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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

November 9, 2009

Let's take a look back at some warnings and tips about best project management and technology implementation practices from the past few months.

  • IF you decide to purchase a PPM solution without due diligence, THEN you might spend too much for little reward.
    The Savvy PPM Buyer
November 6, 2009

Small projects have unique challenges over larger ones. Because they're small, it's tempting to skip the planning process and start executing the work. This phenomenon is especially true if projects perform tasks similar to previous work, which in turn leads to a natural tendency to skip planning and to start doing the work. Then, essential steps are sometimes omitted, done out of order, or done later than desired. Likewise, costly mistakes can occur when risks are missed by executing too soon. A small project that isn't planned enough can also ignore critical stakeholders, causing both resentment and rework.

Complicating the issue are project management methodologies and frameworks designed for large projects. Using such frameworks for small efforts is cumbersome and unnecessary. What is needed is a method that focuses on the essential steps and doesn't waste time on overkill.

Read the rest at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

November 4, 2009

I have been having several conversations recently around the subjects of accountability vs. responsibility and titles vs. roles, specifically around who does what on a project and what they are really supposed to be doing. There were a lot of undercurrents in these conversations, but there are a few that are worth exploring as relevant to your effectiveness leading a project team. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you work with your team to determine who is doing what on your project.

Read the entire article at ProjectConnections.

November 2, 2009

Most project managers and project management organizations tend to shy away from the use of earned value management. If you study PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge you will find that one of the dimensions of earned value is defined in terms of cost. Some of the terms which are used are “estimated costs,” “actual budget” and “actual cost.” When we think of these terms we think of dollars (or pounds, or franks, etc.). Yet the fundamentals of this tool discuss value. Ask people what they value in their lives and they probably will not reference money (bar a few). I would say the same is true if you asked them what they valued on their project. To use earned value management requires us to start thinking in terms of value and not money.


October 30, 2009

Karl Richard at ProjectConnections came up with a humorous example of "A Project Manager's Facebook Feed" that is worth checking out. Here's a sample:

Karl Richard posted a note: HEY!! I Finally PASSED THE PMP EXAM!!

PDU4P: Congratulations, Hey, you only have three years to rack up those PDU's. Better get started now.

PM Fellow: Excuse me, but you seem to have forgotten that it's PMP®, not PMP. You'll need to correct that.

Loving Wife: Does that mean we finally get you back home to do some chores?

October 28, 2009

Hello, Gentle Reader. Can I ask you a question? Do you have any children?

I remember when my son was 2 years old. He seemed to think that just because he wanted something, he should be able to have it. You couldn't reason with him; he was only two. If you didn't give him what he wanted, he would throw a temper tantrum. Sometimes his mother would give him whatever he wanted just to shut him up. That never helped. It just created a larger sense of entitlemtent for the next time, and there was no argument against it, since she had just given in.

Alright, I don't actually have a son, but I've known plenty of kids who acted just like that (myself included). All children act that way at some point in their early lives, when they've not yet "gotten over" themselves, and when they still think that the entire world revolves around them. It's called egocentrism, and Piaget theorizes that this stage occurs somewhere between the ages of 2 and 7.

On a completely unrelated note, I was talking with my McUsers the other day (all 4 of them) and they suggested that since we have "so many" Macintosh users these days, perhaps IT ought to give them special software and special considerations. Now I understand that Messiah Jobs has recreated our childlike sense of wonder, but did it necessarily require a childlike sense of math to come along with it? Let's put it this way. Assuming I have 10 employees at Journyx (we have more), you're still 40%, and only 40%. While it's a relatively-large tail in such a situation, it's still not large enough to wag the dog, children.

As I denied this request, I had one of the McChildren say to me, "But I'm a special case." Oh, yes. Of course. I completely forgot the "special case" clause. You see, this particular developer has development environments installed on his personal, not-backed-up workstation rather than the RAID-ed and network-monitored VM build station which others use. Yessiree, Bob! You're a special case alright. You're just Yet Another Damn Mac User (YADMU) who ignores policies and procedures because they just don't apply to you.

After this conversation, I then had 2 of the YADMUs come to me individually to "present their case" for why they should be given special treatment, special hardware, and special software. I spent the next 30-40 minutes attempting to blow them off while they treated me like a special specimen who should probably be wearing a helmet. I finally resorted to the 1st Law of IT: If you ignore them, they eventually leave. They did. That was nice.

Personally, I have nothing against the Macintosh. Actually, I think that Apple has put out a pretty fantastic product. It's just that I believe strongly in the proper tool for the job. Breaking down my 4 Mac users in the company, we have "the web guy" which makes sense since he's producing content and posting web stuff, and it makes his life easier. We have 2 professional services coders, and that makes perfect sense, since they... umm... spend most of their time in a terminal window... on a Linux server... writing code. Okay, maybe that doesn't make any sense. Finally, we have a developer. See the part about the professional services coders, except this guy also builds our Windows installation on his Mac. While that's a "neat" thing to be able to do, I certainly wouldn't chock it up under "business-critical" when an equivalent Windows machine costs roughly 20% of what his Macintosh cost. Oh, we also have a couple remote users who use Macintosh, but they don't count since they're not here.

I guess what I'm getting at, here, is that I have nearly 100 machines up and running in our infrastructure at any given time. You're a lousy 4%, guys. 6% if you include the remote folks. 2% if you only include people who actually NEED a Macintosh to perform their job more effectively. And, you know what? In most companies these percentages are going to be about the same, so where do you get off with a childlike sense of entitlement?

Oh, I forgot. You're a special case.

October 26, 2009

Let's take a look back at some of the pieces we've posted on bringing together people, processes and strategy.

1. Tips and Tricks for Facilitating Conflict Resolution
A ProjectTimes article on how to get your employees or colleagues to push past conflict and come to a resolution.

2. How to Choose the Right Collaboration Software

An article from Inc. Magazine on choosing a system that will allow employees in all different workspaces to share data and collaborate on projects.

3. Tying Projects to Organizational Strategy

A ProjectConnections article on how to ensure that the projects you take on are helping you move towards your strategic goals.

4. The New Face of Strategic Planning

A PM World Today article written by the EVP of our partner, Cognitive Technologies, on how to bring project managers and strategic planners together for optimal success.

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.