Astute Planning, Flawless Execution,
Delighted Customers

Issue #168

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CCI Serving Those in Need…Again

Members of the Customer Centricity team and the First Baptist Church of Hudson, NH are again headed to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, to build and/or refurbish homes with Habitat for Humanity. This year the team is traveling during NH school vacation (week of April 25) to enable teens to experience the blessing of helping others in need through hard work.

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, destroying property and killing hundreds. Less than a month later, on September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita also made landfall on the Gulf Coast, extending the devastation even further. All told, more than half a million homes were damaged or destroyed.

Six years later Habitat for Humanity still engages coastal Mississippi families struggling with run down temporary shelter and poor housing conditions.

If you are interested in supporting the cause or would like to learn more, click here. The team of volunteers and, more importantly, the people in need thank you in advance for your support.

People, Process, and Technology - The Right Dose of Rigor
by Craig Bailey, in collaboration with Mark Hall, William George Associates, Ltd.

We continue our series on People, Process and Technology focusing on a case study involving the deployment of an enterprise-wide Project Management solution. While the topic is focused on project management, the principles relate to any enterprise-wide solution (i.e., CRM, ERP, etc.).

In our prior installment, we reinforced the importance of an effective project kickoff to quantify and reinforce the fact that each stakeholder has something to gain. This is absolutely essential to ensure 100% adoption and will be reinforced throughout the project lifecycle.

Another important ingredient is ensuring that the “right dose” of rigor is defined during process and methodology development. In terms of a project management solution, this can include, but is not limited to:

  • Task level granularity
  • Frequency of project resources updating tasks / entering time
  • Parameters for baselining
  • Levels of resource availability
  • Project templates

To be clear, these items are NOT things that a system would enforce. Instead, they are foundational process-level agreements to be established to ensure the right level of rigor is implemented to achieve the anticipated outcome. That is, if these (and other) parameters are “too tight” early on, relative to a company’s project management maturity level, then it (the solution) will seem far too burdensome and will not be used. As such, it is important to begin to create boundaries for such parameters but allow flexibility as team-members begin to “move in” to this new operating model.

Task level granularity

A common axiom for project management is that the larger the duration of a task, the higher the risk of deviation from plan for that task. This results from the fact that, for many tasks, there is often “some level” of subjectivity when a project resource reports percent complete. How often have you been told “we are 90% complete” only to learn (too late) that the remaining 10% actually equated to far more work than anticipated resulting in the last 10% taking longer than the original task duration.

An effective way to mitigate this risk is to divide large tasks into smaller chunks. The need and ability to do this can vary depending on the duration, complexity and risk of the project. For a multi-year / complex project, an approach to doing so, while maintaining a balance of rigor and flexibility, would be to establish guidelines such as the maximum duration of near term tasks (those scheduled for the next 30-60 days) must be 40 hours or less, while tasks further out can have longer durations. And, as these future tasks enter the near term window, they must be broken down into tasks of shorter duration. It should be noted that this is NOT an opportunity to expand project scope or move out end-dates. It is simply a time to add increased granularity to summary level tasks.

Frequency of project resources updating tasks / entering time

Key benefits and factors (among others) related to an integrated enterprise-wide project management solution include:

  • Availability of up-to-date project status information to project managers, project resources and others with access to project management dashboards and reporting.
  • Project resources have one place to go to view their assignment(s), observe how their work fits into the overall plan, understanding how their work is impacted or supported by the work of others, as well as update their progress on tasks.

Fully enabling the above requires that ALL project resources input their time invested and percent complete for each task worked, on a daily basis.

This will likely be a change for most organizations which have a policy requiring that timesheets be completed on a weekly basis. However, if you make it easy for project resources to input their time daily, they will be more likely to do so. This includes putting in place a single point of time entry. That is, you should NOT require your resources to enter time in 2 places (the legacy timesheet system as well as MS Project Server). Instead, you will want resources to enter time only in MS Project Server with a feed of their actual hours to the legacy timesheet system.

Parameters for baselining

Let’s face it, as soon as a project plan is cast, reality begins. While many tasks will start and complete on time, others will deviate from the original plan. Project schedules and dedicated / committed teams can often accommodate slight variations to start / end dates without jeopardizing the overall planned end-date. However, when a significant variance occurs vs. plan (either to a project phase and/or project end-date), it is time to rebaseline the plan. That said, ground rules need to be established for doing so.

Rebaselining the plan should only occur once all stakeholders understand the reason for the need to revise the plan and alternatives to doing so have been considered. This ensures that accountability is established, there are no surprises and there is a “lessons learned” to minimize the likelihood of the situation recurring in the future on this or other projects.

Once the “air is cleared” after rebaselining a project plan, it is important not to waste time and energy continuing to rehash deviation from original plan vs. the new baseline on each and every project task. To address this, it is suggested that program governance (project dashboards, progress reports, etc) focus only on deviations between original plan and rebaseline on major milestones or project phases. Doing so ensures all stakeholders remain aware of the top-level change (original vs. revised) on the main components of the plan and allows the project team to focus on execution against the revised plan based on the new dates.

Levels of resource availability

To ensure that your resource pool is as accurate as possible, it is important to determine the level of availability of your project-related resources. This can include (at least) 3 factors:

  1. Administrative time: This is time that resources spend on non project-related work such as training, departmental meetings, etc. A company might set a policy that states all project-focused resources will have 15% of their time consumed by administrative activities.
  2. Sustaining activities: This is a category of “real work” that will vary depending on the resource or department. As such, a departmental manager may indicate that a particular project resource dedicates 25% of their time towards sustaining engineering or support.
  3. Project activities: Given the above, the availability of a particular resource, for project-related work would be 60%.

Just as important as defining the above and setting company policy is the need to proactively “police” the resource pool to ensure that there is no “sand-bagging” when in fact the resource has availability for important projects.

Project templates

This is an area where it is easy to implement too much rigor out of the gate. An effective approach to this is to model the following basics:

  • High-level template mapping to:
    • Major toll gates of a company’s project / product management methodology
    • The project accounting structure (project phases which equate to accounting codes) to enable effective project cost accounting
  • Detail-level template ONLY for systematic / recurring / repeatable activities that seldom deviate from a standard set of tasks and activities

Once you get started with the above you may learn that is all you need. Or, as time goes on, you’ll identify other areas that are ripe for “templating” to further streamline your project managers’ efforts to spin-up subsequent project plans.

In future editions, we will continue to explore methods and considerations to effectively deploying an Enterprise Project Management solution, by covering topics such as:

  • Business requirements to technical configuration
  • Assessing the Project Management capabilities, leading to training, training and more training
  • Ongoing support of your enterprise solution

If your firm is embarking on a critical initiative, or struggling with one that seems to have gone off track, feel free to contact us. We'd be happy to discuss your situation, share pointers, and determine if there are opportunities to more formally assist you with our Project Management services.

About William George Associates Ltd.

William George Associates Ltd. (WGA) is a leading provider of comprehensive Project Management, Lean Six Sigma, and Innovation consulting, training, and staffing solutions. Since 2002, WGA has served New England's largest organizations and mid-market companies in the High Technology, Life Sciences, Financial Services, Education, and Energy industries.

As New England's only Microsoft Gold Certified Enterprise Project Management Partner (Project Server 2010, Microsoft Project 2010, and SharePoint 2010) and a Registered Education Provider (R.E.P) for the Project Management Institute, WGA is uniquely qualified to design and deliver solutions tailored to the specific needs of our diverse clients. WGA has successfully trained over 3,000 professionals to get their PMP and Lean Six Sigma credentials.

Of particular interest to clients who develop new products and technologies, WGA offers Innovation Consulting Solutions for the development and protection of Intellectual Property using our Patents and Trademark process.


+ CCI Serving Those in Need...Again

+ People, Process, and Technology - The Right Dose of Rigor


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Check out what a customer had to say about his experience with Customer Centricity:

Customer Centricity has provided outstanding service to Hologic (Formerly Cytyc Corporation) in the areas of process improvement and Program Management. They led several cross functional initiatives for us that included an upgrade of our ERP system, implementation of a CRM system, and integration of systems from M&A activities. They are well respected by everyone they have worked with.

Bill Roberts
VP of Information Systems
Hologic Inc.

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