PMP®

Have You Taken Your Project’s Temperature?

Conducting ongoing checks of a project’s health is something teams should do on a regular basis, but surprisingly few actually do. If your organization is one of those that doesn’t already carry out routine monitoring, it’s an important skill that’s worth the effort to develop. A well-informed assessment gives project managers the level of awareness they need to proactively spot potential problems, deploy solutions, and monitor the results to ensure their fix was effective in bringing the project’s progress back on track.

5 Ways to Stop Scope Creep in its Tracks

Scope creep is a problem that plagues projects across the spectrum. Small or large, simple or complex, a project’s success can be threatened by stakeholders eager to add just one more activity to the list. If the team doesn’t know how to keep those parameters in check—or if they don’t have the tools to know when the approved scope is in jeopardy—they’ll have difficulty resisting requests to take on more than the project’s budget and target timeline can support. Failure often follows, as the Project Team’s resources are expended early and the schedule falls apart.

Fortunately, there are some strategies organizations can implement to help maintain order and eliminate ballooning project boundaries. These approaches will also aid in avoiding the related schedule delays and cost overruns, not to mention the strain on team members’ workloads.

Tips for Managing Process Changes During Facility Startups

The need to develop new processes should be an expected part of any facility startup project. Depending on the type of site that’s being launched, the organization may not have established protocols that address any number of functions—inventory management or materials receiving, for example. Or it’s possible that formal processes do exist within the company, but that they aren’t comprehensive enough to encompass all the activities that will occur in the new facility.

Project Ignorance Is Not Bliss | PMAlliance Project Management Blog

In the early phases of project planning, there are many things the Project Team doesn’t know. But as the process gets underway, the team needs to make it their mission to ensure they get the information they need to understand where risks exist, to determine the most efficient and effective scope and timeline, and to make the best decisions as they move forward. If the data being used by the Project Team is incomplete or inaccurate, the project could go over budget or even fail to achieve its goals.

Protect Your Project’s Task Chain | PMAlliance Project Management Blog

Every project is comprised of a number of individual tasks. Some tasks can and should be executed simultaneously, and at other times one task must be completed before the next activity can begin. Unfortunately, there’s a lot that can go wrong with these task chains, and the potential for problems grows along with the scope and complexity of the project. For example, the Project Team might not realize that one delayed task doesn’t just impact one other activity, it actually affects the execution plan for many other tasks that are scheduled to happen later in the project.

Why Power Plant Projects Need Real-Time Status Updates| PMAlliance Project Management Blog

Information is one of the core pillars underpinning every successful project. With the evolution of technology and more compute power available than ever before, there’s little reason centers of excellence should continue to rely on data that may be days or even weeks old when it comes to identifying potential issues, forecasting activity schedules, making strategic decisions, and pouncing on opportunities in the marketplace.

4 Reasons You’re Having Trouble Setting A Project Start Date| PMAlliance Project Management Blog

You’ve probably noticed that setting start dates for projects—and sticking to them—is often a challenge. Smaller initiatives may not be as difficult, but bring a large, complex, or high-visibility project to the table and suddenly the prospect of a start date can become downright terrifying for stakeholders. Everyone typically wants the project done and most people are eager to participate in the planning phase, but try nailing down a date when the actual work will start and watch the avoidance behavior begin.

Managing The Impacts of Testing and QC on Manufacturing Projects| PMAlliance Project Management Blog

Testing and QC programs are a useful and necessary part of the manufacturing sector, but PMs need to be ready to address the significant impacts these activities can have on projects that are already in progress. Once the results of a testing or QC program are released, the effects on the project can range from delays in downstream activities to changes in the project’s scope. Successfully executing tasks in spite of these impacts—sticking to the target completion date and approved budget—can be tricky. But while juggling mid-project changes is often challenging, there are strategies organizations can use to ensure that testing and QC efforts don’t put the project’s success in jeopardy.

Conduct a thorough analysis of the variables during the initial planning phase. Activities such as testing and QC introduce a lot of unknowns into the mix, and the team can benefit tremendously from the input of a broader group of experts than might normally be involved in planning the project and defining its scope and timeframe.

5 Challenges of Internal Project Training | PMAlliance Project Management Blog

Ongoing education is a critical part of maintaining a Project Team’s base of skills and expertise. Using internal team members to train others in the group is often an attractive option—it doesn’t entail the typical hard costs associated with outside training and classes can be conducted with little advance planning. This takes good advantage of downtime while keeping everyone up to date on best practices. However, though the cost savings and flexibility may be tempting, there are some challenges that teams need to be mindful of if they want to get the most benefit out of their internal training opportunities.

Managing Projects with Multiple Critical Paths| PMAlliance Project Management Blog

Complex projects often have more than one critical path, and in order for the project to reach a successful completion, each of these paths must be carefully managed. Even if the primary path is achieved, a lack of progress on any of the follow-on paths could doom the project to failure in the long run.

Teams that execute these challenging projects need to be mindful of what it takes to manage multiple layers of requirements and actions. A strong awareness of all the paths that make up a project is critical if the Project Team wants to ensure that nothing falls behind schedule or drops off the radar.

If your center of excellence is facing a can’t-fail project with multiple paths, it’s important to understand the risks that exists and where opportunities for success can be found.

The risks behind multiple critical paths

One risk often encountered when executing projects with more than one critical path is the potential for tasks outside the primary path to be neglected. It’s easy for the project team and executives to be so focused on the primary critical path that other important issues outside of that narrow scope go unnoticed. Without a course correction, this fixation can cause the additional paths to become critical as well. Milestones might be missed or, as schedule adjustments are made to reflect the project’s progress against the target completion date, activities outside the primary critical path may not be properly re-sequenced.

If activities in one path begin to slip, it will eventually trigger problems for the team and could cause considerable grief to the project. The organization may need to spend more time or money to get progress back on track than was originally estimated. Not only could the project’s completion date be in jeopardy as a result, but the Project Team may also go over budget trying to set things right.

The other common risk arises when any of the secondary or tertiary paths overtakes the primary critical path in importance. Occurring most often as a result of failing to adequately attend to follow-on paths, one of these lower-priority paths could suddenly become the most important path when the team realizes they’re dangerously behind schedule or not prepared to execute activities as needed. The primary critical path is then at risk of also falling behind.

Tips to successfully manage multiple critical paths

Driving these complex efforts to a successful completion requires a cohesive methodology that delivers the necessary insight, while also providing the tools to act quickly and effectively.

Robust project controls are a vital component when managing multiple critical paths. The right project management methodology will enable the team to identify problem areas early. With insight into the project’s progress and a knowledge of potential challenges lurking on the horizon, the Project Team will be able to maintain sufficient awareness of not only the primary critical path, but also all everything that follows behind it.

Communication is another key to sustaining the right level of connection across all of the important paths that are part of the project. Information sharing should be a focus as the Project Team works to balance the needs of the critical path alongside those of the secondary and tertiary paths. Data must flow from the project team up to the executives to ensure everyone is aware of progress and issues. It will also need to be channeled from the leadership group down to the center of excellence. This may be in the form of strategic direction that influences project decisions or activity scheduling, or input to help resolve problems so the project can move forward.