04/09/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project management, project management best practices, project manager
Project management is built around structured methodology – usually – and best practices. There are processes to follow, procedures to implement and documentation to create and deliver. It’s actually pretty structured when you think about it. Or at least it can be.
But if we just follow a rigid process, will we really be successful? How does the human element apply to project management? Here are my thoughts…. I’m thinking it centers around a few concepts or activities such as communication, organization, ambition and control. While we don’t all have those traits, I think most individuals who would be categorized as somewhat normal have something within their being that, under the right circumstances, strives to achieve those traits. Let me elaborate…
Continue reading “The Human Aspect of Project Management”
04/02/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: FastTrack Schedule 10, Tips and Tricks, WBS, WBS Coding, Work Breakdown Structure
While FastTrack Schedule 10 can display a detailed Gantt chart of everything that happens within a project, one graphical view that is not displayed is the Work Breakdown Structure or WBS. Normally, the WBS displays the hierarchical breakdown of the project according to its phases or deliverables. Even though FastTrack does not have a graphical display of the WBS it is still possible to view and utilize the WBS coding that is assigned to each activity throughout the schedule.
The WBS coding will automatically number activities in a sequential order according to the hierarchy of those tasks. This allows users to easily identify the outline and order of tasks by viewing simply the code displayed. Normally when we view a schedule, as we see below, we only see a simple Row Number that is displayed to indicate the order of the activities. However it is possible to add or even modify how the WBS coding will be displayed in a project.
Continue reading “Work Breakdown Structure in FastTrack Schedule”
03/31/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project flexibility, project management, project management principles, project managers
Structured, rigidly adhered to project management principles and practices have their place. No question about it. Be stubborn, stick to your guns, be unwavering. You know the drill. But, from most of our experiences, we know that adhering to that train of thought will only get you so far when you’re dealing with clients who are somewhat vague on what they need you to do for them. They’re relying on your expertise and creativity to guide them down a path that they kind of know they need to be on. At the end of that path may be a solution that they have no idea or concept of – but they’re certainly hoping that you do – or you will soon.
In the world of project management it is important to make good decisions and stick to them. But you’re going to have to be flexible on every engagement – it’s just how the world of project management works. But know the boundaries – just the right amount of flexibility and the customer will love you forever. Go overboard or remain unwavering and you may not finish out the current project.
Let’s look at two concepts that fall under the ‘flexibility’ category:
Continue reading “Project Managers – the Importance of Being Flexible”
03/24/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: pm career, project goals, project management, project manager
It’s OK. Project management isn’t for everyone. It’s interesting, challenging, and somewhat rewarding. I’ll be honest and say it’s more internally rewarding than outwardly so. Success is expected but hard to come by. The target is definitely on the PM’s head if things go awry, but accolades do not come easy to the PM when success happens. It’s more of a team thing. So if you’re looking for the glory, PM may not be it.
Not everyone is cut out to be a project manager. Being a PM is not an exclusive club. It’s not even necessarily a highly desirable profession. You get a lot of visibility, but not necessarily a lot of recognition. That often goes more to the technical team than the PM, unless the project is very successful and highly visible.
I’m going to present here what I consider to be my personal list of ten signs you may not be a successful project manager and may want to consider a different career path.
Continue reading “Ten Signs that Project Management is Not Your Thing”
03/18/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Bar Display, Bar Labels, Column Labels, FastTrack Schedule 10, Labels, Tips and Tricks
When planning our projects there is often an almost infinite amount of data that we want to track and manage. However as we add more details to our projects it can often be difficult to present all of that information in a clear and concise way. In FastTrack Schedule 10, users have the ability to add any of the data columns in their schedule as labels to the various activity bars in the Timeline Graph. This allows users to easily display extra details without having to display each column when printing or sharing a schedule.
As we can see in the schedule below, data columns can often take up quite a bit of space within a schedule, and the space that they take up will be translated over when we print or even create an image of the schedule. To help clean things up we can hide columns and instead display the text as labels on our bars.
Continue reading “Displaying Bar Labels”
03/18/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project communication, project engagement, project management, project manager, weak link
Communication is one of the most critical aspects of managing a project. It must be efficient, effective, and must be managed by an organized leader on a project engagement – and hopefully the project manager is up for filling that communication facilitator role.
However, in the project management world – the communication process is only as good as your weakest link in the chain. You will encounter a communication weak link whenever you deal with someone else, and whenever your team members explain, discuss, or speak to another person. In other words, effective communication itself is the solution to the identification and elimination of weak links.
So what I want to do here is examine some key communication points for the project manager – outside the obvious PM == > customer link – and understand where those weak links may be and how to handle them. Why? Because whenever work passes from one person or department to another, or from a project team to a department or other personnel, the opportunity for delay or misunderstanding is always present and always possible. By knowing where the weak links exist, you will be able to ensure that the project moves forward, on track, and on schedule…hopefully.
Continue reading “Are You the Weakest Link?”
03/11/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Activity Calendar, Dependency Calendar, FastTrack Schedule 10, Tips and Tricks, Work Calendars
One of the most important parts of planning a schedule is accounting for how the calendar will function within the schedule. This can include any number of things, such as setting up the typical working days, accounting for work exceptions, or even applying unique calendars to the resources in your schedule. FastTrack Schedule 10 allows you to take your calendars one step further by defining and assigning unique calendars to any individual activity or dependency in your project. This option gives us the ability to fine-tune exactly how the schedule will occur from one activity to the next.
First we’ll take a look at the option of assigning a unique calendar to an activity in a schedule. When this is done it will allow the selected activity to occur differently than and independent of what the Project Calendar would normally allow. For example if the Project Calendar is a 5 day calendar, you could instead assign a 7 day calendar to an activity to allow its work to occur over the weekend. Below we can see the standard schedule with all tasks currently set to a 5 day working week.
Continue reading “Activity and Dependency Calendars”
03/03/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project customer, project management, project manager, project sponsor
We have our project sponsors in the customer organization who have been tasked with getting a
new technology installed or process implemented or accounting system built. But this is really
often just a champion – someone who has some money and/or power to get things done in the
organization. A decision maker and point person. That’s who you work with as the project
manager. But who is the real customer in a technical project? Is it that person? Or is it their
employees or their customers who are the ones who will end up using this new technology,
process or system when the project is rolled out?
I contend that when the rubber meets the road, the real true customer is the end user. When is
the end user part of the project? On many projects the end user is the one who needs the
solution and gets the solution and that’s the total of their involvement. I read a quote the other day
that applies to this concept: “A user is somebody who tells you what they want the day you give
them what they asked for” (Actually, it sounds like something Vince Vaughn’s character Dan Trunkman might say at a client pitch in Unfinished Business). This can be taken to mean that the user often does a poor job telling us at first what they want and the gives us a better definition once the project is over and the solution doesn’t really meet their needs.
Continue reading “The End User is the Real Customer”
02/25/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project end goals, project management, project timeline, project view
I realize this is a quote from Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This one came to mind due to a recent post I saw on Twitter and it hit me that this is perfectly oriented toward project management. All PMs and all business professionals, really, should be keeping this mindset. Long range vision – not just the here and now. Start the project with the end in mind.
What this quote really means is: begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen. I believe this applies well to both the project view and the daily view of what a project manager is up against.
Continue reading “Start the Project by Thinking About How it Should End”
02/19/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: FastTrack Schedule 10, Layouts, Pre-Defined Layouts, Reporting, Tips and Tricks
Being able to easily control what data is displayed and how that data is displayed within your projects can be very important, especially when it comes to creating reports or presentations. In FastTrack Schedule 10 users have the ability to utilize various Layouts which control what columns are visible and the order that they are displayed in. We’ve previously taken a look at how to customize our own Layouts within schedules, so today we’ll focus on some of the pre-defined Layout options and how they can be utilized throughout a project.
The first Layout that we’ll take a look at is the Main Layout. This is the primary Layout within all schedules, and is the first one that we’ll see when opening up a brand-new, blank file. The main Layout is made up of the Activity Name, Duration, Start Date, and Finish Date columns, as well as the Timeline Graph. The Main Layout is typically the best place to start when planning a schedule as it allows us to enter all of the key data for when everything will occur.
Continue reading “FastTrack Schedule 10: Pre-Defined Layout Uses”