Project Hero Blog

More Project Management Best Practice Tips

PM Tip, Week of 08 March 2020

5 Tips to Improve Your Agile Project Management

As Agile and iterative methods grow in popularity, it is easy for those with a solid project management background to work in a new environment.  These 5 tips will help:

  1. Question traditional PM practices: everything you know still applies, but question how to tailor and improve past practices for the new environment.
  2. Use pictures over words: lighter Agile documentation benefits from images and diagrams more than written words.  Make a conscious effort to use more images.
  3. Risk and schedule management are still relevant: make sure these are included in lighter versions: more diagrams and schedules map out sprints, rather than details.  Use burndown charts to show progress. Re-examine risks when planning each sprint.
  4. Consider the user experience: customer involvement is critical.  Don't lose sight of who needs to use the project.
  5. Always re-evaluate your process. Frequent retrospectives will enable continuous...
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Managing Risks of Fixed Schedules

As Project Managers, we often have to perform with a fixed schedule. This type of situation can occur for almost any project or industry, but it is a special issue in the software industry when we want to meet monthly, quarterly, or other periodic release schedules. Here are my top 5 tips for successfully managing the risk and meeting the deadline:
 

 1) Be sure there is a project charter for each release, with the high level time, resources, budget, and deliverables scoped out. Factor in time off for vacation early since this can have a big impact if it comes as a surprise later. Any surprises warrant an immediate review.

2) Regularly review delivery metrics. Use experience to improve estimating and the ability to meet targets. Build an incentive/recognition plan around achieving superior metrics (not just meeting the target).
 
3) Count on product and project management being between 5% and 20% of your schedule -- this rule of thumb will help make sure you don't...
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Keeping Your Projects on Track with Earned Value

A lot of folks in San Diego wonder how the construction of Petco Park, a managed project, could have possibly spent all the funding before it was half completed without anyone knowing. While I certainly don't have proof as to the actual cause, there is one very good way projects can get into this state -- they failed to look at all three key project success factors -- time, cost, and performance.

The usual illustrative story goes something like this ... you hire a painter to paint four walls in four days. Each day is budgeted for $1,000 for a total of $4,000. If at the end of 2 days, I tell you the painters spent $1,500, do you know what the status of the project is? No because you don't know how much work was actually completed. If I were to tell you the painters finished 3.5 walls, would you know? No, because you don't know how much was spent.

Earned Value is a project management technique which can help you look at time, cost, and performance of your project. Using it can provide...

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Earn Your Value - Part III

To recap parts one and two of this post, we saw:

- how earned value is useful for monitoring both costs and schedule
- the basic formulas used to see if our projects are off track (and by how much)
- the recommendation that earned value be looked at weekly
- the ideal values for cost and schedule index are one (1.0)
- a simple way of communicating earned value information to our clients.

This week I'd like to take a look at the things we can do to manage our projects, especially if the CI and/or SI is much bigger or much smaller than one. Note that I can merely suggest causes -- you will need to diligently look at your projects and their circumstances to arrive at the conclusion right for you. You may want to produce a graph or visual of your progress so you can pinpoint the time at which things started to go south.

CI << 1 and SI = 1
Being on schedule but over budget might represent a significantly underestimated budget (or a tight budget dictated by the project sponsor), a...

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Earn Your Value - Part II

Last week we looked at the basic principles and formulas surrounding Earned Value Management. While the full practice of EVM may be very complex, it also provides a simple way to update clients on the status of smaller projects. But before we look at the "how", let's take a look at the "how often".

The frequency will actually depend on many things, but I recommend you start with once a week. If a month passes by and there's a problem, its usually too late to do anything about it. Once a week allows you to keep closer track of expenditures and invoices. Once a week also let's the client see the progress. You can always skip reporting for a week if you didn't work on the project, but you still need to follow up on tracking of expenditures and invoices. I usually log expenditures, invoices, and payments to see the full project picture.

Your weekly report to clients needs to contain the basics of cost and schedule variance, plus an estimate of the remaining expenses. Knowing the cost...

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Earn Your Value - Part I

As I was thinking about what to write this week, I noticed my only mention of Earned Value Management was both brief and some time ago. It's an important topic, so I'm going to devote my next three entries to it. This week, we're going to look at the basics. Next week, we'll look at how to report Earned Value to clients and stakeholders. In the third and final post in this series, we'll look at how to use Earned Value Management principles to manage projects.

The usual illustrative story of Earned Value goes something like this ... you hire a painter to paint four walls in four days. Each day is budgeted for $1,000 for a total of $4,000. If at the end of 2 days, I tell you the painters spent $1,500, do you know what the status of the project is?

The answer is "No" because you don't know how much work was actually completed. If I were to tell you the painters finished 3.5 walls, would you know? Also "No" because you don't know how much was spent.

Earned Value is a project management...

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