In my last post, I discussed the importance of getting risk identification right. Now, it’s time to tackle the challenge of qualitative risk analysis—which project practitioners often tend to confuse with subjective analysis.
Objective vs. Subjective Analysis
Subjective analysis is based on personal opinions, interpretation, points of view, emotions and judgment. It is often ill-suited for decision making and, in particular, for risk analysis.
Objective analysis is fact-based, measurable and observable. For qualitative risk analysis that means using scales to evaluate risk, whether textual (low, medium, high), color-coded (green, yellow, red) or numeric (from 1 to 5), or some combination of these.
Getting Qualitative Risk Analysis Right
Consider this all-to-common scenario: In a project team meeting to assess risks, the only available information is the risk name and the words high, medium and low. Because there is no definition on what high, medium and low mean, and because there is not enough information about individual risks, the risk analysis is based on guesses.
So how can project practitioners stop the guessing game and ensure objectivity? Here are seven tips:
1. Consult tools and standards: Qualitative analysis tools are mentioned not only in PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) but also in PMI’s Practice Standard for Risk Management. For more risk management reference material, check ISO 31000:2009 and ISO 17666:2003.
2. Define qualitative scales in the risk management plan: The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission’s Risk Assessment in Practice has created some good examples of what impact and probability scales could look like. (See pages 4 and 5). You may also want to check the Project Risk Management Handbook: A Scalable Approach (page 20).
3. Gather and document information about identified risks: Interview and involve relevant stakeholders, review lessons learned, document assumptions and information for each risk.
4. Adopt expert opinion, whenever possible: Get a second opinion from more experienced project managers, project management office leaders and other internal experts. If you are not familiar enough with risk identification and analysis for a particular project, hire external experts or consultants.
5. Consider using a risk breakdown structure: Grouping risks in categories helps in identifying root causes and in developing effective responses.
6. Assess probability, impact and urgency for individual risks: Investigate the likelihood of occurrence for each specific risk and its potential effect on project objectives (scope, schedule, cost), documenting the results according to the predefined qualitative scale levels.
7. Prioritize risks using the probability and impact matrix: Rate risks and develop your final probability and impact matrix to determine the need for further quantitative analysis and to plan for risk responses.
Adopting a well-defined qualitative scale and carefully assessing risk data and information will help your team perform better risk analyses. Do you agree with that? Please share your comments and experience.
3 Steps to Outsourcing Success
Nontraditional Project Management,
PM & the Economy,
Categories: Benefits Realization, Best Practices, Change Management, Complexity, Innovation, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership, Lessons Learned, Lessons Learned, Nontraditional Project Management, PM & the Economy, Program Management, Project Delivery, Project Failure, Project Planning, Project Requirements, Risk Management, ROI, Roundtable, Stakeholder, Strategy, Teams
By Peter Tarhanidis
When leaders use outsourcing it is often in an effort to enhance the organization’s value proposition to its stakeholders.
Outsourcing allows leaders to focus on and invest in the firm’s core services while using cost effective alternative sources of expertise for support services.
When services are outsourced, management and employees need to prepare for a transformation in organizational operations—and project managers must establish a strategy to guide that change.
Creating an Outsourcing Strategy
Project managers can help to create an effective outsourcing strategy based on a three-part structure:
1. Assess the current state
This assessment should define the firm’s:
2. Consider the “to-be” state
The to-be state should be designed based on a comprehensive evaluation and request for proposal, including a good list of best alternatives to negotiated agreement items.
The to-be state must consider:
3. Consider the governance required to sustain the future state
A new internal operating model needs to be formed. This includes establishing teams to manage the contract, such as senior sponsorship, an operational management team or a vendor management team.
Then the outsourcer and the outsourcing organization should focus on continuous improvements that can be made to the process.
Avoiding Outsourcing Pitfalls
Project managers can avoid a few common pitfalls in their outsourcing projects:
Overall, if done with a defined end in mind, leaders can capitalize on outsourcing by reducing operational costs, reinvesting those savings in core services, and providing access to expertise and IT systems that would normally not have been funded via capital appropriation.
Have you been a part of any outsourcing efforts? What advice would you offer to project managers involved in similar projects?
by Wanda Curlee
The Internet of Things (IoT) will change the cell phone landscape.
For many years, the smartphone has been our link to apps. We could lock our cars, play games, spy on our pets—the list is almost exhaustive.
But, I am constantly brought back to a question of whether or not smartphones will always be necessary—or will they become obsolete as more IoT devices are created that combine the hardware, software and user interface into one place.
Is this pie in the sky? Based on how our technology is rapidly progressing (which I started discussing in my last post), I don’t think so.
As Maurice McGinley, design director for Amsterdam-based AVG Innovation Labs said, “Instead of having one universal device—your smartphone—controlling your environment, you would have simple controls placed where you need them, available when you need them.”
While I have no insight into the strategic direction of the companies developing smart devices, I would contend this is the direction they will be going.
And this is great for the project management discipline.
Smartphone manufacturers and network providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) will need to change or broaden focus, and that means investing in new projects and programs. And the portfolio manager will need to ensure the projects and programs are on the roadmap to deliver the right value for the enterprise.
Smart device manufacturers will need to figure out how to provide a friendly user interface similar to the mobile experience.
The project management discipline would be used in a similar way as the cell phone industry. The portfolio manager should scan the enterprise for projects and programs that meet the need. If there are none or not enough to help drive the strategy, the portfolio manager needs to work with the portfolio sponsor to determine the issues. The project and program managers would deliver the capabilities needed.
So, where will you be when the industry is stood on its head? How will you help to focus the IoT to deliver the right technology for consumers and companies?
Project practitioners that truly understand their industry and where it is going can be drivers of that change.
By Jen L. Skrabak, PMP, PfMP
Most portfolio managers are aware of the importance of aligning their portfolio to the strategy of the organization.
But what exactly is strategy?
Strategy is commonly misunderstood. Sometimes it is used to denote importance or criticality, for example, a “strategic program.” Other times, it may be used to convey an action plan—an organization may say that their strategy is to launch a new key product.
In reality, however, strategy does not denote importance or complexity; rather, it represents the collective decisions that enable the organization to amplify its uniqueness in order to win.
It’s important to think of strategy as having three components:
Definition: The intent of the organization over the long term.
Plan: Clear, concise and compelling actions expressed through a strategic plan and roadmap. Visualization helps to articulate the strategy, and align it with objectives and measurements. Frameworks and tools such as a strategy map, balanced scorecard and activity map help plan the strategy.
Execution: How the organization will achieve its defined plan through its portfolios (and corresponding programs and projects). The portfolio represents the decisions that the organization has made in order to execute on the strategy.
What Strategy IS and IS NOT
The strategy should define for the organization and individuals:
-Where are we going?
-Why are we going there?
-What’s my role?
In my next post, we’ll discuss how to align portfolio management to strategy.
by Roger Chou
When the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection in Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs decided to adopt ISO 21500 as the Chinese National Standard (CNS) for project management, they turned to a virtual team of volunteers to review and implement the standard.
After being asked to head this committee, my first step was to make Scrum practices the method for doing the work. From there I worked to:
1) Centralize collaboration.
Since our committee of more than 30 volunteers (broken into three teams) worked virtually, we needed a tool to communicate and collect information. We relied on the LINE communication app and Google Docs.
2) Create a product backlog.
This backlog was a key reference tool for the committee. It included key stakeholder interviews and user stories that established the needs of CNS.
For example, one story said:
“As the Committee for Chinese National Standards on project management, I want the second version revised to cover our terminology standards so that it won’t waste our time in reviewing the work.”
3) Plan how to perform the work.
I instructed the individual team leaders to let their team members break the user stories into tasks to help them feel ownership of the work and create more accurate tasks.
The tasks were set up to be no more than one day’s work over four sprints (4 weeks total), allowing us to keep the momentum going.
4) Meet regularly with team leads.
This helped ensure teams were working effectively with each other. In this meeting the individual team leads were asked the following questions:
- What has my team finished since the last meeting?
- What will my team do before the next meeting?
- Are there any impediments in my team's way?
- Are there any impediments caused by my team for other teams?
5) Hold sprint reviews.
Throughout the length of the project we held weekly sprint reviews with external stakeholders.
This step not only ensured the volunteers worked to a high standard, but since this work was reviewed collectively, it served as a reminder of the commitments the teams had made to each other — be that deadlines or level or work.
When the final project was completed, it was submitted for review with a panel of industry, government and academic leaders. Our final step was to create the final user story:
“As the product owner of the project, I want to collect each volunteer’s reflection and thoughts, of about 100 words, to make the closure report, So that I may let those new to project management know how to run virtual teams with Scrum and I want to publish these stories.”
Work on this project was constant, sometimes requiring long nights of work. But it was always as a labor of love.
How do you streamline projects for virtual teams? What would you have done differently when managing a large volunteer effort like this one?