Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The 5 Best Free Project Management Tools

There are effective free project management tools out there - some are more robust than others, but all of them provide ways to collaborate and complete projects quicker. According to Digital Trends, here are the best free project management tools:

Trello: Trello is a project management tool designed to organize every component of your project into task cards. This tool is valuable in just about any environment, providing a simple means of creating checklists and assigning tasks to team members in real time. The tool allows users to share projects and attach documents to task cards, each of which syncs across compatible devices via the cloud. Also, users can adorn cards with photos, colors, and deadlines, and the software keeps a record of all activities for future.

Asana: The app, available on both Web and mobile platforms, provides an iTunes-esque workspace housing a navigational sidebar offering projects, a user inbox, and features like Focus Mode and Milestone. When the state of a  project changes, users receive updates in their inbox, and can view which tasks still need to be completed using the Milestone component. 

Evernote: This tool is basically note-taking software formatted into different notebooks, serving as a personal project management utility as opposed to a collaborative one. However, as outlined in our guide on how to use Evernote, the software is capable of doing more than making a rudimentary list. The free service comes bundled with an enormous ecosystem of integrated apps. The tool lets you format notes into a visual presentation, or publish to a blog, allowing you to include photos and voice memos in the process.

Basecamp: The tool has an impressive track record with known companies, including Nike, Twitter, and National Geographic. Basecamp’s Web portal features a discussion board, and a to-do list, allowing members to comment on specific tasks, while serving as a streamlined hub for file sharing that you can integrate with your email. Basecamp features a calendar to stay on top of deadlines, and tracks progress on specific tasks. It also gives you the ability to upload collaborative files, and tweak the site’s granular controls to include information relevant to each individual user.

Google Drive: Every feature the aforementioned project management tools offer is available with Google Drive in some form. Considering that many people have registered a Google account, this makes sharing calendars, documents, spreadsheets, and maps easier than doing so with the other tools on this list.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Leadership Lessons: Jo Reid

I recently sat down with Jo Reid, Senior Project Manager at The Boeing Company, to talk about the ins and outs of leadership.  Today, leadership is a hot topic among the project management community because a project manager’s role goes far beyond task-related deliverables. Although the project manager must be able to effectively manage goals related to time, scope and cost, the work does not stop here since the project manager must also be able to manage numerous issues and goals, and be able to lead the people performing them.  

Reid is speaking at the upcoming ProjectWorld & World Congress for Business Analysts 2014 conference in Seattle. He will be presenting a session entitled, “Requirements Management Best Practices at the Boeing Company.” This year, PW&WCBA combines professional training alongside real world practicality for richer, more holistic leadership development. It's no wonder it's become the actionable playbook for advancing PM and BAs for over a decade.

Check out what Reid had to say:

IIR: How do you, as a leader, stand out in a crowd in this competitive business world?

Reid: I do multiple activities to build and maintain my brand.
> For any project I am managing I make sure that all the homework has been done. Risk & Mitigations, all the finance, all the stakeholder relationships, etc. I make sure my presentations are clean and crisp, and that I have more answers than there are questions.
> I teach, I support workshops, and I coach.
> I chair steering teams. I take minutes and publish them.  I delegate, and praise my delegates for their successes. The more I try to make other people successful, the stronger my brand. 

IIR: What are characteristics of a GREAT leader?

Reid: Lead the way, but know when to get out of the way!

IIR: How does a successful leader communicate?

Reid: With a constant, consistent message, tailored for stakeholder needs.

IIR: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Reid: Judy Churchill. I was a member of her PMO, and helped her define the organizational Project & Portfolio Management Strategy.  She was smart, knowledgeable, committed to standards. She as fair, tough, and always had her PM’s back. She had high expectations for performance, but was always there is you needed help. High bar – I miss her.  She died of cancer about seven years ago.

IIR: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization or team?

Reid: Scope, cost, schedule, and risk.

IIR: As an organization gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?

Reid: Keep the other PMs engaged and encourage constant process improvement.

IIR: How do you encourage creative thinking within your team or organization?

Reid: Lead them though the process of defining the problem, not the solution. I tell them they are the experts in their field and challenge them to find solutions. They never fail me!  I also make sure EVRYONE knows it was them that created the great solution!

IIR: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Reid: Integrity.

IIR: What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Reid: Unrealistic performance goals.

IIR: What is the one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?

Reid: Lack of Integrity.  Putting themselves first at the expense of others.

IIR: Can you explain the impact that social media has made on you as a leader?

Reid: The industry I support has not embraced social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). We have tried to introduce forums and tools, but use remains sporadic.  People prefer daily standup meetings – even if it’s across 12 time zones.

IIR: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Reid: Find a leader you respect and ask them to be a mentor to you.  Leadership is a journey, and having someone who can be a sounding board or help remove roadblocks makes the journey less arduous.

IIR: What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

Reid: Talk to my mentor on a regular basis. She challenges me!

Reid will be speaking at ProjectWorld & World Congress for Business Analysts 2014, taking place in Seattle, Washington September 22-24th at the W Hotel. The 2014 program is designed with courses for all training levels, a robust agenda, and most importantly tangible lessons which you can begin implementing the day you return to your office, making you even more valuable to your organization. PW&WCBA offers attendees 36 PDU/CDUs - that's more than half of the required credits necessary to maintain your certification in just one place.

To learn more or register for the event, click here: 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Project Managers Get Lost with Apple Maps

As of late, Apple has delivered significant updates across virtually every facet of the company. In fact, the tech giant has released 4,000 new APIs to developers; a more aggressive push in cloud services; and changes across its mobile and desktop operating systems.

But, one area of Apple’s business that is seriously lacking in function and updates is Apple Maps. Maps are important to Apple because, just as search has been at the heart of how people find their way around the Internet, maps are the key to how many people use their smartphones.

According to Apple, there is a feature in iOS 8 that will give venue owners the ability to add more indoor positioning data. But from what we understand this was far from what Apple had intended. A source told Apple Insider, “There were multiple improvements that didn’t make it into iOS8,” a source tells us.

After two years of parting ways with Google, Apple is still working on its Maps app. Some key changes included enhanced, more reliable data; more points of interest and better labels to make certain locations like airports, highways and parks easier to find; a cleaner maps interface; and public transit directions.

Further ahead, the report noted plans to integrate augmented reality features to give people images of what was nearby. So, why didn’t they appear?

One source said, “Many developers left the company, no map improvements planned for iOS 8 release were finished in time. Mostly it was failure of project managers and engineering project managers, tasks were very badly planned, developers had to switch multiple times from project to project. I would say that planning, project management and internal politics issues were a much more significant contributor to the failure to complete projects than developers leaving the group.”

Over the years, Maps have been a sensitive area in Apple’s business. It was at the 2012 WWDC that Apple unveiled a new version of its Maps app, but it turned out to be a disastrous move for the company. Unreliable data produced random renderings and bewildered users, and even prompted an apology from CEO Tim Cook with the promise that things would get better.

Apple appears to be taking similar steps to bring search closer to its core business, so there will be two areas to watch to see how the company evolves.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Key Tips on Hiring a Project Manager

Businesses require finding people that will make them more successful, but a lot of hiring managers go about their candidate search in the wrong way, especially when it comes to finding the right project managers. According to Forbe’s article by Veteran Project Manager Russell Harley, here are some tips to help you hire a great project manager.

Don’t Use Generic Descriptions
Every project manager posted online appears to be copied out of books, but these types of descriptions will overwhelm you with mismatched applicants. Instead of generic requirements, spend time to describe details of the project itself. By putting the specific needs for that position into the job description, you are more likely to get responses from PMs that want to do that type of project instead of those that would rather not.

Decide What You Need
By requiring specialized knowledge of PMs for projects you are reducing the pool of people that will apply. This means that an outstanding PM, who could do amazing things for your company, is left out.

Critical Projects Need Dedicated PMs
With smaller budgets in place at many companies today, hiring managers are trying to do more with less people. So, a PM is often expected not to just lead the project but also get their hands dirty in whatever the team needs doing.

Be Clear On Methodology
A common question asked of PM is, “What project management methodologies do you use?” The answer from the applicant should be, “Whatever one you want me to use.” If you need a PMBOK PM, say you are a Project Management Institute shop in the job description as this will help you reduce the number of applicants. If you aren’t sure or have a variety of processes, then say you need a PM that has experience in a variety of methods and can adjust as needed.

Get Rid of the Long Questions
Don’t ask open ended questions that, to answer in a professional manner, require more than two to three sentences. If nothing else you will have a lot less to read and can see how concise the applicant can be.

Want to learn more about this topic and network with PM and BA professionals like yourself? Don’t miss ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts 2014 in Seattle this fall. For more information about this event, click here:
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