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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog

May 22, 2009

The Concept of a Project Resource

In the context of project management, a resource is any entity that contributes to the accomplishment of project activities. Most project resources perform work and include such entities as personnel, equipment and contractors. However, the concept of a resource (and the techniques of resource management presented in this article) can also be applied to entities that do not perform work, but which must be available in order for work to be performed. Examples include materials, cash, and workspace. This article focuses on the resource that is of greatest concern to most organizations – personnel. In a project management system, personnel resources may be identified as individuals by name or as functional groups, such as computer programmers.

The Purpose of Resource Planning

After a detailed schedule has been developed for a project, a nagging question remains to be answered: Will the resources required to execute the project according to schedule be available when needed? In the process of developing each project schedule, the average availability of resources should have been taken into consideration when activity durations were estimated. However, this estimating process does not guarantee that the total workload on any given resource (person or functional group) from all projects and non-project assignments will not exceed the availability of that resource during any future period. When resource overloads occur, personnel are subjected to unnecessary stress, and project activities fall behind schedule. The quality of the deliverables produced is also likely to suffer. Thus, the purpose of resource planning is to anticipate resource overloads, so that they can be resolved for the benefit of both the people and the projects.

Read more at ProjectTimes. Free registration required.

May 20, 2009

In these difficult times, lots of projects are getting canceled, postponed or mothballed. Although these are perfectly normal occurrences in IT, they seem more frequent, swift and stinging now.

When a project is killed, we like to think that its fate is entirely due to external forces -- the swirling, uncontrollable winds of the economic hurricane happening outside. It's not that we're doing anything wrong, we reason; it's just a response to the crisis.

But in those fleeting moments of honesty, those quiet times awake in bed at 2 o'clock in the morning, we know better. Many of those projects weren't selected for cancellation just because of sudden shifts in priorities. Some of them were canceled because there were problems. They were judged unlikely to ever be completed. Or they were expected to exceed time or budget constraints, or to fail to offer sufficient business value even if they did deliver a product.

So in these austere times, it's more important than ever to recognize project problems early so that you can correct them or at least cancel the project before wasting too many resources.

Yes, we all know that something's wrong with the project when we blow a budget or miss a major deadline, but how can we know before it's too late to do something about it? Here are five early warning signs that your project is in trouble:

1. Management direction is inconsistent or missing. If project leadership has gone AWOL, chances are that things are starting to go in a bad direction. Or, even worse, if the directives you get from management (or feel compelled to give if you are management) change frequently, there's a problem. If a project either lacks direction or can't maintain a reasonably consistent course, it's unlikely to get to any desirable destination.

Read the rest at ComputerWorld.

May 18, 2009

One of the biggest areas of failure in project management is task estimation. Typically, when a project manager wants to scope the project, he or she will walk down to Joe the developer's office and ask, "How long will it take you to write a user entry screen in Java that has these 5 fields on it?" Joe replies, "Uh, 3 days."

Yet if nobody tracks their time, there is no way to calibrate that answer. Perhaps Joe the developer is the best at estimating task timelines, but what if he is just guessing? What if he consistently over-estimates by around 30% and no one realizes?

This type of problem is easily remedied by having all employees track time to tasks and projects. Pretty soon, everyone will have a clear idea of how long certain tasks take to complete, with hard data to back it up. This takes the pressure off of Joe the developer, and gives the project manager confidence in his or her timelines.

- Curt Finch, Journyx CEO

May 15, 2009

Congratulations! You are living in heroic times. Really! Time and time again, we see project managers, team members, and even entire organizations being asked to do significantly more with significantly less. And (for the most part) we rise to that challenge. We make ourselves capable of what might otherwise seem impossible. And still, management asks for more.

At a time when it might seem like a lesson in frustration and fruitlessness to continue to contribute more and more to the cause, we have the opportunity to genuinely shine with some classic approaches, novel attitudes, and a spirit of thanksgiving. And who should we look to for guidance on attitude and spirit? My partner and I are turning to Perry Mason.

Perry Mason, for those too young to remember, was a Los Angeles lawyer (created by Erle Stanley Gardner and immortalized by CBS) who always came out on top, whose clients were always vindicated, and (this is the part I really hadn't remembered, either) who often pushed the envelope of his professional practice. Perry Mason had the amazing gift of being capable of remembering small factoids and leveraging them into significant elements of his case. While his always-surly opponents would object time and again, Perry would convince the judge to allow him just enough latitude to identify the real problem and point the finger at the true villain.

In project management, we often feel shackled by the constraints that are put on us by customers, management, and the project culture. But if we take a lesson from Perry, we may be able to loosen those bonds just enough to set our projects free. There are three basic lessons that we can take to heart:

    * Watch the little stuff.
    * If it's legitimate, do it.
    * Keep your eyes on the true outcome.

Read more at ProjectConnections.

May 13, 2009

1. It is best not to share the project plan with the project team as it leads to unnecessary and usually incredibly stupid questions.

2. Mandate that team members submit task duration estimates as precisely as possible: two decimal digits (e.g. 17.36 days) are usually sufficient but some projects may require three digits.

3. Strive to disperse project team over multiple locations: it greatly reduces the time people waste mindlessly chattering with each other.

4. In this economy, everyone ought to be able to work harder. Schedule tasks based on 10-hour days.

5. Involve the Steering Committee in day-to-day running of the project. They will tell you how much they like it.

6. When briefing the Steering Committee, it's a good idea to declare all nearly completed tasks as completed. Ninety per cent is awfully close to 100 per cent and the Committee Members will feel encouraged.

7. Try to surprise your Project Sponsor every now and then. Rescheduling the implementation date, firing half of the team or changing the vendor half-way through should all be considered.

8. Status updates clutter mailboxes, so avoid them.

9. Get rid of those team members who disagree with you. You are in charge of a critical project and the last thing you want around is some worm questioning your decisions.

10. Don't waste any time trying to understand the business domain. It is unimportant and is not your job.

Read the other ten ideas (and have yourself a laugh!) at ProjectTimes. Free registration is required.

May 11, 2009

As many of you know, May 1 was May Day, also known as "Labour Day" or "International Workers' Day" around the world. Wikipedia defines this holiday as "a celebration of the social and economic achievements of the international labor movement."

May Day is a great opportunity for reminding ourselves about hard work, and the value of the people who provide it. Every member of a team is valuable and, more often than not, contributes an important part to the whole. Projects could not be completed without the team members who each perform their tasks to the best of their ability.

In fact, one of the best practices for project managers who need to manage multiple resources is to give these team members a voice. It might be tempting to just create project plans and demand that team members get it done, but that is a pretty unrealistic expectation that will set you up for project failure, especially if your organization does not always estimate projects accurately.

The alternative is to get input from team members on how long it will take them to complete certain tasks. A developer who has performed hundreds or thousands of similar tasks will be able to tell you right away how long it will take him/her to write that new piece of code while you, as a project manager, might have no clue.

It is also important to let team members communicate with you while the project is in progress. Small issues or holdups become big very quickly when unheeded. For this reason, project managers who implement project and resource management solutions should ensure that their team members will have the ability to request more time for their tasks when necessary.

When the people who are actually doing the project work have a voice, everybody wins. It is one of the best ways to drive projects to success every time.

- April Boland, Journyx Communications Coordinator

May 8, 2009

Focus is a word I have learned a great deal about in the past couple of years. For the past seven years I have been a consultant working at a variety of companies, writing for ProjectConnections, working on a variety of conferences, serving on the boards of a couple non profits, and even starting up a couple of different businesses. Not to mention writing a book, being a husband and father, and caring for a 15 acre “ranch” that includes several horses, dogs, and cats. Needless to say, I had a lot of irons in the fire.

The ironic thing is the more things that were on my plate, the more things I tended to add. While it seemed counterintuitive I was falling into the trap that many have fallen into – thinking that we are most effective when we are really busy. I was involved in a lot of things I enjoyed, but by having so many things going on, I was not paying enough attention to any of them. I was doing what I needed to get done, but I did not feel terribly satisfied with any of the results I was doing.

Last July I realized that I needed to follow my own advice that I often sited when talking about project prioritization - Get More Done By Doing Less. By focusing on a limited few activities at one time, you can actually get things accomplished quicker and then move on to the next item.

Read more at ProjectConnections.

May 6, 2009

Many IT failures could be avoided if successful senior stakeholders took time to share lessons with less experienced colleagues. Mentoring offers an ideal way for organizations to create pockets of excellence around IT project execution and delivery.

Healthy and durable mentor relationships require both parties to possess a blend of personal chemistry, shared professional goals, and common values. For these reasons, establishing a solid mentor/student relationship takes time.

I asked scholar and prolific author, Tulku Thondup, who has written extensively about student/teacher relationships, for his view on the essential characteristics of successful mentoring:

"Most importantly, mentor relationships should be based on common values and mutual benefit, rather than superficial attractions or ambitions. As with all relationships, hidden agendas can distort the process, bringing a negative outcome. On the other hand, shared values and mutual respect establish a positive foundation for success."

Read the rest at IT Project Failures.

May 4, 2009

Today we thought we would look back at some of the archives to pull out posts with useful project management information and tips.

    1. Time Keeps on Slippin'...
    A short piece on the stress of finding yourself behind on projects.

    2. Overcoming Resource Management Hurdles
    A post on the various challenges in project resource management and how to address them.

    3. What Makes a Project Executor?
    A question posed to readers of Raven's Brain leads to a discussion of what qualities successful project executors have.
    (You can take a look at Raven's response here.)

    4. Do You Know What Projects Your Staff is Working On?
    A guest post by Bruce McGraw, CEO of Cognitive Technologies and Project Management expert.
May 1, 2009

Is your thinking impeding your progress? This is a significant problem for an individual and a much more serious one if you’re in charge of an IT department.

As a consultant, I see a lot of organizations and people. I often encounter situations where I can’t help but feel that an IT department could be a runaway success within its organization if it weren’t for the beliefs their leader seems to hold. I want to share with you a small collection of such limiting beliefs.

1: The business should identify its technology needs

Think about this very carefully: Who is more valuable to you — someone who knows how to tighten a bolt or someone who knows which bolt to tighten? We’re a knowledge economy and knowing what to do is much more valuable than being able to follow instructions.

If you believe that the onus is on the business to identify technology needs, you’re wrong. You need the business to identify business issues, opportunities, and priorities, and then you and your people have to come up with a way of addressing them from the technology perspective. (Better still, you can elevate your personal positioning by delving deeper into the business content and strategy, but that’s a different story.) You and your department are the experts in technology, not the CFO or the Director of Marketing. If you see your department’s raison d’etre as merely implementing and maintaining the technology that business chooses, you position yourself as the guy who tightens bolts. IT departments that fall into this trap get outsourced.

2: We are a fast-paced organization

I have yet to discover an environment that doesn’t claim to be fast-paced. I no longer know what that means. What’s important, though, is how this assertion impacts the people within. If you’re told for a while that you’re incredibly busy, you tend to start believing that it must be so, and your capacity decreases. If you’re told that there’s no time to think, you tend to sacrifice quality of decisions for the sake of speed, even though there may be plenty of time to plan and execute. The net result is an organization with a high rate of project failures, too focused on firefighting and too “busy” to think strategically and identify work that’s truly important.

You can never be too busy for the important stuff if you get your priorities right.

3: We are under-resourced

This is a universal excuse, and I’ve met plenty of IT executives who resort to it. It happens in organizations where there are staff members who can’t coherently explain what they do, where there are 10 project managers for every project, where every trivial thing involves days of meetings, and where out of every 10 projects going at any time, eight have no business value.

You can never have enough time, staff, or money if your priority system is out of order. The key is in using the resources you have in such a way that they produce the best ROI possible.

Read the entire article at TechRepublic.

April 29, 2009

Imagine the following scenario: a project manager is sequestered into their respective manager’s office and the manager proceeds to inform him/her that they are being re-allocated to another project. However, the project manager is clearly aware that this is not any ordinary project. This project had churned through nearly a dozen project managers. What should the project manager do as the fight or flight response begins to take over? First, the project manager must remain calm. The scenario that I just described truly did happen to me. Matter of fact, the previous project manager awarded me a double-barreled Power Popper Nurf Gun, passed down by his predecessor (in the line of fire). The sense of humor was appreciated at the time.

Based on this experience along with other similar scenarios (albeit not to this magnitude), patterns had begun to develop and I realized that there is an opportunity and need to share what I have been able to glean from these related project rescue experiences.

Rescuing a project begins with the project manager. The ability to turn around failed projects requires integrity, tenacity, discipline, political savyness, and some luck. Indeed, a certain personality is required and not all project managers are suited for this challenge. The lucky project manager must be resilient in nature and be able to perform under intense pressure while maintaining a sense of calmness. The project manager must be willing to fully commit to the task at-hand and, in the process, get their hands dirty.

Download the PDF at PM World Today.

April 27, 2009

The Project Management Institute recently published an article entitled "The Changing PMO," which focused on how PMOs are changing and adapting to new economic environments. This includes "streamlining costs, managing resources, optimizing the portfolio and, in the most progressive companies, actually measuring that value." According to J. Kent Crawford, founder and CEO of PM Solutions, "It has also become the job of the PMO team to identify all of the company’s initiatives and assess the value proposition for the programs and projects in the portfolio."

You can read the rest of this article at PMI.org.

April 24, 2009

In Part 1 of this two-part article in the last Project Times, we learned that about 10% of the typical workforce is classified as falling into the Difficult People category. Some people are surprised it's so little. Sometimes it feels like they are everywhere! What is a difficult person? Perhaps the better question is: what is a difficult person for you and what can you do about those people?

Let’s just take a quick look at the difficult types we identified in the first article, and consider the havoc they might play with your project team. As we said before, there are many types, but in general, they can be rolled into these main groups, the first three of which we dealt with in the earlier article:

* The Steamroller
This is the bully of the group - always interrupting, insulting, and yelling. We all know those types.

* The Sniper
These are the folks who hide in the back of room, always sniping - taking shots at everyone, constantly nit-picking back at you, sending out comments, etc. They always want to do this from "under cover." If you call them on it they say, "Oh, I'm just kidding," or, "Can't ya take a joke?," or, "I didn't say anything!" They always have a comment.

* The "Can't Say No" person
They won’t say "no" to work. The problem is they won't say no, they won't say no, they won't say no . . . and then they finally just collapse!

* The Know-It-All:

Do I have to say anything else? Need I say more? They know it all!

* The Complainer:
Chronic complainers! Chronic whiners! To them, life is one big complaint!

* The Staller:
The Indecisive Staller. This is the person who just will not make a decision. They will not commit to anything; they are always stalling.

Time to take Action!

In our previous article we discussed in detail how to deal with The Steamroller, The Sniper and The “Can’t Say No” person. Now let’s deal with the three final types we identified.

Read the rest at ProjectTimes.

April 22, 2009

Ever wondered why your project team isn’t working together as effectively as you had hoped? Perhaps it’s the people mix. About 10% of the typical workforce is classified as falling into the Difficult People category. Some people are surprised it's so small. Sometimes it feels like they’re everywhere! What is a difficult person? Perhaps the better question is: what is a difficult person for you? Perhaps it's someone who is disruptive. On the other hand, it might be someone who is too quiet and hard to draw out; not a good listener and always interrupts; someone who bullies and is very abrupt.

The effect they have on a project team or, indeed, on the organization varies greatly, but usually involves the following: Low morale, increased conflict, group attitude goes as their attitude goes, intimidation, insults, team demoralization, decreased productivity, rising costs, increasing project risks, need for additional resources, etc.

What happens to you when you deal with a Difficult Person? Everyone has a slightly different reaction, but some common reactions include a rise in blood pressure, racing heart, lump in the throat, "fight, flight, or freeze" syndrome, or getting red-in-the-face.

One thing you can be sure of: If you don't do something about whatever it is that someone is doing that makes life difficult for you, you'll continue to get more of it.

There are many types of difficult people. In general, they can be rolled into these main groups:

* The Steamroller
This is the bully of the group - always interrupting, insulting, and yelling. We all know these types.

* The Sniper
These are the folks who hide in the back of the room, always sniping - taking shots at everyone, constantly nit-picking back at you, sending out comments, etc. They always want to do this from "under cover." If you call them on it they say, "Oh, I'm just kidding," or, "Can't ya take a joke?" or, "I didn't say anything!" They always have a comment.

Read more at Project Times.

April 20, 2009

In this economy, every dollar counts. Consequently, no organization can afford to have their projects fail. Successful project execution is more important now than it has ever been before.

Spending time and money on projects that will ultimately fail can be a large drain on a company's resources. You might have employees working on projects that are over budget or otherwise in the ditch and without the right data, you don't know that today. For example, if 10% of a project's allocated budget has been spent and only 5% of the work has been completed, there is a problem. Project managers who track employee actuals and find this out early on have a fighting chance of recovery. Those who don't will find out much later on that their projects are drastically over budget. This is just one example of how real-time data enables project managers to fix problems before they start.

- Curt Finch, Journyx CEO

April 17, 2009

In my spare time, I serve on the board of the Greater Iowa/South Dakota Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). I got involved with the organization about 8 years ago because I have a nephew who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, and it provides me an opportunity to give something back to the community while providing another outlet to practice my project management and leadership skills. I mention my involvement with JDRF because it provides an excellent example of how tying projects to strategy can make managing projects easier. It provides a clear picture of your end goal, and guiderails that help you make those day-to-day decisions on your projects.

Why Were We Doing This Again?

JDRF has a very clear and concrete mission around which it builds its strategy—to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes and its complications through the support of research (see JDRF's website). The national organization maintains responsibility for determining which research projects the money raised by the local chapters is used to support.

In our local chapter, our strategy is centered on utilizing the most effective and efficient way to raise funds for research by establishing and maintaining strong relationships with our donors and volunteers. To accomplish this strategy we have three "projects" that we pursue on an annual basis: the Walk to Cure Diabetes; the Hope Gala—a black tie dinner complete with silent and live auction; and the Ride to Cure Diabetes.

Because these projects are directly driven from our strategy, we are able to understand why we are doing them and clearly state what we are trying to accomplish. This is a powerful effect, because aside from a few staff members, the events are planned by teams of volunteers that are all motivated to make the events a success because we are all working toward the same goal—to raise money for funding research.

You can replicate this type of focused effort and motivation at your organization, with people paid to work on these projects, by identifying a similar tie to the organization's strategy. If you can identify what value the project adds to the business and communicate that clearly to the project team, chances are you will have a similarly motivated team.

Read the rest at ProjectConnections.

April 15, 2009

With the current economy in crisis, businesses are scrambling to stay afloat. Many are abandoning their strategic, long term objectives for quick fixes and short-sighted survival tactics. Some of today’s most popular business books from The Tipping Point to Freakonomics feature companies that have stumbled upon greatness without an ounce of strategic planning involved. And with the rapid evolution of real-time media, virtual offices and globalization, companies seemingly have to change their game plans on a daily basis to keep up.

This frenetic pace of work has rendered the often slow and cumbersome strategic planning process irrelevant. In fact, you could say the field of strategic planning is undergoing its own identity crisis. The Strategic Leadership Forum, the international professional association, has now been out of existence for several years. And few graduate schools offer strong strategic planning courses as a part of their curriculums.

But it’s the failure to build a bridge between the strategic planning process and project management’s planning process that is a major reason strategic plans don’t work.

Read more at PM World Today.

April 14, 2009

Journyx is proud to announce its new project and resource management solution, Journyx ProjectXecute. ProjectXecute unites project and process planning with resource workload management, alerting project managers instantly when projects are in danger.

With ProjectXecute, companies can plan projects and assign tasks, while incorporating paid time off and complex MS Project files, for a complete view of resource availability in a single system.

Journyx has combined this powerful new technology with implementation from project management best practices experts, Cognitive Technologies, to deliver a flexible solution that scales to different levels of need.

April 14, 2009

Timesheet 7.7, the latest version of our flagship time and expense tracking solution, is now available. This release of Timesheet includes several highly-sought-after features including:

  • Holiday Schedules
  • Login ID changing
  • A "project ownership" infrastructure
  • Improved "look back" functionality for monthly time periods

Additionally, numerous enhancements and improvements to the user interface have been included in Timesheet 7.7, as well as bug fixes and usability and performance improvements that, though not flashy, will make a grown man cry tears of joy.

Please Note: Timesheet 7.7 also serves as the latest maintenance release for Timesheet 7.6m1 and earlier. Customers using earlier versions of Timesheet are encouraged to upgrade to Timesheet 7.7.

Timesheet 7.7, the latest version of our flagship time and expense tracking solution, is now available. This release of Timesheet includes several highly-sought-after features including:

  • Holiday Schedules
  • Login ID changing
  • A "project ownership" infrastructure
  • Improved "look back" functionality for monthly time periods

Additionally, numerous enhancements and improvements to the user interface have been included in Timesheet 7.7, as well as bug fixes and usability and performance improvements that, though not flashy, will make a grown man cry tears of joy.

Please Note: Timesheet 7.7 also serves as the latest maintenance release for Timesheet 7.6m1 and earlier. Customers using earlier versions of Timesheet are encouraged to upgrade to Timesheet 7.7.

To see Timesheet 7.7 in action either contact the Journyx Sales Team or sign up for a free 45-day trial.

April 14, 2009

Time management gurus hawking day planners aren't the only ones with ideas on how to manage your hours better. Readers offered their own workplace-tested secrets for success on our Time Management blog, in a BusinessWeek reader poll, and on the social network LinkedIn. Here are 10 tips for taking control of the clock from readers who are already doing just that...

Read more →

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