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Monday, February 24, 2014

Microsoft Project Tutorial 5 - Project Resource Calendar

7 Tips for Resource Scheduling  For Geographically Dispersed Teams

In 2001, I was doing a large Billing transformation project for Telefonica, Madrid. It was a complex project and that was also first time I was working with distributed team.

There is a strict delivery date from the project because it’s a fixed cost project with agreed delivery timeline but the challenge was to get proper resources with desired skills. Finally we, build our team with people from all continents.

Our billing team was from Israel (their availability during September is a challenge), Mediation & rating team were mostly Indians (it was tough to get majority Indians working during October/November due to Navaratri & Diwali & some Indians preferred to take vacation in mid Jan), our OS/390 mainframe  experts were from  west coast USA & Sao Paulo (Brazil) . Our DB2 expert was from Russia.

There is also a difference in working time like people at Tel-Aviv development center used to work on Sunday but not on Friday, testing team at Cyprus worked in two shifts and UAT support provided in three shifts from Cyprus, Tel Aviv development center along with local support  from Madrid.

Our business transformation team was stationed in Madrid and their first language was Spanish. I found from experience not to schedule any onsite work from 2PM to 5PM !!

So, challenge was different work time along with different internal charge rates.

To plan & track these types of projects, require hands on working experience on how to build a program plan with multiple resource calendars, task calendars along with judicious using of “critical resources”. 

A regular tracking of burn rates for in house teams & external consultants who were charging based on hourly engagements is also important for better financial managements.

Let’s demystify the resource calendar

1.    Go to Project -> Change Working Time & click the Create New Calendar... button.

2.    Give a proper name for new base calendar using make a copy of standard calendar

3.    Create  a separate calendar for each team in all countries along with proper setting for working time & week.

4.    Next make the project critical dates like delivery to ST, delivery to UT, going production and post production warranty support as working time and create a separate calendar. This is true for all.

5.    Create an exception to model an irregular change to the normal pattern of working hours or non working hours. Always put details for an exception for easy understanding by everybody. You should revisit your exception report every month and use report tab to check assignment report.

6.    You also have to adjust work contour for some resources based on the stage of project. This is a powerful tool for finer adjustments for very costly resources.

7.    You also need to define a separate task calendars for back up, Database maintenance or patch upload. Always apply those tasks neglecting resource calendar because in resource calendar those might be nonworking time.

Please ensure that everybody has training on MS Project and team has access to Microsoft Project Server. In absence of MS Project server, you can use liquid planner or Gantter, a free project management collaboration tool that is described as a "web based Microsoft Project.

We will discuss financial management using EVM in next tutorial of these project tutorial series.

Author is Prince 2, PMP (Project Manager Professional), COBIT, TOGAF and Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist. In past awarded with MVP (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional - Microsoft Project)!

Other articles on our project tutorial series 

  1. 10 Tips for MS Project 13 users 
  2. Best Practices For Building & Tracking MS Project Plan 
  3. MS Project Tutorial 3 - 15 tips to create a project schedule
  4. Top 10 Best Practices for Making an IT Project Successful
  5. Top 7 reasons why large IT projects fail
  6. Microsoft Project tutorial on how to track completion of activity in MS Project plan
  7. What are the necessary skills of a good IT project manager
  8. How to manage project resource calendar in MS Project 13


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

7 Tips for job interview in 2k14

Are you feeling jittery for your job interview next week?

We interviewed Mala, an experienced career consultant on how executives should prepare for job interview particularly after

In this article, we'll share Mala's best 7 tips on answering interview questions.

She told us that as a general rule interviewee  have to accept his/her anxieties . Interviewee  need to prepare herself  to build quick rapport with the interviewers because interview process is all about building effective relationships. It's the responsibility of you as an interviewee  to impress the recruitment team by experience & behavioral skills.

Are you over 50 and preparing for interview?

Here are 7  Tips For Better  Interview Preparation

1.    I say punctuality is must to young people. But you are over 50 and you need to use smart talk effectively for your success. It helps you to build  relationship. This will help your likeability factor.

You need to prepare your own brand statement. Present your strength with a proper story to address the exact needs of your would be hiring manager. Who won't hire a person with an unique skill to reduce his/her pain?

2.    Get dressed properly for the interview though English saying goes ‘You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover," people tend to do that and it is human tendency to do that. So nobody can be blamed and it is wise to act accordingly and go properly dressed for the interview.

Irrespective of whether you believe in this philosophy, the world today revolves around this principle, which is, “Appearance is of great importance. Appearance is the first thing people notice about you and first impressions are usually formed within the first 30 seconds”, says Brenda Ferguson Hodges, a California based image consultant and career coach. “Appearance affects hiring decisions and plays a major role. You need to wear power outfit ".

3.    You should research the company. You need to know about the position and job description. In the sense you should know about its various branches, it’s owners, directors, products it manufactures or sells or the services it offers and last but not the least it’s clients.  Try to find a company insider from your network to know more information about the position and management expectation from the role, is it a new position/role created, if it’s an existing position why the vacancy created, company bonus & promotion policy etc. This research is crucial for you to ascertain whether you are fit for job.

A good research will definitely help you to get creative ideas to answer recruiters' questions

4.    You need to be quick at answering.  Avoid hesitation because it creates the doubt about your verbal communication skill.  Sometimes, it might have given a terrible answer and you are in a facepalm moment.

In such circumstances, just take a deep breath, backtrack your words and rephrase your answer. You can even ask for an opportunity to repeat the answer. Certainly I don’t think the interviewer would be upset, instead would appreciate your smooth recovery, instead of a scared look. It will moreover be appreciated because this is an important business skill.

5.    Here is the most important tip i.e. salary negotiation. You should be talking about salary or total cost to company very carefully, in the sense very sensibly. You should never give an impression to your interviewer that you are greedy for money and money is the only criteria for you to take up a job or this particular job, even if this the real reason that you are  looking for a change, you shouldn't show off what is in your mind.

Even if in between the interview the interviewer asks what is the salary you expect?
You should avoid that question by saying that can be discussed later once we mutually agree that I am fit for the job.  You must try in every way to make the interviewer give his or her offer first and this is must for job offer negotiation.

6.    During interview try to project how you progress in your career with time, what skill you have acquired. You should subtly emphasize your skills and experience which are very much required for the position under discussion. You should also figure it out before the interview how you can add value in the position and you need to present or demonstrate those skills during the meeting

Use story to address competency based questions. Always build your story based on a situation/context where you took some definitive actions to accomplish some critical tasks . Explain how your actions and results benefited the business.

In this regard Ramit’s brief case method works wonderfully. You should carry resume, appreciation letters from your old customers and few critical documents which you may present to them to explain some specific points/achievements  to make a positive impact.

7.    You also should prepare for other tricky questions like how you manage the strong criticism from your co-worker, your key weakness, what make you frustrated or how you work in a company with strong matrix culture etc.

Firstly, you should not say you never had a problem with any of your co-workers. You need to tell a story on how you sort out differences with your colleagues in past.

Always mention how you take feedback from your seniors and from your team on how we as a team can do better and what they all expect from you.

Also, craft a story to show you can work in a collaborative way which is a MUST in  a matrix structure . Try to emphasize your skills to win argument with various influencers to take a conclusive decision quickly.

Have you ever left a job interview knowing you completely flopped?

If you feel you have just given the worst interview of your life, don’t just blow it off out of proportions.  There is no hard and fast rule to correct an interview gone wrong, but still you can send a thank-you  email for calling you for an interview. The next best thing you can do is
  •     Briefly explain why the interview didn’t go well.
  •     Stress on the point that you are very much interested in the job.
  •     Request for a second chance or a phone interview.
  •     Ask to refer to your references again.
  •     Forward your well structured resume highlighting your qualifications, problem solving skills & accomplishments which are relevant for this particular opportunity.

Last but not the least be polite at all times in the interview, be honest and ask questions where required. This is important to enable yourself to understand whether you are the right fit for the job as well as whether the company is right for you and how it’s going to be working for the company in question.

In summary, be polite, ask questions and be honest because this is another great place to do networking with people. Remember, you need to figure it out whether you are fit for the job, company for your own self interest.

About Mala - She is qualified HR professional,career psychologist & has 25 years of experience in career consulting, job interview coaching, resume & LinkedIn profile editing. Subscribe to Mala's online coaching to get the secret of success for interviews at  top-tier companies like Microsoft, Google, GM, Goldman, McKinsey and other extra-ordinary companies. She works closely with  Mr. Ramit (Author of I Will Make You Rich), Fred Ball (career coach) & other internationally famed expert.

You can set up a 20 minutes call with her where she will assess your skills and advice you based on your particular situation or you can connect with her in Linkedin.

Latest news on job interview software

1) David Dewey developed ‘Shortlister’ developed at York St John University. This software simulates
real-life interviews, managed liaison and feedback with candidates.

2) Mr. Brown has launched an iTunes app, myPitch, (99¢) for smart phones to help people develop, rehearse and video their answer for "Tell me about yourself".

This article is part of series of our article on "The Rule of The Games" to build your career in corporate or get a promotion.

To get more useful information, visit Passivepanda.com  where James recently published an excellent article on  "99 Interview Tips That Will Actually Help You Get a Job".I found this article is very good for ansering interview questions.

Share  your best answers for the toughest job interview questions below.


Disclaimer : If you buy the book from my link, I will get financial incentive. The profit will be donated to"CRY" - a child welfare organization.

Friday, February 7, 2014

MS Project Tutorial 4 on Tracking Project Plan

Project Tutorial On How To Calculate & Report Percent Completion

I got several requests to publish a tutorial on how should a project plan should be tracked in most realistic way. This is more critical for a development work which follow water fall methods.

Regular tracking of software projects and reporting the aberrations in must for managing the project.

Top 3 reasons how ms project baseline tracking  

1.    To know whether all activities on schedule? If not what’s the estimated impact on critical path and overall budget.

2.    Are all resources engaged and delivering as per plan?

3.    To forecast impact of new CRs on schedule & cost.

Thought tracking of project plan depends on stakeholder needs but more detailed planning demands more work from resources. So, it’s necessary to optimize the tracking details. 

Normally, project manager reports percentage of completion, either at precise values or at increments such as 25, 50, 70, 75, or 100 percent. In this article, we’ll discuss various options to calculate % of work completed assuming task performer is responsible for baseline date.

(1)    % complete calculates based on activity duration.

I use this for fixed duration project. During discussion, I try to get remaining duration required to complete the task and allow MS Project to calculate the % of work completed. Concept of remaining duration for the pending work helps in better cost & time tracking.

(2)    % work complete calculated based on estimated work for the activity.

This calculation depends on task distribution per day. I normally use liner distribution so the formula for % of work calculation is

Expected % work complete= 100% (Expected work to date/ Expected total work)

(3)    % of physical work completed is another option if you do EVM (Earn Value Methodologies). This calculation considers budget at cost and total cost.

Another important tracking method is Schedule variation index which you can use to report RAG status. You should use ms project progress line and status date.You can add a column in your MS project plan to calculate SVI and put a flag against each activity.

Here is the formula for schedule variation index without any cost factor.

SVI = Calculated percent complete/ Expected percent complete

Next lesson on project tutorial , I will show how to customize and a formula to present RAG status against all summary activities.

 Related articles on project tutorial series

  1. 10 Tips for MS Project 13 users 
  2. Best Practices For Building & Tracking MS Project Plan 
  3. MS Project Tutorial 3 - 15 tips to create a project schedule
  4. Top 10 Best Practices for Making an IT Project Successful
  5. Top 7 reasons why large IT projects fail
  6. Microsoft Project tutorial on how to track completion of activity in MS Project plan
  7. What are the necessary skills of a good IT project manager
  8. How to manage project resource calendar in MS Project 13


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Career

How Do You Discover & Speed Up Your Career in 2k14?

Last week I asked Dr. Sumit, President & CIO of Reliance Industry on what improvement I should plan in my career for 2k14.

He smiled and gave a short response "You learn new rules of the game every day".

Here is a brief of our discussion on how to do career planning in his own words.

I have been interviewing at all the IIMs and top business schools in India for the last 3 months - first for summer interns and then for regular placement and I must admit that I am inclined to prefer those candidates who can tell their life's journey and the purpose of that journey consistently.

In my upcoming book titled "Rules of the Game", I take a good look at how and you should be liking yourself and continuously changing yourself till you accept yourself.

What is your Raison d'ĂȘtre?

 What defines your core essence?

 This is your ‘inner brand’. After you have discovered or invented this, the consistent public presentation of the product is creation of ‘outer brand’ ‘you’. A strong brand ‘you’ requires weaving a strong personal narrative about yourself. This is a rule of the game that few have mastered since it has to be real, relevant and repeatable.

Few things that you have to look out for:

  •     How to recognize that you are unique and distinguished from all others, and discover your authentic core essence?
  •     How to internalize personal branding into your personality? How to build the product ‘you’, keep it relevant all the time, and present it well to make it build-to-last?
  •     How important is personal credibility for your brand? How to build and maintain your credibility and character?
  •     What is the importance of networking in finding, creating, maintaining, and propagating your brand? How contributing to the network finds you returns in the long run?

At the end of the day, this is also a game and you need to learn rule of the game.

You will win some and you will lose some opportunities but if you are consciously going about thinking about yourself as a company that has a product (you) and a brand (you), you will go about managing the product and the public perception of this brand continuously. As any marketer will tell you, "a Brand never sleeps".

Do you want to unlock your hidden potential NOW?

Pre order Dr. Sumit's book  on The "Rules Of The Game" now and take control of your career right now for 2k14 and beyond.

Related articles : job interview tips 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Responsibilities Of A Good Project Manager

"Importance Of Having A Certified Project Manager  for Complex IT Transformation projects"

Mr. Vivian, CTO of "QFone", a multinational company, approached us to analyze what is going wrong with one of his ambitions IT transformation projects, asking us to recommend how he can still complete the program so that the business benefits can be realized.

How to become a good project manager
Why  Governance & Transparency  is critical for success of a good Project Manager

Here is the description of the project:

Ideation of the program took place in 2005. Orders were placed to an international company "SOX" who is a dominant player in that market segment for 2008. QFone also appointed "CT", a reputed company, as master system integrator for the program.

SOX stopped the project in 2010 due to quick scope creep, yet resumed in 2011 after a long commercial negotiation. In 2013, only 30% of the project was completed, so the project is once again in hot water. There is a scope increase and it currently requires additional funding.

We started our analysis by interviewing Project Managers of "QFone", "CT" an "SOX".

Let's share our findings on their project and program management skills, then we can analyze what went wrong in this key area.

Here is a great video on how to be a great project manager 

1. Professional Certification in Project and Program Management

PMP certified
Today, between 10% and 11% of job postings for Project Managers require, or prefer, a PMP. The reason is because the holder has, or should have, a reasonably normalized vocabulary and should at least be aware of established best practices.

This does not mean, however, that the holder actually knows how to manage a project in the real world, or is a "good" Project Manager.

In this project, none of the Project Mangers are PMP or PRINCE2 certified.

They have technical operations or business analyst backgrounds. They frequently focused more on how to build a legacy requirement in a new system. There was also no proper agreed upon schedule to be tracked or updated regularly. Today's certified project managers must be familiar with online project management tools like Liquidplanner, ZOHO, Teambox, Lighthouse etc.

Lack of  an integrated plan, fails to give early alarm of critical risks with high probability & takes more time in issue resolution. In  a high demanding work, project manager need to focus on vital view rather than trivial many.

2. Alert and Conscious

A project manager must be action-oriented. They must be dynamic enough to turn their decisions into plans. Most of the time a disaster or failure happens, not because of external chaos, but internal confusion. This was a challenge, since the three Project Managers never seemed to align, so they failed to steer the project in the right direction, instead, choosing to escalate each other.

3. Mentor & Mentees

A good Project Manager needs to be mentored and he should be the mentee of the young Project Managers. This is critical to the success of a Project Manager. During an interview, we finally understood that they have a 'boss', but no formal mentors.

4. Relationship

One of the Project Manager's most important roles is to build relationship. Since this team of Project Managers was unable to build good relationships amongst themselves, the three organizations were never able to fully align. For this reason, they failed to do any work collaboratively.

None of the project managers were socially active or mobile enough to be available to the performing teams. The next critical problem was a lack of availability to a unique decision maker. If Project Manager are not decisive and resolute enough, there will often be issues, scope creep or slippage of schedule.

project manager jobs
Communication is key responsibility of a PM

There was never any formal agreement about a communication plan, except ad hoc preparation of reports. As a best practice, progress reports should be derived from MS Project Plans. Project Managers need to prepare a sample dash board for the decisions taken, decisions required, top issues, top risks, etc.

In summary, all three Project Managers failed to lead the Team/Manage the Team.

In summary, 6 essential skills of a GOOD Project Manager are:

  1. Professional certification in project and program management. Project managers should have great hands on experiences working within ITIL Frameworks apart from formal certification in Prince 2 practitioner certification.
  2. They must be an active person, ready to move around and available for the team.
  3. Should be skillful enough to work in a demanding situation, yet in the most collaborative way.
  4. Must be decisive & resolute in their actions. A good project manager will possess quick sifting abilities, know what to note and what to ignore. They should be able to function easily with horizontal and vertical communication. Project Managers should adhere to predictable communication schedules.
  5. Effective delegation is key for success in project management. 
  6. Should follow direction set by project governance body or project steering committee.

More than anything, a Project Manger should be a Fantastic, Optimistic, Goal-Oriented leader!

However, project manager is in execution or more preciously operation  level. His job is to get instruction from management level and execute.

The major non conformance happened in Management and Governance layer in setting direction, appointment of project manager, instructing the executing team and bring  alignment  between business and various performing teams.

Next article, we'll discuss how & why project management & program management both failed in this project.

Do you want to know how to use Microsoft Project 13 ?

Visit our project tutorial on Micro Soft Project 13.

Related Articles in our Project Tutorial :

1. Top 10 Best Practices for Making an IT Project Successful
2. Top 7 reasons why large IT projects Fail

Leave comments below on how to become a good project manager and project manager jobs

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional in MS Project
Author, Mr. Somon is ITIL Master, COBIT 5 & PMP trainer. He is working as consulting program manager at Nirobi, Keyna.  His primary responsibility is to set up COBIT5 for IT governance & ITIL for service operation, service transition.
He successfully roled out Rational Tool or tracking for requirements, managing story boards in current assignment.

 He has been awarded MVP in projects two times by Microsoft.

He worked with companies like Siemens, IBM for 10 years. He is accredited  trainer from APMG & member of ISACA. He conducts face face to project management certification training on PRINCE2  from his Bangalore office.

Disclaimer ; Please consider this article for information only. Any partial or full resemblance with any real life incidence is accidental coincidence. This article purely reflects my personal opinion only.