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Project Management Blog

Project Accounting is a critical concept for today's business world, yet most businesspeople do not know their project accounting data.

For the last 29,950 years, our hunter/gatherer and farmer ancestors have always understood their costs of production. Why is it okay that in the last 50 years, nobody does anymore? It's not.

Project accounting for the hunter/gatherer is easy. The ROI is easy to calculate and it's intuitive. And if the ROI isn't good enough, a harsh environment will make sure you don't make that mistake very long because you'll be dead. Farmers invented accounting - eventually double-entry bookkeeping - which many people argue is the basis for civilization because it enabled the measurement of and accumulation of capital - without which no progress is possible. Today, knowledge workers work with knowledge and information instead of with stuff. Accounting for knowledge work is different.

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pmo-of-oneMany of the clients we work with are a “PMO of one.”  Usually this person has been brought in to establish common processes and procedures around planning, managing and executing projects.  Most often, there is a broad spectrum of project work being performed by varied project teams within the organization, including a range of maturity levels spanning from no established, repeatable processes to very formalized and documented processes.

According to the Project Management Institute, “Companies with greater maturity should expect to see tangible benefits that include better-performing project portfolios, efficiencies that come with better resource allocation, and increased process stability and repeatability.”[i] On the other hand, companies that are less mature tend to be reactionary, trying to dodge problems as they come rather than strategically planning and executing projects.  Often, these companies have various groups working in their own siloes, so there is no centralized view of resource availability or up-to-date project status.  Project managers are consequently unable to prioritize projects or schedule them with accuracy.  This can lead to lost opportunities and failed projects time and again.  A new study on organizational maturity has confirmed the need for defined repeatable processes, finding that companies which use them have a much higher project success rate than those who do not.[ii]

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data-chartProject management data – which is obtained from time tracking information – is often an area that could be improved in many companies. Recent studies (1) have shown that cost reductions of 6.5 percent are common from improvements in tracking time from the project management area alone.  This compares with improvements of about 5 percent for billing automation (1) or 1 percent for payroll automation (2).

Time tracking data (payroll, billing, project management, and strategy) can be used to improve project management in the areas of:

  • Costing- How much have we spent?
  • Tracking - Are we done yet?
  • Management - What should we do next?
  • Estimation Improvement - How much is this going to cost us?
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act- Are IT capitalization costs and revenue recognition numbers accurate? Or am I going to jail?

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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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