Project Management Process

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

Organizations realize many benefits when they have a project management process that is consistently used by all the project managers in the organization. The process does not require a big investment in software, although some components are best done with automation. Many companies do the whole project management process on a PC. But the technical aspects are the easy part. An effective project management process gives executives control of the entire portfolio of projects and guides decision-making at all levels. Crafting the right decision-making processes for your organization and then training the executives, project managers and team members to play their parts correctly is the hard part. Enterprise Project Management Main Page

Steps in the Project Management Process

As an overview, project management begins with initiation of new projects. That is the biggest weakness in most organizations. In an effective project management process, the initiation steps include a brief document of the project’s costs, benefits and its justification. This allows the organization to make decisions about which projects to do and avoid spending time and money on losers. The one page initiation document also allows the organization to set priorities and then allocate resources based on the benefits of a project. Project Planning

Next, the executives and project manager build a project plan using templates the organization provides to minimize the paperwork. The templates also provide consistent project plans and schedules.

The last part of the process is monitoring with weekly status reporting on all projects. This provides central identification of problems and variances so they can be corrected. It sounds simple and it should be to get people to comply. How to Write a Weekly Status Report

The objective is to ensure consistency in how project managers initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control and close their projects. This is not to say that every project will be identical. However, a reasonable degree of consistency allows executives to be more efficient in reviewing project plans. It allows project managers to archive data and that is a key element in improving the organization’s project management results.

Key Components of the Project Management Process

A project management process can include many components. First, the system may provide templates project managers use to develop their business cases, project charters, project management plans, estimates, risk analyses, cost estimates, duration estimates, human resources plans, etc. The idea behind using templates is that the organization of the information is consistent across all projects. Using templates also facilitates archiving the project data for later use.  Project Plan Template

Second, consistently successful organizations don’t reinvent the wheel on every project. They archive project data and use it on subsequent projects. This requires archiving data on the actual amount of work tasks took versus the estimated amount of work. That data can be in the form of a completed work package, “lessons learned” documentation or it can be automated. In either case, the information is available for project managers to use on new projects. It can also include the risk analysis, procurement statements of work and requests for proposals from vendors on previous projects.

project management process

Accessing Data From the Project Management Process

As a  project manager starting a new project, you must put together a great deal of information. You can save a great deal of time if the organization has a mature project management process. You can start by going through the archives of previously completed projects to identify ones that are similar as a whole or that have major deliverables similar to what you anticipate in the new project. Then you evaluate that data from the previous projects.
For example, let’s say one of the archived high-level deliverables was a modification to a financial system that is similar but a bit simpler than the modification required for your new project. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the data from that project. It simply means that you’ll have to adjust the work estimates upward to account for the additional complexity of the new project. You’ll also review the risk analysis from the previous project to see if any of the risks, analyses and responses can be used on your new project. Additionally, you’ll review any procurements, stakeholder analysis, human resources plans, etc. to determine if you can modify the work previously done and save a great deal of time. Lessons Learned Documentation

Implementing a Project Management Process

As organizations strive to improve their project performance and become consistently successful, one of the least expensive steps that produces significant benefits is implementing a project management process. This requires the project sponsors and project managers to agree on the steps and templates to be used as well as the data elements to be archived in the system.  The use of templates and archived data have the largest impact and start paying benefits in as little as three months. Other elements can be added to the project management system to achieve consistency in status reporting, scheduling, variance reporting and change control.

You can learn more about using an effective project management process in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually 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 course in your specialty.

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Project in Trouble

Is Your New Project In Trouble Already?

As project managers, we spend a lot of time and energy staying on top of the projects we’re responsible for.  project in troubleBut let’s say the boss hands you a project that’s already underway, one that you’re not familiar with and that has been managed by someone who is no longer “available” to discuss it with you.  How are you going to quickly assess the real status of that project and whether it is healthy or failing?  Here are a few quick tips about things to look for.  Enterprise Project Management Main Page

  • Stakeholder satisfaction.  Have the key stakeholders been kept informed about the project?  Do they know the status?  Do they feel like the project is on the right track?  Approaching just a few of the major stakeholders and getting some informal feedback may tell you all you need to know about whether the project is headed toward success or is on the road to ruin.   Stakeholder Analysis
  • Project documentation.  Does the project have a reasonable and adequate library of the key documents needed to properly design, resource, and manage a project?  The “library” will vary widely by the size and complexity of the project, so your assessment must be tailored accordingly.  But there should be an appropriate level of rigor about documenting project scope, schedule, WBS, budget, and key objectives.  A project plan, even a 1-pager, should be considered essential.  If it’s missing, there’s something wrong.  Project Plan
  • Roles and Responsibilities.  Failure to establish a clear definition of team roles and responsibilities is an invitation for team disintegration.  These should be clearly documented and unequivocal, and should be team “common knowledge.”  The first hint that disputed or misunderstood responsibilities/authority are afoot in the project should set off warning alarms.
  • Measures of success.  How does the project know if it is succeeding or not?  If there are project progress reports to review, are they meaningful?  Are there metrics that relate to project objectives?  If these questions do not produce quantifiable answers that address the customer’s requirements, then the project’s current track should be closely examined.
  • Documented requirements.  And speaking of requirements, if your initial review of the project’s documentation does not include some reference to specific, quantifiable requirements, the project is at serious risk of missing the target.  Without valid requirements, you’ll have no way to measure whether the project is succeeding or failing.  Requirements Management
  • Adequacy of the resources and staff.  Given what you can determine about the project scope and requirements, you’ll want to estimate whether your available resources are sufficient to meet the objectives and schedule—assuming there is one.  Is the staff sufficient in number and needed competencies to perform the work?  Are any physical resources you need available, such as lab support, test facilities, or specialized equipment?
  • Change control.  Don’t underestimate the importance of a rigorously followed change control process.  If it is clear that project changes occur without due process, you can quickly guess that the project is unlikely to stay on any sort of efficient course to achieve its primary objectives.  Change Control

There are other factors that you may also want to consider, such as team culture and morale, risk management process, external factors, etc., but if you keep the above factors in mind as you explore your “new” project you may give yourself a very timely opportunity to “right” the ship’s course before it hits the reef.

Project Management Risk – Three Levels

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

The project management risk process has a bad reputation among executives. Often that reputation is well deserved. Too many project managers get carried away with fancy mathematics, too many meetings and far too much paperwork. The cost and level of effort are out of proportion to the benefits the project receives from the risk management effort. Executives who have seen project managers waste a great deal of time with endless risk meetings and generation of mountains of paperwork often decide they want no risk management.  Many executives won’t support risk management, even on large projects where it is vitally important. They want to get started fast and fight fires as they come up. Project managers face an uphill battle even if there are significant risks that can and should be addressed. Project Risk Management Main Page

Project Management Risk – Firefighting

In the eyes of the executives, firefighting instead of managing risks seems like a more prudent and economical course. It’s easy for people to convince themselves that when a risk event occurs they can quickly muster the resources to fight the fire, put it out and quickly get back to work. This mental model of firefighting is not very realistic. If one of the major risks occurs for which they have no planned response, work on the project comes to a screeching halt. People are pulled off their project work to take part in emergency planning for what to do about the risk and who should do it. Very often the team is simply frozen by the surprise risk event. It may take weeks or months to recover the lost initiative and productivity.

Project Management Risk – Three Levels

There is a middle ground between firefighting and overly elaborate risk management planning and implementation. This middle ground begins with an assessment of the project itself and then scaling the risk management effort to fit the project. You should tailor your risk management to the size of the project so the benefits exceed the cost of the analysis.

Project Management Risk Level 1 – for small projects typically done within an organizational unit. Small projects with small project teams and a relatively limited duration have risk management plans that you can formulate over a lunch with the sponsor and one or two team members. A very quick and subjective process can identify no more than four risks that could substantially reduce the project scope or increase its duration/budget. Then you do a “quick and dirty” qualitative analysis to judge the probability of the risk occurring and the magnitude if it does. You’re not doing any math here. You discuss people’s opinions about how likely and how big a deal the risk is. Finally, you’ll lay out the steps you could take to reduce the likelihood of the more significant risks occurring. Those are the risk responses that you put into the project plan. Your risk managproject management riskement planning is complete. This process lets you show significant benefits for a minimal investment.

Project Management Risk Level 2 – for projects that span organizational departments. That means it has stakeholders from a number of different functional areas or technical specialties. You’ll do a bit more analysis of the probability and magnitude of the impact of the risks, if they occur. You’ll also develop a formal risk response plan.

Project Management Risk Level 3 – for projects that impact the entire organization and possibly external customers. You’ll do quantitative risk analysis to provide data on the probability of a risk occurring and the magnitude if it does. You will most likely gather data on the probability of various risk events occurring. This data may come from project teams’ own experiences. Alternatively the scale of the project may justify hiring consultants who would conduct the data gathering as well rigorous statistical analysis.  But the end result is the probability of the risk occurring and the magnitude of the dollar or duration impact if it does. From those numbers you can calculate the expected value of each risk. This allows you to put a ceiling on the amount you can spend on each of your risk responses. This level of risk management also requires you to develop a formal risk response plan.

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You can enhance your PM skills and master the art of managing project risks in our online project management courses. You work privately and individually with an expert project manager. You control the schedule and pace and have as many phone calls and live video conferences with them as you wish.  Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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Matrix Project Team

project Manager certifications

In the matrix project team, you borrow people from other departments, not from your own. Matrix project teams have always been popular with project managers. They are a way to get resources for your project without paying consulting fees or persuading people in your organization to give up some of their staff.  That sounds like a fabulous bargain but managing a matrix team is not easy. There are a number of challenges. Leading Teams Main Page

Acquiring A Matrix Project Team

First, the project manager has no inherent authority to borrow people from other departments. So the project manager asks the sponsor to contact the lending department and use his/her power and authority to secure resources for their project team. That doesn’t always work because the sponsor, no matter how high-ranking in your part of the organization, may be ignored when he/she contacts another department to borrow resources. It’s understandable that the lending departments are not enthusiastic about acting like a resource pool for matrix project teams. They lose time from some of their valuable people and the project doesn’t compensate them for the loss. They often must have other employees work overtime to make up for the hours lost to a matrix project team. Those factors often result in lending managers loaning the person they can most easily afford to lose for a few months.

Second, the borrowed matrix team members can be recalled to their “home” departments whenever there is a need. From the perspective of the lending department manager, the work there will always take priority over work on someone else’s project.  So the project manager who borrows matrix resources can lose them in an instant and face immediate project schedule problems.

The third problem with matrix team members is that they earn their raises and promotions in their home department, not on the project. The project manager may have some input into their performance review or may write a complimentary memo or note for their file at project completion, but that doesn’t count for much. Understandably, matrix project team members are often focused on their department’s interests, not on completing challenging project assignments.

Managing A Matrix Project Team

Even if the project manager overcomes the issues we’ve discussed above, they face the very real challenge of managing these borrowed people so they have some level of enthusiasm and commitment to the project goal.

Forget about all the platitudes and well-intended phrases you hear about matrix management.  Every person on a matrix team does not carry the same weight or have the same influence.  Matrix project teams are often composed of and led by people from a primary organization and supported by resources from “outside” the organization.  Some examples include:

  • mixed government-contractor teams
  • Project Management Office-led teams supported by engineering, logistics, business office, etc.
  • primary contractor-led, subcontractor-contributing teams
  • teams led by “graybeards” and supported by less experienced members.

Total equality within a matrix project team is neither possible nor desirable. A hierarchy of authority is necessary on any project. But one of the PM’s most important “people duties” at the outset of a project is to make every member of the matrix team feel included and that their role is as important as any other.  If the PM fails to establish that perception early and clearly, matrix project team members can quickly develop the attitude of project “outsiders.” They feel their contribution is secondary or unimportant to the project manager or even the project itself. They quickly develop the attitude that the project is not worthy of their best effort.

To address this challenge, you should have a project “kickoff” meeting  as soon as all your resources have been identified.  Although this meeting serves many purposes (e.g., to discuss roles and responsibilities, processes, requirements, etc.), one of its greatest benefits is to give the message that every team member’s contribution is critical to the project’s success.  Not establishing an early atmosphere of inclusiveness and investment in achieving the project objective is a lost opportunity with potentially large consequences.

You can learn these team leadership skills in our project management basics courses. You’ll work individually with your instructor at your schedule and pace. Take a look at the course in your specialty.

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WBS – Healthcare Projects

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

A key part of a good healthcare project plan is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS for Healthcare Projects specifies the work assignment for every person working on the project.  It also specifies the deliverables the customer or sponsor will get. And it provides checkpoints for the organization’s management to track the project’s performance.

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step One

Creating a good WBS – Healthcare Projects starts with defining the scope and major deliverables of the project with administrators, physicians and other caregivers.  Then you decompose or breakdown each of those deliverables into smaller deliverables until you get to the level of an individual assignment. When you break down the project scope into deliverables, you specify the end result you want from each assignment. That is not a list of what you want the assigned team member to do. As an example, you would not describe everything an ICU nurse on your team must do to create a new procedure. Instead, you would state that the ICU nurse must deliver a set of procedures that pass inspection by the state Department of Health. That is a measurable deliverable with an acceptance criteria that is crystal clear. When you define every assignment in the healthcare project WBS as a measurable deliverable, you clearly define the work assignments for every caregiver, technician, administrator and any outside consultants working on the project. The assignments or tasks in your WBS define exactly what a good job is for each assignment and how you will measure it.  WBS – Work Breakdown Structure – Main Page

 

WBS Work Breakdown Structure

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step Two

The WBS also shows the methodology you will use on the project to produce the required deliverables. The WBS of a project that uses a waterfall methodology will be very different from a project that uses a design-build methodology. In the waterfall methodology project, you will complete very detailed front end planning before the team starts work. On a project that uses a design-build methodology, the team will begin work on the deliverables before all the plans are finished. If you use an agile methodology for the project, you will complete the deliverables iteratively with a great deal of interaction with the caregivers and administrators at every step. The WBS will include time for them to assess the results and change the specifications. That project’s WBS will look very different from a WBS using one of the other methodologies.Healthcare Project WBS

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step Three

The healthcare project WBS must specify the testing and quality control procedures you will utilize at various checkpoints in the project. Some of the checkpoints may be the testing of equipment against manufacturer or regulator specifications. Other checkpoints may be a governmental comparison of what you have developed to the approved regulations and requirements.

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Step Four

If you know who will be working on your project, it is a good practice to give the team members an opportunity to talk about the acceptance criteria for the deliverables they will be producing. Allowing team members to take part in defining the healthcare project WBS entries and their acceptance criteria gives you two benefits. First, it sets up the estimating process so your team members become familiar with the tasks they’ll be asked to estimate. Second, their participation also gives you the benefit of the team members’ experience with similar projects. That’s an opportunity for you and the team to identify problems very early in the process.

WBS – Healthcare Projects: Summary

The aim of the WBS is to

  • give team members clear assignments that are deliverables
  • communicate the methodology you’ll use to produce the deliverables
  • specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing
  • provide management with checkpoints for tracking progress.

This sample lecture from our Healthcare Project Basics course focuses on developing a healthcare project WBS. The goal of the WBS is to give crystal-clear assignments to people working on the project and give management clear checkpoints on progress. It also provides a good basis for you, the project manager, to track project progress and do variance analysis.

 

To learn more about designing a good WBS for healthcare projects, consider taking one of our online healthcare project management courses. You’ll learn at your pace with an expert healthcare project manager as your coach.

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Become a Project Manager

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

There are many career paths you can use to Become a Project Manager and start a professional career. Project management offers career potential to men and women. The average salary for certified project managers topped $110,000 in the past year. Project management is also a skill demanded worldwide. The demand for project managers has remained strong despite economic ups and downs. In fact, in bad economic times organizations in the private and public sectors need to have projects to improve performance, cut costs or cope with diminished availability of resources. That gives project managers a lot of opportunities to change employers, geographic locations, as well as industries and the type of projects they manage. Project management is now seen as a separate skill from the technical knowledge of information systems or construction or manufacturing.  For many projects, particularly large ones, the project manager does not have to be a technical expert in the actual work of the project. Many organizations are coming to realize that what the project manager needs to be expert in is managing projects, teams, stakeholders, schedules and budgets. Project Management Careers Main Page

Become a Project Manager – Three Paths

Here are career three paths or situations we’ll explore:

  • a recent college graduate
  • a craftsperson who has worked their way up in the trades
  • a professional, like a systems analyst, accountant or operations manager, wanting to move into project management.

Become a Project Manager – Recent College Graduate

These days it’s difficult to find a job after you graduate from college, particularly if you don’t have a degree that is in demand. If you’re a person who pays attention to detail and is good on follow-through, a good option is getting a job as a project coordinator or assistant project manager. Usually no experience is required for these entry-level project management positions. Regardless of the title, the work will involve assisting a project manager on a large effort. Your work could include assisting with scheduling the project work, updating the schedule to show the team’s actual performance, documenting information to support change requests and expediting work on tasks by team members, outside contractors and vendors. Good performance in the entry-level position can earn you an opportunity to manage a small project on your own. That’s the first step up in your project manager career.

Become a Project Manager – Working Your Way Up in the Trades

Many project managers gain their first experience out of high school working in the trades or as a line employee. Good performance lets them move up to the supervisor or foreman level and many make the jump to project management at that point. They have a great deal of practical experience to offer. However, they must learn the basics of planning, scheduling, tracking and reporting so they can apply the best practices in project management to their years of practical experience. Usually their first project management assignment is assisting an experienced project manager and learning the ropes from them. Obviously training in the basics of project management is a big help in making this transition from the trades into the professional project manager ranks.

Become a Project Manager – Moving From Another Profession 

Still other people begin their career in one profession, such as information systems, civil/electrical/mechanical engineering, medicine/nursing or general management. After several years, theyBecome a Project Manager decide that project management is a better fit for their skills and long-term career opportunities. They equip themselves to make the move to project management by getting some basic training in the best practices. Then they market themselves using the combination of their current professional skills and their knowledge of managing projects.

 

Become a Project Manager- Summary

Each of these paths for getting into project management is possible because the demand for project managers is high. Few organizations have enough people who are able to consistently manage projects to produce results on time and within budget. All of the paths require one thing; that you know the best practices and can use the basic skills of project management. You can learn them in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the course in your industry specialty.

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WBS – Business & Operations Projects – Video

A critical part of your project plan is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS for Business & Operations Projects is a lot more than a long list of tasks. It comes from a definition of the project scope which is the business benefit that the project will deliver. The project scope is stated as a metric, an acceptance criteria, and so is every component of the work breakdown structure. Those components are the deliverables, everything that’s required to deliver the business benefit. The aim of the WBS is to give crystal-clear assignments to people working on projects and give management clear checkpoints on progress. Every successful business and operations project also includes process changes in their organization. The WBS has to include the training that will increase the capability of the users. Finally, the WBS is structured with the particular methodology that the project will employ (waterfall, agile, iterative).  Main WBS – Work Breakdown Structure – Page

WBS Work Breakdown Structure

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

WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step One

The WBS is a decomposition of the project scope. You start by breaking down the scope into 4 to 7 major deliverables. Then you break down each of those major deliverables into smaller deliverables. You continue the process all the way down to tasks you will assign to the team members. To do this decomposition, you must define every task in the work breakdown structure with acceptance criteria. Those are the specific measures the customer or user will apply when deciding whether to accept the deliverable. An example of an acceptance criteria in a project for improving efficiency might be, “Project team members can complete their weekly timesheet in less than two minutes 90% of the time.” That defines a specific end result that you, as the project manager, will use in specifying user requirements and measuring team member performance.

WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step Two

The WBS – Business & Operations Projects will show the methodology you will use on the project to produce the required deliverables. If you and the project sponsor have decided to use an agile methodology, the WBS will include multiple iterations in the creation of each deliverable. It would include time for the user to assess the result and change the specifications after each iteration. On the other hand, the classic waterfall project plan would include very detailed front end planning followed by execution of the plan.

WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step Three

The WBS needs to specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing. Some testing tasks should include the number of transactions or samples that you will test. That ensures adequate time is estimated for the complete testing procedure. That includes any external testing of the deliverables during development or prior to acceptance. They should appear in the work breakdown structure to ensure enough hours of work for adequate testing and quality control are included in the schedule.

WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step Four

Finally, if you know which team members will be doing the work on your project, it is a good practice to give them an opportunity to talk about the acceptance criteria for the deliverables they will be producing. Allowing team members to take part in defining the WBS entries and their acceptance criteria gives you two benefits. First, it sets up the estimating process so your team members become familiar with the tasks they’ll be asked to estimate. Second, their participation also gives you the benefit of the team members’ experience with similar projects. That’s an opportunity for you and the team members to identify problems very early in the process.

WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Summary

The aim of the WBS is to

  • give team members clear assignments that are deliverables
  • communicate the project methodology you’ll use to produce the deliverables
  • specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing
  • provide management with checkpoints on progress.

 

This sample lecture is from our online Project Management Basics course. It focuses on creating the work breakdown structure for small business projects. The focus is on creating a project plan and work breakdown structure that are tools for making clear, measurable assignments and tracking the team’s progress on those deliverables.

To learn more about designing a good WBS for Business & Operations projects, consider taking one of our online project management courses. You’ll learn at your pace with an expert project manager as your coach.

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WBS – Construction Projects – Video

A key part of a good construction project plan is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS – Construction Projects specifies the work assignment for every crew member, subcontractor, architect, and outside consulting engineer working on the project.  It also specifies the deliverables the customer will get. That definition is in the form of an objective measure like, “maintain 72° degrees temperature during operating hours.”

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

WBS – Construction Projects: Step One

You begin by defining the scope and major deliverables of the project. Then you breakdown each of those deliverables into smaller deliverables until you get to the level of an individual assignment to a crew member or subcontractor. As you work through this breakdown process, you are specifying the end result you want from each assignment, not what you want them to do.

WBS Work Breakdown Structure

As an example, you wouldn’t describe everything that a framing contractor is supposed to do. Instead, the WBS would specify that the subcontractor is to frame the project according to plan and pass the local municipality’s rough framing inspection. The acceptance criteria of that deliverable is crystal-clear. With every assignment in the construction project WBS specified as a deliverable, you have clearly defined the work assignment for everyone working on the project. The assignments or tasks in the WBS define exactly what a “good job” is for each of those work assignments and how it will be measured.   WBS Work Breakdown Structure Main Page

WBS – Construction Projects: Step Two

Second, the work breakdown structure is also based on the construction methodology that will be used on the project. As an example, the WBS of a waterfall construction project will be very different from a project that uses a design-build methodology. In a waterfall methodology project, all the planning is completed before you start construction work. In a design-build methodology project, you begin construction work before all the plans are finished. And an agile methodology project will look very different from the first two types. Here you complete the components iteratively with a great deal of customer interaction and input at each step.

WBS – Construction Projects: Step ThreeWBS - Construction Projects

Third, the construction project WBS has to specify the testing and quality control procedures and acceptance criteria you will use at various checkpoints in the project. Some of these checkpoints may be the testing of materials, other checkpoints may be the governmental comparison of what you have built to the approved plan.

WBS – Construction Projects: Summary

The aim of the WBS is to

  • give crews and subcontractors clear assignments that are deliverables
  • communicate the construction methodology you’ll use to produce the deliverables
  • specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing
  • provide checkpoints on progress.

This sample construction project lecture is from our Construction Project Basics course. It covers how to develop the work breakdown structure (WBS) for smaller commercial and residential construction projects. The focus is on creating a project plan and work breakdown structure that are tools for making clear, measurable assignments and tracking the progress of crews and subcontractors on those deliverables. It also provides a good basis for you, the project manager, to track project progress and do variance analysis.

To learn more about designing a good WBS for construction projects, consider taking one of our online construction project management courses. You’ll learn at your pace with an expert construction project manager as your coach.

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WBS – Information Technology Projects – Video

The work breakdown structure is the heart of a successful WBS – Information Technology project plan. The work breakdown structure (WBS) defines the deliverables in objectively measurable terms, like retrieve 6 months of customer history in 4 seconds. It fits the systems developmental methodology you will use in the project, like Agile, Waterfall, Iterative, etc.  It defines the users’ expectations about exactly what business result(s) they will get.  The WBS must cover the three components of successful implementation. It covers not only 1.)what the analysts and programmers will do but also 2.) the users’ process changes and 3.) the user training.

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

WBS – Information Technology Projects: Step One

First, the WBS tells everyone what’s expected of them. You and the users start by breaking down the project scope into 4 to 7 major deliverables. Then you break down each of those major deliverables into smaller deliverables. You continue the process all the way down to tasks you will assign to the team members, information system staff and user staff. Yes, it includes assignments for the development staff and the users because both groups will complete tasks to deliver the project scope. To do this decomposition, you define every task in the work breakdown structure with acceptance criteria that is usually a metric. Those are the specific measures the user will apply when deciding whether to accept the deliverable. The WBS allows the sponsor and user management to track the progress of the project because every entry in the WBS is unambiguous; they are measurable.  WBS Work Breakdown Structure Main Page

WBS Work Breakdown Structure

WBS – Information Technology Projects: Step Two

Second, on an IT project the WBS also communicates the systems development methodology you’ll use on the project to produce the required deliverables. If you and the project sponsor have decided to use an Agile methodology, the WBS will include multiple iterations of each deliverable. It will include time for the user to evaluate the result and change the specifications after each iteration. On the other hand, the classic Waterfall project development would include very detailed front end planning followed by execution of the plan. So an IT project WBS done with a Waterfall methodology is very different from a WBS for an Agile systems development effort or any of the other IT methodologies.

WBS – Information Technology Projects: Step Three

Third, regardless of the methodology, a correctly developed WBS is not a list of activities or “to dos.” It is a list of acceptance criteria that define what a good job is on each of the WBS entries. As an example, if one or more programmers will write the code for a payroll data entry screen, you might define the acceptance criteria for that effort with a WBS entry like, “Payroll clerks can create new employee payroll records using the new GUI in less than three minutes 90% of the time.”  That tells both the programmers and the users involved what they’re going to get from this new GUI. When you define your WBS entries this way, you have the discussion and debate about the deliverable’s acceptance criteria before you even start work.

WBS – Information Technology Projects: Step Four

Fourth, the WBS needs to specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing. Some testing tasks should include the number of transactions that you will test. That ensures that adequate time is estimated for the complete testing procedure. That includes any external testing of the software during its development or prior to acceptance.  The tasks should also appear in the WBS so enough hours of work are allocated to the process and the resulting schedule for adequate testing and quality control.

WBS – Information Technology Projects: Step FiveWBS - Information Technology Projects

Fifth, if you know which team members will be doing the work on your project, it is a good practice to give them an opportunity to talk about the acceptance criteria for the deliverables they will be producing. Allowing team members to take part in defining the WBS entries and their acceptance criteria gives you two benefits. First, it sets up the estimating process so your team members become familiar with the tasks they’ll be asked to estimate. Second, this participation also gives you, the project manager, the benefit of the team members’ experience with similar projects. That’s an opportunity for you to identify problems very early in the planning process.

WBS – Information Technology Projects: Summary

The aim of the WBS is to

  • give clear assignments to system analysts, programmers and users
  • communicate the systems development methodology you’ll use to produce the deliverables
  • state the acceptance criteria on each of the deliverables and provide checkpoints on progress
  • specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing
  • set up the estimating and early problem solving processes

This sample IT project lecture from our IT Project Basics course focuses on developing the work breakdown structure for IT systems development projects. The focus is on creating a project plan and work breakdown structure that are tools for making clear, measurable assignments and tracking the progress of the deliverables.

To learn more about designing a good WBS for IT projects, consider our project management courses. You learn with an expert project manager as your coach.

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How To Do Risk Analysis

Here is How To Do Risk Analysis for your project. After you have identified the risks your project faces, you need to do a risk analysis to determine which ones call for a risk response and which do not. The purpose of risk analysis is to rank the list of identified risks in order of significance or importance.  Your risk analysis focuses on qualitatively assessing the probability that the risk will occur and the magnitude of its impact if it does. You will use this qualitative risk analysis to decide which risks are important enough to warrant a risk response. Risk Management Main Page

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

How To Do Risk Analysis: Step 1 – Qualitative Analysis

Qualitative analysis assesses how much the risk could hurt the project but is doesn’t use any numbers. Qualitative analysis has the benefits of being cheap and fast but it lacks precision.  You can easily do qualitative analysis by meeting with three or four team members and stakeholders in the cafeteria for coffee. You list the risks you have identified that can possibly affect the project. For each risk, you ask them to assess whether it is very likely to occur, moderately likely to occur or unlikely to occur. When you have that information from each attendee, you ask them about how much damage the risk will cause if it does occur. Will it cause just a little damage, a medium amount of damage or a lot of damage?

As you can see, this is not a very precise method but it does give you the opinions of your stakeholders and team members. If you have any risks that are very likely to occur and will cause significant damage, you will plan a risk response for those risks. The less significant risks you have identified are things you will watch out for but you won’t plan a formal risk response for them. On smaller projects, you will probably limit the risk analysis to these qualitative techniques and planning risk response(s) for the significant risks.  Small Project Risk Management 

You may also decide that one or two risks are so significant you should preform a quantitative risk analysis.  The cost of the higher-level quantitative risk analysis probably requires the sponsor’s approval. Risk Responses

How To Do Risk Analysis: Step 2 – Quantitative Analysis

Quantitative risk analysis is both expensive and time-consuming. Usually, it is done only on very large projects which face very significant risks. Only in that situation could you justify the cost and weeks or months of effort which can go into a quantitative analysis. Regardless of which quantitative risk technique you utilize, the end result is the expected value of the risk. You calculate that by multiplying the probability of the risk occurring times the magnitude of the impact if it does occur.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your quantitative risk analysis determined there is a 0.001% chance that the company headquarters would be destroyed by a tornado during the coming four months. It also estimated that the magnitude of that risk (the damage that the tornado would cause) could be valued at $800,000. Now that risk probability is pretty small but the magnitude is pretty large. To combine them into a single number that lets you make a good decision, you  would multiply that probability times the magnitude and come up with an expected value of the risk of $800. What that expected value means is that if you did this project 10,000 times with the same tornado risk, the average damage would be $800. So you can’t justify spending more than that amount ($800) to avoid the tornado risk. The quantitative risk analysis says you can have only a very limited risk response program if you must keep the cost under $800, the expected value of the tornado risk.  Presenting Your Risk Plan

 

To learn more about how to manage project risks, consider one of our online project management 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.

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