Advanced PM features in the new version 5.3

So today we can tell you all about the new version of PIAB.  Version 5.3 is for Live Edition, Small Team and Enterprise Editions.  It has been quite a while coming but good things are always worth the wait.  And in this case it is no exception.  The advanced PM capabilities are unrivaled in the market.

Dynamic navigation for advanced PM guidance

Users have always found our navigation diagrams great for following a process. Now you can do even more with the diagrams.  And these new facilities will keep your project teams even more focused on doing the right thing.  You can display real time project data from properties directly on the diagram.  This keeps team members in touch with the important info without them having to go searching for it.  Users can also more easily distinguish between different projects which use the same method.

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In addition you can now also offer more targeted links to other features from the diagrams.  This really helps with keeping less experienced users focused on the important aspects of managing projects.

Advanced PM that goes beyond Word Templates

We are all familiar with word templates.  They have many benefits but also quite a few drawbacks.  Our .piabx alternatives to word templates have taken huge steps forward in this release.  Now you can collect new data types including images and links making your template files much more practically useful.  Probably the best new feature though is the ability to edit the form of template files live.  Of course this is password controlled so your templates can remain rigidly fixed if you want, so just content could be added.  But now you can allow users to extend or alter the sections of the template.  This means using blank templates and building new files live in the browser is easy to do.  Therefore users have many more ways they can use these templates in real world situations.

Other advanced PM features in version 5.3

Of course there are other new features including property changes, new reports and a whole set of new methods.

As usual we have prepared launch materials on all of these topics with videos on You Tube as follows:

Intro and overview with slides and commentary (11min).

Exploring Dynamic Navigation (12min).

Investigating .piabx templates (10min).

Property enhancements and new method templates (16min).

If you want a deeper dive into .piabx then check out the page focused just on that.  Where we have prepared a .piabx training programme of videos.

Custom Project Process – Four simple steps

The benefits of a personalized process can be huge, as we discussed in the last post.  So now we can move on from the generalities and look at the specifics.  In this post we show you the four steps to creating your own custom project process.

custom project process;personalised methodology;project management; high maturity

Custom Project Process – step 1 – Process

The first thing you will do is to define your process.  This will involve you deciding the steps, phases or processes in the methodology.  Of course usually you will be working from an agreed standard for your organisation.  Next comes choosing which documents you want to appear in each process step.  Your documents are each a complete set of files on a topic and can appear in multiple processes.  Some of your documents may have templates or others may be empty and you will collect files as you progress through the project.  You might for instance use a correspondence or approvals document like that.

Of course there is more to defining your process than this and you can find out all about that in the video here on our You Tube channel.

Custom Project Process – step 2 – Navigation

It is likely that your next step will be setting up the navigation for your process.  PROJECT in a box is unique here with the ability to use any diagram as the background to your navigation.  You then set up instruction boxes on top of the diagram.  Each of these click areas has a function associated with it.  You can use any mix or multiples of the following four types:

  • Process – link to one of the above processes for a set of documents and files
  • Image – link to a different image to drill down or provide further features
  • Hyperlink – to link to other functionality or web pages like guidance
  • Function – to open one of the menu item functions from the system navigation.

When you mix these together with your own diagram this becomes the heart of your custom project process.  You can find out more about how this innovative step works with our You Tube video here.

Custom Project Process – 3 – Info Panels

Just as you added navigation boxes to the diagram above, info panels can also be added.  So your info panels can display live property data from your project directly on the diagram.  You could use this to show the project name or status or values such as number of risks.  Customers can also set these up to display interpreted data in their custom project process.  So you can show coloured icons like traffic lights to reflect say the risk level or number of overdue tasks.

All our new methods for 2020 have these head up displays built into the project process.  So when you open the project you see these key metrics immediately.  You can find out more about how these work here in the 4th of our You Tube videos.

Custom Project Process – 4 – the finishing touches

With your process, navigation and info panels complete most people will think that is everything set for your custom project process.  But you can do so much more with your method if you want to. These are just some of the other things you can set in method manager for your method:

  • Property insertion to your templates
  • Blocks of data you want to have available for reporting
  • Look up lists
  • Customised permissions models
  • Aliasing of key terms

You really do have exceptional control over the structure of your projects from this method template approach.  See more about your finishing touches in the You Tube video here.

 

So now you are ready to go and create your custom project process?  You could be but if it would help to discuss it with us then feel free.  We are always happy to help customers with this as it is a complex area and there are so many possibilities to end up spoilt for choice.  Just contact us if it helps.

Personalized methodology gives your projects focus

So many project management systems don’t think about process.  And most of those that do have a single fixed idea of the process.  So imagine being able to use multiple different processes in the same system.  Then imagine you can use the ones provided or set up your own personalized methodology.  And these can include reporting, graphics and even permissions differences. Now you start to see how PROJECT in a box users feel.  We call this spec of how your project should be a ‘Method Template’.  Of course you can use our popular off the shelf method templates if you want.  But you can also personalize them or create your own bespoke methods to match the needs of your organisation.

personalized methodology

Personalized methodology – first steps

Many customers start by using our popular off the shelf methods to create their first projects.  You can take these and give them your own look and feel by following these simple steps:

  • Change our existing templates for your own.  So you can have your Business case or Work Package document containing the fields and language you prefer.
  • Add your own branding.  All you have to do is change the default navigation images.  So it is easy for you to use your logo or change colours to match your corporate standards.

We can do these things for you if required.  But you can also do them yourselves, that is the beauty on PROJECT in a box and Method Manager.

Personalized methodology – your own bespoke methods

But that isn’t all.  Perhaps you want a different language? or different processes? new content? less content? more or less functional prompts for the users? Gates in your process? or Managers to see different things to team members? Of course all of these are possible.  When you use Method Manager to create (or alter) a method template you can do all of these things.

Of course this doesn’t mean anyone can adjust the project process.  Only Admin permissioned users have access to method templates and you also decide who can install Method Manager.  With Method Manager you can truly own the process you want users to follow and even evolve it over time. So that personalized methodology you have been dreaming of is finally within reach.

We have started a new series of videos showing you around Method Manager.  You can see the first intro one here on YouTube with more to come soon working through the detail step by step.

If you have any other questions just ask.

Digital transformation that makes a difference

For many organisations project management has always been a black art.  Much has been done over recent years to try and address this.  In particular with the development of methodology and process best practice.  Sending project managers on training courses and the rise in PM qualifications has also helped.  However project management has still lagged behind other aspects in the organisation when it comes to digital transformation.  In this post we take a look at how you can buck the trend and gain major benefits.

Digital Transformation – what is it?

Simply put it is taking your manual activities and making them digital.  Most organisations have already done this with things like finances and stock control but relatively few with their PM.  So to be clear we are not talking about AI and robot project managers.  Too much of the PM’s role is about communications and conflict resolution to realistically expect that to be digital.  But there are many parts of a PMs role which can be.

digital transformation;project managment

Digital transformation – quick wins

Big benefits can be gained in the following two areas:

Governance – Define standards for your project processes and then manage these digitally.  When you do this it is then much easier to keep track of compliance.  You will have easier audit and better intervention into problem projects.  You will also be able to switch PMs mid flight if you need to, and that can be huge in a recovery situation.  Whats more your teams will love you for the change.  That single version of the truth cuts down on mistakes and rework.  Team members don’t waste their time trying to find latest versions of things.  Project managers don’t have to chase for status updates, saving their valuable time.

Reporting – Your system assembles reports for you in real time from its existing data.  Reporting is usually a major part of the PMO and PMs role, it takes up a lot of their time and energy.  Delays in issuing reports are common when the process is manual, as it takes a long time.  Your management are therefore always making decisions based on old data not current data. Also however careful people are mistakes also inevitably creep in to manual reports.  When people work with so much data and calcs it is almost impossible to avoid.  Of course when the system generates reports it removes error and gives real time results. And you will end up with much better looking reports, such as our Project Statement or Weekly review.  Giving you double the reporting with no extra effort.

Further benefits of digital transformation

Project management expertise is a precious resource in most organisations so having it spent doing menial tasks is a real waste.  When you digitise these tasks you also free that resource to tackle the more complex parts of their job.  So your PMs will have more time for communications and resolving conflict to give you more successful projects.  Or of course they can manage multiple projects where before they could only manage one at a time.

Your next steps towards the benefits of digital transformation

This is the first post in a series on digital transformation. We will be posting more videos and guides on how you can do this over the coming weeks.  Our team are also appearing in the upcoming Sky Business Digital transformation documentaries.  We will also be linking to copies of those in our You Tube channel.

Tips on how to kick start a project

Tips on how to kick start a project

Starting a project can be difficult sometimes. So to help get you started, here are some useful key tips. As a subscriber to the PROJECT magazine , we have taken in some useful tips from the article ‘How to kick off a brilliant project’ by Emma De Vita. Lets go through a few, that we find to be the most important.

 

starting a project

Build a cohesive project team

We find that this is one of the most important tips to starting a project. The reason for this is because it is essential that your team get along during risky and stressful times. In order to have a strong team there are certain qualities that are absolutely crucial; trust is one of the main key qualities that any team should have. This is massively beneficial because it can take time to build a strong team, and you have to have trust in team members. Your team has to be able to work sufficiently together. So having a strong and collaborative team, who have trust in each other, is vital.

Have one clear vision for everyone

In order to have a successful project you and your team should all have the same clear vision for where the project is going. Project managers should always be as clear as possible when explaining the project and events to the team. It is also very important that project managers keep these conversations and their reasons completely relevant and clear. All teams need to be able to have clear visions of achieving the projects aims.

Set a strong culture and pace

Maintaining a good pace throughout project tasks will be very beneficial to completing your project. This means keeping at a regular tempo and allowing enough time to complete each task. It is also very important that you and your team don’t spend too much time relaxing. Similarly, avoid slacking off and wasting time. Time is the most crucial factor for completing your project. To set the culture, as a manager, you need to show your team just how important the project is. Communication is key. Having anticipation for the end can also be beneficial as it prepares your team right from the beginning. By visualising the end goal and thinking ahead, can help your team understand the upcoming steps of the project.

Using PROJECT in a box enables you to complete these 3 tips to help start up your project. The method template for your project will help your structure your team, establish and communicate your vision and manage the pace of your project more easily. You can find out more about method templates here by reading more or watching the video

If you are new to projects then our Project Management Basics videos will be very helpful, here is starting a project.

Management basics you really need to know

Management Basics

Project management is just another form of management. Sometimes we spend too much time learning the more complex terms and techniques. So as a result it can be easy to forget about the basics. In this post we will revise a few of the key management basics. We have identified these key aims for you as its important for you to be aware of these topics.

management basics

Management basics 1 – Setting Targets

Setting yourself clear targets is one of 3 key management basics to keep a focus on what’s important. By setting targets you’re putting yourself in a motivational state of mind to ensure a solid outcome. When setting targets don’t hesitate to use the KISS principle. After all, simple targets are easier for you to keep up with as they focus on what’s really important in clear stages.

It can be very hard to manage without targets. This means that you’re throwing important tasks around like their outcome doesn’t mean anything. This is something you will want to stay clear of as it can take you out of that motivational state of mind. Your team, like everyone, loses their sense of direction when targets haven’t been set to a clear understanding.

Management basics 2 – Managing Time

Without proper time management, getting lost can be very easy but also hard to be aware of. When planning your project, start with the more broad objectives.  You should try to avoid getting into too much detail too soon. The reason for this is so that later on you can put more time into thinking about the details as they occur. Typically, work is organised by dates and deadlines. So starting with a detailed plan doesn’t make too much sense. Perhaps using a detailed list for upcoming tasks that need to be completed is a better option. Therefore managing your time wisely increases the reality of your targets.

Management basics 3 – Recognising Achievements

Achievement recognition is one of the most powerful tools for managers. As users complete tasks they drop off the to do list. Keeping the list focussed on remaining tasks can be a bit demotivational. So you could include a list of completed tasks and hit milestones in your reports. Why not also go a step further when a task is completed and say thanks? You can set up notifications to do this automatically.

When your team complete your tasks in PROJECT in a box they drop from their to do list.

It is no surprise that aspects of planning are important so look at how PROJECT in a box can help you do task management that bit better.

 

Personalized reporting – made to measure

Most software systems churn out the same old reports with little to inspire you or the viewer.  So to most the idea of getting reports which match your current ones is just a pipe dream.  Well in that case we have great news for you.  With PROJECT in a box you get sixty inspiring and innovative standard reports but we don’t stop there. Because you can have personalized reporting too.

Personalized reporting made easy

You can make these changes yourself if you wish.  We are not like many of the other vendors who sell you an empty system then make most of their money from consultancy. With PROJECT in a box you get your 60+ reports and can edit them yourself or add totally new ones.  This means you can use some of our existing really popular reports like Project Statement or Weekly Review. And no need to start again simply edit the part you want to change using the report specification form.  So want to swap overdue tasks for overspending High value tasks then that is easy.  Likewise switching the Gantt view for a Milestone timeline takes just a few seconds.  If you are collecting customized data like Health and Safety for instance you can have those new key stats appearing or a coloured status show up.

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

When using Word output report formats you can also easily change your logos, fonts and design elements to match corporate requirements.  And of course you can do this yourself if you want so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Help with your personalized reporting

Some customers don’t want to take on making these changes and of course we are always happy to help.  So you can just send us your report design mocked up in word and we can do the set up for you.  We do that from our offices and on an hourly rate to keep the costs for personalized reporting down.

If you want to find out more about reporting using PROJECT in a box have a look at these great You Tube videos:

Reporting overview (4m)

Reporting Explored (37m)

and since those videos were made you can now also add trend analysis to your reports, see here: Trend Analysis (7m)

Planning basics mastered

Planning is not only a project management essential but a major life skill.  So it is such a great pity that many people cannot plan well.  We have helped by provided Planner as a free project planning tool.  Users though are still regularly asking us questions about the very basics of planning.  So as a counterpoint to our Planner Masterclass sessions we are now launching Planner 101.  This series of video tutorials will cover the planning basics in six simple steps.

Planning Basics – its all about tasks

In the first video we explain about tasks.  We cover why these are so important and the three different types that can be used.  Of course we also show you how to set these up in the tool.  There is no point building a wall without strong footings.  Likewise, don’t bother planning without a good understanding of tasks .  So when it comes to Planning basics this is where to start.

But just because you master tasks you are not a master planner, that is just the start.

Planning basics – dependencies maketh the plan

If tasks are the essential building blocks of the plan then it is dependencies which bring it to life.  Which dependencies you use and between which tasks control the flow and logic of the plan.  It is these links that make it a plan and where lots of planning novices go wrong.

We show you how you should use dependencies and how to set them up.  We talk about single and multiple dependencies as well as running dependencies from summary groups.

The third planning basics topic we cover is resourcing.  We show you how to identify which people will work on delivering each task and for what proportion of their time.  This is done by assigning resources to the required tasks.  Again of course we show how this is done in practice and cover hints and tips.

Get started addressing your planning basics

If you want you can view these video tutorials independently.  However you will get far greater benefit by using them with the free Planner tool.  Planner is totally free forever and is licensed so that anyone in any organisation can use it.  Simply sign up to download Planner from here.

Use the links to view the full playlists for Planner 101 or the Planner Masterclasses.

planning basics

Cost control – Planner delivers again

In the last blog post we covered the importance of budgeting your project. So now your project has a reasonable budget agreed.  Your next step will be delivering the project within budget.  So you need to get to grips with cost control.  Luckily Planner comes to the rescue again.

Cost control – Time sheets

So now your project is up and running.  People will be working on their allocated tasks. They can record the time they spend on each task as they go.  In Planner there will have been a budget allocated hours figure for each person.  They simply record their actual hours for that task as a total.  So perhaps on the first day 2 hours.  Then next day a further 4 hours so the total is 6.  This progresses as they (and possibly others) work on the task each recording their ‘Actual hours’.

cost control

The resources can do this in each task form or can use a timesheet form to quickly update multiple tasks if needed.  Planner, in the same way it did with Budgets earlier, rolls up these actual resources at the task, summaries and whole project levels automatically.  You can do exactly the same with your fixed costs recording the actual fixed costs against tasks.  Again this is all rolled up and combined with resource costs to give total Actual cost for the project.

Cost control – progress costs

Of course all of this work people are doing on tasks hopefully has results and the % complete of the tasks will be changing also.  Planner also calculates a progress cost for each task as its percentage complete is changed.  The progress cost is the proportion of the budget cost for that percentage complete.  i.e. if a cast has a Budget cost of £2,000 and is 75% complete it’s progress cost would be £1,500.  You can think of progress cost as what you should have spent for that amount of completeness.

Again Planner rolls up these progress costs for summaries and project level and they can be used to see how different parts of the project are progressing.

Cost control tools

So you can download planner now and it will help you get right on top of your project cost control.

Simply sign up to download it today.

If you want to see this cost control in action watch our You Tube video here.  This is one of our series of Planner Masterclasses.

 

Project finances with Planner

Project finances can be hard, we all know that. And not everyone has the support team to help them with it.  So luckily help is at hand in the shape of Planner and its project accounting capabilities.

Project Finances – budget setting

It is an essential skill in project management to get a project budget to match the project deliverables.  So if you have the luxury of being able to determine the budget for your project it is best to do it right.  You will want to be sure that you have included all the costs you will incur during the delivery of the project.  The best way to do this is a bottom up estimate of costs.  Your plan is of course the perfect starting point for that.

A well planned project should have tasks and milestones for all the activities and events expected.  Going through these in Planner you can identify the resources required to deliver each.  Sometimes you might list generic resources like Engineer and sometimes specific people i.e. S Jones.  As you assign these to the tasks and set the allocation level (as a percentage) Planner works out the number of hours that equates to.  You may then choose to set an hourly rate for these resources or leave them at zero rate.  Planner rolls up these assignment costs at task level and also through the summaries to a project total for you.

project finances

In the same way you can also set Fixed cost elements for tasks and summaries.  Your fixed costs are also rolled up for you through summaries to a project level.  Finally the system calculates a total Budget cost combining fixed and resource cost elements.  You can use this raw figure or apply your own contingency and allowances to it to determine your project cost.

Project Finances – budget checking

Perhaps others usually set your project budget.  In that case you will find it very helpful to repeat this exercise of bottom up costing to see how realistic the budget is.  You will need to make it clear early on if you have insufficient budget to get the job done.  If you have this laid out so clearly it will make your job so much easier. Helping you to either shave the scope or increase the budget to a realistic level.

Project Finances – let Planner carry the load.

Planner will do all of this for you and it is totally free.  So register today and download it and you could be taking control of your project finances quicker than you thought possible.

You can register and download Planner for free here.

And to see all this project finances in work check out our video here on you tube.  This is session 8 in our Planner Masterclasses series.

In the next blog session we carry on this theme to look at using planner for cost control.