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Project Management Foundations – Managing Supplier Performance

PM Foundations – Managing Supplier Performance
By Steve Hart

How you work with and manage a supplier on your project is directly related to the type of products and services you are purchasing from the supplier. These products and services may be resources performing specific services/roles, purchase of tangible off-the-shelf products (i.e., infrastructure, software licenses), or built to order products (e.g., custom software applications). In general, the larger and more complex the purchase, the more time and effort you will invest in the supplier management plan. In addition, the greater the dependence of the project’s success is on the supplier the more focused you will be on building a good working relationship with the supplier. In these cases, your goal is to transition from a pure customer-supplier relationship to a true partnership, where both parties have something to gain from the successful project outcomes.

Supplier Management Approach

Again, the supplier management approach will vary based upon the types of products and services purchased for the project. Read the Complete Article

8 Bad Habits – Creating and Maintaining Your Project Schedule

8 Bad Habits – Creating and Maintaining Your Project Schedule
By Steve Hart

I have always believed that you can learn as much or more from challenges and problems on projects as you do from successes. It is amazing how much you as a project manager contribute to the project’s challenges (in a bad way). The project schedule is a good example of where a project manager can have the best intentions in the world, and yet they create a schedule that is difficult to understand and nearly impossible to maintain. The bad thing about a poorly constructed project schedule is that it is something you have to live with the entire project life cycle. I have been on more than one project where we decided it was best to have a “do over” on the schedule than continue to struggle along with the one we were using.

There are a handful of traps that project managers fall into when creating a project schedule, either because at the time it seems like their approach is a “shortcut”, or they don’t understand the scheduling tool well enough to know any better. Read the Complete Article

You Can’t Afford a Project Manager on Your Project?

You Can’t Afford a Project Manager on Your Project?
By Steve Hart

Particularly in the world of consulting, you are always getting pressure to make your proposals more competitive. One of the areas that seems to come up frequently in this process is project management. This project is not too large or complex, do you think we really need a project manager on this? I recently ran into a client situation where the CIO stated, “We cannot afford to have project managers in our organization.” I had to bite my tongue real hard to keep from replying, “Can you afford NOT to have a project manager?” I have been involved in more than one project that has become significantly challenged directly or indirectly because of a lack of project management focus on the project.

This post is an attempt at a non-biased look at whether or not it is reasonable to squeeze the project manager hours out of your project budget (or at least significantly reduce them). Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – 10 Steps to Create a Strong Baseline Plan

Project Management Foundations – 10 Steps to Create a Strong Baseline Plan
By Steve Hart

When interviewing project management candidates, my favorite interview question is: “When you are assigned to a new client/project, what is the process you utilize to establish the baseline project plan?” Some candidates lose points immediately because they describe a process where the baseline plan is equal to the project schedule. Many candidates start out pretty strong talking about identifying stakeholders and defining business needs, and then get lost on a rambling dialog through the entire project life cycle.

I like this question so much because as a project manager you are introduced to new situations all the time (new clients and new projects), and it is extremely important to hit the ground running leading project teams through the planning process. Adapting a consistent planning approach from client to client, and project to project, significantly improves outcomes of the project planning process (both time to market and quality of the plans). Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Planning & Conducting Effective Project Meetings

Project Management Foundations – Planning & Conducting Effective Project Meetings
By Steve Hart

Project meetings can easily become the nemesis of your project success. Some of the things that I overhear when team members talk about project meetings:

“My day is fully consumed by meetings. I have no time to do my real work.”

“That meeting was a waste of time. Not sure what we were trying to accomplish.”

“We talk about the same things in every meeting.”

“The only decision we made today was that we need another meeting.”

Do your project meetings have a regular cadence (timing, content, and attendance)? Do the project meetings have an established purpose and objectives? Do the meetings drive positive project outcomes in terms of information sharing, problem resolution, and tracking and planning of work? Are action items regularly captured, and follow-up actions proactively initiated and tracked? If the answer is “no” to several of these questions, your project meetings may be a source of project churn. Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – H is for Humble

Project Management Foundations – H is for Humble
By Steve Hart

A few weeks ago I listened to the eulogies at my father-in-law’s memorial service and reflected on the fact that it was not what he had accomplished in his lifetime that was so important, but rather how he accomplished it. My father-in-law was an accomplished mechanical engineer who during his time a McDonnell Aircraft was involved in testing the first Mercury space capsule prior to its flight. He moved with his family to Dayton in 1960, and was employed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where he spent 30 years as a Structural Test Engineer. During his career, he was responsible for conducting full-scale tests and is the author of many technical reports describing these tests. He received numerous awards and letters of commendation for his work during his career. During all his years as an engineer, he was most known for the dedicated and unassuming manner in which he led these mission critical tests. Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Is Your Project a Success?

Project Management Foundations – Is Your Project a Success?
By Steve Hart

Many project managers will proudly declare, “This project is a major success – we are delivering on-time and within budget.” When you take time to talk to some of the customers of these projects, you hear a much different story. In many cases, the customer’s version describes a product that was delivered that does not meet their expectations. In other cases, the customer’s version describes processes utilized to deliver the project that were not very collaborative or customer friendly. I refer to cases where you eventually achieve the goals of the project but stakeholders are generally not happy with the way you get there as “winning ugly”.

If there is more to project success than delivering within the boundaries of the triple constraint (time, cost, and quality/scope), how do you judge if a project is successful? In my experience these measures are a good start, but they do not portray the “total picture”. Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Where do Project Managers Come From?

Project Management Foundations – Where do Project Managers Come From?
By Steve Hart

In my professional life the project management career path has represented a rewarding and challenging destination. In my case, I did not wake up one day and say, “I am going to be a project manager when I grow up.” Project management is a skillset and career that I have developed over many years in the IT industry.

Why is the career path to become a project manager ambiguous? I think the answer to this question is linked to the fact that to become an effective project manager you must do two very different things consistently well:

  1. Apply tactical project management related skills. These skills include managing schedules, budgets, and risks (to name a few). These skills must be learned and then applied appropriately in the context of managing projects. Education is helpful to learn these skills, and certifications such as the PMP validate that the project manager has developed the core knowledge base to manage projects.
Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Implementing Project Management Best Practices

Project Management Foundations – Implementing Project Management Best Practices
By Steve Hart

My company’s project management services are built around the idea that project management is a very mature competency with many available sources of knowledge, and yet companies still struggle with challenged or failed projects. We firmly believe that the implementation and consistent application of project management best practices is what differentiates successful projects from challenged projects. The more ingrained these best practices are in the project management culture, the lower the dependency on the talents and heroic efforts of individual team members.

What Do Best Practices Look Like?

Best practices represent the practical application of the concepts, processes, and tools defined in the PMBOK® and other sources of knowledge. To better explain best practices, below I have broken down the elements of a successful project management best practice implementation.

  • People – Best practices start with hiring good people – people that have the desire, capabilities, and core knowledge to be a professional project leader.
Read the Complete Article

Project Management Foundations – Creating an Effective Statement of Work (SOW)

Project Management Foundations – Creating an Effective Statement of Work (SOW)
By Steve Hart

Having spent many years on both sides of the table (client and consultant), I have a pretty balanced perspective of what makes partnerships work well. Most importantly I have seen my share of success and challenges as a result of bad client – vendor relationships. These bad relationships are often the source of less optimal project outcomes, or at a minimum the reason the team had to “win ugly”.

I have a firm belief that the quality of the partnership, and the resulting project outcomes, start right up-front when the agreement between the client and vendor is created. The goal of this agreement is to define the products / services the vendor will provide that will satisfy the client’s needs, and how the vendor will be fairly compensated for the products / services delivered. Problems with the agreement can result in a client not getting what they need, or a vendor not getting fairly compensated for what they delivered. Read the Complete Article

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