5 Tips for Coming Up with Great Project Ideas

By | May 11th, 2016|Business Management|0 Comments

Some organizations, including small businesses, may want to start side projects to supplement their revenue, invest parts of their capital, or simply keep their employees occupied full time while waiting for a larger project to start. Coming up with a great project idea is not impossible, as not all great ideas have already been discovered, but it is not a simple task that a person alone or even a team can do over the weekend. Here are some tips for coming up with great ideas for projects:

Define what “great” means

Define what a “great” project would mean for your organization. A great project is one that is not too small, as the deliverables may not be valuable enough to worth the investment of resources, but not too ambitious either because such project would mean high investment, too many risks, complicated project management, and even not enough resources available. A great side project is one that is possible with the resources available in the organization right now. A great side project is one where employees feel that they are creating value and that they own the project. So, as a first step, great project ideas should come from the project team members themselves.

Take your time to find ideas

Give your team enough time to come up with great project ideas. In general, great ideas are not exactly “Eureka!” moments; it takes time to find them. But many people and many organizations are not willing to put up that much time, which makes great ideas, when they do surface, even more valuable. (more…)

Brainstorming – Trendy or Not?

By | January 16th, 2015|Business Management, Project Management, Risk Management|0 Comments

BrainstormingIt’s popular. It’s a classic. Those who endorse it say it’s an effective technique for generating many ideas but not a standalone method, so it should be used with other creative techniques. Those who criticize it say it generates mediocre ideas that are likely never implemented as solutions to problems. But this 60-year old technique called brainstorming – whose effectiveness is an evergreen hot topic among researchers, users, and critics – helps to identify project risks.

Brainstorming – The Definition

According to Merriam-Webster, brainstorming is “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; also: the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem”.

Brainstorming – The Story

A technique with a catchy name, brainstorming has been around since the 1950s when Alex Osborn’s book Your Creative Power was published, becoming a best-seller. This book may be “an amalgam of pop science and business anecdote”, as Jonah Lehrer called it in a New Yorker article that triggered lots of e-ink on discussion forums, but brainstorming is easy to implement and generates many ideas. Besides that, it’s a great team-building exercise, which may also justify its popularity with businesses. A brainstorming session emphasizes the quantity, not quality, of ideas and one of the rules to brainstorming sessions is no criticism so that people do not fear their ideas are rejected by the group and, thus, limit their imagination.

Brainstorming Types

There’s individual and group brainstorming, with individual brainstorming being better for problem solving and group brainstorming better for identifying project risks. Group brainstorming draws from the intelligence and experiences of more people but ideas expressed loudly may be biased since people do worry about others’ opinions even if one of Osborn’s rules for group brainstorming is “no criticism”. Online brainstorming—a sub-type of group brainstorming—uses e-brainstorming tools to help remote teams share their ideas in real time. (more…)

Talent Management at Project Team Level

Talent ManagementAny organization thrives or fails because of its people. It is no wonder that so many highly successful organizations, like Samsung, Intel, IKEA, Procter and Gamble, just to name a few, invest in talent management. Talent management refers to “a set of integrated organizational HR processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees” according to the staff at Johns Hopkins University. For organizations that carry out projects, talent management also means equipping team members with the right mix of technical, project management, and leadership skills, according to the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession “In-Depth Report: Talent Management.” Here are four reasons why any organization that does projects should invest in talent management:

1. Talent management improves projects’ performance.

According to the authors of PMI’s “Talent Management” white paper, organizations that invest in talent management are more likely to succeed in projects than organizations where talent management is poorly aligned with organizational strategy.

2. Talent management means having the right people for the right project roles at the right time.

Effective talent management ensures the organization has qualified team members and project managers ready for any new project when the need arises. As such organizations will not have to wait to recruit new talent, and delay a project’s start, having the right staff available can turn into a competitive advantage.

3. Talent management leads to motivated, and thus productive, team members.

Giving team members the opportunity to grow professionally and personally by developing their technical skills, project management skills, and soft skills, and providing them with mentoring and coaching sessions can motivate employees. Of course, not all employees will take advantage of those opportunities, but those who do will become even more valuable for the project and the organization. (more…)

How to Minimize the Risk of Delaying Your Project by a Customer

By | March 29th, 2013|Business Management, Project Management, Risk Management|1 Comment

How to minimize risksWhen it comes to project delays there are several factors that can lead to such situation. The customer is one of them and there are two issues that can be discussed: what to do when the delay already happened and the other how to minimize the risk of happening such a delay.

Customer delaying the project is a major risk that should not be overlooked in any project. Minimizing this risk is not easy to be accomplished and its probability differs from client to client. But in case it happens mitigation actions must be performed.

Write clear specifications

In order to keep things clear and avoid misunderstandings it is important to create a solid project plan with clear specifications regarding possible project delays and the measures and penalties that apply. When it happens communicate clear factual evidence of the cost and timescale impact of delays caused by the customer. This is very important to keep things clear and to avoid the situation when the customers may argue that it is his fault and the contractor is suspected for hiding other delays behind those caused directly by them. Issues need to be resolved in a timely fashion to minimize risk and loss on both sides.

When dealing with external clients and when creating a contract it is advisable to add a clause that states that the client is responsible for prompt responses to ensure the project is not delayed. If the client provides delayed responses, actions etc. that lead to project delays then it nullifies timeline clauses in the contract. If the contract doesn’t have this kind of specifications then it is preferred to get a lawyer, or a better one in case a lawyer already exists.

In return when dealing with internal team the project manager has to take the same actions. Although there are no contractual terms that can generate a direct financial penalty, it will get noted at review time and possibly no raise…

Know the customer management

Avoiding the project delay problem is not a healthy thing to do. Escalation might reveal there are issues on the customer side where their project manager is not communicating clearly enough internally. This is why when contracting a new project it is good to know the customer and almost a must to know his management team. Knowing what to expect from them can decide whether to accept the new contract or to reject it. And even if the project is accepted contractual terms can be added to compensate the lack of professionalism on the customer management side. (more…)

What to Do when the Customer is Delaying Your Project

By | February 25th, 2013|Business Management, Project Management Software, Risk Management|1 Comment

customers delaying projectsContrary to the popular belief, the customer is not always right. In fact, sometimes the customer may be the one delaying the project by not giving the approval of a completed phase when required, by not communicating effectively, by missing deadlines for the review of the deliverables – shortly, by being aloof to the project.

Customer’s delay translates into delay of the project, monetary loss, and decrease of the motivation and morale of the project team. Sometimes the customer may be too busy, especially if he or she represents a large organization and yours is just a side project for them. Other times, the customer may not see the implications of his or her attitude or may be just relying on the project manager’s decisions. Regardless of the motivation, customer’s delaying the project is a problem that you, as the project manager, must solve.

Ideally, this situation could have been avoided by accurate project planning. A communication plan, including deadlines to be respected by both sides, and monetary penalties for project delays should have been approved by the customer. More important, since customer’s performance is actually a major project risk, mitigation plans for it should have been included in the risk management plan. However, in small projects, sometimes this documentation or part of it has been overlooked. (more…)

How To Convince People To Start Using Project Management Software

By | February 6th, 2013|Business Management, Project Management Software, Time Management|Comments Off on How To Convince People To Start Using Project Management Software

scheduleEducated management can start from childhood or at older ages. Earlier is the best. And management can apply to many things: money, work, time etc. Certain kids might have been forced by circumstances to start managing their allowance. This can be a big advantage for them as grown-ups when it comes to finance management.

But what about project management? Many users tend to think that everything can be done using spreadsheets because this is what they used since ever. OK you can do a lot of things with them but not all. When it comes to planning and scheduling projects there are some special requirements that must be addressed with more specific tools. But how to determine people to start adopting such tools?

Work must be done fast and easy

For many people, productivity software does not increase their productivity but rather reduces work effectiveness. Instead of spending the time in solving the problems users spend it with using the software. This is an important point to keep in mind and to make sure the right software is selected. The users need the work to be done fast and easy.

Give an example to users by starting using it

One solution to get the team adopt project management tools is for the manager to start using it. He can delegate tasks and include the coworkers in conversations about those activities. This way they will receive email notifications with assignments sent automatically from the PM system. Over time, maybe some of them will also begin to feel more comfortable in working directly on the assigned tasks instead of replying to incoming emails.

Identify benefits in using project management tools

Another idea is for the manager to identify and point benefits for them of using the tool. More exactly the users must find some benefits for their own and not just for the organization. It has to be a “win-win” situation: both for the person and for the business. “How will this tool make your work easier, your outcome better, your day to day tasks more smooth, save time, be on time, but not in these generic terms but very down to earth and specific to their goals, tasks, responsibilities and duties.” says Carlos Miranda Levy, a Social Entrepreneur. (more…)

Project Management Solutions To Better Control Your Business

By | October 4th, 2011|Business Management, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Management Solutions To Better Control Your Business

Any business needs some management solutions to get organized and stay on the floating line. Unfortunately, many organizations are forced to rely on paper trails and email-chains. These outdated methods were replaced by newer project management solutions.

There are different types of such solutions for a wide range of working domains and for many kinds of needs. The access to accurate, real-time data regarding projects and resources is crucial to making strategic business decisions. Companies must keep up with the changes that impact the day-to-day running of their business. Managers are expected to deliver more than ever – but with fewer resources, within a shorter period of time and to produce maximum returns for the business.

Many times all this work gets externalized to other specialized entities. This covers either the use of project management tools or even more the delegation of entire work to management and consulting companies. In all cases appropriate methodologies and processes are necessary to be applied.

Project management solutions

In order to make the best decisions to support your organization’s long-term goals you have to decide and choose the right management solution:

  • Resource management – if you have a resource oriented activity this is the solution on which you should insist on. In most cases it is strongly connected with work management software
  • Project portfolio – this type of solution is the most used in any domain. Any company has multiple projects that needs to be managed. It also covers almost entirely resource management software
  • Issue tracking – best suited for software development companies
  • Task management – many small and medium organizations resort to this kind of solution; task management software is used mainly because of the ease of use, simplicity and light collaboration features

(more…)

Project Management is not Business Management

By | March 24th, 2010|Business Management, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Management is not Business Management

One of the most prominent characteristic of a project as a concept, is its sharp delimitation in time. It has clear start and end dates and is designed to achieve a unique scope, unlike the ongoing operations specific for business management.

Sometimes, the end date of a project is the most important characteristic of the project. It is the starting point when designing the project deployment, any other characteristic being subordinated to this. In fact using a project management software allows a project manager to add a higher level of transparency regarding the interaction between various factors that interact when developing a project. Keeping some of this variables constant (like the end date of a project), allows to the project managers to determine and control the others (like cost or scope of the project).

Because of it’s very limited nature, a project duration can be clearly divided into five main phases. In the following observations we will presume that the client has clear expectations regarding the project and knows decently well what results he needs. The five main phases of a project are the following:

  • defining
  • planning
  • execution
  • controlling
  • closure

In the defining stage an important aspect is to speak with the people who are affected or exert influence over the project evolution. These people are referred to as the stakeholders. Getting their feedback will help you outline the project activities. This is commonly known as the scope (the work that should be done). It is equally important to write down both what will and will not be achieved. You want to make sure you know what the stakeholders are expecting. In this phase the aims and objectives are set, including the development of project deliverables and the desired outcomes of a specific set of activities.

The planning stage presumes breaking the deliverables into subdeliverables down to a level where activities can be outlined. Subsequently can be defined  the relations between tasks and their timeline for completion. An important aspect of this stage is defining the requirements for completion of the project, stipulating the needed resources as well as any other requirements deemed necessary. The risks and project constraints are identified and contingency plans originated to address any of these potential issues.

The execution phase takes the major part of the project. Here is most likely that surprises and conflicts to occur and sometimes corrective actions should be taken in order to bring the expected performance in accordance with the project plan. Project manager is responsible for coordinating individuals and make them acting like members of the same team.

As the work begins, the next stage of controlling the project defines the success or failure of a project manager, as the constant surveillance and adaption of project plan are required to reflect the progression of  involved activities. A project manager should take advantage of the methodologies and software available on the market. A large number of them are available online.

In the project closure stage, the team will be pulled together to analyze project performance and outline the learned lessons.

Stand By Soft is the provider of RationalPlan, a powerful project management software capable of handling multiple interrelated projects and covering project management areas starting with WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to progress tracking etc.