Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: project management

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to project management.

Project Calendars and Gantt Charts: What’s the difference and when to use them?

Project Calendars and Gantt Charts: What's the difference and when to use them?Project Managers use a number of tools to keep projects moving and deliver a solution to the client on time and on budget, with scheduling tools being one of the most important. While there are a variety of options, Wrike states that the two most common are traditional project calendars and Gantt charts. An article by Kat Boogaard says that the tools are similar and neither is necessarily better than the other; however, there are three distinct differences: appearance, usability, and function.

The difference in appearance is obvious — a project calendar looks like a traditional calendar where Gantt charts provide a visual representation of the project timeline. Naturally, then, usability follows as the next distinction since Gantt charts are less intuitive. Using a Gantt chart can create extra work in getting a team up-to-speed, especially when some are unfamiliar with the format. Function is the more complex difference, as Boogaard explains that each can have its own purpose. Here is what she recommends:

Use a Project Calendar When:

  • You only need an overview of key ideas: It’s easy to clearly notate things like go-live dates, meeting dates and crucial milestones.
  • You want something simple to share with other stakeholders: For example, the board of directors may just need to know a few select dates or the client might only have time to a quick glance for the crucial facts.
  • You need to schedule a meeting: Meetings are a necessary evil in projects but rarely displayed easily on a Gantt chart.

Use a Gantt Chart When:

  • You need to understand dependencies between tasks: It’s important to know what tasks will impact others for you to plan a realistic schedule.
  • You need to identify your project’s Critical Path: A traditional calendar simply can’t trace the longest line of dependent tasks. Gantt charts make it easier to know where you have wiggle room.
  • You need to manage multiple projects at once: Say good by to multiple calendars and layer different projects to get an understanding of how they overlap.

Again, the author highlights that neither of these tools are superior than the other, they just need to be used at the appropriate times. In fact, Boogaard suggests that they often complement one another and recommends using both. If you’re a Project Manager, which do you prefer to use? Or, when you’re working on any project, which do you prefer your PM shows to you?

What a Road Trip Can Teach Us About Leadership

When you set off to find an adventure in your car, you develop a plan (your map route), find your team (your co-riders), create an agenda (set mini-goals), and prepare for breakdowns (unexpected outcomes). Road trips can teach us many lessons on how to lead a project and become a better leader, even if we do not recognize this right away. 

Enduring on a road trip takes leadership skills, including adapting to unforeseen circumstances, communication, and collaboration, learning from your mistakes, mapping out a goal to your destination and more. Those who celebrate the successes of a road trip will soon notice they have acquired leadership skills they can use in other aspects of their lives. Whether it is leading a meeting or leading your family, these skills from a road trip will come in handy.

CarRentals has created a guide to 8 leadership lessons that we can take away from road trips to apply to our daily life and work life. Learn each skill in detail and become a better leader by recognizing your successes when you have road tripped.

Leadership Lessons Learned From Road Trips

Requirements Management for Dummies

Project teams come in all shapes and sizes and budget sometimes constrains how many professionals can be hired. It is not uncommon for people to wear many hats especially in small organizations. This means the project may lack a dedicated, experienced Business Analyst with skillsets that include Requirements Management. Instead, the task could land on you!

Once you’ve been through a few projects, you begin to understand the Requirements Management process but do you understand all of the little details? This infographic from Business Analyst Learnings outlines the steps to managing requirements in an IT project and if you click-through to the original page, it presents even more details. Is there any advice you can add to this, based on your own business analysis experiences?

Infographic: How to Management Requirements Effectively

How to Deal with Difficult People on Software Projects

It takes all kinds of people to make the world work. Teams filled with different personalities, approaches and ways of thinking are the reasons for the incredible innovations that humans have created over time. If you’ve ever been on one of these teams, you know that there is also a downside — difficult people. For all the strengths and benefits that diversity brings to a team, it’s impossible to avoid clashing personalities.

Difficult people are especially easy to find throughout a software project. Product Managers, Designers, Project Managers, Development Managers, Developers and QAs come in all sorts of forms. Regardless of your role in the team, you need to know how to work with each one in order to achieve that common goal you all share.

Earlier this year, a team member received a newsletter from Recruiting Brainfood that contained a link to this fun, interactive page by Neil on Software. It’s embedded below so you can play around, or visit the page directly to get the complete experience. If you’ve been walking on egg shells because of an angry co-worker or pulling your hair out trying to get a teammate to do their part, this tool is your answer.

Why Software Projects Fail (and what you can do about it)

Why Software Projects Fail (and what you can do about it)IT professionals, project managers and software developers accept that failure is a natural part of innovation. In fact, a survey published a couple years ago by Geneca found that 75% of software projects will fail. That’s a high number!

While accepting failure is a natural part of a successful IT organization’s culture, leaders also have to be aware that some failure is preventable and comes with high costs. This is one reason they hire IT contractors — experts in their field that should minimize the risk on a project. As great as that is for your ability to hike your rate a bit, it also puts more pressure on you.

Thomas Smale, founder of FE International, recently published an article for Entrepreneur that discusses 6 common reasons a software project fails. Have a look to see if there are any ideas you can bring back to your client next time you’re called in to help make a project successful:

  1. Insufficient time to complete the project
    This is usually caused by companies having unrealistic and arbitrary deadlines because they’re in a rush to get the project completed. It is suggested to do enough planning upfront that will give developers all of the scope and parameters to work most efficiently.
  2. Inadequate planning
    Speaking of planning, that’s the second overall reason projects fail according to Smale. Lack of time, staff, resources and budget all can cause things to go wrong. He recommends senior management stay involved from start to finish so if inevitable change happens during the project, sign-off is quick, informed, and easy.
  3. Unclear project requirements
    Again, planning becomes a keyword, but this time, enough upfront conversation among all users so developers have a clear understanding about what they need to do.
  4. Too many people assigned to the project
    Logically, more help should speed things up, but Smale cautions that it can result in failure. On top of higher costs, there are more opportunities for misunderstandings, unclear communications, or inconsistent code.
  5. Lack of testing
    As time starts to slip (usually due to lack of planning), testing can be the first casualty, resulting in broken features, crashes or security breaches. It is instead suggested to test each component as it is completed throughout the entire development lifecycle.
  6. Failure to find a good project manager
    If you’re Project Manager, you have probably have experience entering into a broken project. This may be due to an incompetent consultant or because the company assigned the task to an internal person without the experience. It’s important to recognize the early signs of poor project management so it can be rectified before the project goes completely sideways.

As you read through the 6 points above, it should come as no surprise to you that failure to plan is a root cause of many software project disasters. Therefore, understanding a client’s plan (or if they have one at all) is always encouraged before a project begins and a quality question to ask your recruiter. What kind of software project failures have you seen?

Fix the Poor Attitudes and Negativity That are Destroying Your Project

Picture this — you just started a project with a client you’ve been looking to get into for years. The rate is fantastic, the contract is the perfect length, the work is exciting and the entire experience is going to look amazing on your resume. But when you meet your team for the first time, you quickly learn that it is a toxic mess filled with negative attitudes, childlike behaviour and terrible moods.

As this detailed infographic from Quill.com points out, there are a variety of behaviours and attitudes that can foster such an environment. Not only do they lower productivity, they destroy the morale in a team and drastically set a project back. Fortunately, the infographic also has some great ideas for both dealing with bad attitudes, and also preventing yourself from falling into the same trap.

Fix the Poor Attitudes and Negativity That are Destroying Your Project

What is a Gantt chart?

Love’em or hate’em, when a project has many tasks that need to be completed within a given timeline, using a Gantt chart is frequently the best way to stay organized, on track, and on time. Plus, it provides a superior visual for how long the project is going to take, understand bottlenecks and foresee potential problems.

Have you ever stopped for a second and thought “I wonder how the Gantt chart was created?” Probably not, but we’re going to tell you anyway! According to this infographic from Wrike, the Gantt chart was created in the early 1900s to manage batch production in machine shops. Today, IT contractors and project managers in all industries are using this handy tool.

What is a Gantt Chart? #infographic
Wrike Project Management Software

The Painful Truth of Progress Updates from People with No Idea

You probably recall previous TDC posts with comedy sketch videos titled “The Expert” from Lauris Beinerts. One was about being a subject matter expert and the other about working with clients. Now there is another take on office life in the form of progress meetings. It’s yet another look at how navigating through tech projects as an IT expert and working with your clients isn’t always the easiest thing.

Watch the video for a good laugh to end off your week!

10 Steps to a Successful Project Kick-Off

Much like a football kickoff, the project kickoff is the most important part of a project. The success of a football game stems from a productive kickoff. Similarly, as a project manager, the tone you set at the beginning of a project can make or break you.

But don’t worry because Wrike has you covered with 10 steps to a successful project. With these steps you can nail your kickoff and your team can start the project on a positive and motivated note.

10 Steps to a Kickass Project Kickoff: A Checklist for Project Managers (#Infographic)
Infographic brought to you by Wrike

The Top Online Project Management Tools

The Top Online Project Management ToolsEvery great professional, in any trade, requires tools to guarantee their work is done with as much efficiency and quality as possible. IT Project Managers are no exception to this rule and need to ensure they’re using the right tools.

Often, it is the client who makes the decision about which tools will be used; however, if your contract requires you to manage this piece, or they ask your opinion, it’s best to be prepared. For these situations, this article from FinancesOnline recommends you stick with cloud-based, online project management tools. While they understand every situation is different, the article lists five main advantages for sticking with online tools:

  • Unobstructed access to information
  • Facilitated onboarding
  • Focus on collaboration
  • Configuration
  • Affordability

If you’re sold on the idea, but unsure where to start, the article goes on to rank its 20 preferred online project management tools as follows:

  1. Wrike
  2. Asana
  3. Taskworld
  4. Basecamp
  5. Zoho Projects
  6. Smartsheet
  7. Nutcache
  8. Bitrix24
  9. Clarizen
  10. Trello
  11. Podio
  12. JIRA
  13. Teamwork
  14. ProWorkflow
  15. Easy Projects
  16. KanbanFlow
  17. dapulse
  18. Projectplace
  19. Mavenlink
  20. Taiga

Do you have a preference in project management tools? If so, please share it with our readers in the comments below. We’re eager to hear your reviews!