5 things to do when your project goes wrong

Work in project management long enough, and you learn a very important lesson: Things go wrong. It’s inevitable. Projects fall behind schedule, go over budget or just simply crash and burn. Smart project managers know this and work hard to recognise when they need to step in and take action.

What should you do if you start seeing signs that your project is in trouble? Here are five things to try to get back on track.

  1. Take the lead.

A failing project can send waves of panic through a project management office. Executives, contractors, team members, clients and other stakeholders all have a vested interest in seeing a project through to successful completion; when it becomes clear that’s not going to happen, a strong leader must come forward with a clear, proactive plan. Showing leadership in times of crisis is one of the most essential project management requirements.

  1. Don’t be tempted to simply throw more resources at the problem.

It can be tempting to keep pouring time and money into a flawed project, thinking more resources will solve the problem. Ideally, you will have set exit points into the project management framework ahead of time, giving you an ‘out’ should the project go sideways. If this isn’t the case and simply pulling the plug on the project isn’t possible, consider a more careful allocation of resources instead. Find a mentor to help guide team members, think about the true impact of additional resources before you spend and enlist some help for yourself if the project management concepts are outside your technical expertise.

  1. Don’t sugar coat a problem.

Trying to hide a struggling project won’t make it go away. If anything, this will probably just makes things worse! When faced with a failing project management framework, it’s always best to communicate the problem clearly and with full transparency. You can’t get team members working with you to solve the issue if they don’t know what’s happening. Be honest about what’s gone wrong and what you need to fix it, but avoid spreading blame or making excuses.

  1. Learn from the experience.

A thorough post-mortem review is often one of the most important project management phases. Whether you somehow manage to salvage the project or have to scrap it altogether, there are lessons to be learned. Ask the tough questions: Why did we fail? Where or when did things go wrong? What do we need to do to prevent this happening in future? Create a supportive, relaxed atmosphere where all team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts openly in order to get the most out of your review.

  1. Follow up.

After the review of project management methodologies, be sure to follow through with any useful suggestions you and your team uncovered. Use that information to develop stronger training initiatives, project management tips and best practices, and follow up with decision makers to be sure necessary changes are implemented.

Failed projects are an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and make improvements going forward. Approach them with the right attitude, and you can strengthen your project management toolkit.

To see how Verto can help you successfully navigate your next project, register for our free 60-day trial today!


How Verto can help your team avoid working in silos.

Verto is our innovative cloud-based solution for programme and project management. It uses one unified platform to bring the delivery and stakeholder communities together.

To give a clear visualisation of projects we have two popular methods of viewing information (although the Verto system will let you create any number, depending on your own requirements). Firstly, we have a network visualisation, and secondly programme reporting.

By offering individuals a bird’s eye view of the ways in which their work impacts on the wider project ecosystem teams are encouraged to work together and individuals to step out of a siloed system.

Network Visualisation

We show the interdependencies in a spider diagram – not only does this make it simple for project managers to see where connections exist, but also for all affiliates involved too.

A further feature of our intuitive network system is one which allows you to be able to create dependencies based on any of your project elements, for example, tasks/ milestones, risks or issues allowing you to assess the impact of decision making with all the information needed to make an informed choice.

Programme Reporting

Our platform is based on the premise that every project is part of a hierarchical structure. One example would be a portfolio consisting of several programmes each with multiple projects at different stages of implementation.

Laid out in a hierarchical manner, our colour-coded system makes it easy to get a clear picture of how all the projects inside of a programme are performing, even at a quick glance. For each project and programme and their individual elements, we include a RAG status which gets updated as-and-when any changes occur.

By being able to see all this information in one place, you can act quickly and concisely to rectify any problems that may have occurred at any of these levels. Our system also enables effective communication between relevant project managers, team members, or stakeholders who need to be kept up to speed.

Using Verto makes collaboration more straightforward and efficient, helping you eliminate a lot of the potential bottlenecks in bringing your project to a successful conclusion. Try our 60-day Free Trial and see how Verto can support your organisation today.


Herefordshire & Worcestershire STP Case Study

Our case study on Herefordshire & Worcestershire STP shows how Verto as improved digital collaboration by streamlining their processes and documentation, enabling a single view of programme information; this has simplified their reporting management systems, to a single click.

“The greatest benefits of Verto are the ability to share, view and edit programme information without fear of losing anything, instead of multiple spreadsheets and word documents, there is a single view of information that is entered in the system and saved automatically.’’

Šorena Maguire, PMO – NHS Redditch & Bromsgrove, NHS South Worcestershire & NHS Wyre Forest CCGs

Read the full case study here: https://goo.gl/1Zzatx


How innovation has changed project management

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint one single technology that has changed the landscape of project management due to the sheer volume of tools that are available today.

Let’s begin with one of the most common forms of technology that is used in practically every business – emails. Not only is it convenient to send information that is easily tracked (through email threads), but it also reduces the necessity for continuous physical meetings. Everything you need to pass over, even if that’s a text file, spreadsheet or slideshow, can be sent via email.

With so many tools at the disposal of the project manager, you’re almost spoilt for choice! Software, such as our Verto cloud system, can be used to quickly and efficiently allocate new tasks to employees while giving them all the information they need. You can track the progress of these tasks and swiftly communicate with your colleagues should anything go awry.

One of the key problems that destabilise even the best-planned projects is miscommunication. Before the invention and implementation of the various technologies which are available today, misunderstandings would have been far more common. With the prevalence of instant messaging, and real-time, up-to-date contact, these problems have been significantly reduced.

The need for live updates has been met by recent technological developments. If any issues arise, they can be easily located, diagnosed and solved before they get out of hand. This goes hand-in-hand with improved communication – the fewer contact issues there are, the less likely it is that there will be any problems over the project’s lifespan.

A point touched on earlier is the movement away from physical meetings. This frees up time for the people who are working on the project, the project manager themselves, the client and the stakeholders. It also means that less time is wasted checking the clock or worrying about missing the start of meetings!

Instead of having to call a meeting every time one of the team or the project manager needs ideas, it is now possible to have those ideas sent to your phone or computer via instant messaging. These conversations are all trackable, so if you forget what was mentioned, you can simply scroll back through the conversation to find what you’re looking for.

Before technology took off, if you were unwell or couldn’t attend a meeting due to other engagements, you would have to sit and trawl through pages upon pages of minutes to get back up to speed, wasting vital working time. Nowadays, you can be present in a meeting even if you aren’t physically there! Video calling has become ubiquitous in project management and the ability to type up meeting notes and send them to employees means that everyone can keep up with the assignment.

Our cloud-based software allows a company to allocate its resources more efficiently. Until recently, dedicated project management software was often too expensive to implement except for larger public organisations or very profitable private companies. Try our 60-day free trial now and see how Verto can support your organisation.


Getting all the information on your project in one place.

Verto is our innovative cloud-based solution for programme and project management that uses one platform to bring the delivery and stakeholder community together.

One of the great strengths of our platform is the ability to provide project managers with a visual presentation of the connections between ongoing activities at every level within the purview of the project management team. As most project managers will know, being organised can be a defining factor as to whether or not a project has a successful outcome – we here at Verto know the struggle, which is why we want to make life easier when it comes to staying on top of things!

Our platform shows the interrelationships between the tasks within a project and the connections between the projects that make up a programme. We make it easy for project and programme managers to look at the hierarchical structure of their areas of responsibility and see where interdependencies exist.

An easy-to-understand spider diagram is how we achieve this visualisation – not only does this make it simple for the project manager themselves to see where connections exist, but also for all affiliates. This diagram shows the working status between portfolios, programmes, projects and tasks. Along with this, it reveals the interdependencies between any elements within programs and across projects, programmes and portfolios. For example, our network diagram can show how the risk associated with one project is related to reaching a milestone in another project or how current issues in one project affect an ongoing task in another project.

Our network diagram makes it clear to all project managers that they are part of a team and are not working by themselves, as we show how all the activities that people are working on are interrelated. This way, we make sure that everyone sees the big picture, resulting in better cooperation all around.

"At this level the application can be configured to your specific organisation’s needs"

The system is based on the premise that every project is part of a hierarchical structure. At this level the application can be configured to your specific organisation’s needs, for example, you can show several portfolios and the inter-connecting programmes and all their related projects and tasks.

Using Verto makes it easy to visualise the progress of each programme, project and task and understated the progress and stage for each item in the network. We give you a visualisation of how everything is connected, something that would be extremely difficult to do manually if you have, for example, 50 projects on 50 worksheets. That level of administration just isn’t feasible for even the most organised people out there!

Our platform produces authoritative reports that present information in a manner suitable for official reporting for any government oversight or regulatory agencies. It is simple to see the status of each project, identify any current issues, determine the costs for a specific timeframe and see if any projects are running at a deficit. Reports can be fully customised to show exactly the information that is relevant to your project.

Our network system displays both bottom-up and top-down information, allowing project managers to see how all activities fit together and how changing a deadline for one activity can affect other activities within and between projects. We make it easy to collect the information required to determine how to allocate resources effectively so you can spend your time being productive!

Using Verto makes collaboration more straightforward and more efficient, helping you eliminate a lot of the potential bottlenecks in bringing your project to a successful conclusion. Try our 60-day Free Trial and see how Verto can support your organisation.


How to create social proof for your project.

Social Proof (also known as social influence) is a mental shortcut people use to judge what is the right course of action by determining what others think is correct. People will allow their decision making to be influenced by the behaviour of others, on the basis that they assume this is the right decision.

Social influence has been around for centuries, from creating social and political movements to getting a laugh out of theatre audiences (laughter is contagious, and producers will often plant members of the audience cued to laugh at the right time). More recently social media has enabled a new generation of ‘influencers.’

 

Psychologists have been conducting experiments since the 1930s to demonstrate the power of social proof on the human thought process.

The power of consensus

Robert Cialdini, a well-respected professor of psychology and marketing, examined the power of “social proof”— One of the most powerful tools of influence is consensus. When an individual sees themselves as similar to the people around them, they are more likely to adopt and observe their behaviour as correct.

Today’s increasingly connected digital world provides more opportunities than ever to share information that can influence how others think and behave. Ever found yourself persuaded to book a restaurant by the number of positive reviews on TripAdvisor or to pick a specific vendor on Amazon? Or perceiving a Twitter user with a million followers as more reputable than one with only a dozen? You’re not imagining this. Social media and mobile technology have created a wide range of new opportunities to build the sphere of influence to gain approval for a project.

The need to belong sits firmly in the centre of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People like to follow the crowd—it’s the nature of a herd mentality. When people see there are a large group of people doing something, they’re more likely to join in. Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own.

People feel compelled to belong, and we want to be part of a larger crowd.  Social proof can be a key way to influence stakeholder approval and goodwill for your programme.

The power of authority

The endurance of the influence model shouldn’t be surprising: powerful forces of human nature underlie it.

Smart organisations seeking to win support for major programmes recognise that key opinion leaders may exert more influence than CEOs. As audiences have become more cynical, audiences have started to trust influencers, earned media and public opinion more than the official messaging channels themselves.

Something important to keep in mind is finding the right match for your audience. If your demographic is senior citizens getting ready for retirement, teaming up with the latest teenage YouTube star might not be the best fit.

The power of storytelling

A recent Harvard Business Review article looked at the power of storytelling to influence audiences. When leaders develop a story that helps all stakeholders understand where the project is headed, it’s purpose, and it is important. Checking in to sense how the story is being received is also useful. These change stories not only help get out the message but also, recent research finds, serve as an effective influencing tool.

The big takeaway in regard to social proof is that people feel safer jumping on board when they see more people have joined in. By establishing the benefits that your project will bring, you can start to build a trusted voice of authority, that will help to influence stakeholder opinion in favour of your project.


Productivity Hacks: 5 tricks to getting more done with you day.

5 tricks to getting more done with your day

Do you sometimes look back at the end of the day, wondering where it has gone and whether you could have accomplished more? Does that make you feel that somehow you managed to spend your day wading through emails and urgent requests for help instead of completing that report you’ve been trying to finish all week?

You vow to have better time-management skills going forward and learn to say “no” more! Time is finite, and once it ticks away, it’s gone for good. You can’t save some of today’s time for use tomorrow.

So, while you can’t miraculously pause time, you can manage your own time, and make the most of the working day. Here are some self-management tips that will help you be more productive and use your time wisely.

1. Setting goals for your time

Stay focused by starting each workday with a review of your goals. Develop a prioritised daily to-do list to keep you on track, and manage how you spend your time.

A clearly defined plan of action that identifies the tasks required to reach a specific goal, along with setting the milestones you need to reach along the way. This will give you targets to aim for, and an internal high-five (which is a natural serotonin boost) for achieving each one.

2. Making your daily tasks achievable

Be realistic about how much time it takes to complete a task. Time management can feel like a tug of war, and you are pulled in every direction by people wanting to get something done.

It’s important to prioritise your tasks effectively, get logical on why you should be doing one job ahead of another.

Delegating is often the only way to get everything done on time, so make sure you focus on the bits you can complete, as for help with anything else.

A great tip from our productivity queen Mel is to try to touch something only once. If she opens an email,  she’ll respond to it straight away instead of waiting until later and potentially forgetting about it.

3. Teamwork and saying ‘no!’

Always feeling like you are being asked to help out on other people’s projects?

One of the best rules is just to say “no”. We don’t mean say no to everything, but learning to set good boundaries and saying “no” when it’s appropriate can help free up your day! (however, always avoid alienating your boss!).

Set deadlines and stick to them.

4. Meetings are (often) essential – but make sure they’re necessary and keep to time.

It goes without saying that you should always be on time for appointments! Beginning and ending meetings on time (you have determined that a meeting is essential before scheduling it, right?) is vital to ensure the rest of your day can stay as productive as possible.

While in meetings, have a recorder or notepad with you to capture action items for your to-do list and agree who is doing what, and when it will be completed.

5. Your health and well-being while at work is crucial

Finally, and most importantly taking care of yourself on a day-to-day basis is vital – regular breaks to recharge yourself when needed are essential. You can keep your energy levels high by eating healthy snacks, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.


5 steps to developing your stakeholder communications plan.

5 key elements to your stakeholder communications plan – check out these tips on how to effectively keep your interactions productive!

If you want your project to succeed, you need to have excellent communication with your stakeholders. A communications plan is a documented strategy for what you are trying to achieve: who you are trying to reach with your communications, when you will reach out to them, what key messages you will aim to get across, and finally how you are going to distribute that message.

 

1. Developing your key messages
If you want to get buy-in from your stakeholders, they must understand what your project is trying to accomplish, and the potential benefits for them. For example, if you are proposing to build a new manufacturing plant, communicating with local government officials, regulatory authorities and the local community could highlight the benefits of the project. If you need financial support, well thought out communications with potential investors could attract the funds you need.

Key aspects of getting the messaging right:

  • What issues are most important for your stakeholders?
  • What are some of the frequently asked questions your stakeholders have?
  • What does your audience need to understand?
  • What actions should the stakeholders take because of your message?

2. Know who you are talking to.
Your audience could include the local .community, funding sources, government agencies and regulatory agencies.
Your various stakeholders will have different priorities, attitudes and interests. A good strategy will make sure that your stakeholders receive information that is relevant to their needs and will help build a positive attitude towards your project.

3. Timing your messages
Once you know the message you are delivering and who you are talking to, you will need to establish a timeframe for delivering your information and messages. Knowing what information will be needed, and when, to help stakeholders understand your project is key to a well thought out communications plan.
You don’t need a complex system to do this - using a calendar will give everyone (internally) an understanding of what messages are being sent out and when. Including what information will be communicated weekly, monthly and quarterly. Being able to automate reporting and project updates is a bonus for projects that involve stakeholders who require regular updates on your project’s progress.

4. Delivering your message
Depending on your audience and your message there are several ways that you might choose to deliver your message.
Whether you are delivering project reports, addressing a meeting, setting up interviews with reporters and issuing press releases or monitoring social media, your communications should be informative and provide useful information of the potential impact of your project
Good communication with your stakeholders is crucial in establishing a dialogue with them. By developing a way to get feedback from your stakeholders, you can better gauge their attitudes and interests and tailor your future communications to address any concerns they may have.

5. Building lasting relationships
When you communicate with your stakeholders on a regular basis, you can help them get a real understanding of how your project benefits them and importantly build trust. This strategy enables you to develop a long-term relationship with them and makes it more likely they will continue to support your project through the implementation process.

Verto can provide you with work collaboration and project management software that helps the project management office and stakeholders interact more efficiently.
Our cloud-based software provides dashboard status and reports as well as document storage and sharing. Try our 60-day Free Trial and see how Verto can support your organisation.


How the right data enables effective stakeholder management

We look at why data is vital to stakeholder management and the key information you need to know

Stakeholders are organisations or individuals who have an interest in your project either because they are directly involved in working on the project, or are affected by the project’s outcomes.

Stakeholders can make or break a project (try planning a new road without input from the public and see what happens!), so effective stakeholder management is crucial to a project’s success.

When we use the term stakeholder management, we mean systematically identifying, analysing, planning and implementing steps to engage with your stakeholders in a way that incorporates their positive influences and minimises the impact of any negative influences. Think of stakeholder management as four interrelated steps:

Identify your stakeholders

  • Determine their interests and influence
  • Develop communication management strategies
  • Engage with your stakeholders to channel their power to help you meet your project’s goals.

Data is vital to successful stakeholder management, and there are two types of data you need to have on your radar.  Firstly identifying your stakeholders and their influence, secondly, understanding the data that will explain the progress of your project in a meaningful way.

Identify your stakeholders: creating a stakeholder map.

First, you need to collect data about your stakeholders, which basically means implementing the first two steps of your stakeholder management plan.

You can identify your stakeholders by brainstorming, relying on your experience, conducting interviews, doing some research and so on.

Assessing stakeholder influence

Classify the stakeholders by the of potential impact they could have on the project. You should rank your stakeholders on a scale of low/medium/high based on their estimated level of interest and influence. The ones you identify as most likely to have the most influence and impact on your project are your key stakeholders.

The data you collect to assess your stakeholders should include:

  • How the project will impact them
  • Their attitude toward the project – supportive, ambivalent or negative
  • Their expectations and what influences their opinion of the project.

Stakeholder communication

Your analysis of the types of stakeholder and their interests will be vital in determining the data and how you present this to your stakeholders in your communication management plan.

It is probably wise to decide appropriate communication strategies for stakeholder groups depending on how much influence they have. The way you present project data to a stakeholder who is in favour of your project will almost certainly be different from the way you present the same data to a stakeholder who has a negative view of your project.

Your communication strategy should address the needs and concerns of each stakeholder; you should identify the purpose of each type of communication, the data you will include, the frequency, and how you will evaluate the effectiveness of the delivery and information.

Review and refine

During the project lifecycle, conduct regular reviews of your communications strategy to consider the latest feedback from your stakeholders. By collaborating with your stakeholders, keeping them informed with the most recent data reports about your project, you have the best chance of keeping your stakeholders on the same page and help make your project a successful one.

Verto can provide you with work collaboration and project management software that helps the project leaders and stakeholders interact more efficiently and improves project control.

Our cloud-based software provides dashboard status and reports as well as document storage and sharing. Stay in touch with us, follow us on LinkedIn and chat with us on Twitter to learn more about our ideas and software. It takes a lot of work to engage stakeholders for the duration of a project effectively, but Verto can simplify the process for you. Register for our newsletter to learn more about our success stories.

 


Programme Management Software that works for LEPs

The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership is recognised for excellent programme management. They are an award-winning partnership, managing millions of pounds of government funding for local initiatives. The LEP uses Verto to enable successful delivery across their programmes.

The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (The LLEP) aim to make their region the destination of choice for successful businesses. To achieve this aim, the LLEP funds a number of projects and programmes through their own grant schemes.

Before implementing Verto the LLEP relied on Excel and Word documents, which meant that the PMO had no clear oversight across the projects.  In reality, this made it almost impossible for them to view all of the LEP’s outputs and outcomes in one place.

 

Manage and track programmes

The LLEP wanted to be able to easily track cost against original funding applications and proactively manage and report on each programme, to ensure that the agreed beneficial outcomes were delivered to the region.

The information in the system allows the LLEP to easily manage its budgets. Grant recipients can claim via Verto and the team can authorise claims quickly, which benefits both them and the organisations they fund.

Because the team only input data once they are saving a huge amount of time. Rather than searching through documents they can now see it all on one screen. With centralised and standardised data, they can also run reports at the touch of a button.

Reporting at the touch of a button

Verto Executive and Government Reporting provides essential accountability and evidence for each of the funded programmes. The LLEP has introduced reports that can be generated in a single click,

The LLEP recognised that they needed a more robust way to manage public funds and give them easy access to quality management information. Verto’s dashboard means the PMO team can easily see the status of all their programmes and projects. This is helping them prioritise their efforts and manage risk.

The LLEP now has all their programme data in one place, providing instant access to information on project progress, achievement and costs. There’s no confusion over version control or data sorting to achieve a clear situation report.

The team at the LLEP now have a clear view of each project’s whole cycle.  They can easily monitor and track risk and progress through to project delivery and monitor the outcomes. At any time, the team can easily see if a project is meeting its expected targets in terms of outputs, outcomes and spend.

The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership case study can be found here.

As well as the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, the Black Country Consortium Limited also use Verto. If you’d like to discuss ways to achieve recognition for excellence in programme management for your Local Enterprise Partnership, please email TMI or call 0118 334 6200.  For more information visit TMI Systems and Verto.