The Human Factor

There is a quote I use when training for years on Project Management around the human factor in the difference between doing Project Management well or poorly. It identifies to me the utmost importance for the art of project management and how fine a line that is to be successful.

It says –

“Plain and Simple, project management is an operational practice; the means to an end. Practiced well, it leads to value; practiced poorly it does virtually nothing except give itself a bad name.

This raises the issue of the human factor. Project Management is nothing more than a construct with methods and practices that support it (Science). The difference between doing it well and doing it poorly therefore must lie with the practitioners, those who manage the practitioners, and the organization support provided to project management within the organization. Were this not true, every organization that practices project management would realize similar benefits. We know this is not the case”

Recognizing that I would say that project management is considered to be 80% art and 20% science. Project fail or succeed because of people, not because of technology, tools, or techniques. Projects are really technical opportunities or problems with human dimensions.

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Passion for delivery

I have been convinced for some time that the truly best Project Managers have an in built passion for delivery and achieving what some may see as the impossible. That is a difficult trait to teach someone and it is also hard to interview for but worth the time to discover.

That passion has the ability to

– build teams that demonstrate each day that focusing on a vision together achieves so much more that looking inwards at just ourselves

– inspire team members and those around them to perform to the best of their abilities

Look for passion in your Project Managers to drive results

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Vendor Management and the PM – Part 3 The Kick Off

Having got the contract negotiated and signed it is time for the kick off to the project and it is up to the Project Manager to partner with the vendor engagement lead to get the project off to a good start. The kick off should be a joint effort to develop and also present and should focus on the objectives of the project, measures of success both organizations seek and the roles everyone will play in meeting the agreed upon plan.

1) Understand key contract negotiated points and ensure they are enforced
2) Meet with and approve the key vendor supplied resources ensuring they have sufficient background in what you are undertaking, relevant industry knowledge (if applicable) and that they can fit within the overall team and culture.
3) Focus immediately on putting together the project roadmap with your vendor and have the whole team buy into it
4) Agree rules of engagement to work jointly together along with known escalation paths.

It is well known that starting off well and with a solid foundation of openness will pay dividends in the end but it takes effort and understanding on both sides to create. There will always be issues to address and disagreements along the way but you can establish the guidelines in how to deal with it via a well planned kick off.

Next – Resolving Issues

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Vendor Management and the PM – Part 2 The Contract Negotiations

Over time I have been part of many projects involving managing the role of a vendor and have decided to document some of those experiences and lessons learned to try and establish the mythical ‘best practice’

After the selection should come the decision and the inevitable contract negotiations where the role of the Project Manager needs to be clearly understood to enable a workable business relationship with the chosen vendor. Contract negotiations can become tough when discussing key terms and as much as the Project Manager needs to know about those terms, they don’t need to be directly front and center of them.

Here are a few simple rules for this stage around the role of the Project Manager

1) Ensure there is one and only one focal point for the vendor in terms of the contract and that it isn’t the Project Manager who needs to have a good working relationship for the implementation.
2) Make sure the Project Manager contributes to the negotiations and has key implementation specific terms included in the contract
2) Also ensure the Project Manager clearly understands the other contract terms so that they can be planned for and managed.
3) Ensure that the Project Manager is clearly set up as the focal point for the vendor during the implementation
4) Agree up front the project roles and responsibilities for the implementation and that the Project Manager is to manage the vendor and project on your behalf.

The contract negotiations is an opportunity for both sides to assess the potential working relationship fop the implementation and beyond. The Project Manager can learn from that and also set up key management expectations to drive a successful project.

Next – The Kick Off

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Vendor Management and the PM – Part 1 The Selection

Over time I have been part of many projects involving managing the role of a vendor and have decided to document some of those experiences and lessons learned to try and establish the mythical ‘best practice’

The obvious starting point is the selection process for the potential vendor your organization is going to partner with and the role of the Project Manager during that process. As any good Project Manager can attest this stage is the ONLY stage you truly are the customer and the vendor is focused on treating you as such :). During the selection process it is an opportunity to gauge what it would be like to work with that vendor and they can gauge what you, as a customer, would be like to work with. There are a few simple rules to follow from a Project Management perspective going through a more formalized selection:

1) Ensure there is one and only one focal point for the vendor to avoid multiple conversations going on.
2) Set up a plan to ensure that the selection can be managed from both sides and ensure buy in to the plan
3) Coach everyone in the process and what is expected. For example speak to the vendors and explain the concept of partnership and what your organization is looking for and coach your internal team to remain impartial and to ‘score’ each vendor on their ability to meet your prioritized needs and ability to deliver against them
4) Ensure all aspects of the selection are taken care of and fulfilled i.e. written responses, reference checks, all interested parties involved. If every piece of information is obtained and all the right people have been spoken to then you have a better chance for ‘buy in’ to delivery of the services and/or solution that is recommended

Also never forget that as your customer selects the vendor they wish to partner with you can offer your opinion but your role is to NOT make the decision but deliver with the selected vendor.

Next – The Contract Negotiation

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Benefits of Project Portfolio Management

I was recently asked to present on Portfolio Management and had the opportunity to review and discuss what I have done previously and revisit material from the past. What I found was some summaries on the benefits of Portfolio Management and the comparison with a financial portfolio of investments which I wanted to share. Driving this discipline into an organization takes time but can be accelerated by the understanding and communication of the benefits.

The Benefits of Project Portfolio Management

Many organizations will focus their efforts on the management of each individual projects, but fail to spend time looking and managing the project portfolio itself. The result is losing sight of the larger investment and the ‘return’ on it and narrowly looking at one investment at a time. Project portfolio management attempts to change that attention to ensure the whole investment landscape is seen and make sure that:

The right mix of projects are in the portfolio to maximize overall returns

The project portfolio is comprised of projects that offer widely differing value. Projects vary by their short and long-term benefit, their synergy with corporate goals, and their level of investment and anticipated payback. Taking these factors into account, project portfolio management seeks to optimize the returns of the entire portfolio. It selects the most value-producing projects for execution, ensuring that funds are directed toward deserving initiatives. It also eliminates overlaps and redundancies between projects, saving time and costs.

The risks posed by the projects in the portfolio are balanced

Just as an investor attempts to minimize risk and maximize returns by diversifying portfolio holdings, companies should assess and balance the risks of the projects in their portfolios. A conservative portfolio, like an investment portfolio skewed towards bonds, may minimize risk and preserve principal but it also limits the potential returns of the portfolio. Conversely, an aggressive project portfolio may have greater odds of hitting a “big win,” but at a substantially higher risk of failure or loss. Project portfolio management diversifies the company’s project portfolio, balancing risks with potential returns.

Resources are allocated optimally across those projects

With a limited number of people, all projects must compete for resources. Project portfolio management quantifies, compares and prioritizes projects to help companies identify and staff the most valuable ones instead of unwittingly wasting resources on other, less useful efforts. Through high-level executive oversight, it resolves resource conflicts between ongoing projects. It also incorporates formal sourcing strategies to determine the skill sets needed for each project and the best source of resources.

Performance problems are corrected before they become major issues

Project portfolio management is not the magic answer to eliminate project performance issues but it can give the hope that they will be seen earlier. This saves time and money by having them addressed sooner and keeping the projects on course. In turn that ensures that any dependent projects stay on track as well.

Projects remain aligned with business goals throughout their execution

Project portfolio management provides continuous management oversight, regular communication and coordination, and constant course correction to minimize project drift, re-direct projects when business objectives change and maintain alignment.

Projects receive the support and oversight needed to complete successfully

By elevating the prioritization and oversight responsibilities to the executive level, project portfolio management ensures that projects receive the backing they need to succeed. Executives have the authority and business knowledge to ensure alignment between projects and business strategies; to fine tune the timing and order of projects to exploit synergies, avoid re-works and eliminate redundancies; to optimally assign resources; to direct funds to the most valuable initiatives; and to help resolve critical performance issues.

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Focus please :)

I was reminded the other day from a colleague about how we need to really focus nowadays to achieve great things. Combine that focus with the ability to make bold decisions and work hard and you cant go wrong

Have you noticed how distractible we all our in our daily lives? Our phone buzzes or lights up and we immediately take notice regardless of what else we are doing. And it isn’t just your phone as there are so many other distractions that cause us to switch attention away from what we are doing. This impacts us all at an individual level and we see this manifest itself in the organizations where we work.

When it comes to managing a Portfolio of Projects this behavior means we are constantly having to rebalance where we focus on and has the very real danger that the Portfolio becomes too big to really achieve anything. What I mean by that is that we have our lists of projects that are approved and we are working on and monitoring progress. Then the newest idea comes in and we say yes to that and so add that to the growing project list without stopping or delaying other projects because they are believed to be equally important. Before we know it we have a large list of projects inching along due to resource constraints and we are not able to get the right focus because there is just too many things to review.

There is this constant theme that the business landscape is constantly in flux and we have to change rapidly to keep up with it and this is very true. But we also have to ensure that we don’t loose FOCUS on what is important and what will drive the organization forward. Having a view of the Portfolio of Projects will at least ensure that the scope of work and driving forces behind it are front and center and as leaders we can ensure we don’t get distracted as often as we do.

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