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You are here: Home Blogs Displaying items by tag: Project management
Project Management Blog
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 10:19

Managing Your Company’s SAS 70 Audit

sas70shieldSAS 70 audits are a relatively new business mandate, but they are coming on strong and fast.  If your company provides services to publicly-traded companies (including software-as-a-service), chances are customers and prospects have already begun to ask for your SAS 70 audit report.  Companies providing services such as payroll processing, benefits administration, and claims processing, as well as application service providers, are facing the need for a SAS 70 audit.

SAS 70 audits significantly impact your company’s operations and market position; hence, they require careful management.  This article will briefly describe what SAS 70 audits are, who needs to undergo them, and why.  It will make the case for good project management of the audit process.  It will also describe the basic phases and activities of the audit process, from beginning to end.

Why You May Need to be Audited

The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act holds officers of publicly-traded companies responsible for the fairness and completeness of their company’s financial statements.  The quality of these statements depends on a company’s internal controls—processes designed to meet objectives for financial reporting reliability, operational effectiveness and efficiency, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The SOX act requires that signing officers evaluate these controls and report any deficiencies.

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In recent years, the way that projects take shape has evolved at or near the same pace as the information and communications technology we use in our business and personal lives. Not long ago, a project team was either co-located (all team members in the same close proximity), or connected together via express couriers and air travel (regular travel to meet face–to-face was reasonable, prudent, the best method, and acceptable in cost). Then came the email revolution. Project teams could readily and efficiently communicate in an asynchronous manner, ‘virtual’ team members were welcomed and new ways of achieving productivity were discovered. Project productivity certainly benefitted from this approach, but risks also became apparent (which we will elaborate on below). Nowadays, video conferencing, application sharing technologies, and other technology advances have enabled project teams to be assembled with talent from anywhere, regardless of location, while minimizing location costs. Communications technologies are so readily available that the virtual project team member is now commonplace in today’s working environment. Depending on the industry in which you operate, the percentage of virtual team members on a project will vary and in some cases your entire project team may be virtual – meaning no two members geographically reside in the same location, nor meet often (if at all). The Linux development was a classic example of such a team. For sure, projects where something physical is being put together always require people in the same physical location to coordinate it (such as construction of a new building, or a new mining development), however these projects also have many more virtual partners than before (such as designers and offsite manufacturers working remotely). Regardless of the percentage allocation of your team that is “virtual”, communication risks exist. What are the key risks and how can the project manager effectively mitigate them?

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Tuesday, 07 December 2010 10:17

From Planning to Execution: A Crucial Step

road_aheadWhy do your best laid plans often go unfulfilled? You have put the right people in the right jobs, empowered them to achieve, drafted an excellent plan and got the necessary buy-in and funding. Yet somehow things went into the ditch and now the project is late and over budget, delivering a poor return on investment.

The fact is, knowing the path and walking the path are not the same thing. For example, many of us know how to lose weight (exercise, eat better, etc.) Yet knowing how to lose weight and actually losing it are two totally different things. Likewise, knowing what needs to happen to execute a project successfully and actually executing it are different things. The latter is much harder. If you've had trouble in this regard, you are not alone.

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Saturday, 04 December 2010 17:58

Rescuing Trouble Projects

rescueYou are not impervious to having troubled projects in your portfolio. Any project can fail. Even the most seasoned and skilled project manager may, at one time or another, find themselves at the helm of a troubled project. Having a project in trouble does not necessarily signal the Project Manager is doing a poor job. Projects can go off course for a variety of reasons; some reasons are outside the span of control of the Project Manager. What are some of the common causes for projects to fall into troubled waters and what are some prudent steps to get the project back on course?

If you poll a group of seasoned project professionals with the question, “What are the chief causes of Troubled Projects?” you are likely to receive a variety of responses, though quite possibly there will be some commonly attributed causes. At the macro level, we put forth that projects generally fall into trouble for one or more of three reasons; 1) Poor Planning 2) Misaligned Expectations 3) Ineffective Risk Management. Let’s elaborate on each of these points.

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Every nonprofit organization, regardless of size or sector, has a mission.  It might be to raise funds and awareness for a disease, assist underprivileged or abused beings – both human and animal, or help conserve and protect the natural resources found on planet Earth. Regardless, each organization faces the danger of losing sight of its mission by becoming preoccupied with necessary but often burdensome overhead and administrative work.  When employee, management or volunteer time is wasted on tasks that could easily be automated, the entire organization suffers, along with the mission.  An expertly-developed and finely-tuned time management system that tracks project management, billing, and professional payroll can become a window into the real-time costs of any organization. This is especially true if it provides a thorough understanding of costs at every level of the organization and complete visibility into these costs for everyone who impacts them.

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Monday, 29 November 2010 04:22

What should a PMs Theme Tune be?

What should a PMs Theme Tune be? Through many LinkedIn discussions I raised the hugely important question - what should the theme tune be for all project managers? PMs  responded with 187 suggestions for this and, through assessing the most common suggestions together with ones that I just liked or made me laugh we now have a short list with 55 tunes. You can see the full list at www.thelazyprojectmanager.com if you wish.

So now it is time for the vote off - you can select the 5 tunes that you think should be the PMs theme tune at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/pmsthemetune

Please help to spread the word to all of your PM contacts and let’s get them voting in their hundreds. Survey closes 23rd December.

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technologyProject management technology has been around for years now, so the problem of project execution must be basically solved, right?  Wrong.  The Standish Group has found that 68% of technology projects failed in 2009[1].  Does this mean that project management solutions are just a waste of time?

The truth is that project management technology is only as good as the processes that support it.  The only way to improve project execution rates is to look at the root causes of project failure and implement the necessary changes that will allow the technology to work.  Here are a few of the top ways to accomplish this in your organization.

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termsThis is my third column describing basic project management terms. I will one day place all of these in a dorktionary for my loyal readers. Maybe I could make one million dollars. You get all of this knowledge for free – for now anyway.

Assumption – These are bad things that you assume will not happen. If you call these items “assumptions” you can just pretend they will not happen and go about managing your project. If the problems occur, you can refer back to your assumptions as the reason you did not manage the problems. In essence they are a “do-over”. I love assumptions! They are a project manager’s best friend.

Activity – Activities are pieces of work that go on your schedule. You can make these activities at a high-level such as “Build the Bridge” or very detailed like “Go to the bathroom at 10:00”. The project manager decides at what level you want to manage the project depending on how interested you are in the work. For instance, if you are not so motivated you could assign an activity that says “Construct the Building” and give a due date for 18 months from now. Then you can focus on more interesting matters and come back in 18 months to see if the work is completed or not. On the other hand if you don’t trust the people that work on the team you can manage them on an hourly basis.

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Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:12

Going Green

green_world_in_biz_woman_handsToday’s society is prevalent with organizational and social campaigns to “go green”. This is for good reason. It is, after all, our social responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint, to reduce our dependency on non-renewable energies, and to recycle – not to mention the potential financial benefits associated with going green and green products. There are many things that Program and Project Managers of all industries can take to contribute to this worthy cause as part of following good program and project management processes and practices, but what are the “big ticket items”?

#1 – Direct your outcomes towards efforts such as Energy efficiency, Emissions (Carbon) reduction, Water efficiency and Waste minimization: there are many actions that program and project teams can take to achieve any of these four overall targets. For example, in IT the implementation of software that automatically turns off monitors when not used can lead to carbon reductions. If you work in manufacturing, construction or heavy industry the options for tackling these four factors are many and varied.

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more-less-finchFinal installment of a 3 part series... Read part 1 here and part 2 here

How to spot profitability leaks and cost overruns in IT projects before your peers – and then fix them

In the second article in this series, I talked about how you can improve estimates by using time tracking data with a very simple, but non-obvious, technique. In addition to improving estimation capability, time tracking data can make your company more nimble – and more profitable. How does it do this?

If you have real-time, accurate, per-project cost data available to your entire management team at all times, it provides a built-in alert system that tells you if your project is broken. What do I mean by broken?

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