06/16/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project budget, project costs, project customer, project manager
No question, the project budget is critical. Customer funding is based on it, project success is derived from how closely you manage to it, and without it you can’t perform any work on the engagement.
Properly pricing the project – properly estimating the costs that go into the project – is critical for any size engagement. Therefore, it’s always a good time to examine and discuss the elements that go into the overall project budget because as a project manager, you may – if you’re lucky – have some influence of the inputs to the project costs and budget. And it’s a certainty that you’ll be responsible for it – even if you had no input at the beginning of the engagement.
For this project budgeting series, let’s examine the key types of costs that go into the project budget.
Continue reading “Creating a Project Budget that Works”
06/09/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project management issues, project management software, project manager, project schedule
Issues come up, bumps in the road occur, many things work against the project manager and his team throughout the engagement as they try to deliver on the project. That said, there are a few negative things or statements from the project team, the customer, and even the PM’s senior management that can basically ruin the PM’s day as he tries to successfully deliver on the project. I’m sure there about 500 more such statements, but I thought it would be interesting to examine four relatively common ones in this article.
As you read this post, be thinking of all those statements you’ve heard over the years that have caused you grief on the projects you manage or participate on and please share them here so we can discuss.
Here are my four contributions to the discussion…
Continue reading “Four Killer Statements that Cause the PM Grief”
05/26/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project critical issues, project management, project schedule, project trouble
We all hit the wall at some point. Projects go awry, issues mount and we need to take action. The pressure mounts and tests our ability to make good sound decisions for our projects and for our project customers. What’s your point? At what point do you feel like you might be ready to pull all of your hair out and literally lose control? We all – at some time or another – reach that point where we just can’t take it anymore. And what it is depends on us. It may be too much distraction. It may be too much interruption. It may be too much stupidness (you’re resisting the very real temptation to slap someone upside the head – you know what I mean). Or it may be too much pressure. How we handle hitting that breaking point may say a lot about who we are and it may have a big impact on how we’re managing our projects and it may even have a big impact on our careers if the stressor or issue is big enough.
In our line of work – as the PM of the engagement – it is critical that we actually stay in charge and maintain the perception of remaining in control. Especially in stressful or critical situations. Continue reading “Staying the Course When Your Project is in Trouble”
05/21/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Critical Path, Dependencies, FastTrack Schedule 10, Linking, Tips and Tricks
Displaying the critical paths in a schedule is often paramount to the success of the project. Project managers need to be able to easily view and manipulate these paths so that they can determine what tasks could potentially cause a delay, or worse, in the project. Sometimes it may not always be easy to see the critical path as you set a schedule up. However, FastTrack Schedule 10 automatically determines the critical path of a schedule as dependencies are created between the various activities. At any point in time users can choose to display those critical paths and even modify the color or size in which they are displayed.
The first step to setting up a critical path is to simply define the dependencies from one activity to the next. As we do this FastTrack automatically determines the longest path between a group of tasks from the earliest start point to the latest finish date. As we can see in the schedule below our links are already created, however, links flow in some cases from one activity to several others which may make it more difficult to identify the critical path.
Continue reading “Critical Paths in FastTrack Schedule 10”
05/12/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project checklist, project closeout, project lessons learned, project manager, project schedule
Working on the end of the project at the beginning is not the first thing on our minds. At least not mine – I have to make a deliberate effort because all euphoria and excitement is focused on getting the project going well for the customer and getting out of the gate on a positive note. But the good project manager keeps the closeout in mind, as well, even from the outset of the project.
Avoid letting things fall through the cracks
Continue reading “Closing Out the Project with Confidence”
05/07/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: Bar Legend, FastTrack Schedule 10, FastTrack Schedule Environment, Legend, Tips and Tricks
When setting up schedules in FastTrack Schedule, we have the ability to assign unique bar styles to any of the activities that we create. Typically bar styles are assigned with some sort of specific meaning in mind. For example, they may be used to represent the resources assigned, the phase of the project that task occurs in, or even the type of task that it is. When we assign these styles it may be easy for us to recall what each style represents, but when we share schedules with others they may have no clue what each style indicates.
To make it easier for users to understand the bar styles and their meanings we can easily add in a Legend in any location within our schedule. There are two ways a Legend can be added:
- Schedule View. A Legend added directly to the Schedule View, can be helpful when exporting the schedule as an image. -OR-
- Print Preview. A Legend created in Print Preview will only show up when we print or create a PDF of the schedule.
As we can see in the schedule below, bar styles have been assigned to the specific phases of the project.
Continue reading “Creating a Bar Legend in FastTrack Schedule”
04/29/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: new project strategies, project manager, taking over a project
You are a busy PM – your project plate full of challenging projects. Yet someone in charge thinks you need to be the one to take over a project – be it troubled, or just in need of a replacement leader. It’s hard to look “weak” and say, “No”, so you smile and nod. Rarely are you given the right of first refusal. They want you on it and you better take the assignment. Does this still sound familiar? I’m sure most of us have been at this point at some time or another. It’s nice to be wanted, but you get that uneasy feeling that your other work and projects may suffer and you may not come out looking good in the end no matter how well you turn things around on the newly assigned project. So accept it if you must, but do it cautiously, efficiently, and wisely.
When I need to jump on a new project like this, I generally go through a few steps to get up to speed…and for this scenario I’ll assume that the outgoing project manager has little to no ability to transfer knowledge to me as I come on board…the onus for that falls to me.
Here’s what I always try to do and recommend doing if you find yourself in this scenario:
Continue reading “Successfully Taking Over a Project in Mid-Stream”
04/24/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: managing project risk, project risk, risk management, risk management process
Managing risk is one of those afterthoughts for many of us. We should plan early for it, think of ways to mitigate it, avoid it in certain areas, and help ensure our project’s success by dedicating a chunk of that early project budget to it. In reality, how much time – and on how many projects – do we actually sit down as a team (or as team and customer) and really plan for risk? Seems like planning for when the tire might blow out on our car. We’ll deal with it when it happens.
I’ve written articles that suggest risk planning and the creation of a Risk Management Plan as a deliverable on all of our projects, but often due to time constraints, budget constraints, and lack of customer interest, it either doesn’t happen or very little time and effort is dedicated to it and it becomes a very short spreadsheet list that is tucked away till later in the project. I’m not proud of it, but it is reality.
Risk management really shouldn’t be a once and done activity either. It needs to be a living, breathing end-to-end project activity. So in what time I do dedicate to risk management on each project I least do this….create a combined Issues/Risks list that becomes part of the weekly project status report and part of the weekly status call and review process. That way, it has all project eyes on it every week and we spend at least some time discussing the potential risks on the project and occasionally adding to it as the project is in progress. Some practical risk management is better than none…definitely.
In lieu of spending a large amount of time on an upfront risk management strategy with a full fledged, fully documented risk management plan, I’ve found that at least performing the following during a 1-2 hour session at kickoff time or during early planning phases can get key risks documented and monitored throughout the project.
Continue reading “Are We Really Managing Risk on Our Projects?”
04/24/2015 by Jackie Dembinsky Tags: FastTrack Schedule 10, Master Sorts, Reporting, Sorts, Tips and Tricks
When setting up projects we often try to enter our tasks and activities in a chronological order. This allows us to easily view the schedule and visualize the flow from one activity to the next. However, in some cases we may not always know the exact dates that everything will occur as we build the outline for the schedule. When this happens, as we start to enter dates, tasks may no longer appear in their true chronological order. In these cases users may want to re-sort their data into chronological order to easily see the flow from start to finish.
In FastTrack Schedule 10 users can easily sort data on the fly, within any column in their schedule. As we can see in the schedule below, our start dates are currently out of order so tasks appear scattered throughout the schedule.
Continue reading “Applying Master Sorts”
04/16/2015 by Brad Egeland Tags: project communication, project decision making, project decisions, project management decisions
Project managers make decisions all the time. It’s part of the job. In fact, it is much of the job. Decision-making is an ongoing task on every project engagement. Key decisions have to be made throughout by everyone including the project manager, the project team members, the customer, executive management, and usually other stakeholders. They may be as simple as when to hold a meeting or as difficult as making a go- no-go decision on a phase of the project or the entire project.
What we often lack when making some key decisions is the right information at the right time. We all know that making what seems to be the right decision based on information that ends up being inaccurate or out of date can be fatal to the project. What if you could only make decisions on when to cross the street based on a snapshot taken five minutes ago? Would this help? Would you have any confidence in whether or not you should cross the street? After all, it could be a life or death decision.
Well, that’s often how organizations are continually making business and technology decisions. Many decisions we make on projects are based on what we knew two days ago or two weeks ago or what someone told us last Thursday. Ideally, information would be flowing to all key personnel constantly and we would be making key business, project, and technology decisions based on what we just learned – not what we knew last week. What if you could make sense of what you learn as fast as you learn it and put that into play?
Continue reading “Making the Right Decisions on Our Projects”