The 3 Dimensions of Project Manager Competencies

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

interview 200x300 The 3 Dimensions of Project Manager CompetenciesWhat do you really need to know in order to be a great project manager? A paper in the Project Management Journal* has gone into this in a lot of detail, and analysed the Project Management Competency Development (PMCD) framework with the aim of identifying whether project managers are developing their skills in the right areas – the areas that employers actually want. The whole thing revolves around an understanding of what makes a project manager competent, in other words, whether they are capable of doing a good job.

I’m curious to know whether I am doing a good job and what makes up the competency framework that would dictate whether I can be assessed as doing a good job, so let’s take a look at the framework in more detail.

The PMCD framework, according to the researchers, covers three main dimensions of competency for project managers: knowledge, performance and personal.

Read more »

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Barriers to Delivering Project Benefits (Part 2)

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

overcome 300x300 Barriers to Delivering Project Benefits (Part 2)Last week I looked at three reasons why projects don’t achieve their full potential when it comes to benefits. I covered:

  1. Ownership issues
  2. Technology issues
  3. Timing issues.

This week I want to look at three further reasons why your project might not see the benefits that were predicted in the business case. Let’s get started.

1. Capacity for change

Timing of a project is one thing – you can’t expect to implement a project when a department is going through another massive change and still get the same results as if you did it at a time when things were quieter and they were focused 100% on your initiative. Capacity for change is slightly different and relates more to an individual’s ability to get on with working in a new way.

Without the appropriate support and training, users will not adopt new ways of working and therefore won’t be able to deliver the expected level of benefits. This is hardly news, but sometimes the knock on implications for benefits are overlooked. Training focuses more on how to complete tasks ‘the new way’ and not about why they are doing it this way and what benefit that brings to the company.

You’ll also have to deal with people who are resistant to change, regardless of how much training and support they are offered.

Actions to address this:

  • Project plan should include adequate training for users.
  • Project plan should include an adequate support period after project has gone live.
  • Communications plan and stakeholder management plan should address how to deal with employees resistant to change.

2. Culture

However positive your project sponsor when the project starts, sometimes organisational culture simply gets in the way of a good result. There are several things at play here. Often the business focus is on driving down costs and not on achieving value. In other words, spending money on training may be seen as an unnecessary investment but in reality it will significantly contribute to the delivery of value (and, of course, everyone needs to agree on what ‘value’ is).

Keep the project culture positive by sharing quick wins, and putting in place a good communication plan so that everyone can see how the project is working towards delivering benefits. Make value and benefits part of the regular project messages. This has the added advantage of helping people see that those business case targets are achievable, and this is a good way to win round the sceptics.

Actions to address this:

  • Communications plan should cover positive messages and bringing on board local champions to help build a positive culture around the project.

3. Data

Sometimes project benefits don’t get delivered because the data is wrong, or flawed. This can happen at the point of business case creation, for example using incorrect assumptions to calculate predicted future sales, or during the project, or afterwards. I’m sure you have seen this too: business cases put together based on information that is difficult (or impossible) to measure and then teams tasked with ‘proving’ that the project has been a success.

Good data starts at the beginning of the project with the business case, and as a project manager you may not be involved at this point. However, you can review the business case once you are assigned to the project and put tasks on your plan to ratify the data and ensure that you are still on track to deliver the agreed benefits.

Talk to your project sponsor about how they intend to report on project benefits later and then you can build in a mechanism for them to do this. For example, if they intend to report on new sales as a result of your marketing campaign, your project needs to include tasks to enable the marketing campaign to be linked to new sales and a report produced showing how many sales were generated as a direct result. You’d use something like a campaign code for this – it’s a very simple example but it helps illustrate my point and you can see how that would translate into appropriate data and reporting for whatever it is that your project is delivering. Even if these reports are not used during the project you can (and should) build in the functionality now.

Your PMO team may have more insight into how to get the project data to be as accurate and reliable as possible so that it is of use for management decisions. Don’t be afraid to draw on their expertise, especially if you have concerns that your benefits look unrealistic.

Actions to address this:

  • Project plan should include regular reviews of business case to ensure project is on track to deliver against stated benefits
  • Project plan should include tasks to deliver appropriate management information tools/data to help benefit identification and reporting later on.

Hopefully your projects haven’t suffered from difficulties identifying, recording and reporting benefits, but if they have in the past you can use these pointers and actions to avoid that situation in the future.

Do you have any tips for successful project benefits realisation? If so, let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.

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Managing a Globally Dispersed Team with Project Management Software

Posted by Zach Watson

Project Management Software Managing a Globally Dispersed Team with Project Management Software

Managing projects is already a complex balancing act that must consider scope, resources, and production while attempting to maintain unity and focus across the project team. For global projects, these difficulties are amplified. And though entering foreign markets has become more nuanced for brands, the Great Recession of 2008 only increased the appeal of developing markets, ensuring that global projects, and therefore global teams, will continue to become more common.

But expanding into new markets or harnessing the expertise of globally-based personnel is far from simple. Let’s examine strategies in three major categories for managing global teams.

Logistics

The first step is choosing who will lead the project, and who will provide additional, supporting leadership. Depending on the importance of locality it may be best to appoint a local executive with strong management capabilities. Flying in a manager from your global headquarters can undermine the authority of your local employees, who have valuable insight into the regional markets and expectations of the regional staff. On the other hand, a trusted leader from your main office may facilitate greater communication between the local office and your main base.

The importance of time zones can’t be overstated, and need to be taken into account on all project decisions, even when selecting which employees to train. Employees who aren’t comfortable with flexible (and sometimes inconvenient) meeting times, or other collaborative tasks, will not make good candidates for the project.

To ensure that every member of the global team feels adequately engaged, it’s important to schedule time to communicate outside of just email or instant messaging. A face to face meeting may not be possible due to costs, but even having a regular phone conversation can do wonders for moral.

Value Alignment

The most difficult part of managing teams on a global scale is undoubtedly culture. While prior training in cultural norms should be a prerequisite, preparation doesn’t guarantee that everything will run smoothly. Employees from different cultures may have varying opinions about work requirements, or even about neighboring cultures that they may be asked to work with.

The best way to navigate this tricky territory is clear communication and expectations. While work standards may vary between cultures, if the project manager institutes an honest environment with clear expectations, there will be no confusion during the project about what standards need to be met.

Technology

Since it’s a given that global teams will be remote, choosing the right project management software is paramount. Global projects require greater collaboration, which can be facilitated by software platforms with powerful teamwork features.

For example, instead of relying on email for document sharing, consider implementing a PM system that allows users to create private wiki-pages around specific elements of the project. This establishes a knowledge base that’s more easily accessible and controllable than storing information in disparate files on a hard drive, through various Google docs, or at worst in an email client with thousands of other messages.

Additionally, video conferencing or built-in instant messaging can bridge the gap between countries and culture by making collaboration more intuitive. Time tracking capabilities are also useful when working with remote contributors, because it adds a level of transparency across the project team, eliminating any confusion over time zones.

Software considerations should also extend to verticals: is there software developed to fit the specific requirements of your industry? Usability plays a large role in the effectiveness of the PM software, and if your industry has specific workflow patterns you’ll want to replicate those inside your program. If the software isn’t intuitive to implement and compelling in its functionality, then company adoption will be low.

Managing global projects demands an ability to deal with complex tasks and a masterful understanding of communication and culture. However, technology plays a critical role in managing projects of this scope, so developing standards around which applications should be used and how information should be stored is critical. Selecting a strong project management platform can help alleviate many of these headaches.

Author Bio

Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers healthcare IT, project management software, and emerging technologies. Connect with him on Google+.

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Barriers to Delivering Project Benefits (Part 1)

Posted by Elizabeth Harrin

barrier 214x300 Barriers to Delivering Project Benefits (Part 1)The only reason we do projects is to get some kind of benefit for our companies. That might be the right to stay in business (as would happen if you were working on a legal/compliance/regulatory project or something similar) or a financial or other commercial benefit. Without benefits, there isn’t much point in doing projects.

I think everyone realises this, so apologies for stressing the point. What I want to look at today is what barriers you might face when trying to get those benefits in the business case turned into something tangible and useful for your company.

I understand that traditionally project managers haven’t had much to do with benefits realisation. This has been seen as the role of the programme manager, or a business change or operational manager. But I think this is a narrow-minded view of what the project manager can do. And a lot of issues with benefits realisation start with the project’s delivery phase. You have to build in the ability to get the benefits while the project is taking shape. And who better to do that than the project manager?

Let’s look at some reasons why projects don’t get the benefits that are predicted and what you can do about them. Read more »

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6 Project Management Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid

Posted by Aby Nicole League

Project management mistakes 6 Project Management Mistakes You Should Definitely Avoid

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Efficiency in project management is very important to have in any virtual business. Imagine what your business can lose because of inefficient project deliveries? Delivering projects is complex, especially when you need to deal with changes.

Sometimes having a competent project management team is not enough, but putting in efforts to have one is a good start. There are a lot of solutions available in correcting both avoidable and unavoidable project management mistakes. It is entirely up to you to find ways to tap into these solutions, depending mostly on how driven you are.

Boring your audience

One of the most common pitfalls of a project management for content marketing is producing stuff that just puts the audience to sleep. To be on the safe side, incorporate your content with intrigue and stand-out personality. Thrust uniqueness to your brand.

Organize an agile project team that will produce audience engagement in content marketing. If your content is able to pique the interest of your audience, your audience will not hesitate to share it with their network, in turn, enabling you to expand your target audience.

Hesitating to commit

Not putting in an investment to commit only produces subsequent failure in content marketing management. Be consistent in making use of productive agile project management tools to continuously reap the accompanying rewards. Be patient as rewards don’t come instantly.

Your people are essential to having and maintaining an agile project management. Therefore, it is essential that you put in every effort in committing to manage these people. Good people management produces optimal work outputs. Remember, every project needs teamwork to succeed, as most virtual projects are people-oriented. Nobody works in isolation when it comes to completing online projects that target to reach tons of audience.

Failure to look ahead into the future

Most content marketing problems arise when you fail to organize your strategy in an efficient way. Oftentimes, this happens when you fail to look into the future consequences of the implementation of your chosen strategies.

As a content marketer, you should make sure that you avoid posting random articles in different sites just for the heck of it. You need to put in time and thorough analysis to come up with a content marketing strategy that works. Collaborate daily with your team members to retain strategies that work, and filter those that don’t work.

Absence of a centralized marketing methodology

Great tools for content marketing become useless if your marketing methodology is not centralized or interconnected. If your social media campaigns run in inconsistencies with content marketing, your customers will notice, and as a result, confusion will take place.

Adopt a content marketing strategy that will fit with your other marketing agendas. Learn to be flexible when planning your strategy, so as to let your strategy yield an interrelated overall marketing agenda.  You should keep in mind that no matter how good your strategy may be, your efforts don’t get recognized if you fail to produce positive end results.

Not retaining a social media policy

Brandon Harig, a social media strategist at Identity, thinks that companies that fail to guide their employees on adopting proper conduct in social media are dealing with an enormous threat. Great online marketing tools do not serve their purposes if inappropriate posts from your virtual workers are clearly visible in Facebook or Twitter.

Posting personal stuff in your project’s social site is one example of a common project management mistake your team members may commit. Establish clear cut guidelines within your virtual team on the stuff that can and cannot be posted in your project’s social sites.

Misusing social media

One of the errors in project management in social media that seem to be avoidable is using social media for a single purpose only. You may think of social media as just a simple tool to post anything you desire, without taking into consideration the need to use it to interact with your target audience.

Social media is home to extended and far-reaching interactions. Project management issues commonly arise when you fail to satisfy your audience, particularly, through engagement in social media sites.

Avoid the usual project management pitfalls by avoiding wrong thoughts and insights. Expand the way you see things in social media by being active in interacting with your audience. Doing so lets your audience know you care about their opinions and them as individuals. Expand your popularity in social media by creating a positive image on your audience.

You may think of classic mistakes in project management as stuff that won’t make much impact on the progress of your business. If you really do have this in mind, better think again. Simple mistakes impose extensive damages on the way your project runs its course, without you even knowing it.

Avoid making common careless project management mistakes so as to not allow your virtual business go downhill. Surely, taking extra care in avoiding these mistakes lets you reap the much needed benefits in the long run.

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