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Shortcuts to Success is now published!

Shortcuts to Success

My copies of Shortcuts to Success. Not yet put away and still on the dining room table!

My new book, Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World (2nd Edition) is now out. It was a bit of a labour of love to update the first edition. This new version contains 31 new case studies from project managers all round the world, working on everything from very small projects to multi-million pound initiatives. It’s the first time I have had to update one of my books and I was surprised to see how much project management thought leadership had moved on since the first edition came out in 2006. As a result, I had to update a lot of text as well as introduce the new case studies, so it really feels like a completely new book.

I managed to get the proofs reviewed for the publisher just before my son was born, so when my copies turned up a couple of weeks ago I had all but forgotten that the publishing effort was going on in the background, as my priorities had shifted from looking for typos and checking permissions to nappies and cat naps.

‘Elizabeth Harrin has done it again! This new edition is packed with hard-won insights on how to make projects work in today’s pressurised business environment. These lessons learned are worth their weight in gold to anyone with a challenging project to accomplish. Apply what it suggests and you’re likely to save your company a fortune and yourself heaps of frustration!’

Dr Penny Pullan, Director, Making Projects Work Ltd

As I took out some complete chapters I lost a few case studies that I thought were excellent but that no longer fitted with the new book. So, I thought I’d share two short ones with you.

Understand where you are starting from

The Scottish Agricultural College, an organization that supports the development of land-based industries and communities, began the deployment of SAP’s financial software in 1997.  Before the project started, the college was using several different financial management systems and it was hoped that SAP would offer the opportunity to standardise processes and save costs.  It was a complex software implementation and the project team hit problems from the outset.  The team did not fully understand the starting position for the project, and failed to spend enough time in the early stages planning the re-engineering of the processes used by staff across the six campus locations.  The team acknowledged afterwards that it would have been better to understand the dependency the new system had on the day-to-day activities of the 250 staff who would use it and to invest time early on streamlining those processes.

The project team encountered another problem later when they realized that SAP was not compatible with their own internal procurement system.  They had not identified the dependency on the old system and had to invest in developing the procurement package to ensure it could interface with SAP.

‘Lives up to the ‘real world’ promise in its title, providing concise, practical advice for leaders of large projects, small projects, and everything between. The interwoven examples from actual projects illustrate clearly why the guidance provided here matters.’

Tom Kendrick, MBA, PMP, Project Management Director, UC Berkeley Extension, California

Know when to move on

Jackie Garvey, a New Zealander who has managed projects in France and the UK says, ‘when the different parties start arguing amongst themselves, you know they have taken ownership and it’s time to leave.’  Garvey was on the steering committee for the launch of a web-based portal for her company’s staff.  She provided programme management and co-ordination from the company’s global headquarters while a local project manager led the implementation itself.  As the two-year project came to a close it was clear that the local IT and business teams had accepted the portal as their own:  the heated debate about its future made it obvious to Garvey that her guiding role was no longer needed.

She gives another example.  ‘I was working on the creation of a new IT company to manage our hardware and IT infrastructure,’ she says.  ‘Once that project was complete in one country, we wanted to use it as a global standard.  That meant the launch of a new company headquarters and setting up the new organization in all the countries we operate.  At the end I knew the operation inside out. I was too close to it and it was time to go.’

Shortcuts to Success is now available and if you want a preview you can read a chapter online here. You can buy a copy at the BCS website (and BCS members get 20% off), or you can get it on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

Project Management in the Real World on iPad

Project Management in the Real World on iPad

Happy New Year!

And happy birthday to me.

This month is the 5th birthday of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management.  2011 is also the 5th anniversary year of the publication of Project Management in the Real World.

To celebrate all these events, I have some great news to share.

Project Management in the Real World is now available on eBooks in .pdf format, for you to read on your Windows, Mac or Sony Reader.

It’s also available on Kindle both in the UK and US stores.  I thought you needed a Kindle to read Kindle books, but you don’t.  I downloaded the free Kindle app to my iPad and you can use that to download and read Kindle format books.  You can even get a free sample before you decide to buy it.  And very nice it looks too.

If you’d rather have a ‘proper’ book, then there’s 15% off Project Management in the Real World if you use the code PMRW31111 when you check out of the BCS Shop.

January is always a tough month when everyone is feeling poor, so take advantage of the money off now!  The discount ends on 31 January.

Here’s hoping 2011 will be an amazing year for us all.


Webinar: Managing Money on Projects

I’m giving a webinar for The Project Management Bookstore on Friday.  It’s on the subject of managing money on projects, and you get a PDU for attending.

From the website:

“The author’s book, Project Management in the Real World, covers five key areas for project managers: budgets, teams, scope, plans and personal productivity.  During this live event, the author will explore the first of those—Managing Money on Projects.

More than one third of projects have a budget of over $1.5 million so knowing how to handle the finances is an essential part of a project manager’s repertoire. During the webinar, Elizabeth will discuss:

  • How to create a realistic budget for the project.
  • Managing budget tolerance.
  • Managing a contingency budget—and get your project sponsor to agree to one!
  • Sharing the project budget with the team and encouraging collective responsibility.

Join Elizabeth and the webinar to see how clever budget handling can benefit you and your projects.”

You can register for the webinar here.


Fixed date projects: more advice from the experts

Last week we saw that PRINCE2 doesn’t really have much advice to offer the project manager stuck with delivering to a fixed date.  I also gave you some advice from another expert, J LeRoy Ward at ESI.  Surely some other project management experts have tackled this problem?  I trawled my bookcase for what other people had written on the subject.

Stanley E. Portny, in Project Management for Dummies (don’t laugh, it’s actually pretty good), says that managing this way is ‘backing in’.  Backing in is when you start at the end of the project and work your way backwards calculating task estimates until you reach today.  So you automatically shorten task lengths when you realise you are out of time.  That’s why it is not a good idea.  He points out three major pitfalls of planning this way:

  • “You may miss activities, because your focus is more on meeting a time constraint than ensuring you identify all required work.
  • Your span time estimates are based on what you can allow activities to take, rather than what they’ll actually require.
  • The order in which you propose to perform activities may not be the most effective one.” (p. 92)

Linda Kretz Zaval and Terri Wagner also talk about the practicalities of managing to fixed dates in their book, Project Manager Street Smarts: A Real World Guide to PMP Skills, and I picked out the bit about making the plan fit in my book review last year, long before I knew that this month would focus on fixed dates.  They propose three strategies for reducing the project duration to give you a fighting chance of hitting those dates:

  • Crash the project by reducing the duration of activities located on the critical path, focusing on working out the cheapest tasks to reduce and concentrating on them.
  • Fast-track the project.  This is doing tasks in parallel instead of doing them in series.
  • Calculate the cost per day of crashing the project (which is called slope) – then maybe your stakeholders won’t be so keen on making you hurry along.

Meri Williams’ book, The Principles of Project Management, is another one I enjoyed.  And it talks about dealing with fixed date projects, which it calls set deadlines.  Backing in, fixed date, set deadlines, it’s all the same thing.

“First, work out how much trouble you’re in,” she writes.  “Break down the deliverables, gather the estimates, and decide how much contingency you’d have liked to have.  You work out that the realistic deadline for the Next Big Thing project is actually December 1st.  But now what?  How can you convince management that you need an extra six months in the project plan?

If you’re in a wonderful, supportive work environment, you may choose to tackle this issue head-on.  Go and explain that the deadline is unachievable, that you simply can’t make it.”

Williams predicts that either management will replace you with someone who says they can deliver to their ridiculous timescale.  Or management will offer you more cash and more people in a bid to get it all done on time.

“The most important point is to take the emotion out of the discussion. Get everyone to calm down and face reality, making it about what needs to be done, rather than the emotional reaction of a boss who’s being told she can’t have what she wants, and a team that’s being asked to achieve the impossible.”

And of course my book, Project Management in the Real World, includes a chapter on managing fixed date projects with more advice.  Hopefully you are no longer seriously at a loss now as to where to start with your fixed date project.  Enjoy – sometimes the challenge of hitting the date is part of the fun of project management.


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