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Next, define some clear and measurable business goals. Some examples are:. These business goals should imply specific project success criteria, which should again be measurable and trackable. They could include achieving schedule and budget targets, delivering committed functionality in a form that satisfies customer acceptance tests, complying with industry standards or government regulations, or achieving specific technological milestones.

Also, keep your eye on team member job satisfaction, sometimes indicated by staff turnover rate and the willingness of team members to do what it takes to make the project succeed. The business objectives define the overarching goal, though. It doesn't matter if you deliver to the specification on schedule and budget if those factors don't clearly align with business success. Remember that not all of these defined success criteria can be your top priority. You'll have to make some thoughtful trade-off decisions to ensure that you satisfy your most important priorities.

If you don't define clear priorities for success, team members can wind up working at cross-purposes, leading to frustration, stress, and reduced teamwork effectiveness. Every project must balance its functionality, staffing, cost, schedule, and quality objectives [Wiegers, ].

Define each of these five project dimensions as either a constraint within which you must operate, a driver strongly aligned with project success, or a degree of freedom you can adjust within some stated bounds. There's bad news: not all factors can be constraints and not all can be drivers. The project manager must have some flexibility to react to schedule slips, demands for increased functionality, staff turnover, and other realities.

A "flexibility diagram" such as that shown in Figure 1 visually depicts your constraints, drivers, and degrees of freedom. A constraint gives the project manager no flexibility in that dimension, so it is plotted at the zero value on its axis. A driver yields a small amount of flexibility, so its point is plotted a bit higher than zero. Degrees of freedom provide varying degrees of latitude. They represent parameters the project manager can adjust to achieve the project's success drivers within the limits imposed by its constraints. Connecting the five plotted points creates an irregular pentagon.

The smaller the area inside the pentagon, the more constrained the project is. I once heard a senior manager ask a project leader how long it would take to deliver a planned new large software system. The project leader replied, "Two years. I need it in six months. A better response would have been to negotiate a realistic outcome through a series of questions such as the following:. Early in the project, decide what criteria will indicate whether the product is ready for release. Possible release criteria might include the following:. Whatever criteria you choose should be realistic, objectively measurable, documented, and aligned with what "quality" means to your customers.

21 Project Management Success Tips

Decide early on how you will tell when you're done, track progress toward your goals, and stick to your guns when confronted with pressure to ship before the product is ready for prime time. Carefully consider your target market segments when deciding on release criteria [Rothman, ]. The early adopters and enthusiasts have a higher tolerance for defects than do the pragmatic early majority of customers or the conservative late majority. In contrast, time to market and innovative features or technology usage are most important to the early adopters.

Despite pressure to promise the impossible, never make a commitment you know you can't keep. Engage in good-faith negotiations with customers, managers, and team members about goals that are realistically achievable. Negotiation is required whenever there is a gap between the schedule or functionality the key project stakeholders demand and your best prediction of the future as embodied in project estimates.

Property Development Project Management Tips & Tools

Principled negotiation involves four precepts [Fisher, ]:. Any data you have from previous projects will help you make persuasive arguments, although there is no real defence against truly unreasonable people. I once met with an aggressive and intimidating senior manager to discuss our department's software process improvement plans. My process improvement group had carefully studied the problem and estimated that the end of was the earliest date that was even remotely feasible.


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After some debate, Jack grudgingly agreed to the end of , but I regarded even that goal as pure fantasy. After additional discussion, I finally said, "Jack, I'm not going to commit to the end of He wasn't sure what to say next. Jack eventually agreed to the target date to which I was willing to commit. Plan to renegotiate commitments when project realities such as staff, budget, or deadlines change, unanticipated problems arise, risks materialise, or new requirements are added. No one likes to have to modify his commitments. However, if the reality is that the initial commitments won't be achieved, let's not pretend that they will up until the moment of unfortunate truth.

Some people believe the time spent writing a plan could be better spent writing code, but I don't agree. The hard part isn't writing the plan. The hard part is actually doing the planning-thinking, negotiating, balancing, asking, listening, and thinking some more. Actually writing the plan is mostly transcription at that point. The time you spend analysing what it will take to solve the problem will reduce the number of surprises you have to cope with later in the project.

Today's multi-site and cross-cultural development projects demand even more careful planning and tracking than do traditional projects undertaken by a co-located team. A useful plan is much more than a schedule or work breakdown structure of tasks to perform. It also includes:. Your organisation should adopt a standard software project plan template, which can be tailored for various kinds of projects. This standard describes a comprehensive template, sufficient for the largest projects.

Study this template to see what sections would make sense for the types and sizes of projects that you work on. If you commonly tackle different kinds of projects, such as major new product development as well as small enhancements, adopt a separate project plan template for each. Avoid overburdening small projects with excessive documentation that adds little value. The project plan should be no any longer nor more elaborate than necessary to make sure you can successfully execute the project. But always write a plan.

Inch-pebbles are miniature milestones get it? Breaking large tasks into multiple small tasks helps you estimate them more accurately, reveals work activities you might not have thought of otherwise, and permits more accurate, fine-grained status tracking. Select inch-pebbles of a size that you feel you can estimate accurately. I feel most comfortable with inch-pebbles that represent tasks of about 5 to 15 labour-hours, or about one to three days in duration.

Overlooked tasks are a common contributor to schedule slips, so breaking large problems into small bits reveals more details about the work that must be done and improves your ability to make accurate estimates. You can track progress based on the number of inch-pebbles that have been completed at any given time, compared to those you planned to complete by that time. Defining the project's work in terms of inch-pebbles is an aid to tracking status through earned value analysis [Lewis, ]. The earned value technique compares the investment of effort or dollars that you've made to date with progress as measured by completed inch-pebbles.


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  • If your team frequently undertakes certain common tasks, such as implementing a new object class, executing a system test cycle, or performing a product build, develop activity checklists and planning worksheets for these tasks. Each checklist should include all of the steps the large task might need.

    These checklists and worksheets will help each team member identify and estimate the effort associated with each instance of the large task he must tackle. People work in different ways and no single person will think of all the necessary tasks, so engage multiple team members in developing the worksheets. Using standard worksheets will help the team members adopt common processes that they can tune up as they gain experience. Tailor the worksheets to meet the specific needs of individual projects. I've seen project task lists in which the author assumed that every testing experience will be a success that lets you move into the next development activity.

    However, almost all quality control activities, such as testing and peer reviews, find defects or other improvement opportunities. Your project schedule or work breakdown structure should include rework as a discrete task after every quality control activity. Base your estimates of rework time on previous experience. For example, you might have historical inspection data indicating that, on average, your developers find 25 defects per thousand lines of code by inspection and that it costs an average of 40 minutes to fully repair each code defect.

    You can crunch these kinds of numbers to come up with average expected rework effort for various types of work products. If you don't actually have to do any rework after a test, great; you're ahead of schedule on that task. Don't count on it, though. If you don't identify and control project risks, they will control you. A risk is a potential problem that could affect the success of your project, a problem that hasn't happened yet, and you'd like to keep it that way [Wiegers, ]. Risk management has been identified as one of the most significant best practices for software development [Brown, ].

    Simply identifying the possible risk factors isn't enough. You also have to evaluate the relative threat each one poses so you can focus your risk management energy where it will do the most good. Risk exposure is a combination of the probability that a specific risk could materialise into a problem and the negative consequences for the project if it does.

    To manage each risk, select mitigation actions to reduce either the probability or the impact. You might also identify contingency plans that will kick in if your risk control activities are not effective. Suppose you are concerned that your top developer might move to Australia to be with her new boyfriend. Consider the following actions:. A risk list does not replace a plan for how you will identify, prioritise, control, and track risks. Incorporate risk tracking into your routine project status tracking.

    Record which risks materialised and which mitigation actions were effective for reference on future projects. Your team members are already swamped with their current project assignments, but if you want the group to rise to a higher plane of software engineering capability, you'll have to invest some time in process improvement [Wiegers, ].

    5 Insane Project Management Techniques in Today’s Market

    Set aside some time from your project schedule, because software project activities should include making process changes that will help your next project be even more successful. Don't allocate percent of your team members' available time to project tasks and then wonder why they don't make any progress on the improvement initiatives. Some process changes can begin to pay off immediately, whereas you won't reap the full return on your investment in other improvements until the next project. View process improvement as a strategic investment in the sustained effectiveness of your development organisation.

    I liken process improvement to highway construction: it slows everyone down a little bit for a time, but after the work is done, the road is a lot smoother and the throughput greater. The time and money you spend on training, reading and self-study, consultants, and developing improved processes are part of the investment your organisation makes in project success.

    Recognise that you'll pay a price in terms of a short-term productivity loss when you first try to apply new processes, tools, or technologies. Don't expect to get fabulous benefits from new software engineering approaches on the first try, no matter what the tool vendor's literature or the methodology consultant's brochure claims. Instead, build extra time into the schedule to account for the inevitable learning curve. Make sure your managers and customers understand the learning curve and accept it as an inescapable consequence of working in a rapidly changing, high-technology field.

    People generally provide estimates in units of calendar time. I prefer to estimate the effort in labour-hours associated with a task, then translate the effort into a calendar-time estimate. A hour task might take 2. However, it could also take a week if you have to wait for critical information from a customer or stay home with a sick child for two days. The translation of effort into calendar time is based on estimates of how many effective hours I can spend on project tasks per day, any interruptions or emergency bug fix requests I might get, meetings, and all the other places into which time disappears.

    If you keep track of how you actually spend your time at work, you'll know how many effective weekly project hours you have available on average [Wiegers, ]. Typically, this is only about 50 to 60 percent of the nominal time people spend at work, far less than the assumed percent effective time on which so many project schedules are planned. The task-switching overhead associated with the many activities we are all asked to do reduces our effectiveness significantly.

    Excessive multi-tasking introduces communication and thought process inefficiencies that reduce individual productivity. I once heard a manager say that someone on his team had spent an average of eight hours per week on a particular activity, so she could do five of them at once. In reality, she'll be lucky if she can handle three such tasks.

    Some people multi-task more efficiently than others. If some of your team members thrash when working on too many tasks at once, set clear priorities and help them succeed by focusing on just one or two objectives at a time. A driver yields a small amount of flexibility, so its point is plotted a bit higher than zero. Degrees of freedom provide varying degrees of latitude. They represent parameters the project manager can adjust to achieve the project's success drivers within the limits imposed by its constraints.

    Connecting the five plotted points creates an irregular pentagon. The smaller the area inside the pentagon, the more constrained the project is. I once heard a senior manager ask a project leader how long it would take to deliver a planned new large software system. The project leader replied, "Two years. I need it in six months. A better response would have been to negotiate a realistic outcome through a series of questions such as the following:.

    Early in the project, decide what criteria will indicate whether the product is ready for release. Possible release criteria might include the following:. Whatever criteria you choose should be realistic, objectively measurable, documented, and aligned with what "quality" means to your customers. Decide early on how you will tell when you're done, track progress toward your goals, and stick to your guns when confronted with pressure to ship before the product is ready for prime time.

    Carefully consider your target market segments when deciding on release criteria [Rothman, ]. The early adopters and enthusiasts have a higher tolerance for defects than do the pragmatic early majority of customers or the conservative late majority. In contrast, time to market and innovative features or technology usage are most important to the early adopters. Despite pressure to promise the impossible, never make a commitment you know you can't keep. Engage in good-faith negotiations with customers, managers, and team members about goals that are realistically achievable.

    Negotiation is required whenever there is a gap between the schedule or functionality the key project stakeholders demand and your best prediction of the future as embodied in project estimates. Principled negotiation involves four precepts [Fisher, ]:. Any data you have from previous projects will help you make persuasive arguments, although there is no real defence against truly unreasonable people. I once met with an aggressive and intimidating senior manager to discuss our department's software process improvement plans.

    My process improvement group had carefully studied the problem and estimated that the end of was the earliest date that was even remotely feasible. After some debate, Jack grudgingly agreed to the end of , but I regarded even that goal as pure fantasy. After additional discussion, I finally said, "Jack, I'm not going to commit to the end of He wasn't sure what to say next.

    Jack eventually agreed to the target date to which I was willing to commit. Plan to renegotiate commitments when project realities such as staff, budget, or deadlines change, unanticipated problems arise, risks materialise, or new requirements are added. No one likes to have to modify his commitments. However, if the reality is that the initial commitments won't be achieved, let's not pretend that they will up until the moment of unfortunate truth. Some people believe the time spent writing a plan could be better spent writing code, but I don't agree.

    The hard part isn't writing the plan. The hard part is actually doing the planning-thinking, negotiating, balancing, asking, listening, and thinking some more. Actually writing the plan is mostly transcription at that point. The time you spend analysing what it will take to solve the problem will reduce the number of surprises you have to cope with later in the project. Today's multi-site and cross-cultural development projects demand even more careful planning and tracking than do traditional projects undertaken by a co-located team. A useful plan is much more than a schedule or work breakdown structure of tasks to perform.

    It also includes:. Your organisation should adopt a standard software project plan template, which can be tailored for various kinds of projects. This standard describes a comprehensive template, sufficient for the largest projects. Study this template to see what sections would make sense for the types and sizes of projects that you work on.

    Project Management Basics: Confirming Your Project’s Justification

    If you commonly tackle different kinds of projects, such as major new product development as well as small enhancements, adopt a separate project plan template for each. Avoid overburdening small projects with excessive documentation that adds little value. The project plan should be no any longer nor more elaborate than necessary to make sure you can successfully execute the project.

    But always write a plan. Inch-pebbles are miniature milestones get it? Breaking large tasks into multiple small tasks helps you estimate them more accurately, reveals work activities you might not have thought of otherwise, and permits more accurate, fine-grained status tracking. Select inch-pebbles of a size that you feel you can estimate accurately. I feel most comfortable with inch-pebbles that represent tasks of about 5 to 15 labour-hours, or about one to three days in duration. Overlooked tasks are a common contributor to schedule slips, so breaking large problems into small bits reveals more details about the work that must be done and improves your ability to make accurate estimates.

    You can track progress based on the number of inch-pebbles that have been completed at any given time, compared to those you planned to complete by that time. Defining the project's work in terms of inch-pebbles is an aid to tracking status through earned value analysis [Lewis, ]. The earned value technique compares the investment of effort or dollars that you've made to date with progress as measured by completed inch-pebbles.

    If your team frequently undertakes certain common tasks, such as implementing a new object class, executing a system test cycle, or performing a product build, develop activity checklists and planning worksheets for these tasks. Each checklist should include all of the steps the large task might need. These checklists and worksheets will help each team member identify and estimate the effort associated with each instance of the large task he must tackle. People work in different ways and no single person will think of all the necessary tasks, so engage multiple team members in developing the worksheets.

    Using standard worksheets will help the team members adopt common processes that they can tune up as they gain experience. Tailor the worksheets to meet the specific needs of individual projects. I've seen project task lists in which the author assumed that every testing experience will be a success that lets you move into the next development activity.

    However, almost all quality control activities, such as testing and peer reviews, find defects or other improvement opportunities. Your project schedule or work breakdown structure should include rework as a discrete task after every quality control activity. Base your estimates of rework time on previous experience. For example, you might have historical inspection data indicating that, on average, your developers find 25 defects per thousand lines of code by inspection and that it costs an average of 40 minutes to fully repair each code defect.

    You can crunch these kinds of numbers to come up with average expected rework effort for various types of work products. If you don't actually have to do any rework after a test, great; you're ahead of schedule on that task. Don't count on it, though. If you don't identify and control project risks, they will control you. A risk is a potential problem that could affect the success of your project, a problem that hasn't happened yet, and you'd like to keep it that way [Wiegers, ]. Risk management has been identified as one of the most significant best practices for software development [Brown, ].

    Simply identifying the possible risk factors isn't enough. You also have to evaluate the relative threat each one poses so you can focus your risk management energy where it will do the most good. Risk exposure is a combination of the probability that a specific risk could materialise into a problem and the negative consequences for the project if it does. To manage each risk, select mitigation actions to reduce either the probability or the impact.


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    You might also identify contingency plans that will kick in if your risk control activities are not effective. Suppose you are concerned that your top developer might move to Australia to be with her new boyfriend. Consider the following actions:. A risk list does not replace a plan for how you will identify, prioritise, control, and track risks. Incorporate risk tracking into your routine project status tracking.

    Record which risks materialised and which mitigation actions were effective for reference on future projects.

    2. Understand Your Goal

    Your team members are already swamped with their current project assignments, but if you want the group to rise to a higher plane of software engineering capability, you'll have to invest some time in process improvement [Wiegers, ]. Set aside some time from your project schedule, because software project activities should include making process changes that will help your next project be even more successful. Don't allocate percent of your team members' available time to project tasks and then wonder why they don't make any progress on the improvement initiatives.

    Some process changes can begin to pay off immediately, whereas you won't reap the full return on your investment in other improvements until the next project. View process improvement as a strategic investment in the sustained effectiveness of your development organisation. I liken process improvement to highway construction: it slows everyone down a little bit for a time, but after the work is done, the road is a lot smoother and the throughput greater.

    The time and money you spend on training, reading and self-study, consultants, and developing improved processes are part of the investment your organisation makes in project success. Recognise that you'll pay a price in terms of a short-term productivity loss when you first try to apply new processes, tools, or technologies. Don't expect to get fabulous benefits from new software engineering approaches on the first try, no matter what the tool vendor's literature or the methodology consultant's brochure claims. Instead, build extra time into the schedule to account for the inevitable learning curve.

    Make sure your managers and customers understand the learning curve and accept it as an inescapable consequence of working in a rapidly changing, high-technology field. People generally provide estimates in units of calendar time. I prefer to estimate the effort in labour-hours associated with a task, then translate the effort into a calendar-time estimate. A hour task might take 2. However, it could also take a week if you have to wait for critical information from a customer or stay home with a sick child for two days. The translation of effort into calendar time is based on estimates of how many effective hours I can spend on project tasks per day, any interruptions or emergency bug fix requests I might get, meetings, and all the other places into which time disappears.

    If you keep track of how you actually spend your time at work, you'll know how many effective weekly project hours you have available on average [Wiegers, ]. Typically, this is only about 50 to 60 percent of the nominal time people spend at work, far less than the assumed percent effective time on which so many project schedules are planned. The task-switching overhead associated with the many activities we are all asked to do reduces our effectiveness significantly. Excessive multi-tasking introduces communication and thought process inefficiencies that reduce individual productivity.

    I once heard a manager say that someone on his team had spent an average of eight hours per week on a particular activity, so she could do five of them at once. In reality, she'll be lucky if she can handle three such tasks. Some people multi-task more efficiently than others. If some of your team members thrash when working on too many tasks at once, set clear priorities and help them succeed by focusing on just one or two objectives at a time. Estimate how much time your team members spend on training activities annually, and subtract that from the time available for them to work on project tasks.

    Tools and Tips for Today's Project Manager by Irwin S. Ludin, Ralph L. Kliem

    You probably already subtract out average values for vacation time, sick time, and other assignments; treat training time the same way. Recognise that the high-tech field of software development demands that all practitioners devote time to ongoing education, both on their own time and on the company's time. Arrange just-in-time training when you can schedule it, as the half-life of new technical knowledge is short unless the knowledge is put to use promptly. Attending a training seminar can be a team-building experience, as project team members and other stakeholders hear the same story about how to apply improved practices to their common challenges.

    Liked this post? If yes, then you are going to love this one as well —

    When you prepare estimates for your work, write down those estimates and document how you arrived at each of them. Understanding the assumptions and approaches used to create an estimate will make them easier to defend and adjust when necessary. It will also help you improve your estimation process. Train the team in estimation methods, rather than assuming that every software developer and project leader is instinctively skilled at predicting the future. Develop estimation procedures and checklists that people throughout your organisation can use.

    An effective group estimation technique is the Wideband Delphi method [Wiegers, ]. Wideband Delphi builds on the principle that multiple heads are better than one. The Delphi estimation method asks a small team of experts to anonymously generate individual estimates from a problem description and reach consensus on a final set of estimates through iteration. Figure 2 illustrates the Wideband Delphi process flow. The outputs from the process include a complete list of project and quality-related tasks and an estimate for each task, in whatever units the team chose such as dollars, weeks, or labour-hours.