Posts Tagged With: improving project management

It’s time for RAID logs to evolve!

When documents are used to track project information, a common approach is to create a consolidated workbook in MS Excel for tracking risks, actions, issues and decisions. This is usually referred to as a RAID log.

The benefit of this approach beyond having the information in a convenient, centralized location is that there are logical relationships between these disparate elements which can be easily reflected if they are consolidated. For example, negative risks which have not been successfully avoided could be realized as issues. In turn, issue resolution might be done via actions. And finally, actions may require formal decisions to be taken.

But is there an opportunity to consolidate additional list-based project data elements for greater benefit, and if so, what are some good candidates?

We frequently hear about the need to capture assumptions made by stakeholders when planning our projects so that they can be validated over time. A benefit of having the assumptions consolidated in the same workbook is that part of a regular risk register refresh could include a quick walkthrough of those assumptions which have not been validated yet to see whether any new risks can be identified or whether information regarding existing risks should be updated.

It’s rarely ideal to wait till the very end of a project to harvest knowledge. But if you choose to identify lessons regularly over the life of your project, they’ll have to be captured somewhere. As issues are often a good input into lessons identification, having the ability to link issues to a lesson will simplify the process of understanding the context behind the lesson. Another benefit of this approach is that since it’s common practice to review issues and actions in regular team meetings, having lessons also available in the same document might encourage team members to review them and identify new ones.

Finally, let’s consider stakeholders. We know that it’s a good practice to identify stakeholders early in your project, analyze them according to their impact, interest and influence, and use that information to form your engagement and change strategies. Stakeholders will be closely associated with all of the other data elements we’ve looked at so it’s likely worth including your stakeholder register too.

So if your organization doesn’t have a central project management information system, why not use a RADIALS log in place of a traditional RAID log!

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons in agility from wine tasting…

One of the benefits of living in the Greater Toronto Area is being less than an hour away from a large number of good wineries in the Niagara region. A few past colleagues of mine got together for a morning round of golf and followed that up with a wine tasting and a hearty lunch at Ridgepoint Wines (thanks for the recommendation, Brendan!). After enjoying a glass of their 2010 Reserve Meritage I came to the conclusion that wine tasting and agile have more in common than you might think.

It helps to have a guide

You could certainly partake in a flight of wine with friends without the benefit of a sommelier, but you won’t enjoy the experience as much and you might learn some bad habits such as not giving your wine a chance to breathe or drinking without sniffing the bouquet. Similarly a coach can help steer a team past anti-patterns so that they have a chance to appreciate what agility truly is.

Start small and grow from there

For novices, visiting more than one winery in a day could be a recipe for disaster. Without having developed the discipline to pace themselves they run the risk of getting tipsy too quickly and might get turned off by the experience. Starting with a large project is inadvisable for novice teams – they won’t possess the discipline to scale their behavior and practices and might blame agile rather than their immaturity.

There is no one right way

While there are good principles for enjoying wine, don’t let anyone try to convince you that you must follow pairing guidelines. While a robust red wine might be a good match for a meat dish, if you enjoy its flavour there is no reason you can’t have it with any other type of cuisine or even on its own. User stories are a good approach to starting a conversation about functional requirements, but don’t be bullied by agile wannabes who insist that all requirements must be captured as stories. Like with any practice, context and culture count.

Teams doing agile might make you want to drink but I prefer to have the perspective of the (wine) glass being half-full.

Categories: Agile, Project Management | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Online repositories or project documents (Part Two)?

In my last article, I wrote the first half of my overview of the benefits and disadvantages of following a document-centric or repository-centric approach to managing project information. This week, I’ll conclude the assessment by covering the pros and cons of an online repository-based approach.

Whether you implement a COTS solution or build a repository in house, there are some clear advantages to this choice including:

  • Reduced oversight and reporting effort. If a PMO leader wishes to institute governance and gating over the project portfolio, having key project data captured in documents scattered across multiple folders or sites makes this objective manually intensive. If instead all key project information is consolidated into a repository then standard query capabilities can be used to build reports which can be run with minimal effort.
  • Update once, benefit immediately. When an artifact template gets updated or introduced, the effort to propagate it to all project teams can take a lot of time and effort and it is not uncommon to have teams continuing to use obsolete templates well beyond the launch date of an updated version. With a repository, changes could be pushed immediately with all instances getting updated simultaneously.
  • Enter once, use often. A document-centric approach can generate redundant information spread across multiple documents for the same project. Hosting all this information within a single repository facilitates elimination of data duplication which will both reduce project team frustration and will avoid the inconsistencies which invariably occur when a team member forgets to update all instances of a given data element.
  • Greater value realization from centralized information. Identifying common organization blockers affecting multiple projects across the portfolio or creating a knowledge base of lessons learned is simplified when a centralized repository is available.
  • Encourages collaboration. When elaborating the details of requirements, design elements, test artifacts or even code, the ability for multiple team members to work together in near real time without having to constantly check in or check out shared documents reduces collaboration effort.

But as usual there are no silver bullets when it comes to project management!

Such repositories have their own challenges including:

  • Increased difficulty in sharing information outside the company. Control partners are usually unwilling to permit project teams to open up their project repositories to all the third party delivery organizations they might be partnering with. Documents can be easily shared whereas online repositories require access to be granted and taken away once the third party’s involvement has ended.
  • Increased learning curve. No matter how intuitive, a project information system requires staff to be trained to a greater extent than if documents were used to capture the same information. Such training needs to cover not only how a tool works but also appropriate usage.
  • Higher one-time and ongoing costs. Even if a tool is developed in house, build and maintenance costs will be significantly greater than what’s required with a document-based approach.
  • Potential versioning challenges. Online repositories lend themselves to increased collaboration which means that content can evolve over time. This can make it more challenging to identify which version of a given information set has been reviewed and approved.
  • Potential inefficiencies for power users (thanks for suggesting that one, Michael!). While online repositories can be made more foolproof than document templates, this fool proofing can actually slow down advanced users. Also, the record-centric approach found in such tools can increase the effort required to perform simple search or global find & replace actions.

For some information, a document-centric approach might yield the best results whereas for others, an online repository is the way to go.

True victory is achieved by picking the right tool or practice to fulfill a given context.

 

Categories: Project Management | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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