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Scheduling Software

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Using the right Scheduling Software is key to consistently finishing your projects on time and within budget. Project Scheduling Software lets you do the critical steps more efficiently than using ineffective options like scheduling in Excel or on a yellow notepad. Those waste too much of your time and don’t help you complete these critical steps:

  • Spotting problems early, not after it’s too late to fix them
  • Optimizing the use of resources so you finish as early as possible
  • Updating the project schedule in a few minutes each week so you know where you are
  • Updating everyone’s schedule in minutes when things change.

There are many more benefits that Scheduling Software can provide when you’re building a project schedule. But those four items are the minimum tools that every project manager needs. Managing a schedule in Excel or on a yellow notepad give you none of those items. Let’s explore what a you need in a software tool, depending on the scale of the projects you manage. Shorten the Project Duration

Scheduling Software Capabilities

Small Project – Done within your organization for the manager or your boss
Medium Project – Affects multiple departments within your organization or done for customers/clients
Strategic Project – Organization-wide projects with long term effects  Software Review

Scheduling Software Capability #1: Draw visual charts like Gantt and PERT charts of your projects

Small Project – These visual charts are useful for communicating with the sponsor and your team.
Medium Project – As the scale of the project increases, you want visuals that compare actual to baseline schedule and cost performance. You also want to display slack and delay for optimizing the schedule and resources. Earned value reporting is also valuable for this level of reporting.
Strategic Project – At this scale, you require sophisticated reporting by task, major deliverable, resources and the lending department. Earned value, cost and time variance reports are also required.   Buying Project Softwarescheduling software

Scheduling Software Capability #2: Calculate duration based on resource availability and work required (resource-driven scheduling)

Small Project – Basing the schedule on work and availability, not just start/finish dates, is a best practice. Skip it if finishing on time is not critical.
Medium Project – Resource-driven schedules are a must at this level. So is automatic resource leveling to ensure that no resource is assigned more work than they can do.
Strategic Project – You need resource-driven schedules and software that can allocate people’s time based on the priority of the task or project to which they are assigned. Project Portfolio Management

Scheduling Software Capability #3: Schedule dynamically using predecessor relationships, not start and finish dates

Small Project – This is not needed on small projects with 2-3 people.
Medium & Strategic Projects – When matched with resource-driven scheduling, this combination saves you substantial time. It also gives you tools to quickly quantify the impact of changes the project sponsor wants to make. This can be a life saver for guarding against silly ideas that don’t support the projects’ scope.

Scheduling Software Capability #4: Schedule people for a portfolio of projects based on project priorities

Small Project – Not needed
Medium & Strategic Projects – Helps the organization complete a large volume of projects by ensuring that people work on the most important projects.

Scheduling Software Concepts

Scheduling Software will provide you with time-saving scheduling and analysis tools and will archive data for use on future projects. These tools include analysis of the critical path using slack and delay data. This lets you optimize the use of your resources to finish as early as possible. The critical path should also be used to identify problems early and quickly model alternative solutions. Critical Path Technique

The value of an archive is that it makes future project estimates easier and more accurate. With the appropriate project Scheduling Software, tracking actual performance in terms of hours of work and completion dates builds a database for estimating on the next projects.

Even a small project can waste a lot of a project manager’s time if these tasks are done manually.

Scheduling Software: The Reality

Too many project managers don’t have the tools or the training to track actual performance versus plan, optimize their schedule or make efficient use of their resources. They are regularly surprised by problems that a bit of data would have helped them anticipate. They are unable to provide decision-making data to executives on ways to finish the project early. They also can’t tell executives the cost of changes they want to make. As a result, the project is guided by guesses so the company’s financial and human resources are used inefficiently and project failure rates are high. Keys to Successful Project Scheduling

Scheduling Software: “Best Practices” In the Real World

Project managers routinely deal with sponsors who are several organizational levels above them or who sign their paycheck. In this situation, a project manager can’t really argue with the sponsor about the best way to do the project. What a project manager needs is data from Scheduling Software that quantifies the impact of changes and models alternative ways of solving problems. Having that data gives the project manager more credibility with the sponsor and executives. It also gives executives solid data on which to base their decisions. They can stop plucking project due dates and budgets out of the air.

scheduling softwareScheduling Software Overview

Scheduling Software comes in many different levels of sophistication with prices ranging from $50 to $20,000 or more. The software itself doesn’t make you more effective; it just makes you more efficient. Scheduling Software doesn’t teach you how to define the scope, communicate with the project sponsor or make clear assignments to your team members. It just lets you accomplish these and many other tasks more efficiently. So before we look at the different kinds of Scheduling Software, let’s talk about the kinds of projects you manage and the levels of PM skills. This will enable you to pick a Scheduling Software tool that’s appropriate for you and the organization in which you work. You can decide which of the following three categories of project manager fits you best.

Managing Smaller Projects

PMs in this category often plan and schedule with only durations rather than work estimates and resource capacity. Many times these PMs have no need to develop or track a project budget because status reports are limited to tracking the completion date. At this level, the organization usually does not consolidate or “roll-up” all of the projects into a portfolio. And it doesn’t manage the overall utilization of the people who work on projects.

In this situation, the range of Scheduling Software choices is very broad and many packages will provide Gantt and PERT charts. For project managers who want to automate the process of building plans, preparing occasional status reports and producing some simple Gantt and PERT charts, the low end Scheduling Software tools are fine. There are plenty of packages that will automate the basics for you. There are also a host of web-based products that operate at this capability level. For under $100 there are products like: Gantter or ZOHO Projects and others.

Managing Larger Cross-functional Projects for Executives or Clients

As the scale of projects grows and their impact reaches beyond one functional unit, the demands on the project management techniques grow. So does the required capability of the Scheduling Software tool. Software that is a static representation of start and finish dates isn’t enough. You need software tools that simulate the project and optimize the schedule every time you make a change. The budget is an important issue in planning and tracking. So you must build project plans based on the estimated hours of work required and the sequence of tasks, not start and finish dates. You need Scheduling Software that gives you the capability to budget and schedule internal employees as well as external consultants, vendors, equipment and travel expenses. The Scheduling Software should provide more sophisticated earned value reporting, slack and delay reports for fine tuning as well as the critical path and resource level capability.

The software cost jumps in price to the $300-$500 level and the learning curve for these software tools are much steeper than the first level. The big market shares belong to Microsoft Project and Primavera (Oracle).

Managing in a Multi-project Environment

At the high-end are PMs managing multiple projects or operating in a mature project organization where resource utilization is managed across all projects. Executives are accountable for portfolios of projects. In this environment, you need project management processes to bring consistency to project planning and tracking. While Scheduling Software never ensures a consistent project management process (despite all the people who think it can), this environment adds to the software requirements. You now need to consolidate (roll-up) multiple projects and provide consistent information so decision-makers can prioritize projects, allocate resources and schedule and track a pool of people working on multiple projects.

This process is a lot more complicated than it sounds. It requires organization processes for portfolio management and Scheduling Software that can identify conflicting demands for the same resources. The data it provides will allow the executives to set priorities among projects that require the same resources. They usually want detailed project budgets and have the software come close to mimicking the company’s cost accounting system. But they want actual cost data a lot sooner than the accounting department provides it. Project managers often need sophisticated risk assessment tools and resource loading features as well as detailed performance tracking.

If you want a lot, you’ve got to spend a lot. Scheduling Software for these multi-project users runs from $4,000-$20,000 with network versions to run on your LAN and lots of team communication capabilities. There are dozens of products in this range and some of the packages from the second level also provide the needed capabilities. They include: Microsoft Project, Primavera, and other products.

You can learn how to use Scheduling Software in our basic and advanced project management software courses.

At the beginning of your 4pm course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
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Agile Project Management Methodology

What is Agile Project Management Methodology?

There is lots of talk about an emerging approach to project management called “Agile Project Management Methodology.”  Agile Project ManagementUnderstandably, some may confuse this with managing an AGILE software development effort as part of an organization’s  SDLC (Systems Development LifeCycle). All caps will be used to identify the software development methodology).  Recently,  PMI (Project Management Institute) began offering a “PMI-ACP Certification” (Agile Certified Practitioner). Project Methodology Main Page.

I talked with several practicing senior-level technology, business, and various industry project managers regarding their understanding of “Agile Project Management Methodology.”  Each of these experienced managers had a different interpretation of what this might mean but none had actually implemented this specific approach within their firms.  However, one organization was in the early stage of adopting an Agile Methodology Playbook.

The consensus was that Agile Project Management Methodology grew from the desire to produce results (deliverables) faster and reduce bureaucracy and burdensome “administrivia.”  The respondents also believed that if a project was primarily a business process reengineering effort (i.e., how do we eliminate duplicate work efforts within an operations team?), it probably would not be using Agile Project Management Methodology.  Time will tell if this proves to be correct.

A quick overview of AGILE software development is in order here. It is an iterative application development effort where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration among developers, business owners, stakeholders, project sponsors, and end users (clients).  This methodology was developed almost fifteen years ago as an alternative to the heavyweight, document-driven software development processes such as waterfall (application development progress flows from one stage to another, incorporating feedback).  Within AGILE, a well-known software methodology is Scrum. It identifies “sprints” to produce smaller deliverables (deliver software “early and often”).  Changing requirements are expected and there is close, daily cooperation and communication between business people and developers.  Team members are co-located team members when it’s possible.

Most organizations have their own specific project methodology and if AGILE is part of their SDLC, it most likely has been customized to meet the needs of that organization.

While AGILE has been successful in many instances, it presents challenges for very large implementations and in large organizations where a centralized IT team supports multiple business enterprises.  Technology teams typically have a good understanding of what AGILE means. But business users, project sponsors, and stakeholders may not be as clear.  So detailed planning and excellent communication are key to ensure agreement as to exactly what functionality will be delivered “early and often”, as well as the quality of that deliverable (i.e., what bugs will be fixed when, and how will they be retested?)

Additional challenges arise when an AGILE development approach, which may fall under Agile Project Management Methodology, is supported at the corporate level. This is particularly true when you’re implementing a new vendor-based software solution. Individual enterprises may need to continue following a waterfall development approach when they have older legacy systems with multiple integration points. This situation creates frustrations, conflicts, and costly regression testing.

Any methodology should be viewed as the framework within which a project manager executes solid project management skills. They tailor the methodology to the specific organization and actively manage process interactions (i.e., scope change will affect cost and require trade-offs).  Managing in an “agile” way has always been a core competency of successful project managers.  Adopting an Agile Project Management Methodology should not be interpreted as a way to do an end-run around controls. Nor is it a license to take short-cuts through the critical processes of project management, (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling).  Instead, it should be viewed as an opportunity to consider a new and, hopefully, improved way of achieving success.

It is still not entirely clear if managing an AGILE software development effort automatically qualifies as adopting an “Agile Project Management Methodology” approach. Perhaps there is now a broader meaning to this project management approach which may or may not involve AGILE software development. It may just infer producing results faster.   Hopefully this will be made clearer over time. It will be interesting to track this Agile Project Management Methodology and to note how it is improving overall project management execution and delivery. It must be evaluated from the perspective of the project team, project sponsors, stakeholders, and end users.

Agile Project Management Lessons Learned

At the beginning of your 4pm course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
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Status Report Template

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

In this article about the Status Report Template, we’ll discuss the sponsor’s expectations and the raw materials you’ll need to make and deliver a professional status report each week that will build your credibility with the project stakeholders and sponsors.

Project sponsors expect project managers to know what’s going on in the projects they’re managing. While some sponsors expect you to provide the project status on a daily basis, most are satisfied with a weekly status report.   Project Tracking Reports Main Page

Status Report Template: Project Sponsors’ Expectations  

Let’s start by considering what project sponsors expect of their project managers. First, they want you to know what’s happening with the project. They want weekly status reports on the project team’s performance, the results and any problems. Second, they expect you to anticipate problems and solve them. They don’t expect to hear about surprise problems; particularly late in the project. Third, they expect you to deliver concise and well-organized status reports that give them the data they want without wasting a lot of time on technical details or project management minutia. How to Write a Weekly Status Report

Status Report Template: Keep it Simple

With those expectations in mind, you must avoid trying to impress executives with long-winded technical details or excessive detail on individual tasks in the project. You impress your sponsor and stakeholders by simply giving them the data they want about whether the project will finish on time and within budget. You need to use a weekly Status Report Template to plan your weekly status reports, whether they are written or in-person, to answer those questions in the first 60 seconds. If you launch into a 30-slide Power Point presentation, don’t be shocked if they interrupt you after the fifth slide and ask the questions they want answered. It’s much wiser to give them the information they want in the first minute. Don’t make them drag it out of you. This is particularly true if things aren’t going well on the project. If you don’t talk about the problems early, they will think you’re hiding them.

Status Report Template: Current Data 

You need current data to enter into the Status Report Template. That will allow you to compare where you should be on the project, as of that day, to where you actually are. The foundation for good status reports is in good project plans and schedules. That doesn’t mean they have to be long. A one-page project plan and a 20-line project schedule are more than enough for a small project. Here’s what the project plan has to include:

  • a measurable scope definition. It can be as little as one sentence like, “Less than 3% of our customers are on hold for more than 30 seconds.”
  • a list of major deliverables to carry you from where you are now to the above defined scope.
  • a work breakdown structure (WBS) where those major deliverables are broken down into tasks lasting between one and seven days. They are an assignment for one of your team members.
  • a project schedule that has estimates on the amount of work for each task in the WBS. It also includes information on which tasks must finish before other tasks can start.

If you have that kind of project plan, you can assemble your weekly status report. Here’s what you need:

  • information from each team member telling you how many hours they worked on their task and how many hours of work remain.
  • after you put this team member data into your scheduling software, you have one-on-one discussions with every team member whose tasks are not in line with the plan/schedule.

With this information, you can use the Status Report Template. Following the guidelines above on what you want to present and how you want to present it, you would prepare the following data:

  • forecast of the project completion date and final costs
  • tasks experiencing major variances (good and bad) from the plan
  • corrective action you recommend for bringing those tasks back into compliance with the plan/schedule
  • cost of your recommended corrective action
  • reforecast of the project completion date and final costs after implementation of your corrective action.

Status Report Template: Early Warning About Problems 

Executives do not like surprises. They particularly don’t like bad news surprises. So when you deliver expected results every week that coincide with the plan, the executives feel comfortable with the project.  If your weekly status reports suddenly communicate an enormous variance to the plan, the executives don’t believe this developed recently or unexpectedly. They suspect you were hiding the problems. Executives expect you to give them early warning about problems that will affect the project’s completion date and total cost. They also expect you to identify problems early, when you can solve them quickly and cheaply, rather than waiting until disaster strikes.

Unfortunately, many PMs are not equipped to identify problems early, when they’re small. We discussed how you should plan your projects to be able to give a professional status report. Now let’s talk about why you have to do it that way. The short answer is because those project-planning techniques let you spot problems early. Project managers who don’t have that type of plan have no ability to track week to week the actual work on a task versus the planned work on that task. Those project managers may receive “thumbs up” weekly status reports from team members on their tasks when actually they have not done any work on them. That’s why your weekly status report template includes tracking the actual work completed versus the plan/schedule. That lets you find out about a problem when it’s small and you have time to fix it.

In addition to that technical problem, many project managers improperly handle bad news from their team members. This causes the team members to not report problems as early as they could (and should). If you greet bad news on a team member’s task with anger, you won’t hear about future problems early. The team member won’t tell you until they can’t hide the problem any longer. That’s why it’s best to be appreciative when people tell you about problems they’re having. Then you and the team member have time to work out a solution.

You learn all of the status reporting skills in our online project management basics courses. You work privately with a expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

At the beginning of your 4pm course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
Posted on

Project Reports – Project Presentations, Reports, Meetings that Build Credibility

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Project managers spend at least 80% of their time communicating with their team members and stakeholders. You communicate when giving project reports, running meetings, giving presentations and updating the project status. No one will appreciate your knowledge and skills on the technical aspects of managing a project if you can’t clearly and concisely communicate your ideas in project reports.  Even worse, poor communication skills can cause confusion among your team members and incorrect project expectations among user managers.

Project Reports Must Fit the Audience

Effective project communicators tailor the message and communication style to fit the audience. You can’t speak the same way to a group of  high-level managers unfamiliar with technology as you do to the techies from your department.  These skills require practice and coaching in a safe environment where you can make mistakes, learn from them and try it again.

Communication and presentation training is the path to effective skills that give you self-confidence in front of an audience and the ability to influence them.  These skills are a key to gaining acceptance of your plan and building user and customer support for your project. Giving a presentation that is technically correct is not good enough. You need to determine the personality types in the audience and tailor your presentation’s design, content and delivery style to suit those personality types. With all these ingredients properly combined, you have a chance of persuading them to your point of view and supporting your project. Project Management Skills Main Page

Project Reports Video

Effective and Persuasive Presentations


In this presentation training lecture, Dick Billows, PMP, discusses the presentations skills you need throughout the project. During the initiation phase, you may present the business case and make presentations about the project to the stakeholders. During the planning phase, you’re making presentations about requirements and presenting the project management plan to the sponsor and stakeholders. As your project moves into the executing phase, you are presenting weekly or monthly status reports to management. You are also holding meetings and presenting information to the project team on a regular basis. In the project closing phase, you gather infoproject reportsrmation for the lessons learned archive and present it to the team and stakeholders. When conducting the lessons learned meeting, your presentation skills are vital to overcoming the conflicts that affected the project.

Project Reports Training

You don’t need to be a fascinating, spell-binding speaker to succeed. Even if you are uncomfortable with public speaking, a little live practice online with one of our instructors will help you master proven techniques. You will be able to overcome nervousness and use effective body language. Most importantly, you will learn to “read” the personality types of the audience and deliver your ideas in a style to which they will positively respond.

At the beginning of your 4pm course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
Posted on

PMP Exam – Are You Ready for Certification?

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

The PMP®, Project Management Professional, certification is a valuable credential for people who are job hunting or who want to gain credibility (and increased salary) with their current employer. The PMP® is an internationally recognized credential from PMI®, the Project Management Institute. On the job hunting front, the PMP® is often used as a résumé screening tool. Human Resources people often discard the résumés of applicants who don’t have the PMP® credential. So the decision-makers for the project manager positions never see these résumés.

The PMP® is a credibility-builder for people who want to advance their career within their current organization. That is particularly true for people manage projects outside their “home” department/organization or for customers/clients.

PMP® Exam Eligibility

The PMP® has two eligibility requirements.  The first is 4,500 hours (3 years) of experience managing projects. (7,500 hours if you don’t have a college degree). The application form requires people to document their experience, including the names of their project sponsors. The second requirement is 35 hours of project management education.   Applicants must then pass a difficult 4-hour, 200 multiple choice question exam.

If you can’t meet the PMP® eligibility requirements, we offer other project manager certifications.

Passing the PMP® Exam – Rote Memorization Doesn’t Work

Passing the PMP® exam is no easy matter. The days when you could memorize definitions and the answers to a handful of questions and pass the test are long gone. The exam has now has situational questions where you must analyze the situation and pick the right course of action. You need to learn the best practices in project management and understand what tools and techniques a project manager can use in a variety of situations. The most difficult part of the exam is the situational questions where you’re given a project management situation and asked to select the right thing to do. You must analyze the situation and decide the best thing to do. You need a course that teaches you how to handle these varied situations. Our PMP® Exam Prep course does this and fulfills the education requirement.

Passing the PMP Exam® – Personal Coaching is the Key

Some PMP® exam prep courses have 50 to 100 people in a class. If all you were doing was memorizing lists and definitions, this might not be a handicap. But to pass the exam these days, you must understand what to do in different project situations and which techniques work best in those situations. So the learning process is much more complex. The way each person understands the material is different because their learning styles are different.
Our online PMP® exam prep course begins with a custom design where we fit the training to your learning style. One learning style and one teaching style do not fit everyone. Some people like lists and dot points. Others want to see flowcharts of the step-by-step processes. Some people are visual learners and want to watch videos of project managers handling various situations. Still others learn best from stories of project managers doing things the right way. The stories and videos come back to people during the exam and help them select the right answer to the situational questions. Our course offers the tools and techniques that cover each of these learning styles. Here’s a video that shows how you work with your instructor in the course and until you pass the PMP® exam.

 PMP exam – The Best PMP Training – Individual Mentoring

PMP exam - The Best PMP Training - Individual Mentoring

You get lots of personal, one-to-one coaching and interaction with your instructor.  That’s how we make sure we answer your questions in ways that you understand. And we guarantee you will pass the exam.  Over ninety percent of our students pass on their first try. But if you don’t, your instructor will work with you until you pass (for no additional tuition). Please take a look at the details of our PMP® Exam Prep course. We look forward to helping you get your PMP® certification and advancing your project manager career. After, you earn the PMP consider other certifications and courses we offer.

At the beginning of your 4pm course, when you and Dick talk to design your program and what you want to learn, you will select case studies that fit the kind of projects you want to manage. Chose you course and then select the which specialty case study from business, or marketing,  or construction, or healthcare, or consulting.  That way your case studies and project plans, schedules and presentations will fit your desired specialty.

  1. 101 Project Management Basics
  2. 103 Advanced Project Management Tools
  3. 201 Managing Programs, Portfolios & Multiple Projects
  4. 203 Presentation and Negotiation Skills
  5. 304 Strategy & Tactics in Project management
Posted on

Risk Management – Video

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

It’s difficult to persuade executives to invest time and money on risk management to avoid or limit risks. They prefer “being ready to react” when bad stuff happens. They think that is cheaper than spending money on what they often see as a bureaucratic process with pointless meetings and lots of paperwork. So their decision is to “keep our eyes open for trouble.” They don’t want to waste money, and possibly delay the project’s start, by identifying and planning for risks. This is a poor decision. Even a small amount of risk management, as little as one hour, can have a significant payback if it allows you to avoid one or two problems.

Project managers need to make the case that even a small amount of time on Risk Management, like a lunch meeting with the right people, can repay the investment by avoiding problems. The best way to make this point is to discuss some recent project failures. You can cite the problems that brought those projects down and explain how a bit of risk management, response planning and early problem solving might have saved the day. Risk Management Plan

Risk Management for Different Size Projects

After you gain approval for a Risk Management effort, you need to move ahead carefully with a bare bones approach. In the beginning, you need to build your credibility and that of risk management with a handsome return for the risk investment. You also need to use the correct set of risk management techniques to fit the size and scale of each project. One size does not fit all. You need to tailor your approach so it fits the project and yields a high return on the investment.

Watch this video on risk identification.

Risk Management: Risk Identification

There are five components in the full Risk Management process. But you will rarely use all of them.

  1. Risk identification – identify those positive and negative risks that might affect the project
  2. Qualitative risk analysis – fast, low-cost risk evaluation with no research or data gathering
  3. Quantitative risk analysis – slower, expensive research into the risk’s probability and impact
  4. Risk response planning – ways to mitigate, avoid or eliminate the risk’s effect. Risk Strategy
  5. Risk monitoring & control – monitoring so you can launch a risk response when needed.

You must control how much time and money you spend in each of these steps. Depending on the project, you may entirely skip one or two of the steps to cut the time and cost. You will do the less expensive qualitative risk analysis on most projects. On a small project, you can invest as little as an hour in total on risk identification, qualitative risk analysis and risk response planning. You will spend only what it cost to buy coffee for the group. But on some projects, your qualitative risk analysis might deserve 6 hours of work and include getting ideas and data from a dozen stakeholders.  On larger projects with massive risks, you may do all five of the steps and spend weeks or months and thousands of dollars.

Risk Management: Examples of Three Plans

Let’s look at some Risk Management examples and see how you might use them for three different size projects:

  1. A project done within a department where the PM and team all report to the project sponsor
  2. A cross-functional project that affects several departments in an organization
  3. A strategic initiative that affects all areas in a large organization

Project #1: Risk Management for a Small Project

In assessing the situation, you remember the boss made a big point about starting fast and avoiding a lot of project management paperwork and unnecessary meetings. So you decide to use a very small risk management process. When you finish the discussion about the project scope, you ask the boss, “What are the major risks you think we face in delivering that scope?” The boss gives you three examples of risks that had damaged similar project efforts. Then you ask, “What do you think we can do on this project to avoid having our efforts hurt by the same kinds of risks?” The boss suggests that you avoid the problems with inter-department cooperation by involving the other departments early in the effort. He also points out that you can avoid delays resulting from people not coming to meetings by letting people attend by video conference. Finally, the boss suggests that you record the video conferences (after letting everyone know you’re doing it) and send the video to the people who couldn’t attend the meeting. You thank the boss without explaining that the two of you have just completed risk identification, qualitative risk analysis and risk response planning. All you say is that you will add those elements to the project plan and schedule.

In this example of a small project, you asked a couple of open-ended questions to tap into the boss’s experience. You completed a very small Risk Management process. The project plan will now include risk responses and risk mitigations that may help this project avoid some known risks.  Project Risk Management

Project #2: Risk Management for a Cross-functional Project

This somewhat larger project involves stakeholders from several departments in the organization. Many of them may also be project team members. In a meeting with all the identified project stakeholders and team members, you describe the scope of the project and the major deliverables. Then you ask the people to think about risks that could affect each deliverable. Your project charter has five high-level deliverables and you focus the discussion on each of those. You limit the discussion to identifying the risks and their ideas about those risks. You ask them to hold off on defining the kind of risk response they think is appropriate. You also discourage people from criticizing any of the suggestions or evaluating their likelihood. In qualitative risk analysis, you want the group to come up with a list that’s as long as possible.

With your list of identified risks, you’re ready to begin qualitative risk analysis. You will assemble your group and focus on screening the risks using relatively quick and inexpensive qualitative techniques.  You want to rank the risks in terms of their likelihood and potential impact on the project. You use qualitative risk analysis as the only analysis to support risk response planning. The project’s scale does not justify the time and cost of quantitative analysis. Neither the boss nor the team members have any experience in Risk Management so they will subjectively rate the impact and likelihood values for your risk and impact analysis.

After they have completed their task, you have a list of 14 potential risks. You then say, “Here’s a form we’ll use to get everyone’s assessment of the risks we face on the project. We want to describe each risk in terms of two separate dimensions:

  1. The probability or likelihood of the risk event occurring
  2. The impact it will have on the project’s costs or finish date or both, if it occurs.

We’ll use a simple scale of 1 to 6 with three choices for likelihood and for impact. Low – meaning very unlikely to occur or a small impact.  High – meaning very likely to occur and a large impact. And Medium – meaning between those two extremes.”

Figure 1 – Risk Management Qualitative Risk Scores from Team Members

You get ratings from the team members: 1=Low 6=High. Then you enter them in the form and have the qualitative risk analysis results below.  Using this data, you would select a risk response.

1. Risk event 2. Likelihood 3. Impact 4. Risk Response
Name Medium High Low Medium High Low

Type of Response

Turnover among engineers is over 20%

 2

 5  1  1  6

 1

 Transfer, Mitigate, Avoid 0r Accept with Contingency

Figure 2 – P/I Results for Three Risks 

    Magnitude        Low                     Medium                                   HighProbability

High

Engineer turnover
 Medium      Don’t use new procedure

Low

Trouble Reports increase

Then you say, “We all seem to agree that while we have several risks, only one risk has both a high probability and a high magnitude and that’s the risk of engineer turnover.

The boss says, “I thought this risk stuff would be a waste of time but I’m already thinking of things we can do to reduce engineer turnover. That is a surprise I wouldn’t want to hear about right before the end of the project.”

For this department project, you engaged the sponsor and the team in risk identification and qualitative analysis. Now you’re ready to move on to risk response planning.  The aim of risk management is to take action by forming risk responses before the risks do any harm to the project. It doesn’t require fancy risk management techniques, just an effective process.

Project #3: Risk Management for a Strategic Project for a Larger Organization

Project Situation:

  • The project risk management plan calls for using qualitative risk analysis as a screening tool to select the risks that you will put through quantitative analysis. You anticipate analyzing a dozen or more risks with quantitative analysis.
  •  Three committees will do qualitative risk assessment. Each one is focusing on a particular market segment the company serves.
  • The risk steering committee will make a final decision about which risks go on to quantitative analysis. That committee includes the sponsor, senior VPs and you, the project manager.

You distribute the project risk management qualitative risk assessment form to the three risk committees.  Since the team members are familiar with estimating probabilities and magnitudes, you use a 1-10 scale for the estimates.

Then you give the committee leaders their project risk management instructions, “Here’s what we’re going to do here. Each person will make an independent judgment about the probability of each of our risk events occurring and the impact on the project if they do. We’ll use a scale of 1 to 10 for each assessment. So if a risk event is very likely to occur, you should give it a 9 or even a 10.  For a risk event that is very unlikely, give it a score of 1 or 2. When you come to the impact decision, forget the probability of the risk event occurring. Simply assess how big an impact it will have. If its impact will bury the project and do us irreparable harm, you should score it a 10. If a risk event has minimal impact on the project, score it a 1 or 2.”

One team member asks, “Aren’t we going to discuss each risk first?”

You answer, “No, I think it’s best if each person gives their assessment without being influenced by the others. Remember that we have people whose immediate superior is on this committee.  If people share their opinions before we each score the risks, the managers’ opinion may count too heavily.  I want everyone to make their own judgment without knowing what the managers think. We may get better information with independent judgments and avoid some of the politics. For that same reason, we’ll keep the ballots anonymous. You’ll notice there is no place to fill in your name.”

A few days later, you tabulate the data from the completed forms into a spreadsheet designed for this purpose. The result is a table of data values and a graph for each committee. You take the risk management data and the recommendations from each committee to the risk management committee. That committee includes the sponsor and an executive vice president. You select one or two risks from each committee’s qualitative analysis and recommend conducting a quantitative analysis.

Because three of the risks have probabilities and impacts above eight, the committee decides that all three need quantitative analysis. They are particularly concerned about the risk of customers not using the new trouble report procedure. They ask you exactly what they will get from this quantitative analysis.

You say, “We will start with an influence diagram we developed during risk identification. Then we’ll gather some opinions from industry experts and build a decision network to analyze where we can have our biggest influence in avoiding that risk.”

As the quantitative analysis proceeds, you and the other members sketch out ideas for mitigating, avoiding or transferring these risk to other organizations. You will apply those strategies when the quantitative data is ready. You will have an expected value for each risk which will tell you the time and cost you can justify to avoid that risk. Risk Management Plan Presentation

Risk Management Summary

You can do a worthwhile risk analysis for a small project in a matter of minutes. You’ll invest more time and use more advanced techniques, like qualitative and quantitative risk analysis, for projects with greater scale and significance.

You can learn how to manage risks in our advanced project management courses. You’ll work privately and individually online with an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences as you wish.  Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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Project Launch – Sell the Project & Build Political Support

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

The project launch meeting is an opportunity for you, the project manager, and the sponsor to build enthusiasm for the project among the project team and the project stakeholders. The team members are the people who will be doing the project work. The stakeholders are the people affected by the project. Other attendees are managers affected by the deliverables the project produces. Vendors who do contract work on the project may be included as well. Keep in mind that some of the attendees might be people who are not in favor of your project because it is using resources they need elsewhere.  Instead of dreading this meeting, you should view it as an opportunity to convert people who are neutral or opposed to the project. It is also an opportunity to increase the level of enthusiasm of the people who now support the project.

Unfortunately, the launch meeting is often just a series of long speeches about teamwork, sharing and supporting each other. No one in the room believes that hype. These lofty speeches don’t build morale. They tend to undermine it because the opening discussion is full of phony sentiments and, sometimes, outright lies. Good project managers don’t give speeches about teamwork, honesty and supporting each other. They communicate those characteristics by their actions. This takes more time but it’s much more believable and valuable.

In the launch meeting, you communicate information about your carefully developed plan. You state the major deliverables of the project and the overall benefit to the organization. The project launch meeting is not the time to threaten team members with dire consequences if they are late on their assignments. Those threats convince the team that their number one goal is to avoid blame when the project fails. That sort of attitude is crippling for a project. Team members who think the project will fail do not give you their best efforts.

Project Launch: Meeting Agenda

Here is the information to cover in the project launch meeting:

  • Project overview
  • Projet scope
  • Major deliverables
  • Project milestones

Project Launch: Meeting Attendees

These people should attend the launch meeting:project launch meeting

  • Project sponsor
  • Project manager
  • Project team members
  • Major project stakeholders

The project launch meeting signifies the end of the project planning phase and the beginning of the executing and monitoring/controlling phases.  You must make sure that by the end of this meeting, the team members understand how the tasks they will work on fit into the big picture, the project scope. You also want to build enthusiasm and commitment to the project among the team members and stakeholders.

Learn how to run a project launch meeting in our training seminars for clients  or our instructor-led online courses for individuals.