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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PM Tip, Week of 01 March 2020

Leaders: 5 Times You Should Cancel a Project


For over 10 years, stakeholders tried to make the Denver International Airport Automated Baggage Handling project work before giving up. The cost of continuing was around $120M, on top of an already over-budget project that was too complex to fix. Project leaders should know when to give up and cancel a project. Here are 5 circumstances that signal the necessity of cancellation:

  1. Project objectives are no longer attainable, and no useful deliverables will result.
  2. The project is no longer aligned with organizational goals and strategy.
  3. The project is very off track and cannot be economically salvaged (do not consider sunk costs in the decision).
  4. The project will no longer provide any value to the organization when completed.
  5. Any contractual terms for cancellation are met.
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PM Tip, Week of 16 February 2020

Project Leaders: Time to Ask Another "Why?"


Decades of Project Management research shows that lack of user involvement/ executive sponsorship and requirements management are consistently high on the top 10 causes of project failure list. Over time, there has been a modest uptick in project success rates, but still, large percentages of projects fail to meet their goals. Why? Here is a short candidate list to consider:

  • Not enough of the right PM training offerings. There is more focus on certification than learning the right skills. Plus while the PMBOK® Guide has tripled in size, the education hours of many programs remain the same (how is this effective???).
  • Too many "accidental" project managers. Neither the PMBOK® Guide nor the MS Project manual are learning resources - they are references.
  • Huge tolerance for waste and quality issues. While waste and quality issues may not appear to be important to projects, they compound to impact the portfolio. - Too busy running the...
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Look Before the Project - Part III

For the last two weeks, we looked at two different ways to evaluate project selections to determine which to work on. This type of activity is often carried out by senior management and not the project manager. The project manager is usually involved once the project charter has been developed. A special form of project charter is the Statement of Work or SOW. Its often associated with a contract and describes in detail the work or services to be performed. I always use a SOW on a consulting engagement.

I almost called this post “where’s the contract?” I sometimes hear “I didn’t know I bought that” — well the good project manager always checks the contract and SOW first to understand the project and what is involved. If you’ve been “knighted” as the project manager, the SOW is a good document to request.

The SOW can also be a tool to set expectations. There is always a great deal of uncertainty when projects start. Sales...

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Look Before the Project - Part II

Last week we looked at the BCR -- Benefit-Cost Ratio as a way of evaluating a project. This week I'd like to look at a related technique -- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The purpose of many projects is to introduce a new product or service. Often this new product or service has a later ongoing operation. For example, if you have installed Oracle Financials, there is a need to develop the customized software and populate the initial data, but once that is complete, there are expenses associated with rolling out the project, paying the maintenance fees, hiring the staff to keep the data current, etc. Similarly if you project is to construct a housing development, there are ongoing expenses after the homes are built to sell them and get the buyers moved in.

Total Cost of Ownership goes beyond BCR in that it looks at the ongoing expenses associated with a project and let's you know more about what it will really cost to keep things going once the project has ended. This is an important...

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Look Before the Project - Part I

For the next few weeks I'd like to take a closer look at initiating projects, with special attention to costs. This is an area of weakness for many who jump in to do work before looking at the consequences or rewards. Rather than use a microscope, you need a telescope to see to the far and of the project. We'll focus on costs, but once again, there are many other factors which must be analyzed.

There are many different methods and techniques, but one easy one is to determine the ratio of benefits to costs, starting with the "hard dollars" -- the real cash to be spent and saved. This is also a good sales tool since it shows the tangible benefit of buying the project, product, or services. One easy illustration can be found in imaging systems.

Let's looks at the hypothetical costs of the imaging system -- a small server ($5,000), software ($100,000 -- its a high end package), and a high speed scanner ($10,000). We may also need to pay someone to install the system ($20,000) and...

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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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