Thursday, 20 December 2012

Now the hard work begins

As mentioned in a post yesterday, I had applied to the PMI to be accepted to take the Risk Management Professional certification.  Today I received confirmation that my application has been accepted and that I can now embark on the long journey of preparing for the exam.

I have read a few blog posts about the exam and it seems that I "should" be in a good position to take the exam, as I have only recently obtained the Project Management Professional qualification.  People have been saying that all the hard work in preparing for the PMP certification should put me in a good position to take the Risk Management exam.

New contract extension

As a contractor I usually start the negotiations for my contract, 4 weeks prior to the end of a contract.  Very few potential clients would even entertain my CV if I was not immediately available.  This is the game of being a contractor.

My contract finishes in two days time. 

I am pleased to say that my contract has finally been extended, with just hours remaining.  I know I am working for a large client, with many contractors and I report into a very busy Project Management Office, but this is cutting it fine.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Being Lazy

I am a fairly lazy Project Manager - and yes, I read the blog and have read the book. I have been this way since the early days as a developer and it was encouraged by my mentor. A good example of this laziness is that I used to write code that enabled the user to configure systems rather than them coming back to me for changing settings and configuring keywords.

This laziness has followed throughout my career and is now working for me in the world of Project Management, for example, I use the tools available to me to automate as much as possible. At my current client site, I have a standard corporate weekly project report to complete each week which contains many figures taken from various systems. In each system I have written a mini-report to provide me with a set of figures ready for me to plug-in to the weekly report. In turn, all of these figures are then calculated automatically, giving totals and graphs, without me having to re-input figures in various worksheets. The weekly report used to take about an hour to write, now it takes 15 minutes. This is what I mean by lazy.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Next Exam - Here we go again

If you having been reading this blog, you will know I am keen on the PMP principle of Continuous Learning.  I like to take an exam or two every year and have done this since my university days.  I am currently working on the Project Management theme, after many years as a software developer and passing many of the Lotus and IBM Certified Developer Certifications.  I achieved the Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner Certifications in 2011 and then completed the PMI Project Management Professional exam in 2012.  In addition, I passed the ITIL Foundation exam towards the end of 2011, but I have chosen not to pursue this stream of qualification any further as I just wanted an understanding of the methodology.

I have been trying to decide on the exam choice for 2013.  Being a Project Manager, I like to have things organised and planned, both at work and at home.  I like to learn and therefore I have been trying to decide what I will achieve next.

Monday, 17 December 2012

What do the PMO do?

The Project Management Office is an organizational structure that standardizes the project–related governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodology's, tools and techniques.  The idea is that the PMO support the Project Managers and Programme Managers and are an integral stakeholder and decision maker for the organisation's projects.

The primary function of the PMO is to support the projects in a number of ways, include Resourcing, Defining the Project Management Methodology, Monitoring Project Progress, Ensuring Project Compliance and help with Communication across Projects.  This is not a definitive list, but these are the highlights, as stated within the PMBoK guide.

I have worked in several companies with a PMO, but the most visible has been at my current client.  We currently have a PMO team with experienced personnel, who are able to guide and support the many Project Managers.  When I first started at this client, I was unsure of the support that they would offer and did not fully understand the vital role that the PMO can play.

When I started work for the client, I helped the PMO to redefine the Project methodology.  The methodology in place here is based on the Prince2 methods and practises, but has been modified to suit our environment.  The projects follow a strict process and the PMO are here to help the Project Managers follow the methodology and deliver our projects.  As the project methodology is based on Prince2, each project can tailor the process to suit the project requirements.

One of the key roles that is performed within the PMO is to determine the project and programme priorities.  They have full visibility of all of the projects and understand the business strategy and goals.  It is the role of the PMO to ensure that we deliver the right projects at the right time to ensure that the business strategy goals are reached.  The PMO will track the projects, track the budgets and track the risks to ensure that the projects are successfully delivered, ensuring the business benefits are realised.

The PMO will ensure the projects are resourced, from a Project Management point of view, to ensure the correct skills are in place to deliver a successful project with an appropriate Project Manager.

PMO usually report on all of the projects to the organisation's Senior Management.  They will take each project and be able to give an overall picture of all related and unrelated projects.  They will highlight the key successes and failures and issue reports to indicate who many projects are being worked on, delivered and if any have been stopped.  An important function of the PMO is to understand the business benefit of all of the projects and understand when to close projects early, if there is little business benefit or they do not align to the overall business strategy.

The PMO has much to offer a corporation and should be aligning the projects with the strategic direction of the business.  In addition, the PMO should improve the communication to the stakeholders and should improve the quality of all project deliverables.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

What is in a Project Management Plan

A Project Management Plan (PMP) is an ever evolving document throughout life cycle of the project.  It lays the foundations of the project purpose, scope, structure and actions to complete the required product.  The PMP will start as a shell, containing high level information, but will be completed in more detail as the project progresses.  The estimates, risks, strategies and plans contained in the PMP will become more specific as the information becomes available to the Project Manager.

The PMBoK guide defines the PMP as " the process of documenting the actions necessary to define, prepare, integrate and coordinate all subsidiary plans.  The Project Management Plan defines how the project is executed, monitored and controlled, and closed".

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Building The team

Building a team is one of the most important aspects of being a good of a Project Manager. When the project is under pressure to deliver, you have to rely on your team to put in the extra effort in a short amount of time, under constraints and under a close eye of your Project Board and Sponsor.

Just this week, I have had to deliver the Project Plan and budgets to the company PMO to gain authorisation to continue with the project.  I am at the end of the Planning phase and this means that the conceptual design, plan for the project, migration, strategy and operations, along with many other documents, have had to be delivered.  Most of these have been discussed in detail, but not put to paper, so I needed my team to deliver.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Project Initiation in a Japanese Corporation - Part 1

I am in the final week of the planning phase, within our Corporate Project Life-cycle   The life cycle is based on the Prince2 methodology, seeing as I wrote it soon after completing my Prince2 Practioner exam.  This is the time that the RACI matrix of the phase deliverables is being checked and the components are being completed.  There are many authorisations to seek and complete, of which each document could have between 1 and 6 signatures.  The final Project "bundle" of documents has a header sheet, where approximately 10-12 will eventually sign it off. 

I work for a Japanese Corporation, which follow a strict protocol in terms of project control and budgets.  It is actually quite a refreshing change to work for a company that expects you will spend a serious amount of time in the planning phases, proving your concepts and gaining sign-off from all parties concerned.  It means that each department and management level, understand your project, authorise your project and have buy-in to your deliverables.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The PM Golden Triangle

To all Project Manager, the Triple Constraint, or as I say - the Golden Triangle, is a key component to almost every meeting they attend.  People will push the boundaries at every opportunity they can take.  As the Project Manager it is vital to accept this and push back to the offender and explain the impact of the change to the project. 

The golden triangle covers the Time, Cost and Scope of the project , which all lead to the quality delivery of a project.  If you change one, you will affect the other two in one way or another. For example, if my technical analyst on the project changes the server architecture from Physical to Virtual, this could effect both the Price and the Time for installation.  If this component is on my critical path, then it could effect the time to completion, in either a positive or negative way.  The Price may increase or decrease and will impact the project budget in a positive or negative way.

Friday, 23 November 2012

3 years continual learning

Now that I am a PMP, I will continue to develop as a Project Manager and gain more knowledge, understanding and most importantly, experience. To maintain my PMP status, I must complete 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units) over the course of three years. There are two main categories of PDU, which are for Continued Education and Giving Back to the Profession.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

What does PMP mean to me

Passing the PMP exam was a huge relief.  It was a difficult exam in terms of the amount of information you have to process within each question.  The PMBoK is fairly straight forward and even with the limited Project Management experience I have, I was able to apply each Input, Tool, Technique and Output to something that I had seen, or produced in the recent past.

Many people in the UK seem to take the Prince2 Certification, however, not many people have taken both the Prince2 and PMP.  When mentioning that I had passed the PMP exam to other Project Managers in the office, they seem to be quite impressed.  A Senior Project Manager colleague of mine in the US said "Wow! You passed THE BIG ONE!", when she heard that I had passed the exam.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The PMP Exam

Let me start by saying this exam is tough, but it is not impossible and once you ensure you understand the concepts, it is fairly intense, but it is straight forward to gain a pass mark.

I would recommend that you have at least two or three years Project Management experience before attempting to take this exam.  You need to have completed a few projects before you attempt to even read the PMBoK guide, otherwise you may find it very confusing.  Some people advise that you start with other books before attempting to read and fully understand the PMBoK Guide, but I did it the hard way.  I had a few years of experience as a Project Manager and had obtained my Prince2 Practitioner Certification, so I already knew a considerable amount of Project Management Theory.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Project Management Aggregated News Feeds

Just to let you know.....

I have created a link to a site with many Project Management blogs, listed as a simple news feed.

It is nothing fancy, but it is very useful in between tasks at work or at home, when I get a minute to scan various blogs.  Instead of going to each blog one by one, I am able to scan through the blog post titles and see which one catches my eye.

Enjoy !

PMBoK in a nutshell

This article will describe the basic concepts of the PMBoK and explain the purpose.  Processes overlap and can be repeated.  The initiating process, for example, will be repeated at the start of each project phase.  The processes are repeated in the various phases of a project, with the exception of Project Closure. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Who is the PMI and What is a PMP?

PMP stands for Project Management Professional.  It is a certification maintained by many Project Managers around the world, who have taken the Project Management Institute's (PMI) PMP exam.  PMI is a not for profit organisation.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Next week is PMP Week

Next week, I am going to write a series of articles which will explain, in very simple terms, what the PMI PMP is all about.

I will give a high level explanations in five separate articles, published from Monday through Friday, which will explain the following topics.

  • Who is the PMI and what is PMP?
  • PMP in a nutshell
  • The PMP Exam
  • What does PMP mean to me
  • 3 years of continual learning

When Project Managers talk about professional qualifications they often mention two exams, these are the Prince2 and the PMP qualifications. 

Prince2 is overseen by the Office of Government Commerce and is used in many companies including the government in the UK to manage projects in a controlled environment.  The PMI (Project Management Institute) has several categories and levels of examination, however, I will only focus on the PMP (Project Management Professional) exam.  I currently have both of these accreditations.

I hope to give a simple overview and some useful tips for the exam (Quick hint: study, study and more study). 

Monday, 12 November 2012

MS Project - My Rules

I get annoyed, quite easily, as you will notice when you read my blog. Something that annoys me is the incorrect use of MS Project. I say incorrect, but I have no official training or expertise in the product, I just know how "I" use it.

I have three simple rules when using MS Project.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Mindmaps for Web and Android

I am looking for a service to be able to create mindmaps on my Android tablet, as well as enable me to view and edit these on the web.

The maps should sync with the tablet when I load it, or allow me to edit them offline.  Does anyone know of such an app?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Working backwards

Working backwards from a fixed deadline is something that happens in many projects, but it is something that has never happened to me.  My programme manager came to me yesterday and asked for my project to be finished on a certain date.  He needed to know how this would affect my project and wanted to report to his management team that "it could be done" !

I set about the task, knowing that I need to shave off approximately three months from the plan that I put in front of him, just the day before.  I knew a considerable amount would be swallowed up by adding additional resource, as my plan was only draft and only included man days, without any resource leveling.  I also knew that a few of the tasks could be performed in parallel, as long as there was additional resource, which results in increased cost.

My first task was to understand the deadline.  When he said that the project had to be completed within a particular month, I needed to understand if this was a specific date, or could I make it the last working day.
The second item running around my head was to gain an understanding of the project scope.  Could we cut some scope, would other project dependencies be ready earlier and could we introduce a phased implementation, completing the basic scope for the tight deadline and then having a second development and implementation phase for the remaining scope.

The next piece of the jigsaw to deal with was the resources.  At the moment, as in most companies - I am sure - there are many projects fighting for the same resources to build, develop and implement new projects.  To overcome this, I was told I had carte-blanche over resources and could basically specify the task and then speak with the individual team leaders to understand their resource requirements.  This requirement would then be reported to senior management and we would either recruit, or the schedule would have to change.

Remember the golden triangle... Time, Scope, Cost.  You cannot change one, without affecting the other two.  If I was to cut time, it would potentially increase cost or reduce the scope - or both.
Reducing the time is a usual request for a PM and this can come with some considerable increased risk.  It is up to the PM to understand and report these risks up the management chain and to mitigate as much as possible, without increasing the costs too significantly.

This was an interesting project approach, one that I was very comfortable with, but one that I would prefer not to repeat too often.  I agree all consideration should go into producing an accurate project plan and to ensure the scope covers the business requirements.  The PM must then deliver the scope and keep a tight reign on the budget and time.  By all means, throw resource at project tasks, but be careful of your budget.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Why Backup Online?

Many people backup in one way or another.  Some people on a regular basis create a CD or DVD of their important files, some people have a NAS drive stored away in a cupboard or in the garage and others save their files on multiple computers.  There are many ways for the home user to back up.

In recent times, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to send your certificates to you online, or to stop all of your paper bills from the utilities companies coming to you through the paper post.  These are some of the important files people keep on the their home computer.

In addition, people download all their photos of weddings, children and events to their computer for "safe" keeping, as the memory card from the camera might get lost, stolen or damaged.  I know that I lost a memory card full of 200 photos from a family trip to Euro Disney and was devastated that it corrupt, within the camera itself.

With the use of media at home, people can now download music through the big resellers as well as videos.  It might be a surprise over time, that some people have approximately 100 music albums stored on their computer, which probably cost in excess of £500.

At the end of the day, because people cannot see the media and files stored on the computer and cannot touch them, they seem to take a back seat when thinking about security and safety.

Ignoring the fact that there are bad people in the world creating viruses, ignoring that computer disks fail or corrupt, the following are reasons to make sure you backup your files.

1.  Natural disaster - In recent weeks in the UK, we have experienced our wettest summer since records began.  Many thousands of properties have been flooded, caused millions of pounds of damage.  If people have a computer, the chances are that they are placed on the floor and not on a desk.  Imagine if your house was under 4 foot of water.  Would your computer be safe?

2.  House fire - Imagine the worst scenario possible.  You come home from work to find your house smouldering from a domestic fire.  Inside all of your possessions have been lost, never to be seen again.  Awful.  But, once you go to the insurance company and try to find out details of insurance, your possessions, bills, utility companies etc... where is the information?  Burned within your computer.

3.  Power surge - This is quite rare in recent times, but if there is adverse weather, we can experience a power surge from time to time.  If a computer is switched on and a power surge happens, the disk drive inside can become corrupt, or worse it would be rendered completely unreadable.

4.  Loss / Theft - A situation where you have your laptop stolen, or your house burgled, is a sad event.  Imagine you have your photos, documents and other media on the computer and all of your data is lost.  You will never get this back and will have lost many hours of work, precious photos and your film collection.

5.  Children - If, like me, you have children, they tend to play on the computer.  Mine will search the internet, play games, use powerpoint and paint to draw pictures, or even complete their homework.  I used to try to tell the teacher that my dog ate my homework, but what would they say?  Children tend to eat and drink by the computer.  Imagine that a glass of orange juice goes all over the laptop, into the keyboard and through to the workings of your laptop.  No more data.

All of these scenarios above point to computers at home, usually positioned on the floor, or a laptop, where it is susceptible to damaged and more importantly data loss.

I looked for a solution to this problem and came across an online backup solution to take all of these worries away.  I found a very good solution and have become a reseller myself.  Take a look at for a solution to backup an unlimited amount of data over an unlimited amount of machines.  For an extra cost, you can backup a NAS and even create a shared, secure, drive for all of your machines to stay synchronized.

Take a look.  Be safe.  Backup online.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Self Development

As a mentor, I have often discussed with my team the fact that self development is important. I believe that every individual should take 30 minutes out of their working day to self learn. This would include reading relevant articles on the web, reading news sites and even technical manuals.

30 minutes adds up to 2.5 hour per working week. This amount of time is small enough to not make an impact to your working productivity. However, the golden rule is that if you do not take 30 minutes today, you cannot take 1 hour tomorrow. If you miss a 30 minute time slot in one day, you cannot ever make it up, as this could impact your productivity.

Further to this, I also believe in education. People may be an expert in a particular area, but in the current world, progression never stops. If you were an expert in Exchange 2007, well you are now out of date as Exchange 2010 is the latest version, with Exchange 2015 just around the corner.

It is up to each individual to learn and continuously learn and keep up, especially in the IT world. As a Lotus Notes developer I would make sure that I took at least one exam a year. I think in total, I have taken more than 10 exams related to Lotus over the years. Since moving from my technical background into the Project Management arena, I have already taken 3 exams and am now studying for the next.

I feel it is important to learn from a broad range of sources, including books, blogs and related websites. 30 minutes a day is not too much to ask and it pays dividends in your knowledge and overall breadth of knowledge in your chosen area.

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Thursday, 26 April 2012

How tight do you run your projects?

I submitted a project plan, along with costs to the senior management last week and was told, off-the-record, that my timescales were too short and the expense budget was too small.

I have been a PM for a number of years and I am often told that my budgets are either too high or too low.  At the beginning of a project, this often concerns me and I always wonder what I have missed, or what the other person knows... that they have not told me.

I have the disadvantage, in one way, of a being a contractor, but also the clear advantage of being a contractor in another. 

For the disadvantage, I do not know the project history or "norm" within the specific company.  I do not know if projects historically tend to run to time and budget.  I do not know if suppliers are particularly difficult, or is procurement can hold the ordering and payment processing up.  I do speak to the other project managers and build relationships with all parties involved, from procurement, finance, technical teams and testers etc and I do find if there are any lessons learned from previous projects, from either the project managers or the PMO department.

The advantage I have is that I know different companies work in different ways.  To mitigate this, I build the relationships between the key teams and make sure that they can accurately estimate their timescales, costs and highlight any risks and issues for me.  I of-course build in a certain percentage of time and additional cost to enable any overrun.

What are you best tips for dealing with forecasting within an unknown company?

A Project Manager's CV

I had a CV come across my desk this week, which was given to me by a very reliable source.  The CV on first impressions looked quite good, with over 16 years of Project Management experience, all in the Investment Banking industry.

I looked at it in a little more details today and realized there was very little detail within the CV.  It made me wonder what level of detail we should go into on a CV.  My thoughts are that there should be enough information for each work placement to give an outline of what you have been working on, but leaving out enough detail to be a feeder for a discussion in the interview.

As a PM, I would suggest you explain the basics of any project you have managed, along with the timescales, budgets, project team size and any technology used, replaced or removed.  Again, I would suggest this is at a high level as to not give away any confidentiality and to keep enough information back for interview questions.

In addition, I would highlight any particular issues or risks that were dealt with successfully along with any management reporting levels, SLAs, third party vendor communications etc... All of this I would see as secondary to the actual project details listed in the paragraph above.

The CV in question only came with the secondary information.  I understand it was from an investment banking background, but there is still a certain amount of detail you can add to a CV without it breaking any confidentiality agreements... or am I wrong?

Why Contracting?

I wrote on a forum some advice to a permanent member of staff considering the option of contracting.  The question was "How much experience do you need before you go contracting?".

My answer was fairly short, but I thought it was interesting enough to make into an article to share with you, especially in a time when contractors are getting a bad press.

I left university and after 18 months in two jobs, I went contracting.  Not consulting, contracting.  I was simply a developer assigned to a project to work on the Y2K project (remember that folks?).  I knew I was a good developer and had the confidence to leave the full-time security and branch out on my own.

Rule Number One as a contractor is to have the confidence in yourself to be able to step out and say "I can do this".  Confidence.  Simple.

The knowledge comes second.  This may surprise some people, but the reality is there is always an answer on the internet.  I remember my parents not being too happy about leaving the security of a full-time role and not knowing where I would be working, but I knew that I would be OK, I had the confidence.

I feel that knowledge must be backed up by qualifications.  People often undervalue qualifications, but the reality is that you are able to get a rounded education, the more you look into specific qualifications.  An example was while working within the Lotus Notes Arena, I was able to understand more of the theory and have a deeper understanding of the intricacies, over colleagues without the additional education and research.  My Father was a great believer in education and I am committed to this day to make sure I continue in his three-word mantra... "Education education education".  

Along with knowledge, a contractor is expected to make an impact to the team / project very soon after starting.  Often a day or two to show the processes / governance is all you are allowed before you actually start making progress on the task you have been taken on for.

Contractors get quite a bit of negative press and many full time employees often begrudge a contractor working along side them.  Usually the main reason is down to money.  This simple little thing makes many people jealous in all walks of life, but the issue between contractors vs permanent staff can often be very visible and difficult.

My reply for this is often the fact that we are actually paid more money that the usual member of staff, but we are only paid for the time we are working.  The eight standard bank holidays, sick pay and our annual holiday is not paid, neither are the extras such as Training and Qualifications (remember my paragraph above).  We do have other "perks" such as our subsistence and travel are paid before tax, we can pay ourselves in a way to minimise our tax, but we still have all the additional paperwork, research, accountants fees etc to make this happen.

Anyone can be a contractor.  You need to have the confidence, the knowledge, the qualifications and the self motivation to go out there and sell yourself. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Is Android King - or too Risky?

I have both an Android phone and tablet.  I actually have the new ASUS Transformer Prime, which is incredible.  I like widget and the freedom to place anything on my phone.  There are thousands of Apps available in the new Google Play store. 

However, I attended a Bring Your Own Device event last week which discussed the security implications.  One main point that came across was how insecure Android is, for example there was recently an application for a touch (flash light for my friends in the US), which would maliciously send a text message for an extortionate rate.  McAfee were one of the presenters and showed a frightening slide that told us... 

57% of Android users have no security on their phone 
Only 5% have anti virus or anti malware 
19% have some form of encryption 
17% have a password, or keypad lock 
Some of the above is quite frightening, especially as another slide showed that there were almost 400 new malware Apps found in Q4 of 2011, compared to just over 100 in Q3 of the same year. 

Why Android? 

The reason the hackers are targeting Android is due to that it is easy to publish an application on the Google Play site.  Anyone can simply create an application and publish it.  With the rising market share of Android, it seems that this is the easiest way to hit as many people.  This is why Windows is always a target of many viruses and malware.  I read last week that 90% of the smart phone purchased recently are either Android or iOS, with 53.8% of that figure being Android. 

Another reason for the easy access for malware is that people do not keep their phone up to date with various patches from Google.  This is for three main reasons. 

The phone is "Rooted" and therefore the updates have to come from an independent developer. 
The manufacturer does not update their version of the OS. 
The mobile operator does not allow the OS to be updated by Google or the manufacturer and does not update the OS themselves. 

All of these issues above are beyond the control of both the user and the corporation, when considering BYOD.  Try to think of the number of applications that are downloaded each day.  There was a game released 6 weeks ago, which has already been downloaded 35 million times.  Hackers and writers of malware and viruses will target these popular applications in hope that just 1% of users run their malicious code. 

How do you combat the threats? 

The threats can be combated in a number of ways.   

Malware / Viruses - Firstly, the OS could be kept up to date which would remove some of the loopholes that viruses and malware exploit.  In addition to this, many of the virus protection software companies provide a mobile phone version, for example I use AVG at home, as it is free, and they provide a mobile version - also for free. 
Device lock - On top of this we can add a simple screen lock, which would keep the average thief from stealing our data. 
Encryption - In addition we should encrypt our phones, which would mean that without a key, the data would be unreadable.  This means that as a company, you can send a command to delete the encryption key from the device and this in turn would make the data unreadable. 
Firewall - For corporate customers, you can ensure that the web browsing on the device is all filtered through your company firewall, which will include the safe browser and proxy settings you use within the desktop browsers. 

What to protect? 

There are three parts to securing the mobile device. 

Device - First, what would happen if the device was lost or stolen.  A good Mobile Device Management (MDM) policy is required, which would either track the phone, or could even disable it to the point that it could never be used again.  It would be good to add screen locks and password protection. 

Data - The most expensive part of the loss of the device would not be the replacement value, but would be issues around the data loss.  To prevent this the MDM should be able to Lock / Wipe or Delete the data on the device.  The corporate data must remain encrypted on the device and therefore a tool would be able to remove the encryption key, to ensure the data remains secure.  An issue here is 

Applications - Some companies would choose to only allow certain Apps on their devices, but what would happen in a truly BYOD environment?  If I was to use my own device for reading my work email, i would still want the choice to play games and use Apps that i want to use outside of work.  In response to this, McAfee and other suppliers have created their own Application Store, which contain all of the Apps which have been scanned for any virus or malware, which could be used by the device owner.  In addition to the supply of the applications, the Application Store would be able to remove applications from the device immediately, if a threat is detected. 


The on-line world is a world where many unscrupulous people reside.  They target the vulnerable and the target them in numbers.  The new on-line experience is growing rapidly via the mobile browser and the number of Apps downloaded from various Application Stores is incredible, for example a new drawing game has had 35 million downloads within 6 weeks.  With the combination of both the application downloads and the web browsing, the sample is large for people to exploit.   

I only have a simple screen pattern lock on my phone, but will be adding the AVG free version of the anti virus / malware to my collection of applications today ! 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

What is a PID

A PID is a Project Initiation Document and is created once the authorisation to initiate a project has been given.  The PID is the final result of the initiation phase of the project and describes the "what, why, who, how, where, when and how much" of the project.  This document is fairly extensive within the Prince2 Project Management Model and will incorporate many documents, such as the project brief, project scope, project definition and project plan as well as the strategy for the project in terms of communication, quality, configuration management, risk and issues.  More information on these individual topics can be found in the Prince2 book, so I will not go into detail here. 

It is the project managers role to produce the PID and pass it on to the project board for authorisation.  In reality the stakeholders, users and business analysts will need to be involved in producing much of the documentation. 

The PID is a constantly evolving document and remains important throughout the project life cycle.  The PID contains many documents/sections including the project plan, exception plans, risks/issues and therefore is updated throughout the project.  It remains a reference point to who is doing "what, when, how, why". 

Spend time keeping the PID updated and authorised. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Excel: Date to DOTW

Here is a quick tip / reference to how to calculate the day of the week from a date.


A handy tip !

Monday, 20 February 2012

Define the Stakeholders

A stakeholder is a person, group, organisation, member or system who affects or can be affected by an organisation's actions.   

In terms of Prince2, the definition of a project refers to a temporary organisation and therefore the Project Stakeholders are the people, groups, systems that are directly affected by the delivery of the business products of the project.  From the early stages of a project, the Project Manager must identify the key stakeholders and understand the influence they will have on the product delivery. 

Stakeholders may be internal or external, such as Trade Unions, or external support.  The stakeholders may benefit from the project, however, to some the project may deliver a negative effect, such as reducing team sizes.   

Identifying and working with the stakeholders is a key task in the early stages of your projects.  As I am from a Prince2 background, i follow the standard 6 step approach to stakeholder engagement and interaction.   

1. Who - Identify the key stakeholders 
2.  What - Understand what the project will mean to the stakeholders.  They may gain or loose as products are delivered and therefore their commitment and influence will need to be managed. 
3.  How - This is the defining of the method of communication to the stakeholder.  This will set out the frequency and content of the information that needs to be communicated. 
4.  When - This will define when the communications and the engagement of the different stakeholders will be required. 
5.  Do - This is a simple reminder - You must engage with the stakeholders.  Make sure you do.  You cannot deliver a product without their help, as it may not be fit for purpose. 
6.  Results - Check that the engagement and communication has been successful.  Learn from feedback. 

I actually think the 6 step process is a little over the top and will tailor the steps to suite my requirements.  The key point is to make sure your stakeholders are engaged early within the project.  Be careful, the stakeholder may influence the business in a positive or negative way, so choose your stakeholders wisely.  Stakeholders generally include people from the Project Team, Senior Management, the Customer, Resource Managers, User groups, Trade Unions. 

Define the stakeholder, Engage the stakeholder and Deliver a successful project !

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Scope Creep

The first and most important part of any project is the Scope.  The scope must be defined, signed off and locked away and a change management process must be followed to make any changes. 

Scope Creep is one of the projects worst enemies and is something that all Project Managers work to avoid.  If a change is to be made, then all the stakeholders must understand the impact to the project in terms of Risk and Cost in terms of financial or schedule. 

A change to the project should be formal and may result in additional risks to the project, for example some of the resources may not be available for an extended period, or the change may impact other projects within the organisation. 

There are several causes of Scope Creep, but the most common cause is that the requirements were poorly defined.  This can be combated by spending a little more time on the PID and making sure that all the users and stakeholders are involved in this early stage within the project.  A PID is the Project Initiation Document, which is a Prince2 term and is created to "...define the project’s scope and direction and use it as the basis for its authorisation, management and assessing its success.  The document details all the foreseeable areas of the project, such as goals, scope, risks, controls and budget.".  I will discuss the PID in a further article. 

To manage the project scope, you need to make sure you are aware of the end game.  You need to know the purpose of the project and how are you going to get there?  For this the fundamental rule for my projects is to get the project defined, break it into steps and make sure these are delivered in the correct order.  I always add a sentence to my Project Definition to the effect that says "Anything that is not disclosed within this Project Definition and PID, is outside of the scope of this project.".  This tells the stakeholders within the project, that if is not in the document, it is not going to be delivered. 

In summary, make sure you have the project scope written down and signed off.  When changes to the scope arise, make sure a project change document is created and authorised by the stakeholders, before you consider changing the scope.  This change of scope will require the Project Change Document as well as a budget review and a Project Plan review.  In larger organisations the Programme Manager will need to be involved as this change in a single project may impact other projects in their portfolio. 

Beware of Project Scope Creep !

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Visio Mind Map

Today I have been investigating how to communicate a mind full of notes to my project team.  Previous companies have allowed the use of mind mapping software, either in house or on-line.  My current client is a bank and limits the use of the internet and does not allow users to download software of use various web site, especially web applications.  We are a heavy user of the Microsoft Office suite (with the exception of email) and I am limited.   

I am planning to present my current thoughts on the project approach, initial architecture design and implementation phases to my management.  I was going to create a mind map in Powerpoint, but discovered that Visio has a mind mapping template.  I have successfully created two linked mind map pages within one Visio file, which is really useful.  this was achieved by using the double-click behaviour of the shape within Visio. 

I may break down my project onto separate pages within the single file, which is much easier than using my usual mind mapping software with many files.  Does anyone else use this approach? 

One question I do have.... Can you attach some text to a box within the mind map and then print all of the text out as a document, rather than a mind map?  That would be really useful. 

Here are some simplified instructions for those how would like to try. 

1.  Open Visio and from the menu select "File -> New -> Choose Drawing Type..." 
2.  (Using Visio2003) Select Category -> "Brainstorming" and Template -> "Brainstorming Diagram" 
3.  Drag a Main Topic into the centre of your page and rename the text caption 
4.  Make sure you have the "Brainstorming" tool bar and then start adding sub tasks by highlighting the Main Topic and then clicking on the "Sub task" button in the tool bar. 
5.  Continue to add sub tasks to the Main topic, or even to the Sub-Tasks to make a hierarchical mind map. 


Monday, 13 February 2012

Project Management newsfeed

I have used a site called Planet Lotus for many years, keeping up with all of the blog articles relating to Lotus Notes.  This site is a valuable tool in today's busy world as it provides a collection, in date/time order, of all of the blog entries created by people in the Lotus Community.  It is a fantastic resource.

I am moving more into the Project Management world, I was looking for a similar resource.  It does not exist.  I am now trying (for free) to get a PM Community together and a collection of feeds to provide for all.

Here is the link.

I'd appreciate a mention to your PM's and hopefully I can grow this into a similar useful community site, just like Planet Lotus.


I inherited a new project yesterday and I was reviewing the project plan written in MS Project.  I can use MS Project, but I am not an expert.  I have created close to a hundred plans over my short Project Management career and would say that I am comfortable with the tool. 

Well, this project plan was obviously created by an advanced user, as it had many constraints and dependencies.  I did not understand the concept of some of the dependancies, for example SS (Start-to-Start) and Start-to-Finish (SF).  Some even had extra days after then, such as "28FS + 5 Days". 

I came across a simplified article on the Microsoft website, which explains the concepts of all four (SS, SF, FS, FF) dependancies in the form of a small project to deliver a Wedding Cake.  Here  is the link

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Timesheets are the pain of many peoples life.  The idea of being managed on a minute by minute basis is not the ideal way of life for many employees.  However, as a Project Manager it is a useful tool to be able to cost your project.  The question to ask in this article is... 

"How do you keep track easily?" 

I keep a note in my notepad of the tasks I need to, or have performed within the day and next to them, I write down a numeric figure to represent the number of hours that I have worked on that particular task / project.  I keep it simple and round the figures to the nearest 15 minutes. 

I have seen that some people keep their electronic timesheets open all day.  I think this take discipline and most people do not seem to be able to do this on a day to day basis.   

I find that if you do not complete the timesheets on a day to day basis, it is very easy for it to become a very difficult task and often people make up times and tasks just to fill their 8 hours of the day.  This of-course has the knock on effect to our project budgets. 

So, I pose the question to you.... "How do you keep track of your day to day timesheet?"