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Is Project Management Art or Science?

Is Project Management Art or Science?
By Jorge Dominguez

Project Managers are certainly both artists and scientists though not in the context in which we know these words. Project Managers apply a science using art.

Science comes into play when the PM acquires and embraces all the theory he/she has learned through experience, training, certification, etc. PMs use frameworks such as PMBoK or PRINCE based on time-tested methods that have been proven to be effective through years of implementation.

Some science points:

  • Different methodologies and frameworks available (PMBoK, PRINCE, etc.)
  • Standard processes and knowledge areas
  • Uniformly accepted best practices and techniques
  • Same language is spoken
  • A set of standard metrics that measure several project areas
  • Plenty of standard work templates

Art comes into play when the PM applies what is important and relevant of that science. The frameworks, for example, don’t tell you how to do it. They just tell you what can be done (not necessarily a bad thing). Read the Complete Article

Adaptive Project Framework

Adaptive Project Framework
By Jorge Dominguez

Businesses all over continue to struggle implementing the PMBOK or PRINCE as a whole or parts of them claiming that they are too complex, too involved and take from the time it takes to produce the project deliverables. Adaptive Project Framework (APF) comes to the rescue by adapting to the ever changing business environments.

I read and re-read “Effective Project Management – Traditional, Adaptive, Extreme” by Robert K. Wysocki every time I get a chance. It is an excellent book that I always carry with me. This book dedicates a few chapters to APF.

APF is an iterative and adaptive (and I add agile) approach designed to deliver maximum business value to clients within the limits of their time and cost constraints where the always variable scope is adjusted at each iteration. The client decides what constitutes maximum business value and, at the end of each iteration, the client has an opportunity to change the direction of the project based on what was learned from all previous iterations therefore, embracing and managing change, not avoiding it. Read the Complete Article

Why Few Companies Have A Project Management Office (PMO)

Why Few Companies Have A Project Management Office (PMO)
By Jorge Dominguez

With the maturity that project management has in this day and age there are few companies with a PMO group and I have not been able to explain the reason why even though I can think of many.

The one reason that always comes to mind first is the lack of understanding out there of what the role of the PMO should be. Organizations all over ask the question: why do I need a PMO? Really, why? Is this just another administrative and bureaucratic function that brings no tangible results? More than a year ago I wrote “An Effective PMO” where I say that “…PMOs have become just another bureaucrat, bottleneck, rigid, ineffective group that serves the wrong purpose.” But, could this be the reason?

The main reason for a PMO is not to manage projects as this is the work of project managers. Read the Complete Article

The CHAOS Report 2009 on IT Project Failure

The CHAOS Report 2009 on IT Project Failure
By Jorge Dominguez

The Standish Group collects information on project failures in the IT industry and environments with the objective of making the industry more successful and to show ways to improve its success rates and increase the value of the IT investments. The latest results have been compiled into the CHAOS Report 2009 published by the organization in April.

Problem: it measures success by only looking at whether the projects were completed on time, on budget, and with required features and functions (met user requirements). What happened to the rest of the “six triple constraint”!

The organization leaves out of its measures the quality, the risk, and customer satisfaction. Not that we are complaining. They have the right to measure whatever they want and we have stated before that we have to consider the CHAOS Report results in a recent article on my theory on why IT projects fail. Read the Complete Article

Ethics in Project Management: Being Right or Getting Paid?

Ethics in Project Management: Being Right or Getting Paid?
By Jorge Dominguez

Some time ago I was convinced that a decision made by upper management was going to impact the outcome of the project I was managing negatively and when I told my boss about arguing the decision he replied: do you want to be right or do you want to get paid?

I would like to think that most of us would want to be right. But in reality, in most organizations we work at, we choose to get paid. Why? Well, it may be that the culture of the organization is such that upper management just hits on top of the table with a fist and that’s it, there is nothing anyone can do about it. Or it may be that we are indifferent, we just work there by accident.

Project Managers (and I would say everybody, not just Project Managers) have a responsibility to do what is right and honorable. Read the Complete Article

The Project Manager Does Not Do The Work

The Project Manager Does Not Do The Work
By Jorge Dominguez

We all know that the PM is responsible for the outcome of the project. It is very easy to loose sight of why the PM position was created for. The PM is responsible for initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the project. But, the PMs do not do the project work as many are asked to do.

Managing a project is a full time job and it is a mistake to ask PMs to do project work such as business analysis, write specifications or some other type of work that, I don’t say they don’t have the skills to do, is outside of real project management work. The PM must concentrate on managing the project. The reason this position was created for is because of the need for someone to manage the projects so that they were on time, on budget and within scope. Read the Complete Article

Clarity – MS Project Best Practices

Clarity – MS Project Best Practices
By Jorge Dominguez

First things first: What is Clarity1 and what is the difference between Clarity and MS Project2? Do we need to use both? Why?

Clarity (formerly Niku) is a project management information system with functionality to do communication management, time management (including scheduling), cost management, resource management, risk management, and portfolio management. You can create projects, create a budget, add/remove resources to projects, manage project risks and issues, baseline a project, enter project actuals, store project documentation and monitor the project health.

MS Project (MSP for short) is a project scheduler. You can add/change/remove tasks and milestones, create task dependencies, add/remove resources to tasks, estimate task work or duration, identify the critical path, and level resources.

Because MSP does project scheduling better than Clarity they are used in conjunction so that all scheduling tasks are performed in MSP and uploaded back to Clarity. Read the Complete Article

Adaptive Project Communication

Adaptive Project Communication
By Jorge Dominguez

At the heart of project communications is to make sure that all communication requirements are effective and are met. But these requirements change from project to project and from stakeholder to stakeholder. So, let’s look at how to adapt the project communication while keeping it effective.

How to communicate about the project, when, who the audience is, etc. is all part of the communications management plan that is part of the project management plan document or one of its subsidiary documents. The most important thing is that it has to address the needs of all project stakeholders.

Today, project communication mostly flows through weekly status reports and/or status meetings, the latter being either in person or remotely via conference calls. Not all stakeholders have the time for either but are receptive to other methods of receiving and providing information. These are the communication methods suggested by PMI:

  • Written and oral, listening, and speaking
  • Internal (within the project) and external (customer, the media, the public)
  • Formal (reports, briefings, documents, presentations) and informal (memorandums, emails, ad hoc conversations, instant messages, body language, facial expressions)
  • Vertical (up and down the organization) and horizontal (with peers)

All of them are valid and have their place in every project. Read the Complete Article

Tips For Passing the PMP Certification Exam

Tips For Passing the PMP Certification Exam
By Jorge Dominguez

These tips are not for learning project management which is a different story out of the scope of this article. You want to pass the exam on the first try so that you don’t get discouraged. Most people who don’t pass it on their first try find it difficult taking it again.

The PMP® certification is the most recognized and respected credential in the field of project management regardless of what industry you work in. The exam tests your ability to apply the processes defined in the PMBOK® to different situations. It does not test your project management experience, so forget how you or other PMs do it and learn how PMI wants you to do it.

The following is a list of tips to help you pass the PMP® exam on your first try.

  1. Plan
    1. Find a reputable instructor led course, self study books, flashcards and/or an exam simulation software that prepare you for the exam
    2. Many vendors offer you courses that promise you will pass the exam on the first try or your money back.
Read the Complete Article

My Theory on Why IT Projects Fail

My Theory on Why IT Projects Fail
By Jorge Dominguez

The number of failed IT projects ranges in the 60% to 80%. But, what constitute a failed project? Why do they fail? They are IT projects but is it IT’s fault that they failed? There are many theories around and, yes, I will give you mine.

A failed project may be one in which one of the required features is not working according to the specifications, but all the other 20 features work well. Seriously, many times it is very badly subjective.

First and foremost, projects fail because we don’t define project success at the start of every project and as a consequence any minor mistake can be used to classify the project as a failed project. Think about it, if all project stakeholders defined success for each project from the beginning it will make it very difficult that if met the projects will be labeled as failed. Read the Complete Article

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