StrategyDriven Project Management Article

How Agile Project Management Can Improve Your B2B Business

StrategyDriven Project Management ArticleAgile project management can seem to be complex and daunting to undertake but it doesn’t need to be. The key principles are the same as with traditional project management; organisation and planning must be undertaken before a project begins and then the project must be continually managed throughout to ensure it is being completed in the most efficient way. The difference is that agile management is specifically targeted at adapting the project as it progresses, ensuring the end result is more successful and meets the changing demands of the business or customer. As such, agile management can be extremely beneficial for B2B businesses.

Better Results

The success of projects is dependent on various factors, some of which are beyond the control your business. However, those elements which can be controlled should be carefully managed to ensure the success of your project. Agile management will take project management one step further. By breaking each stage of the project into separate components for completion, there is more potential to make changes to the project as it progresses. This can ensure that end result of the project meets the needs of the business. It also reduces the number of failed projects or projects which exceed their deadline.

Working Faster

Agile project management is a good way to increase the pace of your work. The careful planning of each stage of a project means that employees should have a clear indication of every action and step they need to take to ensure the project is completed. Although there is room for adaptation and flexibility, the general pace of competition should be much quicker. Agile management should enjoy workers productivity levels as there is more room for their input as the project progresses, enabling them to work in a much more efficient manner.

Keeping Up With Trends

A significant benefit of agile project management is that it enables businesses to keep up-to-date with the latest trends in technology and marketing or even software updates. These areas are constantly changing and developing, so being able to implement a new idea in the middle of a project without disrupting the schedule too significantly is essential.

Feedback

Agile project management enables regular feedback to be given on each stage of a project. This feedback can come from both the project manager overseeing the completion of a project and from the stakeholders. It also offers more opportunity for collaborative feedback, which improves communication between members of the team and allows them to raise any issues before they become a significant cause for concern.

Agile project management can require a significant change within a B2B business. It can be difficult to engage employees with a new method of working. However, this is a worthwhile undertaking for many businesses and can improve the success rate of your projects and your business as a whole.

Enroll in agile courses to learn more about the techniques involved, from communication to prioritisation, and how these can benefit your business.

5 Steps To Designing A Product

StrategyDriven New Product Development Article
Photo courtesy of Free Great Picture

So, you have an idea for a product? Before you start pitching to manufacturers, investors and retailers, you’ll need a final working prototype. The design stage is crucial – and the more thorough, the better. Some people will take their design through all manner of stages, but here are really the five main stages that you should be worrying about.

Brainstorm ideas

Before you embark on your design, it’s worth having a brainstorm session to cover every angle of your design. Consider your target market, the cost, the function, the materials and all manner of other factors. Your product should solve a problem – or satisfy a pleasure. Assuming that you want your product to make you money, consider how much of a need there is for your product and what you can do to make it more desirable.

Do market research

Market research can tell you many things – whether there is a need for your product, what changes you may be able to make to appeal to a greater market and what competition there is out there. A survey is brilliant way to assess these things (you can create these online and share with friends, family and strangers). You should also do a few Google searches of similar products. Read reviews to find out any criticisms, so that you can avoid your product suffering the same problems. You can even buy a rival product and dismantle it for inspiration.

Start designing

Start sketching away. You should begin freehand and then move onto designs with calculated measurements once you’re comfortable with exactly how you want it to look (you may wish to download graphics design software for this or hire professional designers). Come up with a few designs until you’ve settled on a favourite.

Create virtual prototypes

Before making working physical prototypes it’s often advantageous to make a virtual version. This will allow you to see your product in 3D and test various measurements. There are software and services that specialise in iterative wireframe development that can help you with this.

Create a physical prototype

Now it’s time to make a real life prototype. You may wish to start with models. From here you can build up to fully-working prototypes. Invest in the materials and tools you will need and get building. You may have to build several versions if you come across complications. Some products may be too complex to be hand-built and may require a complex set up of machinery – this will be costly but may much needed in order to get a fully working prototype. Find a testing team to trial your product once you have a fully-working prototype. If they mention any issues, you have to go back and make some changes. After a lot of hard work and patience, you will eventually have a final product that you can start pitching. This is only the beginning of your journey – you now have investment, marketing, distribution and all manner of other things to consider – although providing you’ve followed all the designs steps up until now, your product should be pretty flawless and getting people to help in these areas shouldn’t be too hard.

How Project Management Apps Are Fostering Remote Working

The inclusion of remote workers into your team is as advantageous as it is challenging; perhaps what we can find particularly interesting is that this trend is not just restricted to successful conglomerates with international interests but early stage companies who are still trying to find their feet. The inter-connectivity of computers worldwide and the advent of project management apps and time-tracking software has made this possible.

It’s also pertinent to note that remote working not only solves the problem of access to highly skilled personnel but it has come to be seen as the perfect solution for employees who have to brave the long-hour drives to work, thereby reducing their stress levels. They are less exposed to the drama that comes with working in a “traditional” workspace, leading to greater productivity on the long run.

The benefits for telecommuters also include a significantly lower monthly gas bill, the opportunity to keep an eye on the kids, job satisfaction, peace of mind etc. To buttress this point, The New York Times, reports on an experiment carried out by a Stanford Economic Professor – Nicholas Bloom; with results that should not be ignored by the H.R department. The experiment showed that remote workers worked 9.5% longer than their office colleagues but that’s not all. There was also a 13% increase in productivity from the virtual team. As you can clearly see, it’s not just workers who get to enjoy the benefits, corporations have a lot to gain by instigating work-from-home policies.

The obvious benefit for companies would, of course, be the significantly reduced cost because they are no longer limited by distance in sourcing for skilled workers. The internet has made it possible for managers to recruit workers at an affordable rate. John Meyer, in a Forbes article, puts the total savings for companies at 30%.The job of the human resource manager becomes a lot easier as employee turnover rates are down and the constant battle with absentee employees becomes a non-issue.

As the years go by, the tradition of working from brick and mortar offices seems less and less attractive to millennials especially but like was stated in the opening paragraph, the remote-working trend also brings with it, its set of challenges.

Project managers want to be able to keep tabs on the progress of all team members, they want to know where everyone is at with respect to tasks assigned to them and if you are managing a team of 30-50 people, that’s no mean feat. They owe a depth of gratitude to apps that have made the process of managing virtual teams less complex. Project management software helps keep the entire process not just organized but ultimately promotes greater efficiency. What’s not to love about collaborative software that allows you send and receive documents from team members, or time tracking software that helps you stay on schedule?

Collaborative management tools have gone further to shorten the distance between virtual team members in addition to fostering productivity and efficiency.

Infographic courtesy of nutcache.com

7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

Fred Mouawad

Top Project Management Challenges

Did you know that organizations lose $109 million for every $1 billion invested in projects and programs? It’s a staggering number to consider, and even more shocking, it’s due in part to the fact that over the last year, less than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget.

Ask any project manager, and you’ll hear that one of the top problems that they face is a high tolerance for failure. Extending due dates, forgetting tasks and cost overruns are so common that they are considered a part of the process. However, we certainly do not extend the same liberty to other professions like engineers, doctors and pilots.

A high performing project manager needs a way to track projects from start to finish, get the team on board to work together towards a common goal and get more done on time and under budget. Excel spreadsheets and emails are two ways to accomplish this, but most managers should use a project management methodology to stay on task.


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About the Author

Fred MouawadFred Mouawad is a global citizen, serial and portfolio entrepreneur, and founder of Synergia One Group of Companies and CEO of Taskworld. He has expertise in building comprehensive management systems that are based on direct experience, academic research, ISO standards, and Lean Six Sigma. In his free time, Fred likes snow skiing, jet skiing, motorcycling, and scuba diving.

5 Early Warning Signals for a BPI Project

Can you recognize the early warning signals that derail a business process improvement project? Many articles have been written about what makes process improvement projects fail and usually they list critical success factors. But the real question is how do you recognize the leading indicators in a process? And once you identify those signals what action should you take to cure the ill and get the process back on track or put a halt to the project altogether?

Let’s look at the stages of the BPM Methodology and identify early warning signals and then suggest some countermeasures that are helpful to get things righted again.

BPM Process Methodology

This graphic shows the four stages of the BPM Methodology and the detailed phases of stage 2, the Business Process Improvement Project.

The first early warning signal is in Stage 1, Process Selection, or choosing which process to work on. It’s not that there is one right process to work on first but the choice of a poor project creates many challenges that often lead to a bad name for the whole concept of business process management. The wrong process choice is usually from three circumstances:

  1. Starting with an enterprise project with several cross-functional stakeholder groups participating.
  2. Choosing a project where a single Executive Sponsor cannot be designated and it needs two to three Process Owners.
  3. Starting with a project that requires a different culture than the organization currently has. This would be the case if the culture was authoritarian and it tried to use employee process improvement teams.

The answer to these warning signals is don’t start with a large enterprise process projects without the necessary leaders, and a culture to support it. Instead start smaller, with a key sub process, with leadership and a culture in that function or business unit that support employees working together and understanding how to look at a process and use data, diagrams, and the voice of the customer to improve it.

In the Chartering and Staffing phase of the BPI project there are many critical success factors (It is the beginning of the project! Get it right and you are off to a good start, but get it wrong and you’ll create numerous problem areas). Let me discuss two factors:

The Project Charter

Below are four early warning signals that can come up during the charter process.

  1. Having no charter. Maybe this happens because the BPM professional staff or IT knows this process needs working on and just begins trying to improve it. There is no written charter, and minimal involvement of the business executives in defining the improvement goals.
  2. No baseline measures. Without baseline measures, there is no quantitative data to see how critical this problem is, as well as data to see what the current values are and what kind of goal values should be set for the improvement.
  3. Uncommitted leadership. There is no Process Owner who is designated and steps up to guide this effort, setting the goals, vision, measures, scope, and selecting and providing the necessary team resources. Or the Process Owner has limited time for the team and moves onto other initiatives.
  4. Overburdened team members. Several team members says they have too many other projects and will not be able to devote time to this additional BPI project.

What can you do in these situations?

  1. If there is no charter, stop and develop one. Go back and do it. Write it down, put it in the Shared Repository and keep using it and iterating it as the project moves along. If the company has a real anathema to charters, don’t call it a charter, but gather the elements, and name the file something else, or put it in Blueworks Live in the appropriate fields as part of the project overall.
  2. Once you have the improvement goals for the project they will need measures. So name the appropriate measurement categories and then gather the real baseline data. It doesn’t have to be for the past three years; make it simple. But it may take some manual work this first time because process measures are not automated in most companies today.
  3. If you have uncommitted leadership, stop. Get different leadership, but make sure they have the responsibility for the process. Or, pick a different process where there is the appropriate Process Owner with commitment to the BPI project. Uncommitted leadership is a big stumbling block –not worth investing in.
  4. Overburdened team members are usually a sign of a larger problem—the company has too many priorities and keeps adding more assignments without taking some items off the plate. Team members can be ‘conscripted’ to join the team, but if they really do not have time to work on the BPI they will soon start voting with their feet and just not coming to working sessions. So reconsider if this is the right process at this time. Maybe another process where the employees are not so stretched would be better. If just one or two team members are overburdened, it may be possible to find good alternates, but if there are several, don’t start this BPI project.

These are important leading indicators that the process is in trouble. Take the early warning signals as valid information, have a discussion with the appropriate leaders, especially the Process Owner and take action. Otherwise your BPI project could drag on, probably getting weaker, and not moving toward success.


About the Author

Shelley SweetShelley Sweet, the Founder and President of I4 Process, and author of The BPI Blueprint, is a highly respected BPM Practitioner. She provides consultation, workshops and training programs for clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organizations. Her programs are based on a unique 3-PEAT method of modeling processes and analyzing data that accelerates operational improvements, and builds leaders and employees who sustain operational excellence. Want to learn more about BPM metrics? Email Shelley at: [email protected]