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The Consultant vs. In-House PM

by Michael Wood

What's the difference? From time to time, organizations find themselves in a dilemma trying to decide whether they should use an in-house PM or PM consultant to manage important projects. Being aware of the tradeoffs and making conscious decisions on each is the best way to minimize unintended consequences.

Getting Stuck in the Middle

by Kenneth Darter, PMP

Many projects get stuck in the middle: the execution phase. Project managers need to be ready to fight that problem to help your project succeed all the way to the end. Keep these four recommendations in mind.

Topic Teasers Vol. 31: Change Rests On You!

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: We have a massive internal change coming, and lucky me…I get to head the project! We have tried this before and had to pull back because of negative employee reactions. I know that this time we need some change management processes, too, but who is responsible to do that part of the project?
A. The good news is, it’s you. You need to take the responsibility and coordinate the change processes in with your usual team activities.
B. The good news is, it’s not you. Focus on the project and on meeting your metrics of time, cost and quality as usual. Corporate management is responsible to make sure employees accept and use these new changes.
C. The PMO is “where the buck stops” when endeavors move from simple projects to create products or software and billow out to vague objectives like “employee acceptance” and “corporate compliance”..
D. Ask your manager. Your project charter is limited to producing the usual product or services and your team is not skilled or experienced in change management processes. Your manager can deal with getting the changes accepted and getting them to stick.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

Topic Teasers Vol. 25: Wooing Functional Managers

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: My team is made up of people who work for several different functional departments. When not working on my project work, they also produce for other project teams. How can I estimate how long my project will take when I never know if people are available when I need them?
A. Add a +15% pad to the project estimate, then meet with functional managers to set up an on-demand workflow system.
B. Ask each potential team member to vow to put aside what is on their desk if your project work needs to be done.
C. Ask Human Resources to institute a 10% bonus for the workers if your project meets the original project estimate deadline.
D. Demand a dedicated team from upper management, as this is the only efficient way to do a project.
Pick your answer then Test Your Knowledge!

Rules for Surviving a Project Zombie Apocalypse

by Rob Saxon

Project issues and risks, like zombies, move relatively slowly. It’s extremely rare that a project manager will be introduced to a project one day and be overwhelmed by the same failed project the next. Therefore, like survivors of a zombie apocalypse, project managers have time to prepare--and to look for those indications that projects are turning...

Topic Teasers Vol. 21: Working on Vacations

by Barbee Davis, MA, PHR, PMP, PMI-ACP

Question: We are being pressured to take unused vacation days before the end of the year. However, I don’t know how to be away from my project and still get it completed. Should I just allow my vacation days to lapse or just accept that my project will suffer while I am gone and take them?

A. Keeping your job is more important than using up vacation days. In this economy it is better to let them lapse than to be out of the office and allow the organization to see they can get along without you.
B. Take your vacation days, but plan when in the project cycle you will be gone and work ahead to delegate your work to others. Check in regularly while you are away.
C. Ask the company if they will send the entire team on vacation together. That way you can work on the project during the day and relax and unwind together at night. It could be billed as a team bonding exercise.
D. Take the vacation days but stay at home. Arrange to be in the office on alternating days and then stay home in between. That way you use the days but complete the project as well.

The Right Way to Use Historical Data

by Andy Jordan

The PMO needs to ensure that the information contained in that database of historical information is organized in a way that not just the data can be retrieved, but also that the context of that data can be understood. If we don’t, then not only may the information not help PMs, it could lead them to significant errors in their planning.

Applying Lessons Learned: Three Steps

by Kenneth Darter, PMP

Many PMs collect lessons learned after a project is complete or after a phase is over. But what is the best way to apply those lessons learned to future projects or phases?

How to Keep a Project Under Budget

by Mike Tressler, MBA, PMP

Using a step-by-step approach to budgeting will make your life easier in the long run, allow you to accurately answer any questions about project expenditures, make much more accurate future cost estimates for similar projects and generally give you more control over the project. Here's some help.

Standard Business Case

PREMIUM deliverable

Document a business case to persuade upper management to fund your project. Keep it short and succinct enough that the busy executive management audience will read and digest it. It should directly convey the information they need to know with salient, hard-hitting, supporting evidence that addresses the bottom line. This is a basic instructional framework of the information you should include in your business case. Enhance it as you wish!

Project Concept

PREMIUM deliverable

Finding sponsors to back your project is an art. Make a compelling case for the project to gain sponsor support when you are pitching your business case to executive management. Here is an example of a brief, direct project concept designed to lure sponsors into your camp.

Risk Assessment Summary Checklist

PREMIUM checklist

This checklist is a quick and dirty way of weighing risk factors against project criteria to discover level of risk.

Business Case Planning Checklist

PREMIUM checklist

Formulating a business case and proposing your project to senior management for buy-in can be tricky. Don't dive right in and start writing. Begin with a solid checklist of guidelines to ensure a business case that's more than buzzword hype.

Business Case

PREMIUM deliverable

Mission-critical projects need to be well-justified, with clear goals that can be referenced throughout the life of the project. This business case template offers an excellent approach to goal-setting and a way to communicate those goals effectively.

Methodology Implementation Project Charter

deliverable

This is a high-level example of a Project Charter for implementing a methodology, but the structure and approach will work for many projects. This example is heavy on risks and assumptions, light on budgeting, role descriptions and conflict resolution.

ROI Calculator

deliverable

The attached tool has been developed to assist you in generating some solid payback data to be used to evaluate the return potential of your proposed method. Not only will it help the gods of finance see the light, but will also help you to understand whether your project is a winner or loser before you ever put your signature on the purchase requisition.

Tips for a Successful Business Case

deliverable

This excellent project justification guide will provide sophisticated advice to maximize the impact of your business case, making it accurate, complete and persuasive. In addition, learn some handy tips, techniques and strategies to complement existing procedures, templates and spreadsheets that you already use.

Presenting Your Business Case to Management

PREMIUM presentation

Presenting a winning business case with the right amount of the right information for the right audience is the key to getting approval and funding for your project! Here is a presentation that will give you the fine points on how to do just that.

Risk Analysis and Contingency Plan Guidelines

deliverable

No project was ever completed on time and within budget. Identifying risks associated with a project and mitigating them is a crucial activity of project planning. Managers need to not only analyze project risks, but also must develop contingency plans to address those risks.

Project Sponsor Checklist

checklist

The project sponsor checklist describes ways for the project sponsor to provide commitment and project support in an effective, visible manner.

Application Development Risk Assessment Checklist

PREMIUM checklist

Building an application? This checklist outlines 52 potential risk areas in application development, defining low, medium and high risk levels for each. Classifying your project risk in each of these areas will not only guide you in forming mitigation strategies, but really help you focus your management attention during the course of the project.

Quick Project Risk Assessment Questionnaire

PREMIUM checklist

What's the first step in looking at the risks you face in delivering your project? Before performing a full-blow assessment, you may want to ask yourself a few simple questions. This 10 minute, 27 question worksheet will help you quickly identify a number of risk factors common to many projects. It's a great first step in looking at the risks you may be facing at a macro level.

Strategy-Focused Project Charter

deliverable

This template outlines a classic Project Charter with a focus on project definition and strategic ties. Risks and stakeholder needs are covered, but not in granular detail. It is appropriate for fairly low-risk projects where the goal is to get everyone on the same page up front.

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"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules."

- George Bernard Shaw