Project Management Survey Results – Challenges

We have now closed our 2017 Project management survey and begun to look at what you said.  So over the next few months we will look at the Project Management survey results in more detail.  First of all we will look at Q6 which has some rather interesting results.

Project Management Survey Results – Q6 – What are the greatest challenges in delivering projects?

We identified six different aspects of project management and asked which you found to be the biggest challenge.  Firstly we asked you to pick the areas as you saw it.  Then in addition we asked you to select as your organisation saw it.  This flushed some interesting differences in perspective.

project management survey results

You can see on this first chart the two sets of challenge scores and it is immediately clear there is poor alignment between them.  When we total up the scores we also see that the PMs feel a greater weight of challenges than they think the organisation sees.  This could be the result of PMs feeling undervalued/unsupported in general.  However this could also indicate that in some aspects of project management organisations lack appreciation of what PMs are having to do.  Of course it might be that there is appreciation just a lack of support with tooling or training.

Relative challenges

So lets have a look at which aspects show the greatest relative challenge perception.  You can see this in the chart below which shows the differences between the scores.  We see a positive green score where the PM feels the challenge more than the organisation.  The opposite negative scores in red where the PM feels the organisation sees a greater challenge than they do.

project management survey results; buying a PMO tool; PM survey findings

These results show that the day to day activities of managing a project are more of a challenge to the PM than the organisation appreciates. Also that PMs ind their inputs to reporting, benefit and cost management less challenging than their organisation finds it.  Neither point should really be a surprise to those with experience in both camps.  Of course PMs find the low level churn of day to day project management a challenge, because it is.  Likewise of course organisations can struggle with taking PM’s output reports, costs etc and making sense of it across many projects.

Turning these project management survey results into improvement steps?

If you see yourself reflected in these results then the big question is what to do about it?  Analyzing your performance, identifying weaknesses and improving your approach are key to improving your results and your maturity ratings.  We know many organisations are looking at reporting, finance and benefit metrics when identifying tools to help them improve.  Perhaps if they included some of these other aspects like comms, process, documentation etc in their requirements they would get better results from the tools they choose.

Of course PIAB can help you across all these aspects, see here to explore further.

Want to see yourself in the project management survey results for 2018?

These results are from our 217 survey and if you contributed then thanks, we really appreciate it.  Our 2018 survey is now open and you can give us your views when you are ready. The format remains the same with just ten questions.

You can fill in the 2018 Project Management survey here.  Survey Monkey tells us the average time to fill it in was under three minutes in 2017.

Free PRINCE2 templates – 2017 refresh

The PRINCE2 2017 refresh has generated lots of interest from PM’s this year.  As you know we again produced these on behalf of AXELOS and told you about this in a blog post. As a result many of you have asked us about availability of the official PRINCE2 templates.    Unlike prior refreshes however AXELOS have only made them available through their commercial Membership scheme.  If you have AXELOS membership that is great, but we know many of you don’t.  So to end the year some great news on how you can now get free PRINCE2 templates from the 2017 refresh.

Free PRINCE2 templates in the PRINCE2 resource pack

As the authors, we are allowed by AXELOS to include the Free PRINCE2 templates within our products.  We have therefore reworked our popular PRINCE2 resource pack to include these new templates.

The PRINCE2 resource pack 2017 also includes further templates created by the author of the official pack.  These additional templates are exclusively only available from PROJECT in a box.  The PRINCE2 resource pack also has links to other useful things like process diagrams and glossary.  Finally it also includes placeholders for your events and records.

free PRINCE2 templates;PRINCE2 methodology; prince2 for free

Of course Community Edition is much more than just a set of templates.  You can also use it as your project library with version control and audit trail.  You are not just limited to PRINCE2 and you could run nStep, Atern or Praxis projects also if you want.

We provide the same PRINCE2 resource pack on our other commercial products as well.  So if you decide to upgrade tools you can take your part complete projects with you.

We have prepared a great video to walk you through all this, it is here on this site or on You Tube.

Getting started

If you are either an existing Community Edition user or just want to take the free route then sign up for the download here.   Customers of our other tools should log in to their account here and download the latest patch.

Maybe you want more than just free PRINCE2 templates?

If you do want more than just the free PRINCE2 templates then we also have a perfect solution.  You will find the PRINCE2 2017 Method Template goes a lot further for a small extra cost.  You can read much more about it in this blog post.

PRINCE2 2017 software made easy

Earlier in 2017 AXELOS launched the PRINCE2 2017 refresh and we have already blogged on the subject a few times.  So in this post we go beyond theory to look at PRINCE2 2017 software options.  Whether you are looking for tools to support your PRINCE2 training or implementation this will be helpful.

Comprehensive PRINCE2 2017 software

PIAB have been the leaders in this field since the very earliest days with the first licensed PRINCE2 software. And we have updated this after each PRINCE2 refresh so you can keep delivering compliant projects.  So we are now launching the new PRINCE2 2017 Method Template.  Again this is an AXELOS licensed product, reusing content from the manual under licence.

prince2; prince2 software; prince2 2017 software

As you would expect the new PRNCE2 2017 Method template brings you the best in authentic materials.  We have also packaged them for your ease of use:

  • The full set of official PRINCE2 templates.  We actually wrote these for AXELOS and have licensed them back to include here for you.  These 27 word files all include guidance to help you fill them in.
  • Extended templates exclusively only available in this product.  Created by the same author as the official pack these include .xlsx  and Planner versions of key registers.  You will also get a full set of Role definition templates, health checks and a principles reminder.
  • Events and records.  We have also created the place holders for all the key evidence you should be gathering.
  • Point and click navigation from the process diagrams.  When you click on the process diagram the PRINCE2 2017 software shows you the products, events and records you need to use for that process.  This lets you focus on the process and saves time looking up things in the manual.
  • Context guidance.  You get hover guidance on responsibilities for the products, events and records appropriate for the process you are in.

prince2 2017 software; PRINCE2; PRINCE2 methodology; prince project

All your new projects will have these resources launched into them automatically.  This sets your project up quickly and helps keep you on track during delivery.

What are your PIAB product choices?

You might find this video a helpful introduction to PRINCE2 2017 software, either here or on You Tube.  You can buy the PRINCE2 2017 Method Template now in our on-line store.

Users of our free Community Edition tool can add all this for £25+vat and create as many projects as they want.

Personal Edition customers will get the same content and price.  They will also find it sets up the reporting structure for the project too.

When you purchase the PRINCE2 2017 Method Template for use on Small Team, Enterprise or Live editions the price is £100+vat.  You can create unlimited projects for use by all users in your system.  Your method template will also offer you additional navigation and analysis capabilities which are not supported on our personal tools.

prince2 2017 software; prince2 method template

Free PRINCE2 2017 software

Of course because we are generous souls we also offer free PRINCE2 2017 software.  This allows you to use a limited set of the PRINCE2 2017 resources on Community Edition totally for free.

How you can get and use your free PRINCE2 2017 software is the topic of our next blog post.

Project Manager flexibility – a sign of increasing maturity

When our long term customer GNB produced a white paper on their implementation it held a surprise.  Of course they spoke about consistency of processes and improved reporting but also they noted project manager flexibility. So we thought it would be interesting to explore this benefit here in more detail.

project manager flexibility

So what is Project Manager flexibility?

In this context we mean the ability to move a PM between projects mid-flight without undue disruption to the project.

I’m sure many of you are lifting your eyebrows in surprise as that idea goes somewhat against conventional wisdom.  You usually avoid moving the PM because you expect chaos and confusion as a result.  You might also expect to introduce delays as the new PM winds up to speed.  However you would get some really attractive benefits if you could minimize those downsides.

And that is what GNB found.  In addition to their expected performance, time saving and quality gains, they listed benefits including:

  • Better use of their best project Managers. – They knew they had a limited cadre of PMs and is as usual some were more capable than others.  They found they could if necessary now swap an experienced PM from a stable project to help recover a problem one.
  • Improved Project Launch. – Experienced PMs could launch and stabilize a project before leaving delivery to a less experienced PM.
  • Better PM development.  – Less experienced PMs could work on certain aspects of a project delivery to strengthen their overall competence.  A PM can become scarred by being locked into a failing project. Switching the PM early prevents this.  Aspects of the PM role could also be shared or the junior mentored more effectively.  PMs learning on easier projects had more confidence and better locked in capabilities before moving to bigger projects.
  • PM’s felt more professional. – The PMs were now spending less time on mundane house keeping tasks and able to focus more on adding value.

What enabled them to achieve this project manager flexibility?

For GNB the key to unlocking this Project Manager flexibility was consistency.  They wanted a software tool which would help establish and support consistent documentation and reporting.  GNB selected PROJECT in a box because it would allow them to establish robust, consistent process and documentation for their projects.  They were looking to mature their PPM position and assessing against a maturity model.  Getting consistency into their project processes and reporting was a major factor in raising the maturity.

Their use of PIAB established a consistent framework for all documentation, and audit trail versions of all communications like emails etc.  This made it a much quicker process for a new PM to get up to speed with a project. So lowering the downsides of swapping PMs.  Reporting allowed management/PMO to see where projects were failing with performance or process. This also made it much easier to identify early the areas where PMs might benefit from mentoring or some other intervention.

GNB also operated a scaled methodology approach and an early assessment of the complexity of any new project.  This meant simpler/lower risk projects ran lighter processes and simpler reporting.  This made it easier to ‘blood’ new PMs on safer projects where they could gain confidence and establish good foundations of practice.

The white paper was focused on the early work within the shared services team.  Over the last couple of years the usage has widened out the whole of tier 1 Government of New Brunswick portfolio of strategic activities.

Your next steps to these advantages?

Just like GNB you could start your journey by using our completely free for life products and see if this way of working could help you.

Community Edition provides a personal methodology and documentation management capability. Planner provides consistent planning, risk, issue, cost management capability.  You can sign up today and download them both together and then use them forever.  If you like what you see you can upgrade for greater features or to use across your team.

You can also read the original white paper in full here.


About the authors:

Malcolm West MBA, BEng, has been an APM member for nearly twenty years and won the Sir Monty Finniston Award in 1999  for his work in developing a combined scaled methodology and competence framework (before such things were fashionable).  Malcolm is also the founder of PROJECT in a box which has been helping organisations worldwide to mature their PPM capabilities since 2005.

David Whelbourn MBA, PMP has been a project management professional for over 25 years, His experience covers a wide range of industries from Manufacturing to healthcare and projects from Medical Device R&D to Shared Services Implementation. He teaches part time at the University of New Brunswick on Project Management in their Technology Management & Entrepreneurship (TME) diploma.

Learning from lessons – a practical solution

Everyone agrees that the lessons learned process should be a core part of any mature or maturing PPM approach.   Saving your projects from repeating the problems of the past seems like it should be both simple and improve delivery.  However it usually proves difficult to achieve in practice.  Most projects manage some sort of lesson recording, perhaps patchy but basically okay.  But of course that isn’t the tricky bit.  Project managers rarely seem to pay enough attention to the lessons previously logged.  Getting them to do that is the hard part of the process.  Until you have your projects learning from lessons previously identified you don’t have viable process.

Until then you are just going through the motions, adding work for no gain.

Learning from lessons made easy

So here is a great little trick that will help you lock learning from lessons into your following projects.  We have seen a few customers using this to good effect.

Simply pre-populate your risk register with sample risks that the project might come across in delivery. Of course the knack is to write up the prior lessons into possible risks.  Each new project can then review these.  They can ignore the irrelevant ones and score the relevant ones.  Having these seed risks also makes the project team think more widely. Teams using a blank risk register often only note simple risks.  Whereas a pre-populated register can spark off many other risk identifications as it broadens the perspective.

learning from lessons

Now you can be learning from lessons we have identified

So the idea is a good one, it really does work, but we don’t stop there.  We have already gone ahead and done all the hard work for you. Ours is a Planner template risk register pre-populated with 47 generic lessons.  We have set them all up tagged as Lessons and categorised to make them easy for you to use. All you have to do is download the Risk Register with lessons.spn file from here. Then open it in Planner and you are away. Of course if you haven’t got Planner yet you can  sign up for it for free from here and use it forever.

To take you through the process in more detail we have also produced one of our informative videos.  You can either watch that on our You Tube channel or directly from this site.

Following this idea and then developing the template to match your projects, including your specific lessons will see developing your maturity.  Learning from lessons of other organisations and improving your processes which can only be good.  If you want to find out more about maturity and how PIAB can help in other ways this Quick Maturity wins article will be of interest.

Praxis Framework – an introduction

PROJECT in a box were among the first to see just how useful the Praxis Framework could become.  Armed with that insight we created the method template and made it freely available via CE. That was the first Praxis related product but in the years since it has really blossomed.  So we thought we would take another look.

Therefore lets start with the basics and a definition:

Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realized. “Praxis” may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practising ideas.” – wikepedia

So here we can see what this framework is all about.  It is far more than about learning an approach to project delivery.  Rather all about the totality of making it happen.  We like this ambition and of course we really like that it is free!

The Praxis framework is a one stop shop

Praxis Framework; Praxis; methodology

The framework consists of four sections with it’s core material.  These are:

  • Body of knowledge
  • Methodology
  • Competency framework
  • Capability maturity model

With so many well known, widely used and successful PM resources out there already, why another?  In truth all the existing resources are great in one area or another but lack broad coverage. There have been lots of mapping exercises, showing how PMBoK ties to PRINCE2 etc, but nothing fully integrated.  It is in providing that total coverage that the Praxis framwork does something special.

Rather than having imperial spanners, metric ratchets, Philips head screwdrivers and flat head screws you have a single unified toolbox.  What is more all of this is provided free so it is easy for an organisation to adopt it.  Since we included a ‘Praxis light’ method in our standard set of methods we provide for free we have had some good feedback from users.  Trainers and consultants also tell us that it has worked well in scale implementations.  The competency framework in particular, which is an oft poorly addressed area in many organisation’s approach.

The core areas are supported by a Library of materials and tools to help you succeed.  Of which, of course the PROJECT in a box method template, CE and Planner are a part.  We share with Praxis that view that free resources to help people get started ultimately help us all.

Your next steps with the Praxis Framework?

If you like the sound of this, and frankly why wouldn’t you? then you need to know what is next.

If you already have Community Edition then it is likely you already have the framework, just go to create new project select Praxis Framework and off you go.  You can Community edition including Praxis and much more by signing up here.

To dive fully in please go to the framework website where you will find all the resources you need to make a success of your projects, programmes and portfolios.

Planning tool review – Planner 5.0

Steve Cotterell reviewed Planner v5.0 in the Sept/Oct issue of Project Manager Today and you can read it here.  This planning tool review hit the nail on the head with the summary:

Why pay for a planning, risk and issue application when you can have this one for free?

Steve’s four pages of review covers every area of Planner 5.0, both the core features reviewed previously and the new capabilities.  PMT last reviewed Planner in 2012 and they clearly liked their first look. On that occasion calling it “an excellent entry-level scheduling and risk management tool”.  In the five years since then Planner has come on in leaps and bounds with a host of new features.

planning tool review

Planning tool review the main areas

Steve’s review covers all the basics of planning, which are nice and easy in Planner and then goes further. Investigating the cost management budgeting and actuals as well as progress cost data models.  Steve loved the calendar display showing tasks as well as risk and issue responses in weekly or monthly format. That you could export this as an iCalendar file for import into Outlook was also highly popular.  Steve loved the filters and views which really help you take control of the plan data, high value features in a free product.

Of course this is not just a planning tool review, Planner of course goes much further with risk and issue management.  This approach in Planner to roll in together all the project controls in the same tool really makes it stand out.  Other planning tools may be deeper, but none are so broad. Planner can therefore really help you take a grip of your project in a way other tools can’t. The expansion in version 5.0 to collect change data is a great example of this.  Planner’s ability to move risks into issues and visa-versa again shows the value of an integrated tool.

So you can read the full review here.  Our thanks to Steve of Project Manager Today for such a thorough planning tool review.

Planning tool review – what the next steps?

So now you have read the planning software review , what next?  You simply sign up and can download it for free.  If you were a user of a previous version it will upgrade you and if you are new it will install Planner 5.0.  Nice and simple just the way we like it.

PRINCE2 2017 templates produced

The PRINCE2 2017 templates are now available for use.  So you can download them from the Axelos website and use them on your projects.  The template pack is pretty complete consisting of 26 word templates baselines, records and also reports covered.  We have included a full list of the templates below.

PRINCE2 2017 templates; business case template

About the development of the PRINCE2 2017 templates

Another PRINCE2 refresh, another set of templates, but it wasn’t always this way.  We produced our first set of PRINCE2 templates for PRINCE2 2005.  OGC, the then owners of the method, then adopted them as the official pack.  So when PRINCE2 was refreshed in 2009 we were again asked to produce the official template pack.  Although the wait for PRINCE2 2017 was much longer we were again happy to produce the official PRINCE2 template pack for AXELOS which we did this summer.

The new templates all follow a much more modern clean format and also have no version signing boxes reflecting the fact that this tends to be electronic these days.  All templates include a guidance section at the back.  The author can then removed that once the file is complete.  You will find these sorts of improvements make the templates much easier to work with and improve the quality of your work.

PRINCE2 2017 templates list

Your PRINCE2 2017 templates match the requirements for Appendix A of the PRINCE2 manual as follows.

Firstly the baseline management products:

  • Benefits management approach
  • Business case
  • Change control approach
  • Communication management approach
  • Plan
  • Product description
  • Project brief
  • PID (Project initiation document)
  • Project product description
  • Quality management approach
  • Risk management approach
  • Work package.

In addition the records templates are provided:

  • Configuration item record
  • Daily log
  • Issue register
  • Lessons log
  • Quality register
  • Risk register.

Finally, the reports templates:

  • Checkpoint report
  • End project report
  • End stage report
  • Exception report
  • Highlight report
  • Issue report
  • Lessons report
  • Product status account.

Accessing the PRINCE2 2017 templates

Previously the templates had been made available for general use under the OGL licence.  Because of the drive to increase CPD around PRINCE2 this set will be made available differently.  Your AXELOS PRINCE2 membership will provide you with access to the templates.  So if you are already a member you can access the PRINCE2 2017 templates here.  If you don’t yet have a membership you can find out more about the many benefits here and learn how to maintain the validity of your Practitioner certification.  Regular readers of our Blog will know that membership also gives you the ability to get CE with the PRINCE2 method template, for free.

PROJECT in a box, as the authors of the templates have secured permission to make them available to you in our products and so we will be rolling these out to users over the coming weeks.

Free project plans are just the start

Creating free project plans was a dream for must people until they found Planner.  Planner is totally free forever.  You can use it as much as you want, create as many plans as you want.  You can also share it with whoever you want.

Planner is also easy to use and you can even import any existing MS Project plans you have.  Maybe that is why so many of you have adopted Planner as your planning tool of choice.

free project plans; planning software;planner

Free Project Plans? Yes and now with so much more

We have not rested on our laurels though. We recently launched new Planner 5.0 with a stack of great new features mostly suggested by you the users.  You now also get the following planning related features for free in the new Planner:

  • Calendar views including export to Outlook
  • Milestone timeline display including colouring for completeness
  • Status and commentary collection
  • A new Project progress to date calculation, for great indication of on-track.
  • Budget and Actuals management roll up for export

So as well as your free project plans, Planner 5.0 also provides you with great additions in the Risk and Issue areas:

  • Risk management
    • Set your own choice of colour bands for rating colours
    • Status and commentary collection
    • Risk responses with due dates show in the calendar view
  • Issue management
    • Impact data collection for cost, time and quality
    • status and commentary collection
    • Impact data roll up for stats and reporting
    • Issue responses with due dates show in Calendar view

As a result the download numbers for Planner v5.0 are going up.  More and more people want to find out just how far free project plans, risks and issues can get them.

You can see these new Planner capabilities on YouTube or here on the Planner home page.

Or why wait? you can sign up to download Planner here now.

MS Project transfer to Planner

Your colleague has sent you an MS project file and you can’t open it?  Yes, unfortunately it happens all the time and MS Project is pretty expensive to buy.  So instead of buying MS project why not convert the file instead?  You can do an MS Project transfer to Planner quickly and for free… so what are you waiting for.

Planner is also totally free and provides you with risk and issue management tools.  That is why most PMs who switch to Planner never go back, and who could blame them!

See an MS project transfer happen in real time

Our video here shows an MS Project transfer to planner in real time so you can see just how easy it is.  You can watch it on YouTube or direct here on our website.

ms Project transfer; ms project alternative; free project planning software

Some PMs just convert their MS Project files to read them, others make the switch more permanently.  If you do move over to Planner you can do your budget and actual cost management based on the existing tasks.  You can also edit to add, remove and alter tasks in Planner and save in the new .spn format.  If you have been previously struggling to manage your risks and issues in spreadsheets then even more good news awaits… Because Planner will let you manage all this in the same file.  So giving you the full set of project controls all in one place.

Now you know the advantages, so what are the next steps for MS Project transfer?

The first thing you will need to do is sign up to download Planner for free.  Yes we do mean free, not a trial you can use if forever.  All you need is a Windows OS laptop or computer to install it on.  If you are a MAC OS user then Parallels or some other Windows emulator will do the trick.