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UPDATE 2015-07-03


#QuPlan #QuPlan discusses the current status of planning and project management, and then builds up on “unconnected” dots to derive a potential evolution of planning concepts

#QuPlan is part of the “Connecting the dots” series, short pragmatic books (generally, up to 60 pages), based on experience and aiming to inspire re-thinking your business ways #QuPlan Episodes Expanding on the #QuPlan book, this (free. online) series of booklets (“episodes”) is a walkthrough within the lifecycle of a fictional business case concerning a regulatory programme

This first “episode” shows the initial decision points, i.e. an outline of the overall programme, key fact-finding, and the choice of methodology, tools, key staff selection guidelines

See the back cover for the full list of the planned 2015 episodes


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INTRODUCTION Transparency

Emergence

•any issue that is known can be managed as a risk •any risk has to be managed to lower its impact •no “pushing downstream” •awareness independent from a hierarchical mandate •those who know by being on the frontline, notify issues •aggregate their notifications and potential solutions

No Whodunnit

•No tolerance for "corporate whodunnit" •teamwork has to be routinely multidisciplinary

Thesaurisation

•Consistent and continuous thesaurisation of lessons learned, and availability of tools to support that

I designed a realistic but not real case, focused on compliance to fictional new legal requirements- and the table above lists some key elements of the corporate culture.

The business case covered by the #QuPlan episodes was created to exemplify typical issues that are part and parcel of any initiative involving change- with and without technology.

This business case will be used in 2015 to support other books, and in this first episode both the methodology and business case will contain introductory material..

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Any regulation requiring to alter processes and organizational structures usually implies also impacts on existing IT systems, but almost never legislators and regulators have “in house” the knowledge required to assess business impacts, and therefore generally there is a chance (few months, few years) to submit comments, suggestions, etc.- before the final version is promulgated. Stated aim of the fictional law: ensure that those interacting with consumers have the knowledge and skills required to comply with current regulations, by extending the approach already used e.g. to recover discarded electronics- it is suppliers’ duty.. The selection of a case about compliance allows to skip over some of the most critical/”political” activities: if it is required by law, often a “quick and dirty” approach is followed to minimize costs while ensuring compliance- what matters, is identifying an appropriate balance between risks and costs. In various cases, I saw that emerging programmes based on compliance were used as an excuse to overcome resistance to change, expanding the scope of the activities to cover what had been needed for a while, but kept on the back burner while waiting for the appropriate combination of tools, motivation, and opportunity. Yes, if you do not attach to your “charter” a clear definition of the aims, purposes, and rules to be followed, lessons learning turns into a CSI investigation. Obviously, it is a risky choice, as once you start expanding the scope, often it keeps expanding- with a “bandwagon effect”: with each expansion, it becomes more difficult to deny further expansions.

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A SAMPLE/SIMPLE METHOD

This first episode is called episode zero, and outlines the rationale of the business case, adopting a “storytelling approach” that I used decades ago in business to have employees of a banking customer learn a new methodology and approach to project management.

The programme roadmap is based on the concepts and lingo of MSP (basically, the programme management side of PRINCE2), by OGC.

As any “designed” case, this too needs to be adapted to your own specific business constraints.

The purpose of this business case is to share information about how activities could evolve, as an excuse to discuss various elements and potential evolutions of programme and project management discipline outlined within the book #QuPlan.

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As you can see from the map within the previous page, the contents of this booklet cover the first phase, the definition of the mandate for the activities, i.e. this first episode focuses on just part of the “Define” step.

Obviously, there are countless ways to deliver a project, and therefore I identified one that covers the general steps shared by most methodologies (in some cases, re-iterating more than one step).

Whatever the methodology that your organization selected, it is anyway advisable, before starting any project or initiative, a review with the “guardians of orthodoxy” (methodology, quality, etc.) to cross-check what is applicable, in terms of rules, standards, and tools- both to avoid re-inventing the wheel, recycle what might now be obsolete or non-compliant with current rules, or risk getting on board rules “suggested” by suppliers (e.g. software packages and service vendors usually implicitly follow their own rules, to optimize the use of their own resources).

This “episode” includes a quick review of the options available in terms of toolsets to be used to support programme/project management, to enable tracking the allocation and use of resources while delivering what has been agreed as the stated aim(s) of your initiative, but without excessive overhead.

obviously, in a real environment usually the tools have already been chosen, but in this case the tools that have been identified are those represented within the map shown in the next page.

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TOOLS SCENARIOS

Office productivity

•Using just Office productivity tools •Files stored on a network or directory structure

Standard

•Microsoft Project and Microsoft Sharepoint •Integration with Office productivity tools

Workflow

•Potentially multiple vendors involved •Need to work through a stricter «stage-based» approach

Online platform

•Either off-the-shelf or custom, but access and integration via Internet (including WAN Intranet or Extranet) •Chosen an open source solution that I used to support start-ups

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Each tool has different strengths and weaknesses, but all share a common element, the ubiquitous Gantt chart, representing the mutual dependencies and sequence of activities; you can use the tools both at the project, subproject, or programme level.

There are further shared elements, e.g. features to list people (“resources”) and financial resources or costs, but for the purposes of this product comparison, as those features are shared; whatever combination of tools you will choose, you will need to be able to do at least the following:

project management knowledgebase

to collect preliminary data, refine guesstimates, produce a “baseline” to associate costs + people to activities, and track their allocation to have instantaneous access to the current status of ongoing activities

to have a copy of each relevant document (minutes, timesheets, etc.) to associate each document with the source/destination activities

Whatever tool you use, you need to consider that no organized activity can survive without a communication plan that is prepared before the activity startsand this requires thinking about the audience(s) that you want to reach (a.k.a. "stakeholder(s)").

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AUDIENCE OVERLOAD Gantt

Intuitive

CPM

Logic

PERT

Quantitative

Information level

Complexity level

I have been using Microsoft Project and general-purpose project management tools for decades, and I still consider that most of the “standard” reports that they produce are simply useless for both project managers and stakeholders.

This diagram presents the “complexity level” in information sharing, stating how “knowledge-intensive” is the understanding of a chart, ranging from “intuitive” (if you see a sequence of bars across a timeline, you know what they mean), to “logic” (you need to at least grasp the concept behind the formalism), to “quantitative” (you need to understand how the representation is created tomake sense out of it).

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Both the project manager and stakeholders focused on few bits of information, information that was actually partially misleading, , converting tools such as Microsoft Project into a kind of “Excel less the formulas plus the Gantt”.

If Gantt, CPM, PERT are meaningless “alphabet soup samples” to you, have a quick look on Wikipedia (or wait for the “Thinking” section)- basically, they are three ways to represent how activities are delivered across time.

The first is a century old tool, derived from the manufacturing planning needs of the early XX century, while the other two are roughly side-effects of the more complex manufacturing needs of the early Cold War (e.g. building nuclear submarines and power stations).

Tool designers, assuming that there were other “standard reports” on risks and impacts, simply removed from the basic reports information on the confidence level of the information provided.

It makes more sense to identify, within your guidelines for project managers, which reports are required, and few lines about each one of the “standard reports” available, to explain the who/what/when of their production.

A further element to consider is how and when to spread information: while for a simple project or programme it might make sense to release information once in a while, in some cases a continuous information stream is required.

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COMMUNICATING

Whenever stakeholders are both spectators and actors, i.e. when they are not just a passive audience, communication implies something more than just sending out files..

In the past (e.g. 1980s and 1990s), this required investing in tools or custom applications, but in 2015 any company uses a form of spreadsheet that is able to present data using what, until few years ago, would have required an investment in business intelligence or dashboard presentation tools.

Since the late 1980s, I saw complex systems delivering DSS, EIS, management reporting, dashboards, business intelligence, data warehousing, and an assorted software paraphernalia that seems to be constantly mutating every couple of years.

The risk with IT is always that the tool takes control- notably when, due to the number of options available, instead of delegating just the execution, also design is delegated to somebody who has no understanding of the business processes and business people involved (typically, an intern or temp worker, no matter how experienced).

In most cases, the anxiety from those that were assigned to the use of the tool took over the purpose (quick but consistent and continuous information dissemination to decision-makers or stakeholders), creating either system too simple and static (for fear of misuse by the end users) or too complex (to “empower” them) for any real use.

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Within this business case, there will be no sharing of minutes, reports, presentations, project planning files, templates, etc. relating to this phase, as the release of files (e.g. Gantt, presentations) is scheduled to be part of the last “episode”, on thesaurisation, where the theory and practice of “knowledge retention” will be explained.

I assume that you can find templates online, if needed (links provided under the last part of this chapter, if you need immediately templates etc.).

It is worth anyway repeating: if you belong to a large organization, probably there is a 'modus operandi' in communication that you have to follow.

It is something that often consultants forget- customers should remind them that they are paid to fulfil a corporate need, not to promote their own methods or standards.

There is another not so small issue: most project and programme teams often forget that those that their stakeholders probably are on the receiving end of plenty of communications.

What matters is consistency in communicating relevant information and timely collection and management of feed-back.

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ENGAGEMENT TOOL Manager A needed to communicate continuously progress on activities (business, service, project) to Manager B

The staff member for Manager A eventually “evolved” the tool, and it became “too informative” (a.k.a. hair-splitting) So, Manager B delegated to one of her/his staff members the task to routinely verify completeness of the information provided, and summarize what (s)he saw Result: those who less understood what was involved became the communication channel, and the tool eventually expanded to add more information that to them seemed useful, further distancing their own managers from even daring to approach and use the tool- so that Manager B, in effect, turned to a “seat of the pants” decision-making approach

Does this sound familiar? To me, it does- since the late 1980s! Also when everybody is using a smartphone, there are still endless technologies that are dumped on users’ computers, as if information dissemination ended once the information is out of your door.

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In most cases, this can be easily solved: streamline- both the information collecting and processing tasks, and the presentation tool; if a tool delivers 100 features, and you need just 3, once you have the tool in house, why should you feel compelled to use the other 97?

In other cases, a “re-education plan” is needed, as deciding which information is relevant to decision-making should be up to the decision-makers, not their number crunchers (and I designed once a system that, while using just a handful of data already available, was able to show progression and send shockwaves on specific issues, without any need to create a “number crunching bureaucracy”).

Many larger organizations have in house a business intelligence tool, or just the humble-yet-powerful “Excel Power Pivot”: an appropriate mix of data collection and streamlined “dashboard” design can turn both into tools able to provide much need information about a portfolio of projects or services.

The key issue is to have data reach (and be “consumed”) by those who really know them: a PMO that provides just reporting and no organizational development support is not always needed, if you have already a management reporting function available.

In future “episodes” (2015/1 and 2015/2) a different approach to reporting on project/programme management will be discussed.

The last section of this chapter contains some guidelines on documentation lifecycle management.

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DOCUMENTATION

1

If your organization lacks formal standards, you may have a look at samples published online, e.g. those provided, free-of-charge, by PRINCE2 1 ; it is also advisable, before using those documents, to read some guidelines (both documents require a free registration on Axelos, the company now managing OGC’s methodology frameworks).

Phase 0: Definition It is advisable to attach to the “charter” the guidelines for documentation production and delivery, including who/what/when/how, and any “license to deviate from recognized corporate standards” (e.g. for shorter projects).

Phase 1: Ongoing Generally, documents are to be produced as soon as the information is available, e.g. minutes of a meeting should be composed/drafted at the end of the meeting, and shared as soon as possible- and anyway before the next meeting involving the same people (as meetings should show progression, not just that you had a schedule with X meetings each week!).

Phase 2: Thesaurisation Every project eventually ends- and this includes also projects that are cancelled mid-way, or just scrapped before they even start (yes, it happens, sometimes- and some lucky ones get even paid for work not done).

Unfortunately, once the adrenaline rush usually associated with the delivery of the last leg of a project is gone, the first thing to disappear is the motivation to review what was done.

https://www.axelos.com/best-practice-solutions/prince2

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Your documentation should include both positives and negatives choices- as this could be useful to avoid in the future to get through the same decision-making routine, just with different people (with the potential that they will not understand the logic of your choices).

Sharing both sides of each decision, along with the rationale, is useful also to help keep whatever your activities deliver to adapt to changed business needs.

What was relevant when you made those choices might not be relevant anymore. Thesaurisation is an activity whose usefulness rests on few basic elements: 1. Knowledge-based: it has to involve those who know (and not just the cheapest ones available or those who cannot refuse to do it) 2. Timely: it has to be done immediately after the end of the project (actually, it starts while the project is still ongoing) 3. Talking straight: it has to be done while avoiding any “politically correct” scribbling (you have to say how it is/was) 4. Accessible: last but not least, it must deliver something that is then accessible to others that might use it (e.g. by adding an “executive summary” or “documentation roadmap” for future uses).

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY/1

A recent change in a national law [reference] extending on a European Directive for consumer protection [reference] introduced, with just one line within the law, the need for the creation of a new information service.

The stated aim is to ensure that agents and distributors of our products and services are always compliant with regulations that could potentially affect their business operations, and how they interact with customers obtaining our products and services through them.

The costs for both the activation and delivery of the service have to be absorbed by our company (the law currently doesn’t allow billing for the service).

It has been a trend since the 1990s: convert suppliers upstream into de facto watchdogs on compliance (e.g. on recycling equipment sold to consumers), extending responsibility across the product or service lifecycle.

The new law includes an automatic draconian measure for non-compliant suppliers that repeatedly fail to deliver: any existing warranty on any product or service delivered to consumers is extended automatically by a further 24 months.

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A new form of customer service is to become compulsory

Our legal department is exploring the possibility of challenging all the new requirements at the EU level, as they seem to be disproportionate to the end, notably when our agents and distributors are non-exclusive.

Considering all these constraints, it has been decided to adopt an approach that will allow formal compliance at a minimum cost, but, should the new law be confirmed, enable to expand the service, e.g. to convert the new requirements into a business opportunity, by increasing the loyalty of both customers and agents or distributors, as well as providing information useful to reduce the time-to-market and risks associated with new products and services.

The first assessment on the impacts of the initiatives and how to cope with the above mentioned constraints and decisions resulted in a list of 18 projects [reference], involving all the business and support units, not just ICT and HR.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY/2 Organizational structure and staffing of the initiative

Due to the limited time available, it has been identified as critical the creation of multiple small teams, each one led by a “subject matter expert” from our existing operational staff (generally available only part-time, to steer more than manage each project).

In order to ensure knowledge transfer and smooth delivery of each project, only internal or external resources that are currently working or worked with our organization within the last 24 months will be considered.

Furthermore, for some of the projects, it has been identified the potential full-time use as consultants of recently retired line managers who are still occasionally used as subject matter experts on organizational, process, and technological changes.

Mr. John Smith has been appointed as the Programme Manager, while Mr. Harold Wilson from HR and Mr. Andrew Jackson from Finance will be members of the steering team, under the coordination of Mr. George Patton, the COO, who will be the programme budget owner.

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The timeframe allowed is limited, as the new information service must be fully operational by January 1st 2016; the deadline for delivery is set at November 1st 2015, to allow monitoring for a couple of months before the deadline. [In this section a description of the timeline and potential risks/stakeholders would be discussed, along with budgeting guidelines; in this specific case, usually the allocation will be focused only on the feasibility study, that will have the mandate to identify the scenarios and cost options, to enable a further decision]

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REQUIREMENTS

The only choice that has already been made (by law) is that we have to deliver the following access channels, each one associated with a different timeframe: Pull on-demand information

Push flash alerts

Updates periodic releases

Training periodic updates

Feed-back collection & dissemination

Statistical return feed-back to authorities

The new regulation requires that, by year end, we deliver a single access point to all our distributors, agents, dealers, providing information on changes within regulations that could affect any part of their operations concerning customers, including but not limited to sales, service, and withdrawal from market of our products.

The next page contains a small table listing the projects identified, along with a short rationale for each one; due to their size, they are named “subprojects”, allowing the use of the streamlined version of our internal methodology.

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1 identify feasibility 2a define service requirements 2b define service location 3a design service 3b design communication and pre-emptive marketing 4a1 prepare service 4a2 prepare service environment 4b test service with pilot customer 4c train staff for initial svc 4d pre-emptive marketing 5a coach on-the-job initial staff 5b monitor at customer site 5c marketing campaign and lead generation 6 tune service 7a retrain staff 7b acquire further staff 8 transition to Business As Usual 9 closing down programme and thesaurisation

fact-finding and constraints identification identify stakeholder needs and SLA/OLA guidelines assess options for location and delivery mode design service as per ITIL approach define, design, roadmap communication strategy and actions/events/media create service components according to prioritization service delivery logistics and environment definition and monitoring environment rolling out the service in customer environment train staff for initial service based upon the pilot activate communication elements associated with the pilot progress use the pilot results to tune training and coach staff while carrying out initial delivery monitoring to both tune and collect progress information activate communication elements associated with the end of the pilot phase and lead generation continue tuning the service through the coach on-the-job phase retrain staff based on the results of the tuning phase, and feed-back from the marketing/lead generation activities acquire new staff while retraining existing one, for scheduled service roll-out capability readiness release project staff (service definition), and structured knowledge transfer to ensure continuity complete knowledge transfer, and assess lessons learned and potential issues to monitor- plan KPI phase-in/phase-out

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CONSTRAINTS

In the previous page, projects surrounded by the blue rectangle are actually those that could be re-iterated (e.g. if, after the feasibility study, it is identified that is possible to activate the service gradually and still be compliant).

The target identified during the preliminary assessment is compliance while minimizing costs, and obviously the projects aren’t necessarily to be carried out as a sequence, albeit there are some constraints.

Generally, considering the short timescale, this has an impact on the kind of people that can be assigned to each project.

This obviously dictates for the selection of small teams, each led by a project manager who de facto acts as “subject matter expert”, and, as such, not necessarily allocated full-time; team members will be more experienced than in most of our projects, and external resources will be allowed only if they have current expertise on our environment.

This programme is to be delivered within a short timeframe, starting by early March 2015 and ending by late October 2015, with a two months “post-release” monitoring period, in order to ensure that full formal compliance is in place by January 1st 2016.

The direct impact of this choice is that roughly 1/2 of the time allocated to the feasibility will be spent on brainstorming sessions

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Considering the number of concurrent projects and activities that have been initially identified, a first feasibility subproject lasting one month is to: 1. Define the overall architecture of the solution, and confirm concurrency constraints between projects 2. Outline the SLAs/OLAs to be expected, as well as the specific roles and any further information supplier that should be contacted 3. Activate the initial staffing for the activities 4. Activate the monitoring and reporting system to be used during the programme 5. Validate the availability and structure of the environment, and/or procure new equipment and offices if needed 6. Initiate the contract negotiations, be active by the start of the trial phase (i.e. completed by the end of subproject 3a) 7. Procure the commitment of the appropriate staff and subject matter experts that are to take on the roles of project manager for each project.

The results of this first feasibility activity have then to be structured within the subproject 2a, while subproject 2b has to focus on the logistics of service delivery.

The subprojects from 3a on can potentially be repeated in the future to scale up (expand) or scale down (reduce) the service.

A detailed schedule for the first subproject is provided in the next four pages.

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PRJ1: IDENTIFY FEASIBILITY/1 IDENTIFY key requirements to be fulfilled ASSOCIATE stakeholders, and roles to be assigned OUTLINE scenarios COMPARE analysis of scenarios DECISION on the scenario to be adopted ANALYSE of the scenario selected, and schedule BUDGET proposal to be submitted DECISION on budget and resources PREPARE resource guidelines and allocation COMMUNICATE the roadmap to all the stakeholders

During the initial workshop has been identified as critical to devise an approach that would keep involved, motivated, and informed all the stakeholders (internal and external) that will be affected by the new compliance requirements, while, at the same time, keeping at least informed those not directly affected.

Our distribution network will need to be actively involved up to January 1st 2016, and therefore the assessment phase will have to discuss potential business benefits not only for our organization, but also our distribution network.

The preliminary assessment that produced this document was carried out through meetings held in one week-end-long workshop off the premises, involving the managers in charge of the business units whose operations have been assumed to be affected.

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A detailed list of the material presented by each participant, minutes of the workshop, and decisions made (positive and negative) is provided within [add reference].

The identification was based upon an analysis of our value chain, selecting a “champion” for each phase, as per [insert here reference to organizational design presentation provided by the Organizational Development office], with a direct coordination by the COO, as per mandate from the CEO. [add other relevant summary of key issues identified as constraints by the above mentioned workshop].

18 projects (i.e. activities that could actually be delivered by separate teams) have been identified, working across multiple business domains and business units, therefore during the workshop was agreed that the above mentioned constraints should be further analysed by a feasibility study. that should provide the results outlined in the previous page.

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PRJ1: IDENTIFY FEASIBILITY/2

Assessment Scenarios

2015-03-16

2015-03-03

Start

Activity/Activities  Confirmation of legal requirements  Confirmation of business requirements  Validation of internal constraints  Validation of constraints within our distribution network (e.g. lack of Internet or other relevant facilities)  Brainstorming sessions by type of network membership, with identification of a “network representative” to be involved later on as “programme evangelist”  Brainstorming session with all the “programme evangelists” and the assessment team  Summary of the activity  Brainstorming with the Management Team and approval or changes, with scenario identification and preliminary risk/budget assessment (SWOT)  Scenarios analysis  Scenarios comparison

Results  Standards adopted and communication plan drafted  Kickstarting and limited communication done  Scope defined  Target defined  Approach defined  Roles/Activities defined  Milestones defined

 Mapped current vs target operating model  Assessed delta by BU  SWOT by scenario  Budget by scenario

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Roadmap

2015-03-23

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 Brainstorming with the Management Team to select the scenario to further investigate and turn into a roadmap  Roadmap definition  Brainstorming on the roadmap and approval of the plan

 Scenario selected  Roadmap defined  Communication plan defined  Key roles assigned  Resources by phase and activity mapped  Constraints and delivery scheduled  Stakeholders and communication mapped

The feasibility study will be carried out in three phases (highlighted the key decision points), and the next pages [would contain the following information: 1. the rationale and content of each result 2. the key roles already identified 3. preliminary list of the stakeholders to be involved, by level of involvement 4. preliminary estimate of the activities to be carried out, with details for the feasibility study, and milestones for the ensuing projects

In this business case, the next few pages contain examples on the adoption of each one of the tools scenarios discussed within the “Method” chapter]

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APPENDIX: TOOLS/1 Option 1: Office Automation

I assume that the audience of this book is from a business environment, and therefore Microsoft Office is available (at least Word, Excel, Powerpoint).

If that is not the case, OpenOffice can be used, as it is a free OpenSource alternative that includes also components covering the role of Access, with Powerpoint replaced by two applications: a drawing application that includes a limited version of the “smart drawings”, and a pure presentation application.

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The Gantt chart that you can see on the left is simply done by inserting as many columns as you have weeks, and then applying a background; if your spreadsheet software allows it (e.g. Excel), you can also use “conditional formatting”, so that whenever a “1” is present, it turns into blue, allowing then to add a column with the total by row that automatically tells you how many weeks (or days, or months) a task is long, alter the plan, or add a further row to show what really happened.

Obviously, it is quite primitive, but it can be updated quickly, and, being based on numeric values, you can add charts (e.g. to compare a “baseline” with actual results), and use it to monitor the evolution of your resource allocation.

Anyway, if you need a proper Gantt, but do not want to use a specialized tool for Gantt charts, probably you can find online an “add-on” for your spreadsheet software that allows to create both a calendar and a Gantt.

From Microsoft Office 2010 on, you can also use “smart drawings” to create the typical value chain chart, or even a network chart, built just by entering something as simple as a bullet list with subdivisions.

The concept? The tool allows you to choose a “visual formatting” with a broad list of options (in most cases, removing the need to acquire a license of Microsoft Visio, as in my experience 90% of its uses are covered by “smart drawings” in both Office 2010 and 2013).

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APPENDIX: TOOLS/2 Option 2: Corporate Standard

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Each tool has different strengths and weaknesses, but all share a common element, the ubiquitous Gantt chart.

Over the years, Microsoft Project added more features- so, you can actually use Microsoft Project (and its server counterpart) to manage also the “bean counting” side of project/programme/portfolio management, including by sharing at the company level a pool of resources, and managing a “skills booking system”.

Frankly, most companies use Microsoft Project just for Gantt charts and little moreincluding those that have the server part and Sharepoint (and sometimes add Clarity too).

The main weaknesses of Microsoft Project (it isn’t workflow-based, and therefore supporting “stage-based” project management approaches can be a nightmare, and doesn’t manage a document repository) are overcome if you, with or without the server part of Project, use also Sharepoint and its “workflow management” abilities.

The main drawback of a “full Monty” solution involving Project, Project Server, Sharepoint? You need deep pockets to buy the licenses, and deeper pockets to create an integrated solution that runs smoothly and is able to withstand the attempts of users to bypass controls or be “creative number crunchers”.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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APPENDIX: TOOLS/3 Option 3: Workflow-based

Actually, ProjectInABox is a tool composed of two tools, a planner (and risk tracking) tool, and a workflow-based document management tool (available also as an integrated, corporate-wide messaging and document repository).

If your company has a methodology, you might appreciate few characteristics: it comes with a set of pre-defined methodologies; if you buy the lowest priced version upgrade you can modify existing ones or create new ones; and it is a scalable solution (both in terms of features, integration on a team or corporate scale, and methodology add-ons).

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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I used it only for one reason: I was looking for a project management tool that supported the programme management counterpart of PRINCE2, MSP, and this was the only tool available.

Then, while I dislike some issues within the “planner” component, I like the ability to see planning not just in term of human resources, costs, or time, but also of risks (including by quantifying impacts).

Actually, in some cases I would skip using the planner to produce the Gantt, and focus instead of mapping out and costing risks and their impacts (a boring task, if you do it in Excel).

At the same time, if you do not have an internal methodology, the “support of methodologies” I referred to is something more than just providing stages: ProjectInABox contains, for each methodology, a graphical workflow, support documentation (e.g. for Agile on DSDM, for MSP, and for PRINCE2 or ITIL), and templates for each phase, so that it can be used also as a learning platform to ensure consistency and self-learning across any organization whose project/activity managers have a high turnover rate.

The Community Edition of ProjectInABox is free (you just need to register), and works under Windows.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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APPENDIX: TOOLS/4 Option 4: Web-based

Over the last decade, another category of project management tools gained traction: software tools based exclusively on the Web (or SaaS/PaaS, in “business IT lingo”).

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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I used a few in the past, and even recently I resumed trying one, but for this comparative test I selected an OpenSource option that I used a decade ago to manage a concurrent pipeline of start-up projects (basically, from lead qualification to business&marketing planning and management coaching).

dotProject is still available online (it requires a server with a database such as MySQL, plus PHP), and can be easily modified and extended.

Nonetheless, it showcases features that should be available in any Web-based project management tool, ranging from the possibility of integration with business processes (e.g. invoicing, HR, email), to an internal messaging system, to document warehousing by task/project/etc., to a feature that I used extensively in the past: the possibility to attach a forum globally, by customer, or by project (more about this in a future episode).

As you can see, a Gantt chart is a Gantt chart, and dotProject on that side contains standard features (e.g. adding information about people, costs), plus a quite flexible (albeit sometimes faulty- hence, my half-hearted support of it as a corporate choice) access control system: you can allow users to do anything or nothing, and on any information- down to no information at all (try managing that with more than few dozen users- you would need an administrator).

Web based solutions usually have a freemium business model, i.e. basic services for free, everything else for a monthly or yearly fee, with “packages” by project, customer, or role/feature combinations.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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CHANGE AND COMPLIANCE

As outlined within the introduction, the case study is a compliance miniprogramme to be delivered within a really short timeframe: 18 projects in less than 8 months.

It is not just consistency that matters, but also how you cope with and recover with unavoidable mistakes or “failures to comply”- “giving a second chance” is part of this specific corporate culture.

Even for an initiative as short as the one outlined within this business case it is advisable to have a preliminary “fact finding” before planning starts, a preliminary “data collection”- about both what is required by the new law, and what is already available within the organization, so that then a proper feasibility study can be carried out.

In many organizations, “hitting the ground running” is considered the way to go: and I will let you have a look at books on WWII events on what happens when you drop paratroopers without first doing a proper fact-finding.

Business in most cases is more forgiving, but the less time you have, the higher the potential impacts of any misstep, and the less you have excuses to skip a feasibility study before committing resources based just on a “guesstimate”.

Therefore, I have always been puzzled by how organizations with less resources to waste “save” by doing without feasibility and/or analysis, as if both were something worth doing only if you are a mega-corporation.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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SCOPE & PLANNING

A first obvious step should be to identify the requirements embedded within the new compliance requirements, and then assessing potential impacts by involving relevant business units and operational staff (more than managers).

The fastest approach that I saw working in practical cases was to prepare a “position paper” to be shared before a brainstorming involving those that could contribute to definition of the roadmap.

Scope definition is still a business choice, but it should be based on a clear assessment of potential impacts and risks/opportunities- it isn’t a matter of taste.

In a compliance case, there is an added “bonus”: as you know the “due by” date, the activities identified can be distributed by starting from the end, with a “safety margin” left between the due date and the end of the activities, and whatever is identified as belonging to the scope is to be distributed across time accordingly.

Therefore, it often starts with a rough Gantt chart built around milestones- (see next page) and the only resources identified from the beginning are those that will lead the effort.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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MAPPING THE TERRITORY

1

2a 2b

3a

4a1 4a2

3b

4d

4b 4c 5c

5a 5b

6

7a 7b

8

9

In this business case, it might seem disproportionate to spend 1/8th of the time available on planning and outlining, but in reality this is often the case, as that month delivers what is actually, for similar activities, closer to a “business blueprint and resources+deliverables shopping list”, so that a business choice can be made.

Typically, this isn’t delivered as a single sequence of activities, but with three main phases: 1. Data collection (internal and external), and confirmation of guideline 2. Scenarios identification based upon the guidelines 3. Analysis and “roadmap for delivery” of the selected scenario.

Furthermore, you can then potentially identify areas where the timeline can be “compressed”, e.g. by having teams working in parallel, and maybe then adding steps to integrate and collate the results produced by each team (consider the case of a complex business proposal: would you have just one team working for six months sequentially?).

Obviously, you have first to identify what can be split between teams. © 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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Decades ago it started on a corkboard with pins and bits of paper shuffled around.

Then evolved into a whiteboard with PostIt™ notes), albeit if you think visually, any tool allowing to freely shuttle shapes around is useful- including Powerpoint.

For the Powerpoint enthusiasts out there: it is less than perfect, but easier to maintain if you use extensively “SmartArt” drawings for your charts.

I use a "Mindmap" tool called

THE PROJECTS 1 identify feasibility 2a define service requirements 2b define service location 3a design service 3b design communication/pre-emptive mktg 4a1 prepare service 4a2 prepare service environment 4b test service with pilot customer 4c train staff for initial service 4d pre-emptive marketing 5a coach on-the-job initial staff 5b monitor from customer side 5c marketing campaign&lead generation 6 tune service 7a retrain staff 7b acquire further staff 8 transition to Business As Usual 9 closing down programme&thesaurisation

Xmind (again, a freemium, working on various platforms)1.

1

A huge online library of maps from other users might actually save you some analysis time; see http://www.xmind.net/share/aleph123/ for maps that I posted since 2009

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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GANTT, CPM, AND PERT

Our society is quite complex- but, eventually, tools developed by a “niche” of specialists surface within mass media, and become common parlance.

Any activity involving more people and organizations requires a form of planning and resource allocation, ranging from a mere agreement on who/what/when, to more complex arrangements (e.g. conditions associated to what can be done when and by whom).

Gantt charts were originally created to support production planning (we are used to look at the width of a bar, but it used to be relevant also its height, and could carry around other information on the resources used by the activities).

If you were born in the 1970s, since you started reading newspapers and magazines you got used to see how activities evolve, presented with a form of Gantt chart; so, you don’t need to be a project manager to be able to read one.

It might be because your local community has to deliver new roads, or just for the plan leading to next Olympic Games, or (I hold an Italian passport, hence…) the schedule for the next European Football cup (soccer, for my American readers): they are all variants of a Gantt.

A Gantt (see examples within the “Appendix: Tools” of the “Business Case” chapter) is nothing more than a (usually) vertical list of activities, whose delivery across time is marked by a sign in columns representing time.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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For the more technically oriented (in planning, not ICT, terms), the link between two bars can be somewhat more complex than a mere “first A, then B”, but overall what a Gantt shows nowadays is a sequence of activities- within a project, or across multiple projects, with some constraints (e.g. when, in relation to A, B can or has to start/finish).

In the late 1980s, before Microsoft Project, I used other tools that were specialized, e.g. producing just the Gantt chart, or producing a variant that allowed to identify the “critical path”, or a more modern chart, PERT, created in the 1950s for complex activities involving a myriad of projects and, as in the business case outlined here, projects of a different sort.

When you have a relatively complex Gantt, eventually there might be activities that overlap, and therefore require more resources to be available at the same time, and activities that, if delayed, could wreak havoc on your wonderful plan.

A typical example is contained within the business case: you can train people to deliver a service, but if the building (with the appropriate equipment) required to deliver that service isn’t ready by when they will have been trained, they will just sit idle.

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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PERT: INTRODUCTION Early start Late start

Duration Task name Slack

Early finish

4

Late finish

8.68

6.33

10.33

Task name 4.68 15.01

In a complex project, sometimes there is a “backbone” of activities that have zero or limited flexibility- keep track of the cascading impacts of any change.

No matter how good are the teams focused on other activities, the most critical activities are those that could make all those efforts useless.

In a nutshell, this is what the “critical path method” is about- and I used software being able to do just a Gantt and a CPM analysis decades ago (less visually appealing than what you have now, but still useful).

A PERT diagram (shown above) can be useful in even more complex cases, and it is filled in two steps (from beginning to end, and from end to the beginning), and involves some statistical number crunching (the example is from Wikipedia).

It isn’t just a chart, it more a “technique” (it stands for Program Evaluation Review Technique), and it is more or less a contemporary of the CPM.

The computations? 10.33 = 6.33 (duration) + 4 (early start); 15.01 = 6.33 (duration) + 4 (early start)+ 4.68 (slack)

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


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Personally, after

drafting a Gantt (more easily understood by nonproject/programme managers), and maybe using the CPM-equivalent within Microsoft Project or other tools to “highlight” visually which activities, subprojects, or projects are “critical”, whenever feasible I prefer to keep track by using a “macrolevel” PERT or at least a network chart, to allow the coordination of multiple activities by immediately showing, quantitatively, how things are evolving.

If you read any book on project management that presents Gantt, CPM, PERT, you will find reference to “tasks”, but actually if you work at a macro-level you can still find them useful, as a “roadmap management tool”.

In this business case, it is even more probable, as some of the (sub)projects might not have their own Gantt.

If you have an activity lasting two weeks and having a “standard” sequence of tasks, using a Gantt instead of a plain sequence in Excel is often a sign that whoever was assigned to it is “green” enough to put the tool before the aim.

A Gantt can be useful while planning, but a “tracking Gantt” (i.e. showing where you are) and a CPM allow you to monitor and identify areas worth of intervention, while a PERT allows you to continuously assess “how much” flexibility is left within your schedule, so that maybe you can find expedient to postpone some noncritical tasks and re-allocate temporarily people to tasks that require more resources (if it makes sense to add resources- sometimes, it is just a waste, as it adds then the need for further oversight or integration).

© 2015 Roberto Lofaro http:/www.linkedin.com/in/robertolofaro


EPISODES SCHEDULE

Profile for Roberto Lofaro

#QuPlan - A Quantum of Planning - Episode 2015/0 - Business Case and Product Comparison  

2015-04-22v0.2 Focus: Programme setup and first project (feasibility and constraints identification/scenario setting); this is the first onl...

#QuPlan - A Quantum of Planning - Episode 2015/0 - Business Case and Product Comparison  

2015-04-22v0.2 Focus: Programme setup and first project (feasibility and constraints identification/scenario setting); this is the first onl...

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