person stands arms open celebrating success under sunset sky

What makes a successful project manager?

 

Successful project management professionals who fast-track up the career ladder tend to have a few things in common. They deliver successful outcomes, keep their stakeholders happy and help bring in projects on time and on budget. Obviously, training and experience influence how well members of the PMO perform, but there are some habits anyone can cultivate if they want to be a successful project manager.  

 

Pick your team strategically 

 

Great project managers pick the right team for the project. Not just the best individuals, but the right team. Know who is in your team, what they can do and how they can fit in with all the other team members and their skills.  

 

Be a people person  

 

Now that you have a great team, manage them well. Get to know them. Use their skills. Develop good team building skills. Learn to communicate, motivate and reward your team members. Use everyone’s strengths in both planning and implementing the necessary tasks. Take responsibility for your part in any problems and give credit where credit is due. 

 

Manage issues efficiently 

 

All projects are affected by issues you didn’t plan for. However, counter-intuitively, you can plan for the unexpected. Good project managers have processes in place to quickly assess and respond to issues so that problems are dealt with promptly and efficiently. This is where a good project management system comes into play.   Verto gets rid of time consuming admin such as trawling through email trails, scrutinizing spreadsheets and documents and constant vigilence around version control - leaving project managers to do those things that are going highlight their abilities and profile.  In short, by working smarter, successful project managers learn where to use their skills to maximum advantage.  They know that using technology to take out the admin slog enables them to focus on the areas that deliver results. 

 

Track time and cost

 

One of the most common reasons a project is assessed as unsuccessful is that it exceeded its budget. Tracking costs can allow you to predict and avoid budget overspend or plan for it by reallocating resources.  

 The other common reason a project is seen as a failure is when it significantly overruns its deadline. Time is like money. It needs to be closely monitored so that extra resources can be allocated to tasks that might otherwise slow down the entire project. 

 

Plan for change 

 

Change that affects a project should not be a threat to project completion. In fact, the possibility of change is one of those variables that should be planned for even though you may not be sure exactly how or when it will present itself. Good project managers are flexible and resourceful. If they need to make changes to the original plan, they use the opportunity to improve on the original plan. 

 

Update the schedule  

 

Keeping your schedule updated is perhaps the most important communication task that keeps a project moving forward. When things change, make sure that everyone affected knows about it. This includes the stakeholders as well as the team members.   With an integrated project management tool such as Verto, updating the project schedule can be done and live in a couple of clicks, with stakeholders notified,  resource plans updated all without breaking stride.

 

Manage risk 

 

Identifying, assessing and managing risk is a vital part of any project. It is also ongoing. It is not enough to identify potential risks at the beginning of the project and then simply monitor them. Risk assessment should be carried out regularly throughout the project life cycle to identify and manage new risks as they arise. 

 

Deliver 

 

Perhaps the most obvious mark of a good project manager is the ability to deliver the desired outcomes. Whatever happens, great project managers deliver the changes they promised, every time.   

 

Verto is a system that makes these things look easy, making you look good and keeping you on the fast track.  For more information and to see Verto in action contact us on info@vertocloud.com or sign up for a  free trial

 


people looking at reporting information print outs and mobile data on table

10 ways a project management approach is helpful

 A project management approach can have a large impact on the success of any project. However, many managers are reluctant to re-position their team, approach or budget to focus on project management. They may argue that it is expensive and that they can manage their own team on a certain project just as they do on a day-to-day basis.  This approach, however, overlooks the vital differences between routine management and project management and how a project management approach is actually helpful to achieving successful delivery. 

 

 

 

1. Avoid the admin time drain

Running a project without having a project management approach in place is usually a false economy. Projects involve a lot of moving parts. They require constant communication and collaboration, and they can bring with them specific issues involving many team members working, sometimes remotely, to update data and documents. This means that issues such as version control can quickly get out of hand. 

 

Working on a project without collaboration and project management software in place can unnecessarily complicate circumstances.  If you are relying on email, spreadsheets, documents and calendars to try and stay on top of the initiation, progress and performance of your projects then you are having juggle a lot of complex admin.  That's just managing the information, never mind reporting on it.  All of this saps time, time that could be spent more usefully doing more interesting and productive things. 

 

2. Keep track

Having an easy to use collaboration, reporting and management tool to hand can solve problems that you did not even know that you had. Project management software will simplify your project, especially if you are: 

  • Communicating remotely  
  • Sharing large files 
  • Regularly updating centralised information and data 
  • Emailing attachments  
  • Amending and annotating documents  
  • Trying to manage version control   
  • Manually creating reports  
  • Waiting for the completion of certain tasks so that other tasks can start 
  • Constantly pursued by people chasing you for approvals so that they can move on with their work  

 

A lack of project management techniques and software leads to a lack of clarity on who is doing what as well as what is important and what is urgent or not. Without proper project management in place, it is almost impossible to work out how different tasks involved in the project fit together, who is waiting for whom and what needs to be a priority for the project to move forward. 

 

Good project management greatly increases the chances of delivering a project on time, within budget and with all its objectives met. However, there is more to the process. With an effective project management approach in place, the benefits go beyond simply delivering what you promised when you promised it. There are other advantages that help the project run smoothly and reduce stress for everyone involved. 

 

3. Make Quick and effective decisions

 

Waiting for decisions and experiencing confusion over who handles specific decisions are major causes of delay with many projects. Good project management clearly lays out whose approval is necessary for which decisions and only puts relevant decisions in front of the team members that need to see them. This means that decision-making is quick and effective throughout the project’s life cycle, allowing it to move quickly from one stage to the next. 

 

4. Stakeholders know what to expect 

 

A project management approach ensures that stakeholders stay informed of progress, delays and key changes as the project progresses. This keeps everyone satisfied and enables stakeholders and team members to agree on what they will deliver, even if this changes slightly (or even drastically) from the objectives laid out in the original business case. 

 

5. Problems resolve quickly 

 

A good project management approach incorporates risk management processes. This means that risks undergo regular assessment, anticipation and preparationEasy, real-time communication is another feature of good project management software, and it allows both current and potential risks to stay on everyone’s radar. This lets all team members be proactive about problem-solving and facilitates engaging talk about the problems encountered and the solutions implemented. 

 

6. Team members are more satisfied and motivated 

 

Controlled projects with few surprises are more enjoyable and satisfying to work on. When team members are all working collaboratively and proactively, it leads to a happy, motivated and efficient environment that saves time, money and stress for both managers and clients. Of course,  the other major benefit that flows from this is increased productivity.  Given we are all working in a climate of doing more for the same or less, a project management approach coupled with the right delivery tool means less time doing time consuming admin and more precious time doing more productive and worthwhile activities  -  undoubtedly helpful for the individual, team and organisation.

 

7. Controlled scope and costs  

 

Badly managed scope is a major cause of projects over-running their budget and timescale. Costs can quickly escalate when a project has no clear definition or constant monitoring. Project management software allows for the tracking of costs in real time and a solid overview of the allocation of resources. This facilitates proactive budget management as the project progresses. 

 

8. Dealing with variables 

 

Projects rarely run smoothly from inception to delivery. One of the criticisms of project management in today’s dynamic and fast-changing work environment is that it is too rigid and inflexible. This certainly does not need to be the case, however.. Even old-style project management included techniques to monitor, re-assess and adapt circumstances according to variables that were likely to crop up but unpredictable. Modern project management software makes this process easier than ever, allowing projects to stay on track overall despite situations that impact certain tasks and processes. 

 

9. Built-in quality control  

 

Good project management techniques and software can ensure that the quality of deliverables is consistent and sufficient as measured against pre-defined objectives. Gated phases are part of the process and involve the assessment of quality, applicability and return on investment. These phases provide teams with the time and processes to examine and test outputs regularly as the project moves from one stage to the next. 

 

10. Deliver real value  

 

A good project management approach allows for strategic alignment. The project manager, team members and stakeholders can track not only what they deliver but also how that aligns with the strategic framework for the entire project. They can put processes in place to monitor pre-defined deliverables and assess and evaluate whether the project is actually delivering real value for the organisation. Properly applied project management techniques ensure that the goals of an individual project remain closely aligned with the strategic goals of the company. 

 

Great project management software for all team members helps deliver successful and stress-free projects. To find out how Verto project management software can help with your next project, you can experience the software in action via our demo or  free trial. Contact us at info@vertocloud.com to find out more. 


When high profile projects experience delay, where do you turn?

 

Good project management can help guard against delays in project completion. It is not unusual, however, for projects to experience delays, even when they have significant resources behind them.  So when high profile projects experience delay, where do you turn? 

 

A recent report by the National Audit Office  attempted to assess the success of over 300 projects that left the Government Major Projects Portfolio between 2011 and 2017. The resulting report found that even in the case of these strategically significant government projects, incomplete data made it difficult to assess whether the projects were completed successfully and on time. In short, poor records and reporting make it difficult to keep track of whether major government projects are delivering on their objectives, according to the NAO.

 

Organise for results

 

Here at Verto, we are aware from our extensive work with Local Government and across the NHS how vital it is that complex government projects are closely tracked at every stage. Managing time and avoiding major delays is a particularly common challenge, and one that it is difficult to address in a large, complex and far-reaching project environment unless the right tools and processes are in place from the beginning.

 

The bigger the project, the more difficult it is to ensure every outcome is delivered on time. Unfortunately, the bigger the project, the higher the cost of delayed completion, making delays as much of a budget issue as a time issue. Projects that run over deadline tend to run over budget, and the larger the project, the more significant this becomes.

 

Using the right project management software can help project teams to both avoid and plan for delays. It is essential to put processes and communication channels in place that will allow everyone involved to know who to turn to, who to inform and how to reallocate resources quickly in the event of a potential delay. There are several things to do to enable your team to manage large and complex projects while also dealing with real and potential delays effectively.

 

Set realistic deadlines

 

Unrealistic deadlines are often an unacknowledged issue behind high profile project delays. Deadlines are important to guide the team towards their milestones in a timely matter, but constantly working towards unrealistic deadlines puts teams under excessive pressure, lowers morale and makes project delays inevitable.

 

When setting deadlines, project managers have a responsibility to their team. The team will work best when deadlines are designed to realistically fit with the actual work required and resources available, incorporating all relevant constraints and extenuating circumstances and reflecting all risks and priorities. In addition, those deadlines should be carefully defined and documented as part of the project definition process. The specific results needed, and the value being produced at each deadline should be clear in order to guide and motivate the team.  Importantly, those deadlines should be capable of being monitored and maintained by the project manager, incorporating changes to the project as they are approved and implemented.

 

Plan for delays

 

While project delays are seen by stakeholders as undesirable, they are common and, most project managers would admit, to be expected. When we talk of “unexpected” project delays, we generally mean not knowing when or why the delay would happen, not that there is surprise over the fact that something happened to delay the project.

 

Some delays are more predictable than others. Late delivery from outside sources or contractors, for example, can easily delay a project. Some delays are highly improbable and much more unpredictable. It is impossible, and undesirable, to factor every possible delay into a project schedule. Doing so would result in a project being deemed so time consuming and costly that it would never be approved.

 

Predictable delays can certainly be factored into the project by using a risk management plan. Less predictable delays may not be an established part of the documented risk management plan, but project teams can still do everything in their power to plan for the unexpected.

 

Expect the unexpected

 

Unforeseeable delays happen. Expect them to crop up even if you do not know what the source or timing of these delays will be. Factor in extra time, budget and resources to deal with the unexpected. Have contingency plans in place. Know which resources could be temporarily reallocated to the project if needed. Get familiar with team members skills and capabilities in case human resources need to be reallocated at short notice.

 

Monitor the project carefully and communicate often. Even unpredictable delays can sometimes be predicted shortly before they happen, giving the team extra days or hours to respond and cutting down on the length and cost of the delay.

 

Act fast to minimise damage

 

Once a delay is inevitable, act immediately to mitigate any damage. Acknowledge the missed deadline, take responsibility and calculate what it will mean for the project. The sooner this is done, the sooner the business case can be updated to reflect the new reality, and adjustments can be made to future deadlines to ensure everyone is aware of any changes to their own responsibilities. Resources can be reallocated and approvals sought for any budget extensions.

 

Inform appropriate stakeholders immediately. The way unexpected delays are managed can have a big impact on how the finished project is perceived. When high profile projects are delayed problems often stem from no one knowing who to turn to and who to inform.  All relevant stakeholders should be updated promptly. Who this is depends on the project but may include the project sponsor, steering committee, vendors and customers. Often, when a project experiences a few minor delays that are immediately communicated to stakeholders and incorporated into the schedule, the stakeholders will not perceive that the project completed late, even though the completion date was different from the one in the original business case. A project that experiences delays may still be perceived as successful as long as delays are well managed.

 

Verto project management software gives teams the tools they need to effectively manage project delays. To find out more, register for our  free 14 day trial or contact us at info@vertocloud.com


How to evaluate projects and manage risk

 

How to evaluate projects and manage risk? Risk management goes hand in hand with project management. How smoothly a project runs will always factor on how well risk is identified, assessed and planned for. It is necessary to manage risk  effectively in order to avoid and reduce risks that pose a threat to project completion and success.  

 

Projects are liable to change throughout the project life cycle. For this reason, risk management should be an integrated and ongoing part of project management. You do not identify potential risks once, plan for them and then forget about risk. Evaluating new risks as the project is progressing should be one of the ongoing activities of the project manager. On a regular basis, the PM should be running through the following tasks. 

 

Identify risks 

 

Identifying and evaluating risks is a constant process. It requires complete honesty on the project manager’s part. There is no room for a ‘head in the sand’ approach to risk management. No matter how inconvenient a risk is, it needs to be acknowledged, and in evaluating risks, it is important to be honest again. It may be a small risk, but there is no sense in pretending that it is negligible when it is not. Correctly identifying and evaluating risks makes the next step easier. 

 

Document risks 

 

Well-documented risks make planning easier for the whole team. A risk log, listing and describing risks along with the predicted impact of the risk and the mitigating actions that could or should be taken is invaluable.   Everyone involved should be able to access and easily update this risk log. This allows the whole team to see at a glance not only what risks exist but also what can be done about them and what has already been done by other team members. 

 

Prioritise risks 

 

Not all risks are equal. In order to prioritise risks, the project manager needs to look at the impact the risk could have in terms of cost, time and the quality of the final deliverable. This needs to be assessed alongside another variable: how likely is it that the risk will actually occur? A risk that is very likely to occur but will have a very low impact may actually be assigned a lower priority than a less likely risk that would have a much bigger impact. 

 

Plan responses 

 

Every risk should be planned for. The plan should include what can be done to avoid the risk and what can be done to reduce its impact. Planning responses to risks will also help identify where time and resources should be spent within the risk management process. If the actions needed to avoid that big-impact, low-probability risk are minimal and cheap, then it may make sense to avoid that risk and accept or reduce the very low-impact, high-probability risk. Ongoing, well-documented risk management will often make the next action crystal clear to everyone involved. 

 

Verto provides a whole programme view so you can plan, assess risks and stay focused on project delivery.  Sign up for your 14 day free trial to check it out or email us at info@vertocloud.com  for more information!


3 ways to be an effective manager in an agile environment

Agile project management focuses on delivering project outcomes repeatedly and incrementally. It is a less rigid and regimented process than traditional project management, giving the project team more autonomy and flexibility.

Without the rigid framework of a traditional project management approach, agile teams need great tools in place. They need to communicate, collaborate and respond to each other’s needs. Agile environments rely on team members being motivated and well informed, and agile project managers need to trust in their team and exhibit behaviours of flexibility, collaboration and empowerment. So what makes a project manager effective in an agile environment?

 

Pay attention

 

Some people assume that agile management means as little project management as possible. In fact, in an agile environment, change happens fast, and the act of managing and accommodating that change requires the project manager to be attentive, disciplined and actively managing at all times. Agile PMs may be handing a lot of autonomy to their team members, but that does not mean they take a ‘hands off’ approach. On the contrary, they need to pay a lot of attention to what is going on within the team and coordinate it all.

 

Know your people

 

Great agile project managers get to know their team. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member helps in any project management situation, but in an agile environment where things change at short notice, knowing who has which skills and attributes is vital. Agile teams are generally more collaborative with responsive team members much readier to step up and take on ‘other duties as required’ than in a traditional project management setting.

Knowing who in your team needs extra support and coaching is also vital. Agile team members need to be motivated, self-disciplined and proactive. It is worth developing these attributes in team members who are missing them, as this will help an agile team work better. Lastly, great PMs in an agile environment will make sure team members know each other well. Good team building and facilitating a rapport between team members means that they also know the capabilities and special skills of their colleagues.

 

Use collective wisdom

 

Having a more collaborative team is only useful if everyone can contribute their best. Agile teams will be expected to make joint decisions, and to do that, it is necessary to have a process in place to share collective wisdom. A successful agile project manager will find a way to bring people together, encourage feedback and ideas and somehow aggregate diverse opinions to reach the best decision possible.

Agile project managers must find a way to benefit from wide-ranging feedback without getting too hung up on the need for consensus. It is the job of the agile PM to aggregate all the information and make a decision based on the collective wisdom of the team.

Project management may be different in an agile environment. It is, however, every bit as important as in a traditional setting.

Verto is a powerful way of pulling together project information and collaboration in one place, enabling you to work smart, be intuitive and deliver.  To see how we can help you contact our friendly team for a demo at info@vertocloud.com or sign up for a free trial!


Advancing sustainable collaboration across the public sector

Verto has teamed up with Shared Service Architecture (SSA) to combine our Cloud-based multi-agency project management systems with over 200 proven collaborative transformation tools and techniques.

What is Shared Service Architecture?

Shared Service Architecture (SSA) is a dynamic facilitation and teaching company focused on equipping politicians, board members, chief executives and senior managers in the public sector with the skills and knowledge to innovate and initiate successful shared service and collaborative transformation solutions.

What is Verto?

Verto is a Cloud-based work collaboration and programme management system with over 60,000 users across the UK. It replaces countless emails, spreadsheets and templates with a simple to use service that allows teams to share and keep everything in one place and report directly from the system.

The bringing together of SSA and Verto assets in one place will enable our clients to have real-time oversight and control over complex projects, enabling leaders to make better, more informed decisions that maximise leverage, address interdependencies and mitigate risks. Build the skills, capacity and confidence of your people to successfully deliver complex, multi-agency service transformation programmes.

 

To find out more about how Verto and Shared Service Architecture can help with collaboration and project management click here.


How a clear strategy will streamline your project delivery

 

 

The word strategy is in wide use in businesses and other organisations. The term is so common that it is easy to assume that everyone knows exactly what it means. In practice, however, many people confuse strategy with planning and sometimes with process. Planning and strategy are not the same concept. In fact, strategy is what needs to be in place before planning can begin.   Understanding the blend between strategy, planning and processes will streamline project delivery.

 

 

 

 

Planning involves decision-making, but strategy involves devising a framework that will guide how you make decisions. For this reason, strategy always comes before planning, and a clear strategy should make day-to-day planning and decision-making much easier. 

 

 Applying a strategic framework

 

A strategic framework should lay out a set of principles that guide both your daily decisions and long-term planning. This framework should include answers to these important questions: 

 

  • What value are you creating as an organisation? 
  • Who are you creating it for? 
  • What skills, resources and core capabilities do you need? 
  • How will you reach and communicate with your customers or end-users? 
  • What level of revenue or profit are you aiming for? 
  • What unique qualities or offerings set you apart from the competition? 

 

In short, strategy is an overview of what will move you from where you are to where you want to be. It is about what you want to achieve and what needs to be in place to achieve it. 

 

Develop your knowledge

 

Becoming knowledgeable about strategy helps guide the daily decision-making processes of your entire team. Once your strategic framework is in place, it can inform decisions on investments, hiring, product development, budgets, advertising and most other issues. Having a strategy can also help team members prioritise everything from major projects to small daily tasks. 

 

A clear strategy also lets your team members decide what not to do. If a plan, decision or process does not in any way support your clearly defined strategic framework, then it probably does not need done. Alternatively, it could need to be adapted so that it does contribute to your strategy. 

 

When everyone understands the strategic framework, autonomy increases, and decision-making is more streamlined. Often, much of the back-and-forth clarifications between managers, employees, departments and team members is due to a lack of understanding in regard to what the organisation is actually trying to achieve. Once everyone is clear on the answers to all the above questions, formulating plans becomes easier. Many decisions become more obvious, and some decisions practically make themselves. 

 

Blend 

 

Strategy, planning and process are very different things, but they are all linked. A plan involves making a set of decisions based on a strategy. A process is a clearly defined way of doing a particular task. The strategic framework lays out the big picture of what needs done; the plan is the actual roadmap of how to do it and the process is the system that you have in place to implement what is in your plan.
 

To find out how Verto project management software can help with implementing strategy, planning and processes, sign up for your 14 day free trial .

 


How to manage communication and collaboration challenges  

Communication and collaboration are highly desirable but often badly defined concepts. In programme and project management, the whole team will generally be aiming to collaborate effectively, but not everyone in the team will define collaboration the same way. For some, collaboration is all about meetings, brainstorming and sharing ideas. For others, it may be about everyone staying firmly in their own zone of genius, but having a solid central system in place to facilitate communication and collaboration when necessary. Many team members do not want to attend constant brainstorming sessions or share every detail, but still want to quickly and easily inform other team members of progress and log any thoughts about issues that could affect the project. 

When communication breaks down: the real cost

A breakdown in communication can be a major source of stress within any team. Research indicates that poor communication is often reported as the top stressor in many workplaces, closely followed by a belief that other team members are not contributing. It seems likely that the two are linked, as good communication is what lets team members keep up to date on what other team members are achieving.

 

When working in a team, communication often needs to be not one-way or two-way, but multi-way. In a project management situation, there may be many team members working on different tasks, some of which are poorly understood by other team members. It may appear that a team member is not contributing when the truth is that they are contributing in a way that is not obvious, or they are waiting on other team members to complete a task so that they can move forward.

Why collaboration  fails

It is easy to assume that all collaboration is good, but sometimes many heads are not better than one. Sometimes too many cooks really do spoil the broth. Sometimes too much input, especially irrelevant or unnecessary input, slows progress down rather than optimising it. 

On paper, collaboration pools the resources and brainpower of different team members to create a whole that is better than the sum of the parts. By bringing together many perspectives and ideas, we are more likely to consider all the options, find more creative solutions, and anticipate undesirable outcomes. 

In practice, however, not all collaborations work this way. Many people collaborating on a project can lead to a certain amount of “groupthink”, whereby creativity is undermined, and group members can all start to have the same blind spots regarding their project.

Collaboration can lead to collective thinking and breed false confidence. Team members may assume that because a number of people have reached agreement, they must have reached the best decision. This can encourage them to stop considering options, while there are still viable options to be considered. Personality often plays a bigger part in reaching agreement than we realise. The more vocal or charismatic members of the group are often seen as having the best ideas. Pressure to agree with those group members, or simply with the majority view, is strong.

Collaboration can also dilute efforts by leading to something called social loafing. This is the tendency to sit back and allow others to do the majority of the work, when you are working in a group. This may be one of the main reasons why so many face-to-face meetings are so unproductive. Only a few people are actually contributing. Often, a system where you ask everyone to reflect on a problem or issue, and then submit their ideas to a central system, will result in much more input from all the individuals involved.

How to facilitate successful collaboration

Successful collaboration can be as simple as putting the right system in place. In order to collaborate on a project, it is vital to have a few elements in place from the start. Firstly, successful collaboration requires clear goals, effectively communicated, so that everyone is working towards the same results. Secondly, while many ideas may shape the decisions reached by the team, there still needs to be a process in place to guide that final decision-making. Thirdly, that decision-making process needs to be a transparent one that suits the whole team. 

Identifying a decision-making process that works for your team can keep the whole project from stalling due to indecision. It can also prevent collaborations from breaking down, with the boss or project manager deciding that the collaboration is not working and reverting to an attitude of telling everyone what to do. A process that can be followed each and every time a decision needs to be made brings a feeling of transparency and accountability to your projects, which is vitally important. 

Why accountability matters

Ultimately, when it looks like collaboration is failing, a team may just be experiencing a lack of accountability. The collaboration itself may have been successful, but the process seemed to end there. Without an easily accessible system in place for everyone to track how the collaborative decisions made are being implemented, teams may be left feeling that the collaboration was a waste of time, and that the decisions reached are not actually being executed.

Often, the necessary level of accountability is as simple as using the right software to enable constant communication. Project management software can let all team members track where the project is, which ideas are on the table, what the final decision reached was, and even exactly how it was reached. Software can allow for transparency, accountability and ongoing communication. It can provide information, at a glance, of who is working on what, and who is eagerly awaiting a response or completion date, so that a new task can be started or the next step can be taken. Software can even log which ideas have been considered, and why a different idea has been chosen, giving everyone on the team a sense of having been heard and had their input considered.

Verto  project management software  gives  teams and organisations  the communication and accountability tools they need to collaborate effectively.  To find out more, register for our free 14-day trial!  

 


Why visibility through reporting and notifications is essential for project success

 

Successful project management is about a lot more than sharing data. This is why specialist project management software remains so popular in spite of the availability of free file-sharing sites and basic, affordable online workspace systems. There are big differences between basic file sharing systems and the built-in functions of more advanced project management software.

One major advantage of specialised project management software is that it gives you the ability to report to project sponsors simply and easily. For those who still remember the “old days” of wading through long, dry, written reports, 21st-century technology is a huge step forward. Reporting has evolved to allow for condensed information, easy-to-assimilate visuals and notifications of important project updates that land on your phone or other mobile devices in real time.

As technology gets more complex, reporting gets less so. Software allows you to replace those lengthy reports with accessible charts, tables and other visual elements that quickly present all vital information. You can customise project management software to ensure that sponsors and other high-level stakeholders regularly get updates that matter to them and that those who require an immediate response receive it without ever having to deal with extraneous or redundant information.

The fast pace of the modern world means that it is important to prevent slowing down workflow with bloated or unnecessary processes. Trends in reporting are constantly moving toward presenting the right information to the right people at the right time. This information should make sense to non-technical staff and stakeholders, even when the information itself is technical or complex.

Verto software offers a range of reporting options aimed at keeping communications streamlined and effective. Providing comprehensive reporting from the product itself, as well as the opportunity to integrate it into third-party reporting engines, Verto opens up various choices for project managers. The software features easy-to-use reporting options that are ideal for keeping your management team up to date on events, milestones and risks without the need for detailed input from sponsors. You can also customise this software to let sponsors respond to issues when their input is necessary.

Mobile apps now allow project management teams to access an unprecedented level of flexibility. Offering on-the-go updates, requests for approvals and knowledge of risks, mobile reporting allows teams to easily collaborate on making the right decisions for their projects in a timely fashion. Customisable apps facilitate instant notifications that not only concern the project’s current stage but also the various decisions needed for the next stage. The right app can clearly present the required information for making the next logical decision on a particular project, whether it is to progress to the next stage, end the project or inject more resources for successful project completion.

The VertoGo mobile app offers immediate updates for your project management team with the additional options of notifying sponsors of changes and gaining their approval while they are on the move. VertoGo is now available for both Apple and Android devices. For more information Click here.


Forecast frequently to enable tactical shifts

 

Good project management involves frequent forecasting. While it can be useful to forecast results right at the beginning of a project’s life cycle, the true magic of forecasting is that it allows for constant readjustment throughout. Forecasting allows you and your team to stay on track by anticipating extra tasks and resources for the project plan or budget and identifying tasks and resources that may no longer be necessary.

Frequent project forecasts facilitate proactive planning and flexibility. They can allow the project manager to regularly update the business case, which can help the team members keep the project on track, and also allow sponsors and other stakeholders to understand the reasons for any delays or changes.

A key element of project forecasting is to review the risk events that have already occurred and assess the remaining risk triggers. There are always a number of unknown, and often unpredictable, variables in any project, but frequent forecasting provides the project manager with valuable knowledge that enables proactive resource management as the work progresses.

What should we forecast and how frequently?

Frequent forecasting around time, costs and quality of deliverables is vital. Each forecast will allow the project manager to update the business case so that all team members and relevant sponsors know exactly how the project is moving along. The project manager will also be able to reallocate resources and seek sponsor approval in a timely manner.

Time forecasts allow for the reallocation of resources, including team members. To accurately forecast project duration, it is necessary to monitor the activities that will impact the project completion date as well as those that influence project milestones. Modern project management software lets you log updates on the progression of these activities as often as needed for any individual project, which will depend on its nature. You may need to do this daily, weekly or as you complete each relevant task.

Cost forecasts allow the project manager to plan for an injection of more resources and seek sponsor or management approval when necessary. Most projects can benefit from employing the Earned Value Management System in order to accurately forecast ongoing project costs. Depending on resources and the complexity of the project, you can also use trend forecasting, also known as “straight-line” forecasting, to estimate future project costs, although this can be less accurate. Cost forecasting is also something that software-based systems incorporating financial data to support budgeting decisions can help with, and again, using such software lets forecasting occur on an ongoing basis and as frequently as is appropriate for the individual project.

Quality forecasts also allow for necessary adjustments to the project schedule or resources. Frequently forecasting in the area of performance and the quality of the project deliverables increases the chances that the project outcomes will match those identified at the planning stage. According to the “Rule of Tens,” the cost of correcting a technical issue increases tenfold as a project progresses from one phase to the next. This means, of course, that you must identify and correct issues around performance and quality as soon as possible. You can do this as long as forecasting around these factors happens frequently and in advance of the project moving on to a new phase.

Understanding the limitations of forecasting

A forecast is not a prediction. Even the best forecasting is still simply a projection based on current data, which is why frequent forecasting is necessary. Data is always subject to change, and forecasts need updated as new information becomes available. Decisions made based on your current forecast should always stay flexible. They are the best that you can do given your current knowledge of the situation. Remember that as soon as that knowledge expands, you have the opportunity to do better.

Frequent forecasting also narrows uncertainty as the project progresses. At the beginning of the project, you are looking a long way into the future, and your team should be prepared for the fact that early on, forecasting has a lot of limitations. As the project moves through each new phase, forecasting should become progressively more accurate. Towards the end of the project, forecasting correctly should be much easier. At this stage, there are naturally less variables, although they still may exist. The project manager or software can also use the team’s past performance to forecast future performance.

Types of forecasting

There are a few types of forecasting that you can apply to project management, and they may change throughout the project’s life cycle. Qualitative techniques can be particularly useful when data is scarce, which is typically at the beginning of a new project. These techniques may involve human judgement and rating schemes to help forecast possible outcomes.

Statistical techniques become more important when there is a lot of data to support forecasting. In project management, this might happen in the later stages of a project or when there are many comparable completed projects to draw data from. You should, however, remember that statistical techniques assume that past performance predicts future performance. While this is a reasonable assumption, it is more likely to be correct over the short term than the long term. The recent past can forecast the immediate future better than historical data can forecast the distant future, unless data patterns are very stable with few variables that can potentially impact the project.

Ultimately, frequent forecasting that uses recent and relevant data is a key element of successful project management. A responsive project manager can use forecasting to implement an ongoing series of tactical shifts that will keep projects running on time and on budget throughout their duration.

Verto’s project management software gives project management teams the ability to customise their forecasting needs to their individual projects. To find out more, register for our free 14-day trial!