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Project Management Tools – Where You Are and Where To Go
By Meade Rubenstein

Tools to help you determine where you are

Knowing where you are is as difficult, if not significantly more difficult, then knowing where you want to go. You would think that you know where you are, but most people and companies don’t, this is because to do so you need to be very objective and willing to take a deep inflective look.

Performing an inventory of processes, problems and organizational structure(s) would be a good start to understand where you are. The most important aspect is the listing of current problems, these can be obtained from your clients, help desk, Sr. Management and team ‘discussions’. Depending on what you company/your-team produces you might have many access points – or few – to reported problems. Depending on your situation, it might help to develop a questionnaire (have it approved and reviewed prior to sending out) that you can send to internal and external people. This information could be the input to a SWOT analysis Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats.

Knowing where you are also means knowing what your strengths and capabilities are. Is your company/team very good at delivering short high quality websites, do you provide exceptional customer support, do you have a deep understanding of a specific business vertical? I’m a firm believer that by focusing on your strengths you will achieve more than working on your weak points. If you’re a fish focus on swimming. Make sure you capture this in your inventory/SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) list.

As far as actual tools to use, stick with Word (or OpenOffice) documents. Most of the information you gather will be very business sensitive, information that you would not typically want easily available via a wiki or web based document. A mindmapping tool would be good to use and highly recommended for all aspects of project management.

Tools to help you know where you want to go

There are a few important tools to be used to determine where you/your-company/your-team wants to go. I highly recommend a mindmapping tool to fully define and scope the project. Understand the boundaries, the what’s-in/what’s-out list of items. The list should utilize terminology meaningful to the group defining the project. The confusion caused by the poor communication between the asker and the provider are probably the root cause for most project issues. I need a burger – ok, here’s a burger – well where’s the fries, everyone knows all burgers come with fries, gee – sorry that’ll be a change request. Truly focus on communication early to ensure the correct scope is being captured, once again use:

  • mindmapping – to help gather the scope (aka Work Breakdown Structure – WBS)
  • cheap wireframes – I’ve found the only real use for PowerPoint is in easy/quick wireframe creation
  • role playing – if nothing else it’ll provide for some humor, capture it on video

Many times the place you want to be is where your competitors are, so it always helps to provide links to their site and/or information to your team to provide for a better understanding.

Meade Rubenstein has over 20 years of IT experience. He is currently the COO of Gráfica Group. Meade’s website can be found at http://www.itprojectguide.com/ and his personal blog can be found at http://www.itprojectguide.blogspot.com/.

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