PM in our everyday life. A3

In the previous post, we’ve set the goal based on SMART criteria. Our final definition is: Family travel with 5-year-old child to Italy for beach holiday and sightseeing from 29th May 2017 till 18th June 2017. Arrive in Milan, settle in Rimini, reserve 5 days for beach holiday, visit at least 5 amusement parks around Rimini, travel to Milan, Venice and Florence by car from Rimini. Then go to Munich and visit LEGO-park. Finally, trip to Como Lake and back to Milan for home flight.

We’ve also discussed “Iron Triangle” and highlighted two main sides, that are critical for our project: scope and cost.

The next step is to formalize our main objectives and the best way to do it, is to fill A3 template. I’ve described it before in Project Management: Request, and today I want just briefly go through its four sections. They are:

  • Business case – in project practice place for Background, Business need and Problem description sections. In our holiday project we can use it for our SMART goal.
  • Current condition – place for actual current state. For our journey we can fill it, but it would be a bit boring )))), so I’m going to miss this thing ))) But for some everyday cases it can be useful if we want to see differences between current and target states.
  • Target condition – here we can put our main target objectives with some additional details. SMART criteria must be followed here for sure. This section is rather important.
  • Action plan – another critical section, as we have to set at least high-level plan for our project in order to understand out status and current position.

Therefore, the standard A3 template would transfer from

TFS0020.2

to

tfs_blog_042_2

Now, let us try to fill it for our holiday project. The first section we’ve already done, so let’s go to Target Condition. I would like to suggest the following objectives:

  • Spend no more than 8 500$ for the whole trip, including bookings and expenses during journey.
  • Travel to Europe from 29 May 2017 (arrival to Milan) to 18 June 2017 (departure from Milan).
  • All transfers during travel are made by rent car. The car is pick up in airport and returned in the same airport.
  • Journey first stage (Italy – Rimini) from 29 May to 11 June (13 days total, without day of arrival):
    • Settle in Rimini, book a hotel at least on the second line.
    • 3 days for visiting the following cities: Milan, Florence and Venice. One day trip for each city.
    • 4 free days for beach holiday
    • 5 days for amusement parks: Italia in miniature, Fiabilandia, Mirabilandia, Oltremare, Parco Tematice dell’Aviazione
    • 1 day for shopping and/or visiting San Marino.
  • Journey second stage (Germany – Munich), from 12 June to 14 June (1 full day):
    • Visit LEGO-park.
  • Journey third stage (Italy – Como Lake), from 15 June to 18 (2 full days):
    • 1 day for beach holiday
    • 1 day for visiting Como city.

As a result, we have more precise picture of our travel and objectives that we really want to achieve. Of course, it has some uncertain points and some blocks can be changed during our preparations and trip itself. However, this is a high-level base for our future plan of journey and booking activities.

The final step of our A3 document is action plan, and I’m going to create it and finalize our A3 next time.

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PM in our everyday life. Planning

This time we’ll discuss the last part of A3 document – action plan. The beginning of A3 creation is available here: PM in our everyday life. Set goals and go through “Iron Triangle”.

The action plan is very important part of the project, as if we do not understand where we are, what comes next and what activities have to be done at the beginning – there is a great chance to fail.

First, let’s see on the whole route for planning:

TFS_Blog_043_2

From my point of view this is the minimum list of actions if we want to understand how it’s going.

  • Fix the goal: we’ve already done it and put it in first two sections of our A3.
  • Define the tasks: here we create a list of actions that must be done in order to achieve our goals. On this step you must understand tasks priorities also. For example: if we do not book our flight ASAP, the prices for the tickets can rise and in this case, we have to replan our journey or our budget. The same about hotels.
  • Link tasks: define task sequence. It’s important, as some activities can be performed only after others are finished. For example, we cannot get visas without booked flight and hotels. In simple projects this can be set by action dates, you do not need project tool and Gantt diagram for everyday projects )))
  • Set resources: in simple project set responsible persons. The responsible does not mean, that person perform all activities alone – it’s a teamwork. However, the best practice is to set only one responsible for a single activity. I try to follow this rule in my work and in my everyday life either.
  • Control the execution: this is not planning we’re moving forward, but static plan makes no sense. If we’re not monitoring the process of task execution and changes in dates – the project usually fails.

For our journey project, we can set the following action plan. One more time I want to pay your attention to the columns responsible and schedule. Without these two columns plan is not a plan, just a list of actions.

Activity

Responsible

Schedule

Reserve vacations for three weeks Father/Mother till 15.12.2016
Book flight to Milan Father December 2016
Book hotel in Rimini Mother January 2017
Book hotel in Munich Mother January 2017
Book hotel near Como Lake Mother January 2017
Rent a car Father January 2017
Prepare and apply documents for visa Mother February 2017
Create a detailed journey plan Father February 2017
Get visas for travel Mother March 2017
Create account in EURO linked with debit/credit card Father April 2017
Organize GPS navigation for the journey Father May 2017
Plan budget for the journey (book online tickets, plan everyday expense, etc) Father May 2017

Last but not least, project plan must be flexible. The goals and target conditions are not declarations in stone – they can be changed. Common sense must be on the top, and also it’s your life and your journey and you’ve changed your mind – just modify goal, targets and action plan.

To sum up I’ve created the final A3. Of course, the form can be any, but if you put it down and all team members (in our case family members) agree with it, the chances for really great journey are greatly increased.

TFS_Blog_043_1

That’s all for this series of using project management in our everyday life.

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PM in our everyday life. Set goals and go through “Iron Triangle”

Before we start implementing something in our everyday life, it would be great if we decide what exactly we are going to achieve. So, I’ll try to describe goals and main project constraints, using examples from our everyday life.

When we are speaking about goals, the first thing that comes to mind is SMART criteria. It consists of the capital letters of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound.

Ideally speaking, each objective should be:

  • Specific – your goal should be clear and specific, otherwise you won’t be able to focus your efforts or feel truly motivated to achieve it. E.g. “I want to travel” – is not specific, but “Family travel with 5 year old child to Italy for beach holiday and sightseeing” is much more specific.
  • Measurable – it’s important to have measurable goals, so that you can track your progress and stay motivated. So let’s rephrase our holiday goal and make it measurable: “Family travel with 5 year old child to Italy for beach holiday and sightseeing. Some days for beach holiday, visit amusement parks, see ancient Italy cities”. From the first view – it’s ok, but you can not really track progress. It’s not clear whether goal achieved if you visit only Rome on not. In order to make it measurable we have to add some numbers. E.g. “5 days for beach holiday, visit at least 5 amusement parks, travel to Milan, Venice and Florence”.
  • Achievable – your goal also needs to be attainable to be successful. In other words, it should stretch your abilities but still remain possible. In our example: the family must agree for travelling, make some efforts to receive visa, be ready for quite active trip and be ready to find themselves in unknown environment. All family members must approve this approach before we can move forward. E.g. if child wants to visit LEGO-park, we have to plan travel to Munich. If it’s important for another family member have views of nature, we need to plan a trip to Como Lake. However, if they have visited Italy many times before, it would be great to find some other destinations for travelling, thus planning to get new emotions and expand horizons.
  • Realistic – the goal must be real. If parents cannot take vacation at the same period in summer or do not have enough free money for travelling or child do not like walking or visiting amusement parks, then we set unreal goal. Suppose that it’s ok with child interests and vacation possibilities, but there are some budget constraints. The family must spend not more then 8 500$ for the trip. Thus looking for airline ticket prices we can decide to fly to Milan as this destination is the cheapest. In addition, such complex trip would be very expensive if book with tour operator and it will not be flexible, so they need to book it for themselves.
  • Time bound – every goal needs a target date, so that you have a deadline to focus on. Due to our previous constraints, we can detailed that journey should take place in June-August. For planning vacation let’s take 29th May 2017 as start date and 18th June as finish date.

The final goal for journey can be the following: Family travel with 5 year old child to Italy for beach holiday and sightseeing from 29th May 2017 till 18th June 2017. Arrive in Milan, settle in Rimini, reserve 5 days for beach holiday, visit at least 5 amusement parks around Rimini, travel to Milan, Venice and Florence by car from Rimini. Then go to Munich and visit LEGO-park. Finally, trip to Como Lake and back to Milan for home flight.

The final goal may seem too large, but we have rather complex journey and now the final statement is complies with SMART criteria. Based on this goal we can go to next steps of project management – planning and then execution.

Today I also would like to speak about “Iron Triangle” of projects.

Let’s do it fast, good and cheap… and now pick any two. Each activity including projects is balancing Cost, Time, and Scope. You cannot change one of these factors without affecting others. Moreover, any change affects Quality – the fourth element of the “Iron Triangle”, that is placed in the middle.

tfs_blog_041

Let’s discuss several examples on how described above principles work. We’ll continue with our journey to Italy.

  1. If we want cheap journey and are going to travel next week – we would be limited only by several offers and frankly speaking, Italy with 99% percent would be not presented among them.
  2. If we want trip as it described below and want to go next week – it would be rather expensive. We would have our scope and would have it quickly, but for quite large amount of money.
  3. If we want full scope for acceptable prices, we have to start booking flight, car and hotels as soon as possible. Therefore, we have to spend much more time for organizing the journey.

Project manager have to know about main factors that affect quality and about main project constraints. We can imagine the situation, when parents approved their vacations just in 1-2 weeks before the journey. In this case, cost will be less important than time and scope – if you want your dream journey right now you have to pay or hold it for the next year.

Today we learnt how to set goals using SMART criteria and how sides of “Iron Triangle” affect the final quality of our project. I’ve selected the example based on holiday trip, but you can easily use it for any of your everyday activities. In the next post, I’m going to write about planning phase and how it can be used in our everyday life.

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PM in our everyday life. Quick look at differences between operation and project management.

Several years ago I’ve posted a series dedicated to project management. It was quite hard, fill with technical details and not very clear for common understanding of project management. Today I would like to return to this topic but on quite another level: try to look at project management as simple thing, that can be used not only for large enterprise activities but also in our everyday life.

It’s my firm believe, that if we use project management to handle some of our outside events and activities, we can achieve much better results and have much more enjoy )))) Project management can help us to keep the goal, set priorities, track our progress and, as a result, succeed in our affairs.

First, we must understand, when we face a project. For some doings project management can help greatly, and quite on the contrary, it would lead to overload and fail being applied in wrong place. So, how to identify when we need a project approach? Below there are listed some definitions that will help us in this task.

Project

Operations

Implement change Support current state
Has end date Ongoing operations
Team is disbanded, when project is closed Team stays together
Work is unique Work is repeatable
Budget is for project tasks and needed resources Fixed budget

The main difference:

  • Operations management is what runs the life.
  • Project management is what changes the life.

Project has defined start and end dates and we have to implement the required change or achieve desired result. When project is finished – it is closed,  and we return to our current activities.

We can find projects in different spheres, not only with professional background. Some project examples from our life:

  • Holding an event,
  • Holiday trip,
  • Birthday party,
  • Moving to a new place,
  • Birth of a child,
  • Getting education.

And you can probably think of hundreds of other examples relevant to your everyday life. Next time I will dwell on project initiation and try to create some real example for better description how it looks like.

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Common structure of IT department

I’m happy to say, that I’m back ))) Cannot promise to post weekly but will try not to disappear for years )))

Today I would like to describe IT structure in several dimensions and say several words how it operates. If you look at IT from organizational structure side – it can be presented somehow like this:

TFS_Blog_030_01

Some blocks are presented in every IT, all blocks can be outsources, some blocks are optional.

  • IT Lead – is a person that is completely responsible for how IT operates. Commonly he or she is the employee, while other IT-staff can be outsourced.
  • Help Desk – generally call center that is responsible for tickets registration from users and for solving simple tasks using standard practices and procedures. Usually they have quite wide permissions and can operate with users’ accounts. Therefore, they are the main target for social engineering, and must have good standards and regulations.
  • Filed Support – provides remote and on-site customer support and services. They are typical engineers with local admin permissions solving users’ everyday issues and problems.
  • System administrators – their field of responsibility is servers, local network, Internet, telephony.
  • Developers – support and develop local IT-systems due to business needs and requirements.

Moreover, every employee of the IT-staff can take part in Business & IT projects in different roles.

Now let’s try to picture how IT looks from user’s point of view and how tickets are proceed.

TFS_Blog_030_02

The scheme is rather simple: all user requests are passed through single window and are registered in a service desk system. Then ticket goes down from level to level until it is solved. Then user is notified that his problem was resolved and usually offered to pass through customer satisfaction survey. Thus, IT gets users’ feedback and can improve its operations.

As in previous posts I have already described in details the management of development team, this time I’m going to concentrate on two first levels of IT support: Helpdesk and Field Support.

Before going forward it’s important to say about KPI. In the future I would dwell on KPI’s, how they are handled and calculated, but today I would only name them.

Main KPI’s for common Help Desk and Filed Support services can be divided into two groups: Quality metrics and Productivity metrics.

Quality metrics include the following KPIs:

  • Time to resolve problems (SLA). The SLA is defined based on the urgency of the ticket.
  • Customer satisfaction with Help Desk.

Productivity metric is:

  • IT service availability.

It’s all for today, and in the following posts, I would continue to share my experience how to create and manage effective processes for Help Desk and Field Support groups.

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Project Management. Planning Phase. Costs.

In this post I will speak only about several costs’ calculations that can help us to track project expenses. I would like to put all calculation in one table and then make some comments to presented data. Also, I would dwell only on labour calculations, but it would be rather easy to expand them to any project costs.

Parameter

26.02.2013

26.03.2013

Description

PV (Planned Value) – hours 4 000 4 000 Amount of hours we planned for the project.
EV (Earned Value) – hours 480 960 Calculates as PV * %Completed Work. In the example – on Feb 26 we have done 12% and on March 26 – 24% from total amount of work.
AC (Actual Costs) – hours 440 900 Amount of real hours we spent till the moment.

Costs

26.02.2013 26.03.2013  
PV (Planned Value) – $ 40 000 40 000 Costs – multiplication of hours from the previous section on hours cost. To simplify calculations – I’ve taken the value $10. These labor calculations are rather useful as can be used without additional efforts in project reports.
EV (Earned Value) – $ 4 800 9 600
AC (Actual Costs) – $ 4 400 9 000
EVM Earned Value Management 26.02.2013 26.03.2013  
CV (Cost Variance) – hours 40 60 EV – AC

Shows us whether we are in budget or not. When this number is negative, that means we have spent more than has been planned. In the described case – we make some savings.

SV (Schedule Variance) – hours -3 520 -3 040 EV – PV

How many work we still have to do.

CPI (Cost Performance Index) 109% 107% EV / AC %

Is linked to CV coefficient but gives us an opportunity to make an absolute analysis of budget savings or losses. You can see that 60 is larger then 40, but in percents we are losing positions as from 109% we moved to 107%.

 

The main idea of the described coefficients is to signal to project manager on the very early project state, that we have some cost issues and project can miss budget targets. When CV parameter is below 0 and CPI – below 100%, it’s time to intervene and make some corrections in project management. Also, it’s usually very useful to build a chart, showing the changes of CPI.

TFS0027.1

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Project Management. Planning Phase. Schedule.

Project schedule – after creation it is used regularly till end of the project. The main schedule I prefer to track in Microsoft Project. In my practice I’m trying to use the following principles while dealing with MS Project:

  • Human resources load can not be more then 80%. On the one hand nobody can work 100% a day, on the other hand there is a small time reserve – it sometimes can help you meet deadlines.
  • All milestones and deadlines from A3 and business project request as well as key dates from risks list must be moved to MS Project as deadlines or other highlighted elements. E.g. I usually marked tasks on which critical risks depend with special colours. I can say that last versions of MS Project provide a vast variety of different design tools, so only your imagination can restrict you ))).
  • I also group tasks by development phases: design section, development section, test section and stabilization section. This helps to estimate the total amount of work for each phase of program life cycle and set logical links between each phase.
  • I try to compose tasks using the following rule: minimum task length 1 hour, maximum – 40 hours. It’s quite hard to register and analyse tasks smaller than 1 hour – such micromanagement would overload project manager. And it’s impossible to track huge tasks – you would never know exactly when the task would be ready – you can face the situation when developer has spent all 100 hours and is still at the beginning of the process. And it’s better to know about the fact we have some problems after 16 hours, then after 100 hours.

The MS Project file can look like:

TFS0026.1

But how we can communicate this plan to project sponsor and business representatives? It’s a bad idea to send them plan in MS Project – they do not need such detailed specification. For this purpose I create a separate file in MS Excel and update it on weekly or monthly basis (depends on the project duration).

This file uses also Gantt principles but much simpler than MS Project:

TFS0026.2

The vertical red line shows current week. This file is a top level schedule for the project and is rather suitable to be presented to project team.

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Project Management. Planning Phase. Communication Plan.

Communication plan is a set of matrixes and procedures to regulate relations inside project team and with outside teams and individuals. Usually I do not publish communication plan as a separate document, it’s the part of Project Management plan.

In my post I will go through main section of communication plan, briefly describing each of them.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix

Name \ Phase Request Initiation Detailed Planning Execution & Control Closeout
Name 1 A P R    
Name 2       I S
         

Letters have the following meaning:

  • А – accountable for the project phase,
  • P – participant in the project phase,
  • R – review required,
  • I – input required,
  • S – sign-off required.

Distributed structure of information flow

Name \ Document Status Report Data Schedule Technical documentation Test Plan
Name 1 W        
Name 2   M      
         

In this matrix we list all milestone documents of the project and how we’re going to communicate them to the team. W – means written communication, M – means meeting communication.

Generally for small and middle projects these two matrixes are enough. But for complex, large and formal projects I’d suggest to add some additional information to communication plan:

  • Provide a description of the information to be distributed, including format, content, level of detail, and conventions/definitions to be used.
  • Develop schedules showing when each type of communication will be produced.
  • Describe methods for accessing information between scheduled communications.
  • Determine when and how project communication plan should be updated. For not large projects it’s updated on monthly basis as a part of Project Management plan.
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Project Management: Planning Phase. Functional & Technical Designs.

I would like to start detailed description for the Project Planning Phase with Functional and Technical designs. As I’m speaking about software development projects, this post will have some specific, and of course you cannot use the same templates for example building projects ))).

Another important thing is that designs are normally does not created by Project Manager – we have determined analysts on Initiation phase and design development would be their task. Usually analyst on business side (business itself or product manager in the project team) develops functional specification and technical architect or technical lead is responsible for technical design.

Based on my practice I recommend starting design development ASAP. The main reason is that these documents are the most complex and large among all other documentation created during Planning Phase. It’s usually takes a lot of time to create them, also we need some time for approving them. Also these documents are base for other activities:

  • You cannot start detailed project planning without full list of tasks with baseline hours. And this list can be created only when technical design is completed.
  • You cannot determine the project team, as you do not know what technologies are planning to be used during the project, so you do not know what kind of specialist you are required. This information is also contained in technical design.
  • And you cannot start real work on technical design while not all user requirements are collected. This work is done while functional specification development.
  • Of course costs and risks are also closely linked with these documents.

To sum up, if you do not want to have real bottle neck and pauses during the detailed planning phase, start developing of this documents even on Initiation phase, do not delay this work and try to involve analysts on 100% into project on Planning Phase.

The quality of these documents is another important thing I have to say about. If you have made a mistake in the architecture and this was noticed during design agreement, it would take rather small amount of time to put some changes into the document. But imagine, what would happen if this error is identified on users test stage. I have an example when such error has caused loss of 800 hours of developers’ work and restart of the project. As a conclusion, be mindful of the time, but do not forget about the quality of the functional and technical documentation. They are the baseline for your future development.

At last let’s briefly describe each section of functional and technical designs with some comments.

Functional design

  • Introduction – this section contains context, scope, definitions, references, etc.
  • Process overview or functional model – the main section which usually varies for each project and contains requirements, process description, etc.

Technical design

  • Logical model – this section contains logical database models, users’ forms, not very technical description of the logic developer has to implement. Business or functional analyst must understand this section. Usually I try to approve it with project leads on business/customer side.
  • Physical model – this section is for developer only. Physical database structures, internal algorithms (architecture of storage registers or encryption algorithms), etc.
  • Security – this section is dedicated to user permissions for developed functionality. What new application roles must be created, who would have access to fields and buttons and who wouldn’t. Usually this section translates requirements from functional design to developers’ language, so there is no need for additional approves with customers.
  • Interfaces – this section contains description for data interfaces between informational systems. It’s usually for matching of tables/fields in one system with tables/fields in another – rather technical, for internal use only.
  • Data Edits – in this section massive one-time data uploads from external sources are described. Also for internal use.

So, that’s all I wanted to discuss about functional & technical specifications development. In the next post I would continue writing about Project Detailed Phase.

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Project Management: Planning Phase (Brief Description).

So, we’ve come to the most important phase for Project Manager – Planning Phase. Why is it so important? The main reason is that on this phase we lay the baseline for the whole project. And with poor foundation any “building” would crash. This building – is our project, and its success depends on how we pass through Planning Phase.

The purpose of Planning Phase is to sign off key project document – Project Management Plan. I will for sure describe it in details in my future posts.

Below I will list documents/activities that must be done during this phase, and all of them are on final stage combined into Project Management plan. So, let’s start:

  • Application Design (Functional and Technical if required) – detailed description of new application and identified solution for customer and for IT. The document must be published and approved before any development has started.
  • Project Schedule – major milestones, tasks with time frames, resources accountable for tasks, critical path, deliverables and due dates. I prefer to have main plan in MS Project for everyday work and high-level plan in Excel for monthly updates to customers.
  • Costs – people time, hardware and software required for the project.
  • Risk Assessments – I’ve described this part in one of my previous posts Project Risk Management In TFS.
  • Communication plan.
  • Project Management plan.

After all activities are performed we’re moving to Execution & Control phase, but can return to the Planning phase again. This happens when project face ensure impact of any change in scope, schedule, architecture, capacity, value being delivered, etc. But in spite of this change project can still produce desired business result and value. In this case it is required to obtain agreement that a proposed change is needed and will still deliver required business value. The special Change Document is prepared in this case, to fix changes in the project.

Also, it is important to say, that from Planning Phase project manager usually starts regular Project Progress Reporting. Progress reporting should be at least monthly, but during active periods of the project (when we deal with business, start testing, prepare for go-life) I do it weekly. During one of my projects I sent reports even on daily basis – this was during final test iteration and it was important for business to monitor the amount of open issues and dynamics of issues closing.

From the next post I will step-by-step describe in details all documents mentioned above with examples from my project management experience.

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