Tool agnostic?

Tool agnostic?

Do you think that professionals should be tool agnostic? Or should they come with their own set of tools?

Let’s imagine you have a leakage at home. After you have done your research and got some recommendations, a good plumber comes to your place to fix this leakage. You are letting him know that you have a good set of hammers and just bought a new screwdriver. You are expecting the plumber to be professional and to provide service using any tools. The plumber confirms that as long as you pay his bill, he is ready to use your hammers and a new screwdriver to fix the leakage.

It will take much longer for the plumber to fix the leakage and he probably will damage your house as well. However, at the end of the day, you pay for his extra hours, and the damage is not his issue. He even could give you a contact of an excellent handyman to fix the damage (refer to as continues consulting service).
Yes, this analogy is applicable only if a project requires a high level of project management maturity.
Projects with low level of complexity, unlimited resources and predictable risks don’t require advanced tools to optimise delivery. However, high maturity could not be achieved without professional PM tools that support advanced PM methods and best practices.
Many organisations have a mandatory scheduling tool, typically MS Project / Project Online (MSP) or Primavera (P6). Some project management practices and methods (like CPM, EVM) are supported by these tools and applied in all sort of projects and portfolios. However, there are also PM practices that only partially and/or inconsistently supported by MSP and P6.
This inconsistent support of PM best practices in these tools becomes so critical that leads to some clear preference for one or another tool in certain type of projects and even for some industries:
• Infrastructure Projects (Primavera),
• Technology Projects (MSP),
Also, there are Project Management techniques and methods which are recognised as the best practice but are not supported by MSP and P6 and could not be applied without additional tools. Example of these techniques are: Quantity based scheduling, Skill scheduling, Conditional scheduling, PERT, Resource Critical Path, Monte Carlo Analysis, Success Probabilities Analysis, Linier Reporting, etc.
If a scheduling consultant or a consulting company is “tool agnostic”, it could be either a very good or a very bad sign. Ask them what other tools they use to complement Primavera and Project Online. If their response is “MSP and P6 are very good and no other tools are required” then most likely they are system driven, not methodology driven. Be prepared to pay extras for their services and to compromise project delivery optimisation with “work arounds”. However, if they are able to present their professional “toolkit”, it is a sign that they are ready to apply best practices and develop optimised program and portfolio delivery plan.

Show me your scheduling “toolkit” and I can tell you who you are.

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma

Agile & Waterfall Integration. Vendors

Agile & Waterfall Integration. Vendors

Some companies complain that vendors don’t support them with “Agile way” of delivery.

The reality is that many companies are only able to engage vendors on a fixed price (FP) type of contract. However, the companies are expecting the vendors to work in a Time & Materials (T&M) style instead. This is riskier for the vendors and, if they agree with this type of approach at all, they would have to compensate this risk by increasing their price for service.

Volume of Work (VoW) type of contact could be a good solution to this challenge. (Link to website)

If your Agile project delivery teams don’t have required skillsets and you need to engage a vendor to feel in the gaps, find out if your company policy permits (and your vendor accepts) T&M type of contract. If not, you may need to consider alternative options. One of the options could be a Volume of Work (VoW) type of contract.

For Volume of Work:

  • Identify missing critical skillset to deliver defined user stories;  
  • Estimate the required level of vendor support (in story points) based on current priorities;

The sum of Story points could then be considered as volume of work and converted into effort (and duration) based on the productivity rate of a resource assigned to deliver tasks.

Productivity Rate = Story points per resource per Sprint / Days in Sprint;

Cost of engagement = Story points  * Productivity Rate * Resource Daily Rate;

A vendor may be able to offer required skillset with different Productivity rate, Daily rate and Available capacity. If resources with different productivity available, the cost of the engagement should reflect that.

In this case, the Story points definition would have to include the productivity rate as well.

For example, if resource 1 is assigned, then the task is estimated at 5 story points. If resource 2 is assigned, then the task is estimated at 8 story points.

Another option could be to estimate story points based on the resource with the highest productivity, and then to adjust the velocity of each sprint when resource with lower productivity needs to be assigned.   

Cost of engagement = Story points (R1) * R1 productivity rate * R1 daily rate + Story points (R2) * R2 productivity rate * Rdaily rate;

This proposed VoW type of contract would allow to sign a Fixed Price contract based on planned volume of work (based on planned story points), but would support Agile delivery with periodic reprioritisations.

Vendors should be able to receive payments based on the completed volume of work (delivered story points) after each sprint or a number of sprints.

The contract may also include earlier exit conditions for a vendor, in case the project is put on hold.

As the risk in VoW contract is shared between a project and a vendor, the vendors would be ready to supply resources at a lower rate comparing to the Fixed Price Contract. 

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma

DCMA 14-Point Assessment

DCMA 14-Point Assessment

How to make sure you are getting the right skillset when hiring a master scheduler/planner? Someone who doesn’t only have an understanding of scheduling tools, but also has a strong planning acumen.

Check out if the person would recommend using DCMA 14-Point Assessment Metrics for schedule quality assessment and, if yes, ask them to explain:

Why would this set of project metrics developed to measure the progress of CONTRACTORS in DEFENCE industry in the USA be applicable for your type of projects and how the RAG thresholds could be defined? If you just receive an answer, that “the DCMA is a well-recognised set of metrics, globally used and the system default thresholds are used” this might be an indication that the actual purpose of the assessment is not really well understood and there is a lot of focus on the tool rather than delivery needs, and best scheduling practice is not quite there yet.

While there is a well-established correlation between the maturity (which includes quality) of project scheduling and the execution performance outcomes, the mature schedule doesn’t guarantee a good project performance!

Often it just does not make sense to mix up quality and performance metrics in one set, as this could be misleading.

An exception is contractor schedules based on well-defined scheduling standards written in contracts. In this case, RAGs thresholds could be defined based on historical structural data.

DCMA 14 points is a great set of metrics to measure project PERFORMANCE with identification of hidden issues which may impact the performance (broken critical path, lead/legs, hard constraints, etc).

A different approach and metrics need to be used to assess project schedule maturity level.

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma

Schedule Maturity Planning. Part 2 – Questions

Schedule Maturity Planning. Part 2 – Questions

Which of key project knowledge areas is missing in the project maturity framework?

P3M3 organisational assessment has 7 knowledge areas:
* Organisational Governance
* Management Control
* Benefits Management
* Risk Management
* Stakeholder Management
* Finance Management
* Resource Management

You’ve probably already realised that I refer to Time Management.

This gap could be filled in with Schedule Maturity Assessment. In the initiation stage, the Schedule Maturity Assessment could be used for Schedule Maturity Planning to understand a target level.

Schedule Maturity Planning could be run via a set of questions for 15-20 areas of schedule management with 5 levels for each area.
Next rules need to be followed:
a) Closed type (Y/N)
– Project stakeholders should be able to answer “YES/NO” to each question;
b) Simple
– Clear definitions;
c) Relevant
– Exclude none relevant questions;
– Exclude questions with obvious answers;
d) Targeted
– Developed based on target levels defined by PMO for each project type.
While it might seem to be a lot of questions, if these rules are followed, it only takes 30 min’s for project stakeholders to provide their view as a prep for Schedule Maturity Workshop.

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma

Waterfall & Agile Integration. Part 1: Hybrid projects in Enterprise portfolio

Waterfall & Agile Integration. Part 1: Hybrid projects in Enterprise portfolio

Some time ago I analysed the structure of the portfolio I worked on ($1.3B / 380 projects) and found out that we had:

· 41% of Waterfall projects;
· 33% of Agile projects;
· 26% of Hybrid projects;
· 3% Not real projects (PMOs, Contingency, etc)

The issue was that we had only 2 delivery frameworks: Waterfall and Agile. Wherefrom does the high number of Hybrid projects come from then?

I found out that the “Hybrid” type was added to address the legacy issue when programs were setup as projects and these programs had Agile and Waterfall projects. However, there were only a few of those cases!

Further discovery has revealed that the majority of Hybrid projects was actually Waterfall projects, which used Scrum techniques: Daily Standups, Kanban Wall and Backlog.

All of them had approved business cases with commitments to deliver agreed outputs by agreed dates and budgets.

The issue was that PMs believed that to be “Hybrid” allowed them not to follow the Waterfall framework (process and deliverables). Later on, I’ve discovered that the majority of these projects were over budget and had major delays.

Have you ever come across these issues in your portfolios?

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma

Schedule Maturity Planning. Part 1 – Categories

Schedule Maturity Planning. Part 1 – Categories

While the majority of project and program managers recognise the importance of good quality schedule, project stakeholders have their own view of what a “good quality” actually means.
Well, based on my observations, project managers often forget to do one critical planning step: Schedule Maturity Planning.
Usually, maturity planning performed from “TO BE” perspective. However, if a project already has a schedule, “AS IS” perspective allows to identify gaps, prioritise them and develop schedule development plan.
Depending on the specific of the portfolio, a Schedule Maturity Planning covers 15-20 criteria grouped in 5 categories:
· Management and Behaviours
· Methodology & Toolset
· Structure and Approach
· Monitoring and Control
· Resourcing
These categories are not scheduling specific. Maturity planning for other project areas, like cost management, risk management, benefits management, etc also could have the same categories but criteria will be different.
Each criterion has 5 levels:
· Awareness
· Repeatable
· Defined
· Managed
· Optimised
Do you plan maturity for your schedules or rely on someone expertise (PMO, Schedulers, Planning Consultants)?

Alex Lyaschenko

PMO | Portfolio Planning & Delivery | PMP | P3O Practitioner | AgilePM Practitioner | Six Sigma