#AmazingPM, PPM, project management

Checklist: How to Determine When to Hire a Vendor

Build-a-PC-checklist-featured-imageAre you thinking of putting in a piece of technology to support your business?  Does the technology look easy enough to install without professional help, with only you and your internal team to get it done?  Answer these two questions then when choosing whether to hire a vendor or not:

  1. Do you have time?
  2. Which choice is cheaper?

“Do you have time?” literally asks if you can wait for the results you want from the new technology.  There is a learning curve with new technology.  Not everything goes perfectly.  Ask yourself honestly not if you have the skills to implement the new tech but rather if you have the time to figure something out when you get stuck and if you can indulge in the luxury of time spent waiting to benefit from using the new technology while figuring out the install.

“Do you have time?” also wonders if you (or your team) literally have nothing else to do, if you have plenty of “spare” time.  Avoid asking people to multi-task, especially if one of the tasks is important (e.g. implementing new technology).  If you ask busy people to put in new tech as a new chore for their day job, they will likely take shortcuts while missing small details with big impact during the long term.

By the way, “Do you have time?” can also reference the full duration of the implementation.  What happens if your business-mission workloads increase and your previously idle people are now needed to get “real” work done?  Does the new technology implementation get shelved?

Assuming your answer to “Do you have time?” is yes, next ask, “Which choice (DIY or hire a vendor) is cheaper?” by looking at costs comprehensively.  As long as your internal salaries are lower than vendor services rates, if your only variable for cost is NPV cash flow dollars, the answer will always be Do It Yourself unless you are truly honest with the magnitude of the learning curve your team faces.  Remember – vendors have already faced the learning curve.

Looking at current out-of-pocket dollars usually ignores both tangible and intangible future out-of-pocket costs (cash flow dollars) as well as opportunity costs (benefits lost by investing on DIY efforts instead).  Here is a brief listing of some costs and benefits you may want to consider for DIY:

  • Direct labor + benefits of implementation team
  • Allowance for break/fix mistakes from learning (risk budget)
  • Emotions of workforce with new technology implementation (some people will love doing this work beyond their job description, others may be stressed and hate the whole thing)
  • Benefits gained from increased internal expertise with the new technology
  • Risks from staff turnover using new skills
  • Benefits foregone from resource cost investment (what good things did you give up or not get because you asked people to do this instead of other things?)
  • The value of having someone external to the team accountable for the new technology performance
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#AmazingPM, PPM, project management, Reports

Recipe for creating an effective report

report1Why do you use reports?

Most people use reports in business to learn something about something in the business. Project management reports, if designed properly, inform the reader well enough to decide if action need be taken regarding the report subject. Reports are communication devices cum learning aids meant for wide audiences in the control process. Anything associated with learning can benefit from instructional design techniques, so use instructional design approaches to building reports and see report quality improve.

Three instructional design tools are particularly useful for designing reports: Bloom’s taxonomy, learning outcomes, and the ADDIE model.

Start with Bloom’s taxonomy when designing new reports because the information hierarchy it calls out informs the report writer on the type of data and detail required to accomplish the appropriate level of cognition. A status report that supports a reader’s ability to recall, understand, or apply the data holds fewer cognitive demands and can be supported by a smaller data set than a forecast that asks people to analyze, evaluate, or create thinking. Bloom’s taxonomy provides a mechanism where the verbs associated with the desired level of cognition can be incorporated into the learning outcomes.

“Validate the level of performance of UAT results by listing test scripts attempted, test scripts passed, reason for failure and frequency count of reasons.”

This is an example of a learning outcome with the highest order of Bloom’s taxonomy (validating something requires an evaluative level of cognition). Learning outcomes define the knowledge, skills, or abilities a learner is meant to achieve from a given lesson or instructional material. Learning outcomes are typically comprised of objectives. Drafters of objectives are typically advised to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Use the verbs from Bloom’s taxonomy to guide the wording of the specificity of the learning outcomes.

Next, use the ADDIE model to accomplish the learning outcomes with the reports. Analyze the data needed for the audience looking to act on the report. Design not only the data outlay but also source collection methods. Develop and implement the report by publishing to the intended audience. Evaluate the report through routine feedback on its usefulness to complete the full ADDIE cycle and make changes as they make sense.

In other words, when looking to create a new report, follow this recipe:

  1. List your report-reader’s cognitive-level learning outcome(s) for the report (e.g. “Be able to speculate on the root cause of product bugs”) based upon using Bloom’s taxonomy to be specific.
  2. Follow ADDIE to discover then leverage the data needed to achieve the intended report outcomes.
  3. Get feedback on what works. Fix what needs fixing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

#AmazingPM, project management

How to build an effective PMIS report – Step One: know your audience

Interest and impact drive PMIS report creation foundation.

The measure of success for a Project Management Information System (PMIS) often comes down to one question: do system reports show correct, timely data for informed business decisions on any given project, program, or portfolio? 

Decisions reflect overt, conscious choices made by accountable individuals who own decision outcome consequences.  Accountable individuals may also be called “business decision makers” (BDMs), or “decision owners,” and may choose to share the decision—making power with a group.  Informed decisions take place when all data relevant to the choices and/or consequences of a given decision are included in the conversation with the decision-maker.  A PMIS report is only as good as the content tells the consumer enough to choose, with confidence, to move forward (or to stop moving forward). 

Building a good PMIS report is as simple as 1-2-3:

  1. Know your audience
  2. Know your content
  3. Know how to design the content for your audience.

The rest of this post will focus on the first step, Know your audience.  The next post will cover point 2, and a subsequent post after that will address how to put it all together in the design. 

power BI graphic

Creating a new report qualifies as a project.  One performs stakeholder analysis early in projects to identify the proper folks for requirements gathering, communication management, risk identification, issue management, etc.  Techniques used for such stakeholder analysis work well for creating new reports; one easy-to-use technique is an Impact-Interest prioritization matrix. 

The first step in the Impact-Interest prioritization matrix for a new report is to name the report and identify the potential questions to be expected from such a report title (e.g. if I am looking to create a “Past expenditures” report showing how money was spent, some questions might include: was past money spent wisely based upon outcomes achieved to date? Do I need to request more funds for future intentions I have? Are there actions to take now to improve current acceptable performance? Do I need to give budget back because I can’t spend the money allocated to my group? Etc.).

These questions identify the people, groups, and other entities (the stakeholders) holding any interest in report content. 

Plot the level of sincere interest (ranging from low to high) for each person, group, or other entity listed above.  Next, very honestly determine, and plot, the level of direct impact felt by or influenced by each stakeholder entity.  Also determine if each stakeholder’s impact or influence holds sway over a) inputs to answering the questions or b) the consequences of the answers (or c) both).  The greatest interest and the greatest impact stakeholder group comprise the core audience to consider when moving to the next step for deciding the most relevant content to include. 

reports table

#AmazingPM, project management, Project Online, PS+

Project Raise Slow Ride – Preparing to Do the Thing

slow ride prepIn our last several Project Raise Slow Ride videos, Mike has  pretty meticulously planned the raising of Slow Ride from the water. Good planning, risk assessment and mitigation, and preparation for a project are all critical to managing a successful project.

Time is of the essence, though – being submerged for so long is damaging Slow Ride, and the longer it takes to pull her out, the worse the damage will get. After putting together a solid plan, it’s time to actually do the thing.

In our next video in this series, Mike talks a little bit about the prepwork for actually pumping the water out of Slow Ride. Notice in the video that Mike pulls up Microsoft Project on his phone to make some tweaks to the project on the go. With mobile access to Microsoft Project, you can manage projects about a boat, near a boat, or on a boat!

mobile project

The moment of truth is nearly upon us – will Mike be able to save Slow Ride? Stay tuned to see if he’s able to get the boat out of the water, and if he’s able to get the water out of the boat.

Playing catch-up? Here are the other videos:

 

#AmazingPM, project management, Project Online, PS+

Project Raising Slow Ride – Risks, Mitigation, and Simulation

In our last installment of “Project Raise Slow Ride,” Mike began planning the whole thing out in Microsoft Project, with PS+ overlaying even more functionality to the already robust capabilities of Project.

One of the biggest pieces in planning a big project is the risk assessment. Once you determine what the potential risks are, you need to figure out how to mitigate them. In our latest video, Mike discusses some of the risks of raising the boat out of the water, and how to mitigate those risks. In the case of raising Slow Ride, electrical shock is a very real consideration, so Mike talks about some of the specific measures he’s taking to ensure nobody gets hurt.

Another risk of raising the boat is that, when Mike pumps the water out of the boat, the boat could roll over in the water, which, because Slow Ride is a pretty big boat, would be disastrous.

slow ride simMike runs a highly detailed (and really cool) simulation of how he thinks the boat sank, and then simulates the pumping process to see how the boat is likely to behave once the water is being pumped out of it. Once Mike has projected how he thinks the boat will move when the water is being pumped out of it, he’s able to mitigate the risk of the boat rolling over  in the real world with measures that will stabilize it as he pumps.

Thorough and specific planning for the likeliest risks in any given project is essential, and knowing exactly how you’re going to minimize or address those risks is critical to the success of the overall project.

Will all this planning help Mike get Slow Ride out of the water? Keep watching to find out!

Though attention has shifted to Puerto Rico’s damage from Hurricane Maria, folks in Texas and Florida are also still in the recovery process from this brutal hurricane season. Here are some resources if you’d like to help.

#AmazingPM, project management, Project Online, PS+

Using Microsoft Project & PS+ to Plan “Project Raising Slow Ride”

You’ve seen the boat and you’ve seen the whiteboard.  Now it’s time to crunch some numbers and leverage Microsoft Project and PS+ to plan at a whole-project (but still granular) level. Good planning is critical in making a project successful!

project slow ride schedule

In this video, Mike creates “Project Raise Slow Ride” using Microsoft Project and PS+ (soon to be renamed Edison365 Projects, with added functionality to help you see your project through from ideation through execution).

The start of the video may look familiar to you: creating a new project in Microsoft Project. But then Mike demos some super-neat stuff that PS+ can do in tandem with Microsoft Project to help assess project risks and escalate them to issues with one easy click.

Mike also shows off the project benefits page – it’s important to know the WHY of the project you’re mounting to help you stay focused on what matters through the course of the project.

With all this planning, will Mike be able to raise Slow Ride? Stay tuned…

#AmazingPM, project management, Project Online, PS+

Project “Raise Slow Ride” – The Whiteboard Session

In our last post, following the submersion of houseboat Slow Ride during Hurricane Irma, we wondered if project management can raise a boat. The next step after wondering if something can be done?

Planning how it should be done.

In this installment of Project “Raise Slow Ride,” Mike sciences his way to some estimates for pumping out the water that has infiltrated Slow Ride and plans how to raise the boat above the waterline. Watch the short video of the whiteboard session here.

Stay tuned to find out if applying project management manages to get Slow Ride out of the drink…

raise slow ride whiteboard