Want to get project disciplines into your organization fast? Here’s how

Introducing Project Disciplines is hard work

Lots of companies find introducing project disciplines slow, difficult and not very exciting.  Staff often show resistance and it can be hard to get buy in and commitment at executive level where other stuff is seen as more important or pressing.

Well here’s some good news.  The best way to get some project disciplines in fast is to buy a project management package.

But before you get too excited and start reaching for the cheque book, you need to make sure that you chose the right package.

Choose the right project management software

Choose the right software and accompany it with a process for running projects and some training and you’re cooking on gas.

If you choose well, your project management package will do all of the following:

  • Provide the means for project managers to produce plans and keep them up to date
  • Capture time worked and optimise staff utilisation
  • Capture and track financials
  • Monitor project status and publish project status reports
  • Facilitate executive level reporting on all of the above

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The Genie of Project Management

Genie of Project ManagementThree men: a project manager, a software engineer, and a hardware engineer are helping out on a project. About midweek they decide to walk up and down the beach during their lunch hour. Halfway up the beach, they stumbled upon a lamp. As they rub the lamp a genie appears and says:

- Normally I would grant you three wishes, but since there are three of you, I will grant you each one wish.

The hardware engineer went first:

- I would like to spend the rest of my life living in a huge house in St. Thomas with no money worries.

The genie granted him his wish and sent him off to St. Thomas.

The software engineer went next:

- I would like to spend the rest of my life living on a huge yacht cruising the Mediterranean with no money worries.

The genie granted him his wish and sent him off to the Mediterranean.

Last, but not least, it was the project manager’s turn:

- And what would your wish be?, asked the genie.

- I want them both back after lunch, replied the project manager.

RationalPlan 4.13 – Documents Sharing, Automatic Email Notifications and Support for 1.5x HDPI Monitors

RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareRationalPlan 4.13 comes with new features within the web-based interface like the possibility to attach documents on tasks and projects, performance improvements, the possibility to see data from the entire portfolio of projects and automatic email notifications when assigning resources to tasks. For the desktop products it was also added support for 1.5x HDPI monitors.

RationalPlan started as an easy to use and straightforward project management software but it evolved into an embedded and powerful 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

  • Added possibility to attach documents on tasks and projects
  • Performance improvement on Timesheet and My Assignments views
  • Possibility to see data from “All Projects”
  • Automatic email notifications when assigning resources on tasks
  • Allow users with Resource rights to access the Projects area
  • Added intermediary icons for 1.5x HDPI monitors

Documents management can be done easier with the latest version of RationalPlan. Users have now the possibility to upload and attach documents to tasks and projects directly from the view where they are working (Portfolio, Gantt) without the need to switch to Dashboard > My Documents area.

Attach linksUpload and attach documents

Performance improvements where made for handling assignments both for Timesheet view and for My Assignments view. For the special case where resources were assigned on a large number of tasks it resulted a very high volume of assignments. For this reason the application responsiveness was slow. With current version the computation of costs and work was optimized and actions like scrolling and drag & drop are done smoothly.

Portfolio management is an important feature for a project management software. For this reason the executive department needs to have an overall view across all the projects. It is now possible to have a bird’s-eye view while using certain views like Gantt or WBS. Read the rest of this entry »

RationalPlan Project Management Software Translated To Russian Language

Starting with latest version RationalPlan products are also available in Russian language. Stand By Soft company hopes to better serve Russian users regarding their needs for project management software and at the same time to increase the number of users. This is a new market where RationalPlan is aiming to become a significant player.

RationalPlan was created mainly for novice project managers by taking them step by step through the whole process of planning and managing a project. The application uses an embedded project guide that follows the recommended guidelines from PMBOK.

It is a project management software developed to assist project managers in creating plans, tracking progress, allocating resources, managing budgets and analyzing workload. Although initially designed as an affordable alternative to Microsoft Project – but with the advantage of being able to operate on various platforms including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux – it became a powerful project portfolio management system. Further more, based on user requests, RationalPlan team put the accent on collaboration features and now the product can also be used as a teamwork solution to increase productivity and it is no longer just a desktop application. It can be used as a cloud service by multiple users with live concurrent access on a common pool of projects and resources.

RationalPlan suite includes:

RationalPlan Single – an alternative to Microsoft Project and the perfect solution for novice or accidental project managers
RationalPlan Multi – a project portfolio management solution for those users that have projects interconnected through dependencies and share common resources
RationalPlan Viewer – a free viewer, the solution for anyone (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view project details
RationalPlan Server – a centralized place to manage the company’s projects while offering concurrent access to multiple users

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15 Best Practices for Project Schedule Management

Success through Proper Project Schedule Management

project schedule management

A few years ago I used to work with a Project Manager. He was very particular about the weekly schedule tracking meetings. He would nag everyone and ask all sorts of questions. He would pester each of his team members for minutest of the details. He would closely monitor each and everything lest something goes amiss. Sometimes we just wanted to avoid these meetings.

I wanted to write a small eulogy for our man, but after reading the above para, you might think otherwise. But don’t get me wrong. It is an eulogy. Let me explain.

After all these years I have realized the importance of regular & periodic schedule tracking. I have very high regard for this person. I have learned a lot from him. I think his persistence to remain on top of the things made him a successful project manager. Somehow, he had a knack for delivering successful projects.

I am sure you would have met some people like him. We may not like them because of their excessive inquisitiveness. But we know that close and regular monitoring is required to deliver successful projects. At the same time, I must urge you to be polite and respectful while monitoring and tracking. We should use good interpersonal skills while interacting with project team members and other project stakeholders.

In my previous article, I talked about 9 benefits of tracking project schedule. I hope that post has inspired you to track the projects regularly. If not, you should read that article. You should also read the previous paras of this article again. My only sincere suggestion is that you should properly manage the project schedule.

What is proper project schedule management? Let us understand it in detail.

The Best Practices

There are 15 critical tasks that you must do while managing & tracking the schedule. By doing these tasks, you will greatly improve the chances of project success.

1. Track Project Regularly & Periodically

You must track the schedule regularly at a defined frequency. The tracking period could be a day or a week or a month, or anything in between but it should be well defined. The tracking period will hugely depend on the size & complexity of the project and stakeholder preferences. A formal evaluation report should be prepared after tracking the schedule and circulated to all relevant stakeholders.

2. Compare Against the Baseline

One of the common ways of tracking a project is to just document the actual dates and forget about the schedule. This does not serve any purpose. You must compare the actual data (dates, expenditure, effort, etc.) against the baseline. A detailed comparative analysis will lead to better project schedule management.

3. Involve Others

You might be the PM but there are other team members who can contribute while you are tracking the schedule. You must involve others. It will not only reduce your burden, but also make others feel responsible & committed. Read the rest of this entry »

RationalPlan – Retina Ready Project Management Software for Mac OS X

Retina readyStarting with version 4.12 RationalPlan offers support for Retina displays on Mac OS X platform. The interface is now sharper and uses high definition icons as per the specifications required by Apple. No more blurry fonts or images.

RationalPlan is a project management software developed to assist project managers in handling their projects and to keep resources and costs under control. The product can be used not only on Mac OS X devices but also on other operating systems like Windows and Linux.

For those users that are working with products like Microsoft Project on Windows or with Merlin Project on Mac OS X, RationalPlan might be a simpler and easier to use solution but with a similar set of features. It was developed primarily to assist novice or accidental project managers but to also offer powerful functions for the more advanced ones.

RationalPlan suite includes:

RationalPlan Single Project – an alternative to Microsoft Project and the perfect solution for novice or accidental project managers
RationalPlan Multi Project – project management software for multiple projects, projects that are interconnected through dependencies and share common resource
RationalPlan Project Viewer – free project management software viewer, the solution for anyone (from project stakeholders to team workers) to view projects details
RationalPlan Project Server – a centralized place to manage the company’s projects while offering concurrent access to different users – solution offered either as a Cloud service or as On-Premise

RationalPlan is designed as an affordable alternative to Microsoft Project with some extra-features like multiproject management and it is covering project management area from WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to critical path management, over allocated resources detection, progress tracking, cost estimation, etc. Gantt chart support as well as various time line reports are also provided. Read the rest of this entry »

9 Benefits of Tracking Project Schedule

Are you Tracking Project Schedule Regularly?

tracking project schedule

There can be only 2 answers to the above question. Yes and No.

I am appalled when I hear PMs say No to the above question. I hear all sorts of myriad funny reasons for not tracking Project Schedule. Here are some of them:

  • Why should I track Project Schedule? The project is going on just fine.
  • Oh! The customer demanded to prepare a Schedule and we prepared it. Now, there is no reason to waste more time on it.
  • There was a project audit some time ago. We prepared a Schedule to keep Auditors happy. Otherwise developing or tracking it is not at all required.
  • Tracking Project Schedule is just a waste of time. It does not provide any tangible benefit.
  • I never track Project Schedule and I have been managing projects for donkey years.
  • Tracking Project Schedule is not a priority at this time.

But many other PMs say Yes to the above question.

It is true that many PMs do track Project Schedule regularly. But some of them do not understand how to do it properly. They would just enter actual dates and/or duration and be done with it. They do not analyse the Actual Project data to see the variances, modify Project Network as necessary, do forecasting etc.

A good PM must use a Project Scheduling tool like RationalPlan to develop and track Project Schedule. The tracking can be done without a tool also but a tool helps in saving time and improving productivity.

In the next article I will throw some more light on what is meant by tracking and how one should track the Schedule. But for now let us understand why Project Schedule tracking is important. Let us take a look at some of its benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

Gantt Charts, Timesheets, Working Calendars – Project Planning in Just Minutes with RationalPlan 4.12

RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareThe latest version 4.12 for RationalPlan comes with a significant improvement for online project planning. Users can now manage their projects directly from a web-browser. In just a few minutes everything is set including project details, working calendars, task planning and scheduling, resource definition and work allocation and the final step: time and cost tracking.

RationalPlan started as an easy to use and straightforward project management software but it evolved into an embedded and powerful 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

For the online and server side segment the users will get:

  • Improved web-based project management module
  • Timesheets with work and cost distribution
  • Calendars to define the working time
  • Possibility to add links and attach documents on tasks
  • Possibility to import projects

Changes for the stand alone products:

  • HDPI images for Windows
  • Support for Retina display on Mac
  • Faster speed for computing the project critical path
  • Added baseline columns
  • Work with multiple rates per resource
  • Improved integration with MS© Project 2013 files

Doing project management online has the advantage of making things easier with a web-based interface. There is no need to install and configure anything and users have access to the system from any browser as long as they have an Internet connection. All it requires is to create an account.
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The Portrait of a Project Manager

You study to become a project manager, accrue experience as you lead project after project, update your management skills by attending workshops, exercise leadership each day, and learn from your mentors. But have you wondered what personality traits you need to become an effective project manager or, ideally, a leader? Find out which personality traits are especially useful for a project manager.

Generally, an effective project manager is:

  • Honest
  • Open
  • Diplomatic
  • Assertive
  • Persuasive
  • Able to see the “big picture”
  • Able to handle uncertainty

Probably the most appreciated quality of a leader is honesty. Always keep your promises if you want the team to trust you as their leader. Being open with your intentions and open to suggestions is also something you want to be known for as a project manager if you want to gain your team’s trust and maintain it. Being diplomatic is essential when managing people, as you’ll be managing a palette of personalities, some contrasting with yours or with each other, and you’ll have to make sure the team functions harmoniously as one entity. You’ll have to resolve conflicts, motivate the team to do what they don’t feel like doing, communicate bad news to the key stakeholders, negotiate budget and schedule extensions, and more—all tasks requiring diplomacy. Along with diplomacy, you’ll need to exercise assertiveness and persuasiveness to convince others to support your decisions.

A project manager who cannot see the forest for the trees will be far from an effective manager, and likely lean towards micromanaging. The project manager has to be able to see the big picture at all times, not get lost in details and letting the project’s budget slip while focusing too closely on the tasks being done perfectly according to schedule, for example. Of course, as a project manager, you cannot know everything about every aspect of the project at any time, and this is why you should learn to delegate tasks. This allows you to focus on the big picture of the project at any point along its lifecycle so that you are able to make swift and good decisions should a crisis arise. Read the rest of this entry »

Project Management Risks – Questions and Answers (Part 2)

Risk managementIn my previous post, I’ve addressed the first three questions on risk management and here I address the other two and, at the end, provide a list of take-home messages.

4. How many risks should be on your risk log and for how long?

It depends on the project size, type, complexity, and any other factor that could influence your project. However, in order to be on your risk log, a risk needs to be identified, analyzed (its probability and impact quantified), and mitigation measures applied. Assign a risk owner to each risk. This person is responsible and accountable for monitoring that risk and for defining and implementing mitigation measures.

As you can imagine, not all identified risks will be worth of listing in the risk log, as some risks are just too minor to be worth the cost, or time, of mitigating them. In general, the cost of mitigating a risk should be lower than the cost of the risk consequences if the risk does occur. Importantly, you should never delete risks from the risk log. Even a risk that has occurred can occur again, if not in this project, then in future projects of the organization. In this second case, the risk log becomes a lessons learned piece of documentation.

5. How do you manage project risks?

Risk management is something that needs to be done continuously, throughout the project, not only at the beginning. A project’s success depends on commitment to risk management. Make sure everyone is aware of risk management and appoint risk owners for each risk in the risk log. Regularly review risks, as any change to the project can add new risks or modify the impact and probability of the risks you previously identified.

Manage risks systematically using risk management techniques:

  • Avoid risks. If the project is too risky, the sponsor might decide to cancel the project altogether or modify it to remove the major risks. For this, make sure the sponsor is aware of the risks to the project. Take into account that some sponsors might decide to accept the consequences of some risks.
  • Soften the negative risks’ impact and maximize the positive risks’ consequences to the project.
  • Transfer the risk to a third party (by insurances, guarantees etc.). The risk will still be present, but you’ll have mitigated its consequences by transferring it to another party, usually for a cost.
  • Accept minor risks (those with low probability and low impact) and their consequences if the cost of mitigating them is too high.

Read the rest of this entry »