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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]

Mobile, Native Apps and Project Management Software – What’s the Connection?

Remote work is seeing a steady rise, and key to making it possible is cloud computing and the continuously rising mobile usage rate. You’ve heard of the BYOD (bring your own device) revolution, and whichever side of the BYOD fence you’re on, there’s no denying that mobile devices are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the workplace.

Enterprises of all shapes and sizes have chosen to embrace the mobile landscape, taking advantage of enterprise-specific mobile apps to keep their employees productive even when outside the office.

In the project management arena, it’s been established that projects are better carried out by teams, and teams nowadays can be dispersed geographically, hence, the growing prevalence of cloud-based project management software to keep these teams connected. Cloud-based also means the ability to access the project management application via any device – PC, laptop, tablet and smartphone.

How’s your mobile experience?

Now, step back for a moment and recall how using your phone to browse a site not optimized for mobile makes you feel. Does adjusting the text to a size that’s easy on the eyes, then swiping horizontally and vertically to read an article in its entirety put you off? What about Flash or Java and their effect on load time? Or pop-up windows, perhaps? If they do, it most certainly is the same story for a lot of other users.


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About the Author

Maricel Rivera writes content for Comindware, a business solutions provider whose project management software offering, Comindware Project, provides a whole suite of project management capabilities and comes with native apps for both the iOS and Android platforms. You may connect with her on Twitter.

Picasso and Project Management

For those that may not know, Picasso is a famous artist. Like others similar to him in related fields, his art has made an impact on the world. But art, like many other things, is relative to the observer, i.e. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (This saying first appeared in the 3rd century BC in Greece). So while many people may like Picasso, many others may like Jackson Pollack, Thomas Kinkaid, etc. instead and not care about Picasso at all.

Of course art extends way beyond just painting. Films, books, etc. all have their impact on society. And everyone has their personal preference as to which type of art they prefer over other. This just means that if they love films, they may still read a book. It is just their preference to like one better than the other.

This means that artists will cater to the type of art their audiences want. They do this by starting with an idea or concept. This can be from something they saw or imagined, real or not. It can be a new creation or based off of a different from of art, book to movie or vice versa for example. Or even a simple enhancement, like a book’s re-release with extra chapters or a film’s Director’s cut.


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About the Author

Russell HarleyRussell Harley is a veteran project manager and PMO director, passionate about helping organizations embrace world-class project management practices and “climb out of the quicksand” in terms of gaining control over complex, ever-changing project portfolios. The best practices he advocates stem from key learning’s acquired from his M.S Degree in Project Management, combined with over 20 years of hands-on PM experience in the high technology, telecommunications, and clean energy sectors.

Read more of Russell’s project management insights at The PMO View (www.ThePMOView.com)