5 New Years Resolutions for Project Managers

 

As we reach the end of 2018, you might be thinking of adding some career focused resolutions on to your personal goals list so here's our thoughts on 5 key resolutions project managers should be considering to make sure you start the new year in top form.

1. Communicate better - not just with your project teams but with stakeholders and project sponsors too. Make sure your project management tools actually help you to achieve this.

2. Manage expectations - focus your output on projects that have a clear written and approved scope of work, as otherwise how will you know what needs to be delivered and when? Make your time and effort count.

3. Collaborate - yes with your own team, but open up the potential to draw on knowledge and experience from a wider range of people. Build your network to develop a rich vein of insight, inspiration and interest in of your project.

4. Know your stakeholders - and make sure your team do too. If your team have a a clear understanding of who the project stakeholders are , it will help them work to and manage stakeholder expectations resulting in improved communications and understanding throughout the project.

5. Be your teams biggest champion - shout their praises from the rooftops, show them you've got their back. Appreciate and praise what went right and only offer constructive criticism when things go wrong. Be a leader by example.


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!


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.

 


10 top tips to leverage technology in project management.

Unless your company is still using typewriters and rotary phones (and in that case, you need more help than we can offer here!), digital transformation is probably already an integral part of your project management methodologies.

Here are our top tips for leveraging the power of digital transformation in project management teams.

 

  1. Stay calm!

Project management is constantly evolving and even though new methods and approaches can seem initially disruptive to an established framework, the payoffs in agility and results are well worth making adjustments. Remember to use all the digital tools at your disposal to help take some of the weight off of your shoulders.

  1. Organize for flexibility

The speed at which the project management life cycle moves means that keeping things simple by using the best software as a result of digital transformation is key. The easiest teams to manage are small, collaborative and flexible.

  1. Don't forget to KISS

Keep things simple. You can keep things moving even faster by taking a simplified approach. Test rapid prototyping or break down complex projects into smaller, more manageable phases. Just be sure sprints aren't too rushed, as this can mean significant defects or problems may go unnoticed until it's too late.

  1. Work together

Keep lines of communication open, seek multiple viewpoints and encourage collaboration. This is especially important for large-scale project management concepts that span teams, departments or physical locations. It's essential for team members to stay open-minded and build up a tolerance for failure.

  1. Emphasise results over process

Planning, budgeting, forecasting, risk assessment and all the rest are still critical project management, but be sure to stay focused on results. Becoming a slave to 'the plan' can be a significant obstacle to reaching goals and project objectives. Don't be afraid to take advantage of the software available and adjust when necessary.

  1. Communicate

Digital transformation also requires an adjustment in the way you communicate with project stakeholders. One of the biggest ways to improve here is by building tools that facilitate faster, more accurate communication in real time, such as an online community where project stakeholders can access the latest updates and information.

  1. Make time for face time

Digital communication can help keep things moving and allow on-the-go face-to-face meetings with key stakeholders and your team to take place. This ease of communication and the speed at which it can happen is vital in the current digital age.

  1. Cater to the end user

Project management in the digital age is all about the end user. Always keep the client top of mind, striving to deliver products or services quickly and continuously.

  1. Get stakeholders on board

The nature of collaborative, high-frequency delivery in digital project management means that all stakeholders have to be kept in the loop. From top executives down to the last team member, everyone should be invested and motivated to see a project succeed.

  1. Understand the benefits

Digital transformation has a number of benefits for project management methodologies. If things get tough, remember the advantages:

  • More flexibility
  • Greater productivity
  • Better transparency
  • Improved quality
  • Less risk of overlooked objectives
  • Increased engagement and satisfaction for stakeholders

Conclusion

Managing projects and getting the most out of the recent digital transformation can be a complex process. By embracing agility and taking the time to focus on what's important, you can dramatically improve your chances of success.

For even more project management tips, insight, industry news and research, follow Verto Cloud on LinkedIn.


Keeping your project on track.

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.

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!"

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!

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 around the world; around the UK but also around the world because 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. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with all the latest news in the industry!


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.


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.

 


Our five golden rules for a successful meeting

Our five golden rules for a successful meeting

 

In our post on 9th March, we looked at the top five skills all project managers should have. Number five on our list was being able to manage meetings. Because well-run meetings are such a vital part of a project’s success, we said we’d look at them again in a future post.

So today, we’re going to look at how you can make sure your meetings are a success.

The professional meeting goer

Many of us go to so many meetings it can seem like that’s all our job is. An endless round of agendas, minutes, background papers, reports, coffee, biscuits and hoping you’ll be able to park.

Will your morning meeting be over in time so you can go back to your office before your afternoon meeting? How many of the people who were in your last meeting will be in your next meeting? How many people do you only ever meet in meetings?

What are all these meetings for?

But, however much we may moan about them, we do need meetings. They’re a key part of how we share information, make decisions and keep a project moving forward.

Meetings can also be the only time different people involved in a project get to see each other. So they can be an important way to keep partners connected and involved.

How to make sure people come to your meetings

When people are confident that your meetings are relevant, useful, well run and overall a good use of their time, they’ll come to them. And, perhaps more importantly, they’ll keep coming.

This is key, because consistent commitment and participation from the right people is one of the things that will help your projects succeed.

So take a look at our golden rules for how to run a successful meeting. They’ll help your meetings succeed and, as a result, help your projects succeed too.

 

Our five golden rules for successful meetings

 

 1. Make sure you invite the right people

Only invite people who are involved in the business of the meeting, can contribute to it and make decisions - or who have a direct link to those who can. This is particularly important with public sector organizations where the decision-making process can have several layers and be complex.

Generally, for a meeting to be effective no more than 12 people should be part of the core group. However, from time to time you may also want to invite people who you need to hear from or who need to hear what you’re discussing.

 

2. Plan the meeting carefully

When you’re putting the agenda together make sure you stay focused on a clear outcome (or outcomes, but not too many – see point about timing below). Think about what the meeting needs to decide, discuss and hear about now. If something doesn’t require immediate action or isn’t clearly relevant, leave it for a later date or don’t include it at all.

Show whether each agenda item is for decision, information or discussion. As people are usually more lively and creative at the start of a meeting, put items that need mental energy and clear heads at the top of the agenda. However, it can also be helpful to put items of significant interest and concern further down the agenda. This can help people get over the natural attention lag that happens about 20 minutes in to a meeting.

It’s also worth thinking about the impact agenda items will have on the group. Some will bring people together while others can create a divide. The order in which you include these items will make a difference to the whole atmosphere of the meeting. For example, it is worth ending the meeting with an item that creates consensus so that people leave on a positive note.

 

3. Time the meeting carefully

Set a time for your meeting and stick to it. And try not to let it last longer than two hours. Meetings that go on too long become less effective.

Include the start and end time on the agenda as well as the timing for each agenda item. This will help keep people focused and prevent the meeting from overrunning.

We all hate lengthy meetings that go on and on so doing this will help people look at your meetings in a positive way and encourage them to attend regularly.

 

4. Set the right tone

You, or the chair, need to set the tone for the meeting from the start. Make sure it’s purposeful, focused and energetic. However, you also want people to feel comfortable and able to contribute so make a conscious effort to include everyone and allow some time for a more easy-going approach.

The right tone also relates to what happens outside of the meeting. So make it clear you expect people to prepare, to turn up on time, to participate and to carry out actions they commit to.

 

5. Follow-up the meeting properly

Once you’ve held your meeting send the minutes to everyone promptly, preferably within a week. Include the actions you agreed on and the names of the people who will carry them out.

Minutes also help people who weren’t at the meeting catch up on what was discussed and agreed. If necessary, get in touch with them in person to share what happened and discuss any particular issues with them. This will show they were missed and encourage them to stay committed to the work of the group and attend next time.

Well-run meetings are particularly useful when you’re managing multi-agency projects. They can bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t meet. They can help to define the partnership. And they can help people to understand both their collective aim and the way in which they and others can contribute to and influence this.

 

To find out more about how Verto can make your project management easier please call us on 0844 870 8785 or message us here.