Archive for category project management software

An All Purpose Checklist for Project Closure

This post is from Kevin Sequeira, Product Manager for Tenrox, the leading workflow-driven  project
management and professional services automation solution.
 

You’ve reached that point in the project where you stand at deployment and you are ready to shake hands with the project customer and move on to your next assignment.  Do you just flip the switch, wave goodbye and ride off into the sunset?  Is your job complete?  How do you know…what is your yardstick for saying, “that’s it, we’re done here!”?

From my project experience there are some key steps and critical things to check on as the project is deploying so as to ensure that the engagement is over and the solution is ready for the project customer.  I’d like I present what I consider to be a reasonable ‘general’ checklist for use at project close out to ensure you’ve dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the ‘T’s before moving on to your next project.
 
Are all deliverables delivered?
Review the project schedule closely. Has your project team successfully delivered on all project deliverables?  And just as importantly, do you have something documenting customer acceptance of each project deliverable?  Is there a formal signoff in your project folder?
 
Are all invoices current?
Most projects either bill time and materials, by deliverable, or monthly. Look through all project invoices. Has everything that should be paid up till now actually paid?  If not, now is the time to check with the customer to see if there are any outstanding invoice issues and work to resolve them quickly.
 
Has a lessons learned session been conducted or at least scheduled?
I’m a fan of conducting one or more lessons learned sessions before the actual point of deployment because it’s hard to pull everyone together after the solution has been turned over to the customer and to support staff. But if you’ve not held a session yet, schedule that now with the client even if it’s just a one or two hour phone call.
 
Have all user acceptance testing (UAT) issues been resolved?
How did UAT go?  Were there any remaining issues to be fixed?  Ensure that those have been acceptably resolved prior to deployment. Make sure that you have a formal UAT signoff in hand as well – a project that does not have a formal testing acceptance from the project client should not be headed for deployment.
 
Are all training issues completed?
Most customer solutions require some level of training to be conducted for the customer’s end user community.  Naturally, this would have been well laid out in the project schedule with specific tasks designed to ensure that this is accomplished.  Review the schedule to ensure that all training tasks are complete – a customer who doesn’t know how to use their newly deployed system will likely not be a satisfied customer who gives good references to other potential project clients.
 
Is a formal project acceptance signoff ready for the customer?
Finally, do you have a formal signoff document ready for the customer to sign upon deployment of the final solution?  It’s important that you’ve been accumulating ‘official’ acceptance signoffs on all deliverables up to this point, but this one is probably the most important of all as it signifies overall acceptance of the deployed solution to the customer.  Any discussion of remaining outstanding invoices will likely begin and end with this signoff, so make sure that it is always part of your project closure
checklist.
 
Summary
This is my practical checklist for closing out a project engagement.  Readers – do you have other things that you would suggest adding to this list?  What other items do you consider critical to every project to cover before considering the engagement closed out?

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5 Key Challenges for Project Managers in Services Organizations

This post is from guest contributor Brad Egeland, a leading project management consultant and author. His website, bradegeland.com, is regularly lauded as a top blog for project management, PMO and Agile related topics.

Project management in any environment can be a challenge – there is no doubt about that. But when you’re involved in a professional services organization and working with shared resources and delivering on projects with tight budgets and tight schedule commitments – not to mention likely juggling four, five or even six or more projects at a time – it can get become a very daunting task.

While the list of challenges for project managers is definitely never ending, I’ve created my own ‘Top 5’ list that I’ve encountered over the years of managing projects. They are listed in no particular order of importance, but all can be devastating to your project if not managed well and responded to proactively and appropriately.

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Sales to Service and Everything in Between

Written by: Marlon Arevian – Senior Solution Consultant, Tenrox

Ahhh…the life of a Solution Consultant! They sit warm and snug, in between the Sales and Service departments. Solution Consultants’ inherit a hybrid role of ambassadors for their company’s products during the pre-sales process while effectively assessing scope and mitigating risk for the Service Delivery Team. They also bridge the gap of the high flying energy and emotional rollercoaster of Sales to the pragmatism and well-drawn lines of Professional Services. Outside of showcasing product offerings to potential customers, a big part of their job is to communicate what exactly our new customers are looking to accomplish. The Services Team needs to know things like objectives, scope and risks which were collected during the pre-sale process. Solution Consultants own the post sales knowledge transfer process which saves our customers a ton of frustration from not having to repeat themselves and allows our professional services team to kick off a project on solid ground. It also ensures that the customer vendor relationship is fluid from their initial contact to being live on the system.

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Why Your Project Management Sucks

Here is an article I wrote for PS Village explaining why companies have to very carefully assess how they select and manage projects in their business.

http://psvillage.com/pulse/why-your-project-management-sucks

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Large software company playbook

Here is a blog I wrote about how some large software companies compete and the tactics they use against their fast moving, more agile and innovative best of breed competitors.

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Certified Professional Caulker

I got a hands-on reminder to the subtle differences between a pro and a beginner. How often we forget and the dear price we pay when we assume “it’s easy”, “anyone can do this”, “let’s go with the cheapest solution” …

http://www.gantthead.com/blog/Project-Workforce/2594/

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Ten Major Trends for 2011 and How They Impact Professional Services and Project Delivery

As the year end approaches we all become prognosticator of all prognosticators. I ran into Jim Carroll, a bonafide futurist, in one of my trips and he inspired me to write this article for PS Village. He got me thinking about what are the trends for 2011 and how they will affect enterprise software, project and service delivery and cloud-based technologies, all of the stuff we work and live with everyday.  I started with Jim Carroll’s 2011 trends and wondered how these trends will impact our world.

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The Laws of Simplicity

In these prior blog posts:

Applying Occam’s Razor Principle to Product Design – Lessons learned from our Project Management Software design experiences

Occam’s Principle Applied to IT Investments

I outlined how Occam’s Razor principle could apply to product design and IT investments. I recently stumbled on to the writings of John Maeda who has authored a book on the laws of simplicity. A summary of the laws can be found here:

http://lawsofsimplicity.com/category/keys?order=ASC

A review of the laws is a good refresher for anyone in charge of project management, new product development and software design. The last law states: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful. This is actually Occam’s principle which I described and provided some examples for in the above mentioned posts. In fact as John Maeda mentions in his book and on his website Occam’s principle is really an encapsulation of the first nine laws.

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The Year in Review in Software & Services and 90% Software Maintenance Margins

Here is a good short review of enterprise software and services stories in 2009.

What caught my eye was Brian’s referral to 90% software maintenance margin as a bad thing. Brain, most software companies invest significant dollars in infrastructure, R&D and new product development. Healthy profit margins from on-demand services and support are an absolute necessity. Without those margins no software company can attract great talent, investors or even consider any new ideas.

As an example, at Tenrox while 9 out 10 new customers are opting for Tenrox on-demand we still do have and support on-premise customers with perpetual licenses. One of these customers had gone without support for eighteen months thinking the software works great and they do not need our support, updates or innovations. Well something went wrong and they called our service team asking for help. They wanted to pay time and material for us to jump on the problem and fix it. We explained our policy that they must reactivate support, pay a penalty for the reactivation, and get up to date before we can even look at the problem. This customer was quite frustrated and did not take the news very well at all.

As a software company we have no choice but to establish such policies. Tenrox is not a consulting “time and material” provider. The profits and good margins from on-demand services and support are absolutely essential for continued innovation and first class customer support.

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Interview with Microsoft Project’s Seth Patton

Here is an interesting interview with a marketing director at Microsoft Project regarding their product roadmap and strategy.

http://www.enterpriseirregulars.com/500/interview-with-microsoft%E2%80%99s-seth-patton/

I guess Seth has not kept up to date with technology trends all that much. If Microsoft’s strategy is to try and drive out independent software vendors (ISV) they are not going to do all that well with their customers or partners. With Software as a Service and cloud computing, best of breed is a clear hands down winner in this market. Just look at the huge success stories of salesforce.com, RightNow, Taleo, and Success Factors all of which are SaaS offerings; there are so many more SaaS and cloud winners out there. I think Microsoft is better off focusing on strengthening its ISV partnership base instead of alienating them with this kind of thinking and interviews. This is not forward thinking.

Here is another interesting exchange in the interview:

While PPM products, Microsoft’s included, contain many of the functions needed by professional services firms, they are still some key functions not available within Project just yet. These include: client billing; dedicated time entry for vendor, client, contractors, etc.; two-way interfaces with payroll systems; proposal tools; and, more. Nonetheless, Seth reminded me that thousands of Microsoft partners are service firms as well as users of Project in client work.

This sounds a lot like the old we have it all ERP type of talk. Well then I guess customers should wait another 10 years for Microsoft to develop these and other capabilities. Or customize the heck out of Microsoft Project to fulfill the gaps they perceive in the solution and to get what they need like these other companies he mentions have.

I still remember the first time I read a brochure from one of these large vendors. The brochure said they do everything under the sun. I got the same impression with virtually every release of Microsoft Project. To this day, all of these products have only fallen behind more, become more bloated, more complicated, and more out of touch with what customers really need.

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