Thursday, August 4, 2011

Being Effective at Work

Here are few steps, which you can use to increase your effectiveness.

Step 1: Identify Priorities; to identify your job's true purpose, this will help you uncover your most important objectives, so that you can start prioritizing tasks effectively

Step 2: Adopt a Good Attitude; focus on adopting a good attitude at work, and make decisions that intuitively "ring true."

Step 3: Build Essential Skills; One of the best ways of becoming more effective at work is to learn how to manage your time more efficiently
For more detail you can read in this link

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lesson Learned #3 - Tracking Issues

Every project has many issues.  Some have a few; can count by the fingers, while others could have overwhelming numbers over the life of a project.  Project issues include specific problems that need to be resolved by the project manager, project team, concerns raised by management or external parties that required consideration by the project team, legal compliance issues to be resolved and tasks that need to be finalized prior to Cut-Over (Go-Live), especially if they will be a risk to the successful completion of the project.
Project issues should be discussed, communicated, resolved amongst project team and as a practical project manager; we need to track in some fashion such as Google docs Project Tracking Issue Template
One of key advantages by using Google docs, the issue tracking can be shared and updated real-time by project teams so as a project manager, we can update quickly. With Google Docs, the tracking issue could be updated with new issues and also update for any updates/resolutions to existing issues amongst team member. 

Generic entity for project tracking issues such as (with Google docs, the field can be customized as required):

  • Issue ID
  • Issue Title / Summary
  • Description
  • Date Issue Raised (and possibly who raised the issue)
  • Priority (e.g. High, Medium, Low)
  • Assigned to/Responsible Person for resolving issue
  • Due Date
  • Status (e.g. New, Open, In Process, Resolved, Closed, Deferred, etc.)
  • Comments
  • Resolution Steps

Being practical project manager, we must be able to communicate these issues those who have a material interest in the project including the project team periodically, project management meeting (involve many parties), steering committee meeting.  They look to the project manager for a status of the project; communicating issues and the plans to resolve and mitigate issues is of primary importance to these entities.
Since issues is daily bread and even potential showstopper of any project, the key role of the project manager to handle and communicate issues is cornerstone of project management.  By successfully addressing and managing issues in a timely manner, the project has a greater chance of success to Cut-Over (Go-Live) and beyond.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How to Choose The Right System – The RFP Process

Here’s a step-by-step guide, along with some tips to give you a good grip on the process.A request for proposal is generated to invite bids and proposals from vendors, for the purchase of assets or for awarding work contracts. This formalized procedure helps in generating competitive proposals, from amongst which the final choice can be made.

Step #1 – Gathering the Requirements
The process of preparing a Request for Proposal (RFP) begins with gathering requirements of the project.  It is better to have template in the sheet (xl/xls format) with several columns, such mandatory or not, part of scope or not, out of the box or not, etc. for easy evaluation so can be easy sort based on various criteria.

Step #2 – Establish Vendor Eligibility
Once you know what the demands of the project are, the next important step is to setup a vendor eligibility criterion. You’ll need to set up some minimum eligibility criteria that will be used to scan and shortlist the vendors. Also, you must clearly specify the additional factors that will get the vendors some added preference

Step #3 – How to invite the Vendors?
You have two options when it comes to invite the vendors, you can either place an advertisement to invite the vendors to submit the proposals or you may only invite the vendors to submit the proposal from a selected list of vendors by contacting them directly. Thus from here the RPF process will vary depending on the choice made. If you’re inviting proposals through advertisement, you can skip the next three steps and move straight on to step #7.

Step #4 – Browse Existing Vendor Database
Every organization maintains some sort of vendor database, and if your organization too has one then that’s the place to begin your vendor search.

Step #5 – Research New Vendors
The list of vendors from your internal database may not be enough. Look up newspapers, Internet, trade journals and business directories to search, ask your friends / colleagues identify and add more vendors to your list.

Step #6 – Scan and Shrink Your List of Vendors
Make a tentative list of potential vendors after scrutinizing each vendor against the eligibility criteria. This is not the final list of vendors, as the final list can be prepared only after internal stakeholders have approved it.

Step #7 – Create a Vendor Evaluation Plan
You need a detailed plan that will be used for evaluating and selecting the vendor. This plan should include the procedure to be followed, evaluation criteria and details about the decision makers. This vendor evaluation plan must be fair and open as it will be beneficial for auditing purposes later.

Step #8 – Draft a Request for Proposal
Here is a brief description for each and any of the common sections of your RFP: statement of purposes, background information, scope of work, deliverables, term of contract, payment term (Payments, Incentives, and Penalties), contractual terms and conditions, how to response (response proposal format from the vendor), evaluation process, time-line, contact person.

Step #9 – Invite Suggestions and Comments on the Draft
The draft that has been prepared in the last step is not the final one. Before we make the final document, the draft must be distributed to all relevant internal stakeholders to generate their comments and suggestions. If you generated a list of vendors in step # 6, this list should also be attached with the draft.

Step #10 – Prepare the Final Document
After making adjustments to the request for proposal draft, by accommodating the inputs received during the above step, the final RFP is on the go.

Step #11 – Send Out the RFP
Once you have the final copy of the RFP document, you need to send it out to the vendors using the preferred media. If you’re requesting proposals from vendors on your list, you can send them the document as a hard copy or in an electronic form. And when requesting proposals in public, the RFP can be placed as an advertisement in some print media such as newspapers.

Step #12 – Receive Proposals
When you receive related proposals form responded vendors (based on advertisement or invitation), organize and file them accordingly for easy scanning during the evaluation.

Step #13 – Evaluate the Proposals
Evaluate all the received proposals and choose the winning vendor. For the evaluation you’ll have to follow the procedure outlined in the vendor evaluation plan that you had prepared earlier.

Step #14 – Award the Contract
Once you reach a unanimous decision on who is the most appropriate vendor, the contract can be awarded to the winner. It is a good practice to request the vendor to sign-off the RFP as part of the commitment that when vendor complies with the requirement and it means truly comply. Remember, ensure all are being documented properly; the evaluation process, the criterion, the reason why one vendor is not selected and one vendor is selected and it is must based o the evaluation criteria.

Step #15 – Prepare a Contract/Work Order Form
A work order form (contract) details out the exact requirements – including qualitative as well as quantitative requirements, list of deliverables and the detailed schedule. As a tip, if vendor signs-off the RFP response, you can make that sign-off RFP response as part of the work order (contract) so it will save time as well. The work order can be act as an abridged version of requirement specification document and the good thing if the Vendor has signed off the RFP, you can use it also as requirement specification documentation.


Monday, August 1, 2011

#2 Lesson Learned – Managing the Perception

Being a practical project manager is handy if we can manage the perception correctly as it will lead to better decision.

Read this short story:

A person from Indonesia – who usually lives in 27-35 degree – goes to Europe, lands at London, finds that temperature is 10 degree and texts his wife that it’s very cold.

At the same time, another person from northern part of Europe – who lives in 0 to minus 35 degree –lands at London, finds that temperature is 10 degree and calls home saying the weather are very warm.

The fact is, the temperature is 10 degree – you call it cold or warm that depends on the place you live

So when you listen to statements such as ‘It’s very cold’ or ‘it’s very hot’, if you look at it from right perspective, you will end up making better decision.

Remember all the answer is right and depends on the perception. Being a practical project manager, we need to understand the context surround the situation to make good decision.

#1 Lesson Learned – Performance Test

Albert Einstein said, "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them."

The idea of lesson learned series is to make a practical project manager becomes genius by reading, listening, and memorizing as much as possible entire lesson learned from various projects.

This is one of the attempts!

Performance Test

Performance test is required to prove that the system can cater the agreed load (e.g. certain amount of TPS – Transaction per Second). During the performance test, two cases are required:
1.    Normal test cases; the test runs the positive test cases such as the box can runs 1000 TPS with 20% CPU utilization.
2.    Negative test cases; the system must run negative test cases and we need to observe the behavior of the system such as CPU utilization, memory consumption, etc. E.g. the box runs 1000 TPS with 50% of the traffic has low latency and observe what happen with the CPU load.

By performing the above two test cases, we could prevent or minimize unpleasant surprise in the production system, do not underestimate this.


Profiling the users - Used Case for 6 Thinking Hat Technique

We as a human learn from the pattern and being a practical project manager, learning and remembering the pattern is crucial as by recognizing the pattern, we can recall what action has being taken from past time, what decision is being made, what is the pitfalls, how to overcome it, etc. Pattern can be used also to profiling the user so by recognizing the pattern of the user, project manager can profile the user accordingly; so it can be used to communicate ‘frequency’ correctly to minimize the miss-communication throughout the project.
One of the tools, which can be used to profile the user, is 6 Thinking Hat Technique from De Bono. Usually, people use this technique to make decision, as by applying this technique, the decision should cover 360 degree, it means cover at least most, if not all, the aspect of the decision. In this article, we will use the same method however for different purposes, to profile the user using 6 Thinking Hat Technique and here it is.
1.     White Hat; a White Hat people tends to focus data, information, and statistic, Hence if a project manager would like to discuss with a them, it is a must to bring all the on the table in the statistic form, sheet, creating pattern from the information, benchmark, etc.
2.     Red Hat; a Red Hat people tends to focus on the intuition, gut reaction and emotion; Hence if a project manager would like to discuss with them, try to emphasize and bring the emotional on the table such as what will be the customer experience if this features/services will be available in the market, what you feel about this project, etc. Remember this Red Hat people are the opposite of White Hat people.
3.     Black Hat; a Black Hat people tends to become more careful, judgment, critical, logical, cautious and risk assessment; Hence if a project manager would like to discuss with them, try have more concern on caution and careful. Bring on the table the risks, dangers, obstacles, potential problems and downside of the problem/suggestion/ etc.
4.     Yellow Hat; a Yellow Hat people tends to share optimism, positive thinking and constructive; Hence if a project managers would like to discuss with them, treat them as a partner or as a mentor to support and provide optimism and positive atmosphere so s/he can help you to be constructive accordingly. Remember this Yellow Hat people are the opposite of Black Hat people
5.     Green Hat; a Green Hat people tend to have creative thinking, suggestions, ideas, proposal, and alternatives; Hence if project manager would like to discuss with the them; use them as source to find the solution as they are full of idea and sometimes comes up with the out-of-the-box thinking which may useful to solve the problem.
6.     Blue Hat; a Blue Hat people tend to have organization of thinking and control the other hats; hence if project manager would like to discuss with them is better in the form of escalation that includes summaries, overviews and conclusion so the blue hat people can decide accordingly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Managing Project Stress - Five tips to manage it

Managing Project Stress - Five tips to manage it

1.     Accept the stress; It is a must attitude to manage the stress, be in at project, work or anywhere else is to ACCEPT it. By accepting it, not denying it, the stress becoming sort of reality instead of un-reality. Then start applying following points in mind.
2.     List the stress; to make the stress becomes sort of real; you must be able to list down of the stress. If you are not be able to list the stress, you could also make it a list of things that make you worry, as the source of the stress, obviously, is worry. E.g. in the project to many task and because of it, project manager, in this case you, is having stress. The benefit of list the stress, it, some how, will relief the burden out of the chess. To make your list is not growing, you should start practicing to say ‘No’ smartly.
3.     Work out the stress; upon finishing of stress list then you can start workout the stress by planning on how you are going to over-come it. E.g. after you have the task list, you can start putting the timetable and action item to finish it.
4.     Observe the stress; this activity is important as it will act as a review checker whether the stress list if correct or not. Correct means you stress level is gone or at least lower and not correct means you are not having a genuine stress list then you need to repeat step 1-3 again.
5.     Divert the stress; we need to balance between project (work) and life, during office hours if you feel stress, it is beneficial to divert the stress by doing something else, some companies that have installed games box such as Wii, Xbox or playing table tennis, massage chairs, chill out zone etc. which are pretty effective for project manager to breakaway from work temporary during office hours. After office hours, catching up with friends over a cup of coffee or dinner or devotes his weekends into fun stuff such gardening, cycling, jogging, reading, etc; which is also a good way to shift yourself away from work. In summary anything that requires your immediate focus and full commitment will turn out to be a good activities for you to breakaway from your working routine and unwind.

These tips are actually generic and it can be applied to manage the stress for other areas.