How Can Project Owners Encourage Fraud on Their Projects?

When projects’ owners, both in the public and private sector, fail to impose the right policies and procedures to deter fraud on their projects, they are indirectly encouraging those involved with their projects to commit actions that would lead to project fraud. Actions that would lead to increase the chances of project failure by increasing the project cost, delaying the project completion, reducing the project quality, failing to meet stakeholders’ objectives among others.

The tendency to commit a fraud is very much part of every business and projects are no different specially when there is lack of governance, transparency and control. Actually, there are more chances to commit a fraud on a project than operations where usually corporate policies and procedures are well enforced and internal or external audit is an on-going requirement.

Actions that could be labelled as “Project Fraud” are many but some of the most common actions include the following:

  • Unsubstantiated project decisions
  • Under-reported estimates of project cost
  • Over-reported estimates of project benefits
  • Awarding unbalanced bids
  • Over-reported schedule performance to hide project delays
  • Wrong forecasting for cost to complete the remaining project scope
  • Unsubstantiated change orders
  • Over-estimated change orders
  • Over-reported quality progress
  • Acceptance of lower-quality deliverables that cannot be used as originally thought
  • Delayed and/or improper approvals
  • Conflict of interest and kickbacks
  • Negligence in protecting client’s interest
  • Non-compliance with the contract’s terms and conditions
  • Creating unnecessary threats by failing to comply with best practices
  • Failing to report threats before they harm the project
  • Failing to report opportunities that could have benefited the project
  • Lost or misplaced project documents
  • Appointing unqualified project team members
  • Intended wrong actions or decisions

So how can project owners stop project fraud and discourage doing the actions that could lead to project fraud?

The first step that a project owner should do is to have a clear policy on project fraud. For example, Zero-Tolerance on Project Fraud. The policy provides a clear message to the project owner own organization as well as all other entities that the project owner will contract with for delivering their portfolio of projects.

The next step is having a detailed project management standard operating procedures manual that will detail the processes, responsibilities, accountabilities and authorities for performing those procedures. The project management procedures manual should first identify the organization set-up that will become responsible for managing the company’s portfolio of projects. This could be the projects department, project management unit, project management office (PMO) among others. The organization chart, roles and responsibilities and job description needs to be documented as they will become an integral part of the standard operating procedures manual.

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This will be followed by determining the project life cycle stages that will explain how projects will be executed. The project life cycle will also detail the stage gates, or project approval gateways, that the project owner will use to determine if the project should proceed to next project life cycle stage or not. It is possible that an organization could have more than project life cycle depending on the size and type of projects that they usually deliver.

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The next step is to detail the project management processes that will be needed to manage the delivery of the project. The level of detail of those processes will depend on the level of control that the project owner wants to exert on the project but they would usually include the following processes:

  • Project Due diligence;
  • Project Approval;
  • Formulating of a Client Brief & Approval;
  • Prequalification of Consultants;
  • Appointing Consultants;
  • Budgeting and Budget Approval;
  • Managing the Design Process and Approvals;
  • Managing Design Changes and Approvals;
  • Payment Applications and Approvals;
  • Prequalification of Contractors and Suppliers;
  • Bid Packages Preparation and Approvals;
  • Managing the Procurement Process of Contractors and Suppliers;
  • Formulating Agreements and Contract Authorization;
  • Project Commencement and Contractor’s Mobilization;
  • Construction/Supply Contract Changes and Approvals;
  • Delays, Time Extensions and Application of Penalties/ Liquidated Damages;
  • Submittals and Approvals;
  • Project Taking Over and Approvals;
  • Project Close out and Approvals;
  • Risks and Issues Management; and Others.

The details of those processes will be captured in what is known as the standard operating procedures manual which will provide the guidance on how to perform those processes for those who will become involved in the project delivery. The manual will also detail the steps for executing each process, roles and responsibilities, document templates, tabular and graphical log reports and the process key performance indicators (KPIs).  Many organizations opt to develop this manual as per the ISO requirements to attain the appropriate ISO certification on those manuals.

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The problem for many organizations who are serious about curbing project fraud and who have invested in developing comprehensive project management procedures manuals is the lack of having the right project management information system (PMIS) to enable the automation of those processes and make the information from the captured data available for the project team members to have the insight to do better and faster informed decisions.

The automation of project management processes requires first having the different document templates identified in the procedures manual to be available online for the right project team member to complete and initiate the process. This will also require enabling attaching all supportive documents to the document template. Having the document templates online helps in curbing actions that could lead to project fraud as not only it enforces the project team to provide the needed data in complete and correct manner, but also captures the details of who provided this information and when. In addition, it captures the actions of all other project team members who will be involved in the process of reviewing, sharing and approving the process. Most project management information systems (PMIS) also include Audit Trail as one of the default features where it tracks the actions taken by all those who have accessed the PMIS.

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It should be of no surprise when one finds that many project team members would resist having a project management information system implemented on their projects. Excuses like additional effort and special skills needed to input data, extra cost associated with having such a system, unwilling of contractors and consultants to provide data among others are quite common. Nevertheless, it is no different than saying that all the benefits we are getting today from automating the different government, banking and other processes are not there and we had better times when all of those processes where done manually. The ugly truth is that those reluctant project team members want everything but transparency and governance on what they should be performing on daily basis.

Using an integrated project management information system (PMIS) like PMWeb does not limit project fraud actions to data capturing only but also limits the actions that could occur when there is a requirement to integrate projects data that are stored at different applications. When an organization is faced with what is known as “Data Silos”, one should expect project fraud actions to occur when this data integration needs to be done manually.

Financial ambiguity is one of the very common project fraud actions that occur on projects when the project commercial and financial data are not captured in an integrated format. For example, it is very common to have the project cost estimate, project budget, project bids, project awarded contracts, proposed, pending, approved and disputed change orders, progress invoices, actual payments, funding authorizations, funding release among others are stored in separate data silos. What even makes it worse, is that the desired project financial status cannot be presented in isolation from additional project management processes like risk management among others.

A PMIS like PMWeb provides the platform to capture all project’s data on a single web-enabled platform to provide authorized anywhere anytime access for the project team members to visualize important project information. This will breakdown the “Data Silos” thus enable creating  a real-time single version of the truth performance status dashboard of the project financial status. The dashboard will provide the needed measures and key performance indicators (KPIs) to provide an objective analysis of how the project is performing from the financial aspect. The same approach needs to be done to measure and report the project performance as it relates to schedule, deliverables, quality, safety, documents approvals among many others.

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A PMIS will also help the project manager and other executives to have a real-time single version of the truth on how the project, program or portfolio of projects are performing. This will help in curbing project fraud actions that could happen when this information is manipulated, presented in incomplete format or delayed.  Those executives will therefore have the confidence when it comes to making decisions as they are now assured of the quality of the information and data presented to them. This will give them the confidence when making decisions as they will be substantiated with the needed project records and documents captured by the PMIS.

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In addition, a PMIS will help those executives on reporting on the implementation status of the made decisions by maintaining a real-time log of those decisions and associated actions. The log will report the status of those decisions and their impact on the project objectives such as Cost, Schedule and Scope. One of the proven project management processes used to manage decisions is what is known as “Issue Management”.

So for project owners who are serious about discouraging fraud on their projects, there should be a commitment from top for this to happen. This needs to be translated into a clear policy on “Zero-Tolerance” when it comes to project fraud as well as have the right project organization setup and project management procedures that will enforce the implementation of this policy. This should be coupled with an integrated project management information system that will help in promoting transparency, governance and real-time single version of the truth reporting and visualization of the projects’ performance.

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About the Author

 

Are your projects lacking the transparency it should have?

Regardless of the type or size of a project, if a project lacks the transparency then problems like missing project data, disappearance of important project documents, project financial ambiguity, review and approval bureaucracy, conflicts between stakeholders, cosmetic performance reporting, absence of real life project information, improper decisions among many others that are usually labelled as Project Fraud are almost guaranteed to happen.

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In engineering and construction projects where the trend is to involve multiple entities in delivering the project, there is a tremendous amount of data that is generated by those different entities almost every hour on every day during the project life cycle. Standard document templates and forms are used by those different stakeholders to communicate important project events, actions and decisions. The level of detail, quality and speed of this communication could have drastic impact on the project success.

There are hundreds of document templates and forms that are used in engineering and construction projects depending on the level of control that the project management team wants to have. There are forms that are related to general project communication like meeting minutes, daily reports, correspondence, notice to proceed, request for information, site work instruction, confirmation of verbal instruction among others. In addition, there are communication that relates to project quality such as transmittal, submittal, drawing register, site inspection, non-compliance request, punch list among others. There are forms that relate to safety such as accident report, cold permits, hot permits, zones access plus others. Further, there are forms that relate to project cost such as cost estimate, budget, budget adjustments, funding authorizations, funding requests and others. In addition, there are forms that relate to contract management such as contracts, proposed change orders, change orders requests, approved change orders, approved time extensions, progress invoices, payment of progress invoices among many others. Document templates also include many other forms for pre-qualification, tendering and contract award process, project closeout and handover process, interface management, authorities’ approvals and no object certificates and many others.

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The challenge that most organizations face today is that although most of those forms are used but they are used in an inefficient and manual format that not only result in wasting valuable resources effort but without real value for those who have the responsibility for making better and faster informed project decisions.  The majority of those organizations have spent a lot of effort in standardizing those forms using MS XLS, MS Word, PDF and may be other applications. Those forms are either completed on the same electronic form and then printed or get printed and then fill the form’s data manually. Attachments for those forms like drawings, catalogues among others are printed, sometimes in triplicate, to be sent along with the completed printed form.

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The sharing and distribution of those forms is either done manually or using email engines like MS Outlook, Gmail among others or by using collaboration applications like Aconex among others. The issue in this manual process in addition to the time wasted and inefficiency when manual or email distribution is used, is that the data contained in those forms are going nowhere unless someone manually capture this data in MS XLS or other type of database applications. The data captured could sometimes be limited to the key details of the document template or the detailed content of the document template which is time consuming.

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The issue with the above project communication and data capturing does not end at this point. A key requirement for managing any type of project is the integration of the different project’s management data. For example, a document template like a Request for Information (RFI) could have an impact on the project’s scope, schedule and cost. Capturing the data from the different document templates in different MS XLS files will create what is known as the “Data Silos”. Silos that are usually used to store wheat but never data specially when this data is dynamic in nature and could impact other data sources. Again, organizations who have opted for MS XLS as their project management information system (PMIS) solution, needs to figure out on how to integrate the data stored in the different MS XLS files and sheets to produce an integrated project performance and status report.

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For an organization that has more than one project to manage, the MS XLS saga does not end here. Now the project control team needs to figure out how to summarize and capture the performance data for the different projects which by the way could have different reporting formats. A process that also depends on having the data from the different projects arrive at the same time to produce the overall projects performance dashboard at the end of each month.

The issues with using MS XLS to manage the above process are many and could include introducing typos, have limited data validation, have cumbersome and costly quality control, have no bi-directional data exchange with the data source, have slow, non-collaborative process, have no reliable data access security, have data stored in different files and sheet silos, have no history of past data record, could result in user manipulated reports and dashboards among many others. Or in summary, lack of the needed transparency when it comes to reporting projects’ performance and status should could come as no surprise.

To ensure that the projects delivery have the needed transparency and governance, project centric organizations need to consider implementing an integrated Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb. Those solutions which are web-enabled thus giving access anywhere anytime, are designed to capture the different types of project data in an organized and controlled manner. In addition, they provide the business intelligence to enable analyzing and reporting the projects performance in the desired format.

PMWeb provides many of the most common document templates used in engineering and construction projects ready out-of-the-box. Those include but not limited to RFI, Daily Reports, Safety Incidents, Transmittal, Snag List, Meeting Minutes, Project Budget and Budget Adjustments, Commitments and Contracts, Change Proposals, Requests and Orders, Progress Invoices among others. In addition, PMWeb custom form builder allows the creation of any additional document templates that are specific for an organization or a project. Those document templates can be in any language including non-Latin languages like Arabic, Chinese among others.

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PMWeb can be set to limit access to those document templates depending on the role that the project team member plays on the project. In addition, it can limit access to certain fields on the document template itself. For example, in the case of RFI, the contractor will be given the access to complete the RFI details including the Question part but with no access to the Answer section or the part that assess if this RFI has scope, time and/or cost impact.

PMWeb document management repository allows storing the different type of documents that need to be attached to the document templates. Those would usually include drawings, pictures, videos, catalogues among others. In addition, PMWeb allows linking relevant document templates as well as email communications to the document template to be sent so it can provide an improved transparency on what is being communicated.

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Submitting, reviewing, sharing and responding to the document template will be done using user defined workflows that will map the process for doing those tasks. Those workflows will vary depending on the type of the document template being communicated as well as sometimes for the same document templates depending on the specifics or attributes of the communicated document template. For example, for Request for Information (RFI), the review process could vary depending on the project system that the RFI relates to. For example, mechanical works would involve different reviewers of structural work and so on.

Therefore, the workflow will send email notifications to those included in the review process to request them to take the needed action. PMWeb allows replacing and delegating those roles should the reviewer be unavailable or had left the project site. In addition, PMWeb can report on the status of all workflow steps to identify delayed actions.

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The data captured using the document templates provide real-time status of the project performance. Therefore, and instead of using MS XLS to capture the data from the document templates, PMWeb Business Intelligence (BI) reporting will allow presenting the captured data in the desired tabular or graphical reports. Those reports are designed to display the needed data fields, grouped in the format needed as well as selecting the records to be reported on by creating the needed filters. The data captured from different relevant document templates can then be aggregated to create dashboards that analyze the project performance from that perspective. For example, the chart below displays a dashboard the reports the project overall cost performance. Achieving this, the user needs to capture data that relate to project budget, awarded contracts, progress invoices, change orders among others.

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Similarly, other dashboards can be created to assess the project performance as it relates to project schedule, document management, risks, quality, safety among many others. Those dashboards provide the needed input to report the overall project’s status and performance. The project dashboard can be also linked to construction cameras to provide life stream on the project’s performance. As PMWeb can manage unlimited number of projects and programs, additional dashboards can be created to summarize the projects performance at program, projects portfolio or enterprise level.

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The most important thing to remember that all of those dashboards and reports are generated from the same data source that was captured using the pre-defined document templates which were completed using the governance process set in the workflow. No one can ask for more transparency than this.

About the Author

How can you have the insight to make better and faster informed decisions on your projects?

PMIS 23For organizations that their success and growth depends on successful project delivery, their executives must have the insight to make better and faster informed project-related decisions. The dynamic nature, uncertainties and constraints that face project deliveries complicates the ability of those executives to make the right decisions right from the first time.  What makes this process even more challenging is the volume and variety of data that needs to be captured on daily if not hourly basis to give a real-time status of the project. In the engineering and construction industry, the providers of this data are usually different entities located at different locations that have contractual obligations to provide this data in the desired format and when it is needed.

The data that are common to engineering and construction projects include data that relate to the project schedule, cost estimate, budget, quality control and quality assurance, safety and accident incidents, environment, risks, issues, bids received, contracts awarded, proposed change orders, change events, change orders, progress invoices, payments, daily reports, request for information, permits, authorities’ approvals, verbal and written instructions, material submittals and transmittals, material deliveries, meeting minutes, drawings and specifications revisions, closeout documents among many others.  The data also include the different letters and emails that are communicated during the project life. In addition, the recent requirements for Building Information Modeling (BIM) and other developments in the engineering and construction industry has resulted in new type of data that needs to be captured during the project delivery stages.

Data needed by the decision makers is not limited to the data that is captured form the projects but also could include data captured from other applications such as financial, human resources, spatial, strategy performance, sales among many others.

The Project Life Cycle Stages

To ensure that that right project data is captured, we need first to understand the project life cycle stages and the tasks that need to be performed during those stages. This will help in determining the project management processes that need to be implemented at each stage. This is a critical task as it will help in determining the forms or templates to be used to capture the needed data to report the information in the desired format to provide the insight to make the right project decisions.

The level of detail of the project life cycle stages vary from one organization to the other as it depends on their project role as well as the level of governance to be implemented. For example, a project owner life cycle would include the stages of planning, design, tender, construction, handover and operation and maintenance. Nevertheless, a project owner might also decide to further breakdown the design stage to concept, schematic, detailed and construction document stages.

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Project Forms

A project form is a document template that is designed to capture the needed data for each project management process. The content of the form needs to be aligned with project management best practices, engineering and construction standards as well as the contractual requirements of the project. The design of those forms is usually provided by the project owner or the authorized owner representative such as the Project Management Consultant (PMC) or Engineering Consultant.

PMIS 26For example, the Request for Information (RFI) is a form that every engineering and construction project will have. Sometimes it is also called Request for Interpretation (RFI) or Request for Clarification (RFC). The RFI is a project communication management process that is used to request for the interpretation of work not sufficiently described or reasonably inferable from the contract documents including drawings and specifications. In addition, RFI is also used for changed or unforeseen conditions. Nevertheless, RFI should not be used for requesting information readily found in the contract documents.

RFIs are usually are the result of incomplete contract documents, inconsistency or conflict between more parts of contract documents, insufficient amount of detail to determine design intent, inability for contractor to provide specified product or system, unforeseen site conditions encountered among others.

A standard RFI template will usually consist of two sections; the question and the answer. When the Contractor submits the RFI question, the RFI should include details of the project and contract, date issued and when a response is needed. The Engineer will provide the response or the answer to the raised query.

Nevertheless, today we see major changes to the standard RFI to improve the management of the RFI process. For example, new RFI templates include now more data that relate to Scope WBS level that the RFI relate to, what solution does the Contractor proposes to resolve this query, does the RFI has any impact on the project scope, cost and schedule? Which activity in the project schedule does it affect? Will the RFI resolution results in additional work that is considered as In-Scope or Out-of-Scope? What other project records relate to this RFI among others?

Using Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb provides the form to capture the needed data. The user can decide if less data needs to be captured or more data to be captured to the default RFI form. Some of this data like project, contract, WBS, discipline, specification, phase, status, task ID among others will be available from a pre-defined drop down list to avoid making mistakes in data entry as well as expedite the process of completing the RFI form.


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Supportive Documents

You would rarely find any project form or communication that is transmitted without having documents attached to support the content of the form or communication. Those could be drawings, specification pages, brochures, catalogues, insurance documents, pictures, videos among many others. What is common to many project sites to print and attach those documents to the form template, for example the RFI. In most contracts, the Contractor who is submitting the RFI, needs to have submit those documents in triplicate.

Even if we ignore the time-consuming, tediousness, wasted effort and environmental impact of doing this process manually, the challenge for the decision maker is how to view those attached documents without the need to physically have those documents. This is even more critical when the decision maker is not at the project site where those documents are usually stored.

Web-Enabled Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb provides a document management repository that allows storing all type of project documents in their original file format. Folders and sub-folders will be created to match the physical filing system that the project site has. Documents that are relevant to specific record, for example the RFI, will be attached to that record. Of course, the same document can be attached to more than record. This enables the decision maker to access and view those documents anywhere anytime.

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Submitting, Reviewing and Approving Data

Unlike other industries, project management processes require the involvement of multiple entities to the submit, review and approve process for each project management form or communication. Those review processes which carries contractual obligations on the entities involved in performing those tasks can also have different versions depending on the level of review and approval authorities assigned to the project team members. Workflows are created for each process detailing the different steps for submitting, reviewing and approving the form and by who.

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Web-Enabled Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb allows the user to visually create those workflows to automate the process of submitting, reviewing and approving the record. PMWeb advanced workflow capability allows assigning decision branches and conditions to create different versions of the workflow depending on the form attributes. For example, if the RFI query is related to mechanical works then it needs to be reviewed by different team members should it was related to structural works. Same conditions could be applied if the RFI has time or cost impact. In addition, PMWeb workflow allows delegating or replacing the reviewers should those reviewers be unavailable during specific time periods of the project life.

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The Project Reporting Process

Similar to the RFI data, other project’s data will be captured every hour during the project life. The main objective of capturing this data is to provide the decision makers with the insight to make better and faster informed decisions. The content of those forms need to be presented in tabular and graphical reports to enable the appropriate project team member to analyze the performance of the process and present this critical information in a format that will enable comparing the actual performance of this process with the target or desired performance. For example, in the case of the RFI, we usually would need to analyze the performance in terms of how many RFIs had been issued to date, how many RFIs had been closed, how many RFIs have time and/or cost impact, what is the average time to close an RFI among others.

This target performance is what is known as Key Performance Indicators (KPI) which would vary depending on the process being measured. The KPI will show if the actual performance is good, average or bad. Those measures will provide the needed insights for the decision makers to act and make the necessary decisions that would ultimately result in having a successful or failed project. For example, in the case of the RFI, we usually would need to know how many RFIs are taking more than 7 days to close, what is expected cost exposure of RFIs that have cost impact, what is the expected time extension due to RFIs that have time impact among others.

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The speed, quality, completeness and format of the reporting flow that will transform captured data into insights is of great essence to the decision maker. Having the insight after the fact could be of no value to the decision maker and to the contrary it might cause more damage. Also, not having the complete version of the truth could result in making decisions that could negatively affect other project objectives. Regretfully, those are common threats for decision makers who still use MS XLS to manually perform the reporting flow. They know that they are taking the risks of having the wrong data, wrong formulas and wrong format plus the fact of not having real-time information.

Web-Enabled Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb allows the user to create the different tabular and graphical reports in the desired format as well as projects, program, portfolio and enterprise dashboards using the data captured in the different project forms. The information presented in those reports and dashboards are based on real-time data so there is no issue on how fast the decision maker can be made aware of new information. In addition, the issue of data quality will never exist as all reports and dashboards are accessing and using the same data source. PMWeb Business Intelligence (BI) reporting also allows combing data from different forms to ensure that there a complete and single version of truth when it comes to reporting project’s status, health and performance.

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The Managing Flow

One of the most serious issues that face decision makers is the successful implementation and reporting of their decisions. Some of those decisions could result in changing the original project delivery plan to accommodate the new project status, conditions, constraints, assumptions among others. Those changes and re-plan needs to get the senior project team engagement to make this change happen successfully. Specific actions need to be communicated to the appropriate team members setting the tasks that need to be performed and by when.

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Using emails, MS XLS logs. MS Word meeting minutes and other non-integrated communication systems will make it impossible for the decision makers to have an objective status of those actions that need to be implemented and the impact they will have on the project objectives. Actually, those actions are no different than other project data that needs to be captured in a formal and organized format to enable analyzing their status and effectiveness.

It is no wonder that for many decision makers, making the right decisions is not their only concern but actually, ensuring that those decisions were implemented as planned by the designated team members is their biggest concern. Failing to implement the set actions not only means that the problem continues to be unresolved but it could result with sequential damages to other project objectives. It is therefore a must to have a formal process of “Action Management” to ensure that there is a formal and documented process to assign, manage and report on the status and effectiveness of those actions.

The PMWeb Action Management Module will identify the details of the action to be taken, status, priority, WBS level and other details on which part of the project scope does it relate to. It will also list the different tasks to be undertaken by the project team members to implement the taken decision or action. Those tasks will assign the dates that each should be completed and when it was actually completed. The “Action” document template will be linked to all other document templates that could include documents such as meeting minutes, RFI, contract documents, change orders among many others.

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So the question is, if you are a decision maker where the insight of making better and faster informed decisions depends on having real-time data on how your project is performing, can you still trust using MS XLS as your platform for capturing, analyzing, presenting and sharing your vital project’s data? Is it not time that you eliminate the much wasted effort in capturing, reviewing, analyzing, reporting and sharing projects information and rather have this effort used effectively in delivering the project successfully.

It is surprisingly strange that we tend to recognize and worry about the impact of construction material waste on the project bottom line but yet we tend to go easy on a more-costly waste, the project’s BIG DATA waste. A waste that will usually prohibit the decision maker from having the insight to make the much needed informed project decisions.

About the Author

Is It Not Time to Deliver Exceptional Projects?

In the past decades, we have come to realize that prosperity– for a country as well as for a company – depends on more than accumulating wealth. We also need to nurture and protect the natural environment, to develop the right intellectual resources, to create a strong and motivated workforce and support stable societies.

Yet, the world remains on an unsustainable path. Despite tremendous progress in the past century, challenges are mounting. Rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions, widening income gaps, severe resource constraints, economic uncertainty, widespread social upheaval and conflict; a set of difficult, interconnected problems that threaten to seriously undermine our social stability and prosperity.

But if we can make the right decisions and work together, we can change the path we are on and make a leap towards a new sustainable, inclusive, prosperous future for all. We have the capital, the knowledge and the technology to create change – if we make the right choices, and if we make them now.

There is no better alternative than to undertake projects to bring this change successfully. Projects will produce the products and services to bring our world to a sustainable path. Nevertheless, managing those projects should not be business as-usual, but it should be exceptional. Being exceptional means that in addition to implementing the best practices of managing project processes and delivering project products, we also need to adopt practices that will take into consideration social, environmental and financial aspects of a project. Only then we can expect projects to bring about an overall positive impact on our communities, cultures, societies and environments.

Delivering Projects Without Enforcing Project Management PracticesGPM 07

Projects always been part of our lives but having said so, not all projects are managed when they are executed. Actually, some of the world wonders like Egypt Pyramids, China Great Wall among others were built way before professional project management practices were adopted.

For some, as long as a project delivers its intended scope, then this is fine. Although one can always say that time, cost and quality constraints have always existed but what mattered most to for the project manager was to ensure that the project scope was delivered. Actually and prior to 1969 when the Project Management Institute (PMI) was established, there was no formal standard for project management professional practice that we are familiar with today. Therefore, no wonder that everyone could define project management the way they desire. That is why sometimes this is known as “Accidental Project Management”,

Delivering Projects That Enforce Traditional Project Management PracticesGPM 12

For most project managers, achieving successful project delivery will be achieved when they are able to deliver the agreed on project scope of work with the agreed project duration and within the approved project budget while meeting the required project quality requirements. Those projects tend to be considered as good projects, at least from the traditional project management perspective.

No project can be undertaken without having a specific scope of work that needs to be delivered. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is what project managers would use to decompose the project scope to ensure that all of what needs to delivered is included in the WBS. This will also help to reduce the chances of having what is known as “scope creep”. The project WBS will also enable the project manager to develop the project delivery plan where each WBS work package will be detailed into the tasks that need to be executed to deliver this scope. For each task, the project managed will determine the resources and duration to execute the task. Those tasks will be sequenced to reflect the logic in performing them and what should be done before other tasks can commence. The Critical Path Method (CPM) will provide the early and late start and finish dates for each task to determine what tasks are critical for completing the project within the target completion date.

The resources needed to achieve the tasks will provide the project manager the ability to calculate the direct and indirect cost for executing the project. Having a complete WBS and comprehensive project schedule is critical for determining the project baseline budget. This will be the target budget that actual project costs will be measured against. Finally, each project has quality standards that need to comply with when delivering the project scope. Quality Assurance and Quality Control practices need to be implemented to ensure that the actual products quality are aligned with the quality standards that the project should adhere with.

Delivering Projects That Enforce Professional Project Management PracticesGPM 11

Nevertheless, for many organizations, meeting those four objectives is not adequate for a project to be labelled as a successful project. For those organizations, projects are the investments that they have decided to select to achieve their strategic objectives and ultimately their vision. Therefore, those projects need also to address other important project objectives that include risk, benefit and stakeholders.  

Projects by definition involve delivering future results by carrying out tasks in the future. As no one has control of what the future could bring, a project manager needs to assume for what could happen in the future. Only time will prove if those assumptions were right or wrong. Accordingly, a project manager cannot manage a project without identifying, assessing, quantifying and responding to project risks. Those actions could result in avoiding some of the causes that result in high risk exposure, implement actions to mitigate and control those risks, transfer those risks to a third party by paying the premium for this outsourcing or simply accept those risks and add cost contingency or schedule buffer to accommodate this acceptance decision.

Risks are not necessarily all to be negative risks or threats. Actually opportunities are considered as positive risk the project manager should also consider when managing the project. So instead of avoiding the risk cause, the project manager will seek those causes, instead of mitigating the risk exposure, the project manager will enhance the risk exposure and instead of transferring the risk, the project manager will see to share this risk with others. For positive risks of low risk exposure, the project manager might ignore those opportunities.

Another new objective that project managers need to consider when managing a project is the benefit that project will bring to the organization or project owner. Again projects are investments made to produce products and services that will help the organization in achieving their strategic objectives. Those could include return on investment, market expansion, sales growth among others. The project manager needs to be fully aware of those benefits and align the project delivery to ensure that those benefits will be achieved.

The third objective has to do with stakeholders who would usually include the individuals who could influence or have interest from what the project will produce. Project Managers understand that failing to manage stakeholders could result in project failure. Some of those stakeholders could have direct or indirect influence on the project. Similarly, there are stakeholders who could have direct or indirect interest in the project success. This would require the project manager to follow different strategies in managing those stakeholders to increase the chances for successful project delivery.

Delivering Projects That Enforces Exceptional Project Management Practices

Organizations who are looking into delivering best project investments that not only will benefit their organization but also the community that they are part of, the citizens of their country and the planet they are part of, they need to look into additional objectives to achieve. They need to achieve sustainable project delivery that while achieving those objectives it will also address other important objectives like reducing waste, transparency and anti-fraud.

Introducing The P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project ManagementGPM 19

The P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project Management by GPM Global address those objectives. The standard addresses the three measureable elements to sustainability for which each is measured individually and through Mutual Possession. Those three elements are:

  • Social aspect (People)
  • Environmental aspect (Planet)
  • Economical aspect (Profit)

For example, on the Social Aspect, the project should address areas that relate to Labor Practices and Decent Work Employment, Labor Management Relations, Health and Safety, Training and Education, Organizational Learning, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and Trained Professional Emigration), Society and Customers (Community Support, Public Policy/ Compliance, Customer Health and Safety, Products Labeling and Services Labeling, Market Communications and Advertising and Customer Privacy), Human Rights (Non Discrimination, Freedom of Association, Child Labor and Forced or Compulsory Behavior) and Ethical Behavior (Investment and Procurement Practices, Bribery and Corruption and Anti-Competitive Behavior).

On the Environment aspect, the project should address areas that relate to Transport (Local Procurement, Digital Communication and Traveling), Energy (Energy Consumed, CO2 Emission and Clean Energy Return), Water (Water Quality, Water Quantity, Water Consumption and Water Displacement) and Waste (Recycling, Disposal, Reusability, Incorporated Energy and Waste).

The third objective is the Economical aspect, the project should address areas that relate to Return on Investment (Direct Financial Benefits, Benefit Cost Ratio, External Rate of Return, Internal Rate of Return and Net Present Value) and Business Agility (Flexibility / Optionality in the Project, Increased Business Flexibility, Economic Stimulation, Local Economic Impact and Indirect Benefits).

The P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project Management relates those three aspects with the Process or Governance aspect and Product or Technical aspect of a project.

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GPM 13The P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project Management is aligned with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) which is an international independent organization that helps businesses, governments and other organizations understand and communicate the impact of business on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, corruption and many others. GRI produces a comprehensive framework for the preparation of Sustainability Reports, which are widely used worldwide.

GPM 14In addition, The P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project Management is aligned with the UN Global Compact’s ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. Those ten principles enjoy universal consensus and are derived from The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The International Labor Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and The United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

Countries as well as companies who are keen in making a successful transformation to deliver projects that not only will help in achieving the desired vision but also will also improve their social responsibility, must adopt exceptional project management practices. Practices that will enforce the best when it comes to Project Management aspect, Product Delivery aspect, Social aspect, Environmental aspect and Financial aspect. The P5™ Standard for Sustainability in Project Management provides a comprehensive as well as integrated methodology for achieving this objective.

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About the Author

Why Project Management Is a Critical Skill for Entrepreneurs?

An entrepreneur who hopes to create a sustainable business out of an idea that he or she has, will realize that professional project management practice is one of the most significant skills to be mastered. This is even more critical for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) where limited access to funds or resources and the high risk of failing tends to be more common than with large corporations.

By definition, projects are temporary endeavors undertaken to create unique products, services or results to address a specific need or idea which is similar to setting up a new business. Only when those products or services are ready to be sold or offered, the desired financial revenue will start to generate. A smart entrepreneur understands that setting up a new business in the shortest time possible, within the most efficient budget along with the best quality products or services is the secret to having a successful and sustainable business.

Setting up a new business is similar to any project as it goes through a life cycle to transform the initial idea into a product or service. An entrepreneur should not allow the execution of this life cycle to progress without being managed effectively, otherwise, the setting up of a new business could go out of control and would most likely fail thus risking not only losing the investment made but the many opportunities that this new business could have brought.

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The Science of Project Management

Understanding the science of project management requires the understanding of the phases of managing a project and the processes that need to be managed during those phases. Those phases and processes are detailed in what is known as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), which has been established by the Project Management Institute (PMI). There are five phases when it comes to managing a project: Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitor and Control and Closeout.

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During those five phases a number of project management processes would need to be performed. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) has identified ten knowledge areas which include scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk, procurement, stakeholder and integration. Additional project management knowledge areas could also be needed depending on the type of business being created.

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Professional project management practices provide the logical and right answers that an entrepreneur and stakeholder wants to have when a new business is created. Project Management will provide the answers to WHY, HOW, WHO, WHEN, WHAT, HOW MUCH and the many other questions that need to be addressed. Those professional practices are applicable whether the business to be created is a Small or Medium Enterprise (SME) or a large organization that is creating a new line of business. The need for professional project management is not only limited for new business start-ups but it will also be required when a business needs to execute growth and expansion initiatives as well as when an entrepreneur wants to exit the business. Furthermore, project management practice is critical when a business wants to go through merger and acquisitions as well as when a business opts for initial public offering (IPO).

Initiating a New Business Setup

For an entrepreneur who has completed the feasibility of a new business idea and is committed to launch the new business, the next step would be to start with the project initiation. The objective of this phase is to capture the details of the new business i.e. the associated set-up cost or seed investment when the business will formally start operation, constraints and assumptions that could impact setting the business, who will be involved in setting the new business and what are the deliverables in terms of products and services that will become available when the project setup is completed. This information will be captured in a document known as the project charter. The project charter provides a formal commitment and authorization to proceed with the new business setup. The project charter will provide a formal answer to “WHY” we are setting the new business.

Planning the Business Setup

I doubt if anyone cannot recall the important quote by Sir Winston Churchill “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”, which emphasizes the importance of planning when we are serious about something that needs to be accomplished.

The planning phase is a very essential stage in creating any new business. Doing it wrong or incomplete could result in business failure as it could delay the revenue generation, fall short on available funds to spend and have low quality products and services. Professional project management best practices provide the processes and techniques that would enable the entrepreneur to better plan his or her new business setup. The main objective of the planning stage is to provide the best and most comprehensive action plan to formulate the business. The details of which will become what is known as the “Project Management Plan” or (PMP) for which some might call it “Project Execution Plan” or (PEP).

WHAT needs to be done to set the business?

The first process in creating the project management plan is for the entrepreneur to identify what is needed to create a business that will produce the desired products and services. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) technique is used to decompose the major project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components. For example, the entrepreneur needs to consider the authorities’ approvals and licenses, marketing and branding, operations policies and procedures, staff recruitment, funding and financing requirement, setting bank accounts, getting telecom and internet connection, IT infrastructure and applications, office lease and set-up, among the many other items that need to be done to establish the business. In other words, the WBS will help the entrepreneur to determine “WHAT” needs to be done to get the business running. Missing any needed scope of work could be fatal to the business as it could hinder the business from going live.

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WHO will be involved in setting the business?

Another important breakdown structure that the entrepreneur needs to be develop while conducting the WBS is the Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS) to outline “WHO” will be involved in setting the new business. Similar to any business organization chart, the OBS will detail the team that will join the entrepreneur in setting the new business. They could be involved on full or part time basis. The OBS is used to identify the roles, responsibilities and authorities in the business setup project. The OBS will also split the project team into descending levels of responsibilities, naming all the individuals required to supervise and manage the deliverables named in the project WBS. The highest level of the OBS will be the Project Manager who is responsible for setting the new business. Integrating the WBS and OBS will provide the entrepreneur with a clear understanding of WHO will be involved in setting the new business and WHAT scope of work each individual will be accountable for. In project management, this is known as setting the Control Accounts (CA) for each project team member,

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HOW and WHEN setting the business will be done?

With the WBS and OBS developed to detail what needs to be done and by who, the next task is to determine “HOW” and “WHEN” this needs to be done to ensure that the business can start operations as targeted. For an entrepreneur this is very critical as only when a business becomes operational, revenue to cover the cost of operation as well as to recover the seed investment can start to take place.

The project execution plan will be used to answer the “HOW” and “WHEN” questions. The lowest WBS level will be used to detail the tasks that need to be performed by the entrepreneur and his team. For each task, the entrepreneur needs to estimate the number of working days to complete this task and what are the resources needed to accomplish the task.

Those tasks are required to be put in a sequence that reflects what needs to be done before one can do the follow on tasks. In other words, it provides the right logic for executing those tasks. The sequence for those tasks could be mandatory which is Inherent in the nature of the work being done. For example, you cannot start the interior design work at a new office before the office lease is complete. Another type of sequence is discretionary or preferred which is based on experience, desire or preferences. For example, you would not launch a website until the business is ready to start operation. The third type of sequence is external which is based on the needs or desire of a party outside the project (i.e. government authorities). For example, one cannot start applying for the telephone and internet connections without having the office lease complete.

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Another important technique of project management is the “Critical Path Method” which is abbreviated as CPM. This technique is used to calculate the start and finish dates for the tasks taking into consideration the duration of each task and the sequence for doing those tasks. The CPM will also consider the constraints that could affect planning those tasks such as public holidays. This calculation helps in identifying the earliest dates to start and finish those tasks as well as the latest dates to start and finish the respective tasks. The difference between the earliest and latest dates is known as the ‘Float’, which provides the number of days an activity can be delayed without delaying the required project completion date. Tasks that have similar earliest and latest dates are known as Critical tasks as the float value for those tasks will be zero. What does this mean? Those are the tasks of which, if delayed, then the project completion date will ultimately be delayed. The path that those tasks will be on is known as the Critical Path which represents the longest duration path through a network diagram and determines the shortest time to complete the project.

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A project plan would also include what is known as “Milestones”. Those are tasks that represent a significant point or event in the setting of a new business. Start Milestones are typically used to mark the beginning of a phase or to communicate project deliverables while Finish Milestones are utilized to mark the end of a phase or to communicate project deliverables. For example, those could include “Trade License Issued”, “Website is Launched”, “Business Is Ready to Operate”, etc.

HOW MUCH will it cost to set up the business?

Performing any of the tasks detailed in the project plan would call for some kind of effort to undertake them. This indicates that there will be a cost associated with performing those tasks. Setting up a new business must take into account both Direct and Indirect Costs whilst implementing business setup tasks. Direct Costs are proportional to the project such as office lease, office furniture, permanent telecommunication connections, permits and license fees, website development, professional services by legal, accoSME 08untant, etc. Direct Costs are also known as Variable Costs as they vary with the project requirements. Indirect Costs are the costs that are expended regardless of the size of the business setup such as the project management team. Indirect Costs are also known as Fixed Costs as they do not vary with the new business set-up requirements.  This will enable the entrepreneur to determine the budget for setting the new business, and would consequently answer the question of “HOW MUCH” it will cost to set up the business and how much seed money is required to start the business.

Since the direct and indirect costs would be associated with project plan tasks which each have start and finish dates, the budget for setting up a new business needs to be time-phased to create the cash flow. This is very critical for an entrepreneur who has the constraints of funds availability and funds burn rate. The Cash Flow will help in determining the amount of funds that required for each month during the new business setup.

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HOW to have a sustainable new business?

When an entrepreneur wants to create a new business, he or she must understand that there are quality standards that this business should have to guarantee its sustainability as well as to produce the products and services that the target customers would buy. Some of those quality standards could be imposed by either the local authorities or businesses of similar nature. For example, local authorities might require having minimum office space for the employees, compliance with the fire brigade and other authorities, office signboard among others. In addition, the entrepreneur is aware that having a sustainable business requires having the right IT Infrastructure, right staffing, right policies and procedures among many others. Therefore, the project plan tasks should take those quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) requirements into consideration. The entrepreneur needs to have QA/QC checklist tasks and assign project team responsibilities to assure the quality of work performed and ensure that it complies with the required quality standards. Failing to do this could result in delaying getting the permits and authorities approval to launch the business.

HOW to select and build the team to launch and run the business?

An entrepreneur needs to negotiate for and acquire the best team members to help him or her in setting the new business. Some of those team members could be other partners to the entrepreneur, full time employees of the business or simply hired to help setting the business. The key challenge among those project team members is getting them to work as one project team. Building a project team could prove to be of great challenge to the entrepreneur as it is known that as soon as the project team is formed, the storm of arguments, ego, and conflicting interests will occur. The entrepreneur and being the project manager has the duty of norming those relations so that the effort of the project team is focused on setting the new business rather than being wasted on settling personal differences. The entrepreneur needs to define the roles, responsibilities and authorities of the project team members. Similar to any other business, periodic appraisals of the project team performance should exist to provide the feedback on how continuous improvement can be achieved.

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HOW to ensure that effective Collaboration and Communication is achieved?

During the company setup project, there will be a necessity to communicate project information among the project team members and other stakeholders. Document Templates or Forms are used to capture the required data for those communication reports for which the layout needs to be approved by the project manager. A communication plan needs to be developed to identify those reports, who will receive them, when, in what format and who will be responsible for the report. The Project Management Information System (PMIS) will be utilized to capture the data for those reports and dashboards that will be shared with the project team members as well as project stakeholders.

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HOW to anticipate and deal with the Unknowns?

An entrepreneur fully understands that similarly to the risks associated with running a business, there are risks associated in setting up a new business.  The entrepreneur along with the project team must identify and assess the occurrence likelihood and impact of those risks on setting the new business. Risk response actions varies from avoiding the cause of the risk, implementing mitigation actions to reduce the likelihood of the risk occurrence, transferring the risk to a third party but outsourcing the delivery of the scope of work or services and accepting the risks that are of low risk exposure. The entrepreneur will usually allow for cost contingency and time buffer in the project management plan that can be used should a risk occur.

HOW to procure the right products and services?

For the scope of work or services that the entrepreneur might decide to outsource, there will be a demand to have the right contract documents to ensure that the risks associated with this scope of work are transferred to the contracted party or seller. The entrepreneur where he/she will become the buyer needs to describe the scope of services or products to be procured, the contract terms and conditions and the deliverables acceptance criteria. One should expect that the entrepreneur will outsource the IT infrastructure and software, office set-up, legal services, etc.

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HOW to satisfy and manage your Stakeholders?

Stakeholders are individuals who could directly or indirectly influence the new business setup as well as who have interest in the success of the new business. Those could comprise of the incubator, venture capital, investors, funding banks, future business customers, etc. The entrepreneur should analyze the influence and interest of those stakeholders and what impact it would have on the new business setup. He or she needs to determine the best way to manage the expectations of those stakeholders to avoid any negative impact on the project.

The entrepreneur needs to create a stakeholder register which will include basic information on stakeholders i.e.:

  • Identification information: The stakeholders’ names, positions, locations, roles in the project, and contact information
  • Assessment information: The stakeholders’ major requirements and expectations, potential influences, and phases of the project in which stakeholders have the most interest
  • Stakeholder classification: Is the stakeholder internal or external to the organization? Is the stakeholder a supporter of the project or resistant to it?

HOW to have an Integrated Management Plan to proceed?

The above requirements for setting up a new business could have conflicting objectives and needs. For example, setting the new business in the shortest time possible could affect the budget estimated for setting the business. The entrepreneur should integrate all of those requirements to ensure that the best project management plan for delivering the new business setup is attained.

START Building your business

After reviewing and approving the project management plan by the entrepreneur and the stakeholders who have a direct influence on creating the new business, the entrepreneur needs to start implementing the project plan and spending the funds required to achieve the set objectives and results. The entrepreneur and his project team must execute the activities identified in the project plan. This will also involve procuring the products and services as well as manage the contracts associated with this outsourcing.

How to check if the project is still on target?

For the completed activities and those in progress, the entrepreneur should update the project plan on a weekly basis with the actual start, actual finish and days remaining to complete those in progress. The update will also include capturing the actual man-hours spent in delivering those activities. The revised schedule will detail any variances and display if the originally planned completion date is still achievable. This is very critical for the entrepreneur as revenue can only be generated when the business becomes operational.

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HOW to capture the Project Actual Cost?

In addition to capturing the details of all invoices paid against completed contracts deliverables, the entrepreneur needs to capture that actual man-hours spent by him/her and other team members on the other tasks involved in delivering the new business setup project. Weekly timesheets will support in enforcing the culture of assessing efficiency in delivering work as it captures the effort exerted by the different team members against the results achieved.

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HOW to identify and manage issues?

The project management plan has identified the risks that represent the possibility of obstacles that have not occurred yet, and if they occur they would have a negative impact on a project budget, schedule and scope.  On the other hand, issues are the problems that are currently occurring. Issues must be resolved as soon as possible, otherwise they will have detrimental effects on the project budget, schedule and scope. The entrepreneur and his/her project team need to maintain a log of all issues which sets the priority and urgency of each as well as the status of those issues. The entrepreneur must ensure that actions taken to resolve an issue are successfully implemented. The entrepreneur needs to possess problem-solving skills to ensure that those issues are resolved in the most effective manner.

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HOW to manage changes to what you have planned?

Resolving issues could result to changes against what was initially planned. Similar to the issue log, the entrepreneur would also need to maintain a log of all changes and the impact those changes would have on the project scope, schedule and budget. Some of those changes could also forge an impact on the contract agreements with the third party service and product providers. The entrepreneur needs to check the impact of those changes on the originally approved project plan and whether a revised plan is necessary to be developed.

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How to ensure that the Project is still on Budget?

The return on investment (ROI) of your project will be affected by the cost of setting up the new business. Spending more than the approved budget for the project not only would delay your breakeven but also could prove to be challenging for raising additional capital for the new business. The entrepreneur must remain vigilant on the project budget, approved commitments spending, changes to the approved commitments, actual cost for completed work and forecast to complete the remaining scope of work. The cost worksheet is a tabular report that captures all of those attributes at the desired project level of detail, which is typically synonymous to the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

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HOW to communicate your project’s performance?

The project performance and dashboard will provide the entrepreneur, project team members and stakeholders with a single version of the truth of how the new business setup is progressing. It will enable them to make better and faster informed decisions when needed. They will have the confidence in the information reported on the project performance. The project dashboard would outline the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure the project performance as well as identify if the performance is in accordance with the set objectives.

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HOW to ensure that actions are implemented?

One of the key issues in delivering projects is to ensure that decisions maSME 19de are implemented in a timely and comprehensive manner. Regretfully, many decisions are not put into effect by the project team thereby resulting in major problems that could drastically impact the project success. Action Management is a project management process where decisions get detailed into specific actions that need to be implemented by the project team. Each action will have an assigned responsibility, deadline and status. An entrepreneur needs to ensure that a proactive action management system in is in place to establish successful project delivery.

HOW to maintain project documents?

The setup of the new business will involve many documents. Some of them are related to authorities’ approvals and certificates, trade licenses, office lease, contract agreements, invoices and receipts, office drawings and layouts, catalogues, operations manuals, employment contracts, etc. Those documents need to be filed and saved to enable searching, viewing and archiving of those documents. This document management will continue to be used when the business launches.

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HOW to avoid repeating the mistakes on your next venture?

Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. If you are a Serial Entrepreneur, you understand more than anyone else the importance of not repeating bad experiences. On the contrary, those bad experiences need to become the knowledge to have only good experiences. This requires the entrepreneur to enforce a lessons learned process to capture this experience during the project delivery. Those lessons learned will become the input for the final stage of the Setting Up a New Business Life Cycle which is the closeout stage. This knowledge is what will help the entrepreneur to have a more successful new business setup when he or she decides to do.

About the Author

Mastering Project Management Through Practicing Cooking

One of the beauties of the science of project management is in its applicability to almost everything we do in our lives on a personal as well as professional level. Every human being would play the role of a project manager on purpose or by accident but how good of a project manager you were, depends on many factors including knowledge, skills and personal attributes. For those who want to pursue Project Management as a professional career, then he or she needs to master the project management knowledge and personal skills needed to become a professional project manager.

One of the areas that project management get practiced a lot without being noticed is cooking where almost everyone has tried to cook something in their life, whether it was good or bad is not the issue. This article will show the analogy between cooking and project management and why cooking is a great way to practice and master project management.

So for one of the days that you want to be the Chef, a project could be any of the platters that you want to cook. It can be a single project “pepperoni pizza” or could be the “mushroom soup” of a “seven-course meal” program. Regardless how many times the same “pepperoni pizza” was done, every time you need to redo it will be a new project experience. Why? Just to list a few, the pizza dough among other ingredients might differ, the way you have spread the tomato sauce and cheese could differ, the oven temperature and type could differ, those who will help you in doing the pizza could differ, those stakeholders or friends that you will serve them the pizza could differ among many others.

So does everyone want to become a better Chef? The answer for sure “No”.  Similar to those who are involved in managing projects, being a better project manager would only be of interest if your business success depends on selecting the right projects and deliver them right from the first time. Otherwise, project management could continue to be one of your hobbies like cooking. So unless cooking is a serious business for you, professional project management would not be of that great value. But if cooking was a serious business for you, then you cannot afford not but to be a Great Chef or a Great Project Manager.

Similar to a project, cooking is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique meal. The cooking is self-contained and intended to provide single defined and realizable objective and that is serving the meal. There will be a number of constraints and assumptions that will affect your cooking project. Constraints will limit the choices that you have while assumptions will force you to make choices that only time will prove if they were good or bad.

Implementing professional project management practices on your “pepperoni pizza” project starts by defining and understanding the objective of doing it. Is the objective to have the ‘pepperoni pizza” for dinner? Who will be eating the pizza? Are they OK in having pizza? How many are they? Will the “pepperoni pizza” be the only meal course? When the pizza will be served? How much you want to spend on doing this project? What are the constraints? What are the assumptions?

All of those questions need to be answered before you commit for the “pepperoni pizza” project. Those questions among others get captured in a document that is called the “Project Charter”. It is a document that confirms that you and those who will be working with you on this meal are fully aware on what is the objective of having the “pepperoni pizza” and a brief on what to expect. Regardless what Chef you are, you know that before cooking or backing your next meal, those questions need to be answered.

The next step that a professional Chef needs to do is to prepare the plan for having the “pepperoni pizza” ready to be served at 10 PM tomorrow night for a group of 30 who will be sitting at the terrace.  The first step in the plan is to come up with the scope of work that needs to be done to serve the pizza. This will include listing the needed ingredients including Water, Bread Flour, Salt, Sugar, Instant Dry Yeast. Olive Oil, Fresh tomato, Tomato sauce, Cheese, Pepperoni among others. It will also include listing the kitchen equipment needed to prepare, bake and make it ready to serve the pizza. The scope of work should also include the serving of the pizza. Project management professional practice requires using the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to define and present the project scope of work. Of course, the more the project scope is defined, the lesser problems the project will encounter when executed.

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With the scope of work defined, the next step is to determine who will be responsible for who will be doing what. The Chef has already agreed with three of his/her friends to help with the “Pepperoni Pizza” Project. It was agreed that “Friend 1” will do the shopping, “Friend 2” will be helping in the kitchen including cleanup while “Friend 3” will take care of serving the Pizza. The Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS) will detail the delegation of authorities within the project team. Combining the OBS with the WBS will detail the accountabilities of each team member when it comes to delivering the Pizza project.

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the next step it to determine when the preparation and baking of the pizza needs to be done. The time plan needs also to allow the time to shop for the ingredients as some are not readily available while others need to be bought fresh. The time plan will list the activities that need to be carried out from now until the pizza is served. The plan will detail the duration, sequence and who will be responsible for performing each. The sequence of doing work needs to consider what activities can be done in parallel or “while” doing other activities and what activities can only start when the preceding activity is completed. The plan should also consider the constraints of supermarket opening hours and any other constraints such as availability of the oven to bake the pizza. As there will be other meals being cooked, some of the resources needed to prepare and bake the pizza could be shared by others.

The dough preparation activities network shown below is one of the available recipes to prepare the pizza dough (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/pizza-dough-recipe.html) where a Chef can consider or use his or her own famous recipe.  The network shows the activities sequence for preparing the recipe for which each will have a duration. The network would also have start and finish milestones which have zero duration. A milestone is a s significant point or event in the project. Similar networks need to prepared for the other project scope of work.

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In project management, the project plan is developed using a technique called the Critical Path Method (CPM) which helps in calculating the earliest and latest start and finish dates for each activity and identify what are the activities that control the project completion. The activities that fall on this path are called critical activities and the path is called the critical path. The plan will help you as a Chef to ensure that you have what you need when you need to avoid any delays in serving the “pepperoni pizza” the way you want to serve on time.

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The activities in the project network should also determine and assign the resources needed to complete each activity. The resources could be the Chef and his/her friends time, the equipment such as the mixer, oven among others as well as the material for preparing the Pizza. For example, the dough preparation network would require using Water, Bread Flour, Salt, Sugar, Instant Dry Yeast and Olive Oil.

The estimated cost for shopping, preparing, baking and serving the “pepperoni pizza” should also be part of the plan as again the joy of having the pizza should not come at an unacceptable cost. The cost of the pizza will consider buying the ingredients, usage of kitchen as well as your and other team members who will be involved in the pizza project. In other words, the estimated cost should include both direct and indirect expenses associated with the “pepperoni pizza”.

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The Chef should never assume that the guests will simply accept whatever “pepperoni pizza” will be served to them. The Chef should be fully aware that there are quality standards that the “pepperoni pizza” should meet otherwise no one will eat it. Those standards could affect the dough type, taste, quality of cheese and pepperoni, shape, presentation, flavor, smell among others. The Chef should ensure that there are measures to ensure the quality of the pizza being done.

The Chef needs also to select the team that will work with him on the pizza project. Some of those team members might be booked on other projects. The Chef also understands that some of the team members could not work well with other team members or have never worked with each other in the past. An experienced Chef understands that not having the right team for his project could result in project failure.

It is very common that major components of the plan put by the Chef for the ‘pepperoni pizza” project will be based on assumptions. The Chef had to make assumptions for the all unknowns for the project to proceed. The Chef needs to plan on how to reduce the negative impact of those risks on the pizza project. For example, the Chef can avoid using a new cheese brand that was never used by him or her before, ensure that the oven temperature had been calibrated and buy one of the known and tested tomato sauce instead of the homemade tomato sauce. A Chef is the one best to decide on what risks to avoid, mitigate, transfer or accept for the “pepperoni pizza” project. A Chef who had previous experiences in serving pizzas would of course have better knowledge and skills in managing the project risks.

The Chef should also plan from where to buy the ingredients for the pizza project to ensure that the served pizza will be the one that he or she wants to be associated with. The Chef does not want to create new risks by failing to shop for the right quality ingredients at the right price.

A smart Chef is a Chef that understands that what matters most in whatever is served is what will be the experience of those who will be served the meal. Those stakeholders are the final judge who will determine that the served “pepperoni pizza” was something to remember or not. A smart Chef is a Chef that will analyze and understand what would get those stakeholders positively involved in the project. The Chef needs to have an understanding of what such stakeholders do expect to have when they will be served a “pepperoni pizza”.

The Chef will now have what can be labelled as a “realistic plan” to serve the “pepperoni pizza” tomorrow at 10 PM for 30 guests at the terrace. A plan that most Chefs would simply do-it with or without a plan but at what risk to fail.

When the Chef gives the OK to start executing the project, ingredients will be bought, dough will be mixed, tomato sauce will be spread, cheese and pepperoni will be placed, pizza will be baked, etc. The Chef also knows that monitoring and controlling the execution is as critical as the execution itself. The Chef needs to be ensured that the right ingredients were bought as planned, the quality of the dough is exactly as needed, the oven has the right temperature among others. No one should assume that the project plan, regardless how “perfect” it is would not be subject to change. Nevertheless., those changes, if needed, then they need to be managed to avoid causing the project to fail. For the Chef, monitoring and controlling would continue till after the “pepperoni pizza” is served as the stakeholder feedback is as critical as the final product that was served, the “pepperoni pizza”.

For the Chef, the last step in the project is the step when the dinner is over and he or she sets down and list on the small notepad what were the lessons learned and what should be done or not to be done when he or she is asked to cook next “Pepperoni Pizza”.

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Avoiding The Watermelon Syndrome When It Comes to Reporting Project Performance

Today most project performance reporting tends to be all Green on surface, but we know inside its all Red.  Organizations who are serious about successful project delivery must ensure that schedule, cost and other variances are identified and rectified to mitigate their negative impact on the project.  They need to ensure that there is a single version of the truth when it comes to reporting project performance. Organizations who are still using MS Excel as the basis for developing, presenting and sharing their project’s performance fully understands the risk they are taking when it comes to verifying the validity of the reported data, analyzing performance trends among others.

The Monthly Progress Report

Organizations could have different requirements when it comes to reporting project’s performance. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that matters to one organization could differ from other. This will determine what data sources the organization need to have to produce the desired monthly performance report. The organization should ensure that whatever get presented in the report should be verifiable and should not be based on an input that has no supportive data.

Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb enables the organization to design its own dashboard and capture data form the different project management modules to provide the needed content as well as the key performance indicators.

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In addition to the data captured from different data sources such as those of project budget, contracts, schedule, risk, quality among others, the monthly progress report should have document template to capture the progress narrative report and other performance assessment reported by the project manager.  Similar to other PMWeb document templates, the monthly progress report template can have all type of supportive document attachments as well as a workflow to formally submit, review and approve the monthly progress report content.

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Multi-Project Dashboard

Organizations who are project centric would rarely have one project to manage. They need to have a dashboard that will capture key performance data from multiple projects but at the same time they can drill down to the specific project dashboard to have more details on that project’s performance. The multi-project dashboard could have filters embedded in the dashboard to allow selecting different portfolio of projects.

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Storing, Viewing and Retrieving Project Documents

No engineering and construction project would not a filing room that will capture the project documents and records that will exchanged between the different project stakeholders. Those could include letters, drawings, pictures, equipment catalogues, warranties among many others. The project filing system is important for document organization and retrieval system. It will help to clearly identify the content of each project file.

The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) and similar to other professional organizations have proposed a construction contract administration filing system that consists of the following main folders.

01.0 Project Contracts

02.0 Cost Information

03.0 Personnel Information

04.0 Chronological Information

05.0 Correspondence

06.0 Memoranda

07.0 Communication Reports

08.0 Meeting Reports

09.0 Field Observation Reports

10.0 Test and Inspection Reports

11.0 Project Specific Information

12.0 Shop Drawings, Product Data, Samples

13.0 Contract Document Interpretations

14.0 Construction Closeout

15.0 Project Specific Information

16.0 Feedback Forms

20.0 Post-Construction Site Visits

Each folder, could have sub-folders to organize the documents that will be stored under each heading. For example, for 01. Project Contracts, the additional sub-folders are created.

01.0 Project Contracts

01.1 Copy Owner-A/E Agreement

01.2 Copy of A/E-Consultant Agreement

01.3 Copy of Extra Services Agreements

01.4 Copy of Owner/Contractor Agreement

Notice of Award

Notice to Proceed

01.5 Procurement Information

Bid Form

Bid Tabulation Form

Alternates

Substitutions

Additions

Subcontractor List

01.6 Bonds

Bid Bond

Performance Bond

Payment Bond

01.7 Certificates of Insurance

How PMIS Can Improve Managing Project Filing?

Project Management Information System (PMIS) similar to PMWeb understands the specific needs of managing project documents in a project environment. Unlike other generic document management systems (DMS) that depends on using document attributes or Meta data to organize and search for project documents, PMWeb allows creating folders and subfolders to match those of the project filing system. For each folder or sub-folder, access rights can be set to limit access to the content of those folders.

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Documents Attributes

For project documents that will be stored in those folders and sub-folders, usually there will be specific fields that will help in better identifying and managing those documents. Those fields are known as the document attributes or meta data. PMWeb has a number of those attributes pre-defined with the option to add additional attributes on as needed basis.

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Managing Project Documents

In addition to the option of checking out and checking in documents when revisions are needed to be done as well as keeping log of all document revisions, PMWeb allows the user to view the document and add comments. Those comments are known as “redline” the documents where the comments made by different project team members will be stored with the option to view comments made by a specific team member. In addition, having those documents stored in those folders will enable the project team members to search for specific project documents.

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Attaching Stored Documents to Project Document Templates

The documents that had been uploaded on the PMWeb document management system will become available to be attached to other PMWeb records to provide the supportive documents to make an action on either approving or rejecting the process. Each record in PMWeb has the attachment tab where the user has the option to attach documents stored in the PMWeb document management repository, other applications document management repository, hyperlink records, emails that has been imported to PMWeb or simply upload a document from the personal computer.

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How To Improve The Implementation of Your Project Actions?

For most decision makers who are involved in delivering projects, making the right decisions is not their only concern. Actually, ensuring that those decisions were implemented as planned by the designated team members is their biggest concern. This not only means that the problem continues to be unresolved but it could result with sequential damage to other project objectives. It is therefore highly recommended to introduce the best practice of “Action Management” to ensure that there is a formal and documented process to assign, manage and report on those actions.

PMWeb Action Management Module

The PMWeb Action Management Module is a straight forward document template where it will identify the details of the action to be taken, status, priority, WBS level and other details on which part of the project scope does it relate to.

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The Action Management document template will also list the different tasks to be undertaken by the project team members to implement the taken decision or action. Those tasks will assign the dates that each should be completed and when it was actually completed. The “Action” document template will be linked to all other document templates that could be related to the needed action including the “Issue” document template. Those could include documents such as meeting minutes, RFI, contract documents, change orders among many others.

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The Action Management document template or form can be designed to match the organization’s reporting requirements. In addition, tabular reports can be designed to capture the different Action Management data to group, sort and filter the data in the desired layout.

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Similar to other document management template, the Action Management module allows attaching all supporting documents to the Action Management record.  In addition, the Action Management record can become a documented process where a workflow will be created to identify the workflow steps and responsibilities for submitting, reviewing and approving the action management record.

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How to Maintain the Project Contract Documents?

In the engineering and construction industry, project contract documents (drawings, specifications, contract agreement, BIM models, etc.) are the method on how the project’s design intent is conveyed to the contractors and for which the scope will be priced. Those documents are usually subject to revision or changes to incorporate new project requirements, design adjustments, unforeseen site conditions among many others. It is therefore a must that project records should document the original documents and all revisions to the same.

One of the default modules in all project management information systems (PMIS) like PMWeb is the contract documents module. This module will help in fulfilling two important requirements when it comes to maintaining project contract documents. The first is to maintain a list of all those documents as well as revisions to each document while the second is to detail the sets that those documents and revisions were transmitted through.

Project Documents List

Each record in the project documents list will include details of the original document such as type, category, revision number, revision date, WBS level, document issuer among others. In addition, it will include details of all revisions made to this contract document which will include revision number, date and other details. Similar to other PMWeb functions, the original contract document and all associated revisions will be attached to the record.

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Contract Document Sets

The contract document sets will be used to capture the details on how the project contract documents where transmitted. Each set could include more than one contract document of a different revision. Those documents will be linked to the documents included in the project document list above. It is also common to generate a transmittal for the contract document sets to capture the details of the submit, review and approve workflow steps.

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