RationalPlan 4.9 – Better Mac OS X Integration and Improved Printing

Stand By Soft is pleased to announce the release of RationalPlan 4.9. Current version offers better Mac OS X integration, improved printing mechanism and many other features.

RationalPlan suite started as a desktop application designed to run on all major operating systems – Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – but it evolved into an embedded management system that is now available even as a project management cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Important changes for this version:

  • Comply with Gatekeeper’s restrictions on Mac OS X
  • More printing options
  • New status values for projects: “Awaiting approval” and “Awaiting closure”
  • New filters
  • Improved support for reading Microsoft© Project files

Starting with Mac OS X Mountain Lion the Gatekeeper was introduced that by default does not allow users to run applications downloaded outside of the App Store. In this situation were also RationalPlan users. The good news is that now RationalPlan products can safely pass the Gatekeeper restrictions.

Printing mechanism was improved at users request. Along with minor visual adjustments it is now possible to change the timescale and soft zoom for chart based views directly from print preview window. This is very useful when users need to fine tune their printing layout. Read the rest of this entry »

Project Management Glossary Of Terms – F

Fabrication

FAC

Facilitating

Facilitator

Facilities/Product Life Cycle

Facility

Factor

Failure

Fair and Reasonable Cost

Fallback Plan

Fallback Position

Fast Track

Read the rest of this entry »

RationalPlan Project Management Software – 2014 Brazil World Cup Promotion

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil discount for RationalPlan project management software
Stand By Soft is delighted to offer users a special discount for the duration of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ for its RationalPlan suite.

All that needs to be done is to use the coupon code BRAZIL-WORLD-CUP when placing an order. By using this coupon code users will have a 20% discount for any of the RationalPlan products except the Cloud solution.

However all new users that purchase RationalPlan Cloud service will be given one free month hosting. For this just mention the coupon code within the Comments section when filling the usage notification form.

RationalPlan is a project management suite that started as a desktop application designed to run on all major operating systems – Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – but it evolved into an embedded management system that is now available even as a cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Why Project Team Composition Changes Affect Performance

Team PerformanceWhen a member leaves the project or is added mid-project to the team, that team’s composition changes. Consequently, the team performance increases or decreases. If the team performs worse after the change, the project manager must find a solution. The first step is understanding why changing team composition affects performance.

Sometimes, the team performs worse because the new team members are not skilled or experienced enough. But when they are, the team should perform better; however, that does not always happen. Even adding experienced and skilled members can decrease team performance, at least initially.

Team Development Stages

Team underperformance is likely to be caused by a mix of factors, unique to each team. One of the main causes is the alteration of group dynamics after a member enters or leaves the team. A modified team acts as a newly formed team. To understand group dynamics, Bruce Tuckman (1965) proposed four stages of team development: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

  • Forming – Individuals start to form the group; individuals avoid conflicts because they want to gain group acceptance.
  • Storming – Individuals start competing, and conflicts arise because individuals define their roles and establish the group’s hierarchy.
  • Norming – The group is focused on problem solving and respecting procedures; individuals trust each other.
  • Performing – The group performs well as a team. (Not all teams reach this stage.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 2: EVM Drawbacks and Benefits)

Earned value management (EVM) is an efficient methodology for monitoring and predicting project performance only if it is correctly and timely applied. Otherwise, it can become a negative risk for the project, as it ends up consuming managers’ and project teams’ time without producing accurate estimates.

EVM Drawbacks or Limitations

Putting an EVM system in place attracts implementation costs, training costs, software costs, and other associated costs. In addition, generally only organizations with a mature project management system – that is, those that use well-defined processes and procedures consistently across projects – rely on EVM. Organizations that have inconsistent project management practices or little experience with projects may have more to lose than to win if attempting to invest their efforts into using EVM, as it requires accurate project planning and effective change management practices. Proper project planning includes, among many others, documenting requirements well and creating a good work breakdown structure – both essential for EVM.

If the project plan is faulty, EVM will result in misleading results, which are not only a waste of time and effort, but may also lead to project failure. Some organizations start employing EVA analyses in their projects, only to find out later that they got no reliable results. Instead, they realize that employing this technique only added to the cost of managing their projects. Usually, in these situations, the culprit is not EVA, but a missing earned value management system, which may well be the case in an organization with little experience in running projects. Read the rest of this entry »

RationalPlan 4.8 – Hungarian Language Support, Ubuntu Adoption and Earned Value Analysis

Stand By Soft is pleased to announce the release of version 4.8 for RationalPlan project management suite. Current version comes with significant changes that will certainly help users: Hungarian language was added, Ubuntu integration, support for Earned Value Analysis, tasks distribution in Timesheet view, improved filtering and many other features.

RationalPlan is a project management suite that started as a desktop application designed to run on all major operating systems – Windows, Linux and Mac OS X – but it evolved into an embedded management system that is now available even as a cloud service both for individuals and for companies that need a distributed solution with concurrent access from multiple users.

Important changes for this version:

  • Added possibility for Earned Value Analysis – including CV, SV, CPI, SPI, ACWP, BCWP, BCWS related values
  • Better integration with Ubuntu
  • The products are now also available in Hungarian
  • Tomcat 8 compatibility for the On Premise solution
  • Added tasks distribution in Timesheet view
  • More work on filters
  • Also export data to Microsoft Project .xml format when working with the Server
  • Also export the reschedule date to .xls
  • Changes related to email notifications for resources
  • Added information about documents on tasks in the Info column
  • Compatibility with Google Calendar – updated libraries for iCalendar integration
  • Project import into Server should not be done if you do not have rights to add projects, resources, calendars and clients

At multiple users requests it was added the possibility to perform Earned Value Analysis. Users are now able to work with well known entities like CV, SV, CPI, SPI, ACWP, BCWP, BCWS. For those that are more interested on this subject, the team behind RationalPlan prepared some short tutorials on Earned Value Management. Read the rest of this entry »

Earned Value Management—An “Overhead” View (PART 1: EVM Basics)

Despite being one of those topics that put project management students into the doldrums, earned value management remains the most effective way for monitoring project performance. It is a project management methodology used by the U.S. Department of Defense and by many private companies all over the world. Besides a PMBOK chapter and the U.S. Department of Defense EVM Implementation Guide, many other resources cover this topic.

This article—structured in two parts—outlines earned value management in an attempt to provide a starting point for anyone interested in exploring the topic or wanting to decide if it is something his or her organization might use.

EVM, EV, EVA, and EVMS—Not Interchangeable Acronyms

According to the authors of the PMBOK, earned value management (EVM) “integrates project scope, cost, and schedule measures to help the project management team assess and measure project performance and progress.” EVM is a system for project management control that uses earned value as a criterion.

PMBOK defines earned value (EV) as “the value of work performed expressed in terms of approved budget assigned to that work for an activity or work breakdown structure component. It is the authorized work that has been completed, plus the authorized budget for such completed work.” Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Project Management Iron Triangle Obsolete?

One of the first things project management students learn is that a project’s cost, time, and scope are interdependent. These three project constraints form the iron triangle. If one constraint changes, the other two change as well. For example, adding extra features to a product costs more and takes more time. Although the iron triangle was a measure of project success for decades, it is no longer so. Yet the iron triangle is not obsolete.

At the beginning of the project management era and for many decades to come, the iron triangle measured project success. Successful projects balanced time, cost, and scope—they were completed on time and within budget. However, even some completed projects that exceed time or budget can be perceived as successful by project stakeholders. Also, a project completed on time and within budget can be a failure if it leads to team burnout, for example. It is clear that more than just balancing the iron triangle contributes to a project’s success. For example, the PMBOK (v. 4) says a project needs to balance other constraints besides time, cost, and scope, namely quality, resources, schedule, and risks.

However, the iron triangle can still offer guidelines for setting the success criteria of a project. The project manager can continue to use it to understand stakeholders’ most important constraints for that project and help stakeholders agree on what constraint they can afford to “slide.” With that information, the project manager can plan the project better. In almost any project, the iron triangle tends to go out of balance because scope, cost, and time and their interrelationships are complex, thus difficult to predict and more difficult to control.

Scope can change during the lifetime of a project. This is intrinsically true for an agile project, whose scope is only broadly defined at the beginning of the project, but can also be true for traditional (waterfall) projects, due to changes such as market trend variation, domain evolution, and new legislation. For example, in IT, the cost and time of a project are two sliding constraints for about 50 percent of projects, according to statistics. Read the rest of this entry »

Recognizing and Avoiding Project Team Burnout

“Death march projects are the norm, not the exception,” says Edward Yourdon, the author of the Death March, a book about surviving highly stressful, irrational projects in the software industry. Many organizations promote “death march” projects – those with unrealistic goals and schedules – to keep up with the competition in their respective industries. As a result, project teams work overtime to meet unrealistic goals and schedules, sometimes with insufficient resources, only to reach the burnout phase. The productivity declines, the absenteeism rate increases, and the team is unable to meet requirements. A burnout team means that the employees’ job satisfaction diminishes and that they cannot perform their tasks and meet deadlines. The consequence is a failed current project and a high probability of failure of the next project.

Recognizing team burnout and taking steps toward avoiding it are essential for avoiding cost repercussions for the organization.

“Burnout can be defined as feelings of exhaustion, a cynical attitude toward the job and people involved in the job and through a reduced personal accomplishment or work efficiency,” according to a dieBerater report.

Many things can trigger team burnout besides death march projects. These include poor project planning (cost, time, and resources), customer changes, micromanagement, high workload, time pressures, insufficient project manager support, as well as insufficient training and decision-making opportunities.

Exhausted teams tend to focus on achieving the results by working harder rather than smarter. The team members fail to use creativity to develop efficient solutions, so they become frustrated, communicate less, and work inefficiently. Read the rest of this entry »

Costly Mistake: Communicating Ineffectively with Project Stakeholders

More than half of what an organization spends on a project is at risk due to ineffective communication, warn the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications. Over 50% of the project managers surveyed by PMI researchers nominate effective communication as the most important factor that contributes to any project’s success.

Since the project manager is the main person responsible for communication, a project manager that engages in ineffective communications endangers the project. Communicating effectively with all stakeholders starts with understanding what effective communication is and who the project’s stakeholders are.

Defining Effective Communication

“Effective communication takes place only when the listener clearly understands the message that the speaker intended to send.” (University of Pittsburgh)

“Effective communication is about getting your message across.” (Nature)

Effective communication is transmitting a message the receiver clearly understands. Since most messages a project manager transmits are time-sensitive, effective communication in the project management realm also implies timely transmission and reception of the correct message.

Tips for Communicating Effectively with Stakeholders

Identify all stakeholders of your project, starting with the team members, project sponsor, and the customers. Rank their communication needs and define a communication plan. Who and when do you need to update? Whose feedback do you need and how often do you need it? Since stakeholders in each category have different levels of technical expertise, pay attention to the language complexity. For example, you can use technical jargon with your team members, but you might need to convey the same message for the customer in layman’s terms so that you do not bury the message in jargon.

Besides transmitting the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time, effective communication implies effective listening to the stakeholders. Ensure there is no misunderstanding in the messages you get from the stakeholders just like you ensure they understand your messages.

Formal and Informal Communication

A good way to ensure effective communication with your team members is to promote informal communication besides reports, status updates, or planned team meetings that are part of your communication plan. Ensure all your team members can openly express their opinions. Let them know your door is always open for informal discussions about the project. And when they do have questions, give comprehensive answers. Read the rest of this entry »