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…)

How To Increase Productivity – Choosing The Right Project Management Software

By | January 16th, 2013|Project Management, Project Management Software|Comments Off on How To Increase Productivity – Choosing The Right Project Management Software

Every person at some point in his life starts to feel the need to get more organized for a better productivity. Some have this revelation sooner, others later and a few of them will never have such needs… Depending on each individual a better organized work style may be reflected in the use of different productivity tools: pencil and paper, To Do lists, task management software and even project management software.

In what follows we shall exclude the classic tools like agendas, pencil, paper, white boards etc. and focus only on the software products. When it comes to organizing their lives things are simpler since the needs are not that big. There are many good solutions on the market to manage your personal list of daily activities and many are even free. All it needs is to be able to create simple items with a start date, completion status, a duration and maybe a priority.

Things get more complicated when someone needs to handle more details for his activities… And now we are talking about issue tracking systems or task management tools, tools that go beyond personal life and intersecting with the daily work from the job.

And at the top there are complex solutions that range from project management software to enterprise resource planning systems. This category of products only apply to business management and are used mainly by companies.

General recommendations when choosing productivity software

No matter what type of productivity tools one needs there is a set of general recommendations that should be taken into consideration. For start it is best to find a user friendly software. The easier it is to learn how to use it the faster you get more productive. Plus there is no need for trainings hence no additional costs. And if still the case, when in need for help a rich user community with active forums or social networks might do the trick for you. (more…)

Clients And Access Rights to Project Management Software

By | December 10th, 2012|Project Management Software|1 Comment

Client access rights in project management softwareEvery project either small or big has its stakeholders. The way the communication between them is done can keep relations on a happy note or can put some hurdle between them. The second situation might influence both the current project and the future ones in a negative way and should be avoided.

Examples of project stakeholders include the clients, the user group, the project manager, the development team, the testers etc. practically anyone who has an interest in the project within or outside an organization. It is obvious that either part has a well established procedure or process when it comes to managing a project. But are the processes from the two sides compatible and if yes at what degree? If everyone is working using the same project management methodology or the same software solution then all it is fine. The problems start if this is not the case…

What project management solution side to choose?

There are three possible solutions that can be chosen:

  • each part uses its own solution
  • everyone is using the clients solution
  • or everyone is using the management team’s solution

As early as possible in a new client relationship, the manager needs to ask his client how he usually works. This is a very important factor in deciding which project to undertake. It is necessary to know if the clients are comfortable with the system because many clients will expect the manager to work through their software. Bottom line is that an easy communication will also indicate an easier management over the project. (more…)

Managing Projects Using Project Baselines

By | September 24th, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Tracking|1 Comment

Baselines in RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareA baseline as the name suggests is a line that is being used as a base for future measurement. It is a reference. In Project Management, the term baseline refers to an accepted and approved project plan. Usually known as project baseline, it is a must for a project manager that wish to monitor and evaluate the success of the project. Without it there is no possibility to compare the current status of the project with the initial estimated one.

Once established what the baseline is, the next important step is to store it for future use. If it is not stored, then it cannot be used to compare against it and it is meaningless. For a project there can be saved multiple baselines depending on the project size and how often the project plan changes.

To obtain the best efficiency a project manager should best use a project management software to create the detailed project plan. After it gets approved the manager should save it as a baseline project plan. During the project execution, comparisons can be done between the initial baseline estimates and the current status to compute variances. This comparison can be done either manually or automatically by software tools. Of course the second approach is preferred.

Types of project baselines

Since a project baseline includes many data from a project it is difficult to manage it as a whole and usually it is broken into several parts. This makes the complexity of baseline management easier to deal with. Project baselines generally include:

  • Scope baseline – the technical, physical and functional requirements for deliverable products
  • Schedule baseline – the project schedule and all of the elements supporting the schedule
  • Cost/Budget baseline – an approved budget usually in a time distribution format used to estimate, monitor, and control overall cost performance on the project
  • Quality/Risk baseline – the set of known possible changes (uncertainties) that could impact the performance of the project (more…)

RationalPlan Project Management Software Goes Viral Using Popular Social Networks

By | September 11th, 2012|News, Project Management Software, RationalPlan|Comments Off on RationalPlan Project Management Software Goes Viral Using Popular Social Networks

Social media networks for RatinalPlan Project Management SoftwareThe team behind RationalPlan Project Management Software recently revamped their website, offering a new modern look to their users. In addition to that, the social networking life caught form on the project management blog and through the help of the well known social platforms Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Project managers need more that just a project management solution to successfully manage their projects. They also need to have access to project management related articles and discussions on forums, blogs and social media. The experience and knowledge is gathered in time and this is a long process. However a faster solution is to obtain it from experienced and senior managers.

“We reached the conclusion that our users need more besides our RationalPlan products. They also need to learn how to use them, they need tools and techniques to be applied, they need a place where to chat and share opinions. And what better place to find all that than through our forums, blogs and social networking sites?” says Gabriel Toader, CEO of RationalPlan.

Users can stay up to date with the buzz around RationalPlan products by subscribing to feeds or can actively participate on the Project Management Facebook or Project Management Google Plus pages. Twitter fans were also not forgotten. (more…)

Working With Subprojects And Master Projects

By | March 2nd, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Portfolio Management|Comments Off on Working With Subprojects And Master Projects

Managing projects is not a trivial job. You need to have the necessary skills, experience and of course the right project management tools to help you. But when it comes to managing large projects things are becoming even more complicated.

Sometimes companies need to manage large projects that extend on several years and that require a huge amount of work to be completed. This kind of projects are too big to be handled as a whole and must be decomposed in several smaller parts. Each part is treated as a separate project with its own assigned project manager and its own budget and time constraints. However all these projects are related and are actually subprojects of a master project.

The idea is that the program manager is running multiple projects and all those projects are managed by other project managers. As a program manager, you need to see a consolidated schedule view to see how the program is doing. The master project should offer the structure of the subprojects and show the dependencies between the projects. Of course resources can be shared so that overallocations and overtime costs to be detected and correctly computed.
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Project Management – The Light On The Critical Path

By | February 21st, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Tracking|2 Comments

The mysterious critical path notion seems to put project managers in difficulty and especially the novice ones. However if anyone would take just a few minutes from his precious time to pay a closer attention to it things would be a lot more clear.

The origin

In order to clear things up we need to have a background knowledge. On short it all started with the Critical Path Method (CPM) an algorithm for scheduling activities within a project. This method is best used within the project scheduling phase and basically it requires to construct a model of the project that includes:

  • the list of activities needed to complete the project (aka Work Breakdown Structure defined in the project planning phase)
  • the duration estimates for these activities
  • the dependencies between the tasks

Graphical representation


There are two possibilities to render the structure created according to CPM: activity on arrow and activity on node. The most used representation nowadays is the activity on node. The activities are rendered as nodes and each node contains the duration of that activity while the dependencies are rendered as arrows where the arrowhead points to the successor while the tail to the predecessor.

To some extent a Gantt chart can also be considered as a CPM presentation although a more complex one. (more…)

Time Management In Project Management

By | February 15th, 2012|Project Management Software, Time Management|Comments Off on Time Management In Project Management

Time management is the act of planning, controlling and finally executing specific activities, especially to increase efficiency or productivity. It applies to a wide usage area starting from personal time organization and up to business related time management. For the best results and the biggest efficiency dedicated time management software should be used.

A time management system is a combination of processes, tools, techniques, and methods. There are many books and case studies focusing on these notions.

Personal Time Management

The notion of time management was initially used in business related area but in time the term started to also be used for personal activities. People started to be interested on it when they felt the need to be more organized and more productive. It all happens when you start working all day long and at the end you wonder why you haven’t accomplished much.

Time management methodologies consist of a series of habits and good practices which help you to get more organized. The most used and well known time management methodologies are GTD and ZTD. Getting Things Done (GTD) was created by David Allen and it is based on the following principles:

  • do not use your memory to collect your ideas, tasks and arrangements
  • do not delay decisions on what to do next
  • if you can complete a certain task in less than 2 minutes, do it now

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Project Scheduling – The Central Piece Of A Project Management Software

By | November 30th, 2011|Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Scheduling – The Central Piece Of A Project Management Software

Project scheduling should be considered the central piece of any project management software. Without the possibility to easily schedule all the tasks of a project there would be little expectation regarding the efficiency of controlling complex projects. However a project scheduling software should simplify a project managers work and not complicate it.

The project schedule

The project schedule is the central part of the project plan and it is used to connect the tasks to be done with the resources that will accomplish them. It consists of a list of deliverables with intended start and finish dates. Deliverables are the lowest level elements in a schedule, which are not further subdivided.

In addition, the schedule provides project teams with a map for project execution and offers a baseline for tracking progress and managing changes. It can be used as a checklist to make sure that all necessary tasks are performed. If a task is on the schedule, the team is committed to doing it. In other words, the project schedule gives the means by which the project manager brings the team and the project under control.

The visual representation of a schedule is a timeline chart. It is created such that it depicts the tasks of the projects, the duration and the sequencing of them, and the major milestones of the project. The Gantt chart is the most popular timeline chart.

Prior to creating the project schedule the project manager must have a work breakdown structure (WBS), an effort estimate for each task, and a list of resources with availability for each resource. Once these data are established a project scheduling tool can automatically do much of the tedious work of calculating the schedule. However, before a project manager can use such tools, he should have an  understanding over concepts like WBS, dependencies, resource allocation, critical paths etc. These are the real keys to planning a successful project.

When establishing the project schedule a few important steps must be performed:

  • Establish dependencies – The first step in building the project schedule is to establish the order in which tasks are going to be performed. The WBS structure will be used as input. A dependency will be created between two tasks if one depends on the other. There are four types of dependencies: Finish to Start, Finish to Finish, Start to Start and Start to Finish.
  • Assign resources to tasks – The next step is to identify the resources required to perform the work. A resource is any person, item, tool, or service that is needed by the project. Based on its availability the schedule might get adjusted in time.
  • Create the schedule – Once the dependencies are established and the resources are assigned the project manager must enter the work effort or the duration for each task. With this information in place a project scheduling software should be able to automatically arrange the tasks and calculate a final date for the project.

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