Roles and responsibilities of the project manager

Projects are strategic in nature, so are the demands on a project manager. Organizational success, achievement of business goals is directly linked to the successful completion of projects on time, within budget and with quality. The project manager has to cater to the needs of the project, the organization (organizations), industry, professional discipline and across disciplines. Performing integration is the key role of the project manager. Performing integration comprises of the ‘Plan, Do, Check and Act’ of integrating the efforts and work of all to achieve the project goals.

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Agile in EPC projects – Why I am super delighted?

Can we use agile principles outside I.T?. This is one question I had to answer many times during my project management workshops, and consistently my answer was/ is ‘Yes’. I have mentored a team of lawyers who analyse outsourced cases and submit case analysis reports back, to follow ‘scrum’, one of the agile methods.

Another question from an architect of Turner construction was about the applicability of agile / lean principles in EPC projects. This was around seven years back. My answer was ‘Partially possible’. Agile gives best results in projects where the requirements are evolving and the technology is also new to the team. The early phases of EPC projects (contracting, requirements collection, scope definition, architecture, engineering phases) satisfies ‘evolving requirements’, ‘technology ambiguity’ criteria very well, which justifies my answer ‘partially yes’. The rolling wave or moving window planning which is part of PMBOK for the last one decade, in it’s fully expanded form is nothing but iterative and adaptive in nature. I was always optimistic about application of agile and lean practices in EPC projects, except during construction phase.

Last week, I received a McKinsey report on the emerging trends in EPC from Mr. Varghese Daniel, CEO, Wrench solutions with whom I am professionally associated to analyze the global project management best practices and their application to EPC projects to improve on time and within budget delivery. My further googling got me another KPMG study on the emerging trends. Both points to Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) as one of the key trends globally, which revolves around better collaboration of motivated teams achieved through;

  • Choosing the right contract types (tri-party contracts between the owner, contractor and the architect)
  • Greater collaboration during planning phase (last planner – which is similar to iteration planning)
  • Greater collaboration during execution (construction) (burn down charts, information radiators, daily stand up meetings)

At last my hunches are coming true. All these years I was the lone crusader who used to say that adaptive(agile) and predictive (PMBOK, TCM, PRINCE2) are complimentary which raised many eyebrows, and as an acknowledgement of my views, the industry is moving towards it. I am super delighted.

About the blogger

Abrachan Pudussery is a highly experienced project management domain expert with three decades of project experience in project management, consulting, coaching and research. He has in depth knowledge about various project management frameworks (PMBOK, PRINCE2, TCM, Agile. He is the founder director of the Project Management Research Institute He is also associated with Wrench Solutions as their project management domain expert.

Multifaceted demands on a project manager

Projects are strategic in nature, so are the demands on a project manager. Organizational success, achievement of business goals is directly linked to the successful completion of projects on time, within budget and with quality. The project manager has to cater to the needs of the project, the organization (organizations), industry, professional discipline and across disciplines. Performing integration is the key role of the project manager. Performing integration comprises of the ‘Plan, Do, Check and Act’ of integrating the efforts and work of all to achieve the project goals.

The key stakeholders of the project management role

The project

  • Business analysts
  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Procurement
  • Quality management
  • Risk management
  • Resource management
  • Procurement management
  • Consultants
  • Customer
  • Contractors

The Organization

  • Sponsors
  • Senior management
  • Functional managers
  • Peers (other project managers)

The Industry

  • Industry trends / technological advances
  • Standards organizations
  • Products and prices
  • Competitors
  • Industry benchmarks

Professional discipline

  • Professional bodies like PMI, AACE, Agile alliance, Scrum alliance, PMRI
  • Engineers associations
  • Association of project cost accountants
  • Environmentalists
  • Ethics committees
  • Universities
  • Project management blogging communities
  • Linked in groups
  • Networking with industry experts

Across disciplines

  • Collaborative innovation across disciplines

As we can see, project manager’s is a very strategic role and calls for diverse skills and qualities to cater to the demands of the stakeholders, both internal and external.

PMI’s talent triangle

Skills of a leader

  • Commitment
  • Being a visionary (without total commitment, one will not be able to articulate the vision)
  • Optimistic and inspiring positive attitude
  • Collaborative outlook
  • Relationship building
  • Conflict management
  • Effective communication (Project managers spend about 90% of their time in communication). This include listening skills as well.
  • Demonstrating professional ethics of project managers in all transactions (Responsibility, Respect, Fairness, Honesty)
  • Sharing credit with others
  • Lifelong learner
  • Result oriented
  • Ability to prioritize and focus on important things
  • Ability to manage politics and power and get things done

Performing integration

Projects comprises of multiple sub-teams and even contractors, sub-contractors. Each one of them will have individual plans (engineering plan, design plan,construction plan, procurement plan, quality plan, risk plan, safety plan, scope management plan, schedule management plan etc). All these have to be integrated into a cohesive integrated project plan during the planning phase, and must be continually integrated throughout the project life cycle. During execution, the work packages from these entities have to be integrated. Performing integration at the plan level and at the work package level is a key responsibility of the project manager and she has to have the necessary knowledge, skills and drive to perform this role during the entire project duration

Reference : The project management body of knowledge PMBOK by PMI, USA.

Applying Earned Value Management successfully

Applying-Earned-Value-Management-successfully – WorkAsOne ­

When is Earned Value Management (EVM) applicable?

We say: in every single construction project.

We are not the only ones who think so.

Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE), being more function and detail-oriented, addresses this at length in their Recommended Practices. AACE defines two key concepts in EVM: 1) measurable work progress; and 2) a focus on planning to establish the performance measurement baseline (PMB) against which performance will be tracked and evaluated. AACE’s five guidelines form the foundation for the quality planning process and are identified as one of the two key concepts of EVM, namely:

1. Define Work Breakdown Structure

2. Identify Organizations

3. Integrate Subsystems

4. Identify Overhead Control

5. Integrate WBS and Organization Breakdown Structure

AACE then addresses how to generate and analyse EVM information on a routine basis. The guidelines specify at least monthly reporting although some programs receive reports and perform analysis more frequently.

But to start with, what is EVM? Why is it so useful as a measuring and monitoring tool? Let’s understand the basics.

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Why are the processes in PMBOK numbered from 4 onwards?

The processes in PMBOK are numbered from 4 onwards because chapters 1,2,3 contains the topics given below.

  • The standard for project management
  • The standard for portfolio management
  • The standard for program management
  • Code of ethics and professional conduct
  • Projects
  • Project initiation context
  • Projects, programs, portfolio and operations management
  • Organizational project management and strategies
  • Structure of PMBOK
  • Project and development lifecycles
  • Project phase
  • Phase gate
  • Project management processes
  • Project management process groups
  • Project management knowledge areas
  • Project management data and information
  • Tailoring
  • Project management business documents
  • Project business case
  • Project benefits management plan
  • Project charter and project management plan
  • Project success measures
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Organizational systems
  • Organizational structure types
  • Project management office
  • The role of the project manager
  • Project manager competencies
  • Comparison of Leadership and management
  • Performing integration

Project integration management comes under chapter 4. The first process under this knowledge area ‘Develop project charter’ is numbered at 4.1.

Multi dimensional risk analysis for PMP

Here is a multi dimensional risk analysis for the PMP credential from the industry, trainer, PMP aspirant perspectives with an intent to communicate an independent and unbiased view. 

pmprisks

Industry related risks 

  1. The risk – There is a wide spread rumor about PMP credential as a product, which has reached the end-of-life stage in the product life cycle.  Reality – While this can be true from the training providers perspective due to too many trainers / companies undercutting each other, this is never true from the project management professional’s / aspiring professional’s perspective. PMP still rules as most recognized certification for predictive project management (most suited for large projects involving engineering, procurement, construction and management (EPCM). PMP credential is followed by PRINCE2. There is no other choice as of now for anyone who wants to pursue a globally accepted predictive project management related certification based on Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) by Deming. I am using the term ‘predictive project management’ explicitly because there are many popular certifications available under the agile family (SCRUM, XP, RUP, TDD etc..) which are not a right fit for EPCM projects where the engineering discipline does not allow for much change, hence the agile family of frameworks are more suitable for product development where the requirements and the technology are highly volatile. Even then I am toying with the idea of applying agile during the planning phase of EPCM projects. Do not pelt stones at me because I am talking differently, or because I am the only one talking so. Unfortunately the agilists and the traditionalists do not like each other very much, even when the scrum masters fail miserably because they do not have any clue about stakeholder management, risk management, communication management, resource management, scope management, quality management etc. In my personal opinion, predictive and adaptive (agile) project management streams are complimentary  in nature for those whose goal is to manage their projects successfully, without bias towards any one particular framework.

Trainer related risks

  1. Many trainers teach the inputs, tools and techniques and outputs of the project management processes, in the same sequence as they are listed in the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK), without focusing on the benefits. That makes it very boring and difficult to remember (note that PMBOK is a 750+ page document). A better approach would be to learn process group wise;
    • Initiation
    • Planning
    • Execution
    • Monitoring & Controlling
    • Closing – This approach makes it easy to remember, as this is the natural flow of the project.
    • processgroupwisedoclist
  2. Many trainers provide too much emphasis on remembering inputs, tools&techniques and outputs (ITTO). Remembering them for 49 processes is humanly impossible, especially when one is under exam pressure. In fact, surprisingly those who spent maximum effort to mug up ITTO during their preparation time have failed in the final exam. Once you understand PMBOK process group wise, it is easy to recollect logically the inputs, tools&techniques and outputs. For example remembering the ITTO for the process ‘Develop project charter’ is much easier when one looks at it as the first process under ‘Project initiation’ process group, than the ‘First process’ under ‘Project integration management’ knowledge area.
  3. They do not give any emphasis on the ‘professional ethics’ of project managers. You can imagine the plight of someone who tries into master professional project management without any idea about professional ethics. Since the questions are scenario based, every project management scenario has an ethics angle, and mastering it makes it easier while choosing the best project management decisions.
  4. PMBOK has a wealth of information for the project management practitioner. Many trainers lacks the experience to articulate the concepts from the practitioner’s perspective. For example, project charter can be explained as just an output of project initiation or it can be a great document to develop a well understood project success criteria among all stakeholders..
  5. Trainers may not be well versed with various project domains to cite the right examples, whereas the participants are from different domains. They end up seeing everything as a nail, because the only tool they have is a hammer.
  6. Trainers trying to showcase their knowledge than focusing on the knowledge transfer. Mostly with inexperienced trainers.
  7. Trainers who does not explain things in detail, due to monotony. Mostly with highly experienced trainers.
  8. Trainers recommending too many reference material, thus making the preparation difficult.
  9. Trainers who charge very less fees, who losses interest mid way through the course because they are not compensated enough for their efforts.
  10. Disillusioned trainers, who are wearing the trainer’s hat out of compulsion than by choice.

Learner related risks

  1. Underestimating the effort required. One need to spend atleast 80 hours of preparation time, which include training, self study and exam practise.
  2. Over confidence, hence insufficient preparation.
  3. Lack of confidence, hence not scheduling the exam and finally dropping the idea.
  4. Enrolling for cheap courses, just because they are cheap, without giving any weight age for trainer profile, method of training and track record. Online courses which are just record and play, which are priced lower than the price of books is the number one culprit. Think of the frustration, re-preparation effort and the re-registration fees after failing in the first attempt. Passing PMP in the first go is very important. Do not decide based on the direct costs alone, consider the indirect costs (especially the cost of failure) as well, before deciding on the training program.
  5. Try to finish it off at the earliest, preferably within 30 days of the course completion, else other priorities may take precedence.

pmpinjust5weeks

AACEI’s TCM vs PMI’s PMBOK

One of the things that drew me to WRENCH was its insistence on standardization. As someone who has long been immersed in PMI and AACE (the top two industry-wide standards of our time), I was delighted to meet someone who shared my view, namely, that standardization is perhaps the most overlooked yet most critical success factor in modern project management.

Daniel and I have had many long and impassioned conversations about why this is the case, whether it stems from a genuine lack of awareness on the industry’s part, or just its failure to prioritise. But now, I have hope that every EPC company will wake up and standardize its processes (in order to meet quality requirements), its departments (in order to ensure accuracy in every deliverable) and its stakeholders (in order to make sure everybody is on the same page). But how would they go about it?

Let’s say a company somehow gets convinced that it would be a good thing to ‘standardize’. What’s the next step? Most companies are likely to look into PMI, which is well-known (even if not fully understood), and some might even look into AACE, out of curiousity if nothing else. And that’s where the confusion starts. “Should we go for PMI’s PMBOK or AACE’s TCM?” How are they different? Do they complement/supplement each other?

Read the full article

pmpinjust5weeks

Why traditional project success criteria are still relevant today?

During one of my training programs, a project manager said ‘I am not getting acceptance for my project. What should I do get the acceptance?’. That was a difficult question to answer, considering the fact that I did not know much about his project. Still I wanted to give it a try, and I asked more questions about the probable causes that are acting in favor of project acceptance and the ones acting against project acceptance, just to understand the context better, before trying to help him out, if possible.
The key factors favoring his project’s acceptance

  • The project leadership team, especially the CEO is committed to the project
  • The product quality is excellent.
  • Capability of the team is good.

The key factors opposing his project’s acceptance

  • Organizational politics
  • Fear of loss of job
  • Trade union involvement …

Luckily I asked him about the ‘acceptance criteria’ of the project, which he, his team and all the key stakeholders were trying to achieve, and unfortunately it was not available. Further research reveals that, this is a major problem in many projects. The perception of success varies from project to project, and from stakeholder to stakeholder. There is no agreed upon success criteria for most of the projects, and it is a global project management problem or opportunity!.

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Courtesy : http://www.wrenchsolutions.com

Evolution of ‘project success criteria’

During one of my training programs, a project manager said ‘ I am not getting acceptance for my project. What should I do get the acceptance?’. That was a difficult question to answer, considering the fact that I did not know much about his project. Still I wanted to give it a try, and I asked more questions about the probable causes that are acting in favor of project acceptance and the ones acting against project acceptance, just to understand the context better, before trying to help him out, if possible.

The key factors favoring his project’s acceptance

  • The project leadership team, especially the CEO is committed to the project
  • The product quality is excellent
  • Capability of the team is good

The key factors opposing his project’s acceptance

  • Organizational politics
  • Fear of loss of job
  • Trade union involvement …

Luckily I asked him about the ‘acceptance criteria’ of the project, which he, his team and all the key stakeholders were trying to achieve, and unfortunately it was not available. Further research reveals that, this is a major problem in many projects. The perception of success varies from project to project, and from stakeholder to stakeholder. There is no agreed upon success criteria for most of the projects, and it is a global project management problem or opportunity!.

  • Who has the right to declare success?
  • What are the criteria that will be used to determine success or failure?

Answers to these questions are critical to every project’s success, irrespective of the contract types used.

The definition of ‘project’s success’ is continuously evolving; 

1960 – Technical terms (If the product of the project is working fine, then the project is successful)

1970 – Time, Cost, Quality (Triple constraints)

1980 – Accepted by the customer

1990 – Still more criteria

(Harold Kerzner 2000)

Here is the Project Management Institute’s view of project success as per the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Version6), Released in the year 2018 ;

“Traditionally, the project management metrics of time, cost, scope, and quality have been the most important factors in defining the success of a project. More recently, practitioners and scholars have determined that project success should also be measured with consideration toward achievement of the project objectives.”  Ref  Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Version 6 

That is a radical shift in the definition of the success criteria of projects. Till recently, the industry believed that a project is successful if it is completed within the agreed upon time, cost and met it’s scope with required quality. As per this definition, the project’s management need not really worry about meeting the end goals of the project.

Kochi metro rail  is a project which got over on time, within the acceptable budget and met the scope with the required quality. Till last year, I believed that it’s project management is extremely successful. Did it meet it’s objectives?. I am doubtful. Since I do not know the pay back period, I am not sure. Did it ease the traffic congestion, “no”, it did not. From that perspective I may have to change my view from ‘success’ to ‘failure’ for this project. And the project manager is accountable.

As we all know, every project delivers unique product or services as it’s output (PMBOK). Based on this, the project success criteria  can be further divided into;

  • Project management success  – Time, Cost, Scope, Quality
  • Product’s success (Effect of the project’s final product)  (Baccarini 1999)

Project Success

Going by the latest view of PMBOK, project is successful if it is completed within the agreed upon time, cost, met it’s scope with required quality  and the benefits forecast used for justifying the project’s initiation is accomplished. The first part (project management success) is accomplished through professional project and program management, where as the product’s success is ensured through project portfolio management and project management combined.

Best practices :

  • Opportunity planning
  • Success criteria document
  • Monitoring stakeholder engagement

In my next blog post, I will elaborate the steps to develop, deploy and maintain the ‘success criteria document’ 

Courtesy : Wrench Solutions 

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