Archive for January, 2010

How are we doing? Quick earned value ratios to check your project’s health

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Project Managers use the Earned Value Management technique to zero in on their project’s health.   It’s a tool that helps the project manager to objectively answer, how are we doing?   The technique can provide an  early barometer of impending trouble.   In the heat of project execution, how many times have you asked yourself, is my project on track?  Are we where we should be?  If we keep moving at this rate, is it likely that we will we finish on time on budget?  

You can use the Schedule Peformance Index (SPI) and the Cost Performance Index (CPI) ratios to determine your project’s performance relative to the planned schedule and budget.  They can be powerful indicators to keep you and your project stakeholders informed.  NASA provides a wealth of detail about earned value management at  You can also visit the The Project Management Institute’s College of Performance Management to learn more.

-Project Walker

Is It Really a Project?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Your company’s largest most profitable client has complained to the CIO.   From their perspective,  your organization is not meeting their service level agreement.   The client was unable to process transactions on the customer portal ten times last month, and they are threatening to pull their business.  You were copied on the email that advised the customer, the business unit director and the CIO that you have been named as the IT project manager to lead the issue resolution.  Your assignment will last as long as the customer is dissatisfied.  Your charter is to pull together any IT resources that you need to make the customer happy. 

Congratulations, you’ve been named as the project manager, but is this really a project?  Well, let’s see.  Projects have a definite beginning and end.   Their objective is provide a specific unique deliverable such as a product or service.    In the scenario above, you don’t have much information to work with.  What kind of transaction was the customer trying to process?  Is it really an IT problem or is there a business process issue?   What if the employee at the customer site didn’t have a valid user id?  In short, you really don’t know what problem you’re trying to solve and you don’t know what you need to deliver.  So, satisfying the customer is important, but…you really don’t have a project…yet.  You’re going to need to gather more information before you’ll have an idea about what to do next.  You could end up with several projects when you’re done!  Next on the blog –   How are we doing? Quick earned value ratios to check your project’s health.


How Complex Is Your Project?

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I talked about using the communications channel formula to understand your project’s complexity in my last post about communications management.   This formula can help you to identify how many people will be talking about your project among themselves and to other stakeholders.  First, indentify the number of team members on your project team. Then, plug the number into the formula:

N (N-1 )/2=Number of channels

where N equals the number of team members. The higher the number, the more complex your project and managing its communication will be. 

Let’s walk through an example.  You’re managing a project with fifteen team members including yourself.  In this scenario, do you think that managing communication will require much planning?  Well, let’s see how many communication channels your hypothetical project has. It’s a straightforward calculation:

 15 (15-1)/2=105 channels

Did it surprise you that a small project team, with only fifteen members could have 105 communication channels?  Does that change the way you think  about your own project?  Have you considered all the ways that your stakeholders could hear about your project?  Are you communicating frequently enough?  Are you providing the right level of detail to the right people at the right time?  When you think about your project in terms of its communications channels, it might cause you to re-evaluate how you manage your project.  You won’t be able to control every conversation, but you can be proactive about what gets communicated, when and to whom!  Upcoming topic…Project Management Framework- You’ve just been assigned as a Project Manager, but is it really a project?


Controlling Your Project’s Message

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

It has been estimated that 90% of a project manager’s time is spent communicating.  Think about all of the daily emails, instant messaging, project meetings and one on one conversation that you have about your projects.  Now consider all the recipients of your communication.  They’re also providing updates and details about your project to their managers and stakeholders.  All of that writing and talking can affect your project’s success or failure in a big way.  As a project manager, you need to do everything that you can to control your project’s message. 

Take charge of how your project is perceived.  Develop a written and approved communications management plan at the beginning of your project or project phase.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending most of your time chasing misconceptions and putting out fires.  Developing a written approved plan at the start will help you and your project stakeholders confirm:

  • What information stakeholders need to know
  • Who needs to know the information
  • When stakeholders should be informed
  • How stakeholders will get/receive their information

Your project’s complexity will determine how formal your plan should be.  Use the communications channel formula N (N-1)/2, where N equals the number of project team participants, to help you to determine your project’s complexity.  A small initiative might only call for you to document a plan to provide a bi-weekly status email, organize a weekly project team meeting, and conduct and a monthly project sponsor update.  However, a large complex project will probably require a more formal approach.

Brainstorm with your project team before you go for formal approval.  Think about the who, what, where, when, why and how’s of your plan.   Consider how you are going to manage communications among your project stakeholders.   Do you need to create a project dashboard?  What information should you distribute to your immediate project team members?   Are you going to provide formal presentations to your project sponsor(s)?  How frequently will you hold project meetings?  Who will be required v.s. optional meeting attendees?  What will be discussed at each meeting?  Who needs to approve the communication plan?   These are just a few questions.  I’m sure you can think of more!

Is developing a written communications plan and getting it approved an unnecessary task?  No.  Creating a communications plan is vital.  Your project stakeholders need and deserve to know what’s going on.  They’ll find out from you, or someone else.  In the worst case scenario, that someone else could communicate inaccurate information that could wreck havoc on your project.  Spend the time upfront.  You’ll thank yourself many times over.  Then, when you’re in the heat of project execution, you’re implementing your communication plan, not coming up with a new one!  Upcoming topic…

Communications Management – How complex is your project?

 - ProjectWalker

Welcome to the Project Central blog

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Welcome to Blog where you’ll find Agile and Traditional project management related topics and links.  I’m S. Umrani, a certified PMP and CSM more than 17 years of Information Technology project management experience.   I’ve spearheaded large and small IT and business process initiatives at fortune 100 investment banking, brokerage and computer hardware and services companies.   I’ve managed teams and have provided IT training on a variety of topics.  My background is concentrated in financial services, but good project management practices can be applied to any industry.  My screen name is ProjectWalker.  You can email me at   Check back weekly.  I’ll post tips, training and best practice information that I’m thinking about or that I have come across.  If I find something interesting before the week is up, I’ll post it right away. Upcoming topic…

Communications Management – Controlling Your Project’s Message

- S Umrani – PMP, CSM