Archive for December, 2007

Project Prioritization and Selection: “Juggling School” for Project Workforce Managers

What if the attention and resources required by one project–the "squeaky wheel," as they say–starve another project that happens to be more critical? This happens all the time in companies that lack the right processes. Strategic projects can easily take a back seat to "pet" projects, or work that happens to be more crisis-driven.

I was recently interviewed for an article that has been published on NewsBlaze.com: "’Juggling School’ for Project Managers: Seven Reasons to Overhaul your Project Management System." This article focuses on project prioritization and selection. (There is also a chapter in the book, Rise of the Project Workforce, that goes into detail on this topic.)

In the article, I described seven major advantages to prioritizing and selecting projects using a five-step process that is described in the book. Below is a condensed version of these seven reasons for implementing processes around project prioritization and selection. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

  1. It allows you to organize your company’s best interests. Like an iTunes playlist for your projects, the project portfolio puts access to the most valuable projects in one place. Managers can compare projects, make funding decisions, and report on and analyze a collection of projects in one entity.
  2. It takes the guesswork out of project management. Implementing project prioritization and selection processes elevates decision-making to a more strategic viewpoint by aligning and assigning projects with business priorities. It also helps optimize resource allocation.
  3. It provides guidance for new projects. It helps you add new projects to your queue without misallocating resources to them. At the same time, it helps you allocate enough time and manpower to ensure quality results.
  4. Risks are assessed from a global perspective on their overall impact. New risks can be assessed more thoroughly and with respect to how they will affect the company as a whole. The steps you’ll use to organize your project portfolio will help you weed out those projects that contain too much risk to pursue.
  5. It helps you know when you have the resources and when you don’t. The system allows you to balance your resources.  Your ranking system will help you see when resources need to be reallocated, and the weighting and ranking is there for everyone to see.
  6. It is less time-consuming than juggling projects. The great thing about this system is that it doesn’t need to be constantly poked and prodded. In fact, it is important not to upset the portfolio too frequently by constant prioritization and resource balancing. We recommend you have a minor review each month and a major portfolio review once every quarter.
  7. It makes people more accountable. If a project doesn’t receive the funding or manpower it needs to be successful or if it fails for some other reason, leaders will know what went wrong where, and can address those issues with the appropriate employees. But more importantly, be sure to establish a framework for continued process improvement so that lessons learned and metrics obtained may be used to improve future project selection, estimation, and ranking decisions.

Today’s businesses–especially enterprises that manage hundreds of projects–can no longer afford to prioritize and select projects in a haphazard manner, or by allowing "pet" projects to carry the day. A company without these processes is destined to stray from its strategic vision, and lose its ability to compete.

You do not have to invest in a large new software suite to accomplish the above. There are simple tools out there that can help you automate this process; even using a few in-house developed spreadsheets and manual project value data collection is better than status quo.

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Your Real Life is Here and Now

I recently came across this wonderful quote from Bette Howland:

For a long time it seemed to me that real life was about to begin, but there was always some obstacle in the way. Something had to be got through first, some unfinished business; time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

- Bette Howland

I am so guilty of this myself. We all have personal and business challenges to deal with on a daily basis. It’s important to not let life pass us by just waiting for that one moment of perfection when we have no more worries, no more debt, no more challenges so we can start our "real life"… as this quote suggests there will always be something we will worry about and some challenge we have to overcome.

With that, my wish for the holidays is that we enjoy and appreciate the life we have here and now–unfinished business, and all.

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Talent Management and the Project Workforce – Part 2: What Drives Business Strategy in the Flat World?

In Part 1 of this essay, I challenged SuccessFactors, based on their white paper, “Talent Management 2017,” to go even farther to take into account a “worker’s market” where individuals will take increasingly more responsibility for managing their own talent.

Although the changing model represents challenges and opportunities for talent managers (and the makers of Talent Management software, such as the authors of this white paper), more importantly it represents an exciting outlook for the project workforce. I believe the advantages of the developing “Hollywood Model” far outweigh the disadvantages. While the knowledge and expertise of the old-fashioned workforce is being dispersed as project teams form and disband, the levels of knowledge and expertise among these workers are increasing, because workers will not be stagnant. In Workforce 2.0, workers are likely to be more excited and engaged in their projects. They don’t get bored as easily, and, because they must take responsibility for their own talent management in the long run, they don’t let themselves become “legacy employees” or get into a rut.

The Workforce 2.0 model will also keep businesses sharp, and responsive to their markets and customers. I disagree with the statement in this white paper that “Talent management will drive the business strategy [by 2017].” Companies cannot afford to set course based on the skills on their rosters—in fact, when they seek the same business again and again, it indicates that they are seeking business to keep employees “busy,” to “cover payroll” instead of building business value, and their collective skill set has probably become inert.

Agile companies allow market demand (instead of their current talent pool) to drive business strategy. Then, they manage their project portfolios to meet this demand, and manage their resources and talent to deliver the projects in their portfolio. They bring in new skills to meet demand—either by developing them internally or attracting them from the global talent pool. Talent Management plays an important role in identifying and attracting right-skilled people to the organization, and by supporting the project workforce managers who require and deploy the talent.

Companies in the flat world of Workforce 2.0 will be more creative in the types of work they seek, and keep their workers engaged through their agility.  In this way, they will not only serve their customers better, but they will keep more knowledge and expertise in-house because of the variety and the challenge of their projects.

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Judyth Piazza chats with Rudolf Melik, Author of The Rise of the Project Workforce

I was recently interviewed by Judyth Piazza, CEO and Editor of The Student Operated Press. The interview is available in audio format on this page at thesop.org.

Here is an excerpt:

Many companies operate their departments as tribes.  For example, there is a Sales team, IT, HR, Support, the list goes on…Each tribe has a team, and each tribe has a budget. They tend to operate in silos, but they don’t work really well together–they tend to be very protective of their resources, of their budgets, of their tools. The book tries to break the tribe psychology, which obviously makes companies very inefficient and slow to react to change.

There is a project behind what you sell, and you have to pay people and bill people for that project, so it is a project-based environment. A lot of business processes cross the boundaries of the tribes. If you create a visual model of a business process, and define the rules of all the different people involved in the business process…when you visually define a business process, and people follow that process and agree to it, then all of the sudden, people involved in that process start to work much better together.

Essentially, the book talks a lot about how to push down authority in the organization to the ranks; try to create a flat organization where more decisions are made at the lower levels in the organization; how you can pull that information to them in real time so they can make decisions–and good decisions, on their own, without waiting for a hierarchy, or a chief somewhere, to make a decision for them; and how companies can reduce the tribe psychology, and work better together, and react much more quickly to the changes and the competition as they arise.

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Tenrox Webinar: Project Workforce Management Enhancements in Tenrox 9.2

Our team at Tenrox has been working hard on version 9.2 of the solution, and we will host a webinar to demonstrate the new functionality on Tuesday, December 18, 10:00 am Pacific Time, 1:00 pm Eastern Time.

Some of the major new features of the software will help our customers to do some of things that I have explained in detail in the book Rise of the project Workforce, and have been discussing in this blog, such as:

  • Dashboards, Not Meetings: As important as it is that we communicate, the act of communicating has to be simple in today’s busy world. When a 10-minute view of a dashboard can communicate more than a 1-hour meeting, then the solution is doing its job well. With better tracking of project status and milestones, and dashboards that illustrate these, I think that Tenrox 9.2 will help eliminate more status meetings.
  • Selecting and Prioritizing Projects: By integrating Project Workforce management with CRM, we make it possible for managers to see and plan for the projects in their pipeline. Version 9.2 is integrated with Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Also, Tenrox Project Plan makes it easier to streamline task assignments and make forecasts on projects–which enables better planning for the entire project portfolio.
  • Detailed Tracking for Compliance: Many of the new features of 9.2 are direct responses to our customers’ needs to track time and expenses in more detail, and streamline the billing processes.

Please join us for this important webinar on Tuesday.

What’s New is Tenrox Release 9.2
Register here. 
Date: Tuesday, December 18
Time: 10:00 am Pacific / 1:00 pm Eastern

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Talent Management and the Project Workforce – Part 1: I Want to Go to Hollywood

A recent white paper from SuccessFactors, “Talent Management 2017,” touches on many of the phenomena we have been discussing on this blog, such as the Hollywood Model, and points to some new research on the ways that the project workforces expect to work, and the ways that HR must adapt.

Over a decade ago, it made perfect sense for the human resources departments of large and mid-sized companies to implement Talent Management solutions to proactively manage talent inside and outside the organization. These systems were built on the assumptions that corporations would be hierarchical, workers would prefer a long-term career with a single employer, and a centralized approach to career development—driven by the best interests of the corporation—would be not
only appropriate, but widely accepted as a good business practice.

How times have changed! And they are continuing to change. By 2017, according to the SuccessFactors paper, free agents will drive their own career development paths, working throughout a global network. Workers, not employers, will be in charge of developing their own skills and grooming their own talent for future opportunities.

SuccessFactors cites these challenges for talent managers in the coming decade:

  • Finding and acquiring talent in the age of the free agent
  • Aligning talent in a borderless world
  • Developing talent in a way that interests and engages the next generation of workers
  • Driving performance with predictive, relevant information

In the third challenge, “Developing talent…” there is implied what I believe to be the greatest challenge of all: talent is walking out the door more easily. Corporations can no longer assume that they are “farming” talent that will stay within their organizations. The investments they may make in training, mentoring, and on-the-job skills development can be lost easily—even taken by competitors. However, it is also “table stakes” to offer these opportunities for growth—no company can attract workers, even for short-term assignments, without helping them develop new skills.

The real challenge for the Talent Management industry is to think even less in terms of “command and control” and more in terms of “supply and demand.” The flat world is creating a “worker’s market,” which I call Workforce 2.0, where individuals manage their own talent.

The question then is: should companies focus primarily on managing their talent as this paper suggests, or let market forces drive their business and dictate what are their talent requirements?

In Part 2, I will discuss how businesses will drive their business strategy to leverage, not resist, the “Hollywood Model” of Workforce 2.0.

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Webinar: Incorporating Project Workforce Management for True CRM

An important benefit of Project Workforce Management is its ability to provide a single, holistic view of projects, from the opportunity stage all the way through to completion. Project workforce managers need accurate forecasts of their workloads, and the skill sets they will need to deliver upcoming projects. For these reasons, integrating Project Workforce Management with CRM is an effective approach.

In this webinar, Scott Millwood, President of Customer Effective, will go into more detail about the benefits of implementing the Microsoft CRM suite, and how CRM and Tenrox Project Workforce Management connect all functional groups to provide real-time collaboration for optimal client and project management. You will see a tour of Microsoft CRM and its out-of-the-box integration with Tenrox.

Thursday, December 6, 2007
at 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. Eastern

Register Here

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Executive Sponsorship: Key to Project Workforce Management Success

We listen carefully to the challenges that our customers experience in deploying Project Workforce Management solutions. But one common challenge is not one that we can address with better software or implementation services.  That challenge is executive sponsorship.

Whether it is for eliminating the costly habits of meetings, email and spreadsheets, or simply getting employees to enter their leave requests using the workflow system, change is unlikely unless executives not only speak in favor of it, but embrace it in their actions as well as their words.

In a recent report from Forrester Research (cited here on CIO.com), executive sponsorship is cited as the number one way for companies to re-invent their business intelligence (BI) strategy–and the same goes for a project workforce management which, like a BI strategy, is all about keeping executives informed about the productivity of the organization. I also cited in the book, The Rise of the Project Workforce, an Aberdeen study that showed resistance to changes in work standards to be the number one implementation problem.

We advise our customers to enlist their executive sponsors early on in the implementation process, and keep these sponsors highly involved long after the implementation.  Executive sponsors should:

  • Be the system’s "Power Users." Nothing works better than leadership by example. And when executives truly understand a project workforce management solution’s reporting and analysis capabilities, they can streamline their processes significantly.
  • Participate in the same end-user training as the staff. Lead by example: show openness to learning and changing, and demonstrate a commitment to the solution in a public way.
  • Evangelize the system, and the benfits for the employees, not just the organization. For example, to get employees to use a time and billing system, stress how much easier it is for them, explain the benefits for them, not for Accounting.

Higher user adoption, led by active sponsorship from the executive level, enables the highest benefits of a project workforce management solution: better data capture for better decision-making, and more efficient business processes. But more so than other enterprise solutions, project workforce management, when adopted properly, leads to true empowerment of the teams who use it.

The executives who sponsor project workforce management need to be comfortable with this empowerment shift. Then they can whole-heartedly endorse the organizational changes that are necessary to get the greatest benefits from the solution.

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