Give your projects room to grow

 

 

When it comes to project management, ease of implementation is vital to success. A complicated project is not always better, and one that is easy to implement often starts quickly and meets all its objectives. 

 

It is not quite that simple, however. Ease of implementation often intertwines with another important factor: project maturity. Organisations at different levels of project maturity thrive when they use techniques and tools appropriate to their specific level. It is often useful to not only look at how to make project management easier but also determine the level of complexity that is right for your organisation. 

 

Project management maturity refers to how well-equipped an organisation is to manage its projects and helps define the tools and techniques needed for project success. Businesses and other institutions progress over time, slowly developing an organisation-wide approach to project management.  

 

Increasing project management maturity leads to the development of widely accepted and replicable methodology, strategy and decision-making processes. You might assume that the way to implement successful project management is to reach a high level of project maturity as quickly as possible, but this is unrealistic. As the name suggests, project maturity is something that tends to happen organically over time, and it cannot, for example, force itself on a new start-up with a skeleton staff and few processes in place. 

 

Ease of implementation is not about fast-tracking project maturity but about choosing the right tools for your organisation’s current level. An organisation in the early stages of project maturity may need to keep things simple. The appropriate project management software will involve systems that are easy to implement and quick to use, giving you the ability to share files and report visually to other team members and stakeholders. A more mature organisation may well need more complex systems that are able to manage not only its projects and programmes but also its resourcing, finances, planning and forecasting.      

 

Organisations can benefit from figuring out their current level of maturity based on the Project Management Maturity Matrix. This identifies four levels of project management maturity. At level one, the success of the project relies almost solely on the efforts of the project manager and team members. As maturity increases, project management becomes all about methods and systems as the organisation learns to replicate the methodology of earlier successful projects. 

 

While increasing project maturity is desirable, the success of any project rests on using the right tools for the current level of maturity. At level one, a team can complete a project well as long as it has a way to communicate, share data and give feedback. At higher levels, an entire host of different functions contribute to a successful project. 

 

Verto project management software gives organisations room to grow. You can start simply with a product right out of the box and add functionality as and when required. This allows teams and organisations to mature over time as their project management software grows alongside them. To find out more, register for our free 14-day trial! 


Creating a business case for your project

Creating a business case requires time, thought and effort. In simple terms, a business case provides justification for a specific project or programme. In a budget-conscious, results-oriented world, it is no longer enough to simply deliver what you promised. Now, you also need to be sure that what you propose justifies the investment of time and resources needed to create it.

The business case focuses on the value that a project or programme brings to an organisation. In spite of the use of the word business, it is equally applicable to non-commercial organisations, such as government entities and non-profits, where it is sometimes referred to as a “ use case statement”.

What is the purpose of the business case?

The aim of the business case is to justify the existence of the project or programme. It should clearly demonstrate the value of the work being done and the deliverables being created. The business case is outlined during the concept phase of the project life cycle and is used to assess whether the project should go ahead.

Preparing the business case is generally the responsibility of the project manager. Often, they will have input from other experts and specialist agencies. Once the business case is approved and the project moves forward, the business case must be regularly updated to reflect any changes to the project as a whole. It is used at gateway reviews to ensure that the project is continuing to progress in a way that will deliver the required value to the organisation.

What should the business case include?

While the focus of the business case is on the value that a project or programme will bring to the organisation, this must be put in context. A business case will usually include information on:

The problem or situation that led to the project being considered

  • Why the project is needed
  • What might change about the situation that could make the project unnecessary
  • An options appraisal setting forward options considered, and options chosen
  • An appraisal of the “do nothing” option – what is the scenario if no action is taken?
  • Expected results and benefits, and their value to the organisation
  • The timescale in which the benefits are expected to be delivered
  • How the project team will assess whether benefits have been realised
  • Any unavoidable dis-benefits, with justification for why they are acceptable
  • Costs and funding arrangements
  • The risks involved, and their impact on the business case

The benefits review plan

Assessing whether benefits have been realised is an essential part of the business case. This is mentioned above, but it is important enough that it generally gets its own separate document, known as the benefits review plan. This should be developed by the project manager alongside the business case and should be updated as the project progresses through the project life cycle.

The benefits review plan identifies specific benefits to be measured. These are taken directly from the business case. It should also state how benefits will be measured, who will be accountable for measuring them, and what information and data will be needed by those accountable. It will also state when the benefits assessments will take place, who will carry out these reviews, and what the baseline measurements are, in order to measure improvement.

How a business case benefits the organisation

Every project undertaken should clearly benefit the organisation. The business case demonstrates in advance exactly why a project is being put in place and how much value the successful completion of the project will add to the organisation as a whole.

The business case encourages the project manager and team to focus on not just what they are building, but also how it will be used. It helps the organisation avoid wasted resources on projects that do not yield a justifiable amount and quality of benefits. It also allows the organisation to prioritise multiple projects, by making the immediate value of each project clear.

How the business case works

The business case is a guide and reference point, before, during and after a project. Before the project begins, the business case establishes and justifies the goal of the project. It puts the outcomes of the project in context, by clearly stating not just what needs to be achieved, but also why it is necessary.

During the project, the business case remains central to day-to-day project management decisions. When different options present themselves, the project manager can refer to the business case to ensure that the chosen option not only moves the project closer to the deliverables, but also closer to the real values to which those deliverables are aiming to contribute.

After the project, the business case allows for an assessment based on actual value added to the organisation. Instead of measuring success based on whether the deliverables were completed, the organisation can easily assess whether the expected benefits were delivered. If not, then why not? Perhaps benefits were not accurately estimated, or maybe the deliverables developed were the wrong ones, incomplete, or badly implemented. This allows the organisation to learn valuable lessons.

How the business case creates project success

The business case can be the guiding light that creates project success. Communicated clearly, it can keep the entire team focused not just on their tasks and deliverables, but also on how they are providing the value that is at the heart of the change they are implementing. The proper development and maintenance of the business case allows for:

A clear definition of the value that a project is intended to deliver

A way to prioritise projects and ensure that resources are used to deliver real value

An ongoing way to assess whether the project is worth continuing

A tool to facilitate decisions on when and how the project plan needs to be changed

A well-managed business case substantially increases the chances of a project being completed successfully, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

To see what Verto can do to improve the success of your project management techniques, register for our free 14-day trial today!


VertoGrid – the answer to internal privacy and security?

The culture of collaboration is gaining momentum however there are still some circumstances where confidentiality, data security and privacy are important within the boundaries of an organisation including at individual team and department level.

VertoGrid can be implemented as ‘one’ over-arching programme management system (like a mother ship) but with individual sub-systems (the fleet) within a single organisation. This means you can have unique login and unique administrators all within one system getting all the benefits of sharing and joint reporting but retaining the option to have privacy over an individual section or department’s projects and programmes.

In addition to the flexibility within a single organisation the system can also therefore manage multiple funding streams within one system. This is especially useful if you have the need to report on differing projects and funding e.g. from one or more government sources, to multiple boards and sponsoring bodies.

In essence we have made the management of complex projects easy!

Contact us for a demo to see Verto in action!


5 ways to streamline approvals and make contextually informed decisions

 

Few things bring a project to a grinding, if temporary, halt quite as fast as a badly-managed approval process. Streamlining the approval process can keep a project flowing smoothly from one stage to the next. To do this, it is necessary to put systems in place that allow approvers to make fast, contextually informed decisions.

 

1. Consult the right people

Decision authority is the first thing to streamline. Too many organizations have too many people or functions involved in the decision-making process. This gives veto power, or the power to delay the project with unnecessary queries, to the wrong people. Some people or departments are consulted for no reason, other than that is the way things have always been done. Ensure that decision authority is only given to the decision-makers whose input is really necessary

 

2. Ask the right questions

 

When it comes to capital expenditure decisions, there are three vital questions to answer:

 

  • Is this proposal complete, and does it exceed the minimum hurdle rate?
  • Do we have the funds to invest in this project?
  • How attractive is this project compared to others, at this time?

 

Any queries, objections, or decision-making delays that are based on anything other than these questions are irrelevant and should not be holding up the approval process.

 

3. Implement a system to compare disparate projects

 

Decision-makers often have to compare very different projects. To complicate the process further, the criteria for evaluation may be either qualitative or quantitative, depending on the project goals. This can make it challenging to answer the question as to which project is most attractive, inevitably delaying the approval process. It is vital, therefore, to have a system to compare disparate projects objectively and ensure that the most appropriate project is quickly approved.

 

4. Forecast frequently

 

The approval process is also hindered by out-of-date forecasts. Projects grow and change as they move through the project life cycle, making it important to update forecasts at every stage. To keep approvals streamlined, it is necessary to:

 

  • Make real-time data automatically available to the capital-management system
  • Allow project managers to easily and frequently update this data
  • Compile forecasts in a systematic and standardised way
  • Make forecasts easily accessible to everyone involved, to enable effective collaboration
  • Ensure that management act promptly based on these frequent, real-time forecasts

 

5. Develop a unified approach

 

Many organisations make approval decisions in silos. There is no unified system to compare one project against another. This hinders the process, as approvers try to identify the most attractive project by navigating multiple reports, spreadsheets, and databases to ascertain exactly what the updated forecasts, budgets, and return on investment is for each project are.

 

One way to streamline the approval process is to streamline the comparison process. Organisations can do this by implementing a unified capital-portfolio-management system, that tracks each project across the investment life cycle, allowing easy comparison at every stage for which approval is required.

 

Request a demo of Verto to see how we can help you streamline approvals in your organisation!


How reports can make or break a programme

 

The reporting process is part and parcel of the programme management process. However, not all reporting is good reporting. Over-reporting can be as damaging to progress as under-reporting. It is vital to ensure that the reporting process is streamlined enough to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, without creating unnecessary work for key team members who would be better off spending their time implementing rather than reporting.  

 

 

Programmes and projects consist of many moving parts. Communication between team members, managers, contractors and stakeholders is vital. When it comes to running a programme that may consist of many different projects, all working towards similar or complementary outcomes, things get even more complicated. It is important to monitor the interdependencies between projects within the programme, and prevent problems and delays affecting one project from having an impact on others. This means identifying and communicating factors that need to be reported, not just within project management teams, but also from one project team to another. 

 

Effective reporting systems allow for essential communication across large and complex programmes. It allows project managers within the programme to keep up to date with the progress of other projects that will impact theirs. Reporting also allows the teams delivering the benefits to assure those waiting for them, such as senior management, stakeholders and end users, that the projects are progressing well, that the programme is working, and that the benefits are likely to be delivered in full and on time. 

 

When project management teams regularly and efficiently report to sponsor teams, everyone benefits. Good reporting procedures give everyone a sense of ownership and involvement. Clear reporting can relieve sponsor time pressures by ensuring that management, stakeholders and customers are aware of how things are progressing, and if there are delays, why those delays occurred, and what is being done to alleviate them. Programme managers may be reluctant to communicate bad news to stakeholders, but stakeholder management is an essential part of programme management, and good reporting can ensure stakeholder buy-in. 

 

Under-reporting and over-reporting 

 

Both under-reporting and over-reporting are damaging to effective programme management. However, it is not always easy to create a perfect balance. A lot will depend on how agile the organisation is, and the tools in place for effective programme management. A rigid approach with specific reporting structures, templates and software that all teams must adhere to, regardless of how relevant they are to a particular project, may result in over-reporting and time wasted on reporting progress rather than actually making more progress. 

 

An agile approach will allow for customised levels of reporting, taking into account the complexity of the programme. Ideally, reporting should supply everyone with the data they need, when they need it, without distracting them with irrelevant or untimely information.  

 

Many programme managers are keen to ensure efficiency by providing information strictly on a need-to-know basis. This approach ensures that just enough information is reported to allow key project decisions to be made. This may work well in situations where the programme management team has the trust and understanding of the sponsor team, but can cause problems if the stakeholders and other members of the sponsor team misunderstand this commitment to efficient reporting, and see it instead as a lack of transparency. 

 

Other programme managers choose to deliver far too much detail to stakeholders. This is rarely welcomed and, depending on the complexity of the programme, can often obstruct the reporting objective of clearly communicating progress. Too much detail, data and unnecessary information is hard to digest, and can even imply to the sponsor team that the programme management team is trying to hide important information among a sea of jargon. 

 

Setting expectations 

 

Good reporting procedures have a lot in common with good programme management. It is advisable to agree on reporting structures at the beginning of the programme, at the same time that all other deliverables are being agreed upon. This involves agreeing upfront with stakeholders, other members of the sponsor team, and other project management teams within the programme, what will be reported, in what depth and at which points during the implementation of the programme. It can be helpful to set out the following: 

 

  • What data should form an essential part of reports? 
  • What data is irrelevant and can be left out? 
  • How often will reports be delivered? 
  • Who will read which reports and why? 
  • Is there a culture of trust that allows efficient, need-to-know reporting? 
  • What reporting tools will be used? 
  • Are there alternatives (such as project management dashboards) that can be used to minimise formal reporting procedures? 

 

The more agile the approach to programme management is, the more agile the approach to reporting can be. It is possible to build in flexibility, allowing bare bones, need-to-know reporting to be the norm, but agreeing that more in-depth reports will be generated if a complex or unforeseen issue arises. 

 

Reporting best practices 

 

While no reporting system is perfect, there are certainly some best practices that should be followed. When it comes to reporting procedures in programme management, it is essential to consider the objectives of reporting and put in place a strategy that allows all relevant information to be reported to all relevant teams and individuals, without wasting any more time than is necessary on the reporting process. To ensure maximum efficiency: 

 

  • Agree who needs to know what, when and why 
  • Put in place an efficient reporting system 
  • Consider project management software that allows for ongoing communication 
  • Create formal reports only as often as necessary for the success of the programme 
  • Do not provide detail for the sake of detail – summarise the essential data and information 
  • Establish trust between the programme management team and the sponsor team 
  • Generate reports at regular intervals to create continuity and expectations 
  • Do not let reporting get in the way of implementing 

 

Ultimately, reporting procedures should be made as efficient as possible. To find out how Verto can help make your project management more efficient, register for our free 60-day trial today! 


VertoSense: ultimate flexibility with dynamic infographics

 

 

VertoSense is a powerful new tool we’ve introduced in response to the need of our clients to better manage and visualise their project dependencies. 

Instead of just focusing on the traditional elements of tasks & milestones, VertoSense allows users to record the links between any of the project elements. For example, a cost may be dependent on a milestone, an issue’s resolution dependent on an action or even a benefit linked to a change in scope.

Greater flexibility for better business 

The enhanced flexibility and customisation of VertoSense means that project management professionals and stakeholders can make determinations about how dependencies are established and recorded, taking account of subtle dependencies that can be lost in more rigid systems. 

These dependencies can be set up as often as necessary and between as many elements as needed so it really is extremely flexible. 

Intuitive design 

Creating a customised dependency automatically generates a dynamic infographic which shows all the connections. You can see where any other projects are dependent on yours, where your project depends on any others and where you have any internal dependencies. Refining your view to just what you want to see makes assessing impacts as easy and visual as possible.   

 

Pinpoint accuracy 

The VertoSense linking functionality also provides teams and stakeholders with a significantly improved means of communication throughout the project management framework. All project management software does this doesn’t it? Well, not quite in this way. 

With VertoSense, users can share information with their collaborators through pinpointing to get feedback, troubleshoot minor issues, request review and more. The VertoSense function guides contacts to the exact place where you need help so there’s no time wasted trying to direct attention to the relevant area. Such intuitive collaboration is crucial in project management and means users can instantly see what needs to be done, do it and get on with other tasks. 

Communication is as easy as starting the chat - every project automatically has a chat group containing all the project members or you can create your own groups as needed. 

Make it easy to see and understand 

VertoSense can dramatically streamline and simplify your next project management task. From improving recorded dependencies and generating intuitive visuals to helping you see where and how various internal and external projects are connected, this powerful tool can take your project management to the next level.  

This tool offers a customisable solution for those looking to boost communication and increase the transparency of any project. 

VertoSense comes alive in a demo, so to see it in action contact us at info@vertocloud.com or call +44 (0)118 334 6200. 


How agile teams can work together

 

At the heart of any successful project is a well-managed, cohesive team. While this sounds simple, it is often far from it, with team collaboration often hindered by a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment. Increasingly, the demands placed on the modern project management team include shifting priorities and changes in timelines and objectives, as new data is incorporated into the original project. It is, then, vital to put in place an agile team that can effectively work together in spite of the uncertainties they will face.

 

What is agile?

 

“Agile” is now a concept that applies to goals, principles, practices and, of course, teams. Being agile is about setting aside rigid, traditional, 20th-century management techniques, and becoming responsive, flexible and collaborative. Agile teams are poised to respond, adapt and pivot in a working culture that has become increasing volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

 

Agile teams must learn to prioritise responding to change over following a plan – which turns traditional project management techniques upside down. At first glance, the agile workplace, housing an agile team, is not the ideal environment for traditional project management strategies, but project management strategies can be adapted. Project management can also be agile.

 

Making project management agile

 

In an agile environment, project management works differently. Traditional project management establishes a detailed plan, with specific deliverables for each stage, and then follows the plan. Agile project management involves defining a desired outcome, and then working towards it in stages. Each stage of the plan is delivered in a short period of time, and then the team clarifies what needs to be done next.

 

In project management, agility matters most at the point of execution. The idea of agility as a broad ideal may seem inconsistent with the “milestones and deliverables” focus of traditional project management. However, agility at the point of execution is possible in well-managed projects. Teams can work together to execute specific tasks, while remaining responsive and ready to adapt to whatever new issues the execution of that task generates.

 

Project managers who nurture agility within their teams create successful outcomes. They learn to track and monitor progress, identify shifts in priorities and objectives, respond to new information, redistribute collaborative work as needed, map and manage inter-dependencies between different groups, and identify high-potential but overlooked experts who can take the burden off other, over-stretched, team members. Agile project management, far from being a step away from the benefits of traditional project management, builds extra strengths and advantages into the way that the team approaches tasks, deliverables and milestones.

 

Agility in the public sector

 

Agile concepts are already well-established within the private sector, and not just within small businesses and start-ups. Firms such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have been quick to embrace an agile approach, throughout the organisation, and at a deep cultural level, but can this approach translate to public sector organisations with more traditional and measured working practices?

 

Agility in the public sector is possible and highly desirable. However, it needs to be accepted that organisational culture is what drives true agile thinking, and with large organisations, a change of culture is a significant challenge in itself. The first step is an honest assessment of current working culture, which will inform the change needed to transition to an agile approach. Transforming the bureaucracy associated with large public sector organisations into many small, self-contained agile teams, empowered to make rapid decisions and resolve issues quickly, will not happen overnight.

 

The role of the project management office with agile teams

 

There is still a role for the project management office in a world of empowered, self-organising, agile teams, and this role is essential. Agile teams in a large organisation are part of the wider enterprise, and still have important obligations to fulfil. With many independent, agile teams under its wing, the project management office is responsible for ensuring that the organisation is still delivering value, while maintaining quality, reputation and stakeholder confidence. Ultimately, the project management office is still responsible for oversight and governance, even as more power and individual decision-making is delegated to agile teams.

 

Agile project management tools 

 

As project management becomes agile, the tools needed for effective team management evolve. The best agile tools for your team will vary, but they must cover the following important elements.

 

Task management

 

Agile teams need sophisticated task management tools. These tools can take the form of virtual Kanban or Scrum boards with projects, task lists, time records and expenses. This allows team members to track tasks that they are not directly involved in, and makes incomplete, in-progress tasks visible to the whole team, facilitating easy monitoring and “dovetailing” with other tasks.

 

Team collaboration

 

Team collaboration tools allow for centralised, visible communication. Team members can share updates with each other, and with other local and distributed teams, and easily communicate with each other about shifting timelines, task lists, feedback and assignments.

 

Agile metrics, reporting and analytics

 

Reporting and analytics are vital to agile teams. Team members constantly responding to the metrics, data and analysis being compiled by the team as a whole is at the heart of what makes a team agile. These tools need to incorporate time tracking and projection, easy-to-understand progress reports for stakeholders, quality assurance and progress. There also need to be systems in place to identify and remedy project obstacles, evaluate performance and appraise financials.

 

Integrations

 

Any individual tool is only as good as the system in which it operates. How well does each tool play with other tools you are using? The best approach to agile project management is often an integrated software system that can be easily customised to the needs of your team.

 

Project management teams can work together easily and efficiently in an agile environment. However, it does require that traditional project management techniques are adapted, with the core concepts and benefits of agility kept in mind as those adaptations are designed and implemented.

 

To see what Verto can do to help your agile team work together easily and efficiently, register for our free 60 day trial.


How to Prioritise Your Tasks

 

How you prioritise tasks defines the success of any project. Prioritising correctly can make the difference between an easy-to-manage, successful, on-budget project delivered on time and a stressful, failed project delivered late and over budget. But how do you prioritise tasks? And what can trip up you and your team, even if you have the best of intentions? 

The urgency effect 

 

We’re all familiar with the idea of urgent tasks and important tasks. Urgent tasks are ones that are getting very close to their deadline, while important tasks are the ones that will contribute the most to our desired outcome. A task can be very low value but still seem urgent if we feel that we need to get it done today. Another task can be vital to the success of a project, but if the deadline is a long way off, then it is not urgent.

 

Research has shown that people consistently prioritise urgent tasks over more important tasks. This persists even if the results of completing the urgent tasks are of very little value, and even if there’s ample time to complete all the tasks, meaning that the sense of urgency is actually an illusion. Researchers call this effect “mere urgency”, where the urgency of a task distracts us from the fact that the task itself is not important.

 

We tend to do the (rare) tasks that are urgent and important first. Understandably, we also leave the tasks that are not urgent and not important until last. However, in the middle, where we have a lot of medium-priority tasks, we keep prioritising urgent tasks with a low payoff, in terms of results, over important ones with a higher payoff.

 

Managers can, with the right systems, overcome the urgency effect. It’s done by keeping team members focused on outcomes over timelines. It can help to rank each task within a project by importance so that team members can clearly see when they are faced with a very high-priority task, carrying a very important outcome, over a very low-priority task that might have a tighter deadline.

 

Realistic timelines can also help to overcome the urgency effect. People revert to prioritising based solely on urgency when they perceive themselves as being pushed for time. When they feel that they have time to complete all their tasks, they are more likely to prioritise by importance.

 

Balancingindividual and organisational priorities 

 

There is often conflict between individual priorities and organisational or project priorities. In practice, this is often a problem of too many priorities, poorly communicated. If a team receives the message that there are several different priorities, then it can lead to team members placing self-identified priorities over priorities that are actually more important to the project outcomes.

 

The top priority must be clearly identified. If you state that both cutting costs and user satisfaction are top priorities, then every time an individual has to make a decision, it will be made on their self-identified highest priority. To work as a cohesive team, every member must know which to prioritise with every single decision they make.

 

It’s also important to accept that priorities can and do change – often as a result of new issues identified by team members. Therefore, teams need a system that allows team members to communicate easily so that they can log updates, new information, or factors that may lead to a priority shift for the whole team.

 

Approach to risk will influence priorities 

 

Within any project, the leader’s approach to risk will influence the way that priorities are set. More risk-averse leadership generally means that there will be a “spread” of priorities, creating more, and less ambitious, goals and outcomes for the project. Less risk-averse leadership will have fewer priorities, but they will often be more focused and more ambitious.

 

Neither approach is wrong, but they will affect how your project is managed and completed. As we’ve already mentioned, if there are multiple priorities, then they need to be managed carefully to ensure a cohesive approach. Most importantly, there needs to be a clearly identified top priority, to guide individual decisions and help team members prioritise important tasks. Having a spread of priorities also means ensuring that all priorities are compatible – otherwise, team members are at risk of working against each other by focusing on competing priorities.

 

The hierarchy of purpose within an organisation 

 

Understanding an organisation’s hierarchy of purpose is key to understanding what factors should influence priorities. Defining the overreaching purpose of the organisation, and the strategic vision supporting that purpose, is key to setting all future priorities for the organisation, and for individual projects that the organisation implements.

 

The hierarchy of purpose is also key to eliminating priorities. If a current priority does not serve that purpose or support that vision, then it is time to make a tough choice and abandon that priority. It’s also vital to do this with individual projects. Every outcome that a project team is working towards should be aligned with the organisation’s purpose and vision.

 

Managing  priorities  within the project management team 

 

There are a few best practices to follow when managing project priorities.

 

  • Brief the entire team on project outcomes and priorities.
  • Build the organisational and project priorities into the project schedule.
  • Ensure that every team member can easily access the project schedule.
  • Use a collaborative system that allows instant updates on completed or shelved tasks.
  • Create a project backlog system, and identify tasks that are progressing well.
  • Predict and communicate incoming priority shifts.
  • Consistently keep team members focused on important tasks.

 

Much of the above can be done with good project management software. The right software can allow the project schedule to be accessed, viewed and updated by every team member. Immediate communication of when a task is completed, shelved or down-prioritised, along with a clear picture of which tasks are falling behind schedule and which are ahead of schedule, can have a major impact on managing team priorities.

 

To see what Verto can do to improve your project management techniques, register for our free trial!


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.