a large number of people (yourself included) unnecessary pain and work.

7. I have the right to go complaining to everyone that can make anything happen if the answer I receive is "no," because:

    a. I don't like the answer.
    b. I should get everything I ask for.

You have the right to ask your question. We have the right to answer it correctly. Every now and again, "no" is the proper answer. I know you probably don't like it, but, no, I'm not going to buy everyone Microsoft Office 2007 when there's a free converter pack for the older versions. It's just not going to happen unless you want to pony up the dough. Now that you have your answer, however, feel free to go complain to your boss, my boss, the officers of the company. Create a firestorm if you like. Just remember this: IT has a very long memory, and when you do that, it is personal. Also, it's not just IT that sees and remembers when you act like a baby. It's everyone you involved. Not us. You.

September 28, 2009

It should not be too hard to answer the question “What is the biggest risk in your project or business?” Most of us know what keeps us awake at night, either worrying about what could go wrong (threats), or getting excited about possible improvements (opportunities). But how do we decide which risk is the “biggest”? Is it just an intuitive feeling, or are there measurable parameters we can use?

It is very common to use just two factors to size risks: probability and impact. These estimate how likely the uncertain risk is to occur, and how significant its effect would be if it actually happened. Probability and impact are related to the size of a risk because they describe two fundamental characteristics of every risk:

1. Each risk is uncertain, which means that it may not happen, and “probability” reflects the degree of uncertainty about whether it will happen or not.

2. A risk that occurs would affect our ability to achieve one or more objectives, and “impact” describes our prediction of the extent to which objectives would be affected.

Read more at PM World Today.

September 25, 2009

Too often, leaders demonstrate behavior that sabotages their success and undermines both their team and their organization. To succeed as a manager, you need to learn how to recognize your blind spots and overcome them.

Let's not kid ourselves. We all have blind spots—unproductive behaviors that are invisible to us but glaring to everyone else. Our behavioral blind spots create dire and unintended consequences: They corrupt decision-making, reduce our scope of awareness, create enemies, silos, and camps, destroy careers, and sabotage business results.

In good times blind spots are annoying and frustrating; in tough times they can be lethal.

No one is immune to blind spots, of course. But leaders are particularly vulnerable. It's enough that they must often navigate massive change and cope with stressful situations every day. But add to this the overpowering belief that many leaders shoulder: "I should have all the answers, I should know what to do, and I should be able to handle challenges alone." For many, the need to be right becomes much stronger than the need to be effective. And only the most confident leaders are willing to surround themselves with people who will point out what they're doing wrong—and be rewarded for their honesty. More often, everyone is forced to endure the boss' weaknesses in silence.

Read more at BusinessWeek.

September 23, 2009

We all know that conflict is a difference of opinion and therefore neutral-neither good nor bad. Right? But try telling that to a project manager or business analyst embroiled in conflict. Conflict can threaten to destroy the team and sabotage efforts to elicit requirements. But it doesn't have to. Having a strong, neutral facilitator and a process for conflict resolution can reduce tensions and bring about a positive outcome.

Early in my career I was a liaison representing the interests of a large branch of a national bank. I was on a committee that met monthly to prioritize requirements. Each month I met with my branch management to determine their needs. Each month I and liaisons from the other branches would argue about which new systems and enhancements should be given priority. There was no formal facilitator. Conflict was rampant and remained unresolved. I don't remember much being accomplished in these meetings. Each branch came in with its personal agenda and each of us went away unsatisfied with the results. Time after time I was in the unenviable position of having to tell my management that they weren't going to get what they wanted. Again!

In retrospect one of the things I should have done was to spend time understanding the problem management was trying to solve. That way I could have presented a coherent set of recommendations at the monthly meetings.

Read the rest at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

September 21, 2009

According to a popular song, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need." Words of wisdom in popular culture. We often want to bite off more than we can chew, especially when we see exciting new technology. Yet think of it this way: Would you give your grandmother an iPhone 3G for Christmas if she has never touched a PC before? It might be an incredible piece of technology that can hold her photos, her shopping lists, her favorite music ... but if she cannot figure out how to turn it on, it's not much use, is it?

Likewise, many companies get excited about business technology. Software vendors promise to solve all of their problems with the click of a button. And, to be fair, the tools they provide might be able to do just that. But if your organization is not mature enough to handle it, you might as well put the software right up on a shelf immediately after purchase. It will not be rolled out, it will not be used, and it will be a total waste of money. For example, are you looking for a complex, sophisticated PPM solution while your team members aren't even tracking time to tasks yet? Are you hoping for the latest cutting edge resource management technology, but you can't even say who will be available to work on your project next month?

All of us have to crawl before we walk, though we can often forget this.

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

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