Category Archives: project tool

project tool

Four Responsibilities of Executives on Projects

A Primer on Processes and Templates

Recipes for cooking are a beautiful thing. A recipe tells you the ingredients and how much of each you should include in whatever you are making. It then describes what you need to do to these ingredients in order to make a dish that is not only edible, but tasty as well. It’s great that someone else has already spent the time in putting together a recipe to follow that nearly guarantees success each time.
To a certain extent we use recipes in our profession as project managers. The recipes we follow are the processes and templates that guide our projects to success each time. How can you put a process together and make the most of templates? Consider the following:
A Primer on Processes and Templates

Start with Phases

To put a process together, a good starting place is defining the major phases in which a project must go through. Think about how a project moves through your organization, and document those major steps. For example, a simplified software development approach would include the following phases: Planning, Design, Development, Testing, and Implementation. These phases are the framework in which you begin filling in details about the process.

Move on to the Outputs
The next area to concentrate on is the outputs, or end results, from each of these major phases. Ask yourself what tangible deliverable needs to be complete by the time you finish the Planning, Design, or Development phases. Focus on tangible results, or something you can see, touch, perform an action on, or feel. For example, the Planning stage is going to be filled with meetings and conversations that by themselves do nothing to move the project forward. However, the approved Business Requirements Document is an invaluable output that can propel the project forward to the next Phase of Design.

Back up to Inputs

Now that you have the tangible end results (or deliverables) of each phase defined, ask yourself what needs to be present at the beginning of each phase to create such results. Continuing with our example above, the output of the Development phase would be software functionality that can be tested. In order to accomplish this, the engineering team will need High Level and Low Level design specifications as Input. This will allow them to know not just what they are going to build, but more importantly, how they are going to build it.

Establish Conversion Activity

You now have the Inputs and the Outputs for each of the phases of your process. The final step is to determine what needs to be done to convert the Inputs to Outputs. Think about it this way…what has to be done to change the gooey mess of runny batter into a cake? You need to bake the cake. There’s your conversion activity. Likewise, what do you need to do to convert software that is ready to be tested to software that is production ready? You need to create test plans, execute test plans, and document the results.

What About Templates?

Templates are incredibly useful for all areas of process you create. You can use templates for your inputs (i.e. Business Requirements Document), your Outputs (i.e. an approved User Acceptance document from the customer) and all points in between. Create templates that will provide consistency and make it easy to transition from one phase to the next with confidence.

One word of caution when it comes to process and templates…don’t overdo it! Create just enough process and documentation around your project to float the boat. It can be tempting to have a process or template in place for every little thing. Resist that urge. Remember, too much of a good thing can ruin a good thing. Stick to the recipe and you’ll be able to guarantee consistent results time and time again!

project tool

Branding Your Project

Branding is a more sophisticated form of marketing communication. The purpose of branding a project is to associate an emotion or a feeling with your project. This is exactly what marketing people try to do when they brand a product. For instance, The Coca-Cola Company hopes that you feel good about its products and that you will choose its products from a crowded store shelf because you like the image and emotion associated with it. Maybe it works.

The purpose of branding a project is to associate a positive image and emotion with your work. This is not something most projects need to be concerned about. However, ask yourself some questions regarding the impact your project will have on the organization.

  • Does it impact a large number of people or maybe the entire company?
  • Will it require a culture change or a change in the way people do their job?
  • Will your project make people nervous or afraid? For instance, will it result in efficiencies so that less people are required to do the same function?

These are the types of projects that would be candidates for branding.

All large projects get branded. If you don’t do anything, this branding is generally negative. It is just the nature of people that they seem to think that change is bad. Positive branding communication helps you proactively build the image you want to portray rather than getting stuck with one.

When considering a branding strategy, ask whether it is important for people to have a positive feeling about your project. For example, when people hear of your project, do you want them to think of the benefits your project is bringing or do you want them to think about how bad the project is? Should they think of the company responding to competitive challenges or should they be wondering if the project will cost them their job? Do you want them to have positive thoughts or negative ones?

There are activities that a project can perform to help with the branding campaign.  Examples of activities include establishing a positive project name, distributing banded materials, publicizing project successes, etc.

Why the fuss?

You might be wondering why this all matters. Does this sound like just a bunch of fluff and unnecessary work? It is not. It matters because it is much more difficult for your project to be successful if the people that have to change are negative. It is much easier for you if they are positive about the change – or at least neutral. That is where the value-add comes in.

project tool

Using a Project Tool

Having a project tool and knowing how to use it to its fullest potential are two very different things. This is why most of the project management tools of today have training included when they are purchased. This training is specific to the tool on how to use it in multiple ways, so it can best fit the needs of your organization.

Unlike a project tool of the past that was generally an item used on the production floor, today’s project management tools are mainly computer programs of some sort. This type of tool has become an integral part of the business world, since the uses of computers have been extensively integrated into the business sector.

To help spread the word about a new program or project tool, many organizations now introduce them in a manner by offering a portion of their programs for free. This allows the prospective buyer to use it in a trial run. This is the best way to see if the tool itself will be useful to your organization. It will also give your project team the opportunity to see just how easy the program is to learn and use.

These are important to know before you place a substantial amount on the purchase of a project tool to be used in your next business venture. By using them in an actual business venture, you can then gauge just how much money and time the tool has saved in a real world situation. This way, you can make a projection just how beneficial the new tool can be, in the terms of revenue. This then can be presented to the stakeholders of your organization, as the reason in favor of acquiring such a tool to be used by your project team.

The exact type of project tool that will benefit your company the most will be determined by your needs. There are project management templates available for a free trial run. There are also Project Management books of knowledge available to help guide your project leader in new paths to completing a project successfully. There are many other sources that are available if you just look for them. Each one has a specific purpose to help you and your organization to achieve your goals.