Project Communications Management

Project Communications Management includes the processes that are required to ensure timely and appropriate planning, collection, creation, distribution, storage, retrieval, management, control, monitoring, and the ultimate disposition of project information. Project managers spend most of their time communicating with team members and other project stakeholders, whether they are internal (at all organizational levels) or external to the organization. Effective communication creates a bridge between diverse stakeholders who may have different cultural and organizational backgrounds, different levels of expertise, and different perspectives and interests, which impact or have an influence upon the project execution or outcome. The three main processes are as follows:

  • Plan Communications Management – The process of developing an appropriate approach and plan for project communications based on stakeholder’s information needs and requirements, and available organizational assets.
  • Manage Communications – The process of creating, collecting, distributing, storing, retrieving and the ultimate disposition of project information in accordance with the communications management plan.
  • Control Communications – The process of monitoring and controlling communication throughout the entire project life cycle to ensure the information needs of the project stakeholders are met.

This preceding information was taken directly from the following:

(2013) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) Fifth edition. Newtown Square, Pa.: Project Management Institute, Inc., pg. 287.

Next week, we’ll look at project risk management.

 

Project Human Resource Management in Action

Project teams are formed to accomplish project work. Acquiring, developing, and managing project teams properly requires careful up-front planning. Well before people are chosen to work on a project, a project manager must first interview the project’s stakeholders and gather requirements. This drives the development of the work packages, identifying the tasks that make up each work package, and estimating their time and cost. This leads to the development of a preliminary project schedule and budget. All this also provides the information necessary to determine which skills are needed to complete the tasks. This, in turn, drives the process of acquiring, developing, and managing the people who possess the skills to complete them.

GRCC is fortunate to employ people who possess a great many skills to complete most of the work on our IT projects. In those rare instances where experience and skills are lacking for a particular project, we have the choice to either contract the work or to train our people to learn what they need to know to complete their parts of the project work successfully. More often than not, we do the latter if it is determined that those skills will benefit the college and/or the cost to contract the work verses the cost of training exceeds the project’s budget. Time is a factor, too. Suppose a project is very complex and has a hard deadline. If it is determined that the training and experience cannot be acquired in time, then the work may be contracted.

Once a project team forms, understands the work they must accomplish, and determines the time and resources they need to be successful, the project manager will do his or her best to ensure that the team can work unimpeded by internal and external influences. Project teams naturally go through a process known as Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning. As the name of each stage in this process suggests, changes must occur within a project team that eventually allow them to work well together and part ways when the project is over. The time frame of each stage varies depending on each team’s individual and collective personalities and on how well the project manager performs risk management to respond effectively to changes as they occur – and they will occur.

This is often the most difficult part of project management for some because project teams are rarely ever made up of the same people, which means these teams must learn how to work well with each other to accomplish the goals of the project. Additionally, GRCC’s project managers do not have direct authority over their team members. Instead, to be effective, they must engage and respect each team member, focus them on the goals of the project, and effectively utilize their collective time and talents to complete the project work. With complex projects combined with hard deadlines, this is definitely a high wire act – often with no nets.

Finally, as team members complete their project work, they are released from the project team back to their normal duties. While some may attend project meetings to advise others on the project, it is best to release team members from their responsibilities to the project once they complete their tasks, so they can resume their normal job responsibilities, or possibly help out with other projects. This is very important because our people, like other resources, are finite and scarce, and are subject to overuse and burnout if not managed properly. We must nurture, respect, and value them, so they remain available and enthusiastic to work on future projects, as well as be happy and productive GRCC employees.

Next week we’ll review project communications management.

Project Human Resource Management

Project human resource management includes the processes designed to help organize, manage, and lead project teams effectively. The project managers in GRCC’s IT Project Management Office manage many projects. Each project requires teams of people to complete the work. These teams include IT employees, as well as employees at the college most familiar with the business needs that are being fulfilled by each project. Big or small, each project team is unique, given its makeup and the project to which they’re assigned. Depending on the scope and complexity of a project, this can present human resource challenges to the team and the project manager. Project managers who utilize the processes listed below can avoid or mitigate these challenges and complete their projects successfully.

  • Plan Human Resource Management – The process of identifying and documenting project roles, responsibilities, required skills, reporting relationships, and creating a staffing management plan.
  • Acquire Project Team – The process of confirming human resource availability and obtaining the team necessary to complete project activities.
  • Develop Project Team – The process of improving competencies, team member interaction, and overall environment to enhance project performance.
  • Manage Project Team – The process of tracking team member performance, providing feedback, resolving issues, and managing changes to optimize project performance.

Next week we’ll look at a brief case study involving these project human resource management processes.

Excerpts and definitions were taken from the following:

(2013) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) Fifth edition. Newtown Square, Pa.: Project Management Institute, Inc., pg. 255.

 

Project Cost Management

Project cost management includes the processes involved in planning, estimating, budgeting, financing, funding, managing, and controlling costs so that a project can be completed within its approved budget. The four main processes are as follows:

Plan Cost Management – The process that establishes the policies, procedures, and documentation for planning, managing, expending, and controlling project costs.

Estimate Costs – The process of developing an approximation of the monetary resources needed to complete project activities.

Determine Budget – The process of aggregating the estimated costs of individual activities or work packages to establish an authorized cost baseline.

Control Costs – The process of monitoring the status of the project to update the project costs and managing changes to the cost baseline.

Project cost management is primarily concerned with the cost of the resources needed to complete project activities. For example, in the IT Project Management Office, we often manage system implementation projects. More often than not, beyond the initial cost of a system, which is often pricey, the annual maintenance renewal costs are also pricey – especially over time – and must be considered when determining the true cost of the systems we implement. This also helps to determine whether or not a system is financially sustainable over time. If it is determined that a system is not financially sustainable, it is the duty of the project manager to inform the project’s sponsor of this and encourage him or her to reconsider moving forward with the project.

There are likely additional costs incurred, too, when implementing new systems that may include additional hardware and software, training, and/or consulting. Employing project cost management processes and integrating them with requirements and planning processes helps to ensure that the short term and long term costs are considered carefully, so projects are funded sufficiently.

Next week we’ll look at project human resource management.

Excerpts and definitions were taken from the following:

(2013) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) Fifth edition. Newtown Square, Pa.: Project Management Institute, Inc., pg. 193 and 195.

 

IT Security Notification

A recent security vulnerability was discovered in all versions of Internet Explorer allowing hackers to easily gain access to your computer system. When possible, it is recommended that use of Internet Explorer be limited to college resources only.

If you currently use Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari exclusively you will not be affected. The GRCC IT Security department is aware of the issue and are waiting for Microsoft to fix the issue.

For more information pertaining to this security vulnerability please visit: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/security/2963983.aspx.

IT Project Management Office Weekly Update – 4/22/14

Project Quality Management

Project quality management involves the processes and activities that GRCC’s IT Project Management Office utilizes to determine the quality policies, objectives, and responsibilities respective to each project. This satisfies the needs for which each project is undertaken. The three main processes are as follows:

Plan Quality Management – The process of identifying quality requirements and/or standards for a project and its deliverables and documenting how a project will demonstrate compliance with quality requirements.

Perform Quality Assurance – The process of auditing the quality requirements and the results from quality control measurements to ensure that appropriate quality standards and operational definitions are used.

Control Quality – The process of monitoring and recording results of executing the quality activities to assess performance and recommend necessary changes.

Project quality management addresses the management of a project – whether it be its structure, planning, or the team itself – as well as its deliverables. For example, the quality of a project and its team can and should be identified, planned, measured, evaluated, and improved if issues are detected. This helps prevent project planning methodology and human resource issues that can adversely affect a project. The same is true for a project’s deliverables. For example, at GRCC, when a project calls for the creation of web pages, we must build them to adhere to federal ADA compliance standards. To guarantee this is done and done properly, these standards and the tools and techniques used to ensure the standards are met must be included in the project’s quality plan.

Next week we’ll look at project cost management.

Definitions were taken from the following:

(2013) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) Fifth edition. Newtown Square, Pa.: Project Management Institute, Inc., pg. 227.

IT Project Management Office Weekly Update – 4/15/14

Project Time Management Example

Suppose you are planning a surprise birthday party for a loved one. You have gathered all the requirements and identified the deliverables (or outcomes) needed to make the party successful. They include obtaining a venue and decorating it, the guest list, food and drinks, presents, activities, and the cake. And, since this is a surprise party, arguably the most important deliverable is getting the guest of honor to the party destination just in time for the surprise of their life. In this example, we’ll focus on the surprise portion of the party plan, because for it to work well, project time management is essential.

The first step is to define how to manage the party schedule. This keeps those involved with scheduling the surprise party and executing its time-sensitive activities well informed with how the plan will be developed, executed, and changed (if necessary).

The next step is to define the activities involved to pull off the surprise successfully. General requirements defined previously are broken down into activities that individuals can perform. In our example, a key surprise party requirement is to have a “handler.” The handler will have several activities that he or she must perform well in order to keep the guest of honor unaware of the surprise and to get them to the party on time.

When it comes to a surprise party, knowing the sequence in which activities will occur is essential. Some activities must be done in a dependent order, while others can be done in a non-dependent order or even simultaneously. An example of dependent activities are that you must first get the guest of honor to the party before the guests can yell surprise. Simultaneous activities involve the handler keeping the guest of honor busy and unaware of the party while others are decorating the venue and preparing the food and drink.

Once the sequencing of activities is complete, we must determine if those involved with planning and executing the surprise require any resources. For instance, the handler may need a car to transport the guest of honor and a cell phone with texting capabilities to quietly communicate their location and time of arrival. Guests of the party will require maps with specific instructions on when to arrive at the party, where to park, and what to do if they’re running late.

Next, each activity is estimated and analyzed in terms of its importance, timing, and dependent activities. Activities with defined dependencies must be measured closely to determine the minimum and maximum amount of time they will take to execute. In our example, the timing of the party setup activities and guest arrivals must be well estimated, as to determine the proper arrival time of the guest of honor.

Now that all the activities, sequences, resources, and durations are identified and the time estimates are complete, the next step is to integrate this information into a schedule. With our surprise party example, an accurate, well managed schedule will ensure that the activities are listed, organized, and communicated clearly to those responsible for executing the activities, so there are no misunderstandings.

Things can change in life, and your ability to accommodate and even capitalize on change is important – especially when managing projects. In our example, suppose the handler is unable to manage the guest of honor as planned. Controlling the schedule will allow you to have the mechanisms in place to update it and to inform those affected by any schedule changes in a timely manner. This requires a careful yet quick review of the time management processes to ensure that the updated schedule includes the proper activities, sequencing, resources, and durations. This will also help prevent any unwanted time management surprises.

 

Next week we’ll look at project quality management.

IT Project Management Office Weekly Update – 4/8/14

Project Time Management – a brief overview of the processes involved with managing projects in a timely manner.

Several of the IT projects we manage in the IT Project Management Office have hard deadlines. In other words, these projects must be completed by a specific date or there are negative consequences. The Project Management Body of knowledge (PMBOK) has seven processes devoted to project time management. When followed properly, they produce a project schedule designed to meet hard deadlines, as well as schedule changes, should they occur. These processes are as follows:

  • Plan Schedule Management – The process of establishing the policies, procedures, and documentation for planning, developing, managing, executing, and controlling the project schedule.
  • Define Activities – The process of identifying and documenting the specific actions to be performed to produce the project deliverables.
  • Sequence Activities – The process of identifying and documenting relationships among the project activities.
  • Estimate Activity Resources – The process of estimating the type and quantities of material, human resources, equipment, or supplies required to perform each activity.
  • Estimate Activity Durations – The process of estimating the number of work periods needed to complete individual activities with estimated resources.
  • Develop Schedule – The process of analyzing activity sequences, durations, resource requirements, and schedule constraints to create the project schedule model.
  • Control Schedule – The process of monitoring the status of the project activities to update project progress and manage changes to the schedule to achieve the plan.

 

Next week we’ll look at an example of how these processes work together.

 

Definitions were taken from the following:

(2013) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) Fifth edition. Newtown Square, Pa.: Project Management Institute, Inc., pg. 141.

 

IT Project Management Office Weekly Update – 4/1/14

Techniques for Gathering Requirements – the basics involved with gathering requirements to help determine the scope of a project.

“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

– Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

This famous quote by Michael Douglas’ iconic character, Gordon Gekko, from the 1987 movie Wall Street, applies well to project management. Project and product requirements are simply information about what a project team needs to know in order to produce a plan to deliver a project’s deliverables on time, on scope, and on budget, which are the primary elements of a successful project.

There are numerous techniques available to project managers to gather project and product requirements. The key to gathering accurate and complete requirements is knowing which techniques to use for a given project and its stakeholders. The most common methods we employ at GRCC include interviews, observation, demonstrations, focus groups, brainstorming, and prototyping. All of these methods require careful documentation, followed by effective feedback and validation, so the requirements are accurately and completely captured. Some techniques, such as interviewing, work best with one or two people. Others, such as focus groups and workshops, work best with larger groups of stakeholders.

Of course, there are other requirements gathering methods available. In the IT Project Management Office, we research and use the methods that will most likely yield accurate and complete requirements for each project. This is just one more way we work to ensure the success of your IT projects.

 

Next week we’ll look at project time management.

IT Project Management Office Weekly Update – 3/25/14

Types of Requirements
Last week we defined requirements and showed how they’re essential to the success of the projects managed by GRCC’s IT Project Management Office. This article provides brief descriptions of the six main types of requirements we gather when planning projects.

• Business requirements

o Business requirements describe the higher-level needs of the organization as a whole, such as the business issues or opportunities, and reasons why a project has been undertaken. These requirements are most effective when they align with GRCC’s mission, vision, and values.

• Stakeholder requirements

o Stakeholder requirements focus on impacts to specific people, areas, and departments at GRCC, areas and people outside of GRCC that could be affected by a project, and how a project manager must communicate with each stakeholder group effectively.

• Solutions requirements

o These requirements are associated with the solutions inherent to a project. At GRCC, this typically involves functional and nonfunctional requirements, technology and standard compliance requirements, support and training, quality, and reporting requirements.

• Transition requirements

o This category of requirements must not be overlooked. It involves completely identifying the requirements necessary for transitioning and integrating the solution (or solutions) delivered by a given project to GRCC’s day-to-day operations.

• Project requirements

o Project requirements describe the actions, processes, or other conditions a project must meet. At GRCC, these requirements typically focus on how a project will be run to satisfy the needs of the sponsor and other key stakeholders.

• Quality requirements

o Quality requirements capture any condition or criteria needed to validate the successful completion of a project deliverable or fulfillment of other project requirements. We define these types of requirements to determine how to measure the quality of deliverables for a given project. Documenting these requirements is especially useful when project deliverables must meet an established standard.

Next week we will delve into effective techniques for gathering requirements.

Excerpts of definitions were taken from the following:
(2013) A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide) Fifth edition. Newtown Square, Pa.: Project Management Institute, Inc., pg. 112.