Sunday, January 18, 2009

Project Management in global economy crisis situation..


If you are a software company, depending on outsourced projects from western; USA, Europe, What may come along your way now ?How you should analyze the risk and get prepared to face the worst and still to deliver your projects as planned? Something to think about J
After hearing many things happening in the industry what I can see coming along our way are as follows;

1. Reducing resources of your projects which are in execution. This can happen if you are in to fixed price deals – Customer may ask you to reduce the number of heads in the project. Even internally, due to employee recession and recruitment freeze there will be corporate decisions to reduce the number of resources of your projects.
2. Requests for reducing the cycle time of the project- You may get requests to cut down on processes and documentation. You may get this request very often. A project which you spent 10 months to develop may have to be delivered within 6 months by cutting corners from your lengthy documentation and processes.
3. Even your teams may be over loaded with resources. – If you are in accompany where they have lost few projects due to the situation and still keeping the resources in house due to many reasons, your projects may get overloaded unless they get together and develop a specific product to the market.
4. You may have hear the news all of sudden “ we need to stop this project now because the customer or the investor stopped funding this project” What would be your position as the project Manager?
5. Some of your team members may not in focus and May not in their peak of productivity as they are so concerned about their lost hopes of increments, bonus, and even the stability of the company and their jobs.
6. Quality process may dropped drastically due to all these reasons
7. Sometimes only must have features will be requested.. If you are practicing scrum the product owner may satisfy with the project after first few sprints which delivers his core functionalities
8. You may have to cut down your project budgets dramatically, your team allowances, entertainments, team building activities will be a question mark.

Still you are a lucky PM ? why ? you still have a project to manage with all these problems and test your real PM skills of working under tremendous pressure.. .
As a PM nothing worst than not having any projects in your company to manage J

Lets discuss this further in a future post..

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cone of Uncertainty

Uncertainty of project estimates (Specially the software projects) is the biggest problem we face when planning a project ahead. I’ve never made a perfect plan for a project (The preliminary plan to be valid till the project is completed and to complete the project successfully with the same exact number of hours I planned initially?? No I have never been lucky).. So how do we deal with this uncertainty of projects when planning? Yeah I hear you .. Agile .. Scrum.. NO in this post I’m not talking about that.. Im just talking about our normal pre planned projects.
Cone of uncertainty” (research done by NASA) reflects the uncertainty at different points of sequential development of a project. It shows that
In feasibility study stage schedule estimate can be different in a range of 60% - 160%
After the requirement specifications - + or – 15%
Likewise when the project progress each stage of the project reduces the uncertainly of the estimate. However uncertainty of estimate becomes 0 when the software is accepted.
Ok this is a long discussed theory.. then what does PMI say about the project uncertainty ? I wanted to refresh my memory J
PMI also believe in progressive accuracy of estimation. PMI defines some asymmetric way of viewing the uncertainty of estimates.
Initial order of magnitude estimate can have a difference from +75% to -25%
Budgetary estimate can have a difference from +25% to -10%
Final definitive estimate reduce the difference up to +10% to -5% Most the time at the level of the budgetary estimate , we sign up the contract with the customer. So we have somewhat risk in the estimations to take in to consideration when preparation of the estimates.
Twice I worked with some pretty large projects where we had to agree on penalties for each day of the schedule over run if occurred in the project.. Both times I could manage it within the agreed schedule.. (So didn’t pay any penalty to the customer) But I didn’t complete the project with expected profit to the last cent. Because I had to do certain resource utilization variance to deliver a project which was confirmed based on the budgetary estimate.
But now that I need to think beyond what I see I just like to have some feedback from other readers about this situation.. One solution which we can do is to apply risk factor to the budgetary estimate and have the luxury of that provision. The other solution is revising the estimate in selected milestones. I have done that many times.. but this needs establishing trust , loads of negotiations and convincing with the customer and other stakeholders as most of the stakeholders don’t care about cone of uncertainly..:-) The Million dollar question is that how do you handle this situation in traditional project management methods without hurting your project bottom line ?

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