Author: Edward W. Rosenthal

Edward W. Rosenthal, MPM, PMP, MCTS and Senior Consultant at RMS, has deployed PMO tools for Fortune 100 food and beverage corporations, industrial electronic companies and aerospace agencies in the greater Chicago and Washington, D.C. areas. Additionally, he has initiated the implementation of enterprise project management to aid in an ambitious (and successful) $400 million SAP rollout. Ed has been recognized with several industry awards and has presented at both PMI and Microsoft Project Management conferences. He has been a founding member and Past President Chicago chapter of MPUG since 1999. Connect with him through LinkedIn here.

Seven “Forbidden Phrases” Heard From Project Team Members

Labor is the number one cost of development projects. Actual work hours make it most important to report progress on authorized projects.” “Real” or “Accurate” time reporting of hours spent on value-driven projects adds value to the organization and the PMO. Accurate project time reporting through Project Online saves large companies millions in a single year. Let’s take a look at some of those “forbidden phrases” that may be spoken on a regular basis by team members. Most of these complaints stem from mismatched reporting tools being used by the Project Manager and shouldn’t be ignored. Pay attention to these red flags when you hear them. Usually it doesn’t take much to get an organization closer to accuracy when it comes to time reporting, and the benefits are worth it. 1. “I thought this project was still active!” How many times are actual work hours reported on projects past their completion dates?  Usually, the project went through an official closing or is still open to reporting hours worked beyond its projected end date. Perhaps, the PM moved on to another project or the project is reconciling outdated reports. Most projects are not planned with a definitive estimate. The process can become endless. Don’t fall into the trap of euphemistically labeling additions as Phase II, III, etc. 2. “How do I change my recorded hours from last week?” This is a possible indication that too many hours have been registered on a project that is beyond its original budget. If the project team is not using real time business intelligence reporting tools, this issue frequently comes up in a monthly review and requires reworking the hours to match flawed reports. 3. “Our manager told us to record time against this project.” Some team members in transition between projects believe they must still report hours against a specific project, which may not be adequately monitored or was poorly planned. Be careful, as you may notice these projects frequently have significant hours beyond what was originally planned. 4. “Our team members report a maximum of 40 hours.” Planning becomes more actuate over time when actual hours are recorded on projects. Some of these resources are investing fifty-five to sixty-hour work weeks. A true project analysis of actual hours on projects easily doubles the accuracy of cost planning for future projects. 5. “Our group does not report actual time.” This is an internal red flag, often indicating inactive employees or resources that are working on projects that are not visible or approved by corporate. When these resources are mixed with other projects, it complicates reporting the actual project cost.  6. “We do not record administrative hours.” This procedure usually comes from a manager that does not appreciate or understand the value of project metrics. All resources have hours dedicated to administrative tasks each week. General “administrative” hours that are recorded against projects will distort the “actual” planned hours on a project. 7. “The status reports are not accurate.” Often, a manager in a group will be certain to mention this, and it should be acknowledged as a warning sign that a project is visible to a corporate owner and may be in jeopardy. Most PMOs are required to include substantial detail referred to as noise. This creates a complex process impeding swift solutions and impossible troubleshooting. Mixing these reports that lack continuity from project to project presents additional challenges.  A simple standardized template throughout the organization will ensure success in reporting and generate a significant cost savings. By using the right tools and having better procedures in place for accurate time reporting, project managers can spend less time adjusting “recorded” hours and rewriting the weekly status. As a result, they will be able to put their efforts into solving real issues and moving projects forward.   Related Content Webinars (watch for free now!): Leveraging Project, Project Server and Project Online for Better Communications The Basics of Schedule Planning – It’s ALL about Communication Articles: Communication: 5 Ways to Improve Your Project’s Lessons Learned Size Matters (in Plan Communications) Ask the Experts: 15 Microsoft Project Tips for New Users

How to Fight Back Against Alternative Facts

Last week, I shared the “10 Signs Your PMO is Trying to Fly ‘Alternative Facts’“. This week I provide coping mechanisms for dealing with each of those quandaries. My philosophy is simple: First, follow industry best practices to stay out of trouble. Second, use Microsoft Project Online to track your efforts and keep everybody aligned. 1. Senior managers are “rotated” or “reassigned” before project completion. Often, reassignments occur because a project lacked a meticulous outline of requirements. Project Online provides seamless communication and collaboration among teams across the organization. Institutionalize the process within ALL functional and executive teams for maximum exposure. Beware of the one vote that can redirect plans in the undesired direction. 2. Project management offices are directed to and then cease weekly status metrics because they have become “distractions” to the executive staff. Comprehension of the true “value” of basic metrics is essential. Most PMOs tend to over-design reporting, which may not be consistent project to project anyway. A standardized work breakdown structure (WBS) throughout will ensure success in reporting and generate a significant cost savings. 3. Departments institute different project management tools because they believe the “tool” is not working “correctly.” This is a common occurrence with change in management. Project Online can communicate a consistent message across all the organizations and eliminate hundreds of two-way emails. Project status must be correct and accurate if everyone views information through a single window and not multiple channels. 4. Project failures are credited to project managers who were never assigned to the failed project. The “blame game” can be avoided when resources are in line with strategies and the objectives of a company’s priorities. When there is no single windowpane through which to view the entire project, communication, ownership and accountability is diminished. Standardizing with real-time reporting and alignment with deliverables of project plans will directly address these issues. Effectively managing resources will save upwards of 10 percent on the company’s bottom line. Use a centralized personnel pool for resource management. This database increases the reporting accuracies. With Project Online, an organizational breakdown structure (OBS) clearly encapsulates what teams are working on and supports the ability to build contingencies by balancing portfolio priorities. 5. Project plans are abandoned, “because they take up too much time” during the weekly meetings. Project plans may too detailed. Roll up your WBS and more project members will be able to clearly understand the project status. Compliance reporting and team lead reports must be standardized. Meticulous details should be reported in a separate meeting or rolled up under a properly executed WBS outline. 6. Senior managers report their own status or claim ownership when they edit the weekly project status rather than allow the status tool to report dynamically. A common window or source of communication guarantees seamless communication throughout an organization. When a common, high-level WBS is built, bind it to the OBS for accountability. Managing and updating project status becomes less cumbersome. Once ownership is assigned and published, many communication issues diminish. 7. Projects expand with the addition of “unplanned phases” that were never part of their planning or requirements while resources report and document work time to “non-project” activities. Unplanned phases surface in projects due to incomplete, changing requirements or cultural blocks to implementation. Some projects may spend more time during the “implementation phase” than the entire rest of the project. This resistance is often initiated by staff who don’t value a centralized enterprise project management (EPM) system or simply don’t want to change how they do their work. If the IT department is at an offsite location, project approval will take extra precious time, depending on the size of the organization. Project Online simplifies this major roadblock by integrating the administration within the tool. The benefit of no extra servers, continuous data backups and redundant data centers will be saving time in the project implementation. 8. Senior management or immediate subordinates refuse to use standard scheduling metrics on projects because they believe it has “no purpose” and question the “accuracy” of the weekly status due to a “language” issue. Optimizing planning will improve quality, accuracy and cost of project initiatives with each team’s status. It enables the project team to move beyond the day-to-day tactical zone and towards the strategic level. Consistency and conformity in project plans for stakeholders are priorities using a common WBS and assigned ownership. 9. Project teams no longer use Project Management Professionals or Microsoft Certified Technology Specialists since senior executives have decided to rely on nepotism over qualifications. Training is critical to any successful project management team. Building plans is more complex. Project Online will allow for the use of common templates or your company’s standardized tasks for repeating activities in all plans. Institutionalize this process among your teams. Qualified project managers are known to optimize planning and improve quality and costs of the project initiatives. 10. Companies invest substantial amounts reinventing the project management methodology and then rename it rather than use the proven industry-standard Project Management Book of Knowledge. Reinventing best practices is a budget- and time-buster. Sharing best practices through two-way communication channels — whether online, with Slack, Teams, face-to-face or some other mechanism — will bring those best practices to the forefront and augment them with continuous enhancements. By emphasizing effective governance and tested PM methodologies, you ensure that your toolset will execute on the minor project tasks while you take care of the company business. Share your own strategies for PM success in the face of alternative facts in the comments below. Image Source Related Content Webinars (watch for free now!): Leveraging Project, Project Server and Project Online for Better Communications The Basics of Schedule Planning – It’s ALL about Communication Articles: Communication: 5 Ways to Improve Your Project’s Lessons Learned Size Matters (in Plan Communications)

10 Signs Your PMO is Trying to Fly “Alternative Facts”

Project Management Professionals and Microsoft-certified individuals are committed to the quality and continuity of a project’s process and progress. While we must salute their passionate tenacity during the most complex challenges, we must also acknowledge that the health of any project may well be determined by the enthusiasm (or lack thereof) of supervisory or executive echelons. To help you translate what you’re experiencing, here are my top 10 signs that your project is in deep trouble: Next time, we look at coping opportunities. Have your own signs that a PMO is trying to fly alternative facts? Share it with the MPUG community in the comments below.

PERT Chart EXPERT Diagrams Project Dependencies

High quality Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and PERT charts are the foundation of every project. PERT Chart EXPERT, a bolt-on tool for Microsoft Project from Critical Tools, will save dozen of hours in any planning process. (I’ve already evaluated WBS Chart Pro, from the same company, previously.) PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. Invented by the US Department of Defense, a PERT chart is a project management tool used to schedule, organize and coordinate tasks within a project. It displays the dependency relationships between tasks and, with this utility, can be created in seconds. Plans defined in the program can be maintained and managed separately, transferred directly to Microsoft Project or transferred to any program that can read the “MPX” file format. Likewise, Project data can flow into PERT Chart EXPERT. The tool contains a Critical Path Scheduling engine that calculates critical and non-critical tasks as you work. PERTs become complex very quickly, so the key to usage is to plan and manage small chunks of work. This brings up another great feature of the tool, called Trace Tasks. After selecting a task, you can trace forward or backward, showing just the tasks with dependency relationships. You wont see hundreds of other tasks that are unrelated. PERT charts can be any size and contain any number of tasks. PERT Chart EXPERT works with all Windows-compatible printers and plotters and can be saved in most picture formats for other team members that dont have Project. The learning curve of this tool is measured in minutes. How many project plans include all the work to meet stakeholder expectations How many team resources are working on tasks that fall outside of a stated deliverable How easy is it for project managers to iterate and collaborate to develop comprehensive and timely WBS and PERT charts To help drive bottom-line value, I recommend this tool.