Choosing which projects to invest in is a strategic decision to be taken based on objective data. In this article, we explore the problem of subjectivity and analyze the solution that allows management to make decisions based on a business plan, in a rigorous and transparent way.

 

The Problem

In businesses where the source of income comes from making projects for clients, it is easy to decide which ones are to be put in place: (usually) those of greater profitability. And in some cases, all, if sufficient resources are available.

However, internal projects, such as those of transformation, tend to not offer such an obvious criterion as their value to the business is less evident and often more subjective to anticipate.

The fact that an expected value is subjective does not mean that its effects are not going to be real. It means that the benefits are hard to predict, and investment decisions can be based on perceptions.

This is a challenge that managing directors have always tried to address. The most used resource as a solution has been that of the "business case", which requires promoters to express the profitability or value contribution of their initiative in measurable terms, either in sales increase or in cost reduction.

The main difficulty presented by the business case is the human factor: a promoter of an initiative that has a strong motivation to give positive figures and show that their idea is profitable. Though it is desirable to have intrapreneurs on your team it is essential to validate their figures through a homogenous and and objective process.

The second difficulty of requesting profitability to internal projects arises from each promoter having limited vision to their area of competence, defending their plot without considering the overall vision. In turn, management considers these business cases as if they had been generated with the same criteria, which is not usually the case. Each promoter applies with different degree of ingenuity the data to the same template.

The issue at hand is knowing when to recognize, in an objective fashion, what initiatives will bring more value to the business when the projects deliver their expected benefits.

 

 

The Approach

When it comes to value, it is not always possible to apply a purely financial standard via project profitability based on forecasts in isolation and in comparison of each other.

  • The value contribution of a project to a strategic plan may be broader than profitability, even if the savings or earnings have been realistically calculated. For example, a process automation project can throw modest savings, but positively influence a priority target of customer quality perception.
  • Strategic project planning should not consider initiatives in isolation, as the result of the set may be greater than the sum of the parties. It is common for the result of some projects to enable others, and its set to offer strategic value. This is why program and portfolio management exceeds project management.

The strategic management of projects lies in the competence of the management and must be facilitated by the Project Management Office (PMO) to the extent that their objectives are the maximization of value and not only the transversal coordination.

Thus, the strategic planning approach to the composition of the project portfolio should consider two main elements:

  1. A strategic plan that exposes the objectives of the Organization
  2. A list of project proposals (initiatives)

With these two elements, we can prioritize initiatives that will order them from higher to lower value, generating an orderly list of approved projects (portfolio backlog).

Strategic management of project portfolios

A great advantage that offers prioritization of projects by value is that it supports applying resource constraints as a cut-line to its output. If we have a list ordered by value and – for example-a budgetary limitation, we will be able to establish the approval of projects based on those that contribute more value and that are within the available budget.

 

The Process

Once we have the two main elements (objectives and demand), we can start two classification processes that can run in parallel or go in sequence. What is important is to isolate each other to ensure objectivity and ease of adaptation to the general standard.

Process 1: Prioritization of Objectives

Participants: Board of Directors
Objective: To put some objectives in front of others, with specific weight of each one on the total.

Sometimes strategic plans already specify priorities, but in others they do not give explicit weight by objective. For example, how much more important is "to grow in sales by 20%" than "to increase operating efficiency by 15%"?

There are several techniques that can be employed to achieve a table like the one above. From something as simple as an agreement amongst the Board of Directors to the most sophisticated such as an Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The latter could be considered more rigourous, though its execution could be simple if you have a Pairwise Comparison Tool, like the one provided by ITM Platform.

This simple table will generate an orderly and quantified list of objectives.

As an added feature, ITM Platform calculates a "consistency ratio" that indicates how logical and objective the prioritization is. In this article, you will find an explanation of how this index is calculated.

It is possible to make different sets of the same objectives through scenarios, and even use different objectives for different programs. The reality is complex and there is not always a single combination or scenario.

Process 2: Contribution of project value to objectives

Participants: The Project committee and promoters

Objective: To determine how much each project contributes to each objective


Ignoring for now the relevance of each objective on the strategic plan, this step will assign a weight to the contribution of each initiative to each objective. This weight will be translated to a number base on 100, but if you use ITM Platform you can also use the comparison by pairs previously used or use a qualitative methodology based on ideograms such as the image (Harvey balls), providing a visual support.

Process 3: Analysis of the optimal selection of the Portfolio

The two previous phases provide the necessary parameters for the system to calculate the value of each project, based on 100 and depending on the value of each objective.

List of initiatives orders by value

If money wasn't a problem, then we would probably carry out all “reasonable" projects. But in a real organization, the resources available are finite and the previous list of initiatives is not enough to make a good selection of project portfolios.

Thus, it is not only enough to select the most valuable projects, but it is also necessary to filter those that fall within the constraints, be it economic, technical and human resources, or temporary.

In this article, we will use the available budget as an example of a main constraint because this is the most frequent case. Imagine that we should select a portfolio of projects that does not exceed $900.000. Taking the previous list into account, the "New Star Product" ($ 1.5 M) exceeds that amount and also provides a similar value to other more economical projects.

So, with the data we have, we choose the combination of projects that are closer to the available budget: a total of $885.400 and a value of 61% accumulated in three projects.

With this selection achieve the given criteria. But note that the efficient central border graph is indicating the selection is not optimal (value/cost) and that there are better combinations: similar value for less money or greater value for the same sum.

And, indeed, with a portfolio of a total of $528.840 we achieved a contribution of value very similar for 35% less in cost.

If you are interested in understanding how the calculation scheme is made,

Download the guide here.

Conclusion

It is possible to apply rigorous standards in the selection of a portfolio of projects, basing the selection on the value they bring to the business strategy.
Key points to consider:

  • A separation of work between the management team that defines and prioritizes objectives, and the teams that analyze the benefits by project.
  • A process sponsored by management requiring rigorous standards when making investment decisions and implementing transparency between teams.
  • An integrative platform that combines information and exposes the results.

If you want to know more about the management of organizations by projects, download the white paper, where you will learn to:
- Connect management of your Organization with that of projects
- Manage portfolio of projects to create competitive advantage
- Agile Portfolio Management

 

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Effectiveness of internal change projects requires effective leadership that is able to be influential without coercion, to persuade through seduction, and to recognize the complexity of influence in corporate settings.

Communication is one of the most complex and at the same time exciting processes of the human being. Although many human aspects are influenced by communication, language is the main component. In addition, in a project-dominated work environment, where the nature of work is different every time, communication is a fundamental piece that every project manager must master.

Communicate with all your team members in a collaborative software and find out the status of your projects at any particular moment

The same is true for projects aimed at internal change. Moreover, change communication is more complex than the normal. Typically, when we communicate a message to produce a change in someone's behaviour, we expect an immediate reaction from an isolated individual or a small group of people. On the contrary, in change management we seek to produce a stable and controlled change, over time, where the recipient is a group of people whose answers must be coordinated. The complexity can be overwhelming.

The importance of communication in these cases is essential. If you do not measure the reactions to the change through feedback flows, you run the risk of unsuccessfully implementing the change due to uncertainty and lack of knowledge of the issues.

Therefore, mastery of communication techniques is essential for the proper functioning of a company. To begin with, in organizations of a certain size it is advisable to have internal communication policies that facilitate such feedback. One simple way to set these policies, for example, is to set up weekly meetings. In large corporations, internal communication often requires the hiring of experts to streamline discussions and establish initiatives to share ideas, knowledge or impressions.

In general, the domain of change communications can be divided into three aspects: using the right language, communicate in the optimal context, and to focus communication to the solution of real problems presented in the projects and which are perceived by their Leaders.

Use the right language to communicate change

The words you use to describe change management will mark the willingness of your interlocutors to adopt these new work systems. Whether it's to convince project leaders about the introduction of a new methodology or to motivate project members to keep it in mind during the different phases of the project, the terminology that you have managed will have clear repercussions.

For starters, its very difficult for your team to feel interested in a work system that they do not understand. Therefore, it is best to speak in a language that you know they will understand. If the new methodology is born from the identification of problems with which they are in contact, make the connections obvious so that they can understand the consequences of their work on the whole organization. Communication can empower if it seeks to reinforce the consistency between problems and solutions to the scale of individual work.

Another more simple example, it happens similarly when a doctor explains to their patient what his diagnosis is and why it is important to follow a certain treatment. If you use excessively technical language, although it is probably the most scientifically and academically correct, your patient will not understand, will not give adequate importance to their illness, or will not be able to properly follow the treatment. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the physician to use adequate language to ensure that the patient is aware of his illness and predisposes him to follow the treatment properly. The success of the company (in this case, the good treatment of the patient) depends on it.

Context

Read this article if you are worried that your computer doesn't have all the information needed: Tips for communication in remote work teams

Change management cannot be considered an isolated activity, independent of the rest of the company. Precisely the opposite, change management must permeate all aspects of the company, so it must be shown as a global concept that relates to the company and its circumstances.

A fact that is common to change in all companies, is that it must occur in each and every one of the people involved in the project. The global change will be the result of the addition and interaction of all the subjects involved in the project or in the company.

Therefore, change must be presented as a discipline that requires regular and progressive training, prior knowledge and interaction between individuals.

Regardless of these facts, the change manager must pay special attention to the needs and specific situation of each company and market, in order to be able to adapt the change methodologies in a personalized way to the circumstances of the company.

Solving real problems

Company managers seek solutions to their daily business problems to enable them to reach a final product that meets the needs of their customers and obtain the desired market share.

Therefore, in order to convince them of the need to make changes and an adequate management of the change process, it is necessary to touch on the issues that matter to them, that the changes aim to improve the results of the projects. For example, if the organization does not have a methodology for coordinating projects with interdependencies, new conversations about the contribution of projects in terms of external benefits, the objectives of the different programs and the guidelines that guide the overall strategy should aim to spread to all levels, to be gradually incorporated as a business culture. Thus, project members should move from being part of a project to being part of a corporate portfolio with more ambitious goals.

One of the main responsibilities of the change manager is to identify how process failures, described at the macro level, can be modified in a realistic manner. It is essential that an arrangement be reached between a top-down and bottom-up perspective. 

Acceptance = language + context + troubleshooting

Today, more than ever, organizations need effective change management. The change today is greater than ever before in business history: faster and more important and more complex. Due to the demands of the market, companies also become more demanding and ask for positive and concrete results.

To get acceptance of the change systems, you can rely on the three fundamental pillars that we have developed throughout this article: use a precise language while also being accessible, adapt to the context and the concrete needs of each company and each market scenario and demonstrate that an efficient change management will solve practical problems for the company.

If you are interested in this article, you can continue reading some of these:

change management concepts and definitions

5 considerations for managing a project portfolio

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financial calculations, budget planning, costs definition, dollars, clock, gameProject cost management is one of the most important sections of the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) and seeks, from a theoretical and practical point of view, to determine and control the costs involved in the project execution. This is an important area of knowledge since no project can be considered without having set aside sufficient resources for its execution.

For this, time is an influential factor, since the cost estimation will in principle require a project working with timelines; that is, short-term goals are proposed for each phase.

Take reign of all the financial aspects of your projects with ITM Platform. Try it now for free.

It should be considered that if the total period for the delivery of a project is taken as an independent variable, there will be different risks associated with costs as a dependent variable. Namely: if you decide to carry out the project in the shortest possible time, you will be incurring the maximum cost, which requires impeccable coordination between all processes and a very high risk exposure in the appearance of deficiencies in coordination. If, on the other hand, the decision is made to extend the duration, the exposure to environmental risk increases: external circumstances are more likely to affect the initial budget.

How to estimate the costs of a project

The actions that revolve around this go beyond a mere quantitative estimate by a manager or project management team, since internal and external aspects that directly influence the achievement of the project must be carefully estimated.

Obviously, costs cannot be estimated without an exhaustive and accurate collection of requirements. The first reference of the project manager, therefore, is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

  • Define the cost of each requirement. In many cases, these requirements will have a known cost and a trusted supplier; in other cases they will be more difficult to determine and should be roughly estimated;
  • Define the amount of work needed to complete all requirements and the cost per hour of each type of worker involved. This calculation serves as the baseline for the human cost of the project.
  • From the total of the two sums, the project manager must make the necessary adjustments related to the project inconsistencies and its plan, taking into account the duration of the project and how it affects the organization of the tasks. Estimation of costs. This implies the calculation of various circumstances and factors available and foreseeable during its lifetime, such as risks and price increases (in case of products involved), rents, materials, equipment, facilities, etc. For this, a "Reference Line" is created based on the time that they estimate the tools and economic resources that would be provided to each activity. This connects the aspects as mentioned above.

 The more narrow the scope, the more reliable the budget will be for the project. Of course, the project manager should not impose his estimates, but rely on a team of experts and experts in this field, who should evaluate the tasks that create the plan, and perform these assessments.

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From Utopia to Facts

The area of knowledge of the project costs is not exclusively financial, but requires techniques, specialized analysis and knowledge that allow to be aware of all the factors that can modify a project. These include execution schedules, the assessment of possible risks, coordination of meetings with stakeholders, which may need to address suggestions that affect the scope or mode of delivery, respect for the internal policies of a company, Attention to market conditions, experience in similar past projects, etc. Among the more strictly financial aspects are exchange control and fiscal aspects, which can be especially complex in international projects, inflation, and the corporate structure of financial control.

Also, turning information into knowledge requires tools that facilitate an approximation to the facts.

  • Units of measure: Depending on the object to be monitored, it will be estimated whether it can be measured with units of time (man hours, days, weeks, months), metric units (meters, centimeters, millimeters, tons, liters), and even in units of payment (monthly, fortnightly, single payment, etc.).
  • Accuracy: It varies according to the scope of the project, rounding figures around each aspect or phase that gives certainty of the costs that will be required for each one.
  • Cost limits: It is essential to determine this amount so that, in each cost review, there is a precondition
  • Cost limits: It is essential to determine this amount so that, in each cost review, there is in advance a conditioning of what is going to be required in each case. With this tool it is intended to keep the investment within the premeditated parameters and, if not, to take the corresponding corrective actions.
  • Measurement of the effort granted: These are performance indicators that are analyzed in the costs.
  • Management of information about cost management: Stakeholders should be fully and regularly informed of the management that is being carried out, either periodically (daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly) and by providing reports Or any other ordinary means of communication.

Determination of the budget

Taking as a starting point the costs related to each activity, each of the estimates is added individually or jointly, to stabilize the reference line or cost, for the sole purpose of determining the budget of a project, Which will influence the funds allocated to it.

Costs control

It is necessary to monitor the consumption of costs in any situation of the project and to update them, if necessary, according to the cost baseline adjustment that was created. Any increase that is deemed relevant in project costs should be reviewed under an integrated perspective of the changes. However, its effectiveness lies in the management of the baseline, which maintains the cost performance and estimates the deviations occurred.

The aforementioned constructs the way towards an effective estimation of the costs of the project from the beginning. Successful budgeting is not as important as accurately picking up activity notifications. From the exhaustive control of deviations, it is possible to allocate the necessary resources to compensate for the unplanned under-coverage.

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businessman change light bulb. changed the ideaLike all sciences and disciplines, project management and change management have a particular language. Hence, a better understanding of professionals in this field is achieved, which can be communicated without creating ambiguities. However, for newcomers in these areas, the terminology can be complex and confusing. We will define some of the main terms and concepts related to project management and change management to facilitate their understanding.

Lay the foundations for your entire organization to have coordinated project management with ITM Platform

 

Change management

In a dynamic world and market, it is assumed that any company or business must be constantly changing to adapt to the specific needs that customers can present at any given time.

This constant change is what makes it necessary to have an active policy of change management within the company.

Traditionally, change management has been understood as the transition from an original state, in which the company is before the change, to a definitive state, in which the company finds itself after the change. The aim of change management is to make the change with agility, adapting to the needs of the market, and at the same time in the most gentle and simple way for the workers, to avoid altering their attitude towards their work and optimizing their adaptation.

At present, there is a new, more dynamic concept of change management, which involves a gradual, transitional change from one working system to another on an ongoing basis. It is assumed that there will never be a perfect match between work methodologies and market needs, so it becomes necessary to be in permanent change.

According to this second, more modern concept, the change management of the company aims to detect the directions of the market and direct the methodologies of work towards them.

Communication strategy

Communication is the vehicle that allows people and companies to be contacted. Good communication is necessary to successfully implement any work strategy.

In the case of change management, ensuring efficient communication channels between the different services, departments and personnel involved is an essential condition for the change to take place effectively.

Therefore, in addition to adequately clarifying the change management, it is necessary to decide the communication systems that will allow it to be applied properly.

Company culture

A company is like a living being formed from the sum of all the people who constitute it. Therefore, it has its own personality, its own internal culture, and is formed by the employees' attitudes, values, behavioural norms and the illusion and hope for the future that they all have.

It is desirable to develop a company culture because it contributes to generate a sense of belonging and involvement and, therefore, to improve productivity and interaction between workers.

ROI (Return On Investment)

It is probably the most useful indicator to measure how successful a change is in a business. In practice, it means how much of a result is being drawn from the effort and capital that is being invested initially. Therefore, it is a direct measure of the performance of the effort and the work of the company. More efficient work management systems and methodologies will allow for a higher return on a smaller investment, that is, increase the ROI.

Therefore, quantifying the ROI before and after implementing a new work methodology allows us to study the real impact that this has had on the company and its productivity.

Stakeholder analysis

It means exactly what the word says, to analyze all the people in the company who can be affected by a change initiative, whether they are the ones who have to implement it or who are the beneficiaries or recipients of this change.

In order to analyze the personnel involved, the first step is to ask the correct questions to identify each one, to understand their specific needs, what they expect from the changes that will be introduced and where is the most correct place for each one of them In the company, taking into account the tasks they perform, their training, their place in the hierarchy and their attitude towards change.

Risk Mitigation

The introduction of any change in the company implies the introduction of a risk. One of the functions of project management is risk management.

Prior to the execution of any project, it is necessary to carry out a unified analysis of the risks that can appear and the attitudes that must be taken to avoid them or at least to diminish the impact they have on the project as a whole.

In the case of change management, its very essence implies a risk, since it has an impact on the company and its operation, although in principle it is expected to be positive.

However, risk must be constantly monitored to enhance the positive impact that change can have and avoid or minimize possible negative impacts.

Resistance to change and training

All changes involve some sort of apprehension from the workers, who are accustomed to the working methodologies. To reduce these resistances and facilitate the adoption of changes, the best tool is training. A conscientious, motivated and trained worker, who knows the contributions and advantages of the new work systems, is an employee willing to change and improve progressively.

Conclusion

Project management and change management have their own glossary. Knowing the terminology will help to understand the concepts and, therefore, to apply them properly.

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businessman and businesswoman in rush hour, busy concept, clocks

This article is part of the series on the 10 areas of knowledge. Visit the two articles already published on Project integration:

The 10 areas of knowledge. 1: Project integration management

Integration with the ITM Platform Project Menu

The 10 areas of knowledge. 2: Project scope management

 

Time management is not divination

Try ITM Platform and start managing the time of all your projects.

The PMBOK guide includes project time management as the third area of ​​knowledge.

The time variable has a fundamental value in project management in order to meet deadlines and manage resources correctly. Programming is the axis from which we try to manage time with the objective of executing the action plan. To do this, the duration of the activities must be estimated according to the resources available to them. Exceeding the established limits will always incur an additional cost.

A very frequent mistake when managing projects is to think that it is enough to make an excellent plan to achieve good time management. This error is usually corrected with experience, once you understand that to get the estimates right and to know the time required by each task in detail it's only the beginning of the work.

In general, delays of some kind are inevitable, so the most important thing is not to be able to eradicate them by means of precise estimates.

No, the fundamental thing in time management is to go beyond planning, not to think that a realistic estimate is the final success: if it comes out, it will be by chance and by the lack of concurrence of the adverse circumstances envisaged in the risk plan. It is much more important to perform constant follow-ups, listen to the team, measure deviations and keep clients and project sponsors informed about the project progress.

Translator metaphor

Imagine a simple, linear project consisting of a single task and a single resource. For example, the translation of a book. A translator confronts each book with a different project with a unique result. Each book is unique. But all the projects look very similar.

When evaluating the time it will take to complete each translation, the translator performs a simple calculation: translate a test page, after which multiply the elapsed time by the number of pages and by a factor of 1.5. This factor allows the translator to conduct the review and documentation phases, without which the project would not have the required quality.

So the calculation has allowed the translator to deliver on time.

However, one day he agreed to coordinate the translation of a botanical volume composed of different authors in different languages. Although he will have to translate most of the content, other translators will take care of different articles.

The translator applies his method to estimate the approximate time that the translation of the articles will take, asking each collaborator to do the same. Due to the first estimate not taking this into account, the success of delivering the project on time would be pure chance. In contrast, our translator provides biweekly deliveries to check the project progress. When identifying delays, talk to the employee to know what has been done and take action accordingly, such as incorporating a terminology expert into the project; or the extension of delivery time.

This simple example shows how important planning is to be able to act when a delay arrives.

Steps to manage the time of your project

1. Define activities

The first step is to define the tasks, the milestones and the stipulation of all the activities that are necessary to complete the project.

At this point you can accumulate all the tasks in a Gantt diagram, which allows you to simply and quickly sketch the entire plan. It is more important to focus on defining the time required for each task, without setting specific dates.

2. Sequence of activities

When the tasks have already been defined, they must be organized. The dates are still not important at this point, we should now focus on ordering the activities giving them meaning and apply logic. Sub-tasks can be created when deemed necessary to improve time management.

Once activities are in order, add dependencies between tasks, specifying whether they are start-start, start-end, or end-end dependencies. For example, if the project consists of building a villa, before starting to project, it will be necessary to select the land on which it will be built, since it has many easements with constructive characteristics. If the terrain selection is delayed, the entire project will automatically be delayed.

3. Predict the resources available for each activity

In this step, we must evaluate the demand for human resources and compare it with the existing supply for it. Once developed, you will get a perspective on whether the estimated resources are sufficient for development in the time set for each task. The scarcity of certain skills (or their higher price) can cause delays in the plan.

After allocating resources to the various activities, it is advisable to review the dependencies of each task and associated resources. Once all the information has been broken down, it will be possible to check if there are overlapping activities and therefore require additional resources.

4. Develop and monitor the program

It is important to review the Gantt chart with all participating teams to ensure that you have full compliance before you start. At this meeting, it is important to:

  • Move any doubts you may have after planning
  • Collect suggestions and comments from team members who can help with time management, such as the existence of technical difficulties or experience with similar projects.
  • Ensure that all participants or team members understand their role in the project and commit to carrying out the assigned activities or tasks.

As we said, the phase of control of the calendar is more complicated than that of planning, since it involves the effort to impose contingencies and the natural entropy of the project. Therefore, time management implies an almost obsessive dedication to supervision and verification in which it is essential to have methodologies, processes and technological systems that support such activity control.

Performing correct planning of the time following the indicated steps will result in company objectives being achieved, create confidence, improve competitiveness and profitability. If it is considered that sufficient resources are not available to carry out a specific task or activity, and there is no way to obtain more resources, there is a margin of reaction that will allow to modify the task based on the resources available in the organization.

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