Setting up the Reluctant Project Managers for Success

Written by Brad Egeland

mentoring PMs

Some of us choose to manage projects.  Some of us planned this process out for quite some time and took steps to move into the project management position.  Others fall into it by accident…some even against their will.  However we fall into the position, productivity and organization, it is expected of the project manager, no matter what.  And if you’re an accidental project manager, there’s no guarantee you can just jump back to your last position…you may be let go period if you fail to produce or succeed.

Let’s imagine you’re one of a group of project managers in your organization – or possibly even the only one if you’re new or a startup – and you are tasked with mentoring one or more non-project managers who are being tasked with leading projects.  What processes would you go through?  What are some of the high-level things you would be focusing on to bring those non-project managers up to speed – at least with some of the key best practice focuses to start building a consistent and effective project management process in the organization?  The key is this: keep it simple and practical.  I’ve been in these situations before, and I try to focus on the following three key concepts to help the new project managers start out as productively as possible…

Run good project meetings.  Good meetings result in the giving and getting of accurate project information.  So the project manager – experienced or not – who can facilitate an effective and productive project meeting with his team and customer will be on the right path to project success.  And what do those “good” project meetings look like?  A planned agenda, a timeframe that makes sense and is adhered to, and notes well taken and distributed to all attendees post meeting to verify understanding and consistency.  A good project meeting facilitates the proper exchange of project information and any necessary discussion, and is setup to ensure that everyone is on the same page when the meeting is over.

Keep reporting regular and simple.  Keep status reporting regular and simple throughout the project.  Even if there isn’t really anything new to report in a given week, the project manager still needs to produce the weekly project status report.  All stakeholders – from the customer, to the project team, to senior management and on to anyone and everyone who plays a key role in the project – need to be kept in the loop with a complete but straightforward status report.  The smart project manager figures out one project status reporting format that will satisfy all stakeholder needs.  The PM has enough to do without creating fifteen different versions of the project status report for fifteen different stakeholder entities.  Most status reports need a good high-level project health dashboard for a project quick view that senior management and the customer often like, an area that focuses on what’s just been accomplished, what work is happening now, and what is coming up in the next 1-2 weeks, an area for project budget health, and – of course – an area reserved for critical issues and change orders and who is assigned to what.  Again, try to make it one size fits all…you already have enough to do.

Engage the customer frequently.  Our project customers are busy individuals.  New project managers tend to think that this project is the key focus for their project sponsor but that is often not the case.  So it is their job to keep the customer engaged throughout.  I often advise them to keep the customer assigned to a few tasks throughout the engagement so they aren’t likely to “disappear” into their day jobs and regular duties that go with that.  Keep them accountable to tasks on your project and they will be more available for meetings, discussions and those all-important decisions you may need them for along the way.

Summary / call for input

Project success is hard at all levels…startups, small organizations, big Fortune 500 companies with very mature project processes, new project managers and very experienced and certified PMs.  The bottom line is…success is never a given.  When we try to not over think project management and do too much multi-tasking but keep more of a simple approach…especially with less experienced project managers and less complex projects, then we are more likely to succeed and not get lost on the path to project success.

How about our readers…what are your thoughts on keeping it simple for those project managers who became project managers abruptly and are now learning on their feet?  What areas do you suggest they focus on as they “learn along the way” and focus on using consistent practices?

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

4 Ingredients for PMO Success

Written by Brad Egeland

PMO success

I’ve created, helped create and managed projects in probably more than a dozen project management offices (PMOs). I can’t say I’m an expert really on project management offices, but I’ve seen enough stalled and failed PMOs to know many things about what doesn’t work. That in turns helps me figure out what probably works better – and often it’s doing the exact opposite of what I witnessed in some of these failed PMOs. For me, it comes down to these four concepts or ingredients that are key to helping ensure that your project management office survives past the first year and beyond…

Executive support and buy-in. The project management office that does not have the support and buy-in of the executive leadership for the company is often not going to last very long. Why? Because the most important projects – the ones that this leadership cares the most about – will go to some “favorite” somewhere else and not to the PMO. When your leadership doesn’t trust the PMO’s ability to deliver on the important projects, the rest of the company will eventually follow suit – at least to a degree that will spell doom for the PMO. Trust me, I’ve witnessed it first hand. The senior leadership must buy-in…that is critical for funding, staffing and for ongoing visibility and company-wide usage of the project management office.

Strong PMO leadership. The PMO needs a dedicated leader at the helm, not an experienced project manager who leads projects and also manages the PMO. There isn’t enough of this person to do both jobs well, so why try? I have long-held that the PMO Director needs to be a leader and resource manager, and not just a PMO Director who spends most of his time leading projects, too. It is certainly understandable if this individual needs to assist on some projects at times – especially when implementation or performance issues come to light or some customer interfacing and goodwill needs to happen on a troubled project. But this needs to be an extreme, not the norm. The PMO Director’s role should be to encourage, direct, train, and report PMO status…but overall be guiding the careers of the PMs reporting to him. He should not be focused on leading projects on a daily basis.

Experienced staff project management staff. Project management certification is good and can certainly show a manager or organization or prospective employer that you are dedicated to the profession. But it doesn’t guarantee success. Experience and a past history of proven success is the best indicator of future project success. When staffing the PMO, look first for experience and then if you decide that some certification is nice or your industry niche and customer base requires it, then go for some certified project managers. But use experience as the main building block for success and use those experienced PMs to help train and mentor the new and junior PMs that you will eventually hire in the PMO.

Repeatable templates and solid methodology that makes sense for the organization and industry. Don’t make project success come from luck. Collaborate, share knowledge and information, and most of all…use templates, processes and a methodology that everyone can share and understand and that help rather than hinder a project manager in doing their job. Don’t force PMs to use difficult tools with big learning curves – their jobs are hard enough as it is. Use what works and keep using it. And tweak what doesn’t. The use and reuse of templates and tools that worked in the past are the best way to kickoff the next successful project.

Summary / call for input

Most of these things are logical…yet I see project management offices fail all the time. Unfortunately, I’ve lived through many of them. But learning is good, too. What on this list do you agree with? What failures have you seen in PMOs that you can share and what successful tips can you share to help others here build successful PMOs tomorrow and beyond?

On-Demand Webinar – Setting up a PMO is not for the Faint Hearted

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

5 Reasons Why Effective Project Communication is Critical

Written by Brad Egeland

project communication

A lot of things are happening on projects daily – especially when critical phases are in progress, or key tasks are being worked on or issues are rising to the top. Sometimes projects are running smoothly and sometimes they are experiencing many bumps in the road.  The common thread throughout the easy and the difficult times needs to be good, effective, and efficient communication led by the project manager but practiced by the entire project team and all stakeholders.

There is no better way to ensure that everyone stays on the same page, expectations are aligned and the right work is being performed at the right time than with good project communication. Set the tone early – preferably with a project communication plan that tells everyone how, when and where project communication will happen (a template for such a plan is available here) and you will help set your project, team and customer on the path to project success.

Below are my top 5 reasons – in no particular order – of why effective project communication is so critical to project successs…

Thorough status reporting. Good project status reporting is one of those fundamental best practices but it is also something that many project managers – surprisingly – drop the ball on from time to time. This can happen for many reasons…maybe things are slow on the project and you don’t think a status report is needed this week or perhaps everything is so chaotic on the project that you think it’s wrong to stop and take the time to put out a status report when you have so much “work” to do. In both cases, the reasoning is misguided. Your client wants, needs, and likely paid for the weekly status reporting. Give it to them. It helps ensure that all stakeholders – the team, the customer, your senior management, 3rd party vendors, etc. – stay on the same page with the same understanding of project status and the same expectations. The project status report is always going to be a very critical piece of the project communication puzzle.

Team and customer meetings that get the information to and from the right individuals. Likewise, team and customer meetings need to happen regularly. Don’t skip them when you’re too busy and don’t skip them when it seems that there isn’t enough going on to even meet about. They are always important and you never know when a key piece of information will slip through the cracks because you failed to have a project status call in a specific week. Conduct them regularly…always.

Accurate, detailed requirements. Good, complete, detailed project requirements are the lifeblood of the project. Be sure to take the time planning with the customer and team to document requirements that get to the very detail of what work needs to be performed on the project in order to implement the proper solution. Good requirements tell everyone what needs to be configured and designed, what needs to be tested and what needs to be reviewed at go-live. Without good requirements, how else can you communicate the proper tasks for completion? How will you know that done is truly done?

Effective project kickoff session. All great projects start off with a project kickoff session that is designed to ensure that the project and methodology is discussed and reviewed at a high-level, communication processes are expressed and agreed upon and everyone leaves with expectations properly set and a firm and accurate understanding of what happens next and how they fit into the rest of the project. This is where project accountability for the team members and the customer starts. Do it right.

Project team collaboration. The best, most adhesive and focused teams are those that are collaborating well on the project. And collaboration starts and ends with good communication.  Yes, it often involves the use of a tool or avenue to get everyone in the same place and sharing the same information. But the underlying premise is full team collaboration and accountability for the tasks and information each is responsible for. And collaboration supports and is built around good project communication.

Summary / call for input

Communication is Job One for the project manager. Projects that are run without how communication will be handled on the project are likely to stumble out of the gate. Poor communication leads to bad requirements, missed deadlines, omitted work that is critical to the project, task assignments that are misunderstood and high likelihood of expensive re-work or even a final solution that is rolled out to an anxiously awaiting end user community who who quickly finds out that the solution does not meet their needs. Communication is where good project management and successful projects start. And end.

How about our readers? What else can you share about project communication and it’s critical role in project success?

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

Gaining Organizational Support for Project Management

Written by Brad Egeland

business still life with market analyse diagram in office

business still life with market analyse diagram in office

As organizations grow, the need for structure to wrap around those projects – software and otherwise – that come up grows as well. Let’s face it, they’re always projects, right? Not everyone can see the forest for the trees and see those for what they really are right – projects. But projects is what they are. And the sooner we recognize them as such and wrap some structure around them, then the sooner we can build some repeatable practices around what we do to manage and deliver success and the sooner we can put together practices and policies that can trace what we are doing right and wrong. Basically, the sooner we do all of this the sooner we can take luck out of the equation…which is a good thing.

So if you think you need to create a validated process that will grow a PM practice, you’re likely right. Now what? You want to champion it and that’s commendable, but you can’t do it alone. What do you do? Thoughts? Anything? If you want to get management support for and processes and templates in place for the beginnings of a project management practice in your own organization where there was none before, then I recommend this five step process to do it thoroughly and to do it right…

Go to your manager. This process of research and putting initial work into templates and procedures is going to take some effort and time. Therefore you need to get the ok to spend the 2, 5 or 10 hours a week it’s going to take you to do some research and make some calls. Go to you manager, explain your purpose and what you feel the benefit to the organization will be – documentation would be helpful as many people like the visual affect – and get the ok to extend the effort.

Do the research – make some calls. Do a little research. Find some articles in setting up a project management office and how to staff good project managers. Check out what the salary ranges are for these positions or the hourly rates for consultants. Talk to PMO directors at 3-4 organizations that are reportedly doing it right in terms of project management.

Grab job postings from around the country/world. Next you are going to want to start documenting what you need in terms of skill sets, qualities, years of experience and possibly even certifications. The best place to start is with the hundreds of project management job postings and descriptions available online daily. Actually, you won’t have to read through more than four or five to see that they are all about the same so this seemingly insurmountable task won’t really take you long at all. Start with what you find online and tweak the info to fit what you know you will likely need based on your market and industry.

Download templates. If you can find templates online that’s a great start.  I know they are there to be shared…you just have to do the search. I personally share several useful templates with anyone who wants to download them. It will be easy to find some good free templates online to use for things like requirements capture, communication planning, risk management, a statement of work, project charter, test case layouts, sign off sheets and dozens of other things you may need to develop or include in your project documentation.

Put together a proposal. Finally, package this all up and put together a proposal of sorts for your management. This could be very formal, but I would start informal because the time and effort difference between formal and informal could be significant and formal may not be necessary or desired. It depends in your organization. Work up some ideas on learning curve, ramp up efforts, hiring needs and timelines and salary/staffing requirements. Numbers will be an important part of any senior management decision process about moving forward with the creation of a PM infrastructure. Then submit it and cross your fingers.

Summary / call for reader input

There’s a lot that must go into the project management infrastructure of an organization. What I have laid out here is far short, I realize, to what you would need to do to start up…say…a full-scale project management office (PMO) in a larger organization. But that really couldn’t be championed by just one individual anyway. What I have here is what I consider to be a grassroots effort by one individual to get some project management processes defined and hopefully approved by a smaller organization or by one that – to this point – has had no formal project management structure.

What about our readers? Do any of you have experience in championing such and effort? What do you agree with on this list and what should be added?

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

5 Can’t Miss Project Management Interview Tips

Written by Brad Egeland

interview tips

Are you ready to spread your wings and seek out a new project management job in your organization or perhaps another company? Maybe you’re looking at a contract position for the next 6 or 12 months. Whatever you’re doing…you’re looking for a change. And you’re probably hoping for more money. If it’s important to you and you really want this change, then put enough effort and thought and preparation into it to give it a fighting chance to happen. With that in mind, I will present what I consider to be my top five can’t miss project management interviewing tips. Read these and think about your own tips…and please feel free to comment and discuss.

Experience trumps certification. Certification is nice, but experience trumps certification. If you have certification of some kind…PMP, CAPM, PPM, APM, etc….then play it up. But not at the expense of real project management and project management-related experience and successes. When the interview is over, that’s what the interviewer will take away more than the certifications that appear after your name.

Quantify anything you can. Whenever possible, quantify. Never say, I led a successful project to replace an organization’s accounting and reservation software with a new system. Say, I led a 12-person team on a highly successful $170,000 project to implement a new accounting and reservation system for a $25 million timeshare resort corporation in eight months, coming in 4% under budget and one week ahead of schedule. Include the numbers…they mean a lot to the interviewer and make a huge impression on him that you really know what you’re talking about and that it was a very important project success.

Ask questions about the PM infrastructure. Ask some key questions about their existing project management infrastructure. Ask about the project management office (PMO), if one exists. Ask about the PM leadership in the organization. Ask about the methodology used, ask about level of experience for the average PM, ask about how projects are assigned, etc. Interviewers remember the candidates who ask questions and they often like to hear themselves talk and share knowledge.

Ask questions about the types of projects and relate your experience. Be sure to ask some specific questions about the types of projects that roll through their organization and look for ways to inject your own relevant work experience. It ties you to their typical projects in a positive way – and that makes a good impression on the interviewer.

Show problem solving expertise. Interviewers know projects are troublesome. Anytime you can relate detailed problem solving experience to something that comes up about a project during the interview will help you. Specific info will legitimize you.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this – if you’re serious about making a move to a new PM job, then do it right. There’s a big difference between sending off a few resumes and finding one you really want for your next position. And once you have that hard-to-land interview, you need to make every second and every effort count. Because then you’re likely one of only two or three candidates they are looking at for the job. These five tips can help give you the edge you need.

Readers – do you agree with these? Did you find these tips helpful? Please feel free to share your own thoughts and tips and let’s discuss.

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

The Important Part of the Project Meeting – the Follow-up

Written by Brad Egeland

meeting followup

You’ve held your very important project meeting…they are all important, right? At least they are if you call them because you don’t call needless meetings like so many others. You only call meetings that matter and conduct weekly project meetings diligently because you follow project management best practices that say you should keep your team and project customer well engaged throughout the project. And regular meetings and meaningful information updates to keep everyone on the same page is a key part of those best practices. Does this sound like you?

So, you held the meeting, walked everyone diligently through the agenda, covered everything you planned to cover and everyone left to move on to their own “other work” as well as accomplish everything you need from them as stated in the meeting. Everyone understood everything. Everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. Correct? Now, do you feel like you do when you get 100 miles from home on the vacation drive and your wife asks if you unplugged everything at home? Well, did you? Are you sure? Do you turn around, do you “chance it” or do you call someone to check on the house for you? Likely, since you don’t want your house to burn down you pick either option 1 or option 3 because it’s driving you crazy by now.

As for your meeting, you probably should follow up with everyone to make sure they understood all that was discussed. But how? Do you just call everyone up and re-hash everything? Of course not…that would be as impractical as turning around after 100 miles just to see if your daughter’s curling iron is turned off. You need to know, but you need to do it efficiently. Just like you would call a friend to go check on the curling iron, you’d be far better off having a fool proof plan for each meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page after the meeting wraps.  For me, it’s a three step process to make sure we all have the same post-meeting understanding of what we need to do next till we meet again.

My three step process:

Revise the project status report with meeting notes/decisions. As stated, it’s not enough to come up with an agenda or – as is often the case with project status meetings – a good, detailed projects status report that serves as the agenda, and then take notes. No, combine the two so you have the project status report and all updates from the meeting. Or at least your plan or understanding of all updates from the meeting. Now you need to make sure everyone is on the same page as you…or that you’re on the same page as everyone else.

Deliver to all project participants/stakeholders. Once you’ve revised the project status report with your notes and decision/discussion outcomes from the project status meeting, distribute this document to all project status meeting attendees and even all stakeholders who are important to the project and may not have been in attendance. Ask for their confirmation of or changes to these notes within the next 24 hours. Make sure they know that this is critical for the assurance that everyone has the same understanding before next steps on the project.

Revise with responses and resend. Finally, revise the project status report/notes with everyone’s input – after, of course, you’ve responded to any individuals who you think came back with notes that contradicted key information discussed during the meeting. Once everything seems to be accurate and in order, redistribute to all attendees and other stakeholders so you can ensure that everyone will have the same understanding until it’s time to do it all over again next week.

Summary / call for input

Good communication and common understanding among project participants are two critical factors that play into project success. When not everyone playing the game is on the same page, problems result. Team members are working on the wrong tasks and going in the wrong direction. And once at this point, any communication that happens from that point on – and communication among team members will happen – may only serve to broaden the understanding gap. It’s imperative that the project manager ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times. Much information is disseminated and many decisions happen at project status meetings.

What’s you process? Tell us how you go about making sure everyone has the same vital info and understanding.

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

Need a Project Manager? Look for These Characteristics

Written by Brad Egeland

 

Are you a project management office (PMO) director looking to add project management staff to the group?  Are you a hiring manager looking to add some PM expertise to your department?  Whether you have an established PM infrastructure already such as a group of project managers or even a formal PMO, or are just looking to hire someone to lead projects on an ongoing basis in your department or organization, the qualities you should be looking for are going to be the same.  And whether your are big or small or somewhere in between on the organizational size scale, you still want to focus on some key qualities or characteristics in the individual or individuals you hire to lead your important internal projects and/or projects for your external clients.  What are these qualities?  In my opinion, there are five key characteristics you should be looking for…

Leadership.  It’s a given that every project manager should have leadership qualities.  If you aren’t there and you are a PM…or want to be one…then you better “fake it till you make it.”  When hiring a PM, you need to be looking for someone who can display a propensitiy for leadership through the interview and on paper in his resume and cover letter.  Ask questions designed to pull out those specific times when the candidate may have shown excellent leadership skills, like drawing a team together to pull a project out of certain failure and turn things around to success or when a difficult decision needed to be made with very little outside input or information.

Passion.  Passion for the PM position and all it entails – which is a lot and a very diverse and sometimes unpredictable array of skills – is something a hiring manager should definitely be looking for.  Ask some driving questions to make sure you are really seeing passion and not just desperation.

History of success.  I like to look for a history of success more than I care about certification.  Certification can be good and can show a dedication to the profession, but nothing replaces actual experience.  Failures are good, too, as they are great learning experiences.  In fact, I’d prefer that a PM does not have his first failure be as a PM on my staff or in my PMO.  But make sure there has been more success than failure.

Relevant skills.  Hiring a PM with skills that are applicable to the industry can be very helpful and I highly advise it.  Even though I feel that many basic project management skills transfer well from industry to industry, industry-specific experience and success is desirable to have.  I feel strongest about this for technical projects as the project manager is often looked upon to make key decisions and interface with the client on tech solutions.  This is hard to do without relevant knowledge and experience.

Team management.  What good is a project manager who can’t manage a team?  Not much.  If you’re interviewing project managers for your PMO or department, ask pointed questions that have to do with leading teams, resolving conflicts, collaborating and delegating tasks.

Summary / call for input

The bottom line is this – look for characteristics and skills that are going to be useful today.  Especially when you are in the building phase.  When you are well staffed with experienced PM’s, then you can go with beginners and utilize existing staff to mentor if you have that much staff availability.  Everyone should be given a chance, no question, but if you need productivity immediately, then hire for that.

What characteristics are you looking for, if you are in charge of hiring project managers for your organization or assisting in that process?  What has brought you the must candidate success?

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

Focus on Your Project Strengths

Written by Brad Egeland

focus on strengths

Focus on Your Project Strengths

I saw a good meme the other day on Facebook where a candidate was being interviewed and one of the interviewers asked the candidate what he considered to be his greatest strength.  The interviewee replied, “Honesty.”  The interviewer then replied that he didn’t really think that was an actual strength.  And the interviewee replied that he didn’t really care what the interviewer thought.  Honesty.  It’s a good character trait…but sometimes being quiet is a better one.  At least it can be if you want to keep your job or get that next job.

There’s no question we all have strengths and weaknesses.  For me, one of my weaknesses is sometimes being a bit disorganized.  Another weakness is the tendency to over-think a process or situation which may mean I will sometimes plot a less than efficient course to get something accomplished.  I know, these don’t sound like a project manager weaknesses, but thankfully they have not affected my ability to deliver and keep client satisfaction high.

The key is to recognize our strengths and focus on those.  As for weaknesses?  That’s why we surround ourselves with good employees or a good project team – we can rely on them to take on tasks that we might not otherwise be strong at.

I suggest that each of us go through this exercise to analyze where we stand…

List what you consider to be 20 of the key responsibilities of your position.  Assuming you are a project manager or something close to it, that list will start by including some of these items…

  • Managing a portfolio of more than one complex project engagement at a time
  • Analyzing and forecasting project financials
  • Managing a team of project resources
  • Resolve resource issues and conflicts
  • Status reporting to the project client
  • Making tough decisions with less than adequate information
  • Leading meetings with key stakeholders
  • Planning for project risks

Next, rank on – on a scale of 1 to 10 – how experienced or “good at” each of these 20 key areas of responsibilities you think you are.  You could also have your manager do this about you and compare the list, but I don’t recommend it.  Why give them the opportunity at this point to start identifying your strengths and weaknesses?  Use this list you come up with as a learning scenario and something you can use going forward to focus on your best and improve on your worst. That way when your next performance review rolls around you’ll be well prepared – probably even over prepared – to discuss.  Your manager will be amazed.  Look…you can consider that preparation and proactive awareness to be a strength!

What to do with this list?  Well, beside the good suggestion I just gave you above, consider it a personal lessons learned session and use it on your next few project engagements to push yourself in the areas you are rating yourself as weak in.  If you tend to procrastinate project tasks to the last minute, focus on prioritizing those things you like to shove aside higher…or work on your delegating skills so you can focus on what you excel at.  You might also want to share this list with one or more of your project teams.  Why?  Because they can help you maintain accountability for improvement in these areas on the current project and each and every project management going forward.

Summary / call for input

None of us like to admit weaknesses.  And we often don’t recognize some of our best strengths.  We are also even worse at taking the time to identify and rate our own personal strengths and weaknesses.  We are so busy with our work and the demands of our teams and clients that we fail to recognize those opportunities to improve and further excel at our profession.  But it is truly healthy to examine this from time to time and you’ll never be sorry for working to improve on your weaknesses and stay focused on your strengths.

Do you do this?  Do you analyze your own personal strengths and weaknesses landscape as a form of self-improvement and self-preservation?

 

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

Ease of Use is Critical for Project Management Tool Adoption

Written by Brad Egeland

ease of use

Ease of Use is Critical for Project Management Tool Adoption

With literally hundreds of project management and project management-related tools available – both web-based and desktop – any company looking to change or finally purchase a PM tool has many, many (too many) choices.  And, while functionality is key, there is certainly a limit to the amount of function any one organization can utilize or that all organizations really care about.

A good solution needs the following:

Solid task management.  It goes without saying that solid task management capabilities should be at the core of any project management tool that an organization is considering.

Easy to use resource assignment and management functionality.  I have been called into several organizations as a consultant just to help them wrap their heads around the problems they are having managing and forecasting their resource usage.  Create an easy to use PM tool that has strong resource management and planning functionality and you win.

Incorporated task and resource-based financial management capability.  Most packages have built-in financial functionality.  I personally tend to not use those.  I find them…for the most part…cumbersome and usually revert to my old tried and true Excel spreadsheet.  But give me one that is cool – and easy to use in this area – and I’ll use it.

Gantt chart and task dependency management including critical path functionality.  Again, most have this functionality and we still need this visual aspect, but I rarely revert back to reviewing or paying any attention to the critical path because in my day to day project management responsibilities it just doesn’t resonate with me.  Make it more visual, meaningful and easier to manage and again, you win.

Customizable reporting and visual dashboard project health features.  Reporting.  This is seriously important to everyone.  The package that allows PM’s and collaborative project teams to produce and customize detailed reports that can almost take over the status reporting requirements on the project will lead to a lot of consideration from the masses when selecting a new software option.

Purchase without adoption is a waste

You know the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  How many great software packages have our companies purchased to greatly increase employee productivity only to find them left to waste among all the process improvement rollouts and employee reward programs that lasted 1-2 months before crashing and burning into the corporate dumpster?  With this in mind, ease of use and widespread corporate adoptability is something that any project management tool developer and vendor should keep in mind.  There are new organizations out there that are looking online daily for new options in this area as more and more are focusing their work in terms of teams and projects.  Project management and project portfolio management are key industry buzz words – if you are building software in this market space then focus on functionality, of course, but I recommend focusing even more on ease of use and short learning curve.  In today’s world we seek low cost instant gratification.

Summary / call for input

I’m not one who likes to do any kind of deep dive into software documentation or take a five hour course on how to use it.  I’ve used MS Project and other related products for years so I should rightly assume that my skills and knowledge there translate relatively easily to other PM and PM-related software tools.  I’d like to think in this era that the new packages should be more visual and easier to use.  And many are extremely visual, fairly customizable, happily more affordable, and very full-featured.

Give me a software package that I can hit the ground running with on Day One rather than sitting through a training session, webinar or 2 hour Youtube video any day.  Our attention spans aren’t that long anymore and our expected productive utilization rates are high – we are accountable to management for those so ease of use and a short learning curve is likely going to be a key consideration for any organization looking to buy or switch PM software tools.  Keep that in mind.

What about our readers – what are some of your main criteria for purchasing and adopting new PM and PM-related software tools?  What draws you in and what turns you off when you’re trying to compare and contrast different options?

About Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.

EPM Live and SharePoint 2016, Know What’s Coming

Dont-be-left-behindThe EPM Live by Upland team is very excited about the Microsoft SharePoint 2016 roadmap. The EPM Live product has always been a leader within the SharePoint community. We intend to continue this leadership by upgrading our existing solution to the latest SharePoint release from Microsoft – SharePoint 2016.

In the meantime, make sure you are leveraging the most out of your existing SharePoint implementation and understand your options to stay ahead of the next release by contacting the EPM Live team now for an analysis.