Archive for Project Management

Guestimating

Since the dawn of time, one of the questions most likely to strike fear into the heart of even a seasoned project manager is, “So how much is this project going to cost?” In fact, at Brightwork says there are hieroglyphs on the wall of the tomb of the great pharaoh Khufu, depicting the pharaoh asking Vizier Hermiunu, the pyrmid’s project manager, this very question about his burial pyramid and, a few walls down, a second depiction of the project manager being thrown into a nest of crocodiles in the Nile after the project overran its budget by a few thousand debens.

As evidence of how little project management progressed, Mr. Kreha relates how he sat in an questioning-techniques-in-training estimation meeting and watched an agile” project team assign “points” to “stories” in a vain attempt to estimate how much work they might get done in the next two weeks, aka the next sprint. And inevitably, a new team member would ask at some point, “so how many hours are there in a point?” Immediately, this agile novice is mocked mercilessly! “You don’t understand,” the scrum master and other developers say, “points aren’t convertible into hours or dollars. We use a Fibonacci sequence – you know, 1,2,3, 5, 8 and 13 – to estimate how much effort a story is. It has nothing to do with hours or money.”

And so we project managers are still left holding the bag for estimating projects, often early in a project’s lifecycle, and then being held accountable for them as if we were clairvoyant. What can be done?

Brightwork’s Kreha offers some hints on how to stay out of the croc pond. Start doing them, that might help:

  1. https://www.rmagreen.com/how-much-does-environmental-compliance-costSeparate ‘hard costs’ from softer costs when you’re estimating. Hard costs are things like license fees. Once you have a quote from a vendor (stall until you have one) you can be pretty confident that’s what the cost will be. Hourly labor, and time and material contracts in general, are obviously softer, since you’re funding time and not deliverables per se.
  2. For softer costs, use burn rates’ to look at low, likely, and high ranges for labor costs. For example, if you have a team of 10 with an average bill rate of $100/hour and they will be working on your project more or less full time for the next 5-6 months, you’re looking at $860k to $1M if I did the math right. Don’t get suckered into estimating hours without thinking about time, because things ALMOST ALWAYS take longer than you planned.
  3. Use ranges wherever possible. Early in a project, it at least helps to subliminally communicate to stakeholders that the project costs are still a bit squishy. I am sure we’ve all seen estimates that have line items down to the dollar. Like $365,750.00. That’s a terrible thing to do – it implies a precision that just isn’t there.
  4. Don’t EVER leave out contingency! At the project outset, make sure it’s 25% of the total project estimate. And try your best NOT to tell anyone it’s there. That’s YOUR insurance policy to keep you out of the croc pond…
  5. Get estimates from multiple sources if possible. Have a technical team do an estimate. Have a trusted project manager do one. And maybe even ask the stakeholders what they think the project should If the numbers you get back are wildly variant, you have a lot of work to do to rationalize them down to something plausible.
  6. Relentlessly track your actual costs as you incur them! And more importantly, once you see them drifting away from the estimate or any underlying assumptions you made, TELL someone right away. Delivering financial bad news is one thing; delivering financial bad news 75% through a project is PM malpractice.
  7. Figure out who, if anyone, is likely to be joining you in the croc pool. Trust their numbers more than someone who will skate out the side door faster than Usain Bolt if the project costs start going sideways.

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We have all been there, in the croc pond, under the bus or in front of the train. Some one didn’t complete their task on time or misunderstood a requirement or just screwed up. These suggestions can help insulate you from some of the inevitable problems that are part of being a project manager.

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Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Demand for PM’s Dropping

Demand for PM's DroppingThe role of the IT project manager is critical, as new technology adoption, regulatory compliance, outsourcing, and other factors make it vital that projects be properly planned and controlled.

 few organizations properly staff the project manager functionComputer Economics says that too few organizations adequately staff the project manager function and, as a result, too many projects fall short of objectives, miss deadlines, or overrun budgets. In their report, IT Project Management Staffing Ratios (Reg. Req.), the research firm found that project managers as a percentage of the IT staff dropped slightly at the median from 4.8% in 2015 to 4.5% in 2016.

Computer Economics trend in Project Managers as a Percentage of IT Staff
The Irvine, CA based firm speculates that there are a variety of reasons for the recent decline in the percentage of project managers. They found that like other IT functions, the staffing ratio for project managers is in flux. The percentages of staff in certain other IT job categories are growing, with a higher percentage going to application development, business analytics, and security. This, by definition, pushes down the percentage in project management.

Project managerOther reasons Computer Economics cites include the improvement in project management tools, which might allow project managers to handle more projects. It also appears a small number of companies might be abandoning the dedicated role of project manager, combining it with the role of lead developer, for example. The study also blames the growing popularity of agile development, with its focus on, also may be contributing to the decline in project management as a discrete function. However, this decline has only been recent and may not yet reflect a trend. Tom Dunlap, research director for Computer Economics said,

Despite the slight drop in the percentage of PMs, I’d be surprised if that turned into a long-term trend. With the rapidly changing nature of technology in the enterprise and the generally bad track record of IT departments getting projects in on time and on budget, I expect the percentage of PMs to go up.

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Compare this data to that PMI reported in their Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027 (PDF) report where they are making the case for a growing job market for PM’s. The report claims that through 2027, the global project management-oriented labor force in seven project-oriented sectors is expected to grow by 33 percent, or nearly 22 million new jobs.

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Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Should You Say Something?

Should You Say Something?Recently cam across a post from Oisín Grogan, the “$200 Million Business Coach” about why people hate meetings. He says it’s because:

  1. They don’t start on time..
  2. They don’t finish on time..
  3. What’s in the middle is a waste of time!

Poject meetingHe stresses the project manager running the meeting needs to keep people on-point. Project team members should only talk about matters related to their roles. The sales manager should not talk about how production should be delivering. The team should talk about how to get tasks completed.

Coordination between different departments and roles is a vital function of meetings and Mr. Grogan says you’ll get more of it if you keep people on-point. To help address the issue, he developed a flow chart on how to decide when to and how to say something in a meeting.
Oisín Grogan WAIT

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What do you think? Should this be handed out at the project kickoff meeting to set the rules.

 

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

PM Tips for Small Engagements

PM Tips for Small EngagementsWe have all been involved in projects that does not rate a full project team where one person has to take on multiple project roles. CircleID offers project management tips for small engagements If an engineer, developer or technician takes on the project manager duties.

Ralph Bach has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.

Thought Crimes Project Managers Make

Thought Crimes Project Managers MakeThe folks at TaskWorld designed this infographic as a warning to project managers about 5 thought crimes that PM’S should never ever think. The article says these thought crimes can be a real impediment to your ability to be a good project manager. One of the characteristics of a good manager is their ability to show a level of maturity when handling their staff.

Project Manager Thought Crimes

 

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Of course I have never been guilty of any of these assumptions. I do know a guy how has tripped over a few of these road-bumps.

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Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.