On-line projects with YourPMO

Being a lone Project Manager can be very difficult.  You have so much to do and no one to support you.  You want to do a good job and use the best tools but could never quite find the right thing.  We hear all the time that most on-line tools are just glorified diary’s managing tasks and not really supporting project management.  That left you lone PMs with a problem for managing your on-line projects.  So that is why three years ago we launched YourPMO.  Enabling you as a lone PM to use the same tools corporate PMs use.

on-line projects; yourpmo; your pmo

On-line projects with YourPMO 2019

When you use YourPMO for your on-line projects the capabilities are impressive:

  • Methodology and process structures to keep your practices authentic
  • Document management with version control to store all your project materials
  • Built in planning tools and also ability to use MS Project
  • Resource demand analysis provided for you
  • Risk, Issue and change management tools provided
  • Benefits and several options for managing project finances
  • Powerful reporting at project and also portfolio levels
  • Trend analysis tracking as your project develops

So as you can see managing your on-line projects like this is very professional.  But it is also easy to access.  You have the choice of a browser interface or a windows app and can switch between them on different devices.  So you have the flexibility to choose what works best for you at that time.

Truely on-line projects

You can do even more just from your phone or tablet with the new 2019 YourPMO.  Point and click navigation makes it easy to get around.  And you can even edit your Planner content or project piabx templates directly in your browser.

And what is more YourPMO won’t cost you the earth, just £12 a month or £99 per year.  You can find out more about YourPMO including buying options here on it’s own website.

Of course if you have more questions just  let us know.

Collaboration explored

The last five years has seen a huge growth in the number of on-line collaboration tools.  These are often light in nature and little more than shared todo lists.  New customers have often reflected that whilst those things were easy to adopt.  Their users initially found them helpful.  However as organisations got beyond the lowest rungs of maturity they quickly fell into disuse as they didn’t really cover what was needed.  We have unfortunately heard this far to often.  So in this post we look at how PIAB can help you with collaboration and then also move beyond that.

Collaboration aspects

There is such a variation in what this means to customers, we will look at the common areas addressed by these simple tools:

  1. Shared understanding
  2. Open discussion
  3. Task focus
  4. Problem solving

Point and click navigation makes it very easy to find the info you need in the process structure.  That you can also preview most files direct in the browser is great.  So finding and reading things quickly and simply aids shared understanding.  Discussion threads allow users to have open and free form chats around project topics.  Users can even get email notifications if their popular threads are added to. All this file and thread content is indexed so you can search out topics you need.

With a single click users can access the tasks, risks and issues associated with them.  This makes it easy for users to focus on the things most relevant to themselves.

These are all the sort of things that simple collaboration platforms use to support team working.

You can see this exploration of collaboration video here at our YouTube channel, or on our site here.

Maturing beyond just collaboration

Of course PROJECT in a box  goes much further than these simple team collaboration tools.  You can also take advantage of sophisticated planning and resourcing capabilities. Customers also find the reporting at project, programme and portfolio levels a huge benefit.  And those are just the start.


So if you are looking for a tool which is easy to adopt and will deliver great collaboration for your teams but will also support your maturing aspirations then PIAB is the thing for you.


PM capabilities extended

For those of you who are already PIAB users we have great news.  This month sees the launch of the new Version 5.2 for Live Edition and also Enterprise and Small Team editions.  As usual we have prepared some videos to take you through the great new PM capabilities.  If you don’t have too much time there is an intro video.  The intro video is slides and commentary only.

So if you want to know more the other videos take you through each area showing the new PM capabilities in action.

New PM Capabilities – Trend Analysis

This will be great news to many users as we know some of you have been looking forward to this.  PIAB now takes your changes in property data and automatically creates a history of them.  You can they use that history data to produce live trend analysis.  You can also use trend analysis in reports at project and portfolio levels.  There is a choice about the types of displays for reporting including timelines, status bars and value panes.

Other new PM capabilities in version 5.2

We have provided a new set of report templates so you can use trend analysis immediately.  These 61 report templates therefore allow you to run off the shelf or to personalize for your own needs.

trend analysis; project trends;history; portfolio trends;pm capabilities

We know many of you have been taking a deep interest in the new Practical Scrum method.  This is included in the release free for all active customers.

We have also provided other new capabilities in the security and integration areas.  These are always popular with corporate customers.

Adopting the new PM capabilities

This 5.2 version will be the launch platform for all new Enterprise or Small Team Edition customers and also Live Edition services.  Customers with current maintenance cover can upgrade as soon as they want.  Other customers will need to renew their maintenance contracts to upgrade to Version 5.2.

If you have any questions about this process or want a private walk through just let us know.


Daily scrum meetings – practical scrum

We have had a few posts about scrum over the last few months.  We launched our Practical Scrum method earlier this month and it is authentically Agile whilst corporate friendly.  In this post we are going to look at another agile topic; the Daily scrum meeting.  The Scrum method even gets it’s name from the daily scrums that are at the heart of the active management of the project.  So you might therefore be wondering why we didn’t cover it earlier… and the answer is simple.  You needed to get to grips with the Product Backlog first.

daily scrum; agile; scrum; sprint; stand-up meeting

Daily scrum because it is good to talk, but not too much

You will have other types of meetings in yous project.  Notably your Sprint planning and closing out meetings.  But while your project is running you will have a Daily scrum almost everyday.  I hear some of you groaning…surely not another meeting to have to attend… and every day?  But your Daily Scrums will be different and here are some of the ways in which that is the case:

  • it should be no longer than 15 minutes long
  • usually at the same time and location everyday
  • the whole team attends
  • others may attend
  • only committed team members may speak
  • it is held everyday of a sprint
  • most often this is a standing meeting

See I told you it would be different.

Your daily scrum focuses on coordination and progress towards the end of the Sprint. Review of the Burndown Chart being probably the most important aspect of this. Each team member then answers the same three questions:

  1. What you did yesterday?
  2. What you will do today?
  3. Are there challenges putting your delivery at risk?

This meeting is not a status meeting, to see why that is important  read more here. Smaller groups may meet to replan or address challenges immediately after the Daily Scrum has finished but this won’t be the whole team.

Helping you run a good Daily Scrum meeting

So of course when we developed Practical Scrum we wanted to make it easy to support Daily scrum meetings.  The product backlog template creates a burndown chart for the current sprint which is great.  You can also use the Sprint stories list in the product backlog as a basis for your scrum stand-up.  Because we built a traditional schedule into Practical scrum you also have a great timeline for planned activities.  Your Issue and risk registers will also assist to identifying and addressing challenges.

Of course all of this is available for free to users of Practical scrum in Community Edition and Planner.  You can sign up and download that now and use it forever.

If you use Practical Scrum on our multi-user tools you will also be able to generate a Daily scrum report. This new report is great for bringing together all the info you need to run your Daily scrum meeting.  It is produced into word so you can annotate it with discussions and save it to your report library.

Product Backlog – driving Scrum

We all know what at the heart of a well run Scrum Project there will always be a Product Backlog.  So when we started working on the Practical Scrum method creating one was a high priority.  We wanted to support you with great Scrum practice and also give you flexibility.  That could be a difficult challenge but by using a spreadsheet backlog we have managed it.  So if you are new to Scrum you can use our provided Product Backlog.  And if you already have a well proven popular template, just simply swap your in.  You get this flexibility because the method is templates and changes are easy.  Hence no need for database recoding if you want to add a field or change a calc.

Product Backlog features

First of all we have made the backlog focus around stories.  Because these feel natural and are easy for everyone to understand.  The backlog has space to explain the story and also a field for storing a link to an expanded story.  Because sometimes that extra detail is really useful.  Each story goes through an assessment phase including effort estimation

This is your product backlog of unassigned stories. The template supports both entire product and sprint levels in the one file which makes it easy to rejig and move stories when sprint planning.  Each sprint consists of your chosen set of stories with a resource pool and timescale for delivery.

product backlog; scrum; burndown chart; free

Now your sprint is up and running.  So each day you will be updating the template.  You will be estimating the remaining work needed to complete the planned activities.  The Product backlog template rolls these estimates up to produce your burndown chart.  The template also creates the other stats you need to monitor progress.

As the Product Backlog is a spreadsheet editing will be familiar.  You also won’t need internet access to work on the file.

Getting your free Product Backlog tool

Practical Scrum including the free Product backlog tool is available for use by anyone on our Community Edition tool.  This will be launched in the next few days and available here to download for free.  Customers of our commercial tools can also add on Practical scrum for free from their user accounts.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on the Product backlog why not take a look at the video on You tube here.  Of course you could email us and we might be convinced to give you pre-release access.

Practical scrum – fitting your corporate frame

So in the last post we talked about Scrum and how it delivers well in dynamic situations.  Scrums focus on getting the best possible product with the resources provided is what makes it good.  However this and other aspects of Scrum can make it  less popular to your management.  So at PROJECT in a box we have developed Practical Scrum.  This will help you get the best of Scrum and keep your management happy at the same time.

Practical Scrum; Scrum

Pure Scrum often doesn’t sit well in an organisation context

Generic Scrum has a number of less popular aspects from a corporate perspective, here are the key ones:

  • Before the project starts there is no sense of sanction and approval
  • Business cases and benefits assessments are not always used
  • Minimal documentation is seen as a positive
  • Traditional project controls are not always used
  • Comparable reporting and portfolio management is more difficult

Practical Scrum ticks all the boxes

So lets look through these and see how the new Practical Scrum method helps address these.

Our Practical Scrum method starts with a launch process.  This additional process is used to set up the project and establish confidence .  Upon receipt of a Mandate the Product Owner would lead the creation of a Business case and Benefits statement.  The team would also prepare normal project controls like risk and issue registers and schedules.  Having taken the project through this Launch the organisation can be confident the project is viable.

The team will also be able to report on their progress in-line with the organisations norms.  Without the consistent  controls types like plan, risks, issues, benefits it is hard to fit Scrum projects in with other projects in the portfolio.  This will raise confidence about these projects from within the PMO. Because the PMO will have real time access to latest data and be able to compare and combine Scrum and non-scrum projects.

If the project looks like it might be failing, it will be possible to stop it early.  A clear business case and benefits statement allows such choices to be transparent.  Without clear benefits to test the project against it could grind on delivering the best it could with the resources even though that end product was overall not going to deliver enough benefits to justify it.  The organisation can then decide to finish or reassign the resources to other projects which may deliver higher benefit outcomes.

Practical Scrum is yours for free

Anyone can use the Practical Scrum method for free.  Simply download our free Community Edition tool and use it alongside the other available methods.  Our commercial customers can also add this method to their existing library of methods for free.  You can then use it to create and run as many projects as you want.  You can use it for free forever.

To see Practical Scrum in operation have a look at our latest YouTube video here.  In the next few days all Community Edition downloads and patches will contain Practical Scrum.

Scrum – Introduction and overview

Scrum is a methodology for delivering a project.  It is an agile approach to projects, and to be clear agile means light of foot, not light on documents.  You might like to use it when your project has some degree of uncertainty in it.  Thats because like other agile methods Scrum helps you find your way to an optimal solution as the project develops.

Scrum vs traditional projects

In a ‘traditional’ project we should plan significantly upfront to try and fix the time, cost, quality/scope.  We would then try to deliver what we had planned.  If circumstances change you revise your plans and that can lead to pausing or reworking deliverables.   Also because the project usually doesn’t come together until the end, once started you have to keep going.  That approach can result in overruns in time and cost to get a usable deliverable.

scrum, scrum methodology, scrum vs traditional, time cost quality, time cost scope

Scrum takes a completely different approach to the project life-cycle.  You instead aim to fix the time and cost only. Your focus is now to use those fixed resources to get the best possible scope/quality.  In essence we prepare a wish list for the project and we breakdown the end product into bite sized elements.  You then rank each of these for importance and support with minimal documentation.  This is called the Product Breakdown and is at the heart of the methodology.  Rather than planning the whole project you pick a group of the most important aspects.  This is your Sprint Backlog and the aspects are delivered as a ‘Sprint’.  Each sprint must produce a usable product, even if it is only a prototype.  Once the first sprint is complete you move on to the next one in turn.

Scrum and Sprints

Your sprints will be between one week minimum and one month maximum in duration and in essence are a mini project.  Each Sprint starts with a Sprint planning meeting to plan how to deliver that Sprint backlog.  Your sprint has a portion of the time and cost( resource) of the project allocated to it.  Each working day starts with a ‘Daily Scrum’ where the entire team meet to review their work and tweak plans.  These daily scrums are brief and the review of work done/remaining feeds the ‘Burndown Chart’.

Your Burndown chart is a quick guide to how you are progressing on the Sprint.  If your Sprint is behind burn you might drop a lower priority activity back to the Product backlog.  If your Sprint is ahead you may promote an activity from Product Backlog into the sprint.  You never let a sprint over or under run its time and cost/resource budget.

At the end of the Sprint you hold Review and Retrospective meetings.  Your Sprint Review looks at the work done and feeds back information including estimates into the product breakdown.  Your Sprint Retrospective looks at how Scrum is being used and any possible improvements.

Scrum Roles

There are three key roles on a scrum project they work together for the success of the project.

Product Owner – There is just one product owner and they own the Product backlog and priority decisions within it.  The Product Owner may of course take input from others but they are the ultimate arbiter of decisions.

Team member – Usually between five and ten team members to allow for simple and good communications.  Team members undertake the work and own the estimates for the product breakdown activities.  They contribute to all the sprint meetings.

Scrum Master – There is one scrum master and they are neither Product owner nor one of the Team member roll sharing.  The Scrum Master is responsible for maintaining good scrum practices on the project.

More about Scrum

Hopefully you like what you hear about scrum, it is certainly a popular approach in the IT sector and gaining traction in other areas too.  In particular where flexibility is important.  So with the increasing way that change is the only constant, scrum becomes increasingly applicable in other areas.

You can read more about the methodology in the free guide provided by the originators.

practical scrum, scrum methodology

Soon you will be able to try it for yourself with the new Practical Scrum methodology we are launching.  This will be available across the full range of our products from free Community Edition through to Live Edition.

Customise your RAID log

So often we hear users saying how project software tools have set ways of doing things.  The sort of annoying restrictions that prevent them from matching their required policies.  We know that although most teams have similar approaches to risk and issue management, there are still differences to handle.  That is why Planner gives you control over these things.  So whether you are using it in RAID log, risk or Issue Register mode, you can set the lists.

RAID log, Risk or Issue Register or just a Plan?  Your choice

We have talked before in these posts about how Planner supports you with risks, issues and tasks.  You are in control about which of these you choose for each Planner file.  So you can have one .spn file as a RAID log if you want combining risks, issues, action and decisions.  You can then also have a separate .spn file as a schedule/plan only if you want.  Of course you can also have all three in the same file which is very popular for smaller/simpler projects.  All this is possible because Planner allows you to choose the data types used in each file.  When you are setting up your own method this gives you flexibility about who you allow to update each type of data.  Once you have made your choices you can even lock this with the password protection.

RAID log;risk and issue register customisation

Customising the content of your Registers or RAID log

Whilst most organisations have roughly the same approach to risk and issue management there are always subtle differences.  They might calculate risk ratings or group their issues differently.  Planner handles all this allowing you to make the following changes:

  • Risk category groupings
  • Risk rating calculation
  • Colour bands for risk ratings
  • Issue types
  • Issue Priorities
  • Total status choices for plan, risk and issues
  • Risk and Issue status entries and colours
  • Response types and statuses

RAID log; customization or risk register and issue register

Of course our standard Planner templates are not password protected so you can adjust these to fit your needs.  However when thinking about setting them up to support consistent collection of data across an organisation you are likely to want to lock them.  When you adjust the .spn files in your method like this and password protect them you can be confident you are collecting consistent data from all your projects.  That will really help you with reporting and analysis and growing your maturity ratings.

Getting hold of Planner to improve your RAID logs

Planner is totally free and always will be. You can use it forever both personally and in corporate situations, in fact many organisations have adopted it as their default planning tool.

Simply sign up here to download your copy today.  You can see this customisation in action in the latest Planner Masterclass video here on our You Tube channel.

Planner using calendars instead of Gantts

We all know how important planning is to a successful project.  Therefore even for small projects it is always good to have a plan.  Planner is about as easy as it gets when it comes to planning tools.  However still some users cannot read the simple gantt charts produced.  We put the Planner Calendars feature in to help address this and it has been proving very popular.

Planner calendars instead of Gantt Chart

You simply select the calendar tab in Planner to see all your tasks showing on the calendar display.  You can easily see which day the task starts on and finishes on.  Each task will also be coloured in-line with the instructions in the current view, so Milestones are usually black, tasks red etc.  Your Planner calendar display can either monthly and weekly.  So if you have lots of tasks on a particular day it makes it easier to see them.  You simply click on the task to open and edit or read it. Planner also gives you some information on hover if you want it.

When you are working in Planner the calendar display can also show the risk and issue responses from the same Planner file.

Planner Calendars

Planner calendars exported to Outlook

As well as using the Planner calendars directly in the tool you can also export them as an .ics file.  You can then use this .ics file to load the task info into Outlook.  You do this by simply dragging the .ics file onto the Outlook Calendar tab.  Of course because of the Views in Planner it is possible to create .ics files with different sets of data in them.  you can therefore create the tasks for Supplier A, rather than all suppliers.  This calendars functionality is unrivalled for many Planning tools and incredible for a free planning tool like Planner.

planner calendars; outlook integration

Find out how to use Planner calendars

We have prepared a video walk through of this which you can see here in YouTube.

Of course you can  download Planner from here for free and use it for as long as you wish.

This forms a part of our set of Planner Masterclasses:

1 – Project Analysis, 2 – Reporting, 3 – Calendars



Free project reporting – Planner does it again

For most organisations project reporting seems like a huge challenge.  Often they spent lots of time and money on systems to try and make it work.  But in practice they could be missing a simple hack to fix it.  And even better that solution could be free.  So how do they get free project reporting and improvements in quality at the same time?  Their answer is rather simple, Planner.

Free project reporting

As you will have seen in previous posts Planner is great at collecting information about Plans, tasks, costs, risks, issues and changes.  We also looked in the last blog post at how views can give project analysis outputs.  You can use all this in producing your free project reporting.  Planner gives you two ways of producing the reports, either standard to print or manual.

Lets look at standard to print first.  Here you use the print options form to choose which content you want and also to set style. You can choose the mix you want of tasks, risks, issues and calendar and milestones timelines.  Using your current view in each area those data blocks will be packaged into a document for printing.  Or of course you might choose to print to PDF instead.  This approach is quick and hassle free but limits the report to one block of each type.

If you use the manual approach,  you can assemble your own report in Word or Excel with as many sections/blocks as you want.  This will take you a bit longer but give you the same sort of outputs  for free that our commercial users obtain.  Choose your preferred view in the data area and then right click to copy as either image or data table.  You can then simply paste where you want in your report.  With this you can change view and copy paste again.  Thus you can have many different types of analysis in the same report, just like commercial customers get.

free project reporting; project management reports

Our helpful Planner masterclass video takes you through all of this.  You can see it here on You Tube or on this site here.

Free project reporting forever

Planner is free and it isn’t a trial.  And because it is a product you download and install on your laptop once you have it you can continue to use it forever.  Your reports will look much better and those dangerous quality errors will have been eliminated.  So why not share these benefits with your colleagues, you could all be using Planner to deliver better project reports.

You can sign up for your free Planner download here.