Today’s deep dive into the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition is into the second part of Project Schedule Management: the Define Activities process. I’m going to call out the differences between this process and what we used to have in the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition.
The project schedule is the main output of the Project Schedule Management Knowledge Area (unsurprisingly) and the action really starts with Define Activities.
Define Activities Process
This is the second process in the Knowledge Area. We’re still in the Planning process group.
Basically, this process is about making an activity list, covering all the different activities that need to be done to complete the work of the project. There are some other outputs too – we’ll come to them in a minute. But think of this process as the creation of your master To Do list.
There are some small changes to the Inputs between the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition and Sixth Edition. In the current edition, inputs are:
The schedule management plan and scope baseline have been ditched. That makes sense: the project management plan is such a broad, wide-ranging document that you don’t really have to specify the component parts.
Tools & Techniques
The Tools and Techniques for this process have changed slightly – meetings has been added (and if you want to get picky, it looks to me like the order of tools and techniques has been shifted around), which makes no practical difference day to day.
The addition of meetings makes sense in the context of the Knowledge Area. You can’t decide on what needs to be done unless you talk to people who are going to be doing the work, and you’ll do that through a meeting. That meeting could be informal, formal, a phone call, with lots of people or with one person.
Frankly, I think adding meetings in is a little bit pointless as it should go without saying that you have to talk to an expert in order to use expert judgment as a technique. But the PMBOK Guide® -- Sixth Edition is nothing if not diligent in setting out the detail.
There are two new outputs: Change requests and Project management plan updates.
The point of adding change requests in here is because you should already have a scope baseline in place. As you work through the activities, talk to the right people and so on, you may uncover extra work that needs to be done – or work that doesn’t need to be done. This would generate a change request to amend the baselined scope.
Project management plan updates is a generic catch-all type of output that is included as anything you might do to create a schedule may have some kind of impact on the plan. For example, you might need to update the schedule or cost baselines. Once a change is approved, you’ll have to make changes to those documents too.
Next time I’ll be looking at Sequence Activities.
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3 Ways Your Team Adds Risk to Projects [Video]
The people in the project team, and the processes they use, are a risk factor to your project.
You might not have them on your risk register, but they definitely add risk.
For example: if you end up working with an inexperienced team, you’re in a more risky situation than one that’s highly skilled at the required work.
Poor processes across your organisation, or just in your team (say, people don’t apply the processes properly) can also add risk. A particular challenge, I think, is when projects are forced to use processes that can’t be appropriately tailored for the size of project. You get small projects forced to jump through governance hoops because that’s the process – even when it’s a ridiculous admin overhead. That adds risk to the project too.
Lack of people on the team is also a risk (one that is more likely than the other two to find its way to the risk register, in my view). You’re going to struggle to hit deadlines and delivery quality work if you don’t have enough people.
The risk profile of your project is hugely affected by the project team and the context in which you work. Unfortunately, you don’t always have a lot of control over those elements. You might find yourself being given project team members, instead of being able to pick the most able.
I’ve summarised this in the quick video below, which sets out three of the ways your project team and project environment can influence the risks faced by your project. Enjoy!
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Cost Management Resolutions for 2019
I'm not the best at making resolutions for the new year. Last year, for example, I vouched to spend more time on self-care and say no to too much work. That didn't work out so well.
Project managers sometimes ask me what I think they should be doing better or differently. We all seem to have the common goal of wanting to improve our skills and do better at our jobs. It's part of the challenge and the fun of project management - continuous improvement.
So this year I've put together a list of three simple things that you can easily do to improve your approach to project cost management. These resolutions will help you stay on top of your project budget and have more confidence dealing with the financial aspects of work.
They are easy to do. You just have to commit to do them.
Here they are:
I don't know about you, but my time tracking is still quite spotty. I have had two main projects this year. I work out my hours on a monthly basis, using the average length of a working day and then broadly how many days/half days I spent on each project, looking at the meetings I had.
This is not scientific at all.
Luckily, we are an internal team and don't bill our colleagues or clients for our time, so in the grand scheme of things it doesn't much matter. But if you work in an agency setting, time tracking becomes essential. Do it properly and encourage your team to do the same.
Monthly Budget Reviews
If you don't do these already, you should. Right now I'm reviewing the budget almost daily to make sure we get everything accounted for before year end. The busy times for you will depend on your company's year end and how you account for multi-year projects.
Check through the budget every month. It will make your reporting better too.
I don't really do this. I trust my colleagues to tell me the truth. I have no reason not to believe them when they tell me a task will take 72 days. But next year, I'm going to try to challenge appropriately. The question I'm going to use is: "What would it take to do it faster?"
That's not undermining their expertise. In fact, it's drawing it on even more. I'm asking for their expert input into how we could get the task done more quickly. I think this way of challenging could help us all get more delivered but with less conflict.
What are you going to try to do differently in 2019 to help your projects manage cost better? Or more generally? Do you set professional resolutions at all? Let me know in the comments!
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Data protection has been a hot topic this year because of GDPR coming into force in the EU earlier in 2018. Other countries are following – keeping customer, supplier and staff data confidential is so important. Data breaches have massive implications for projects and organisations.
As you know, much of this regular blog is all about budgeting and project financials, so I have come up with some ways to financially incentivise you to take data protection seriously on your projects – if you weren’t already.
Here are 5 ways that data protection can help you reduce the overall cost of your project.
1. Avoid Fines
Get your project requirements right and you are less likely to implement something that puts you at risk of regulatory fines.
Regulations vary from country to country but many jurisdictions have strict penalties and the potential for fines for data breaches. Thinking about data protection can protect your project from being the cause of a data breach and opening up the organisation to fines.
2. Preserve Your Reputation
Do you really want your project to be the reason the company makes the front page of the financial news? Data loss and breaches can cause significant reputational damage to companies.
Putting data protection at the heart of what you deliver on your project also has a positive effect. Consumers are more interested in data protection now than ever before (at least, that’s how it seems to me). So you may gain market share and more acceptance for your project because you’ve taken data concerns seriously.
3. Avoid Litigation
It isn’t just regulatory fines and regulatory bodies that may take action against your company. Members of the public (including staff) can also bring claims against your company due to data loss. After all, if your personal details were made public in a way that caused you loss or damaged your reputation, wouldn’t you want some justice for the situation?
If individuals are not interested in financial payouts for themselves, they may want to bring what they see as large corporations who haven’t acted fairly into the spotlight. The intention may be to damage the reputation of your firm through a court case, or simply to make sure that companies like yours take data protection seriously. A claim could be motivated by someone not wanting others to suffer the indiscretions that they themselves have been subject to.
4. Shine a Light on Problems
Experienced project managers know that fixing problems early in a project is the way to make changes cheaply. It’s more expensive to change a product the further along the project timeline it is. The more work that’s been done, the more needs to be undone, changed and done again.
Looking at data protection and privacy early on in the project helps you shine a light on things that might be an issue. For example, you can spot where, say, an IT project gathers information that might be intrusive to privacy, so you can rethink the data collected by the software. Or you could incorporate more security protocols to boost customer confidence in your software. Even small things, like training new staff recruited to work in your new shop, can be planned for and managed easier if the requirements are identified at the beginning of a project.
5. Improve Staff Morale and Loyalty
Data protection isn’t the most exciting of subjects, but staff see training as an investment in their careers. If you build data protection training into the way your project is deployed, or for your team members working on the project deliverables, you can influence their intention to stay with the company. Training and investing in people can improve staff morale.
In reality, I don’t think anyone is going to declare undying loyalty to your business just because you offered them data protection training as part of your project, but it contributes to the overall feeling that staff have about the business. Especially about the organisation’s commitment to staff development.
However, it’s also a way to improve staff retention. If you can give team members skills that they can use going forward, they are more likely to be useful to the business. Research by PwC shows that 74% of people are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable – and I’m sure that data protection and data privacy are topics that are definitely going to be needed in the future.
So how do you build data protection into your project plan?
Incorporating Data Protection into Project Plans
Data protection considerations can be built into your project plans early. Make data protection and privacy implications part of the non-functional requirements for the project.
Use a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) document template to help you identify potential pitfalls in the project.
There’s more information about what needs to go in a DPIA and what it is for on the ICO website, along with a sample DPIA template (scroll down). The ICO is the UK data regulator. You may find that your own country’s data regulator/information commissioner has a template they would prefer you to use, or that is written in your language.
The point of a DPIA is to bring to the front of people’s minds the fact that personal data is a big part of your project. It helps you ask the right questions about the project and what it is going to deliver. Then you can make sure you are thinking about the right things for your requirements such as database security, minimising the amount of data collected, access rights and destruction policies and more.
Not sure what topics you should be thinking about? Here are 10 data protection considerations for your project to get you started off in the right direction.
Overall, data protection can be a costly issue for businesses, so it really does pay to get your privacy requirements set up correctly from the start. If you do this, you can avoid budget overruns and project delays because you’ll be getting data protection right first time.
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Regular readers will know that I’ve been doing a series called What’s New In the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition. Recently we’ve been looking at Project Resource Management. However, it’s been so long since the Sixth Edition came out that it doesn’t feel right to call these articles ‘What’s New’ any longer. So today we are carrying on the overview of the project management processes with Project Schedule Management but as a ‘deep dive’ instead.
Don’t worry, I’m still taking the same approach and calling out the differences between the current and previous versions.
The main difference, at Knowledge Area level, is that this section used to be called Project Time Management. Personally, I’m grateful that the name has been changed. Time management also makes me think of personal productivity, Pomodoro, timesheets and things like that. Schedule management is a title that speaks more specifically to the management of time as relates to project tasks.
Overall, this topic is all about getting a detailed plan that talks about how and when the project will achieve the outputs (whatever was set in the project scope). The schedule is the main output of the whole Knowledge Area and it’s helpful for managing expectations, communication and tracking and reporting progress.
So… let’s get started with a deep dive into the processes.
Plan Schedule Management Process
This is the first process in the Knowledge Area. We’re in the Planning process group.
This process is all about planning how you are going to make your plan. Yes, even creating a project schedule needs some effort in planning!
It feels like much of this process will be things you do automatically or don’t have much to plan for because the boundaries are set by your corporate processes and governance.
There’s actually no change in the inputs between the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition and Sixth Edition. The inputs are:
No surprises, no real explanation needed.
Tools & Techniques
There is a small change here for this process. Analytical techniques has been removed and replaced with Data analysis.
It’s semantics really. Data analysis does give the impression of being broader, and more in line with the trend towards big data and data science. So what does ‘data analysis’ actually mean?
It can include a range of tools or techniques that allow you to dig into and analyse the data in a number of ways as they relate to producing a project schedule. For example:
The output hasn’t changed either. The output is a schedule management plan i.e. something that defines what form your schedule takes. How long waves (or sprints) will be, what methodology to use where you have a choice, what level is detail is required to manage the plan.
I don’t think I have ever worked on a project where I have produced a plan about how to manage my schedule. Generally, there might be a paragraph in the Project Initiation Document that says I’ll follow the corporate standards and that’s that. I expect there are some types of mega project where this type of planning for the plan is required, but if you have some experience managing projects and a low complexity project, you will probably be able to make those decisions intuitively and not need to justify yourself by writing a whole document about them. What do you think?
Next time I’ll be looking at Define Activities.
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