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How to Develop a Project Plan that’s Right for Your Next Project

How to Develop a Project Plan that’s Right for Your Next Project
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

The baseline. In project control, everything you do refers to it. It’s the expectation you’re setting with stakeholders.

The main medium you have for communicating that baseline is by developing a project plan. It documents the time, cost and scope baseline so that everyone can stay on the same page throughout the course of the project.

A good project plan is one of the most important tools for minimizing risk and keeping a project on track through execution. But while there are a number of things that all good project plans have in common, what’s “good” for one isn’t necessarily good for all.

Here are some key points to keep in mind as you develop your next project plan.

Project Plans Are Living Documents

As the name implies, by developing a project plan, it sets the context and communicates all planning facets of a project. Read the Complete Article

Functional and Non-Functional Requirements: A Primer

Functional and Non-Functional Requirements: A Primer
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

What does it do and how does it work?

These two questions should be top of mind for every business analyst embarking on a new project. That’s because, at a very basic level, these two questions will guide you towards the functional and non-functional requirements that are critical for ensuring a successful end result.

Functional vs. Non-Functional: What’s the Difference?

As the questions above imply, functional requirements identify what the product should do, while non-functional requirements define how the product should work.

But those definitions probably have you asking more questions, like: Does…works—what’s the difference? and Why does it even matter?

One of the easiest ways to understand the difference between functional and non-functional requirements is to look at a real product.

For example, consider the cell phone and what it does. There are lots of bells and whistles that have become standard expectations, like calling, emailing, texting, photography, voice activation and notifications. Read the Complete Article

Work Accountability and Visibility Go Hand-in-Hand

Work Accountability and Visibility Go Hand-in-Hand
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

It’s one of the most common management gripes: Our employees aren’t accountable. They’re not meeting deadlines. The quality isn’t there. They’re not completing the amount of work they need to get done.

Our lives as managers would be so much easier if only our staff would deliver when they said they would, produce what’s expected of them, and meet the quality level needed.

But could it be that we’re actually contributing to our own headaches?

Work Accountability Demands Clarity

Work accountability is essential. It’s simply not effective, efficient, or realistic for the manager to have to check in at every step of the way. But when we, as managers, get frustrated that our employees aren’t holding up their end of the bargain, the first question we ought to be asking is: “Did I really articulate my expectations?”

Employees can only deliver on the expectations as they understand them. Read the Complete Article

User Stories and Use Cases Go Hand-in-Hand

User Stories and Use Cases Go Hand-in-Hand
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

Whether it’s a software project or a marketing project, all projects have something to deliver. And all projects have users—people who will interact with that end solution, product, service, or other result you deliver. To define the requirements and get agreement on the deliverables, you’ll need the input of these users.

But because users are subject matter experts in their own line of work, they may not always think systematically about how to best tell you what they need. They may struggle to think of all the things that will matter. If you’re the business analyst, that means you have to find creative ways of asking questions to get the information you need.

So, which tool do you choose: a use case or a user story?

The commonality of their names creates some confusion. In the past user stories were thought to be applicable only in the agile development realm. Read the Complete Article

Business Requirements: Documenting the Business Side of Projects

Business Requirements: Documenting the Business Side of Projects
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

While many business projects are IT-related, more and more are being initiated and funded by lines of business, from marketing to finance and beyond. If you’ve ever dealt with new or conflicting requirements midway through a project—or even after the project was finished (or so you thought)—then you’ll quickly see the value of a good business requirements document. It’s your best ally and tool for making sure the project that’s ultimately delivered is what the business really needs.

Business Requirements Align Projects With Business Needs

Let’s say you’ve been tasked with a finance-related project. The sponsor will be a finance leader, but there’s a good likelihood that the project will be managed by someone outside of finance.

The project manager and his or her associated organization will typically follow formal project management practices and develop a project charter and project plan. Read the Complete Article

The Work Breakdown Structure: One of the Project Manager’s Most Important Tools

The Work Breakdown Structure: One of the Project Manager’s Most Important Tools
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

The work breakdown structure is one of the most important project management tools you have as a project manager. It’s the foundation for estimating, budgeting, sequencing and scheduling of activities, reporting, and controlling a project. In short, it’s the basis for nearly everything that goes on in project planning.

A work breakdown structure isn’t a static document—you’ll continue to refine and revise it along the way—but it serves as a consistent, general structure for moving forward so it’s important that you do it well. And while there’s no one right way to do it, there are some common traps you should avoid.

Breaking it Down

You‘re probably aware of the technique of decomposition, which is used for dividing and subdividing the project scope and project deliverables into smaller, more manageable parts. Here’s how decomposition typically plays out in the work breakdown structure. Read the Complete Article

Business Analysis Training: The 5 Parts of a Compelling Business Case

Business Analysis Training: The 5 Parts of a Compelling Business Case
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

You see a problem. You have a solution. You can’t get management to listen. That is, until you mention the resources required, and then they’re listening—and ready to shut you down.

If you want to make headway, you need to learn how to create a compelling business case. Our business analysis training will help you do just that.

The True Cost of Change

“Doing something costs something. Doing nothing costs something. And quite often, doing nothing costs a lot more.” – Ben Feldman

Organizations rely on people who can pinpoint a problem and find a solution, whether it’s an issue with a report, a broken process, a system that not’s delivering as expected, or any other area that needs to be fixed or improved. But they don’t always want to commit the time and resources to make the change. Read the Complete Article

Why You Need a Project Charter – and Why You Don’t

Why You Need a Project Charter – and Why You Don’t
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

Here’s a riddle for you: If a project goes ahead without a project charter, does it really exist?

Before you answer, I should tell you, it’s a trick question.

A signed-off project charter formally recognizes the existence of a project. But that doesn’t mean every project needs one.

Don’t worry. This isn’t a philosophical dilemma. There are some easy ways to understand how and when to use a project charter and when to forge ahead without it.

A Great Planning Tool

A project charter’s primary purpose is for planning. They’re commonly used when you’re in the process of establishing initiatives and budget for the upcoming year or identifying various ad hoc projects. By giving you a “placeholder” for that moment in the year when the project will actually take place, they help you plan the year and get everyone on the same page about roles, responsibilities, and other key issues. Read the Complete Article

Project Scope and the Question of Quality

Project Scope and the Question of Quality
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

When the subject of project scope comes up, many people immediately think of the features and functions of a product or service, and maybe the results that are expected. But one key aspect that’s often overlooked is the level of quality each of the features and functions requires. A well trained project manager will need to understand the connection between the quality and scope of a project.

Quality is a critical component of project scope, because the cost and amount of resources to deliver the set of specified features and functions will depend on what level of quality is needed. And the quality doesn’t always need to be high.

The simplest example to illustrate this point is a hamburger. By definition, a hamburger is some ground beef between a bun along with maybe some cheese, onions, pickles, and condiments. Read the Complete Article

Essential Communication Processes for Effective Project Management

Essential Communication Processes for Effective Project Management
By Ben Snyder, CEO of Systemation

Effective communication is one of the most important components of project management. Project managers need to communicate regularly with stakeholders and the project team to ensure the all the project goals are achieved on time and on budget.

View our infographic to see the importance of communication in project management, as well as what processes PMs must take to ensure smooth project completion.

Infographic: Communication Processes for Effective Project Management

Figure 1: Infographic: Communication Processes for Effective Project Management

Ben Snyder is the CEO of Systemation, (www.systemation.com), a project management, business analysis, and agile development training and consulting company that has been training professionals since 1959. Systemation is a results-driven training and consulting company that maximizes the project-related performance of individuals and organizations. Known for instilling highly practical, immediately usable processes and techniques, Systemation has proven to be an innovative agent of business transformation for many government entities and Fortune 2000 companies, including Verizon Wireless, Barclays Bank, Mattel, The Travelers Companies, Bridgestone, Amgen, Wellpoint and Whirlpool. Read the Complete Article

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