Mapping MS Project 2016 to project management processes

Mapping MS Project 2016 to Project Management Processes

MS Project 2016 and Project Management Processes

Mapping MS Project 2016 to project management processes

Microsoft Project is the tool which is used throughout the project life cycle from initiation to closure. Let’s see how various features of MS Project 2016 are used at various stages of the projects and how project 2016 helps in adhering to project management processes. Above figure shows the relationship between project management process groups and Microsoft Project. The figure also gives an understanding how we have to use Microsoft Project at various stages of project life cycle.

Initiation:

We need to setup MS Project 2016 if we are using MS Project 1st time or we have not created a template from our earlier executed projects. At the start of a project we need to induct MS Project to our project environment vary similar to how we induct a new team member to our project. In the File -> Options, we should setup some basic options like date format, currency that will be used for project costing, office timing, duty ours on a typical day, number of working hours in a week, number of working days in a month, unit of measurement for duration and work etc. This way we customize MS Project to work in our environment.

Planning:

For a smooth execution, plan has to be of excellent quality. With respect to Microsoft Project, a lot of work is done at planning stage. We create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) by breaking down product and project work into smaller pieces up to activity level, enters duration or efforts estimates for each activity, establish dependencies among activities, identify constraints and minimize them as much as possible. We also identify all types of resources (man, machines, material & money), make a list of resources with all the details such as their availability, unit of measure, their standard rates etc. After creating a list of resources, we assign them to activities based on who will do what and what all resources are required to accomplish the work. Once the plan is ready, we optimize the plan by adjusting estimates, discretionary dependencies and resource assignments. If the total duration of the schedule is more than expected then we crash or fast track the project to reduce its duration. Here feasibility is an important aspect to consider. We are preparing plan that our team will execute. If we crash or fast track the project beyond the feasible limits, our team will not be able to carry out the work as per plan and then such a plan will only be a paper work because it cannot be executed. We have to prepare a plan that is practical and executable. Even if it means going beyond imposed deadlines. We need to negotiate deadlines with stakeholders to keep the plan realistic and executable to deliver the outcome as promised.

Execution:

Execution is the stage where we have full team on board. While the whole team is working to produce deliverables, our main responsibility is to guide the team, remove the potential road blocks and from MS Project 2016 point of view, collect the work performance data to update the project schedule with actuals.

The actual data should be collected right from the team member who has performed the work. We should not only collect the data about progress so far but also the forecast. Suppose an activity is estimated to take 10 days. As of now 5 days of work is completed. It does not mean that the remaining work will be completed in next 5 days. It can be less or more depending up on experience of team members and progress made in last five days. Once we have collected actual data of the progress made so far and forecast, we update these actuals in MS Project.

Monitoring and Control

Now we have got actual data in the MS Project, we should generate reports. Microsoft Project specially MS Project 2013 and MS Project 2016 provide a very flexible way of generating reports. Based on requirements of our status meeting and various stakeholders, we should prepare various report templates. There are some readymade templates available which we can customize or we can take a completely blank canvas and add tables, graphs, text boxes, pictures, shapes etc. to prepare a template that satisfies stakeholders of our project.

Reports help us to understand if we are on time & budget or there is any variance? With these reports we can conduct our project status meetings and discuss with stakeholders to analyze and identify root causes. Based on root cause, we can decide on corrective and preventive measures. These corrective and preventive measures will be updated in project plan to carry out the work in execution as per updated plan.

Closure

MS Project 2016 helps us on two aspects of project closure. The first is lesson learned. Throughout the project we have collected actual data and updated MS Project. This is the time to look back. Using various views, tables and reports we can analyze what went well and what did not go well. Using MS Project we can compile a report and present lesson learned to stakeholders.

Second is archive the data. We have a very valuables data with us. If we archive the data in such a way that can be easily searched and used, we can use it if we get a project in future which is similar to this project.

 

Also refer

  1. Project Management Process Groups
  2. Project Management Knowledge Areas
  3. What’s new in Microsoft Project 2016

Project Management Competencies

Project Management Competencies

PMI Talent Triangle

 

Project Management Competencies

PMI’s Project Management Competencies Development Framework defines three types of competencies for project managers. These competencies are represented by triangle called PMI’s Talent Triangle as shown in the figure

The talent triangle focuses on three main project manager competencies

  1. Technical Project Management
  2. Leadership
  3. Strategic and Business Management

Technical project management defines processes and procedures. PMBOK Guide mainly defines technical project management competencies.

However technical project management skills are not sufficient to lead a project to success. As I compared a project manager with necklace designer in an earlier post (Who is Project Manager?), project manager’s vision, creativity, art of collaborating with stakeholder and his/her understanding of business value of project are more important for project success.

  1. Technical Project Management

Knowledge Areas described in PMBOK fall into this project management competency. Competency in understanding and implementing processes defined in these knowledge areas is technical project management competency. Knowledge of using Microsoft Project to schedule, track and report projects is also a technical competency.

  1. Leadership

Leadership skill is the ability of project managers to motivate & guide the team and building relationship with stakeholder to support the project. It includes creating a vision, communication, problem solving, resolving conflicts, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, negotiation skills, guiding team, constructive criticism, art of appreciation, assertiveness etc.

  1. Strategic and Business Management

Strategic and business management skill is the ability of project manager to understand benefits of project outcome and relating them to the goals of organization and customer’s organization. It involves creating project strategy, defining goals and objectives, defining tangible and non-tangible business benefits of the project, cost benefits analysis, return on investment etc. Business management skills also includes connecting organization’s strategy with project objectives, identifying and communicating tangible and non tangible business benefits of project to stakeholders and relating project work with other functions of the organization.

These three project management competencies are essential for a project manager to succeed. In general organizations give more emphasis on technical competencies however leadership and strategic skills have more impact and play a major role in success.

 

Also refer

  1. What is Project Management?
  2. Who is Project Manager?

Who is Project Manager?

Who is Project Manager

Who is Project Manager

Who is project manager

Who is project manager? What is his role? What are his primary responsibilities? These are few questions we must answer before move into project manager’s role. In an earlier section “What is Project Management“, I compared a project with a necklace. Functions, team members, stakeholders and technical activities are pearls and project management processes are its thread. Now who is project manager? In this context, project manager is a necklace designer. This is where the art come into picture to give a nice shape to the science. Best pearls and thread are not enough for a necklace to look beautiful. It is the necklace designer’s vision, creativity, hard work and experience that make the necklace looks beautiful. Similarly it is the project manger’s vision, creativity, its decision making skills, its skills of forming cohesive team, its art of engaging stakeholder, its experience in integrating by placing every pearl at an strategic position make project to deliver wonderful results. This art cannot be taught completely in a classroom. Besides classroom we learn it by doing it under an experience artist i.e. an experience project management professional or a guide or a consultant.

Project manager’s primary responsibility is to integrate various aspects of project, technical activities, team and stakeholders. Project manager’s failure to integrate them lead to project failure. A bad project manager can lead a project to failure despite excellent technical resources on board due to his inability to integrate. On the other side, a good project manager can achieve excellent results with average technical resources.

A project manager should have minimum 3 types of competencies – Project Manager Technical Skills, Leadership skills and Strategic Business Management skills to pay his role effectively. We will discuss about these skills in next section.

Balancing the triple constraints triangle

Managing Triple Constraints Triangle using MS Project

Managing Triple Constraints Triangle using MS Project

Balancing the triple constraints triangle

For balancing triple constraints triangle, let’s look back to the Project Manager Knowledge Areas section above where we discussed various aspects of project management that a project manager has to deal with all the time. We saw scope, time, cost and resources were painted in green indicating that these four areas can be managed in Microsoft Project. These four areas are most important in project management because any problem in any other area impacts either scope, time, cost or resources. This makes triple constraints triangle as shown in the figure very important. A PMP Aspirant should also understand this concepts in depth.

It is very important for a project manager to balance the triangle i.e. create a balance among scope, time and cost to deliver a quality product. Quality in the middle is an indication that it is not negotiable while scope, time and cost on sides indicate that we need to negotiate them to balance the triangle.

Various situations in a project arising time to time like a risk getting materialized, vendor delaying a deliverables or a change request may have impact on cost, time or scope. In such situations we need to analyze the impact and negotiate other sides to balance the triangle so that we can deliver the product or service as promised.

A scheduler such as Microsoft Project come very handy in keeping the triangle in shape. It is an excellent platform to analyze impact and negotiate other sides. In MS Project, we can define complete scope as Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), enter all our estimates for each WBS item, assign all our resources and manage dependencies among activities. This way we get control on the scope, timelines and cost.

We get the real benefit when we track the project. If we add some scope, it helps us to workout additional time & cost required. If any activity get delayed, it will show us the impact on all dependent tasks & on end date and give us a platform to take corrective actions in terms of adding resources (cost) or reducing scope to finish in time. If we have a constraint on cost side, it will help to us tuning time or scope to manage within budget. Basically it helps us to measure variance, identify cause of the variance, work out the right corrective actions and also track if corrective actions are really effective.

Suppose our customer sends a change request that adds an additional deliverable in the scope. Until we analyze the impact and balance it by adding more resources (cost) or adding some time or both, we may not be able to deliver a quality product. Microsoft project gives us a platform to add the additional work in the scope and see if we can manage it with existing resource by adding time or we need to add resources because adding time is not acceptable to the customer.

What are Program and Portfolio Management?

Program and Portfolio Management

Program and Portfolio Management as explained in PMBOK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Program and Portfolio Management

Program and portfolio both are group of projects however their objective of grouping is different. Program and portfolio management address the grouping of the projects in an organization for specific objectives. Let’s understand what program management and portfolio management are?

Program Management

A program is defined as a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually. Programs may include elements of related work outside the scope of the discrete projects in the program. A project may or may not be part of a program but a program will always have projects.

For examples projects for a single client or projects using same technology can be grouped together to form a program and manage them more effectively.

Portfolio Management

A portfolio is defined as a group of related projects formed to achieve a strategic business objective. The projects or programs of the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related.

An organizations looking to break into Telecom sector may group all the projects for telecom clients together in one portfolio. Multiple projects for specific client or specific technology may be grouped together as different programs under this portfolio. In a typical organization portfolios can be mapped to lines of business.

In general portfolio, program and projects are connected as displayed in the Figure.

Projects are normally authorized as a result of one or more of the following and linked with portfolio and program through organizational strategies and priorities.

  • Market Demand,
  • Strategic Opportunity,
  • Business Need,
  • Customer Request,
  • Technology Advancement,
  • Legal Requirements etc.

They are grouped together for synergy as it is more effective to manage them together than managing them individually and then they are grouped together to achieve organizational objectives.

Project Management Knowledge Areas

Project Management Knowledge Areas

Project Management Knowledge Areas as explained in PMBOK (A standard by PMI)

Project Management Knowledge Areas

A project manager has to manage multiple aspects of the project continuously throughout the project life-cycle from initiation to closure. These aspects such as scope of the project, given time frame, project cost, risk, quality, communication, procurement and human resources are termed as project management knowledge areas in PMBOK.

Integration Management is the primary work, a project manager should do all the time without delegating to any one which ensures that activities in different knowledge areas are progressing in a synchronous manner. Scope, Time and Cost often called Triple Constraints are the core knowledge areas. These areas in general get impacted if you have issues in any area.

In MS Project Context, four knowledge areas (scope, cost, time and resources) in the above figure 1.2 are shown in green which indicate that these aspects of project can be managed with Microsoft Project 2016. That means you can define complete scope of the project in terms of WBS in Project 2016, can take care of complete cost including fixed and variable, all the resources can be managed and ensure the timeline which is the primary objective of any scheduling tools like Project 2016.

You can manage knowledge areas that are shown in yellow i.e. stakeholder, communication, quality, procurement and risk up to certain extend in MS Project 2016 and you need to define and control work outside project 2016 also to manage them fully. That means Project 2016 helps in managing stakeholders, communication, quality, procurement and risk on a project. For example in communication management, MS Project will provide you progress data, status, reports etc. but what, when and to whom to send the information is beyond MS Project. Similarly Project 2016 helps you identifying risks associated with scope, time, cost, resources, inter-dependencies etc. Similarly there will be many other areas where MS Project may not be of help.

Project Management Process Groups

Project Management Process Groups can be understood using following diagram

Project Management Process Groups

Project Management Process Groups as defined in PMBOK

Project Management Process Groups

Initiating Process Group

Processes that are used to initiate a project are grouped in Initiation Group. In initiation, we conceptualize what exactly we need at the end of the project and identify stakeholders who can influence the project outcome.

This Project Management Process Group contains only two processes out of forty seven processes. This is a tiny process group but very important as initiation set the direction of the project. Therefore skipping it or fast tracking this stage could be dangerous. Every moment spend at this stage it precious. A small degree of deviation at initiation may takes you miles away from your goal at the end. Until you are very clear about reasons (business case) & objectives of your project and have sketched a high level approach to project planning, you should not move into planning stage.

Planning Process Group

From all Project Management Process Groups, Planning Process Group contains maximum number of processes. Out of 47 processes, planning alone has 24 processes that is 51%. Rest other 4 process groups share remaining 49%. If we consider project management a company, planning has the controlling stake. Therefore everything runs around planning in a project. It can easily be understood that projects which do not focus on project planning remain away from achieving their objectives. Various surveys have repeatedly showed that majority of the projects never achieve their objectives. They were challenged on time, cost & quality and failed to deliver benefits and values expected from them. Success and failure ratio may vary a bit in different surveys but one thing on which all survey unanimous agree that primary reason of failure was poor planning.

What is a plan? Fundamentally it is a list of time bound tasks if executed can turn concept (that we created in initiation) into reality (the product, outcome or service of the project). Planning is not just list of technical work we need to do in a project. It should contain each and every work to be done in project in order to make it a success. It contains, all stakeholders and how they can influence the project, a detailed scope of the work, a time bound meticulous schedule, cost estimate and expenditure schedule, quality improvement activities, resource utilization plan, a strong communication strategy to engage stakeholders and team, bill of material, procurement strategy, list of risks that can jeopardize project objectives and a response plan. A meticulous and comprehensive plan is like half way through.

Execution Processes Group

Out of 47 processes, This Project Management Process Group has just 8 processes (only 17%) while this is one of the longest stage and most of the money is spent here. You may observe, out of 8 processes, 5 processes are related to people – 3 processes for leading team, 1 for communication and 1 for stakeholder engagement. What is this indicating? For a project manager, managing people around i.e. your team members and other stakeholders is most important thing during execution stage and you have to be effective communicator to do so. It can be summarize like this. Team has a good amount of work to do during execution and project manager should act as enabler. He/she should look out proactively what kind of road blocks may come up that may impact effectiveness of team members & contribution of stakeholders and promptly work to remove them.

Execution process group may not contains many processes but this is the stage where most of the money allocated to a project is spent. Your team is at peak and if you are not effective on resource utilization, you probably burn the money without output.  If your team size is 10 people, you will have all 10 team members on board during execution. A single day delay during execution means, you carry all 10 people for another day i.e. 10 person days effort for every one day delay in execution.

Execution means doing the work as you have planned. How many times we really do this? Don’t we deviate often from what is there in the plan? Don’t we do activities that are not in the plan because we think, they are required? Don’t we skips the activities scheduled in the plan because now we think, we don’t need them? Actually we create problems for our self by doing so.

Execution means do the work as per plan, nothing else to be done and no activities should be skipped. That may be difficult to digest but let me explain it completely. During execution if you find any activity to be done to deliver the value you have committed and that is not there in the plan, don’t just do it. First schedule this activity in the plan and then do it. If you find an activity you scheduled in the plan but now it is not to be done due to changing situation on the ground, you should first make its duration zero and remove resource allocation in the plan. Therefore whenever there is a change due to different ground situation, you should first update the plan and then do according to the updated plan.

Meticulous plan and discipline execution is the key to success.

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

This Project Management Process group contains 10 processes out of 47 i.e. 21%. In some time we will learn about knowledge areas. Knowledge areas represents 10 aspects of project management.  They are Integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resource, communication, procurement, risk and stakeholders. Each knowledge area contains 1 to 6 planning processes but only one controlling processes to control that aspect of project management. Only integration has two controlling processes. It shows that amount of effort to be spent in controlling should be much less than planning. However if you don’t put enough efforts in planning, you may end up spending much more time in monitoring and controlling than required.

When we face problems in the project or observe significant variance, our tendency is to tighten the control but remember one thing – better you plan, less you need to control. So if you are facing issues and variance, it is the time we should look back on our plan and make corrections so that we can prevent future issues and variance instead of tightening the control.

A Monitoring and controlling process help in monitoring i.e. comparing actual with the plan to identify if there is any variance from the plan and then controlling it i.e. taking corrective measures to reduce or eliminate the variance. Monitoring & Controlling is not a stage in a project but it is done throughout the project from project start to project completion.

Closing Processes Group

Like initiation, this Project Management Process Group also contains only two processes but it is equally important. A proper closing helps us to understand our strengths and weakness and perform better in next project. We must do following before we close the project.

  1. Compile, document and share lesson learned
  2. Transition the project outcome to operation
  3. Archive all the artifacts of the project that can be searched later.

Lesson learned is a continuous process throughout the project. As and when you see variance, deviations and revisions in your project, there is an opportunity to document lesson learned so that we learn from our mistakes and omissions. When you get better than usual results, again there is an opportunity to document lesson learned so that we keep our best practices. When we reach to closure of the project, it is the time we should compile all our lesson learned in a document, present them to the team and also to other teams in the organizations so that others also learn from our good or no so good work.

We should handover outcome of the project to operation team with proper training and hand holding.

We should also archive all the artifacts of the project in a searchable manner. Should you get a project in future which is similar to this project, your archived artifacts will be of immense help. If you have archived them in a searchable manner, it will be easier for you to use them and perform even better in new project.

What is Project Management?

As per PMBOK, Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. Again, let’s understand what it really means?

Project Management Definition

What is Project Management?

Project Management

Let’s understand project management through an example of a necklace. Project Management is similar to a thread in a pearls necklace. It does not matter how good and how many pearls you have, until you have a thread, you cannot form a necklace. If a project is a necklace, its functions, disciplines, people, stakeholders etc. are its pearls and project management is the thread that binds all the pearls.  You cannot wear individual pearls until you have a thread. Similarly, you cannot deliver result of a project with individual functions, people and stakeholder until you integrate them through project management. You may not have wonderful pearls with you but if you bind the pearls you have in a beautiful manner, you can have a wonderful necklace. You may not have best out of best resources with you in a project but if you integrate them strategically through project management, you can have wonderful results. If wonderful pearls are not threaded properly, necklace may not look good. Your champion performer may not be able to give you excellent results in the absence of project management.

Project Management activities (processes) help a project manager to integrate all stakeholders, team members and technical activities in a project. Therefore it is important for a project manager to have sound understanding and experience of project management processes.

What is a Project?

What is a Project?

For a simple answer to this question “What is a project?” just look into PMBOK – A standard of Project Management by PMI. As per PMBOK, A Project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Definition in itself may not be sufficient. Let’s understand what it really means?

Let's understand definition of a project given in PMBOK.

Let’s understand definition of a project given in PMBOK.

Temporary endeavor means, it has a definite start date and definite end date. Except eternal things, everything has a definite start however everything may not have a definite end. A project is always started with a definite end date to complete the project. You might have not planned in detailed, you may not be sure if you will finish the project by that date but until you promise a time line, you may not get the project.  This is one of primary challenges you face when you take up a project. You have committed a project completion date without detailed planning and now challenges with you is that you complete the project within that time line.

Uniqze product, service or result means, you will deliver a product or outcome of the project which is not delivered earlier. There is something new which makes this outcome unique. Let’s take two similar projects and test if they have same or unique outcome. Suppose you have a software product. Two customers ask you to implement the software product in their companies without any customization at all. That means you have to undertake two projects to implement exactly same product in the both the companies. Are these projects same?  They may execute same activities, may deliver same product to customers, they appear same in nature but they are still not same. These projects may have different team members, their location would be different and the environment would be different. As customers are different, their objectives to implement the product would be different, their reasons for executing the projects would be different, they may have different experience and stakeholders would be different. The primary things to check if the projects are different are to check their business case, objectives and purpose for which they have been undertaken.

Now question may arise, what is not project? Operations are not projects. Operations means maintenance, production, production support etc. These operations may have definite start date but may not have a date on which they will be completed, at least at the time of starting. Projects have a target date right at the beginning. Secondly operations may not produce unique outcome. Operations have regular activities and deliver same kind of products on a regular basis. If you have a water bottling plant, you may be producing several cartons of bottles every day. One can pick up any bottle from a carton and that will solve exactly same purpose and therefore they are not unique.

The Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite

 

Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite

Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite

Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite

Managing projects in an enterprise has three aspects.

  1. Preparing a schedule, tracking and reporting to stakeholders.
  2. Collaborating with project team and other stakeholders to share information & documents and receiving updates from them.
  3. Analyzing the performance of a portfolio. The third one is for senior managers who are responsible for a portfolio of projects.

To manager these three aspects, Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite has five components.

  1. Microsoft Project 2016 Standard
  2. Microsoft Project 2016 Professional
  3. Microsoft Project 2016 Server
  4. Microsoft Project 2016 Project Web App
  5. Microsoft Project 2016 Portfolio Management

Please refer the figure.

Different components of the Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite are used to manage different aspects of projects.

Project Standard and Project Professional address the first aspect of a project i.e. scheduling. Project Standard and Project Professional both are primarily made for project managers to prepare plans, track and report. Project Server and Project Web App together address the second aspect. They provide a platform for collaboration and information sharing among team members. Portfolio Management provides a platform for senior managers to create a portfolio of the projects and assess its performance against performance parameters addressing the third aspect.

Project Standard

Project Standard is a standalone software. The purpose of Project Standard is same as of Project Professional except that it cannot connect to Project Server and participate in Enterprise Project Management. Project Standard also does not have few features that are available in Project Professional. Some of the important features that are not available in Project Standard are Team Planner View, ability to connect to Project Server, ability to define generic resources, ability to make a task inactive, Resource Graph View, Custom Fields etc.

Project Professional

Project Professional is more capable product than Project Standard. First, Project Professional has some additional features explained above and second Project Managers can collaborate with team members using Project Professional through Project Server and Project Web Access as shown in the figure.

Project 2016 Server

Project Server is fundamentally a Share Point application and use SQL Server as its database. To install Project Server 2016, you should have Windows Server 2012 and higher, Share Point 2016 and SQL Server 2016.

Project Server provides a facility to make list of all resources in an enterprise. Normally it is done by Resource Manager who holds and owns resources in the enterprise. It also provides a platform for Project Managers to share their plan with assigned resources and receive tasks updates from them. It can also be used to track issues and risks, share project documents and have discussion with team. A simple system works like this…

Project Web App (PWA)

Project Web App (popularly known as PWA) is a web interface to Project Server. Project team can use it for all sort of work such as managing proposals, creating and updating project schedule, managing resources, entering time in timesheet, updating tasks status, generating reports and analyzing portfolio. Administrator can create a project site using PWA to be used for collaboration. Team can share documents on project site, can create issues and risks registers and collaborate, share minutes of meetings.\

Project 2016 Portfolio Management

Project Portfolio Management (popularly known as PPM) is a solution for a senior manager who is leading a portfolio of projects and programs. It provides a platform to a leader to define performance criteria parameters on which performance of the projects in portfolio is to be evaluated to achieve organization’s goals.

Hope this information will help you to understand Microsoft Project 2016 Product Suite. For more information, please explore following links

  1. Microsoft Project Blog
  2. Microsoft Project Product