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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.31.08

Use Two Criteria to Determine Your Estimating Threshold

When you create a schedule you generally don’t know enough to enter all of the detailed activities the first time in sequential order. Instead, you identify large chunks of work first, and then break the larger chunks into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are, in turn, broken down into still smaller and more discrete activities. This technique is referred to as creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

How small should the activities be before they do not need to be broken down further? This is referred to as your “estimating threshold”. For example, if your estimating threshold was 80 hours, you would continue to break the work into smaller entities until all work was less than 80 hours. No work would be left at a higher level.

You can use the following criteria as a rule-of-thumb. For a typical large project (say 5000 effort hours or more), any work that is greater than 80 hours of effort should be broken down into smaller pieces. Medium-sized projects (say 1000 effort hours) should have activities no larger than 40 hours. If the project is small (say 200 hours), you should break down the activities into work no greater than 20 hours. Remember that this threshold is an upper limit. You can break the activities down further if you want.

There are two criteria for determining the threshold.

  • Better understanding the work. If you leave schedule activities at too high a level it may not be clear what is required to complete the work. You need to make sure the work is discreet enough that it is understandable and it is clear what is required to complete it. For example, if you assign someone an activity that is 240 effort hours, there may be a lot of work to do for completion, and it may be confusing. If you assign four activities of 60 hours each (or 6 activities of 40 hours each) it should be more clear what is expected for each piece of work.
  • Better able to manage the work. When you assign work to a team member you don’t know for sure how he is progressing until the due date (or the completion date if it comes first). For instance, if you assign a team member a piece of work that is due in eight weeks, you are not going to know for sure whether the work is on time until the eight-week deadline. Until that time you can just approximate if it appears things are on schedule. However, eight weeks (or longer) is too long to wait to know for sure if the work is on track. A better approach is to break the eight-week activity into four two-week activities. Then you will know after two weeks if the work is progressing on time or not.
It is possible that activities that are to be worked on in the distant future may not be able to be broken down less than the threshold because there may be too much that is unknown about the work itself. Work that is way out in the future can be left at a level higher than the threshold. However, if you leave future work at a high-level, it is still critical to break the work into smaller pieces at least two to three months before you need to start executing the work. This is part of rolling-wave planning. 

These two factors – understanding the work and your ability to manage the work effectively - should drive your decision on how small to make your activities.

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Thursday, 31 August 2017 04:11

Describe Project Value Using a Business Case

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.30.08

Describe Project Value Using a Business Case

It can be hard to compare and prioritize the projects in your portfolio because there are many different types of projects. Some projects might increase revenue, some might decrease costs and some might help build internal capability. All of them have some benefit but it may not be easy to know which ones are the most valuable and which ones are the most aligned to your goals and strategies.

One of the ways that you compare projects is through a common Business Case. The Business Case describes the reasons and the justification for the project based on its estimated costs, the risks involved and the expected future business benefits and value. The sponsor is responsible for the Business Case.

Business Cases should contain the following information:

·      Executive Summary. This section contains five components.

o   Opportunity Statement. This is often written as a problem statement, describing a current situation with a negative business impact, which the implementation of this project will resolve.

o   Desired State. Given the business opportunity, what do you see as being the final result of this project?

o   Benefit Analysis. We’ll cover more detail later, but at a high level describe the benefits of implementing this project and obtaining your desired state. How will the business be better off?

o   Alternative Analysis. If multiple alternatives were explored to realize the business opportunity, briefly describe these alternatives here.

o   Recommendation. Given your opportunity, desired state, benefits, and alternatives, what is it that you’re recommending being done?

·      Overview

o   Project Description. Summarize the project you are proposing.

o   Project Goals & Objectives, List the goals and objectives of this project.

o   Assumptions. There may be several items you are assuming to be true, which you have not been able to verify.

o   Constraints. List any constraints that will govern or limit the project team.

o   Proposed Solution Design. Describe the high-level approach that will be taken.

o   Project Resource Needs. Briefly describe the resources you will need to deploy this project.

o   Project Duration.  List the high-level milestones and best-guess as to the duration of each.

o   Risk Assessment. List initial known risks of the project.

·      Cost Benefit Analysis. Provide a high-level estimate of the costs and benefits of the project. The format of this section should be consistent for all projects so that the projects can be compared.

·      Alignment. All projects should align to your organization's strategic plan. Some align better and take the organization further. The alignment should be described so that it is clear how the project helps to move the organization to its desired future state. 

·      Conclusion. Summarize the business case and draw one or more conclusions regarding the proposed solution, business value, ROI, etc.

It may seem like this is a lot of work. In fact, it might be. However, the Business Case is used to determine the projects that get funding and those that don’t. So, it is important to spend the right amount of time on the Business Case. If you don’t do a good job on this document, your project may not compare favorably with other projects that have more detail and relevant information. 

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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This content is from the Method123 weekly email dated 2017.10.08

Does Your Project Need a Quality Process or Quality Activities?

Quality management requires an investment of time and resources with the belief that your project and your deliverables will be of higher quality in the future. This higher quality, in turn, will lead to less rework and a more satisfied client. The basic value proposition for quality management is that you will save more cost and time over the life of your project (and life of the resulting products) than the cost and time required to set up and manage the quality management process.

Large projects need a formal quality process

Large projects have more that can go wrong in terms of the quality of their deliverables. They also have larger teams and more complexity in terms of how the project is executed. Quality management is not only helpful for large projects – it is required. On a large project, the quality management process can consist of: 
  • Awareness and training. You can invest the time to make sure your team understands the importance of quality and what their role is in making sure that quality results are produced.
  • Quality Management Plan. The project team can develop a specific Quality Management Plan that describes the quality assurance and quality control processes that will be followed.
  • Metrics capture. You need good data to show the overall quality of your processes and the products you are delivering. Identifying and capturing metrics gives you the information you need.
  • Process improvement. Analyzing the results of the metrics gives you the information you need to change and improve your processes in order to improve the overall quality of the deliverables you are producing on the project.  
Small projects rely on individual quality activities

Smaller projects cannot implement such formal quality management processes. The time it would take to set up the formal processes and metrics might take longer than the project itself. For a small project, specific activities might include:

  • Using pre-existing templates and checklists to manage work
  • Performing walkthroughs and inspections on deliverable components
  • Rigorous reviews of draft copies of documents
With smaller projects, the quality steps are usually seen as individual activities rather than in the context of a larger overall quality initiative.

Summary

Many of the same project management techniques that work well on a larger project cannot be implemented on smaller projects. Quality management processes must be scaled to the size of the project. In general, larger projects should have a formal Quality Plan and quality management process. Smaller projects can get by with identifying specific quality activities. 

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Thursday, 24 August 2017 04:08

Add Green Thinking to Your Procurement Process

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This content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.28.08

Add Green Thinking to Your Procurement Process

The TenStep model for sustainable project management (GreenPM®) integrates green thinking (“greenthink”) into every project management process. The point about green project management is not that you make every decision in favor of the one that is most environmentally friendly. The point is that you start to take the environment into account during the decision-making process. You might make most decisions the same as you do today. But there might be some decisions you would make differently.    

Procurement

Procurement refers to the aspects of project management related to obtaining goods and services from outside companies.

Green Procurement

There are a number of areas within procurement that can be enhanced to consider sustainability and help you establish a green procurement approach.

  • Plan Procurements. Green procurement starts with the Procurement Management Plan. The Plan will incorporate green thinking. It is important to understand any organizational Environmental or Sustainability policies and standards you are adopting on your project. As you gather and rank the needs against which you will evaluate vendors, you can now include sustainability criteria that the vendors need to meet. You can also establish the weighting factors for these needs and ultimately rate the vendors on their ability to meet your environmental and sustainability requirements.
  • Obtain Seller Responses. In your RFP, you may include information on your organization’s environmental focus (such as describing your GreenPM processes) and have the vendor comment on how they will align to these, or make a general inquiry regarding the vendor’s use of green processes. Each vendor should be able to explain and demonstrate how they help accomplish your environmental goals, possibly describing how they have completed similar goals previously.
  • Select Sellers. Map the vendor capabilities against your requirements and weighting factors, including the environment requirements that you have established. Using GreenPM, it is possible that your vendor selection may result in a different vendor. For example, if your environment requirements are weighted highly, it is possible that there is a vendor with a significant focus in this area who ends up being your top ranked vendor.
  • Administer Procurements. You should validate that the vendor is performing as agreed throughout the project. This includes confirming that the vendor is following their promised green practices and meeting any defined environment criteria for deliverable completion. Procurement audits can be one approach to validating the compliance to your expected standards and processes.
Procurement is not simple and organizations seek to continually streamline and improve their procurement approaches. Green procurement may add another dimension to improving procurement processes.
At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit www.TenStep.com or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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396Click Here to Listen to the Interview: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast396
Read More: http://bit.ly/PMPodcast_396

Are you using an adaptive life cycle to manage your projects? You know, something that falls under the general umbrella of Agile like Scrum, XP, Kanban or DSDM?

And if your answer to this question is yes, then think about when exactly you started using these approaches, because that date says a lot about you and your organization. If you started 20 or more years ago then you can consider yourself to be an innovator, but if you started just recently you are a laggard. (And just in case you are wondering, I would put myself in the middle with what is called the "early majority".)

But no matter when you started your journey into Agile it might be interesting to know how many of us out there are actually using Agile on our projects. And according to Joseph Flahiff (www.whitewaterprojects.com -- www.linkedin.com/in/josephflahiff) there are more than you would think.

How many more? He doesn’t have an exact number, but then again nobody knows how many waterfall-based projects there are either. However, studies done on this subject and a number of other indicators lead him to believe that Agile is now the new normal. The number of Agile projects is massive, which is just one more reason to also get started with your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam Prep

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