Scheduling: make sure that your schedule stands up to scrutiny

 

Scheduling has a big impact on project management. Done well, it is the magic formula that gently guides a project to completion. Done badly, it can become the dirty little secret of project management. Let’s look at what makes the difference. 

 

What is scheduling? 

 

When it comes to project management, scheduling is about more than putting tasks on a calendar. Scheduling is, arguably, where the magic happens. Project scheduling involves creating a system to communicate not only the tasks that need to get done, but also the resources that will be needed to complete them and the timeframe allocated to them. A project schedule holds pretty much all the information needed to deliver the entire project successfully and on time.

 

When does scheduling happen in the project life cycle?

 

In layman’s terms, planning and scheduling are similar concepts, but when it comes to project management, you won’t be scheduling until after the planning phase is complete. This is because planning is about looking at the big picture and defining fundamentals. Planning looks at the real problem that needs solving, identifies the stakeholders, and defines objectives. Planning also determines what resources will be needed and what major tasks need to be done. However, we’re talking broad scope here. There is no fine detail at this stage.

 

Scheduling starts once you enter the second stage of the project life cycle. This is the build-up phase, and it’s where you start getting into the real nitty-gritty details of managing your project. Most projects will come with a predefined start date and deadline, and the schedule is what defines everything that happens in between.

 

Scheduling tends to involve working backwards. You take the end deadline, and any other hard deadlines, and work out when your deliverables need to be ready.  You then schedule in the details, looking at the tasks to be completed, the resources needed, and the team members involved. Creating the project schedule accurately is vital to the success of the project, which is why it has to wait until the build-up phase. Try to schedule a project while it’s still at the big-picture, planning stage and you won’t have enough information. There’s nothing vague about project schedules. There needs to be a lot of attention to detail.

 

The challenges of scheduling

 

Scheduling can be one of the most challenging aspects of project management. As mentioned, it’s a fine-detail process, but some types of project have a lot more variables than others. If you’re working on a project that has a lot of “unknowns” to deal with, then schedule management can become one of the most challenging parts of the entire project.

 

If you are managing a building or engineering project, then it’s likely that you’ll have complete specifications up front. With less tangible projects, such as a media campaign or a change management project, there will be a lot more variables to factor in. This means that with some projects, you can use proven, easily replicated techniques to calculate detailed timeframes and accurate resource allocation. With other projects, it’s a case of starting out with rough estimates, and constantly refining details as you progress and more information about the project emerges. Either way, project scheduling is never a case of “set it and forget it”. Active schedule management is required throughout the project life cycle.

 

Why the schedule can be the dirty little secret of project management 

 

If the schedule is this important, then it must be highly reliable, right? You must be able to look at it at any point in the project and immediately see where you are, what you’ve achieved, and whether you’ll be finishing on time and according to the resource allocation you originally scheduled, right? Wrong. That’s not always the case. At least not with all projects. There’s a dirty little secret that some project managers will acknowledge.

 

Some project managers will tell you that the schedule is irrelevant. They’ll cite the challenges already mentioned: there are so many unknowns, so many variables. We make the schedule, but we don’t expect to stick to it. The project will be finished when it’s finished. Scheduling doesn’t work, except when it does.

 

Scheduling does work. It works like a dream for some project managers, but not for others. Why is this? How come scheduling works perfectly on some projects, but not on every one? The key, as is often the case in project management, is in the systems. Scheduling only works if you can accurately track those important variables, update accordingly, keep your entire team informed, adjust everything else to fit with your new information, and communicate those adjustments to your stakeholders.

 

All this may sound like a big ask, but what it actually boils down to is the right system. Good project management software can provide an all-in-one solution to integrate all of the above and ensure that the schedule is managed and updated to give you a consistently clear picture of exactly where you are, and how far you have to go.

 

Key tips for effective scheduling 

 

There are several ways that you can ensure that your schedule guides your project safely to completion.

 

  • Start the scheduling process after the planning phase is complete.
  • Understand exactly what the deliverables are.
  • Build the schedule around deliverables, not tasks.
  • Work backwards from those hard deadlines.
  • Break down big deliverables to the lowest estimable deliverable (work packages).
  • Make work packages as small as possible for accurate time estimations.
  • Use milestones as targets and at regular intervals.
  • Keep track of team members’ availability.
  • Don’t assign everyone on the team a 100% workload.

 

An effective schedule needs to be flexible and responsive, regardless of the type of project. There will always be variables, and the only way to plan for that is to have a solid system in place to track those variables and respond quickly when needed.

 

To see what Verto can do to help you manage your project schedules, contact us for a demo!


Understanding Verto: VertoGrid Data Collaboration Platform

 

 

 

In this edition of Understanding Verto, we discuss VertoGrid.   VertoGrid is an innovative platform for clients to share and collaborate on projects with a centralised reporting framework.  This extremely powerful functionality is a first for Verto and with VertoGrid we are leading the charge in improving joint working. We recognise the increasing need to work together more creatively to deliver sophisticated programmes which go way beyond spreadsheets and manual systems.

Next-level connectivity

VertoGrid was originally conceived to help STP (Sustainability and Transformation Plan) clients improve communication to work together. The aim is to transform health and care services by bringing together different organisations – local authorities, NHS Trusts, CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups), voluntary and independent sector partners, GPs and primary care colleagues. It soon became clear that any business would benefit from the kind of connectivity VertoGrid enables.

Now, our clients can use VertoGrid to work together on any project. Councils can work with other councils; a CCG can work with a Trust and so on across both public and private sectors. VertoGrid connects you with your collaborators for faster, more flexible project management. It works by invitation only, so you only share data with the individuals you explicitly want to.

How it works

When users begin a joint project, one Verto site acts as the host and the entire project lives in that space. Collaborators are then invited to join the project and all work done on that project sits in one place. It follows the central Verto concept of a single version of the truth and any project is always the most up-to-date version. Importantly this also means there’s no duplication of effort!

An innovative approach to project sharing and reporting

One of the key features of VertoGrid is that it allows different users to work together without sacrificing their autonomy. Individual member organisations can maintain their own configuration, gateway processes, branding, system structure, risk management and project management methodologies, working as they always have done. VertoGrid pulls together common data elements between members and allows centralised reporting. For example, you can run a report that shows every current issue across all Grid participants.

Each client can still run their own suite of reports against their own data, the Grid reporting opens up a whole new layer which hasn’t been possible before.

Bringing together collaborators in this way helps speed reporting. VertoGrid replaces the manual, time-consuming process of bringing data together, it streamlines each project and prevents duplication, repetition and other issues that can delay a project’s completion. In short, it makes everything easier.

VertoGrid is collaboration like we’ve never done before, and the implications are significant:

  • Seamless connectivity
  • Single Version of the truth
  • No double-keying of data
  • Centralised Reporting

Enabling future collaboration

VertoGrid is the future of project management collaboration, with intuitive tools and powerful features that make it easier than ever before to coordinate work between multiple agencies and organisations without the need to alter existing structures or methodologies.

For more information and to see VertoGrid in action, contact us at info@vertocloud.com  or +44 (0)118 334 6200 for a demo.

 


Key Roles in a Project

Picking the right project management team is the first step towards a successful project. The art of guiding a project from initial planning to final implementation relies on key members within the team delivering on time, on budget, and with a high level of communication and collaboration. This means that the success (or failure!) of the project is often sealed from the beginning, when the team is put together.

Creating a skilled, cooperative and cohesive project management team is no easy task. It is vital to make sure that the team members not only provide all the necessary skill sets, but are also willing and able to coordinate their efforts, prioritise necessary communication, and meet every project goal on time.

One key role that is vital to any successful project is, of course, the project manager. They are responsible for defining the project framework, identifying necessary tasks and resources, and setting milestones. The project manager bears ultimate responsibility for ensuring that project goals are delivered on time and within budget. Good project managers inspire, encourage and coordinate all team members, always keeping the next project goal (and the ultimate objective) fresh in every team member’s mind.

The team leader is a key role in larger projects. In smaller projects, the project manager will often wear both hats. The team leader often acts as a negotiator, coordinator, initiator, facilitator and coach, as well as contributing to the project as a working member of the team when appropriate.

The team members are, of course, at the heart of any project. They work together to bring the project to fruition, by meeting every project goal on time, so that the project can move forward. It’s important to pick team members according to the specialist skills needed to meet the project objectives, but they also need organisational, interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Picking the most technically skilled member of the organisation for a key role will not pay off if they do not have the necessary talents and qualities to form part of a cohesive team.

Successful project management relies on a few other essential elements. All team members must understand the project goals and objectives and how the various team members and tasks will bring the project towards them at each stage. There must also be clear channels of communication that everyone understands and (most importantly) uses, and there must be systems in place to coordinate all the different tasks that make up each stage in the project life cycle.

In the digital age, it is surprisingly straightforward to take care of these elements – it’s simply a case of picking the right software and technology. Often, the difference between a successful outcome and a failed project can come down to the quality of the systems being used for communication and coordination within the project.

Are you a project manager wanting to exceed all expectations on your next project? You could do a lot worse than focus on two obvious but sometimes overlooked things. Pick a rock star team (in terms of interpersonal and communication skills, as well as technical) and the perfect project management software and systems. They both go a long way to making the whole much greater than the sum of the parts.

To see how Verto can enhance and enable your project management teams contact us at info@vertocloud.com  or +44 (0)118 334 6200 for a demo!


Why sharing programme data is a key component to Sustainability Transformation Partnership success

 

Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) have forged between local NHS organisations and councils in 44 areas covering the whole of England, with the aim of improving public health and care for users in each individual area. This is a big step towards providing appropriate, community-focused health and social care adapted to the needs of populations living in each area across the country, but it is also a major challenge to plan and implement.

 

 

The role of the NHS and local government: working together 

STPs bring together NHS organisations and Local Authorities to draw up proposals tailored to specific local populations and their health and care needs. Drawing on staff experience, the expertise and observations of frontline workers and conversations with the communities that they serve, local NHS organisations can take their ideas and priorities to local councils and put plans in place to support local communities in an appropriate and collaborative way.

 

This collaborative approach aims at STP’s to incorporate the needs of an entire area into planning and policymaking. As with any collaborative approach, the challenges are obvious. Systems will need to be in place for sharing, viewing and analysing large amounts of data that focuses on different, and possibly conflicting, priorities. This data will not just come from two separate sources but from many different organisations and individuals.

 

Factoring in data

 

There is no doubt that STPs can be successful and collaborations are already in place with positive results.  There are clearly many component factors which will determine success, but at the heart of each individual plan, there needs to be a strong emphasis on collaborative programme and project management.

 

These programmes work best underpinned by a framework of data collection and data collaboration to enable individuals and organisations to make decisions based upon its findings.

 

This is easier said than done with the amount of information that needs assimilated. The challenge, of course, is not only to analyse and report on this information but also use it in practical ways that lead to plans that actually solve the issues within local communities. Easy and effective collaboration and integration leads to better data and better planning; therefore, the right tools and processes are vital.

 

Hereford and Worcester STP Case Study

 

Case studies on existing STPs are already showing how important that the right tools and processes need to be if these programmes are to see successful and efficient implementation. Hereford and Worcester STP identified the necessity of a functional and user-friendly digital collaboration system to help streamline processes and documentation, enabling a comprehensive overview of programme information with a single click.

 

The Hereford & Worcestershire STP involved using cloud-based project management software, clearly showing how good practice in these programmes relies on the right tools and processes and not just on individual commitment to change and improvement. The case study revealed that the success of the project stemmed from the ability to develop a virtual team across multiple organisations, which allowed for easy communication and data exchange across the entire Health and Care System.

 

Specific achievements highlighted in this case study include:

 

  • The ability to allow CCGs to deliver briefings to all staff regarding changes to programme management
  • A streamlined process to simplify and clearly communicate the vast amounts of sharable data, rather than only sharing individual spreadsheets and Word documents
  • The opportunity for all team members to share, view and edit programme information via a centralised, “single-view” platform

 

Too often, the work of the NHS and local government experiences setbacks, not from lack of knowledge or political willpower but from the sheer amount of data and number of people involved in making significant changes to existing systems. The importance of using the right technology does not often receive priority, but when it comes to planning and implementing complex, data-driven changes of the type being employed in these STP programmes, this technology can make a significant impact.

 

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, contact us at info@vertocloud.com  or +44 (0)118 334 6200 for a demo!

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Importance of a Project Wrap

 

All too often, big projects are merely left to drift after their primary goals have been attained, without ever being formally closed. That is problematic for several reasons. It means that they can keep on consuming resources and the people who were involved may be left uncertain of their responsibilities. It also means there is no opportunity to evaluate and learn from the project management cycle. That is why a formal wrap should be considered an essential part of managing any project.

What is a project wrap?

Undertaking a project wrap enables an organisation to do two key things:

  • Establish what can be learned from the project
  • Create and archive key project documentation

Along with tidying up any loose ends related to the project, and ensuring that resources (including staff) are reallocated, this process makes it possible to take forward useful information from the project for future use. It’s important to be systematic about it to make things easier for anyone who may need to access that information later. Project management software often has a standard form for use during the wrap stage that is designed to facilitate this.

Who should be involved?

A project wrap should involve as many as possible of the people involved in working on the project, because even those engaged at a low level may have useful information to impart. However, not all the individuals need to be present in the final meeting, especially if several teams have been involved in the project as team leaders can collect feedback from all those they supervised. They should also be given the opportunity to contact the overall project manager directly in case their feedback includes a review of their supervisors.

It’s also crucial that the wrap includes everyone who was involved in the conception and planning of the project, even if they had no involvement in actually running it. That makes it easier to asses the degree to which the project met its original objectives and fulfilled the expectations of its creators.

Engaging team members in an analysis of how the project developed is a positive way to raise their awareness of the role each of them played in contributing to the whole. It can also be very effective in motivating them to improve their work.

Referencing the original

The wrap is an opportunity to compare the initial plan behind the project with the reality. It should incorporate an assessment of each of the project management phases to draw out information about how the project was organised. It should also examine the project itself, comparing it with the planning documents, looking at what it achieved, how well it stayed within budget and how well it matched the expected time-frame. Did it bring about any additional, unexpected outcomes, and how well did it satisfy stakeholders?

The degree to which a project wrap can be successful depends on the extent to which the above-mentioned processes were properly documented in the first place. If there were shortcomings in this process which, alone, is an important finding to take away from the process.

Assembling a final report

The final project report that emerges from the wrap should include a detailed profile of every lesson that can be learned from it. These could relate to either positive or negative observations – often the latter are the best teachers. Although project planning software may incorporate standard forms for assessing plans in retrospect, these don’t need to constitute the whole of the final report. There are various ways the data might be presented to maximise clarity and ease of reference.

Shawn Anchor on falling up

Motivational speaker Shawn Anchor has written extensively on what he calls ‘falling up’, the process whereby organisations can lean from failure. He stresses that fear of failure is one of the best predicators of it happening and encourages organisations to find the positives in difficult situations.

He notes that fear of failure often prompts people to take actions that hinder rather than help them achieve their objectives because their attitude to risk is that they ought to do something. Sometimes doing nothing is, in fact, the best approach. Taking a thorough approach to risk management can help with this. Where projects have fallen short of their objectives, examining the risk analysis methods used in them is a good place to start the process of identifying what went wrong.

Realising the benefits

There is no point in organising a project wrap if the findings that result from it are going to be filed away and forgotten. Although it’s the final stage of the individual project management life cycle, the wrap should also be the start of something. It should result in an identified set of measures that can be taken forward. That may involve sending individual lists of recommended changes to multiple departments within the organisation and following up with each of them systematically to ensure that the points are actioned.

Although large organisations are typically more resistant to change, project wraps provide a significant opportunity to eliminate problem practices and improve efficiency. It’s therefore useful to embed the habit of making adjustments after a wrap into the ongoing practices of the organisation. The project itself can be viewed as a means of assessing particular strategies so that part of the risk analysis pertinent to introducing new systems can already be considered to have been done.

No matter how interesting and enjoyable the work involved in a project has been, it’s often a relief to get to the end of it, so it’s understandable that those involved may not want to go to the trouble of undertaking a project wrap. Doing so significantly increases what can be gained from the project. It’s liable to improve the organisation’s project management methodologies going forward, and it also provides closure to those directly involved, making it easier for them to move forward and get to work on new projects.

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, contact us at info@vertocloud.com or call us on +44 (0)118 334 6200 for a friendly demo.

 


Risky Business: How decisive risk management can keep your projects on track.

 

Risk Management  is a balancing act.  Here's our thoughts on how managing risk and the approach to risk can be handled to keep your projects on track.

Risk management is, and has always been, a tricky conundrum. This is where you, as a Project Manager, need to identify, analyse and respond to uncertainties when making decisions related to your project. Of course, when you add the word ‘risk’ to anything, it can cause mixed feelings.  A risk that pays off is a huge uplift, but no one likes taking unnecessary risks.

This is where a solid risk assessment framework is key to making decisive and well-thought out decisions to reach the end-goal of your project with as few problems as is possible.

 

 

  • The likelihood of a negative outcome occurring
  • The impact if the negative outcome does occur
  • The likelihood of a positive outcome occurring
  • The impact if the positive outcome does occur
  • The feasibility of possible responses to a risk
  • The cost of possible responses to the risk

In many situations, there will be attendant risks whichever way a decision is made, and these will need to be compared. Possible negative outcomes also need to be balanced against possible positive outcomes. Though risk management tends to focus more on the former, there are situations in which possible positive outcomes play a significant role in decision making. It is not the job of a risk manager to make these decisions, only to ensure that those doing so are as well-equipped as possible to understand the balance of risk.

The risk assessment process needs to be carried out repeatedly across different project management phases to take into account changing risk profiles.

Risk management in innovation

An awareness of positive possibilities is especially important when it comes to innovation. Large businesses and organisations are particularly bad at this because they have a lot to lose, be it profits, funding or credibility, so they tend to be very cautious about doing anything new. This focus on the risk of failure, however, can distort the overall picture and means they miss out on opportunities, with strong ideas being ignored in favour of the status quo. Over time, this creates a risk of falling behind the competition.

A more positive approach to risk management, which balances possible losses against possible gains within each project and acknowledges that gains from a certain proportion of successful projects will balance out the losses from those that fail, allows established businesses and organisations to be more successful innovators.

Successful risk management in innovation requires a proactive approach. Because this is new territory, tried and tested solutions to identified risks won’t always work. Project management methodologies need to be flexible and ready to try new approaches – but that doesn’t mean indulging in projects where the risk potential is too high. It’s also necessary to be ruthless when risk tolerance levels are breached.

Avoiding natural bias

We all have inbuilt psychological biases when it comes to dealing with risk. Therefore, very few people can assess risk objectively without taking a formal, analytical approach. We can see this in impulsive people who are far too quick to take unreasonable risks, and in anxious people who play it safe to the point where they achieve nothing, but often it’s more subtle and harder to spot. Correctly structured risk management removes the danger of bad decisions resulting from this kind of bias. It also enables the production of reports that everybody can understand in the same way. This prevents complications resulting from crossed wires and means that if the risk manager changes part way through the project management cycle, disruption will be minimal.

Some areas of risk management are harder to approach in this way than others. Areas dealing with health and safety or consumer response, for instance, can benefit from expert assessment in the form of qualitative risk analysis, even though aspects of them might also be subject to quantitative risk analysis. The latter – also known as data risk analysis – is the natural choke for assessing risks that are easily understood in numerical terms.

Data risk analysis

Data risk analysis uses mathematical tools to calculate the balance of risk and establish priorities. It also makes it possible to run simulations to help establish the likely results of different approaches. It’s particularly useful in complex scenarios where multiple risks must be assessed together because it means the probable results of different strategies involving combined risks can be displayed side by side. Most of the best organiser software available today includes tools for use in this kind of modelling

Using data risk analysis to make numerical projections makes it much easier to compare strategies involving different types of risk. It means that everybody in a project management office is looking at the options in the same way, and it makes it easier for senior managers who lack risk management expertise to understand those options and make good decisions.

Building credibility

As well as making it easier to understand the options available, good risk management makes it easier to justify decisions, both at the time and retrospectively. It means that funders can be encouraged to support a project based on clear, quantifiable data, which demonstrates the value of the approach to be taken. It means that when negative outcomes do occur, managers can show that they nevertheless made the best decision possible in light of the uncertainties involved, reducing the reputational risks involved with failure.

Well-presented risk analysis reports demonstrate that the business strategies they relate to are based on fact and reason rather than on conjecture. This does a lot to establish the credibility of an organisation. Even if not every decision produces good results, it demonstrates that the potential for achieving good outcomes remains high. Over time, this is important to brand building, attracting investors and maintaining team morale.

Ultimately, every organisation takes a different approach to managing risk because they all have different objectives and priorities. Legal obligations may need to be factored into decision making, as may broader aspects of corporate policy. The underlying mechanics of risk management, however, remain the same. By systematising the process of identifying and analysing risk, an organisation can reduce human bias and place its decision-making on much firmer foundations.


A guide to successfully tracking benefits for your programme.

Benefits realisation allows organisations to plan, manage and monitor how time, effort and resources are invested into making desirable changes within the organisation. It is an essential part of project management, which invariably involves change for the better through a clearly defined, results-focused process.

Planning for benefits realisation, however, involves a lot more than identifying which benefits should be delivered and to whom. You also need a clear timeline, a plan for implementation, and a way to assess how well your actual results match up to the outcomes you planned for.

 

The process:

• Identify benefits.

• Define in detail what each benefit will entail.

• Assign dates for the delivery of the benefits.

• Detail the necessary implementation procedures to ensure that benefits are delivered in full.

• Plan for change management as the processes to deliver new benefits are implemented.

• Track progress at every stage of the project lifecycle.

• Develop methodologies to compare actual outcomes to planned outcomes.

Benefits realisation generally involves a complex process that can, of course, be made easier by the right project management tools. A significant number of changes implemented by public sector organisations come under harsh criticism for not actually achieving the benefits that they aimed to deliver. This can often be due to a lack of benefits management, or sometimes a lack of any robust project management methodology at all.

 

Identifying benefits

 

Identifying the benefits that you’re aiming for is the first step. Ensuring that those benefits are well defined and quantifiable is the only way to know for sure whether you delivered them or not. You may also be identifying and monitoring benefits that are not quantifiable but are observable and measurable. Let’s look at each of those in turn.

Quantifiable benefits are benefits that can be forecast and measured. They are often financial, such as a specific amount of money that can be saved (particularly in the not-for-profit sector) or made (more commonly in for-profit organisations). They may also be quantifiable in some other way, such as cutting waiting times in a healthcare setting or improving exam results in educational facilities.

When it comes to justifying a particular project, quantifiable benefits can be fundamental in persuading stakeholders of the project’s importance. They can be defined in advance and accurately tracked at each stage of the project life cycle. It’s vital, of course, to establish a baseline by which benefits will be measured, and then capture all data relevant to the benefit. Omitting data related to outcomes is where project analysis often goes very wrong!

 

Measuring Benefits

 

Observable benefits are those that may not be easy to measure objectively but can undoubtedly be assessed by experienced observers. These can include things such as staff morale, ethical standing within the community, and satisfaction levels among end-users of your service. These benefits can be incorporated into your objectives for your projects, and you may devise methods to assess them, but defining their success will rely primarily on observation.

Measurable benefits are those that can be objectively measured but not easily forecast. You can identify these benefits, but they can’t be incorporated into the outcomes that you are working towards as they can’t be predicted. Monitoring them, however, can be useful for future projects. Measurable benefits can be particularly valuable for pilot projects. Not sure if a change to your inventory system or a customer service initiative will make things better or worse? It can be implemented in one office or department and expanded (or ditched) depending on what your project analysis suggests regarding measurable benefits.

 

Mapping benefits to organisational goals

 

Excellent project management techniques will allow you to map benefits to overall organisational goals. Benefit realisation rarely serves just one purpose. Customer satisfaction is linked to customer retention. Employee morale is related to productivity levels. Patient experience is connected to public trust, complaints processing and even crisis management budgets.

Innovative, solution-based project management techniques allow organisations to link the desired benefits of any given project to the overall goals of their organisation, and assess how these two elements are moving forward together (or not) at each review point throughout the project life cycle.

 

Direct and indirect benefits

 

In every project, there will be direct and indirect benefits, which is why monitoring the non-quantifiable aspects of your project is essential. Indirect benefits include those intangible benefits that can’t be easily tracked, such as reputation, image and ethical standing in the community. Many organisations use a system of benefit estimation to assess the indirect benefits of a project, along with the more tangible direct benefits.

To track and measure the indirect benefits of a programme it is essential to observe and monitor every aspect of change that occurs within a system as a project progresses. Including both direct and indirect benefits in the final analysis of any benefit-driven organisational change creates a fuller and more valuable assessment on which to base future projects. It can allow potential change-makers to justify future plans that will potentially create indirect benefits.

 

Benefits framework

 

To make expectations clear during the project management process, it’s useful to define a benefits realisation framework. A benefits framework allows organisations to identify, deliver, analyse and sustain the benefits associated with any particular project that they implement. The framework must be driven by the strategic planning process of the organisation and, to be effective, it must become standard practice throughout the project life cycle.

A benefits framework will lay out best practices, processes and techniques to be followed throughout the transition (and beyond, to sustain the value from changes). Most importantly, the framework will present the benefits not as a random list but as a web of interrelated objectives, creating a clear picture of where the achievement of a particular benefit is dependent on the realisation of another.

Solution-based project management software is a valuable piece of the puzzle when trying to implement benefits-driven change.

 

To see what Verto can do to improve project management outcomes for your organisation contact us or register for our 30 day free trial!

 


Project Leadership - Managing for Success

Project management is the art of guiding a project from initial planning to final implementation. Good managers possess a solid knowledge base, skills and expertise that let them see all project management phases clearly, as well as the specific steps needed to move through the life cycle efficiently and successfully – they understand what must be done and they make sure it happens, on time and within budget.

Maybe the most critical factor that determines the success of a project though is the personal investment of project cycle management leadership. When leaders are personally committed, and take ownership of a project, the results can be astounding.
So, how do you manage for success? It’s a loaded question, we know, but the following tips can help you exert more ownership over projects, approaching each one as an opportunity to engage your team, deliver great quality to your clients and the senior leadership.

The right leadership

Leadership establishes the tone for the entire project management framework. Will the work be frenzied and chaotic or predictable and (mostly) drama-free? It is ultimately up to you and the tone you set from the start.

The most important elements at the outset of a new project are to set clear goals and to make sure your team is held accountable for hitting benchmarks and reporting accurately. You can’t do it all on your own – delegate tasks, paying close attention to the unique skills and abilities of your team members to ensure you’ve given the right jobs to the right people. Everyone should know and understand their responsibilities and how they’ll be required to track their progress.

Focus on pushing deliverables and encourage team members to stay on top of their reporting responsibilities. Not only does this help you keep the project on schedule, but it also empowers your team to make decisions more quickly and intuitively. Too much time spent second-guessing or agonising over small details can bog down even the most efficient project management framework.

Communication
You. Must. Communicate. It’s essential, even on small projects. As a leader, it is your responsibility to make sure every single team member and stakeholder is in the loop and regularly updated on the overall status of the project. They also need to know they can come to you with questions, concerns or suggestions without fear of reprimand or reprisal.

For your team, you might create a master calendar as part of your project management lifecycle controls, with significant deadlines marked clearly for all to see. Schedule meetings well ahead of deadlines to check in with everyone, gather intel on their progress and make sure things are on track. This will also give you plenty of time to address issues and make adjustments before small problems become major headaches.
Another critical aspect of communication is to express the value of your project to those outside your team. No one wants to operate in a departmental silo, so create a compelling message that resonates throughout your organisation. Do this, and you may find it much easier to secure additional resources should you need them.
Prioritising activity

Maintaining a productive pace means understanding and mitigating risks. The easiest way to add this important element to your project management methodologies is to designate a risk officer to stay on top of potential problems. Ideally, this should be someone who is thoughtful, rational and more than a bit sceptical.

Managing risks effectively means:

• Every member of the team should feel comfortable reporting their concerns or difficulties. If people don’t believe they can speak freely, they will be more likely to try to hide issues and let them fester.
• Keep a real-time risk database for more effective project cycle management. This tool should record every issue, and its resolution, throughout the entire project.
• Not wasting time or resources obsessing over risk assessment. Yes, you must stay on top of issues before they derail a project, but if you see threats around every corner, you’ll quickly become paralysed by the fear that something could go wrong at any moment.

As a leader, you must be able and willing to make well-informed judgement calls from time-to-time that will mitigate potential risks. You must also have the courage and confidence to rethink your strategy should the situation call for it.

Resourcing and capabilities
Successful project management depends heavily on having the team and resources you need – when and where you need them – to deliver a quality finished product on time and budget.

This doesn’t mean you must become a master negotiator and secure unlimited funding and personnel support on every project right from the start. It means you have to learn to work with what you have been given to the best of your ability and be able to back up any request for more with robust data, clear communication, and conviction.

In addition to your critical role as project manager, you should recruit the following team members to improve your chances of success:
• Project sponsor
• Project coordinator
• Team leader
• Working team

Resource allocation is another essential part of your job as a project manager. Identifying resources at the start of a project and managing them throughout are essential project manager requirements, but so is knowing when and how to ask for more (time, money or people) when you need it.

Conclusion
Managing for project success involves a wide range of skills that work in concert to push a project through every phase and benchmark. If your ultimate goal is always to deliver high-quality finished products to your clients, while respecting the boundaries of time and budget, you will inevitably become invested in each project, exhibiting the kind of commitment and ownership that is a great predictor of success.

To see what Verto can do to improve the outcomes of your existing project management techniques, register for our free 60-day trial today!


Mastering Verto: Using the Decision Matrix

Time and again we hear from clients that one of their greatest frustrations with their existing project management framework is that it's too rigid. They're following the proper methodology, but those processes don't always work for every project. Small projects that should get closed out quickly are given the same weight as larger, more significant projects. The result is a waste of both time and resources – and nobody wants that.

We understand the importance of project prioritisation, which is why we've built it into our system. We make it easy to apply the right amount of governance to every project so you can assign the appropriate level of project management. Smaller projects can be finished quickly and larger projects get the attention and resources they need throughout the project management lifecycle.

It is simple and effective to prioritise activity and work within Verto’s decision matrix. This handy tool lets you set a range of questions and answers in a time-saving drop-down menu, to score activities to determine and set the weight and scope of each project.

At the outset of a new project, you simply go through the questions and select the appropriate answers from the drop-down.

Questions that our clients currently use to understand and weight their projects include:

  • What's the total cost of this project?
  • How long will this project take to complete?
  • Are there external deadlines to consider?
  • Who are the stakeholders associated with this project?
  • What is the political profile of this project?
  • Have we done this type of project before or is this a new concept?

Your administrator can set the answers and the weighting that each question needs to fulfil. By assigning a weighting to each answer you tell the Verto system how much significance the project has. For example, if you routinely work on projects for high-profile clients and want to be sure those jobs always get top priority no matter how complex they are, the system will let you assign a higher score in the decision matrix. This allows organisations to prioritise small, but important projects alongside bigger legacy projects to make sure nothing is overlooked.

The Verto scorecard can be updated and run again at any point in the project management lifecycle, so you can rest assured that you always assign the proper governance, priority and significance to every project, even if things change halfway through completion. Not only will your project management framework become more agile and flexible, but avoid over-managing basic processes and more effectively manage larger or more important projects.

The results of this intuitive project prioritisation are less waste of resources—time, people, money—fewer headaches for project cycle management, streamlined workflows, satisfied clients and happy stakeholders.

Try our 60-day Free Trial and see how Verto can support your organisation today. Our cloud-based solutions are already working for more than 37,800 users across the UK. So, what you are waiting for?

 


Why stakeholder management is crucial to keeping your project on track.

Artwork shows word together to represent stakeholder management

 

Stakeholder management is, as anyone who has run a successful project before will tell you, a crucial factor when it comes to getting a positive outcome from a project.

Taking stakeholder’s opinions, ideas, and perspectives on decisions into consideration are necessary steps when building and maintaining a constructive working environment for all parties involved in the project.

 

 

Do the right thing

It is, however, key to note that you shouldn’t bow down to all demands that are made by your stakeholders – this could be of detriment to your project. As the project manager, you’ve got to stick to your guns on the big decisions if it’s the right thing to do!

The people sitting around your table, the board, whoever you are working with; often approach the priorities and management of a project from entirely different perspectives.

If you’re struggling to take on everyone’s opinions at once, it’s important to remember that the project itself is not a popularity contest – the end goal is always to have a successful project that is completed on time and to budget. If some stakeholders aren’t happy about the way in which you get to the destination, keep in mind that the legacy of the project is the most significant aspect. This will live on far longer than a few disagreements!

"keep in mind that the legacy of the project is the most significant aspect. This will live on far longer than a few disagreements!"

Keep the goal in sight

The internal management of all those involved is critical for a successful project. Focusing on what it is that your client group is seeking to achieve can be challenging when every single person sitting around the table has a different opinion.

Every project will have a different profile and a different attitude to risk – it won’t be an easy task to keep everyone on the same page, but you should be able to stand up and be prepared to say ‘no!’ if an idea comes your way that you believe will derail the project. As we mentioned earlier, it’s not about going out of your way to keep everyone happy; it’s about completing the project!

Review and learn

To become a better project manager, and to refine any communication or relationship issues that may have arisen in the past systematically reviewing your progress is a useful process. You’ve always got to be looking back and retrospectively considering changes that could have been made to make the project run better so that you can learn from each experience. If you can build up an extensive repertoire of techniques to help manage your stakeholders and get the most out of them, you’ll be in a much stronger position moving forward.

Self-reflection and building general assessment process into a project review is essential. Looking back at what you have done previously. Take time to look at other projects; not just in your professional area but in other fields as it will broaden your view.

If you’re looking to improve your collaboration between stakeholders and the project management office, Verto’s cloud-based project management software could be vital to winning at stakeholder management. Stay in touch with us, follow us on LinkedIn and chat with us on Twitter to learn more about our ideas and software!