[QQ]Project management is often a hidden skill, the activity which and, as the Year 2000 looks set to usher in the biggest challenge faced by project managers yet, Jay Johnson examines the skills and the products they need to deal with that challenge. prevents the crisis rather than produces the result; it's a complex area, with many skills and activities falling within its parameters; a demanding activity, requiring thought and planning, where the effort is invisible and the results often taken for granted.[QQ] Project management relies on a combination of tools and techniques which enable an individual or team to plan, schedule, co-ordinate, monitor, evaluate and implement according to carefully planned and specified goals, over a defined period of time with an agreed goal in mind. It's usually supported by software programs and an understanding of business methodologies.[QQ] 'Project management is not something which is being imposed on organisations,' explains Adrian Dooley, chairman of consultancy and training outfit, The Projects Group, 'rather, it is a technique they now recognise as essential to the running of their business.'[QQ] We all know that information technology and the global economy are wreaking massive changes on the way businesses work, and for most organisations that translates into a need to be more efficient, accountable and flat.[QQ] 'Flatter organisations are usually seen as more efficient than hierarchies,' continues Dooley. 'By re-organising hierarchies of people into co-operating teams, you get some instant productivity improvements, but you also get the beginnings of a project culture.'[QQ] Project approach[QQ] The 'project culture' Dooley refers to describes a central shift in organisational structure. Instead of tasks proceeding day after day, with one person responsible for one element at one time, teams of people deal with entire projects from start to finish. Their roles may change according to the nature of the project or the resources available; the projects themselves may be one-day undertakings or last months or years - often, multiple projects will run concurrently. The point is, that as organisations find themselves under greater pressure to be flexible, responsive and efficient, so they need to find better ways of managing the resources they have.[QQ] Achieving this, on whatever scale, is project management. 'It's not as if it's rocket science,' adds Dooley, 'if you want to do anything well, you have to plan, decide what it is you want to achieve, work out ways to get there and deal with problems as they arise. Most projects have less than 10 tasks - the vast bulk of project management is carried out by small teams who don't even realise they're doing it.'[QQ] Jonathan Hulse, product manager for Microsoft Project 98, agrees that project culture is the new way to manage a business. 'We're all project managers most of the time,' he says, 'whether we're deciding to read email before we listen to voicemail, or planning the design, launch and evaluation of a new product.' Project management, according to Microsoft, is about to burst into a second wave of growth (following the first wave between 1991-1995, where the market tripled in size). 'Businesses are beginning to understand the value of good project management - as long as it represents good value for money and doesn't absorb huge amounts of time,' says Hulse.[QQ] 'Key to achieving this is the availability of information and comprehensive tools which allow companies to standardise on a single platform or method - a way of ensuring that everyone understands the same thing and pulls in the same direction, unhindered by product incompatibilities or philosophies which are at odds with one another.'[QQ] Trends in the application of project management techniques are changing too. 'The term is no longer synonymous with scheduling, says Adrian Dooley, referring to the large range of software tools which offer planning and scheduling. Instead, more people are now asking about the ideas and concepts behind project management before they start shopping for tools. Developing a project culture means redefining quite basic organisational procedures and ideas in order to bring about the kind of understanding which lets project management work. For example, early efforts to train project managers didn't always succeed, because no culture existed to support them. 'People "sheep-dipped" in training sessions may come away with new knowledge, but they have no structure around it,' explains Dooley. 'Effective project-management training means that board-level staff as well as support staff are at least educated in the principles of the discipline. Think about it - project management is about co-ordinating people and resources - everyone is involved in making projects work, whether their job title is project manager, or not.'[QQ] A broader project culture means senior people understand why more money is needed at a given time and can accept and support the justifications for resource scheduling. It also means junior staff understand the impact of their efforts on others, and remain committed to a project even when their contribution to it is complete.[QQ] Dooley says: 'A competitive economy demands multi-skilled individuals who know, above all, how to manage themselves and the resources available.'[QQ] Those still wary of involvement with project management have some justification.[QQ] There's always details of how projects fail, in an organisational culture which does not understand or value such an approach. Dooley believes a shift in our perception of project management will be necessary to facilitate its widespread acceptance, and proposes 'quantum business change', or 'quantum management' as an alternative. 'Quantum means a required or allowed amount of change,' he says, 'which is a far more accurate way of describing the function of project management - to manage change in required or allowed amounts.'[QQ] One thing is clear - like all the knowledge-based skills, project management is growing in importance and application at a rapid rate. Nor is it a fad. The nurturing of a project culture is probably one of the most constructive responses organisations can offer, in the face of an economy which takes no prisoners.[QQ] Management for the millennium[QQ] If there's one good reason for finding out more about project management, it's the alarming proximity of the year 2000. There's plenty of evidence to show that many, many companies have simply not grasped the implications of the millennium rollover for their computer-based systems, or are choosing to ignore them. Suffice it to say that the problem is extremely real, serious and close.[QQ] For project managers, dealing with Y2K is becoming like a battleground.[QQ] Success means adopting strategies almost military in their precision, relying on two key disciplines: vision and leadership. The millennium is a large-scale problem which will severely impact the process of trading and accountancy, legal issues, PC and mainframe systems and applications, as well as the future success of the business. It also impacts at a micro level - hundreds of thousands of lines of non-compliant code await your attention, as do embedded chips in the phones, alarms, lifts and coffee machines. Keeping a realistic perspective of both ends of the spectrum is the first rule of good Y2K project management.[QQ] It is imperative that project managers do not get bogged down in any single issue, but retain a 'command' position from where they can view the full scene. This implies the skilled allocation of limited resources, which involves strong relationships with senior board members (to justify and secure the requisite funding) as well as strong relationships with the staff who must do the work. Couple that with a need to be aware of exactly what resources (in terms of tools and utilities) those staff have and will need, as well as the nature, cost and availability of short-term external resources, such as consultants and programmers, and the scale of the project becomes clearer.[QQ] PRINCE 2[QQ] The growth of IT systems in the past ten years has conferred prestige on project management as a discipline. It has acquired a better definition, clearer boundaries and more focused professional associations. Key to the growth of a profession such as project management is training. Not just sporadic training in specific programs, but a comprehensive, widely researched and reviewed training system which confers a common 'bottom line' on the knowledge and skills of those who call themselves project managers.[QQ] Since 1975, such a system has been available to project managers. Originally known as PROMPT, it was renamed as Projects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE) in 1989. PRINCE has itself been modified over the years, culminating in version 2 launched in October 1996. As a government project management methodology, there is no fee to use it.[QQ] Because of its breadth, depth and scope there is considerable demand for training in PRINCE techniques, plus a parallel demand for companies able to provide recognised training programmes, typically those endorsed by the Association for Project Management.[QQ] The PRINCE methodology deals with the components and processes of project management. Components are things like project plans, project stages and quality management; processes include such things as starting, managing and controlling a project. The philosophy behind PRINCE is one of flexibility and scaleability so, although the full methodology should be able to handle vast, complex, long-term projects, it should also allow users to pick and choose only those components and processes which are required.[QQ] PRINCE encourages project managers to plan in advance by, for instance, defining deliverables, determining the sequence in which events must occur and identifying the criteria which will be used to track the progress of a project. The methodology embodies 'best practice' in project management, meaning a focus on cost control, realistic deliverables and deadlines, which can be understood by all interested parties. Qualification as a PRINCE practitioner may become a requirement for project managers in the future.[QQ] Training in the PRINCE methodology is usually a several day event, and is accompanied by extensive documentation and a three-hour examination.[QQ] The exam is optional, but it's essential if you wish to become registered as a Certified PRINCE Practitioner. Only organisations accredited by the APM are able to award this certificate, so check before booking. You can expect to pay between #1,000 and #1,500 for an accredited PRINCE 2 course.[QQ] A list of accredited training organisations is available on the APM Web site at http://www.apm.org.uk.[QQ] Products for management[QQ] Project management occupies a small niche within the industries in which it is used, but as an intra-disciplinary subject it is gaining in momentum.[QQ] With its emphasis on planning, scheduling, monitoring and evaluation it's a natural target for software developers and, despite its specialist nature, there is a huge range of project management tools available.[QQ] Love it or hate it, the project management program which enjoys the largest user base and broadest coverage is Microsoft Project (the current version, Project 98, was launched in November this year). MS Project has, from the first, set out to be all things to all project managers, and Project 98 is an extension of this philosophy. The package promotes usability and value, and indeed the evidence suggests that Microsoft Project has opened up the discipline to a wider range of users than any other product. It's small enough to be a desktop productivity tool, but large and scaleable enough to handle the project management needs of a big, busy corporation.[QQ] Key developments to the latest version include Web publishing and better workgroup features, allowing projects to be controlled through an intranet (or over the Web); and an improved scheduling engine to allow planning by hour, day, week or month.[QQ] Project 98 also gains a substantial advantage through its links to Office 97, allowing it to hook in to all Office applications to import, export and transfer information, including Outlook. It's also rich in wizards and assistants - a good choice for novice and expert alike.[QQ] Other all-purpose project management tools include Asta Corporation's newly-enhanced Powerproject 4.1, taking better advantage of the Windows interface and an enriched feature set; and the lower cost Turboproject Professional version 2 from IMSI. Turboproject 2 provides most of the commonly used features needed in a project management application and makes some attempt to work as a multipurpose project management tool.[QQ] It doesn't have quite the friendliness of Project 98, though, nor the feature set of the two Primavera products, Project Planner (P3) and Suretrak 2.0. The latter, for example, includes Project Kickstart, a wizard designed for creating new projects, giving novices an extra fail-safe if they're using it for the first time. CS Project Professional, from CS Project, offers an extremely fast and efficient product for experienced users, and is complemented by CS Project Lite, designed for all levels.[QQ] There is still such a thing as heavyweight project management, and despite the encroachment of Microsoft into this sector, it still belongs to Primavera and Artemis; ABT Corp is also significant. Primavera recently announced Expedition 6.0 - specialist administration and contract control software for large and complex projects - which forms part of an extensive family of products owned by the company, each addressing a different need. Artemis Management Systems, one of the oldest players in the project management market, also tackles large-scale complex needs with related products, the latest of which is Globalview, which is able to use online analytical processing (OLAP) to give access to multiple views of complex live data.[QQ] The complexity of project management software means there's always a market for products which complement the main activities of project management, as well as a host of add-ons, plug-ins and accessories. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a number of small products which provide a far scaled-down class of project management, making no claims to compete with the mainstream products but offering a comparable range of functions.[QQ] A number of companies produce time recording programs which stand alone or feed specialist expense and time information into project-management software. Timewise from Workbench Software and Timesheet Professional from Deepak Sareen Associates fill this role. Others companies, such as Proj.INI, produce add-ins for Microsoft Project, add-ins which Microsoft claims its newest version no longer requires; Corporate Project Solutions specialises in linking project-management software to Lotus Domino Web server, to create an intranet-based solution. Finally, novices can cut their teeth on a program like Sareen Software's Officetalk 2.0, a workgroup productivity program which includes a project-management module. Simplistic compared with the products mentioned here, it's nonetheless a straightforward tool which could help foster a project culture.[QQ] Risk management[QQ] A variety of other specialisations have grown out of project management.[QQ] One attracting great interest at the moment is risk management. This describes the tasks and processes associated with assessing, defining and preparing for everything that can go wrong. Companies want to manage projects where the unknowns, what-ifs and worst cases are kept to a minimum, and the reasons for delay and expense can be anticipated well in advance. Risk assessment, already translated into software such as Risk Decisions' Predict range of products, is an exercise in reality, based on the premise that projects always go wrong.[QQ] The role of the project manager is to predict what is most likely to go wrong, take steps to minimise the possibility, and to create a contingency plan. Poor project planning, for example, constitutes a risk in itself, so risk assessment must take this into account. Where there are many possible flaws, a risk manager must prioritise, assessing the probability of an event occurring against the likely impact it will have. An earthquake is an extremely low probability event, even though its impact could be disastrous, so no contingency can be justified. The departure of key staff at critical moments is a much more likely possibility, with a potentially more disastrous impact, so it's possible to justify prevention and contingency measures. Risk management provides a way for organisations to get closer to definitive figures - completion dates, costs, deliverables - although risk is, by definition, impossible to define, and no decent project manager would ever commit to an absolute.[QQ] [QQ] YEAR 2000 : A FIVE-PHASE STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS[QQ] 'Millennium project managers need an enterprise-wide plan that includes every aspect of the problem. Some success has been achieved using the five-phase strategy for project managing Y2K compliance, as below: Awareness: Start with a Y2K brief to senior management Schedule update meetings Prepare a bulletin board to monitor progress Form a Y2K user group Commission a legal exposure briefing Begin discussions with customers and suppliers Develop a mission statement and goals for each phase Develop an audit procedure to record all Y2K actions taken.[QQ] Assessment: Perform an inventory of vulnerable systems Define criteria for 'compliance' Plan a method of tracking compliant versus non-compliant applications[QQ] Set standards for updating programs when they become compliant[QQ] Consolidate and monitor Y2K agreements with customers and suppliers Identify and implement a pilot project Test and review pilot project Prioritise systems Develop contingency plans (work-arounds) for high-priority systems Conduct tool analysis and selection Estimate costs.[QQ] Renovation: Standardise renovation procedures (such as date field expansion) Formalise renovation reporting criteria Track renovation by individual system (mainframe application, PC BIOS, third-party software) Negotiate embedded chip upgrades Track cost of renovation by individual system.[QQ] Validation: Standardise validation procedures Formalise validation reporting criteria Track validation by individual system Negotiate embedded chip testing procedures (if possible) Track cost of validation by individual system.[QQ] Implementation: Establish helpdesk procedures for potential Y2K related problems Develop log to keep track of all Y2K-related bugs Maintain a detailed audit trail of all actions relating to Y2K.[QQ] [QQ] CONTACTS[QQ] - ABT Corporation: 01727 888077[QQ] - Asta Development: 01844 261700 or www.astadev.com[QQ] - Corporate Project Solutions: 01628 482854[QQ] - CS Project - UK distributor Leach Management Systems: 01249 442118[QQ] - Deepak Sareen Associates: 0181 423 8855[QQ] - IMSI: 0181 581 200 or www.imsisoft.com[QQ] - Microsoft: 0345 002000 or www.microsoft.com[QQ] - Primavera: 0181 748 7300 or www.primavera.com[QQ] - Proj.INI: 01937 541777[QQ] - Workbench: 0181 569 5159 or www.workbench.co.uk.
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