Can project management software save your company money?

In the last post I talked about trends in project management and mentioned the most up and coming trend being project management software. I wanted to expand on this topic and show how project management software is not only a trend in project management, but also an important tool in saving money within the project itself as well as a way to save your company money. In a sense, project management software puts business owners in the driver’s seat of the company’s profitability. It also helps businesses organize, promotes collaboration and provide the business with the ability to track and plan everything related to any project they may have actively running. Project management software allows the company to track the success of multiple projects occurring simultaneously, individually and collectively. For these many reasons and more project management software can be a great and successful tool in saving a company money.

In the business world time is money and getting employees up to speed on projects ultimately can cost a company a lot of money. If a new employee takes over an existing project or joins a project team, the time it takes to train him is money spent that can otherwise be avoided with project management software. PM software can save a company money by providing a quick and simple way for employee to gather the information they need on a project and have a time-line provided for them of what has already occurred with the project and what still needs to be done.

PM software  also saves companies money by creating an Icloud based filing system. Rather than a company wasting time and money searching for notes, files and documentation, everything exists within Icloud storage system for the PM software making it easily accessible for all that may want to look anything up at any time. This type of filling system makes it much more more comprehensive than a standard filling system and allows for less error and more money savings in the physical filling.

PM software can also serve as a training tool for the business as it is self-contained. This process can save a company a lot of money as well that would otherwise be spent on trainers or on salaries of existing employees to train new employees or staff. The software has the ability to teach employees on how the company manages projects and the tasks that go into completing each and every project.

The final value savings can be found in correcting PM mistakes and making sure they are not costly ones. Mistakes can cause a company to not only loose profits but also customers which in turn causes a future loss of income to the business. Mistakes also require a company  to spend time correcting the mistake that could have been spent working on new tasks or finalizing the project. PM software can help prevent all of these issues and ultimately saving the company money.

As pointed out in these many cases, project management software is not only crucial in managing a project easier and with less confusion, but it is also a key component in cost savings which is on every companies agenda now a days.


Handling risk like a startup: Lean project management

We examined risks very closely in our last class and I can’t think of a better example of risk in project management than those experienced at a startup. As an entrepreneur venturing out on your own, or with a small group, building up a business is a process of trial and error. You can become really passionate about an initial idea but once you’re out in the field talking to customers it may become obvious that the idea doesn’t solve their problem. Then it’s back to the drawing board!

Hopefully this realization occurs before you’ve arranged the people and resources needed for the business. Otherwise all the investments you’ve made can become a sunk cost. Many startups today follow a lean model where failure is incorporated into the project. Instead of starting full production on a product, prototypes (or a minimum viable product) are used to get feedback on the product’s functionality. A few, hundreds, or thousands of prototypes may be scrapped in the process. Dyson’s vacuum technology took 5,127 prototypes to get right (Dyson, 2011). Therefore, by testing and retesting ideas before fully going to market, entrepreneurs can mitigate the amount of risk they take on and get to know their customers better.

How can we apply the startup approach to project management?

Some projects, especially event-based, don’t allow for testing or mock runs. It would be extremely costly to simulate a concert in a particular location along with all the vendors that are scheduled to participate. Yet there are a few key elements from startups that can be applied to project management settings.

  • Address risk early and often
  • Monitoring relevant metrics
  • Continual learning and acceptance of failure

First, consider addressing risks early on. Even if this can’t be in the form of a prototype the project should be exposed to risks and tested. For example, does the project have enough designers to complete a new mobile app? Estimates may not be enough in this case. Instead the project manager could have the designers solve a small task (subset of the problem or project) together within a limited timeframe to test their capabilities as a team. Additional risks may crop up as a result of their collaboration together.

Next, identify metrics that relate to risk. Stakeholders are often focused on budget and deadlines but there are other ways to measure a project. Why not tie metrics into risks that were identified at the outset of a project? In class we discussed the case of Futuronics which carried a greater amount of risk due to their industry and future-oriented products. If the company was able to quantify risks, they could better report on them and gain stakeholder and sponsor attention (Feldman, 2012). For Futuronics, metrics could include number of competitors looking to enter the industry, amount of patents into similar technologies, or number of qualified engineers throughout the country.

Lastly a project’s risks should be considered in terms of the overall team and organization culture. If learning and failure are not embraced then it can be harder to have conversations about risk. When the message from the top-down is “We’ve been doing this for years and it’s the right way!” there are natural blockades to identifying and handling risks in projects. Furthermore failure can lead to insights in a project that were not initially considered.

Questions to Consider:

  • What is the most challenging risk you’ve faced in a project? Did you have a contingency plan?
  • Would you be able to put the three elements, mentioned above, to action on projects in your company?



Dyson, J. (2011). James Dyson: In praise of failure. Retrieved from

Feldman, J. (2012). Project Management Gets Lean. Retrieved from

Why a Work Order Breakdown Structure is Necessary… In Home Improvement Projects!

I was recently engulfed by a swell of home improvement projects. My husband and I generally tackle these projects ourselves. This has gotten more complicated since I started the weekend program, as you can imagine. I usually act as the ‘project manager’ because of my past experience working with my family’s construction company.  I’ll tell you now, I’m not a great project manager – I tend to keep everything stored in my head and with me being so busy with grad school this has complicated things.

We were moving out of our two flat and moving into a single family home. The two flat is a vintage 1920’s building and needs pretty routine upkeep and repairs. To make things a little more complicated, the single family home we bought is a fixer upper. The floors had to be done before we could move in but the ceiling had to be scraped, mudded, sanded, primed and painted before we could do the floors. Once we moved out of the two flat we had to clean up and paint out unit so the upstairs neighbors could move downstairs and then we had to clean up the second floor unit to list it and rent it. As you can see, a long chain of activities was developing!

There are priority jobs and wish list jobs. Without us both being focused on the priority jobs we both were a tending toward wish list jobs and experiencing scope creep!!! We had a couple of To-Do list floating around that we were both checking items off of as we went.

I realize now that, if we had started by making a work break down structure and then creating a project network, things could have been more efficient and smooth. Perhaps it would have been less overwhelming had we taken more time on the front end to map out our tasks! I went back to our To-Do lists and made a partial work breakdown and process map. The hubs agreed that it would have been easier had we done this at the front end.

Upgrade from To-Do Lists!
Upgrade from To-Do Lists!

Since the work break down structure is not a project plan but a list of the deliverables, taking the time to both create the work break down structure and the project process planning is highly advantageous!

There are lots of projects in our future but I don’t think I’ll ever again tackle another project without a written out and communicated on work break down structure!!

The Process!
The Process!

Now, on to the next project!

What other non-work spaces can you use a work breakdown structure and project network?
What mishaps have you had that could have been avoided if you had used a work breakdown structure?


Waterfall vs. Agile

One of the bigger debates in the last few years in project management circles is which development process is better, Waterfall or Agile.

First, some definitions are required.  The Waterfall methodology is a stage gate process where a project is broken down and subsequent work packages are performed after the completion of the previous work package.  This can be seen as a linear process, like building a house.  First the foundation is poured, then the walls are erected, then the roof.

The Agile methodology is an iterative process where finished pieces are constructed, with the possibility of refining or completely changing the original product in subsequent iterations.  One of the core concepts of Agile is to make your mistakes early.  An example of this would be like making pasta sauce from scratch.  You might add salt in the beginning but if you find the sauce to be too salty, you could add more tomato paste and water.  You could also add spices later, to taste.

The debate is which process works better.  The answer is both and neither.  Waterfall is a good process for projects where changes are costly, such as in manufacturing.  When designing parts that require tooling, it could be very expensive to try to iterate.  The old adage of “measure twice, cut once” is still a good rule of thumb for most manufacturing type projects.  Tooling can also be a very long lead item, depending on complexity, so even if non-recurring engineering (the one-time cost to research, develop, design and test a new product)  is not a significant factor, the lost revenue of a delayed product launch would definitely have an impact to the business.

Agile is a better process for software development projects, particularly web solutions.  With Agile development, the project can be completed in iterations that can actually go out into the world for both user testing and to drive business value.  Change is far less costly and is really measured in opportunity cost.  Since Agile development is centered around a forced prioritized “product backlog” the higher prioritized features are done first.  If done properly by the product owners, this should mean that the greatest value (i.e., revenue generating) features come first.

The project development methodology should be tailored to the goals and structure of the individual business.  Even a company that produces pure software projects may want to maintain some aspects of waterfall as a way limit the cost of change.  And hardware companies may want to use some aspects of Agile to make course corrections earlier rather than later in development.

What method is used in your company?  Can you see how aspects of the other methodology could be useful at your company?  Has anyone had the experience of transitioning from Waterfall to Agile?

Project management trends in business

Project management began with its roots in IT and over the last few years has transitioned into the vast majority of the business world. These days’ project managers can be found in all aspects and job functions within the business world. With this transition there are several other trends that can be found that are shifting the direction of project management in the near future. These days many business organizations are becoming more creative by modeling the typical project management role, that use to be found within IT roles, into all functions of the business to ensure successful project completions. With these changes we have seen several trends that are shaping and guiding the principles of project management. These new trends include the move to cloud based project management systems, online project management and collaboration tools, more reliance on resource management, and geographically distributed teams.

The move to cloud based systems is becoming the norm as we move further into 2014.Most companies are allocating resources in order to move to cloud-based project management tools in order to be able to support project scheduling and collaboration of ideas and tasks. Companies have created highly functional and Innovative tools such as LiquidPlannerAtTaskProjectManager.comWrike, Gantter and of course the leader in the market Microsoft Project. These companies will continue to re-engineer their project management programs domain as more firms take advantage of web-based project management tools.

LiquidPlanner example


As mentioned above the use of online collaboration tools is on the rise and many companies are moving in this direction. Collaboration platforms are taking over the typical and old fashioned web-based document sharing business solutions that have been around for several years. These seamless platforms are just another innovative trend in the simplifying of project collaboration. The most used and popular collaboration tools used in project management are tibbrAsanaTrello, and Siasto used manage tasks and assist in project management document sharing and organization. As the project management collaboration application business develops, most platforms will begin to provide an integrated collaboration suite instead of separate document management, sharing and messaging tools.

Resource management has always been a key component of project management, but with newer trends it has become a very important aspect to take into consideration. With most company’s scheduling and project data in a central location, resource management becomes a very realistic and possible option. The integration of project schedules with task tracking and time keeping, can all be used to obtain a overall project view and always have the ability to view project checkpoints

The final trend we seem to find is that of geographically distributed teams. As companies leverage the use of collaboration platforms they also have the ability to view into the project at any time as well as the visibility to view all aspects of the project virtually. With the trend available, the trend in virtual/distributed teams will grow with the ease that project management platforms offer. Collaboration platforms help facilitate the obstacles of communication, virtual meetings, and finding project management talent in remote locations. With communication, document sharing, virtual conferencing, and project visibility all being features within new PM software, the trend to remote project management teams is one we only see growing in the near future.



Project Coach

coaching-word-cloud I was curious to learn what truly makes a good project manager. Should they know all the ins-and-outs of the project details?  Should they be the expert in the field?  Do they need to be up to date with the newest PM systems? As I read different articles highlighting the skills of a good project manager I couldn’t help but see that these are all the skills of a good coach.

I love analogies so, in the spirit of baseball season, I’ll reiterate the best tips I found referencing both baseball and project management terminology.

When beginning a project or season it’s important to build the structure and confidence of your team:

  • Help people learn and develop: If anyone of your team is not walking in with all necessary skills, as the PM or coach it’s important you get them up to speed.
  • Delegate step-by-step: Clear direction is need on a project as well as on the field.
  • Focus on people’s strengths: Know your team members’ skill sets and place them accordingly.
  • Be supportive: In both roles you should always know what is going on with your team members, remove obstacles, and support them to reach their goals.
  • Embrace failure: “My ability to achieve all my goals is a direct reflection of my ability to overcome all my failures…It’s ok to fail, but you should never quit” (Marcus Luttrell). A lesson can be learned from every loss on the field or failed project. There is always something to be learned.

Building team collaboration was another central theme. Again, all suggestions are necessary skills of a good coach:

  • Aggregate and adapt: Both a good coach and PM should bring ideas to the table, but also be able to adapt to new developments or situations and weave these into their game plan.
  • Listen first: Successful coaches and PMs have a sense of their people, what they are capable of, and then give them space to achieve those results.
  • Energize: No energy around a project or among a team is a quick road to a loss.
  • Remain open:  At times you’ll need to shuffle the lineup, swap positions on the field, or test out new skill set on a project. Without openness and flexibility, you may not be achieving the best results possible.
  • Be transparent: It’s curial for a good coach and PM to provide clear expectations and constant direct communication.
  • Have fun: Enjoyment builds team spirit, drive and collaboration.
  • Transcend insularity: Collaborating as a unit is the only way to fully achieve success.

Both a good coach and a good PM work to build a solid cohesive team and that produces results. When you build a strong team you create stakeholders in the project. This doesn’t mean that they always ‘win’; it means they move forward together and assist one another to achieve a uniform goal. A good coach guides the outcome without ever playing. A skilled Project manager, “bring[s] all aspects of the project together to produce a successful performance and result”(Haughey). Both are aiming for the good of the team and the best possible outcome.

What do you look for in a good project manager?

What do you strive for to be a good project manager ?

What qualities has the best project manager you’ve ever worked with had?
What qualities have your best coaches had?
Are some of these the same? What are the differences?

Do you think that coaching should be necessary skill of a good project manager?


Handling Negative Feedbacks

We all have received discouraging reviews or feedback in our lives that we wished we would have handled better or used as an opportunity to learn from it.  Feedback whether positive or negative are an important part of continuous improvement process that we all go through in our careers.  The way we handle these negative feedback defines how we function in a team environment and how we are seen by the upper management.

Everyone has their own way of handling constructive feedback, but there are some basic methods that should be employed to learn from discouraging comments from your teammates or management.

Identify the Review:  There are two types of reviews, constructive and destructive.  Destructive reviews are not usually meant to encourage you to work hard or improve yourself but to put you down and they are usually personal.  They should be ignored.  Constructive reviews may seem harsh based on how it is delivered but it still has value and will help improve your performance and image.

Identify the Source:  Not all the constructive comments may help you improve professionally.  You need to identify who is providing the review and determine whether the person or the team members are the right people to provide the comments.  Are these the people that you respect and have your best interest in mind?

Be Brave, Listen & Clarify:   As difficult as it may be for you to listen to comments about your short falling or lack of performance from the people that you respect, it is important for you understand your weaknesses.  You must keep your emotions in check in order for people to give you honest feedback. Listen carefully to understand how your performance is seen by others and ask for clarification when necessary.

Learn & Grow:  Use the feedback received as an opportunity to enhance your performance and skills. Furthermore, do not wait to get feedback from your teammates or management until annual performance review, ask for continuous feedback.  This way you will not have to wait until end of the year to find out how your work is perceived by your peers.

Overall, there many different things that may affect your performance, whether its schedule, project complexity, or something personal and not everyone involved in providing the feedback will be aware of all your situations.  However, constructive feedback are still great way of identifying your weaknesses and determining how you are seen in an organization, which will critical in your professional career.

Have you ever had a negative review given to you by your teammates or management?  How did you handle it?  Do you think the review was fair?  What did you learn and improve from it?





Personalities in Project Management and Building Teams

A project manager (PM) has a challenging enough task to coordinate deadlines, resources, and workflows. Yet with many different personalities and expertise coming together on a project the PM also has a responsibility to build up a team. This soft side of project management, fostering internal team relationships, is crucial to a project’s success.

For a quick introduction to team conflicts at work take a look at this video by Jennifer Whitt, Director of

Reflecting on the short time (3 months) I spent covering as a PM for a coworker, I found the soft side of project management to be the hardest. You can have an approved schedule and project plan but if conflicts occur within your team it immediately puts the project at risk. I encountered this recently coming into a team with members that already knew each other. Many of these members were accustomed to working a certain way and challenged changes I made to the plan. Others welcomed my support and guidance. However balancing these two extremes became stressful as I worked to transition the project back to my coworker.

In our first class we discussed the Technical and Sociocultural sides of project management (Larson & Gray, p. 17). While this framework is helpful in understanding the combination of hard and soft skills necessary to lead projects, I wanted to seek out additional information on how PMs handle personalities within a team. I discovered an abundance of study on high performance teams (Lake Superior Chapter ASTD, 2014). I also found some workshops focused specifically on this topic, along with other studies on personality assessments and team stages such as Tuckerman’s forming and storming model.

One theory that seemed most relevant to my conflicts at work is Elias H. Porter’s relationship awareness (Anderson, 2010). Porter developed an assessment called Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) to explore relationships from the following four premises:

  • Behavior is driven by motivation
  • Motivation changes in conflict
  • Personal weaknesses are overdone strengths
  • Personal filters influence perception

Using Porter’s theory to reflect on my own experience I realized that I was so focused on meeting pre-existing deadlines and working within the norms, that I neglected to build a better relationship with the team. Coming into a team as a new member I did not take a step back to reflect on my own motivation. In addition, my perceptions were influencing my reactions to other team members. I often felt like an outsider trying to manage the big picture when other team members had more information being on the project for over a year.

Overall I’ve found that understanding your own personality and reaction to others is key in leading a team. If you become wrapped up in the day-to-day work and forget to handle the human side of your team, listening to and motivating others, you are not doing the project justice.

Additional questions to consider:

What tactics have you found helpful in building up project teams?

Are there any project failures you attribute directly to internal team conflicts? Do you think it was possible to overcome them or doomed from the start?

Are workshops on high performance teams worthwhile?

Would you use the SDI ( for a project team at work?



Larson, E. W., & Gray, C. F. (2014). Project Management: The Managerial Process (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Lake Superior Chapter ASTD. (2014). Building High Performing Teams Certification Workshop. Retrieved from

Anderson, B. (2010). Project Leadership and the Art of Managing Relationships. T+D magazine, 58-63. Retrieved from

Whitt, J. [projectmanagervideos]. (2013, September 16). How to Manage Team Conflict [Video file]. Retrieved from

Project Managers and Business Analysts Working Together

PMI has created a new certification for Business Analysts.  I think this reflects a continuing interest and growth in the profession of business analysis – creating the right requirements to maximize value and limit change in new product development.  Of course, this is beneficial to the project manager and the project as a whole.

A few months ago my company hired a business analyst in an existing group.  The addition of this BA to the software team was advocated by the director of software project management and reports directly to that person.  When an organization introduces a new position or function into a team where people know their roles or, at least, know which functions they typically fulfill, there is opportunity for both increased productivity and confusion.  This has prompted me to think about the responsibilities o the project manager (PM) and the business analyst (BA).  Some view the PM and BA as two sides of the same coin–complementary, but mutually exclusive.

According to the Project Manager’s Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and the Business Analyst Body of Knowledge (BABOK), the roles are defined as follows:

  • The PM manages the project.  “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to provide activities to meet the project requirements.”
  • The BA identifies the business needs.  “Business analysis is the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals.”

In many projects there will be opportunity for overlap that can cause conflict.  Those areas include:

  • Scope Management. A conflict can arise when the project schedule, owned by the PM is impacted by the inclusion of new requirements from the BA who owns the solution scope.
  • Communication Management. Conflicts can arise if either the PM or BA is aware of project needs that the other is not.  The PM should not make unilateral decisions.  Likewise, the BA should not make commitments without consulting with the PM.
  • Risk management. All project and product risks must be appropriately identified, and strategies to avoid those risks developed.
  • Requirements Management. The PMBOK includes collecting requirements.  This is, of course, a BA function and can be a cause for confusion between the PM and BA if not well aligned.

Recommendations to encourage a successful working relationship between the PM and BA (Enfocus Solutions):

  • Clear, documented, and mutually agreed roles and responsibilities activities.
  • Plan of when BA deliverables that will be produced that is incorporated into the overall project management plan.
  • Implement mechanisms to promote open communication.
  • Openly discuss the reporting relationship.
  • Both roles should actively engage the business sponsor.
  • Build a partnership based on mutual trust and respect.
  • Work through conflicts with clear and frequent communications.


What is the relationship like between the PMs and BAs in your companies?

Are the responsibilities of these roles clearly defined in your companies?  Are those role definitions always respected?

Has anyone ever served as both PM and BA?