Microsoft Project in the Workplace – How MS Project Is Utilised Across a Vast Number of Roles

Project Planning is an essential skill for many types of jobs. Microsoft Project is a planning tool that produces a project timeline outlining the work to be done for a project. It is used to plan the sequence of work, manage resources, track progress and manage the project budget. Jobs require Microsoft Project skills for many reasons.A Scheduler will use Microsoft Project to develop, improve and maintain schedules, linking information back to the master schedule. The master schedule will include vast amounts of information including timelines, required resources, the order of needed tasks and the responsibilities of each team member. Schedulers will need to produce reports, get involved in forecasting and assist the team with data and variance analysis as well as frequently updating the daily schedule. Many jobs in project scheduling are in the fields of construction, software development or engineering. The project manager will often work closely with the scheduler to ensure that the required milestones are met within prescribed budget constraints. Schedulers are heavily reliable on software such as Microsoft Project to efficiently meet their jobs requirements.

A Contracts Administrator or a Project Coordinator will need to manage contracts and variations and produce various reports including histograms, detailed progress tables and look-ahead schedules. They play an important role to support the Site Supervisor and Project Manager with understanding, preparing and implementing the project schedule for analysis.Planning involves determining how to complete a set of tasks within a given timeframe with a set of defined stages. They will also be required to monitor and update projects, ensuring that they each run smoothly and effectively. Planners also have the role of monitoring activity for potential issues that may come up down the road so that they can be avoided. In cases where this may not be possible, the planner will need to devise a recovery and contingency plan. A Planner will need to develop plans and schedules to a high level of detail, track progress for time and cost and draft project status reports. Strong competency with Microsoft Project will assist with the delivery of the project on time, on budget and meeting customer expectations.A Project Manager is required to assess projects across the organisation and make effective decisions about resource management, cost management and effective delivery of projects in time critical environments. They are responsible for supervising and coordinating the team and contractors onsite, financial management, resource management and safety. All of which can be prepared in Microsoft Project to help them plan and organise effectively. They are often a client representative and have to determine and implement the exact needs of the client. They generally are those with the most responsibility and therefore must keep up with big demands and ensure the project runs smoothly. Microsoft Project is commonly used in order to relieve some of the stress of managing a project as the planning and tracking of the project can be done more efficiently and effectively.

Essentially, companies are looking for a full understanding and working knowledge of Microsoft Project. They seek high proficiency with Microsoft Project as part of your skillset.

Enhancing Employee Productivity – What Works and What Doesn’t Work

One major concern for every organization irrespective of its size and specialty is the productivity of its employees. Organizations are constantly seeking new and more effective ways to increase the productivity of their employees.While this looks like an unending journey, I have written on some very cost-effective ways that organizations can go about enhancing the productivity of their employees.
In this article you will be exposed to some practical ideas that are easy to implement and can have tremendous effects on your organization.First we would look at what works, what organizations should do to enhance productivity. Secondly we would look at what doesn’t work, what they need to stop doing. Enjoy your reading…What works?Some very relevant factors that can help your organization build a productive workforce.1) A culture that promotes productivityDoes the culture of your organization encourage productivity or mediocrity? Organizations need to understand the effect their cultures have on the productivity of their employees. Organizations should identify the aspects of their culture that may have a negative effect on their employees’ performance and eliminate them.2) High level of collaboration

Does your organization place a high value on team work and collaboration? Are employees encouraged to work in groups to solve problems? When team work is encouraged, employees have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from others and this fosters productivity. Encourage employees to work as a team and reduce unhealthy competition.3) Transparency and TrustIntegrity is very vital in building a productive workforce. Organizations should not be concerned about showing integrity to their clients alone but also doing the same to their employees. Do employees have trust in your organization? Do they believe that it will deliver on its promises? Is management open and transparent in its transactions? In a work environment where there is trust and transparency, employees tend to be more productive.4) Proper communicationProper communication of the values and expectations of the organization to its employees can greatly boost productivity. How often does your organization communicate its values to employees? How often are employees reminded of the goals of the organization and the roles they play in helping the organization achieve these goals? Organizations must put in place proper and effective communication systems that work.5) Sincere concern for employees’ welfare and fairnessThis would most often reflect in the policies of the organization. How ’employee’ friendly are the policies of your organization? Are employees treated fairly? Are some employees more special than some others in your organization? Productivity is greatly enhanced when employees feel that they are being treated fairly and when they know that their organization cares about them.What doesn’t work?Factors that could affect your employees’ productivity adversely may include.1) An unfriendly work environmentWork should be like home for employees, a place where they love to go to. How delighted are employees when they are at work? Organizations have to make the work environment friendlier and a place where employees love to be. The happier employees feel at work, the more productive they are.2) An inefficient reward systemWhat is the aim of your organization’s reward strategy? What does it encourage, productivity or mediocrity? Organizations must ensure that they are rewarding the right behaviors in employees, they must reward behaviors they what to be repeated. Always bear in mind that employees are encouraged to repeat behaviors that they are being rewarded for.

3) Incompetent managersLeaders and managers drive the rest of the team in the organization, they provide direction and create the path which other employees follow. How competent are the managers in your organization? How well are they able to communicate the right culture and values to their team? Organizations must invest in getting the right people as managers and train them continuously.4) MisalignmentThis is one big secret to maximizing employee productivity. The higher the degree of alignment employees have with the values, culture and the goals of the organization, the more motivated and productive they tend to be. Organizations therefore have to recruit people who share the same values and who will blend into the culture of the organization.Little things really matter a lot, putting these ideas to work can greatly enhance the productivity of the employees in your organization.I hope you found this article beneficial? Please help others with this information by sharing, I am sure they would be thankful to you for helping to inform them.I would love to hear your comments, suggestions and experiences relating to the subject of this article.

The Impact of Defining a Project’s Problem

Few decisions have a greater impact on the likelihood of success of an improvement project than the definition of the problem. Stephen Covey says that the way we see the problem is the problem; and Albert Einstein warns that we cannot solve problems at the same level of thinking with which we created them.The way we define and communicate the problem the team is expected to solve will greatly influence the speed and efficiency with which a team will complete its work, the degree of satisfaction between the team and the project sponsor, and the efficacy with which an organization prioritizes and sequences the problems to devote resources to.It takes some careful thought, but a good problem statement is worth the effort because it helps you to ensure that:
Team participants, leaders and sponsors, have a shared understanding of the problem that will be solved
The organization will give the project the appropriate priority and urgency
The team has a good baseline against which they can test the results of their solutions
The team is open to surfacing and testing a range of possible root causes so as to increase the likelihood of finding an effective and lasting solution
Four Practices That Lead To Better Results
A good problem statement requires some solid pre-work, thoughtful consideration & discussion, and the restraint to avoid speculating before the analysis. If you follow the four basic guidelines for problem definition, you will greatly improve the chances the right problem will get solved for good.

Write it down. If the problem is not written, shared, and discussed, there is a risk that all participants will assume that everyone is on the same page about the problem they are trying to solve. In most cases, this will not be the case, and the blissful ignorance about their different expectations will eventually give way to a combination of bewilderment, conflict, frustration, disappointment, and a great deal of inefficiency. Organizations can avoid the problem solving frustration and rework by surfacing right up front any different views of the problem they are trying to solve. The best way to surface and discuss any differences is to write it down and discuss it with all participants, to ensure it is well understood and agreed to.In addition to getting everyone on the same page, only a written problem-statement can be tested against the next three qualities necessary to effective problem-solving teams.
Include a quantification of the waste the problem is causing. This, of course, means you have done some pre-work because no problem statement is as effective as it should be if it does not indicate why we care. Quantifying the waste makes certain that the organization does not invest scarce resources on something that will not have a significant impact. Every organization has more opportunities for improvement than capacity to execute on the improvements.Quantifying the waste also helps elicit the urgency and support that the project merits. A problem statement that is “costing the organization $18,000 each week in excess charges” will receive more urgency than a problem “costing the organization $800 a week.” And problems for which no discernible and measurable impact can be found probably should not receive much urgency at all. Quantifying the waste in the problem statement helps an organization make sure that they are working on first things first.
Be specific about the metric you are using to size the problem. Malcolm Forbes once observed that “It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.” The rub is that you will have a hard time determining if your solutions are effective. To avoid this pitfall, your problem statement should incorporate the measurement you expect to move the needle on, the current baseline for that metric, and both the time and the place that your baseline measurement was taken. By making the problem statement factual and specific about what observable phenomenon we saw when and where, we create for the team a clear and effective baseline against which to measure improvements.
Omit Judgments and Opinions about Underlying Causes. Maslow observes that “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” We all have biases, and when we make assumptions about the underlying cause, we bias the process to overlook other possible causes. In theory, this could be a time-saver – if you hit upon the correct root cause. However, in our experience this rarely happens. Making assumptions about the causes almost always makes a problem more difficult to solve instead of easier to solve. This is because if one or more important underlying causes are overlooked by the bias introduced in the problem-statement, the problem will not be solved before the project goes through quite a lot of rework.

Most people have some sort of bias or hunch, slight or strong, about possible underlying causes of most problems and they will consider these first. For example, some people easily incline toward thinking that the technology is not what it could or should be and theorize that this is the cause of most of the problems they encounter. Others are quick to suspect that the incentives are misaligned. And still others may speculate first that processes are not sufficiently defined and adhered to. These hunches are developed based on experience and people with diverse experience and biases tend to serve a project well. However, no matter how confident in the theory about the root cause, inclusion of an assumption about the cause or the solution in the problem statement is more likely to impede results than accelerate them. A hunch makes an excellent servant (in the problem analysis phase of the project) but a poor master. Leave any comment about possible underlying causes out of the problem statement.

Is This The Death Of Offshoring?

Once upon a time, offshoring was the answer to every CIOs dreams. It offered a great way to significantly grow the IT department while at the same time reducing the total costs of running the department. What make it even better was that somebody else had to deal with the real-world issues of managing people and the person with the CIO job could just focus on results. However, that magic never seemed to work out. CIOs are only now starting to learn to deal with reality of life after the death of offshoring…Why The 80/20 Rule Never Worked OutSo back in the day when outsourcing was all the rage, CIOs needed to make some judgment calls. They knew that they could never outsource 100% of their IT department, but they needed to figure out how much they could offshore. The driver here was that the more of the department that they were able to offshore, the lower their costs would be and therefore the more work the IT department could accomplish for the same budget. This sure sounds like a problem that we’d all like to have!I’m not sure where this split in responsibilities came from, but for some reason CIOs everywhere decided that if they could achieve an 80 / 20 split between offshore and onshore resources, then they would have optimized their IT department. As you can well imagine, as the CIOs worked to achieve this magical goal, the IT department underwent a great deal of change.

One of the big questions that still needed to be answered was just exactly what the 20% that would remain onshore would be doing. The thinking was that all of the development work would be done offshore and the onshore team would spend their time managing the offshore team. Great plan. Too bad things didn’t really work out this way.What Went Wrong With OffshoringWhat might have been seen as good plan at the start of the whole offshoring craze quickly started to fall apart for CIOs. There were actually several different reasons for this, but together they’ve lead to the downfall of outsourcing as we knew it.The first problem that the person in the CIO position ran into when they jumped into outsourcing is that it turns out that due to the importance of information technology, having IT development talent onshore within the IT department is very important. What this means is that the IT department needs to be able to react quickly to requests from various parts of the company. Just having a big development team in India is not enough, you need to have a “fast response” team on shore to handle emergencies and special requests.The other thing that contributed to the demise of offshoring as we had known it was the arrival of agile software development methodologies. This form of software development requires teams to rapidly create code in an environment that provides them with immediate feedback. When your development team is located on the other side of the globe this can be very hard to do.In the end, CIOs have changed their minds about offshoring their IT development teams. Yes, the cost savings are attractive. However, the loss in IT functionality is not worth the money saved. A new model in which the team is split 80 / 20 between onshore and offshore assets is what is starting to emerge.

What All Of This Means For YouAs a CIO, you and everyone else is always looking for that “silver bullet” solution that will magically make all of your IT problems go away. At one time, offshoring seemed to be that solution. However, time has shown us that it is not the solution to all of our problems.Instead, what CIOs have discovered is that as IT has become a more and more valuable part of how the company competes in the marketplace, how IT is done has changed. The adoption of agile software development methods has required retraining of offshore assets and in many cases has required offshored work to have to be moved back onshore.Offshoring still has a role to play in every IT department. However, the most important IT work that is going to have the most immediate impact on the company’s bottom line now appears to have to be done onshore. This is going to require CIOs to spend some time thinking about what the right balance of onshore and offshore assets will be going forward.

How to Make Your Company Meetings More Productive

“My company believes in conducting regular meetings for a variety of reasons. In addition to my weekly department gatherings we have various company meetings and the required attendance at all of these sessions is hampering employee morale and hindering productivity.” If this scenario is occurring at your company you should consider evaluating your meeting criteria to improve efficiency.Years ago many businesses adapted an “open management style” as a way of including employees in the management of the business and meetings become a popular method to build teamwork and improving communications. Unfortunately the concept that was supposed to “enhance company cohesiveness” has eroded employee morale and severely cut into productivity. Too many companies today are suffering from “meeting overload” and would do well to conduct a corporate-wide meeting analysis to evaluate the effectiveness and necessity of their meetings.The first step is to measure the total number of gatherings held in a month’s time, by creating a company calendar where every meeting must be on the calendar to be held. Whoever is “conducting” the session is responsible for providing the approximate length of the session and the number and position of the attendees. At the end of the month have someone in your accounting department add up the total hours of meetings held along with an average cost per employee to attend those meetings. For example if you have one senior vice president, three senior managers, five department managers and seven staff people you would take the hourly salary rate of each person, times the length of the meeting. The cost for the above meeting (depending on salary) could be more than $1,000 for a one hour meeting. It is possible that your company could be spending in excess of $10,000 in labor costs per week just attending meetings, further evidence that this time needs to be productive.

In addition to the above cost analysis you might consider soliciting feedback from various members of your staff regarding your meeting protocol. The following are some questions that will help you gather addition information to further evaluate the effectiveness of your current meeting schedule:- On average how many meetings are scheduled per week, per month?- How many hours a week are required to prepare for meetings?- Do these meetings have clearly defined goals and objectives to be accomplished?- How many hours a week are required to complete additional work generated from each meeting?Once you have justified the number of meetings your department and/or company holds per month you should then create a company “meeting calendar.” By having all scheduled meetings posted on your company intranet gives employees the opportunity to more efficiently schedule their time and be better prepared for the meetings they are required to attend. This scheduling will also help improve productivity and morale of employees further contributing to the value of each meeting. Posting scheduled meetings can also help reduce department or project overlap meetings.The following meeting protocol will ensure even more productive meetings:1. All meetings must have clearly stated objectives and an approximate length of time. For example: There will be a marketing department meeting on Wednesday, March 24 from 2:00 pm until 3:00 pm. The following people are required to attend and please be prepared to discuss the following objectives. Another example might include: We will be holding a brainstorming session on Wednesday, March 24 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm to discuss the following. If you are available to attend, please come with some great ideas to share!

2. All meetings must start at the stated time-no exceptions. If you are the person in charge of running the meeting-and you have been detained-make sure you have a “lieutenant” that can start the meeting without you.3. Have someone take notes during the meeting. The notes can then be distributed to all attendees, further outlining objectives, goals, action items, etc., which will help ensure the productivity from the meeting is maximized to the full extent.If you are interested in improving employee morale and productivity consider evaluating the number of company meetings to ensure they are necessary and productive. Meetings are still a necessity to communicate, collaborate, and enhance team-building in this technology driven world.