Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Cameron McGaughy
Marian Haus
Lynda Bourne
Lung-Hung Chou
Bernadine Douglas
Kevin Korterud
Conrado Morlan
Peter Tarhanidis
Mario Trentim
Jen Skrabak
David Wakeman
Roberto Toledo
Vivek Prakash
Cyndee Miller
Shobhna Raghupathy
Wanda Curlee
Rebecca Braglio
Rex Holmlin
Christian Bisson
Taralyn Frasqueri-Molina

Recent Posts

3 Steps to Outsourcing Success

Will IoT Disrupt the Mobile Industry?

What Is Strategy?

When Scrum Meets a Large Virtual, Volunteer Project

Getting Risk Identification Right

3 Steps to Outsourcing Success

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:

  • Labor expertise and associated labor costs
  • Value versus non-value support services
  • Baseline of operational measures and service levels

 

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:

  • Access to low cost, high expertise labor and the marketplace arbitrage. This may evaluate onshore, right-shore, offshore and hybrid labor models.
  • Whether the firm should invest to “fix and ship” its processes or to “ship and fix” and adopt the providers processes.
  • Productivity gains that may be measured via the labor arbitrage, process capability improvements, speed to software application and deployment, automation of processes and IT management services, robotics, etc.

 

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:

  1. Add procurement and legal outsourcing experts on the project team to construct the agreement.
  2. Engage senior leaders to steer the initiative and align it to the business mission.
  3. Garner senior leadership support with change management actions to help guide the organization across this journey.

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?

Posted by Peter Tarhanidis on: August 26, 2016 11:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Will IoT Disrupt the Mobile Industry?

Categories: IOT, Portfolio Management

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.

Posted by Wanda Curlee on: August 25, 2016 11:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

What Is Strategy?

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

IS

NOT

Future/Long term (3+ years)

Current/Short term (1-3 years)

Different

Improvement

A unique position relative to competition

An endeavor to improve operational efficiency

Responsive to environment

Static

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.

Posted by Jen Skrabak on: August 19, 2016 07:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

When Scrum Meets a Large Virtual, Volunteer Project

Categories: Agile, Cloud Computing, Scrum

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?

Posted by Lung-Hung Chou on: August 18, 2016 08:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Getting Risk Identification Right

By Mario Trentim 

While uncertainty can influence project outcomes, contingency and proper risk response planning can decrease the potential sting. But, despite the rich theoretical background and defined best practices that have been developed for risk management, it remains a struggle for most organizations and project managers.

Why? Here are three reasons I often see:

  • It is not always well understood what a risk is—that it is an uncertain event that impacts one or more of the project objectives. Risks must be specific. Economy, for example, is not a risk; it is a category of risks. Instead, a specific risk might be currency exchange rates if you are importing expensive equipment from abroad.
  • Most project managers perform risk management to comply with organizational standards—in other words, they execute it because they have to, not because their projects would benefit from doing so.
  • Risk identification demands proper tools but the most widely used tool for risk identification is the least effective: brainstorming.  Facing a blank flipchart and imagining what could possibly go wrong in the project is a huge waste of time if used alone because it is sure to leave many risks uncovered.

Effectively Identifying Risks

Risk identification demands effort and time. It is easy to overlook risks in the first pass. That’s why it should be reviewed periodically throughout the entire project life cycle.

According to Rita Mulcahy in her book Risk Management, Tricks of the Trade, if you identified less than 300 project risks, you did a poor identification. To identify more risks (and exceed Ms. Mulachy’s target) try these three tips:

1) Review all documentation, including:

  • Contracts, agreements, quotes and specifications
  • Project charter and project management plan
  • Project documentation (WBS, schedule, resources, etc.)
  • Assumptions and constraints analysis

2) Utilize various information-gathering techniques:

  • Delphi technique, facilitated workshops, interviews or questionnaires
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Benchmarking
  • Expert judgment
  • Risk Inspection
  • HAZOP: Hazard and Operability Studies
  • HAZAN: Hazard Analysis

3) Try different diagramming techniques, such as:

  • Cause and effect diagrams
  • Fault Tree Method
  • Flow charts (system or process)
  • FMEA: Failure mode and effects analysis
  • Influence diagrams (graphical representations of situations showing causal influences or time ordering)
  • Organizational process assets
  • Checklists and categories
  • Risk Breakdown Structure
  • Historical information
  • Lessons learned
  • Hazard indices

How familiar are you with these tools? Which do you find the most useful? Is there another you would recommend? I look forward to your comments!

Posted by Mario Trentim on: August 13, 2016 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)
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