Touching the Thistle – Do you Take the Unappealing Project?

Let’s get to the point. Can you succeed in a project if it holds no appeal to you? Can you give it your all and score a slam dunk for the coach, team and yourself? Maybe you can turn this leftover lunch into a dinner at The French Laundry…

Is it the project itself?  Maybe you are a design firm and a local doctor’s office needs  a logo. The client only wants blue and has a thing for triangles.  Can you get behind this?  Find your inner professional and find the energy to inspire your team. Understand that you can bring the mundane to a new level.  Even if you are not able to achieve this higher state, it’s always good to know a doctor (or lawyer, accountant, etc.).

Is it the people involved? This could be a deal breaker. If the client, stakeholders or team members are rude, racist or unrealistically demanding, this may not be where you want to find yourself, even for a decent amount of money.  If it is a matter of personality, adjust your attitude and be a professional.  Believe that the best teams are made from many different kinds of people that can bring unexpected end result to a project.

Remember, the success of the project depends on your attitude. Believe you and your team can give successful results no matter what the project is.

Taking Responsibility for a Sinking Project

There are copious reasons why a project might sink or start to take on water.  Lack of commitment from top management or from the senior stakeholders is an obvious problem, and if you are running with the wrong or obsolete solution in your project, then you are the captain of a sinking ship. The sooner you evaluate your options and make the arduous decision to change course or terminate it altogether will determine your ultimate success as project manager. Your compass should direct the project to support the goals and objectives of the stakeholders.

Be a Vasco de Gama, not a Schettino. Abandonment is not an option; it will damage your reputation as a project manager and cost your stakeholders dearly. Discover your inner explorer and bring to light the possible avenues that will lead the project to a safe landing.

Repair vs. New vessel. Maybe whole sections need to be overhauled. This might mean any number of major parts to the project: suppliers, team members, scheduling, software, or execution. It may be costly initially, but over the long term, and if it is going to save money and deliver on the desired objectives for the project stakeholders, maybe turning to something new is the best option.

Maybe it’s time to fly instead of sail. Perhaps a new solution is needed to meet the project objectives. Sit with the stakeholders and clearly explain why the current approach will not work and the importance of adopting a new project vehicle. You can help your stakeholders re-orient their goals and choose the most suitable options that will not waste their money. You can even go ahead and assist them in defining the objectives of the new project approach. It can be your chance to shine, especially if you have helped your stakeholders save money.

Determine when to persist and when to disembark. If through your analysis you have determined any further money and time invested into the project will be a waste of time, discuss with your stakeholders your findings and determine how you can terminate the project at the earliest opportunity. Be sure to have some possible solutions. Working on a doomed project for too long is wasteful and demoralizing for everyone.

When the Project Budget Must be Cut

It’s February and you are six months into a yearlong project. You are past the planning phase and are focusing on the heart of the solution when your phone rings; funding has been cut by 15%, now what?! After a bit of profanity, you need to sit down and regroup, “I quit!” is not an option.

Assess the current project budget. Are there places where the budget may have been inflated?  Can a few tasks be removed from what’s left of the project to help make up that 15%?  Can a key deliverable be removed?  Can a report be eliminated now and implemented after deployment if it is truly deemed necessary later on?  Scour the requirements and look for things that aren’t absolutely necessary that can possibly be removed to save portions of that 15%.  Don’t try to go for all of it here…service may suffer.

Assess the current project team. Are you keeping resources on the project that may not be needed?  Resources tend to charge to the project even if they aren’t doing much – most organizations want to see as close to 100% utilization as possible and if a resource has a project on their plate, they are likely to charge at least some time to it each week.  Go lean – manage the budget with an iron fist and see to it that no time is charged to the project that isn’t absolutely necessary.

Assess your vendors. If you’re using any 3rd party vendors on the project, negotiate some better rates on their services or go with a different vendor at this late stage in order to save some meaningful amount toward that 15%?  Of course, don’t do something drastic that could cause a failure point on the project, that’s a key decision point. Often vendors would rather cut a price than be completely cut out of the picture.  Negotiate…it’s definitely worth a try.

Assess deployment related activities. Are there tasks, activities, deliverables – that you’ve priced into the engagement near deployment or after deployment that can be eliminated?  It’s not wise, but you can cut the lessons learned session from the project.  Circle back for free with a one on one phone call with sponsor on a lessons learned quick call…it’s still better than nothing.  Or possibly some documentation deliverables could be eliminated (not wise, but maybe a drastic necessary move) or given away for free.

Ultimately: If the cut is from a valued customer, you may need to just eat that 15% and do that dollar amount of work for free.  Is retaining this customer’s business or getting a good referral from them of utmost importance?  If the answer is a definite ‘yes’, then you may have no other choice.   If the project is internal and the cut is coming from your senior management, then it may be a concerning revelation about your company’s financial situation.  You still can’t do anything about it but decrease services on the project – cutting staff just means someone else has to work harder and that effort will still hit the bottom line of the project…so no real help there.

It’s not likely one thing to will save the 15%.  It will probably need to be minor reductions in a number of different areas on the project.

Managing conflict as a project manager

Conflicts within the team is inevitable. How the project manager manages this conflict will make the difference between creating a better team or creating a bigger chasm. Staying calm and balanced will prove to be a challenge, especially if there are strong personalities involved. As annoying and time consuming managing conflict is, it is an important part of being Project Manager.

Understand that conflicts can be constructive but can not become something personal.  Let your team know from the get-go this attitude, but that anger or frustration is not the desired outcome.
Keep it short. The longer it stews, the uglier it gets and mole hills become mountains to deal with.
Identify things the conflicting parties agree with so there can be some common ground. It will give something to build on.
Keep the team focused on the ‘what’, not the ‘who’, it will keep personal biases quiet.
Go for the ‘win-win’. Base your decision on a consensus, so no one feels completely undermined. Help your team members understand the meaning of accommodation. Consensus can take time.
That being said, make the difficult call if you need to. You’re the project manager; if one party is bent on absurdity, the responsibility of the success of the project rests on you.

Good luck on the success of your project and your team!

Status Reports: We need it now!

You’d better have 10 pairs of eyes, matching sets of ears and a crystal ball if you want to be the project manager. That, or make sure you are on top of your status reports. It will probably work better for you then all those extra eyes and ears. Most project managers these days will spend quite some time and effort on a status report, and for good reason.

Outline project health – Progress, goals, milestones, schedule, everything the PM doctor needs to assess. Not to mention the problematic parts, which help the executives decide if the project is safe.

Highlight exceptional issues and risks – Many issues demand immediate attention, you want put this first in your report, or at least highlight it.

Report to the senior executives and stakeholders – Frequent insight is the key to happiness. Give them that insight into goals that have/have not been met, financial status and any problems the project is facing or might face – a status report will give that to them.

Keep the team in check – People work efficiently while they are being monitored, the opposite is true when they are not. Remember that basement refinishing job that went on for a year and a half? The status report will keep everyone in check and if incompetency is noticed, it can be mended.

Stay away from unwanted surprises – Better to be disappointed in during a project and fix it while you can, than to overcome the shock and loss in the end.

Take in the views – Be sure to have different minds to analyze the status report, the best outcomes are through collaboration and communication.


Project management in a third world country? Make it easier for yourself!

Managing an impeccable project requires skill, time management and being able to bring out the best talents of every individual in the team. It also implies having accurate knowledge of your resources and being able to utilize this information to your best advantage.

For a project manager working in a third world country, this may prove to be more complicated than you’d like. Fortunately, the task can be made manageable! The key is to use the right strategies, to not lose your cool and to expect the unexpected. Here are some of the most useful tips that you’ll be glad you stumbled upon.

  • Bring the team together. Individuals in a third world country are commonly seen to solely care about their own ambitions and of their own monetary interests associated with the project. The project manager must help the team members realize that the success of the team = personal success.
  • Frequent communication! One-on-one meetings and a very reliable Internet or telephone connection are necessary. A separate budget for traveling and the communication infrastructure is a must.
  • Plan for the worst case scenario. Political instability, military disturbances,  social issues and major economic instability cannot be ignored and put aside to deal with later. Address these issues while making the initial plan, not after the fact.
  • Incentives, incentives, incentives! Bonuses, promotions or any other materialistic gains will ensure the attentiveness and the motivation of every individual within a team. Your team will need incentives offered so don’t pull back.
  • Understand standards may be compromised for the sake of local conditions.Expect that, however, don’t let this be an excuse for every time you slacken.
  • Communicate with the client, whether he/she is not present in the same country as you, be on the same page when it comes to time management, planning and setting up a schedule.
  • Risk management, human resource management, project quality management and cost management planning needs to be effectively carried out. If you manage the team properly, identify risks involved, outline the budget and doe not let compromises be made on quality, your team will succeed!

by Samkit

How to Manage a Non-Performing Team Member on a Project

I know, this must come a s a surprise, but there are team members that are less than enthusiastic about being on your project.  This puts the success of your team at risk! After all,  “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success” (Henry Ford) . Let’s get all your team members to start performing well for the success of the project.

  1. Why??? Assess the member’s strength and weaknesses, and correlate this to the goals and the mission of the entire project. Maybe she is feeling misallocated. If she has been handpicked for the project, then she must have the right set of skills and knowledge to be useful for the project. Find out if this is the case by asking her directly and figure out how she can maximize her strengths by assigning him to a particular part of the project that might need her expertise more.
  1. Is there something else going on? Work and personal priorities are on different levels but there are times when a serious problem concerning one’s health or family can have serious effects on one’s performance in work. If a member is indeed in the middle of a personal crisis then what you can do is to offer the most help that you can do and hope that whatever the problem is, it will be resolved quickly for the sake of the project.
  1. Don’t over-think it. Some people just feeling lazy or unmotivated. This is common in project teams that run for a long time and are composed of a lot of people. If this might be the reason, take measures! Laziness can be cured by the necessity to work fast and effectively. Deadline can be adjusted to keep the members well on their feet. Give incentives and re-engage your team – providing motivation for all of your team members.

Make your team cohesive and strong by finding out why certain team members are not up to par. There might even be rare situations where none of them works and you have to employ a non-conventional solution to provide some form of resolve.  The key is communicating with your team as individuals, with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Do not let things fester and drag, it will just bring more team members down.

by Samkit

Top 8 reasons why documentation in project management is a must

One fine morning, as you walk towards your office feeling absolutely great, your boss suddenly pounces at you, literally out of thin air. He bombards you with questions about the project you’ve been managing, your progress and the results obtained. You stare at him dumbfounded because even though you know how great a success the project is turning out to be, you have no evidence to prove it simply because you have been too lazy to document the details. Sounds like a total project management disaster, right? It’s astounding how so many of us totally forget about the significance documentation holds for a project and only learn the hard way, which is also the embarrassing way and the notorious way.

Why documentation holds immense importance for project management:

Documentation may be in the form of time records, daily reports by a project manager, schedules, photographs, videos, correspondence either by a letter or an email or a fax, filing or by information logs. The importance of documentation is so tremendous, many project managers are now terming it their top priority while managing any kind of work.

  • Documentation is the best, and sometimes the only way you can keep a record of the work done, the strategies used, the changes that occurred and all the little specifics an average human mind is capable of forgetting. Knowing the history of the project is essential for the current plan of action as well as how you proceed in the future.
  • Your clients want answers all the time. So does your team and your own boss! Last but not the least and very importantly so, you yourself need answers too. Documentation helps you deal with all these queries.
  • While carrying out a project, you may need to document every other thing to protect your own self from being accused falsely. People tend to blame project managers for whatever goes wrong. Documentation in the form of letters, emails, photographs or schedules is proof that protects you from lawsuits or other complications later on.
  • Documentation is evidence of a good project management. It helps you track activities related to the project, find out if time constraints are being met, monitor productivity and plan for the future. A good project manager will never leave any loose ends to his project.
  • By carrying out this important task, the project manager and the stakeholders are all expecting the same outcomes. There are no unpleasant surprises and no unknown risks.
  • Conflicts, disagreements and problems amongst all parties seldom arise. When all aspects of the project are right in front of everyone, it leaves little room for argument.
  • Documentation also helps every individual member involved to have complete knowledge of their responsibilities, have a clear idea of what is expected from them and how they need to manage their work.
  • If the correct record keeping protocol is followed, it gives the project manager complete control over the project by being the best source of knowledge for the entire team.

by Samkit

New Vertabase 5.6 makes Sharing Project Reports and Processing Project Data Even Easier

New features in Vertabase 5.6 project management software deliver flexibility

We know how much you love your Vertabase project management software and its quick and easy functions for creating, managing and distributing reports. Well, get ready for some more loving because Vertabase is releasing Vertabase 5.6, which includes five new enhancements to Vertabase’s flagship product management platform.

Take a peek at the new features and enhancements:

Send PDF to Anyone – With this new feature, report creators can quickly and easily share reports via e-mail directly from the Vertabase platform. Reports can be sent to anyone, whether they have a Vertabase account or not. Reports are sent as PDF attachments and can be e-mailed to people both within the company or external to the company. Check out the new features in our Send PDF video. This new feature means executives can get an overview of overall project performance, clients can get updates on a project’s progress and team members can update task details all with just a few clicks.

Schedule PDF Sent to Anyone– This new feature allows people to schedule regular delivery of reports and select its frequency, such as daily, weekly, bimonthly, monthly, etc., on whatever day is preferred. Anybody, whether they have a Vertabase account or not, can receive PDF reports. Working in tandem with the Send PDF feature, scheduled reports are automatically e-mailed as a PDF attachment to the indicated recipients, both within and outside the company. People can pick and choose who should be scheduled to receive the report, such as project managers, team members, clients, or executives. See how it works in the Vertabase Schedule PDF video. For example, with this new scheduling feature, that weekly progress report on key performance indicators will be waiting for executives on Monday morning, automatically.

Raw Data Export – The new export for reports brings flexibility to report creation. The raw data report exports project-related data in unformatted CSV. It is compatible with external programs, such as spreadsheets and databases, allowing more ways to process, format, print, or share data, like project, task, time, budget, expense and resource reports, or to use that data in other software programs. Among the many options are combining data from several Vertabase reports into one, customizing the data layout and generating different views of the data. For example, people can import data into Google spreadsheets and look at the number of projects per status, the number of projects per client, or a host of other different views. Or use the database-ready format to import data into Excel® for sorting, filtering, cross-report spreadsheets and other customizations of data formatting and output. Learn more by viewing our Raw Data Export video.

My Reports – New features and enhancements to the My Reports page in the Vertabase platform make it faster and easier to access report exports. The Excel® export option is now directly available from My Reports, as is the Raw Data CSV export. Also new to My Reports is the Schedule PDF and Send PDF columns, allowing easy access to scheduling and sending e-mail reports. See all the new My Reports enhancements in this My Reports Page video.

Report Export Options – This new enhancement makes exporting and using data more intuitive directly from Report Search Pages and Report Results Pages. The new group labels, View, Print, Export and Send, are defined by purpose for quicker identification of their functions. These options are available on all reports, including project, task, time, resource, budget and expense reports.

Current Vertabase project management software clients will receive an email with details about the upgrade schedule. You can learn more about these new features in webinars throughout January (visit or by contacting Vertabase directly at to schedule a personal demo.


New Trends in Project Management

Leadership roles are one of the most important positions in every corporation, institution, or organization. All sorts of projects and specially formed teams emerge to take advantage of new ideas and advancements. These projects are not ensured to succeed and to be realized smoothly. Managing projects and the teams that are assigned to them is not easy. Aside from the common challenges that face the project teams, like deadlines, resources, manpower, and more, there are also the ever changing strategies that need to be employed to ensure that the projects go on smoothly. Numerous trends develop and surface to cope up with the changes of the world. These trends prove to be more effective than the ones that came before them. That is why it is important to know them. Here are some of the newest trends in project management:

1. Agile expands in Asia, specifically in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan
The Agile framework has been gaining popularity. It has seen a lot of successful projects and revolutionary PM practices. However, Agile is still not widely in the Asian environment. Projects that involve the countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan should take into consideration the state of their models. Internal resistances usually prevent the use this model into the project management methods of certain companies.

2. New credentials from Project Management Institute
Project Management practices should conform to the PMI credentials. These credentials have been developed due the different practices that have been employed. That is why the credentials need to be considered with deciding on which approach to use for the entire project.

3. Virtual learning
Project managers should be willing to learn through virtual learning. Now that everything can be done without leaving one’s office, the use of present day technology are increasingly taking its influences on the project management environment. Trainings and seminars can be done using the internet. Learning through this method should be mastered skill in order to cope up with the technological advancements.

4. Implementing Project Portfolio Management Tools
Companies are now leaning towards using not just one PPM tool but two. Many companies are now using Agile, and that means the older versions of the tools they are using are anymore compatible and very easy to work with. It is now necessary for companies to use Agile-based PPM tools to fully maximize their efforts that are based on Agile.

5. Benchmarking
In order to fully gauge the level of an organization’s project management practice, they need to compare themselves in competitors. Benchmarking is a vital tool to prove that the PM practices are competitive or above the rest. It will determine how good an organization is and which companies need to keep an eye out. It might not be such a good idea for some companies to actively compare your company’s performance to the competitors, but doing this actually gives a concrete idea of what PM practices are doing well in the competitors’ environments and to conduct a study if these practices are applicable in one’s projects.

by Samkit