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Monday, December 22, 2014

Why Failures are Good For You?

 Ups & down are the paths of life. I too experience a fair share of that.

I know the feeling of failure is how devastating. Over the years, I learned why it is called failures are failures of success.
Here are 5 reasons 
  1. You went for it instead of just sitting around envying others or having a pity party.
  2. You proved that you have characteristic traits like courage, determination, patience, willingness, initiative and a bunch more.
  3. You made yourself vulnerable, which later will make you powerful. Just watch!
  4. You completed something – because you can’t fail until you get to a certain point where you determine if you have won or lost. So you have completed something but the results were not in your favor. Still, you get points for completion.
  5. You decided that it was worth trying something and failing instead of not trying at all. This is huge.
Share your opinon

Sunday, December 21, 2014

3 Tips for success in customer facing role

What I learnt after working as a customer facing executive program manager?

1. Let customers know you in person  - Make sure you are in touch with them. Talk to them. It doesn't matter how sincere you are unless your customer feel that & believe that.

2. The customer should know how to reach you - Customer should able to reach you the moment they think they need you. This gives a confidence to customer that you are with them. This will help you to avoid several escalations to your seniors.

3. Offer your expertise  & advices without being pushy - Give suggestions and try to lead them in the best possible way instead of trying to just manage them.

Golden Rule : Please note Escalation doesn't help, but talk & sincere listening helps.

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