A gold medal with "Awarded Top 50 Project Management Blog" on it

New Award! Top 50 Project Management Blog

We would like to share an award letter we received from the founder of Feedspot,  Anuj Agarwal:

Hi OnTrack Team,

My name is Anuj Agarwal. I’m Founder of Feedspot.
I would like to personally congratulate you as your OnTrack – Project Management Blog  has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 50 Project Management Blogs in the web.
Awarded Top 50 Project Management Blog
I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of  Top 50 Project Management Blogs  on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

Anuj Agarwal Founder, Feedspot

 Anuj Agarwal
 Founder, Feedspot
Email: anujagarwal@feedspot.com
Linkedin . 

Many thanks to Anuj Agarwal and his team of editors and reviewers at Feedspot for this award, we are honored by your recognition.

If you’re unfamiliar with Feedspot, it is a Modern RSS Reader that strives to put all of your latest news and content from multiple websites in one location in a user friendly way.

Three people sitting at a desk surounded by arrows indicating the many directions a project can take

Remember Your Key Project Goal is to Deliver a Workable Solution

Delivering a workable solution to the customer – that’s the real project goal, right? And not just one that is bug-free, but a solution that the customer wants and needs and it’s your job to deliver that even though we all know that the customer often isn’t truly aware of what it is they actually need. Frustrating? Yes! Let’s discuss ways we can ensure that we’re delivering the best possible solution for the customer.

Three people sitting at a desk surounded by arrows indicating the many directions a project can take
Brainstorming Directions, Choices, Changes, Decision Making Concepts

Never Assume the Customer Knows What They Want

I’ve covered this one elsewhere, but it’s an easy trap to fall in to. After all, they’re the customer and all we have to do is build to their requirements, right? Wrong! Be sure to ask the right questions up front and don’t be afraid to ask the customer to go back to their end users and SMEs and make sure that they understand what the final solution really needs to be. Many times though don’t truly know that when the engagement starts. If that is the case, one of two things happens:

  • It becomes apparent part way through the engagement and then the customer is faced with change orders, a stretched out timeline, budget overruns due to re-work, and a lot of frustration for both teams.
  • It doesn’t become apparent until deployment when the end user finally gets their hands on it and it’s not what everyone dreamed it would be. Sure, you built to the customer specs, but the lasting legacy is that the customer has an unusable solution and the finger often gets pointed at you and the delivery team.

Assemble a Skilled Delivery Team

As with any engagement, the more applicable skills your team has for delivering on the engagement, the better chance you have for success. With a good Statement of Work (SOW) and detailed requirements, you’ll know what skills you need. Fight for those with your management and work hard to keep that team engaged…meaning manage the schedule tightly, etc. Less ‘down’ time during the engagement means less likelihood you’ll lose skilled resources to other projects.

Don’t go overboard acquiring the best skill set in each area of need if that’s unnecessary because you’ll end up costing the project extra $$ that aren’t necessary. Protect profitability by going after the right skill level for the need and then work hard to manage the resources well and keep them engaged on your project.

Track Requirements As Though Your Life Depended On It

During Exploration and Design, map out the customer requirements well using a Requirements Traceability Matrix (we’ll cover that in another article) and manage those requirements closely. Keep track in the matrix of where those requirements are implemented in the final solution. Missed requirements mean a solution that doesn’t match your customers documented needs.

Test and Re-Test

This is an easy one. Have the customer build their own test cases and also use those during your own system tests prior to UAT along with your own test cases. Make sure the customer has solid, knowledgeable resources engaged for the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) sessions and definitely get their signoff on UAT once it’s completed.

A well-tested system goes along way in ensuring that the delivered system will work for the customer.

CYA – Get All Signoffs Just In Case

This one can’t guarantee that the customer is getting what they want, but it does help guarantee that even if they don’t, your butt is covered. Signoffs on requirements, UAT, and deployment go along way in removing blame from you if the shoe drops. Not that we ever want an unsatisfied customer. But the only thing we want less than an unsatisfied customer is an unsatisfied CEO or PMO Director who signs our paychecks. Get signoffs… you’ll sleep better at night… I promise.

Summary / Call for Input

The key job of the project manager and team is to deliver a workable solution to the project client. Deliver the right solution – one that the customer’s end users can actually use. To that end, the team must sometimes go beyond the normal call of duty to find the real project to get the right solution in the mix.

Readers – do you agree with this list? What would you add or change about it? Please share your experiences and discuss.

Do you need a Project Management Office?

I realize not everyone and every organization needs a Project Management Office (PMO). Some project management infrastructures just aren’t at the maturity level to really make use of a PMO. Some organizations aren’t large enough and never will be. And still others never really define their work in terms of “projects.” And far too many fail…but the frequency of their existence is growing.

Do we need a Project Management Office (PMO)?
Is the Project Management Office a necessary part of your business puzzle?

A 2012 report from PM Solutions indicated that 87% of surveyed organizations have a project management office in place compared to only 47% in a similar study performed in 2000. Yet PMI reported in a study that as many as 68% of all projects fail to some degree. And as for PMOs, I have personally worked in or lead PMOs for four different organizations. One company experienced utter PMO failure…twice…another kept turning over their PMO directors in a never-ending quest for some project management ‘better’ practices, and a third floundered miserably. The only one that didn’t fail was the one I was leading, though unfortunately it was short-lived as the organization itself closed up shop.

On the other hand…really…is this a necessary question for those that do need a PMO? Project offices already have a pretty good pre-defined role in our minds, at least in my opinion. It’s full of qualified (experienced, intermediate, and new) project managers, usually a PMO director who leads the organization, some laid out processes, processes and templates, and space in the organization that is recognized as the go-to office for any project ideas, customer initiatives, etc. that need to be lead by talented project professionals.

Does that sound like I’ve pretty much defined it – in highly general terms, of course? Please feel free to comment and add your own descriptions, definitions and terms here, as this is the purpose of the article.

But what about more? Who’s championing it? How is it funded? Does it handle internal projects, external projects for customers of the organization, and is it led only by the PMO director or is there someone further up who is guiding it on an ongoing basis?

Let’s consider… Continue reading “Do you need a Project Management Office?”

After Installing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update

As we all move to the latest version of Windows 10 – the Windows 10 Anniversary Update – it is a good idea to check for updates to your installed software programs.

Users with FastTrack Schedule 10.2, Windows Single-User

Simply launch FastTrack Schedule 10.2 and FastTrack Schedule will determine which, if any, components need to be installed to work with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Follow the prompts and FastTrack Schedule’s installer will install them.

Users with FastTrack Schedule 10.x, Windows Single-User

If you are using an earlier version of FastTrack Schedule 10 for Windows, Single-User Version, then the time to update to version 10.2 is now!

There is no cost to update to FastTrack Schedule 10.2 for Windows if you have a valid License Key.

Use these steps to navigate to our website and select the appropriate update for your FastTrack Schedule 10.x to 10.2, our latest version:

  1. Visit FastTrack Schedule’s website.
  2. Choose the “Support” drop-down menu, then select “Product Updates.”
  3. Click the link for FastTrack Schedule 10.0.x to 10.2.0 for Windows

Support Team, AEC Software

What Happens When The Project Dollars Are Gone?

what happens when the project dollars are goneI realize that most project engagements have the funding for the effort locked in from the moment the paperwork is signed and planning starts to get underway. It’s part of your project client’s budget for that year or however many years the project is planned to stretch through. And if it’s an internal project, the same is usually true – lots of planning and budget forecasting has already happened and the money is there to kickoff and execute the project.

However, this is not always true. I have personally found out – the hard way – that this is not always the case and you may not know that until you run into budget problems on the project – even if they are caused by the delivery team. It can be a real concern – and not just with startups and SMBs who are more likely to sometimes be living from corporate paycheck to corporate paycheck. It can happen to the giant projects and the giant customers.

So what happens if the project funding goes away? Can you ever resurrect the project? If that looks like a possibility, how do you then position yourself to be ready to ramp up and restart the project at a later date? If it’s unlikely, then what do you do to leave everything on the best terms possible?

I’ve been through this once on a large project and nearly through this a few other times for various customer or project related reasons. Here are the best steps that I’ve come up with for handling a potential project shut down and leaving things ready to start again should more funding become available in the future and it is still a viable project and need…

Continue reading “What Happens When The Project Dollars Are Gone?”

How Smart Resource Management Increases Project Profitability

 how smart resource management increases project profitabilityProfitability on the projects we manage is always in question. It seems like it’s a daily fight to keep costs in check, keep tasks on track, and keep profitability on the project in line with expectations. Often we are only looking at a 20-30% profit margin. On a $100,000 revenue project, that means $70,000 – $80,000 in costs are already expected. It’s easy to see how some poor scope management can leak that away in a matter of days leaving the project manager wondering how he ended up coming in with zero profit on a project that he thought went well.

Resource management always has to play a key role in project profitability. Why? Because our project resources are often the most expensive expenses on the project. These are highly skilled individuals and they are often being charged against the project at rates of $100, $150 or even $200 per hour. One can see that inaccurate time charges, wasted or unproductive resource time, and poor task oversight can quickly lead to a project going way out of control and over budget.

In order to keep the project budget on track, the resource time well-mapped out, and their efforts reined in, the project manager must follow three key processes as described below:

Continue reading “How Smart Resource Management Increases Project Profitability”

4 Project Mistakes You Must Avoid

4 project mistakes you must avoidProject issues, challenges, mistakes…they happen. It’s a way of life. No project in the history of projects has ever gone perfectly throughout the engagement without bumps and issues along the way. As project managers, most of us are learning along the way – I know I am and I have about 25 years of experience managing projects. One thing I have learned is this…there are a few key things we must make sure that we – as project leaders – avoid repeating on our projects time and time again as they only lead to difficulty, confusion, customer frustration, and sometimes project meltdown. The list can be longer – much longer – but I’ve narrowed it down to these four key items:

Continue reading “4 Project Mistakes You Must Avoid”

Creating a Risk Strategy that You Will Actually Use

creating a risk strategy that you will actually useWe should want to take the time to analyze, assess, plan for and manage risk on the projects that we lead. The bottom line is…most of us really don’t. Or at least our customer’s don’t see the need to spend the time or our senior management, doesn’t…or we are just swamped and pushed to get the project running.

No question – the process of performing risk management on the projects that we run should be a given – it should be an essential part of every single project and it should have the proper amount of time and attention given to it. The reality is, we often skip over it or we spend very little ‘planned time’ on it. I tout risk planning and the creation of a Risk Management Plan as a deliverable, but due to time constraints, budget constraints, and lack of customer interest, it happens on less than half of the projects that I manage. I’m not proud of it, but it is reality.

Continue reading “Creating a Risk Strategy that You Will Actually Use”

3 Keys to Keeping Projects on Time

keys to keeping projects on timeTimeliness. If there was one word to define project management with, that might be it. We have timelines, delivery deadlines, meetings, etc. Everything happens according to a schedule. There isn’t that much creative about it. There is, but it still involves a schedule and a timeline.

When we run into our CEO in the hallway – or get called into his office – about that big project and he wants to know something about it, it’s usually whether or not the project is on time so far. You better be able to say “Yes!” with a straight face. And if you haven’t had this happen to you yet with your CEO or some very high exec in your company, then maybe you haven’t managed a large enough or visible enough project yet. Don’t worry though, if you’re a successful project manager, you’ll get your chance eventually.

Back to timeliness. For me, staying on time comes down to focus on 3 key concepts. These are…

Continue reading “3 Keys to Keeping Projects on Time”

Making Sure Project Management Best Practices Work for You

project management best practicesThe key to an easier project management process…work smarter, not harder. It’s painful when we watch people around us making life or work harder than it needs to be just because they’re not using the processes or tools or help that is there before them. We see this in life, we see this all around us in the world, and we see it in work, too. Hopefully we don’t see it too much in ourselves, but I’m sure it happens.

As project managers, how can we work smarter not harder? What can we do to get our work done, make our teams feel like they are being expertly led, and let our customers know that we’re doing everything we can for them? For starters, we can use the tools and templates given us and not try to reinvent the wheel on every project. That means not just going our own way, but relying on others when necessary, and using shortcuts – good shortcuts – whenever possible.

It’s my belief – and experience – that our processes of managing our complex projects for our project customers can be easier and go more smoothly if we are continually relying on the following…

Continue reading “Making Sure Project Management Best Practices Work for You”

Signs Your Project May be Out of Control

signs your project many be out of controlEver had that feeling of panic where you know you’re busy, you know there are things you should be doing, but you’re not sure what and in what order? Maybe you are so busy that you aren’t budgeting your money well. Or you have so many clients or potential clients that you’re missing scheduled calls or needing to postpone meetings at the last minute.

This can be so true of our projects, too, when we get overloaded. It can be our project workload – maybe multiple projects took off at high speed all at once. Or maybe something came up in our personal lives – good or bad – that is occupying our train of thought. Whatever the cause or the problem, it can wreak havoc on one or more of our projects. If you’re in this situation, you may not be aware of it. But I’m going to give you five signs (and I’m sure there are many more) that you may be losing control of one or more of your projects due to distraction, work overload, or maybe you’re just in over your head technically speaking or can’t handle your team chemistry. Whatever the issue, look for these signs and then wake up and take some corrective action before you find yourself out of a project or out of a job.

Continue reading “Signs Your Project May be Out of Control”

Challenges Faced by the Consulting Project Manager

challenges faced by the consulting project managerWhen we think of project managers, most of us think of company employees placed in the PM role to take on either internal or external projects. But that is not the only scenario. Sometimes companies go outside and bring in consultants on a project by project basis to manage projects, save projects, or consult on the building of the PM infrastructure within the organization.

When the project manager is hired as a consultant rather than being an internal resource leading the project, there is definitely a different set of rules, a different set of expectations and a different process for onboarding that resource. Being hired as a project management consultant simply presents a unique set of challenges. First, as a consultant, the project manager has been employed by a client because that manager possesses or has demonstrated the necessary ability to manage projects. Second, this project manager also has to adjust to the client organization and people, and this can take time to ramp up. The following are some of the issues that a project manager can expect to find and adjust to at a client site.

Continue reading “Challenges Faced by the Consulting Project Manager”