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The Project Management Institute (PMI) encourages its members to advance the profession. One of  the ways to do this is by helping others increase their project management skills. The target audiences for this blog are professional PM’s early in their careers as well as those who manage projects but are not PM’s by title or trade. I will be posting every week or so, offering practical tips and tools on the full range of project management topics. I hope you will find this useful and help you advance your career.

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The Project Charter – Scope of Work

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At the Project Charter level, the scope of work is not meant to be all-inclusive and at a fine level of detail. That is done when detail requirements are addressed.

You can derive part of the scope by taking each Project Objective (refer to the post on Project Objectives for more detail) and listing the major work activities needed to accomplish that objective. These should be at a level of detail enough to get a high-level understanding of the effort and duration of the activity. This is a judgment call and varies by type of project.

In addition to the above, you can list the major business processes that are impacted by the project. A process is impacted if one of the following is true:

  • there will be new or changed process steps
  • there will be new sources of data or information for the process
  • there will be new recipients of data or information from the process
  • there will be changed or additional owners of the process.

Listing the major activities and the impacted processes should be sufficient for scope at the Project Charter level. Your organization’s standards may require more, but this should be the minimum.

The Project Charter – Project Objectives

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In the previous post I defined and discussed Business Objectives and their importance. Project Objectives are very different from Business Objectives. I have seen Project Charters with the two types of objectives mixed into one objectives section and I find it very confusing. I recommend placing Project Objectives in its own section.

Project Objectives should satisfy the following criteria:

  • Produce a product, service or result that survive and are maintained after the project is over. Some examples of this are (1) a new business “Standard Operating Procedure”; (2) new software installed that meets all of the acceptance criteria.
  • Each Objectives should have a definition of “done” that is agreed to by the Project Sponsor and the Project Team.

Project Objectives are important for the following reasons:

  • They define the scope of the major deliverables of the project
  • They will be used to define much of the activity scope of the project
  • Meeting all of the Project Objectives is one of the criteria for project closing

The combination of having well defined Business and Project Objectives will get your project off to a great start and help keep it on track. Take care to get these right.

The Project Charter – Business Objectives

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As stated in the post “Building Blocks of a Successful Project Part 2”, Business Objectives are the “CEO’s view” of the project. They should make or save money, take advantage of opportunity, respond to new law and regulations, or increase competitive advantage. They should be specific and measurable to avoid what I call “Mom and apple pie” objectives like “We will be more efficient”. Really? Exactly how efficient? Will be be able to cut costs or deploy those efficiency savings to revenue opportunities?

Why is this important? Because everyone on your project is a decision maker whether you acknowledge it or not. Every day of a project, many “micro-decisions” are made without asking for clarification as that would be very inefficient. People will make these decisions based on assumptions due to lack of clarity in the objectives. Clearly stating the Business Objectives will help everyone make better decisions by asking themselves “does this decision support the Business Objectives as stated?”.

Another reason documented Business Objectives are important is they create a measuring stick for the health of the project. At any point in the project the question “Are the Business Objectives still obtainable?” needs to be asked. If the answer is “no”, the project is evaluated as to whether it should continue or not. Many projects forge ahead even if the Business Objectives are no longer possible because “we have spent a lot of time and money already”. This is a concept called “sunk cost” and this fact is irrelevant in good decision making. If a project no longer offers a return on investment (ROI), there is no point in throwing more money and time at it.

At the end of the project and at regular, predetermined intervals,  the actual outcomes need to be measured against the original objectives. If the outcomes met or exceeded the objectives, congratulations, your project was a success! If the outcomes fell short of the objectives, you can consider doing the following:

  • Find the root causes and address them, which may mean spending more time and money if the ROI warrants it.
  • If the ROI for spending more time and money to correct the root causes is not positive you can leave the project deliverables in place and not make any additional investment.
  • If the project results are actually having a negative impact and additional investment will not help, you may need to reverse the implementation (if feasible) to prevent further damage.

My advice is to spend as much time as you need getting the Business Objectives right. It is the most important thing you will do on a project.

The Project Charter – Overview

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When I teach Project Management the Project Charter (sometimes referred to as “Project Definition”) is one of my “points of emphasis”. I state that if they only do one of the things I teach, then the Project Charter is it. All of your planning and execution will be based on the elements contained in there.

The Project Charter is important enough that I will be dedicating the upcoming blog posts to examine the contents in detail and include examples. Here are the sections:

  • Business Objectives
  • Project Objectives
  • Scope
  • Timeline
  • Stakeholders
  • Risks and Assumptions
  • Issues
  • Constraints
  • Dependencies
  • Sign off

What is a Project?

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Many in the working world, who are not Project Managers by trade, manage projects. In many cases, they do not recognize they are managing a project and treat it as just another task assignment without applying project management disciplines. This can be very stressful as projects can descend into chaos without proper management.

If you are given a goal and it has a due date you now have a project. It can range from the trivial (“let’s go out to lunch Friday”) to the very complex (“we need a new payroll system”). There is a tipping point where you need to start applying project management discipline, with the depth varying with the complexity.

If you are the person responsible for meeting the goal and the date, then congratulations, you’re the Project Manager, whether that is your formal title or not. Recognizing your role is the first step to improving your chances of success. There are many more ways to fail than to succeed. By applying fundamentals, you eliminate ways to fail.

In the upcoming blog posts I will introduce you to fundamentals that will help you succeed in your job and your life.

Building Blocks of a Successful Project Part 4 – Human Resources

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The first step in obtaining your project’s human resource needs is to create a “Roles/Responsibilities” matrix. In the first column, you define the project roles required. For example “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, “Subject Matter Experts”. These are not job titles but roles defined for the needs of the project. The second column describes the scope of responsibilities for that role. The third column is the name or names of those people assigned to that role. The rest of the columns contain contact information, and the assignee’s department and manager.

The next step is obtaining the commitments for these resources to work on the project. I have seen many projects given the approval to begin without the commitment (or even awareness) of key stakeholders (business units that will have project task assignments). This leaves the Project Manager in the position of negotiating with the business units for resource time and priority. This is typically the result of lack of Project Portfolio Management and control of the project intake process, especially in regard to resource capacity.

A best practice in Project Management is to secure the resource commitments prior to the approval of the Business Case. This means doing a thorough stakeholder analysis of all of the roles and responsibilities needed for the project. A brainstorming session with those having a broad knowledge of the business functions can help identify key stakeholders.

The Executive Sponsor (with support from the Project Manager) is responsible for communicating with the affected business units and securing the commitments. If these commitments have not been made and the project is directed to proceed, then this must be handled using formal Risk Management (which will be addressed in a future post).

In addition to having committed resources, they must also be the right resources. They must have skills that match the assigned roles. If they don’t and you have no resource alternatives then your project must include a plan for skills development and your task estimates must take into account the skill levels of the task assignee.

For your “core” team (the small group that attends almost all meetings and contribute to planning) you must make sure they are empowered as decision makers. If your team is constantly saying “I have to get my manager’s approval”, your schedule may be significantly impacted.

Building Blocks of a Successful Project Part 3 – Executive Commitment

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If your company actively manages its Project Portfolio, then this building block should already be in place. However, many companies begin new projects without any consideration of the impacts to projects already in progress or in the “pending” queue. This is the single biggest root cause to the Project Manager’s #1 headache: resource contention.

Before projects can begin, you should have satisfactory answers to the following questions:

  1. Are any existing projects competing for the same resources?
  2. If so, do these resources have the availability required for the new project?
  3. Where does this new project rank in the corporate priority?
  4. Is there a process in place to prevent the next new project from interfering with this one?

The answers to the above will tell you if you have Executive commitment for your project. Without it you will every day be at risk of losing key resources and jeopardizing your schedule.