Realising Benefits

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 17-Apr-08
At recent meetings with prospective clients, and chatting with fellow delegates at Project Management events, a number of people have talked to me about how their projects and programmes not delivering the benefits the business expected (not meeting objectives).
No surprises for us, but interesting therefore that the Birmingham Chapter of the APM (Association for Project Management) is holding a briefing next week on Benefits Realisation and Benefits Mapping. Peter Hawkins will be exploring benefits realisation techniques, with an emphasis on how benefits mapping is a valuable tool for a range of project and portfolio activities. Subjects covered will include:
• Why is benefits realisation important?
• Benefits realisation tools and techniques
• Benefits mapping.
For more details on the event click on this link to the relevant page on the APM website.

Project Excellence – elements for success

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 15-Apr-08
Project Excellence is increasingly becoming the key to business success. We often work with our clients on a “three-legged stool” model of project excellence and how to keep the balance right for business projects:
Element 1 – Processes
The first of the 3 elements of project excellence (and so business success) is getting the process or methodology right. Balance is critical. Too simple and there is no benefit, too complex and no-one can follow it.
Element 2 – Tools
The second of the 3 elements is equipping project managers with appropriate tools and templates. We consider the scope of these tools, their purpose and how to avoid common pitfalls (like buying an expensive tool that doesn’t fit the business process). On our PM Portal we list many of the PM tools which we commonly come across in our consultancy work.
Element 3 – People (Usually Leadership)
Finally, the people angle. It is imperative that project managers are given the skills appropriate to achieving success. It sounds simple but this critical element is all too often overlooked. In addition to the usual “hard” project management skills (planning, estimating, reporting, risk management, quality management, ….) we find that leadership and client relationship management are an increasingly critical element in the competence toolkit.
If you’d like to know more about how ProjExc can help sort the elements out for your organisation call us for a free, no obligation chat, or visit our website to find out more.

Aston Centre for Project Management Practice

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 14-Apr-08
Just popped up on the web, and neighbours of ours! According to their website, their principle aim is to develop real time, real life solutions that actually work for project managers and to use their experiences to guide the future development of practice. They aim to do this by:
•bridging gaps between both research and knowledge and knowledge and practice
•being practitioner focused – identifying solutions that work
•developing a collaborative multi-disciplinary project management community of practice
•helping companies build stronger bridges
This seems very interesting. Let’s hope that they are successful. Hopefully we’ll meet up soon, and I’ll pop some more info onto this blog.

The Projects Group (TPG) is acquired

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 14-Apr-08
We have learnt that PPi, a leading learning solutions company, announced recently the acquisition of The Projects Group plc, a specialist Project and Programme Management Support organisation. The acquisition includes TPG Academy, TPG Consultancy and the newly launched TPG Knowledge Base.
The acquisition of TPG by PPi will extend the company’s market leadership for quality learning solutions. Additionally, the combined group will be the number one Project and Programme Management training organisation. The expanded company combines best practices and proven solutions across all vertical markets, both in the commercial and public sectors.
TPG will remain a specialist project and programme management business with a unique breadth of professional experience and services. As well as supporting all UK and international qualifications with the most flexible blended learning system on the market, TPG provides consultancy, maturity assessment, staff profiling and knowledge management.
At ProjExc we have used the services of TPG for a number of our clients, and have always been delighted with the results. Hopefully that will continue with the support of their new owners.

Agile Project Management ScrumWorks Pro 3.0 released

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 14-Apr-08

Danube Technologies has recently released the latest version of their ScrumWorks Pro.

ScrumWorks Pro is an Agile Project Management tool that helps track team progress through individual iterations and whole releases of software development. General aesthetic and usability improvements are key to the new release, including: New Product Creation Wizard; Docking Framework; Tabbed Editing; Split Feature; Sprint Detail View;

Danube believe that the most important change is their support for MySQL, Enterprise customers wanting to scale to larger deployments needed more than an embedded database.
ScrumWorks Pro provides both a Desktop and Web client – the desktop is full featured while the web client provides a view of the sprint for updating task status and estimates. The server component will run on Windows XP/Vista/2003 Server, Mac OS X 10.4.2+, and Linux, while the desktop client supports: Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X 10.4.2+, and Linux KDE.

Project Management Recruitment

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 10-Apr-08

At ProjExc we recognise that by the time a vacancy has been created, there is a need to source the best candidates (permanent or interim) quickly and efficiently. We offer a package of established and proven techniques, tools and templates, enabling rapid identification of the ideal candidate, thus allowing our clients to confidently kick-start the recruitment process rapidly.

At all times we seek to maintain independence, allowing us to offer the very best advice to our clients. That said, when time is against us, it’s sometimes critical that we can bring to the table a trusted source of great candidates, from a recruiter with a shared understanding of what a good project manager looks like, and a great pool of candidates just waiting to get that call.

For that reason, ProjExc are delighted to have teamed up with Pyramid8, a specialist Project Manager Recruiter, with whom we have worked for some time, and negotiated preferential rates for ProjExc clients. If needed, ProjExc will work with Pyramid8 on our client’s behalf, providing a one-stop seamless approach and great value for money.

Our recruitment support isn’t limited to Project Managers. We can also help establish project support teams and PMO’s. If you are interested, do give us a call.

The Cost of Failing to Plan

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 25-Mar-08

Sadly no surprises to those of us at ProjExc, from an article discussing the cost of failing to plan a project. For the full article, refer to

The article explains that UK companies are wasting millions of pounds every day on development projects because their planning process is flawed from the outset. They refer to a new survey of 500 professional project managers showing a third of technology assignments in the digital, media and telecoms industries are doomed from the start because they have been so poorly conceived.

The survey from PM3 Consulting, says companies often fall at the first hurdle because they have failed to establish a coherent or realistic business case for a project. “Most worrying is the inability of these companies to identify the real benefits of a project or what it will really cost,” say the consultants “As a result projects run over time, over budget, deliver poor quality products and often fail to realise any tangible business benefits at all.”

Like the consultants who delivered the survey ProjExc believe the answer is to get experienced project managers in place. We also believe that as well as competent project managers, they usually need a toolbox with appropriate processes, systems and of course that elusive leadership ability at hand.

The research found that “many companies can’t articulate what they want from a project, yet 89% recognise that they need a project manager to take overall control,”, and that over half of companies (51%) have unrealistic expectations of their projects and 56% do not define their project success criteria.

Liquid Planner

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 25-Mar-08
We’re currently trialling a new on-line tool which has captured our interest.
Currently available as a free beta (they haven’t yet announced a release date for the final version), LiquidPlanner provides a means of organizing, assigning, and tracking tasks. It also includes tools that are designed to help project managers keep everyone on deadline.
Because LiquidPlanner is web-based (a major trend that we observed in PM Tools at the recent Project Challenge), there’s no software to download, which makes it quick and easy to set up. It is also easy to use, whether you’re trying out collaboration software for the first time or making a transition to it from a product such as Microsoft Project. It offers many of the same features as that latter application, but goes the extra mile in offering a “probabilistic scheduling” feature that allows for more-realistic task scheduling.
We’ll keep this blog posted with how we get on, but we’d also really appreciate your thoughts on the tool if you’ve used it.

Lean Methodology

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 20-Mar-08

Following on from the popular Six Sigma post our manufacturing and supply chain specialist Clifford Hobbs, delves into the world of Lean Methodologies. The whole article can be found on the ProjExc PM Portal.
Most of the tools and techniques that underpin Lean thinking originated in Japan in the 60’s and 70’s in companies such as Toyota. In the 80’s and 90’s they combined into what is now called Lean, and this broader concept of manufacturing has progressively been introduced to western manufacturers, and more recently to the service sector.

Lean is often described as an approach where waste is systematically eliminated from an organisation’s processes. At its most basic level, it involves a systematic focus on rework, inventory, poor reliability, poor quality, and poor throughput throughout the organisation, and its supply chain.
A ‘… philosophy that shortens the time line between the customer order and the shipment by eliminating waste’.

Lean is the term that was introduced to describe the philosophy and practices under-pinning the Toyota Production System (TPS). TPS (developed in the 1970’s) was a vastly superior system of manufacturing than that found in most western automotive manufacturers.

Fundamentally TPS was challenging the foundations of mass production, by creating systems and an operating culture that enabled the company to manufacture a considerable variety of products, with high levels of efficiency and quality.
To be a lean manufacturer requires a way of thinking that focuses on making the product flow through production without interruption, a pull system that cascades back from customer demand by replenishing what the next operation takes away at short intervals, and a culture in which everyone is striving continuously to improve.’

A key ingredient of the Lean approach is its emphasis on the creation of customer focused ‘value chains’ to help focus its improvement efforts.

Lean Manufacturing has helped companies to overcome some of the difficulties they experienced with introducing Just In Time. In some instances, JIT was seen as a blunt instrument for reducing working capital requirements. This objective was often very dangerous in practice as forced reductions of stock levels often caused major problems in businesses that lacked basic process dependability. This meant that companies de-stocked faster than they could improve, as a result serious customer service problems ensued. JIT placed great pressure on supply chains. It is one thing to determine the capability of your own company but not so easy to ensure integrity of supply from a large and diverse supplier base. It soon became apparent that JIT required a partnership between supplier and customer. Both of the examples above resulted in “pseudo” improvement programmes, as no attempt was made to approach the introduction of JIT in an organisation wide sense.

To be effective JIT needed waste reduction in all areas of an organisation, and in the supply chain. Lean Manufacturing approaches the issue of waste from a total process/total organisation perspective, and therefore addresses the need for capable processes, effective supply chains etc.

10 Useful Lists for Project Managers

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 17-Mar-08
I am getting close to publishing my favourite 10 lists to help project managers. It changes regularly, and there are lots to choose from. While we have a number of our own that we’ve built up at ProjExc, there are also some great lists out there as well. I recently spotted 2 on the blogs by Tom Mochal which are worthy of mention:
10 Processes to Sharpen your PM Skills:
1.Define the project
2.Plan the work
3.Manage the workplan
4.Manage issues
5.Manage scope
6.Manage risks
7.Manage communication
8.Manage documentation
9.Manage quality
10.Manage metrics
Lists in themselves are not going to change the world, but as a quick checklist (backed up by some real skills and experience) they can be extremely useful to an individual juggling a number of balls. This 1st list could well fall into this category.
The 2nd list takes a different tack – I can see it has its uses when someone is being asked to perform the role of project manager as a bolt-on responsibility. I’m just not sure how many people would judge themselves honestly, particularly when a bonus may be dependent on taking on the task. Perhaps the best use of a list like this would be for an assigning line manager to consider the exhibited attributes of an individual before asking them to take on the PM role
10 signs that you are not cut-out to be a project manager:
1.You are a poor communicator
2.You don’t work well with people
3.You prefer the details
4.You don’t like to manage people
5.You don’t like to follow processes
6.You don’t like to document things
7.You like to execute and not plan
8.You prefer to be an order taker
9.You are not organised
10.You think project management is overhead
Comments welcome as always!