Saturday, March 1, 2008

Quick tip: Monitor the stress levels of your project team.

I'm having a lazy Saturday morning. I've enjoyed a leisurely coffee, read the paper, and am listening to some jazz. Its a pleasant way to start the day. More importantly, I'm not thinking about the past week's work and its toil. I'm relaxing and de-stressing.

Taking time to de-stress is an important part work /life balance. By taking time to focus on other activities and relaxation, it replenishes your energy.

With this in mind, keep an eye on your project team and monitor their stress levels. If you recognize a team member is suffering from being over-stressed, be sure to address the situation . You can do so by creating an opportunity for your team member to de-stress:
  1. Relieve some deliverables and move them to another resource
  2. Discuss some solutions with their manager such as recommending that the resource should take some time for themselves.
  3. If its a very busy time, and everyone is working hard to get projects completed, be sure to thank your project team for all their hard work.
  4. If your team is working late, if you can, try and support your team by attending to administrative and support tasks like: ordering dinner; keeping office lights on; getting the team coffee.
Each interactive group have their own methods of dealing with stress. If you help your project team manage their stress levels, it will create a more cohesive group. And a much happier team.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Plan for common project delays: 5 Point checklist

Often even the most diligently planned projects sometimes are susceptible to small slippages. And even the most experienced Interactive Project Managers sometimes are caught off guard by what should be anticipated delays. Good PMs will account for unanticipated delays by creating a buffer or "cushion" between key Milestones.

However, there is a way to predict re-occurring delays. Here is a simple check-list to account for the most prevalent ones:
  1. Holidays
    Let's start with an easy one; your office's Holiday Schedule. Create "Non-working" days for each of the Holidays. Also anticipate that the day before the Holiday is a very unproductive day and should likely be considered a "Non-working" day as well.

    When working with International teams, it is important to address Holidays in the foreign country as well. Once the appropriate Holidays are determined, associate only those affected.

  2. Vacation
    As your project resources are assigned, send them an email and find out what vacation time they may have upcoming and book it as “non-working” time in your timeline. If you can, see if your resources can anticipate who may be substituting in during their vacation, and create a hand-off meeting a week before the vacation time.

  3. Multiple Revisions
    Its difficult to get a deliverable accurate without changes on a first attempt. Leave an opportunity for your team to have a couple of revision cycles. This may be a politically sensitive, but this is not demonstrating a disbelief in the ability of the team, but rather an understanding of our collective work schedules and mistakes do happen. We are only human.

  4. Client and Senior Management Decision Delays
    Often times a project can be delayed due to Client or Senior Management stakeholders due to delayed decisions on key budget or scope elements. If these decisions milestones can be predicted, provide a leeway of a couple days to reach a decision.

    If the stakeholders require further time to provide a decision to the project team, the project is then delayed and cost overruns and rescheduling can then be addressed.

  5. Knowledge Transfer
    Within the interactive agency world, resources on a project may be transfered, or may resign and requiring a knowledge transfer. This may be the most difficult situation to plan for. Tnasfering ownership between the departing resource and the new incoming resource can hopefully be completed without during a point in the timeline that does not required them to complete a deliverable. As this situation cannot be affectively anticipated, it is simply a good policy to cushion this time into each phase of the project.
And if it turns the project finishes early, just simply ask for forgiveness.


Friday, February 1, 2008

Scanning articles around the Net

DB1E13B5-C992-4E7A-8726-AA45CCBA9D60.jpgWork is keeping me busy these days, as I am involved in a large website redesign project. But, I do keep an eye on other Project Management Blogs around the "inter-web". Here are a few articles that I thought might interest you:

1. Good Project Managers are hard to find!
The Project Hut is a great place to find the latest interactive discussions. This article will likely confirm that good Project Managers are in high demand - even in Brussels. It's nice to know that you're wanted.

2. Why A/B Split Email Testing Is Invaluable
Gina Lijoi continues to write excellent articles, and this one is no exception. In her latest posting she explores the concept of executing slightly different email executions under one project release. Without giving away the punch-line, this tactic will provide your clients with definitive advantage.

3. Do you think "Work" is broken?
Marc Orchant thinks so. In this interesting article, Marc explores how to fix the workplace's current email, meeting and behavioral bad habits. Very interesting.


Illustration: "Man and Coffee"
Copyright: Evgeny Ivanov

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

8 Tips on how to improve managing interactive projects

I wrote down a few reminders to myself this morning on what successful habits did I have last year which I could continue to expand on this year. I managed to identify 8 key Project Management traits that enabled me to successfully deliver projects last year. However, similarly to a golfer who continuously works on his/her swing, I need to continue working on my skills as they are not always 'at the ready' in every situation.

Here is the list of successful skills / habits I identified:

1. Observe / Anticipate: There is definitely a soft skill that Project Managers can all work on. The skill of observing how your team works together. Through this skill you can then begin to predict behaviours for future projects and possibly identify future challenges and risks. Nobody can really predict the future with 100% accuracy - but being able to anticipate possible challenges enables you to lead the team with foresight.

2. Research: Understanding the technology that will be the foundation of the interactive project assigned to you can help in your ability to deliver it on time and budget. At the start of a new project, take some time to do research and ask questions of the tech team. Nobody is expecting you to execute the work, but understanding the tasks at hand will help in ensuring your project structure enables the team to succeed.

3. Facilitate: Once the project is underway, provide assistance to your team members in facilitating their tasks. small and mundane tasks are the bane of everyone's existence. Taking ownership and facilitating tasks, such as; scheduling meetings, booking rooms, reviewing and gathering creative assets for hand off to tech teams can all help ensure a smooth project execution.

4. Negotiate: As all good project managers know, our greatest skill is negotiation: especially in the task of negotiating more time to complete a project than maybe required. It will help account for mitigating any unanticipated risks that may occur. Or, you may just deliver the project ahead of schedule. Be aware in your negotiations that you are striving for an outcome that is beneficial to the existence of the project.

5. Tracking: Keep an eye on your team's progress on an regular basis. Watch for signs of slippage - and address it as soon as possible with the resource. Tracking their progress will provide you with a clear picture of your project's process - and enable you to correct projects that are slide off-track. However, be conscious that there is a threshold with every resource between "status updates" and "nagging". Find that balance and you will not seen as a "whipping stick" roving the hallways "PM'ing" everyone.

6. Lead time for resources: If possible, provide resources with advance notice of projects and their expected participation. This will enable the resources- and help structure their priorities. And more importantly it demonstrates respect for the resources' time.

7. Document: Be a stickler for status and tracking documentation. This task can be the most time consuming but the content that you capture is pure gold.

8. Communicate: Be sure to meet with your team members to understand their status - be it formal or informal. Also be the fountain of knowledge for the project. And if you are unsure of an answer, seek out the answer quickly. Ensure your interactions are timely, and crucial to facilitating your resources end goals. When required, schedule efficient meetings.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Kicking off 2008 on the right foot

Another lengthy day of meetings. Everyone is optimistic that the group is going to achieve great success in 2008. If you are attending similar meetings these days (or hearing about them) I suspect that probably your teams are full of ambitious plans as well. Possibly, they are suggesting a Social Media project or two as an opportunity to think "outside the box".

Very exciting.

As a project manager, however, this is the time of year that I get nervous. I watch as the thinking around the marketing campfires take on a distinctive strategic air, and there is little interest in executional details. I guess it is understood that those details will be worked out later, at some point, — right?

Often when these plans do arrive at the PMO, somewhat conceived and sold through to the project stakeholders (senior management, clients etc.) - I feel like the big bucket of cold water, splashing a resounding "no" - or - "we need to look at the facts" - or - "what is our budget on this" - or - " I don't think we have the resources at that time" all over these once dry plans.

I understand that the marketers are attempting to conceive of a brilliant strategic plan and solving a communication problem, while being innovative; all at the same time. Meanwhile, as project managers, we are attempting to ascertain scope and goals and establish the project's structure and resources. Two trains of thought heading in different directions.

How can we bridge this gap?

Let me suggest to my marketing, pr, and account services brethren to contemplate an opportunity to achieve great communication success: reach out to the internal project management teams as soon as possible to help you in your planning development.

Bridging this gap in the early part of the year by including your project manager to help you plan, will enable your strategic thinking to achieve an easier reality.

"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans." :Peter Drucker


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 Server Pack 1 Update

Microsoft has released Service Pack 1 for the Microsoft Office 2007 Suite.

Download it here:

The fixes cover a bunch of different applications and platforms, so it will take some consideration in rolling it out.

Be Productive.


Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

New Year's Resolution: write more blog posts

I hope that everyone has spent a good holiday season. I've been relaxing at home and helping my girlfriend recover from a wisdom tooth surgery. I've had a quiet holiday season, playing games and watching movies - and eating way too much. This afternoon I was reminded that it is the time of year to review what has been accomplished. And while 2007 has been a great year of accomplishments there are some improvements that I want to make in 2008.

Thank you for your support in 2007 and let's make it a great 2008!