90 Percent

Project management, productivity, change management, and more!


Leave a comment

Need help with a tight schedule? – Part 2

In part 1 of the article, we’ve explored two typical ways to speed up projects and a few alternatives that can also help. Here are a few more alternatives:

Reduce stakeholder delays or revisions for feedback

As the project progress, it is a standard practice for some types of projects to have different kinds of deliveries sent to stakeholders to receive their feedback or their approval before moving forward to the next phase.

When the schedule is tight, you might be able to negotiate fewer rounds of revisions allowed or shorter delays to approve some documents.

Foe example:

  • Maybe typically the stakeholders have 5 days to provide consolidated feedback to your team. In case of a tight deadline, you might be able to negotiate 3 days instead;
  • If 3 rounds of feedback are allowed per delivery, maybe it can be reduced to 2, even 1.

Pros:

  • Faster approvals or less revisions means the schedule is shorten.

Cons:

  • This can add risk that stakeholders cannot meet their deadlines given and this might cause some phases to be late;
  • If rounds of revisions are removed, there is also some added risk that they find some issues later on, which you will not necessary be able to negotiate more budget or schedule since they can debate they should have had an additional revision normally.

Combine two deliveries together

This obviously applies to only a few types, but in some cases it’s possible to combien two deliveries into one, this can reduce back & forth and accelerate the project.

For example:

  • A wireframe delivery can be combined with the design phase. The final output are layouts (wireframes are implied within). Both are basically done in parallel with designers & UX designers working together. In this case, stakeholders would approved the user interface at the same time as the design work;
  • Simple website pages that derive from approve pages can be delivered only once developed, without any prior wireframe or design work. All this work is implied inside the develoed pages themselves for the stakeholders to approve.

Pros:

  • Be combining (or removing) deliveries, hence removing approval phases because of the reduced quantity of deliveries, this shortens a schedule quite a lot.

Cons:

  • This adds risk of rework since stakeholders see more of the work accomplished at the same time, therefore can have feedback on more elemets, thus creating more rework. In our example above with layouts, if the user interface itself doesn’t please stakeholders and must be revised, this means the layouts must be revised accordingly as well.

Roll stakeholder feedback into the subsequent phase and/or deliverable

This technique can only be applied to certain types of projects, and also depends of actual feedback. Basically, instead of going through one additionnal round of feedback where you send the revised delivery and wait for feedback, you skip on to the next phase and send the revised work fused with another delivery.

For example:

  • The feedback given on the latest copy sent is that several terminology must be changed and they ask that your team proposes new copy. You could send a revised copydeck, wait for approval, then start integrating the copy inside the project, whether it’s a website, a flyer, a software, etc. Or, you could propose new copy that you integrate right away and the stakeholders can vet it directly within staging or inside layouts (a.k.a. the next delivery).

Pros:

  • This can remove one revision’s delay therefore saving time in the project’s budget;
  • Sometimes this can also help stakeholder approves certain elements (like copy) inside a different context, helping them understand.

Cons:

  • This can add risk of rework if the revised work done according to the feedback received is still not approved. In order to mitigate this, it’s ideal to use this technique when the feedback is fairly straightforward.

Putting case issues aside or reduce the “pixel perfect” expectations

In IT projects, running into issues with a particular OS or browser that affects only a few people is quite recurrant. When these issues are found, it doesn’t mean it’s worth spending time to fix those issues.

For example:

  • Older versions of Internet Explorer show the form 2 pixels more to the left than it should; this is barely visible to anyone and older versions of IE may be used only by a small percentage of visitors;
  • If a user does 4 specific steps to reproduce the issue, only to have a blank space added to his menu until he refreshes the screen; this is not a showstopper, nor does it happen often that a user reproduces it.

Pros:

  • You can save a lot of time trying to find solutions to issues that may never be seen by anyone or will not bother many (if any);
  • You can also reduce costs that way, which is an added perk.

Cons:

  • You still risk users hitting issues and potentially complaining about it; even if the probability is low, you still reduce the quality of the work by using this technique.

Use senior resources

Depending of available resources, some more senior resources might be able to do the work quicker. This allows you to keep the same team size, but still shortened the schedule. It doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be a senior resource, but basically anyone who can get the work done faster.

For example:

  • One of the resource in the agency is known to be fast but has very little experience with very complex development. He could very well take care of your project that is considered simple, and he’ll be able to do it faster than others;
  • A junior resource on your project thinks he can tackle a task in 35h, but another more senior colleague knows he can tackle it in about 15h;
  • Also, note that senior resources then to provide better quality work, meaning you will most likely also save time long-term by avoiding lots of issues being found in your QA cycle.

Pros:

  • Tasks are done faster by more reliable resources, this can have a positive impact on your schedule since chances are, things will run more smoothly.

Cons:

  • These senior resources may not be available for your project since they are already used on other more important projects;
  • These resources tend to cost more, although they should take less time.

 

I hope these tips can help you when you are stuck in a tight spot with deadlines, do not hesitate to send more ideas below!


Leave a comment

Need help with a tight schedule? – Part 1

Source: dhester

Source: dhester

One of the main concerns for project managers  is delivering the project on time. More often than we would love to admit, this can be hard, and a variety of reasons explain why it can be a challenge (events, client expectations, business need, etc.).

Either while we’re planning the initial schedule, or as the project evolves, there are many different ways to help shortened a schedule so you can deliver your project on time.

In the past, I’ve written an article that listed a few tips to help you out, here is complementary information and more alternatives:

The two typical tools that can applied to all projects are the following:

Fast Tracking

Fast Tracking consists of starting a phase of a project sooner, overlapping with the previous phase.

For example:

  • If design is only partly approve, development could start earlier with what is approved;
  • If only parts of the projects are developed, QA can start for those pieces instead of waiting for the very end of development. This could be considered more of an agile approach.

Pros:

  • The duration that the 2 phases overlap is the duration removed from your overall schedule.

Cons:

  • The more you fast track, the more risk you add to the project. For example, unapproved design parts that are being finished might have an impact on what was approved, and if development was started, there is a risk of rework. If you decide to fast track even more and develop before any design is approved, you add risk of rework if the client approves only parts of it (or none of it!).

Crashing

Crashing is adding more resources to tasks so their duration is reduced. If you are working with external resources, it could also mean paying more to have a deliverable done faster.

For example:

  • If a website requires 240h of back-end development, and was planned with 2 resources for  3 weeks; you could add a third developer;
  • Overtime.
  • Third-party is developing the website you designed, they will deliver 2 weeks sooner, but at a cost.

Pros:

  • Tasks will get done faster, meaning the project’s duration can be reduced.

Cons:

  • Adding more resources can be costly, meaning the budget will take a hit. In our example above, separating 200h of work between 2 developers does not necessarily mean 100h each, just like you will not get your website done in 1 hour with 240 developers. There is added management time to communicate information to more people, there is also overhead between these people so they can communicate who does what, and if whatever they are working on is linked to one another, one’s code affect the other’s;
  • Too much overtime will tire the team, and if abused, might have worst consequences like team members leaving or left unmotivated to go on.

There are also  several other ideas that can be applied to some types of projects:

Separate project into different phases

Applicable for many types of projects, its scope can be separated into more than one delivery until the project’s completion.

For example:

  • If a software is due in 2 months since a conference is being held shortly after, only part of the software might be realistic to be delivered. You can decide to include fewer features for example, planning to roll-out updates in the subsequent weeks;
  • If a massive social campaign is starting on a certain date and you have an absurd quantity of posts to create, they do not need to be all created for the launch of the campaign. A first batch could be ready for the launch, and while those are being shared with the community, a second batch can be done, and so on.

Pros:

  • Allows the on time delivery of what is realistic. This can give an enormous amount of flexibility with a project that has an unrealistic deadline, or a typical client expectation to get a project out the door as soon as possible.

Cons:

  • This can add costs to your project. If a website is going live with half its pages, and you plan updates every week to add more pages, this creates the need for more deployments, which adds costs;
  • This may not fully satisfy your stakeholder(s), so it is important to manage this expectation as early as possible, ideally at the very beginning.

Reduce scope

A scope might be defined by stakeholders’ requests, or might be defined by what the team thinks is ideal for the project’s success. However, sometimes, there is just not enough time to do everything, and splitting the project might just not work. In these cases, reducing the scope might be your best bet.

For example:

  • A client asks a contest in time for summer, and they have enough budget to do something “cool” where users play a mini game to enter the contest. Unfortunately, they have decided to go forward with this last-minute, leaving very little time before the deadline. This might be a case where even if budget permits it, the idea of the contest might need to be reduced to something simpler like a simple contest where users fill a form.

Pros:

  • Less work means the project can be done faster.

Cons:

  • The client might not be fully satisfied with the reduced scope;
  • The grade of the project is diminished since it wasn’t built as it originally should and might not satisfy objectives as much as it could have been.
  • This removed work will also reduce the budget, meaning the organization will benefit less from this project.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Clocks


2 Comments

5 tips for proper time tracking

Clocks

Source: matei

A while back, I wrote an article that gave several reasons to track time for your personal gain. In this article, I’m referring to the whole team’s time, and want to concentrate on the effect it has on your projects.

First, let me describe what I mean by “Proper time tracking”:

  • Reliable: If hours are entered randomly by people, then the numbers are not reliable;
  • Updated: Updated information means that all information (so all the time) is available when reporting;
  • Indicative: The numbers needs to show what was done, for how much time, and by who.

In general, people are not aware of the importance of time tracking, and see it simply has a way for management to make sure people do their weekly hours. This lack of knowledge towards how the hours are used will affect how the team enters it’s time and will affect the 3 elements mentioned above.

It’s important that proper time tracking is available for you to track your project’s costs, so here are a couple of tips to have that information available:

1. Must be done daily

There are lots of team members who log their time once per week (or worst), this results in:

  • Huge amounts of time tracked at once: This can be devastating, if you did your report on Tuesday and reported your project was healthy, and one week later, 150h was added suddenly because 2 team members entered a whole week of work the next day, then your project can go from healthy to under budget quickly.
  • Drop in the time’s accuracy: People barely remember what they did at the end of a day, so imagine at the end of the week! Some add inefficiency in all this by noting their time somewhere on a piece of paper or a .txt file, and then they re-enter all their time in the time-tracking tool at the end of the week. It’s faster to simply enter the time at the right place.

Time must be logged daily, so invite people to enter their time at the end of the morning and at the end of the day, it’ll be quick, not to mention fresh in their memories.

2. Must be simple & fast

As any tools used, the simpler/fast it is, the more people will use it regularly. As for time-tracking, as mentioned above, you want it done on daily basis, meaning that the tool must be efficient.

Furthermore, if it’s slow to enter your time, then people will waste time doing this, and the idea behind time-tracking is to be efficient with those numbers, not waste time!

3. All hours must be entered

There are a couple of reasons why people do not enter all their time in the project:

  • They don’t enter overtime since it’s not paid;
  • They enter their time somewhere else so that the project’s actual costs are reduced (or appear reduce at least).

Both habits reduces the project’s real hours (on paper), and although at first glance, it may seem”okay” for some to do this, not only is it not honest, it can have a devastating effect on your project and on future effects:

  • Estimating often uses past Budget past completion as a reference, if those numbers are not reliable, then it can impact estimates using them;
  • As you track your project’s action cost, it may seem as if the project is at a better place than it really is, affecting the decisions made by you and your team, which will result in more overage.

So it’s simple, all hours spent on the project should be entered, and “excuses” to log the hours somewhere else should be discarded.

4. Must monitor time-tracking

Unfortunately, people may enter their time in the wrong place, or make errors entering them. For example, 1h on a task can easily become 10h with a simple typo. People may also confuse projects or simply “dump” their hours at the end of day without proper accuracy.

Monitoring hours means looking at hours logged by each member, and assess if it makes sense. If it doesn’t then it should be discussed with the team member, and if an error was made, then it must be corrected.

You’d be surprised how many errors can slide in your project’s actual costs.

5. Time tracked must be indicative

Often, time-tracking tools will offer a “Comment” functionality, which helps PM understand what the team member did specifically. This can also be very useful when working with retainers when reports need to be done. However, this comment needs to show something relevant, otherwise it’s simply a waste of time. Here are examples I’ve seen in the past:

  • Time entered under “Client X”, under “Project Z”, for Task “Back-end developing”, the comment was “Programming”.
  • Time entered under “Client Y”, under “Project A”, for Task “Front-end developing”, the comment was “I developed for Project A”.

You get the idea!

Rusted wheel


Leave a comment

4 ways processes can prevent efficiency

Rusted wheel

Source: dhester

When working in teams, especially as the team is bigger, processes are what guides everyone, and helps everyone work together towards the same goal.

But have you ever felt as if the processes in place seem to add complexity rather than help? Here are some ways this might happen:

Who does what

Processes is not only what should be done, but by who, and sometimes, that’s just no clear enough, which creates expectations that are not met, therefore confusion, frustration, and conflicts rises from this.

In a struggle to get this clear, sometimes so much detailed/granular instructions will be given at the same time that people will get lost or confused in it.

Billable VS Non-billable hours

Tracking productivity by calculating & monitoring how any hours each spend on projects VS hours spent on internal tasks is important to make sure people are working on what brings in the money.

Non-billable hours include anything that’s not going to get a bill out of the door, meaning amongst other things: working on tools, template, processes, or any other ‘internal’ work. This is as still very important work since it affects all the work that’s going to be considered ‘billable’.

If no importance is given to those non-billable hours, then everyone will avoid to contribute on any of the above elements, and nothing will get fixed or improved.

Another negative effect this can have is how people enter their time; since non-billable hours have no value, people who need to work on internal stuff will be reluctant to do so, or even worse, they will enter their time in projects so that they seem to work on billable tasks. This adds a whole level of lying and deceiving that you want to avoid.

Tools

Sometimes it will be part of processes to use specific tools, whether it’s because of reporting, or more typically, because ‘people are used to it’. These tools are not always the best, and when forced to use them, will only slow people down, reduce motivation, and even completely prevent some to do their job.

Inappropriate for certain projects

Big chain of processes can be great and even absolutely necessary for big projects, or projects with typical deliverables. However, when you are tackling smaller projects, or retainers, well then processes should be adapted. You don’t want to spend your whole budget on internal processes and have nothing left to do the work!

List


1 Comment

7 tips to help you with your to-do list

List

Source: xololounge

To-do lists are great to keep track of everything that we need to do, but it gets flooded and we get lost in it, it can actually be counter productive.

Here are a couple of tips to help you with that:

1. Tougher tasks in the morning

As the day goes by, and we work really hard, we get more and more tired, and tasks become harder. To make sure we get things done even if we are tired, it’s important to have heavy/hard tasks done in the morning. That way, you can tackle them while you have the most energy, and when you start feeling depleted, you can jump to simpler tasks that you will still be able to get done even if tired.

If you do the opposite, chances are, your heavy tasks won’t get done, or not properly, and you will end having even more work on your plate.

2. Have routine tasks

There are always some tasks here and there that we have to do on a regular basis. Those kind of tasks generally could be done on the same day, at the same time. The more ‘routine’ it becomes, the less energy you will actually use to execute them since it you will so used to doing them therefore you are using less energy, even next to none.

As mentioned in tip #1, you might also want to plan those tasks in the afternoon when you are more tired.

3. Limit yourself

If you want to plan what tasks will be done when, you have to be able to know what time you need. Start paying attention to the time spent on your tasks by tracking your hours. That way, you’ll be able to fit the right amount of tasks in your day.

Another limit you want to impose yourself is the number of heavy/hard tasks you set in your day. Since they will use most of your time and energy, limit yourself to maximum 3 of those tasks per day.

And finally, limit yourself in the amount of hours you plan in your day. Keep in mind that tasks may take more time than planned, or you get disturbed, or something urgent may come up; book about 80 to 90% of your time only, leaving the rest for uncertainties. Gauge the percentage depending of your work environment. The more chaotic it is, the more buffer you want. There once was a time when I booked about 40-50% of my time only, knowing that I would get disturbed enough to fill up the rest!

4. Delegate

Some have a hard time delegating, and although I won’t get into details on how to delegate in this article, I will emphasis on the fact that if you are in any position of management or leadership, delegating is part of your role and it’s very important to do or you will always be flooded with things to do.

5. Make your list clear

It’s important that you don’t waste time understanding your own list or trying to figure out what’s next. Make sure it’s well separated by taking these quick tips into consideration:

  • Due dates: Must it get done today absolutely? Maybe you have more time then you think and you can tackle something else?
  • Time required: If it’s for next week but you need to invest 40h to accomplish it, then it may be good to start before something that’s due in 2 days. Plan certain amounts of hours per day for these tasks.
  • Importance VS Urgency: If may be urgent, but maybe it’s not really important, prioritize what you should tackle.
  • Color coding: Depending of what you use for your tasks, you may want to use color coding to be able to separate urgent/important/not urgent tasks at a glance.

6. Limit meetings

Assuming the meetings are actually needed at all, and that your job role doesn’t resolve around meetings, avoid booking more than 2-3 hours a day. Meetings can take a lot of energy, making the rest of the day unproductive. Usually, meetings aren’t actually productive to start with, so maybe you can even reduce the number of meetings you have overall.

7. Use technology

A piece of paper or post-its for quick notes may do the job, but with today’s available technology, you can easily have your to-do lists available at all time. This lets you access it even if you are in a Taxi on your way for a meeting, or even lets you take some notes when you think of something while taking a walk. All of this can save an incredible amount of time, and reduce confusion looking for tasks amongst 15 pieces of paper or 25 post-it.

Also, these applications can have very useful functionalities like notifications or sharing. It may also be able to help you sort everything out with dates or colors.

In conclusion

There are tons of tips to help with to-do lists. There are also various ways to list your tasks, or many applications/platforms available today. What’s important is to find what fits your needs and your work environment. One application or technique that works for someone may very well be useless for someone else.

Pay attention if it suits you, try different options, and fine-tune all the time. Don’t hesitate to share any tips you may have!


Leave a comment

5 signs your workload is too much

Unhappy

Source: JPPI

Although some jobs never really cause that problem, others tend to bring more work than we can handle. Whether it’s because things are not going as planned, because people are giving more and more things to-do, or you want more done so you add more yourself to your to-do list.

Whatever the reason, it’s not always easy making the difference between having to work a little harder for a while to get through a though time, and actually having a workload that is over what you should have. What often happens is by not being sure if your to-do list is too big, you don’t try to make it any smaller, and you may keep it until your burnout yourself.

Here are some tips that can help you in identifying if you should reduce your workload:

1.You barely remember what you did at the end of the day

You will need to track your hours everyday for this tip to work at it’S best. If your workload is too heavy, what will happen is at the end of your days, you will have a hard time tracking more than 75% of your time. The rest will just be a big blur, and yet you will know that you spent for example 10h in the office, and you will barely be able to enter 7h.

If this happens once on a crazy day, then that’s just fine; but if it goes on everyday, that may be a sign you need to calm some of your days.

2.You go to sleep (or can’t) thinking of work

It’s alright to still be thinking of work outside office hours, sometimes, that’s when we get the best of ideas. However, if everyday you go to bed thinking about work, and you just cannot disconnect and enjoy your personal life, than it may be time to make some changes.

An added consequence to this is that you are having a hard time falling asleep since you can’t stop thinking about all the things you need to do tomorrow but don’t how you’ll manage. If at some point you regularly need pills or other ‘help’ to sleep, than that is definitely a sign.

3.You wake up thinking of work

This sign complements the #2; if the very first thing that pops into your mind when you open your eyes in the morning is work, and this is also a regular occurrence, than this is yet another sign that something is not right.

4.Panic attacks in the morning

This one is a huge sign, and no it’s not a physical problem, it’s your brain screaming at you to get the message! If this happens, then stop and think about what’s going on. You may think at first it’s not work, but it easily can be.

5.You are unhappy

All the above tips to identify if you work too much needs to be accompanied with unhappiness for you to worry (except for #4). You can very well be swamped with work, but what if you like it? You are starting your own company, you put in lots of hours, still passionate about what you do; then you may actually be happy thinking about work all the time! Make sure to pay attention to any unhappiness towards your work before considering reducing your workload. If you are happy, then keep it up, just be careful you don’t burn yourself out and watch out for #4!

In conclusion

There are always signs that you need to take it easy, pay attention to your body, and be careful. Have you ever had a workload way above normal? Have you identified other signs? Please share!


Leave a comment

Effort VS duration of a task, which is which?

Have you ever wondered the difference between the two? Like many other terms out there, it’s all simple once you know it! So let’s reduce confusion by clarifying the difference between “Effort” and “Duration” when it comes to schedules and time management.

Effort: The effort is the actually “man-power” you will need in terms of hours (or other measure). For example, if a task requires 15 hours to complete, then that’s the task’s effort needed. The effort of a task can be reduced by finding alternative ways of executing it, but is not reduced when more resources are added.

Duration: The duration is the overall time it will take inside a schedule, generally in days or weeks. If the 15h task from my example above is completed by the same person, then it will be completed in two days; that’s the task’s duration. The duration can be reduced by adding resources that execute the work.

And that’s it! Hope this helps.