Category Archives: Project Management

12 Essential Soft Skills for Project Managers

Generally speaking soft skills are the skills an individual has in relation to their Emotional Intelligence Quotient, their ‘EQ’. These cover a breadth of skills including communications, interpersonal skills and how an individual builds and maintains relationships with others. In a project environment getting others to work with you towards a common goal is a foundation stone to delivering a project.

The 12 essential behaviours for project managers are:
* Communication and Consultation
* Conflict and Crisis Management
* Flexibility and Creativity
* Leadership
* Learning and Development
* Negotiation
* Organisational Effectiveness
* Problem Solving and Decision Making
* Professionalism and Ethics
* Trustworthiness
* Self-control
* Teamwork

Communication and Consultation: Interacting with people about ideas, thoughts, facts, emotions, challenges, successes, etc. alongside hard facts such as project progress. Having the ability to convey complex ideas easily; clearly articulate what must be accomplished; keep the team moving toward a common goal; and to foster an environment that allows team members to communicate openly and honestly.

Conflict and Crisis Management: Listening and responding to the needs and views of all team members to anticipate any potential areas of conflict. The ability to diffuse situations where conflict has risen maintains a healthy project environment.

Flexibility and Creativity: Thinking in original and imaginative ways to widen the scope of problem solving when issues arise. Encourage project teams to find the best solution and outcomes without slavishly following generic delivery methods or solutions. Adapting a project’s different components, templates, tools, and techniques.

Leadership: Understanding the vision and direction of the project and aligning the team to work towards it. Skills include delegating, coaching, motivating and leading by example.

Learning and Development: Continual improvement of both your own skills and those of your team. Assessment of skills and capabilities, encouraging participation in learning activities and evaluating how the learning is applied in the project environment.

Negotiation: Analysis of information, decision making, establishing the desired outcome and developing a strategy for the negotiation alongside understanding the optimal outcome from several options. Gaining agreement through consensus of positions from both parties.

Organisational Effectiveness: Understanding and applying people management processes and policies. Understanding the corporate culture, the organisational dynamics, and the individuals that work within it lead to getting the best from your team.

Problem Solving and Decision-Making: Resolving issues and solving problems that are a normal part of every project.

Professionalism and ethics: Demonstrated through knowledge, skills and behaviour alongside appropriate conduct and moral principles for both the organisation’s and project’s environments.

Trustworthiness: Do what you say you’re going to do. Build trust with stakeholders involved and convey they can be trusted day-to-day to do what is right at the right time to keep the project successful and the Sponsor satisfied.

Self-control: Self-control and self-management to ensure day to day stresses are addressed and a work / life balance maintained.

Teamwork: Creating a team atmosphere where the team believes that ‘we are all in this together’ is a critical component to project success.

Source: EzineArticles

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Microsoft Project 2010 Desktop

n this latest Microsoft Project release, you’ll find a lot of practical project management tools in addition to some useful bells and whistles to help in your delivery. Microsoft Project 2010 comes with some new features that are a welcome relief to the Microsoft Project learning curve.

1. The Ribbon Navigation

The first and most obvious change is the replacement of menus with the “Fluent User Interface (UI)”, more commonly known as The Ribbon. Since I first used Project in 1996, we’ve had a range of features that were hidden in menus. Now, this interface—already in place for core Office 2007 products—provides more graphical and contextual information by combining the menu and toolbars.

Compare this snapshot of a common Project 2007 menu, with toolbars.

With this view of the Fluent UI, which shows those commands used most often with a larger icon. The UI shows only relevant commands depending on what you’re viewing, such as the Gantt Chart Tools tab that appears at the right because of the active Gantt Chart view.

Compare the Format menu for the Gantt Chart…

with the Format menu for the Network Diagram.

You can even customize the Ribbon so that it contains exactly what you want to see where you want to see it.

Yes, it took me a while to get used to this new interface, and I’m still working to find some of my old friends. Nonetheless, after a brief period of adjustment I am finding that I’m able to use a lot more of the tools more quickly (and, most of my old Keyboard Shortcuts work in the same manner).

2. The Timeline

The Timeline area displays in a simple view the key phases and milestones associated with a Project Schedule. This feature, though simple, is remarkably beneficial for quickly showing everyone the high-level view of the project and its deliverables.

You can easily add to the Timeline by right-clicking a Task or Milestone, and choosing Add To Timeline. In addition, the Timeline shows the time frame shown in the Gantt Chart, as shown below.

3. Manually Scheduled Tasks

When first planning a project, it’s likely that you will have some dates associated with your phases (represented by Summary Tasks), specific tasks, or milestones. Now, rather than Project always assigning a default date and duration to tasks and milestones, you can create Manually Scheduled Tasks.

Observe in the picture below:

  •     Task 1 is Automatically Scheduled: the Task Mode property (which now appears as a column in the default Gantt Chart view) is set to Automatically Scheduled. This mode is what you’re used to from previous versions of Project. It is, however, no longer the default mode.
  •     Task 2 is Manually Scheduled: the Task Mode property defaults to the Manually Scheduled, which prevents the scheduling engine from acting on the task.
  •     Task 3: You can change this Task Mode property using the drop-down field, or by selecting the Manually Scheduled checkbox in the Details (formerly Split Screen) view.

While we may argue about when or whether one should use the Manually Scheduled task mode, or set it to the default mode, I personally feel that it provides a needed tool that Projects Schedulers can use when it is appropriate.

4. Team Planner (Professional Only*)

How can you tell whether your resources are working more hours than they have time available? When will your resources work on tasks? When are they available? In Project 2007 and could to use assignment views, such as Task Usage and Resource Usage. With Project 2010, you can use the newly minted Team Planner.

This excellent view focuses on the resources, and the tasks to which they are assigned.

In this view, you can see that the Programmer is overallocated: we know this because he shows highlighted in red. However, unlike previous versions we can see not only that he is overallocated, but where he is overallocated in the Gantt Chart view. Notice the red lines show the overallocated time.

Now, we have several options for resolving this issue:

  •     Use the Leveling tools, which were available in previous versions of project

  •     Use the Move Task menu, and choose the When Resources Are Available entry

  •     Manually drag and drop the task from the Programmer

  •     ….to the Tester (not that we’d want to do that in real life).

This graphical view of resources can help Project Managers visualize the allocation of resources to activities, and more easily work to resolve issues of overallocation.

5. SharePoint Synchronization (Professional Only*)

Project Managers who have the 2010 versions of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) or Microsoft Office SharePoint Services running will be able to synchronize project schedules with SharePoint-based Task Lists.

In the new Outspace’s Share area, you can connect to the SharePoint site, and then configure the fields you with to synchronize. Most exciting: the synchronization is bi-directional and will allow you to update fields from either the Project client or the Task list on the server; and, you can synchronize custom fields.

Conclusion :
The new features of Microsoft Project 2010 desktop will make developing and managing a project more intuitive for Project Managers new to the tool, and will provide many new tools that will enhance the experience for existing Project Managers.

source: microsoft

Dealing With Difficult Customers, Angry Customers and Just Plain Rude Customers

When you have dealt with an angry customer, you may have asked yourself, “what does this person want from me?”. It is an important question with a number of answers. Knowing the answers will help you calm down an angry person and reduce hostile behavior directed at you. Learn what angry customers need and want. Customers want what they want. When we can’t give them what they ask for, there are some psychological needs that you can address. Fulfill these needs and you will reduce hostile behavior.

Dealing with abusive or difficult customers involves using a number of techniques, many of which are small, and easy to use. What you want to do is send a message that you are working with the customer, and not working against the customer. When the customer sees you as being on the same side, the customer is less likely to be aggressive or obnoxious, and tends to be more cooperative. You may find that replacing the words “you” and “I” with WE can give the impression you are on the same side as the client.

Here are the basic six-step process that can help you through trying times with difficult customers. The six steps are as follows:
1. Let the customer vent.
2. Avoid getting trapped in a negative filter.
3. Express empathy to the customer.
4. Begin active problem solving.
5. Mutually agree on the solution.
6. Follow up.

Letting the customer vent

When your customers are upset, they want two things: They want to express their feelings, and they want their problem solved. Some service providers view the customers’ venting as a waste of time because they want to move on and solve the problem. However, trying to resolve the situation without first listening to the customers’ feelings never works. Only after your customers have vented can they begin to hear what you have to say.

Nothing heats up customers with a problem faster than being told to calm down while they are venting. The best plan is to stay quiet and not make matters worse by interrupting the customer. Let the customers know that you are listening to them by doing these three things while they vent away:

  •     Nod your head frequently.
  •     Say uh-huh from time to time.
  •     Maintain eye contact.

Even though the customer’s anger may appear to be directed at you, remember that you are simply the person they are venting to and don’t take it personally.

Evading negative filters

The friction between you and a difficult customer is often worsened by how you interpret his or her behaviors. Take a moment and think of some of the names that you call your difficult customers — not to their face, but privately, under your breath. You may even want to jot a few of your favorites down in disappearing ink.

As soon as you pin one of these labels on a customer, it becomes a negative filter that dramatically changes how you see, speak, and listen to the other person. If left unchecked, negative filters can get out of control and spread like wildfire, creating a situation where positive communication with a customer is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Inevitably, you’ll have negative filters about some of your customers, some of the time. The idea is to avoid getting stuck in these negative filters by switching to a service filter. You do so by asking yourself the question: “What does this customer need and how can I provide it?”

This question provides you with an alternative filter because as soon as you ask it, your focus changes. By changing where you aim your attention, you illuminate the issues that need to be addressed — rather than your personal feelings about the customer’s behavior.

Expressing empathy

If you give customers a chance to vent, they will eventually run out of steam; then you can begin to participate more actively in the conversation. Giving a brief and sincere expression of empathy works wonders to calm a difficult customer. By letting customers know that you understand why they are upset, you build a bridge of rapport between you and them.

Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy is when you over-identify with the other person’s situation.

Empathic phrases are a simple and easy way of conveying that you understand your customer’s situation. The types of phrases that best express empathy to a customer include the following:

  •     I can see why you feel that way.
  •     I see what you mean.
  •     That must be very upsetting.
  •     I understand how frustrating this must be.
  •     I’m sorry about this.

Some service providers feel uncomfortable apologizing to the customer because they see it as an admission of guilt. Saying “I’m sorry” to a customer does not imply that you or your company did anything wrong; it simply conveys that you are genuinely sorry that the customer has had a bad experience. By using a genuinely warm and caring tone, you enhance the meaning and effectiveness of empathic phrases.
Actively problem solving

Begin active problem solving by asking questions that help clarify the cause of the customer’s problem. As you ask the customer questions, be sure to listen to everything she says and don’t jump to conclusions.

Mutually agreeing on the solution

After you gather all the facts, you need to work with your customer to come up with an acceptable resolution. If you haven’t already discovered what will make him happy, ask. You may, at this point, find it necessary to take a brief time-out from the customer so that you can do the behind-the-scenes work necessary to solve the problem. In this case, be sure that the customer knows exactly why you are asking him to wait and how long it will take for you to get back to him. Finally, when you both agree on how to resolve the problem, explain the steps that you will take to implement the solution.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Be honest and realistic when telling the customer what you will do.

Following up

You can score big points on the service scoreboard by following up with your customers — by phone, e-mail, or letter — to check that the solution worked. If you contact the customer and find out that he or she is not satisfied with the solution, continue to look for another, more workable solution.

Effective follow-up also includes fixing the procedures that are causing the problem to begin with. By spending time solving internal service delivery problems, you prevent them from occurring in the future.

Perhaps most important is that don’t lose your self control. If you lose your self control you also lose control over the situation, and in the worst case scenario, the situation can escalate into verbal threats, or even personal violence. Physical violence from customers occurs when things get out of control, and the best way to protect yourself is not to lose control of your self.

Sources: Many References on internet..

IT Project Management illustration

project management illustration

project management illustration by Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons.

  • How the customer explained it
  • How the project leader understood it
  • How the analyst designed it
  • How the programmer wrote it
  • How the business consultant described it
  • How the project was documented
  • What operations installed
  • How the customer was billed
  • How it was supported
  • What the customer really needed

SDLC – Systems Development Life Cycle

The systems development life cycle (SDLC) is a conceptual model used in project management that describes the stages involved in an information system development project, from an initial feasibility study through maintenance of the completed application.

Systems development phases:
The System Development Life Cycle framework provides a sequence of activities for system designers and developers to follow. It consists of a set of steps or phases in which each phase of the SDLC uses the results of the previous one.

A Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) adheres to important phases that are essential for developers, such as planning, analysis, design, and implementation, and are explained in the section below. A number of system development life cycle (SDLC) models have been created: waterfall, fountain, spiral, build and fix, rapid prototyping, incremental, and synchronize and stabilize. The oldest of these, and the best known, is the waterfall model: a sequence of stages in which the output of each stage becomes the input for the next. These stages can be characterized and divided up in different ways, including the following:

  • Preliminary analysis: The objective of phase1 is to conduct a preliminary analysis, propose alternative solutions, describe costs and benefits and submit a preliminary plan with recommendations.

Conduct the preliminary analysis: in this step, you need to find out the organization’s objectives and the nature and scope of the problem under study. Even if a problem refers only to a small segment of the organization itself then you need find out what the objectives of the organization itself are. Then you need to see how the problem being studied fits in with them.

Propose alternative solutions: in digging into the organization’s objectives and specific problem, you may have already is covered some solutions, other possible solutions can some form interviewing may have already discovered some solutions, other possible solutions can some from interviewing people inside the organization, clients or customers affected by it, suppliers and consultants. You can also study what competitors is doing. With this data, you can have three choices. You can leave the system as is, improve it, or develop a new system.

Describe the costs and benefits.

The Document Deliverables during this phase is : Business Requirement Specification (BRS) or Customer Required Specification( CRS) Or User Requirement Specification(URS).

  • Systems analysis, requirements definition: Defines project goals into defined functions and operation of the intended application. Analyzes end-user information needs.

Document Input : Business Requirement Document
Document Deliverables : SRS (Software Requirement Specification)

  • Systems design: Describes desired features and operations in detail, including screen layouts, business rules, process diagrams, pseudocode and other documentation.

Document Input : SRS (Software Requirement Specification)
Document Deliverables : Design Document

  • Implementation: The real code is written here (coding-phase)
  • Integration and testing: Brings all the pieces together into a special testing environment, then checks for errors, bugs and interoperability.
  • Acceptance, installation, deployment: The final stage of initial development, where the software is put into production and runs actual business.
  • Maintenance: What happens during the rest of the software’s life: changes, correction, additions, moves to a different computing platform and more. This is often the longest of the stages.

In the following example (see picture) these stage of the systems development life cycle are divided in ten steps from definition to creation and modification of IT work products:

Not every project will require that the phases be sequentially executed. However, the phases are interdependent. Depending upon the size and complexity of the project, phases may be combined or may overlap.

Strength and Weaknesses of SDLC
Strengths Weaknesses
Control. Increased development time.
Monitor large projects. Increased development cost.
Detailed steps. Systems must be defined up front.
Evaluate costs and completion targets. Rigidity.
Documentation. Hard to estimate costs, project overruns.
Well defined user input. User input is sometimes limited.
Ease of maintenance.
Development and design standards.
Tolerates changes in MIS staffing.

It is critical for the project manager to establish and monitor control objectives during each SDLC phase while executing projects. To manage and control any SDLC initiative, each project will be required to establish some degree of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to capture and schedule the work necessary to complete the project. The WBS format is mostly left to the project manager to establish in a way that best describes the project work.

Work breakdown structured organization :
The upper section of the work breakdown structure (WBS) should identify the major phases and milestones of the project in a summary fashion. In addition, the upper section should provide an overview of the full scope and timeline of the project and will be part of the initial project description effort leading to project approval. The middle section of the WBS is based on the seven systems development life cycle (SDLC) phases as a guide for WBS task development. The WBS elements should consist of milestones and “tasks” as opposed to “activities” and have a definitive period (usually two weeks or more). Each task must have a measurable output (e.x. document, decision, or analysis). A WBS task may rely on one or more activities (e.g. software engineering, systems engineering) and may require close coordination with other tasks, either internal or external to the project. Any part of the project needing support from contractors should have a statement of work (SOW) written to include the appropriate tasks from the SDLC phases. The development of a SOW does not occur during a specific phase of SDLC but is developed to include the work from the SDLC process that may be conducted by external resources such as contractors and struct.

source: wikipedia and others

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) is a book which presents a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project management. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) was first published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a white paper in 1987 in an attempt to document and standardize generally accepted project management information and practices.

The Guide recognizes 42 processes that fall into five basic process groups and nine knowledge areas that are typical of almost all projects.

The five process groups are:

  •     Initiating
  •     Planning
  •     Executing
  •     Monitoring and Controlling
  •     Closing

The nine knowledge areas are:

  1.     Project Integration Management
  2.     Project Scope Management
  3.     Project Time Management
  4.     Project Cost Management
  5.     Project Quality Management
  6.     Project Human Resource Management
  7.     Project Communications Management
  8.     Project Risk Management
  9.     Project Procurement Management

Each of the nine knowledge areas contains the processes that need to be accomplished within its discipline in order to achieve an effective project management program.

Source : http://www.pmi.org

The Guide recognizes 42 processes that fall into five basic process groups and nine knowledge areas that are typical of almost all projects.

  • The five process groups are:
  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring and Controlling
  5. Closing
  • The nine knowledge areas are:
  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management

Each of the nine knowledge areas contains the processes that need to be accomplished within its discipline in order to achieve an effective project management program.

The list of Project Management Software : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_project_management_software