Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Project Managers: Who Needs 'Em?

Interesting article with the above title written by Rebecca Waters and published at Exec Digital.

Rebecca gives a short history of project management and discusses what it is that a project manager can bring to a project in terms of skills and a dedicated approach - by which she means that they don't have to dedicate any time to 'the day job'.

Lots of people managing projects in colleges and universities are not so lucky as to be dedicated to just the project. If you are in that situation, then having a structured methodology can help you in terms of giving you a framework to remind you to consider various aspects that can be missed.

A framework prods you to think about 'x' or to consider 'y'. It doesn't demand that you laboriously write down in triplicate, or fill out template documents for every little thing. What it does do is ask you to consider whether you need to write something down, depending on whether you are likely to forget because the project is a long one (over ten minutes means I should write stuff down!); whether anyone else will need to know it, given the likelihood of you not being there, or whether they will need the information more quickly than finding you and asking you would take.

If such a framework would benefit you, JISC infoNet have one available for free within their P3M infoKit.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

What Is The Real Risk?

I've had a new experience today - using Dimdim to deliver a presentation to an online web conference. The session I was delivering was a one-hour session on Risk Management for JISC Regional Support Centre (RSC) in the West Midlands.

And whilst the delegates were dispersed all over the West Midlands, I could see a list of who was logged in at any point and we could communicate via a chat window, so I could pose simple questions and I had an audio link so delegates could hear me speaking to the PowerPoint slides.

A quick look at the chat window shows that there was a mix of comments and questions, some of which I answered verbally and some examples of delegates giving examples for points I had made. Anne D's "Like snow in May in the UK" was in response to me saying, "no matter how small the probability, a risk might still happen." I wonder what the risk of Anne D having an interesting weather day was this morning...!

The RSC backed up the session in their Moodle Virtual Learning Environment and I stayed online for an hour afterwards to pick up questions and answer them, or pose further questions and counter viewpoints.

There were even a few tweets on Twitter (You can find me there as JohnBurke1).

Alison from the RSC posed an interesting question after the session in the Moodle discussion: "I have encountered a problem with Learning Providers who are slow to respond to the Disability Equality Duty. This is now more about making the Learning Provider Proactive and reducing the risk to them and producing a more resilient environment. However it's getting over the importance of this as AI issues isn’t at the top of everyone’s agenda. Any ideas?"

My answer was, "This is I suspect, a case of organisations only looking at the obvious risks and not all of them. The obvious risk is that of being sued against the Act if they don't comply and someone takes issue. Probability very small indeed and impact is an easily affordable fine.

However, you may need to help them identify other associated risks - loss to reputation from someone who has enrolled but had continued problems who might go to the press, affecting reputation, people with disabilities becoming aware of the approach and avoiding the organisation en masse.

Either of these are affected by other external factors. For instance if your local MP had fiddled his expenses to the tune of £100 would you have cared ordinarily? But at the moment, given all the national publicity...

Also if they didn't sue under the act but claimed compensation for having failed their course due to lack of accessibility - could be a huge case!

So if disability was to become topical then news of this type of shortcoming would suddenly be much more in the Public Interest and likely to do more damage to reputation.

So the day has provided me with a good experience of delivering a session using e-Learning and from the comments I received has stimulated a bit of interest fr a full one-day session on Risk Management in the West Midlands region, but most importantly of all, it has made the delegates think about risks and Risk Management in a way that may not have occurred to them before!

Thanks go to Jason Curtis and colleagues at the RSC West Midlands for the invite to speak, to Chrissie Turkington of RSC Northwest for technical support during the session and to the delegates for interacting with me over the Internet!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Public Sector Project Management 2009

Yesterday I attended the Public Sector Project Management 2009 conference at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Chaired by Tom Taylor, Vice President of the Association for Project Management (APM), the conference gave delegates a chance to hear the latest thinking in Portfolio, Programme and Project Management thinking and a chance to network and swap experiences and concerns with their peers and vendors of solutions and training.

Networking was a topic brought up by Eddie Borup, Director of the Best Practice User Group (BPUG). The BPUG holds three large events a year aimed at Project Managers which include plenty of time for face-to-face netowrking.
"I want to hear what experts have to say," he said, "but I want the opportunity to talk to them and ask them questions too."

Much of the conference focussed on new products from the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), in particular the resources on:
  • Portfolio Management (PfM).
    "We will hear a lot about portfolios," said Tom Taylor, commenting on the current economic climate. "You won't be seeing the huge projects we've been used to; there will be lots of small projects run as a portfolio."
  • Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O).
    "It is the last piece in the jigsaw," Lead Author of the OGC materials, Sue Vowler told delegates. The manual has been released and a Foundation qualification has been written. The Practitioner level qualification is in development with a likely curriculum release in the Summer.
  • The new revision of Prince2 is a refinement rather than a re-write.
    "Project Management has grown so quickly over the last 20-30 years that we no longer need to add to our knowledge, we need only to apply it and refine it," Tom Taylor noted.
The conference was sponsored by BPM and staged by Ten Alps Events.