This is Where I’m Going, Jump on Board

Project leaderI’d really like to take credit for coming up with this line, but I can’t. I heard it during a trailer for a new TV show. But I immediately thought of it in terms of IT, project management and consulting leadership. In all three of those – especially when they are all combined as they have been for me most of the time – confident leadership is necessary. Sometimes you’re running a team, sometimes you’re going it alone, and all the time you’re working with some form of project or consulting customer. And in all these situations, your role as the PM / IT Consultant is to be a strong and confident leader.

What does it mean to be a project leader?

So, what exactly, does it mean to be a project leader? I’m sure it means a lot of different things to different people…and it probably depends on where in the organization you’re looking at the role. But to me, from my experience, it boils down to these three key concepts:

Have a take charge personality. I think the title of this article says it all. As the project manager ‘in charge’ of the engagement, we need to know from Day One how we’re going to manage the project, what the project involves, and how we’re going to keep everyone engaged. After all, it is our project, we’re accountable for it, and no one will look worse than us if we fail. So, basically, we need to know where we’re going with it and we need everyone else to jump on board. Yes, we need their input and we need their help, but ultimately we must be the ones running the show.

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AEC Software to sponsor race car in Bahamas Speed Week Revival

FastTrack Schedule Ford Shelby GT500FastTrack Schedule logos will grace one blazing fast car this week at the second annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival.

AEC Software will sponsor the Jensen Ford Shelby GT500 car driven by Niels Jensen. The Jensen Ford Shelby GT500 placed third in the supercar division in the 2011 races and is entered in both the Fort Charlotte Hillclimb and Arawak Cay Sprint Circuit this year. The supercar division includes the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and Lotus.

“This is the first time AEC Software has sponsored a race car, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!” said Dennis Bilowus, President and CEO of AEC Software. “This was such a great opportunity for us to do something unique and get our FastTrack Schedule brand in front of a different audience.”

Bahamas Speed Week Revival 2012 will take place between November 24th and December 2nd on the Bahamas’ New Providence Island. Building on the success of 2011′s revival, the event has been expanded to include a Gala Concert, Auto Trade Show, Out Island Excursions, Beach Party and more. Cars, both vintage and supercars, are shipped from around the world for the event.

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AEC Software Supports Superstorm Sandy Relief Efforts

AEC Software Superstorm Sandy ReliefPower, lights, and heat are coming back on for many whose neighborhoods were devastated by Superstorm Sandy, but millions still need assistance rebuilding their lives after the storm. The clean-up and reconstruction efforts are far from over. Please join us in supporting the American Red Cross as they continue their relief efforts to families and communities in the aftermath of this devastating storm.

When you purchase FastTrack Schedule through December 31st, 2012, AEC Software will donate $5 to the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. Your support will enable the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, emotional support, and other assistance to those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

For more information on the American Red Cross relief efforts and how to help, please visit the Hurricane Sandy donation page, or you can also text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a direct $10 donation.

Key Skills for Agile Developers

Agile Project DevelopmentAs organizations examine the need to stay waterfall or go agile, they can’t help but also examine the current skill set of their developers and really look hard at what costs may be involved to make the jump to agile development. Can the current development staff make that move? What training will be involved? What percentage of the core staff will not be able to make that move or will strongly resist? What will the cost of new hires be? Every CTO and CFO will be asking themselves these or similar questions if their company is seriously considering this type of organizational change.

That said, what are the key skills or characteristics needed for agile developers? What will the CTO or development manager be looking for in existing staff and new staff hires when the change is in progress? In general, the following eleven skills are important ones to consider when staffing or evaluating current staff for a move to an agile development and project culture….

Keeping the system in a running state. Finding errors is actually the developer’s single biggest time waster. When several changes happen and then something goes wrong, it’s hard to determine what changes caused the occurring errors. By making incremental changes to detect errors immediately, this saves a lot of wasted time searching for the causes of errors.

The inherent ability to minimize complexity and rework. This is actually more an attitude than a specific skill set. It provides an alternative to the common extremes of hacking – which can end up causing significant rework – and over-design – causing potentially much more complexity than needed and thus inviting risk and increased costs.

Programming by intention. This old programming technique made popular in eXtreme programming is easy and provides for cohesion, encapsulation and clarity.

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FastTrack Schedule Rated #1 Mac Project Management Software by TopTenREVIEWS

TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award for Project Management SoftwareFor the third consecutive year, TopTenREVIEWS has named FastTrack Schedule the #1 Mac Project Management Software. TopTenREVIEWS praised FastTrack stating, “FastTrack Schedule is the clear leader in the Mac project management software field.” Both the Mac and Windows versions of FastTrack Schedule have received TopTenREVIEWS’ prestigious Gold Award for best project management software.

#1 Mac Project Management Software - TopTenREVIEWSIn addition to receiving the highest overall rating in TopTenREVIEWS’ Mac Project Management Software Review, FastTrack Schedule 10 received top marks in the Resource Management and Project Management categories. FastTrack Schedule topped all other Mac project management apps including OmniPlan, Merlin, Projector, and SharedPlan.

TopTenREVIEWS praised FastTrack Schedule’s ease of use saying, “Using this application is a breeze,” and applauded FastTrack’s robust set of features stating it, “Offers the widest range of tools necessary to stay on top of your assignments and projects.” TopTenREVIEWS went on to say:

“FastTrack Schedule stands head and shoulders among a sea of competitors in the Mac project management software field. With this software, you can do just about anything when it comes to project management, and it features a great interface that allows for full customization. Resource management is smooth and well integrated with your preexisting Mac system, and you’ll easily be able to compose professional reports for each step of your project from start to finish.”

Our Windows version of FastTrack Schedule 10 received TopTenREVIEWS’ Gold Award in 2011 as the #1 Desktop Project Management Software for Windows, besting 10 other Windows-based project management apps including Microsoft Project, Project KickStart, and Rational Plan.

Defining Calendar Exceptions

At some point in all of our project planning years there has been a time when we forgot to account for that one extra non-working day or even that Saturday where we had to go back into the office.   When we forget to account for these “exceptions” it can completely throw off the entire project schedule.

Don’t worry though, because in FastTrack Schedule 10 you can quickly and easily create exceptions for non-working or additional working days within your project.  The best part is that, you can do it as you initially build the project, or you can even create these “exceptions” as you begin to encounter them.

To begin creating a customized calendar for your project, go to Project > Work Calendars.

To define exceptions within the project we must first determine what days will be considered non-working days.  Let’s take, for example, the Thanksgiving holiday which we will say falls on November 22nd and 23rd, 2012.

To begin defining these days as non-working days, select November 22nd from the calendar.  With this date selected you can then select Clear Day from the lower right corner.  Once you have done this, you will notice 3 things happen:

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Who Should the Project Manager Be Loyal To?

Project LoyaltyThink about this one. I mean really think. I’m not talking about the project manager who is only running internal projects…that never really presents a dilemma. But for those project managers working in professional services environments where you are leading a team of project resources who have been assembled to deliver a solution for an external customer – for example a customized implementation of your own software offering – this can become an issue.

So the question begs to be answered…where do your loyalties lie? When push comes to shove, who are you fighting for? What are you trying to accomplish and who will you listen to first? Who’s concerns weigh heaviest on your mind?

I’m not saying that your executive management team is not working in the best interest of your project client. But it is no secret that what your executive management team cares most about and what your project client cares most about are usually two or more very different things.

Generally, your management cares about:

  • Profits
  • Revenue
  • Not exposing organizational weaknesses to customers
  • Customer satisfaction and retention

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Windows 8 and FastTrack Schedule 10 – Fully Compatible

Windows 8 logoIt’s here. Microsoft’s revamp of the Windows OS is now available to the masses. Designed not only for traditional Windows desktops, laptops, and ultrabooks, Windows 8 is also tablet-friendly. It’s an OS designed with touch in mind, borrowing design elements from the Windows Phone 7 operating system.

If you’re upgrading to Windows 8, rest assured that your version of FastTrack Schedule 10 will run fine on Microsoft’s new Windows OS. FastTrack Schedule 10 single-user and FastTrack Schedule 10 Concurrent-User versions are fully compatible with Windows 8.

For more insight into Windows 8, be sure to check out Gizmodo‘s Windows 8 Survival Guide, PCWorld‘s Windows 8 review, and the Huffington Post‘s great take on the fans and antifans, “7 People Who Will Love Windows 8 (And 5 Who Will Hate It).”

What do you think of Windows 8? Will you be buying a new PC with it preinstalled or upgrading your existing PC? Let us know.

FastTrack Schedule is a Construction Computing Award Finalist

We’re proud to announce that FastTrack Schedule is a finalist for a 2012 Construction Computing Award in the Project Planning Product of the Year category.

Construction Computing Award Finalist - FastTrack ScheduleAffectionately known as “The Hammers,” the Construction Computing Awards showcase and reward the technology, tools and solutions for the effective design, construction, maintenance and modification of commercial buildings, residential and social housing and civil engineering projects of all sizes. Wow, that was a mouthful. Bottom line, Construction Computing recognizes the best of the best in construction tech.

We’ve always had a loyal and passionate following in the construction industry. Year after year, residential and commercial builders, contractors, and remodelers rely on FastTrack Schedule for managing construction projects and keeping their customers up-to-date on progress.

Please show your support and cast a vote for FastTrack Schedule. You can vote for products in every category or just one category (hint: Project Planning Product of the Year). Voting ends on November 8th, and the award ceremony will be held on November 22nd at the Hotel Russell in London.

PMP: To Certify or Not to Certify?

Project management certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI) is known as PMP certification (standing for Project Management Professional). If you’ve been a project manager for any length of time, this is not news to you. The question is, should you get certified? Does it have value? Is it the only way you’re going to get a good project management position in an organization? Lots of questions…with varying answers depending on who you work for, what your current employment status is, and what your resume looks like.

PMP CertificationLet’s consider some of these concepts further…but first let’s consider the requirements for becoming certified. If you have a bachelor’s degree, then you must have 4500 hours of relevant PM work experience including three years (36 months) of PM experience within the previous eight years prior to sitting for the PMP exam. You must also have 35 contact hours of PM education. Requirements get a little higher if you don’t possess the bachelor’s degree, but for the sake of this article, we’ll assume the candidate has a bachelor’s degree. The cost for PMI membership and testing will run you about $535 and the cost of the initial training requirements may cost you anywhere from $1000-$2000. Then there is the ongoing annual training requirements, but that cost is far lower thanks to the many low-cost professional development unit (PDU) options have become available to satisfy ongoing training requirements.

Let’s consider the following scenarios…

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Comparing Agile and Waterfall Methods of Project Management

PM HutBy Alan Cairns
PM Hut

Put simply project managers are in the business of making things happen. Project management can concern many different types of activity or project, and project managers are in charge of executing the planning, organization, management and control of resources to make it happen.

Project management can concern all manner of projects, from building a house to writing computer software. The manager’s skill lies in curating the resources effectively to achieve the end result.

Traditional (or Waterfall) Project Management

Project managers traditionally identify a number of steps to complete a project, which typically must be completed sequentially. In traditional project management there are typically four stages:

  • Requirements
  • Planning & design
  • Implementation
  • Completion

Waterfall project managementNot all projects will include every stage, but most projects include elements of these stages, sometimes repeatedly as one activity relies on the completion of the last. Most complicated projects require many more stages than this, which could include:

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When the Project is Suspended

project stoppage, project suspendedProjects are meant to be completed.  No one likes to leave unfinished business, right? But there are those situations that come up from time to time where the project can’t be completed or is put on hold.  The reasons can be almost endless. The most common include things like customer funding issues, a change in the customer’s organization, customer satisfaction drops to rock bottom, some roadblock arises that can’t be worked around, or perhaps the technology is presenting an unavoidable work stoppage. Whatever the reason, it’s painful and potentially embarrassing and now you may need to move into damage control mode.

When this has happened to me (and yes, I have had this happen a couple of times and it isn’t fun), I generally try to follow as many of the following actions as are appropriate for the situation – depending, of course, on what caused the project to be suspended in the first place:

Keep ongoing contact with the project client. First, it’s critical to stay in close contact with the customer. Even if you or your team were the cause for the work stoppage, stay in touch, make sure they know you’re working on whatever issues caused the stoppage, and discuss criteria or scenarios that might enable the project to restart – so you know what you’re working towards. For me, on a project that stopped because some overwhelming issues put the project way over budget, it involved detailed estimating of what it was going to take to finish the project and some negotiation of what we could absorb on the delivery side and what I still needed the customer to come up with in terms of dollars. But it was contact, ongoing discussion.  At least it kept us moving forward and eventually we did restart the project.

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