I have seen a lot of photography tips around the net and I would say that the majority are useful for the regular camera user and even to professional photographers.There are fewer Newbie Photography Tips and less ones exclusively for kids. There is something I love about Kids taking pictures. They may be lacking in techniques but it is intensely compensated by spontaneity. Of course that not all the pictures made will be worthy but even profies almost do not achieve a perfect score.One thing to consider when kids are behind a camera is that it is much better to do it behind a digital one then behind a conventional film camera or even a Polaroid. Why? Well this is easy, firs of all kids are usually impatient, and so they may See right away the results of the shot. Second, they can do a lot more of shots without getting over moms or dads budget in developing and printing. Just be sure the camera has sufficient memory and batteries.When they have called the day, transfer the images over to your computer and review them together, discard on agreed bad shots and keep the good ones. Always be sure not to trash the photos just on a personal judgment, hear out what your kid has to say and you may even get a big surprise considering their point of view. Maybe there will be a similar o better shot for the same concept.In some extreme cases if it is possible and the concept is worthy, allow the kid to go and try to retake the shot. Maybe in this case you can support him with some technique to avoid the mistake on the original shot. You may get a big surprise what a little patience and support can do.Once the kids get the hang on this, you will notice how always less pictures end up in the computers trash hold and the quality improves on the remaining ones.Keep always in mind that ideas, perspective and points of view are, in some cases, worlds apart from our own and it can take some effort to see what they want to show, but ones you got to that point, it is faster and easier every time.One other thing we have to consider, and I can not stress this out in off, is Safety Is First. Always go through these points, for the kids and the cameras sake. Be with them. Kids imagination can put them in the most strange and risky places to get their shot as they wish. Ask and instruct them to stay still wile looking at the cameras screen or through its objective window. Kids can loose sight of objects or holes in their way that can cause them to stumble or fell hurting themselves or damaging the camera. Try to keep them away from dangerous objects or situations and explain them why. Some animals can feel themselves in danger and attack if perused by someone hidden behind an object. Fire, water, electricity and sharp objects should be closely supervised when a kid is trying to take his shot of it. Be there to make sure they are not crossing over to a dangerous position.You will soon find out if this is just euphoria for the new camera or if there is a potential hobby to emerge within them. If this is the case, make sure to feeding their hunger of knowledge properly with suited information to their age. Look for some Newbie Photography Tips and upgrade to more sophisticated stuff as needed.
Events of the last decade have changed the face of project management and as the environment in which projects find themselves in changes; project management will have to change to keep pace. Project managers who are able to accurately forecast demands for change and alter their plans to accommodate them will have an advantage over those who don’t. Before we gaze into the crystal ball, let’s take a look at the influences that have set project management on their current course.The Great Y2K ScamRightly or wrongly, the IT world lost a lot of credibility when everyone turned their calendars forward to the year 2000. There were undoubtedly systems and applications out there that did require modification to accommodate the new millennium but the amount of money spent on Y2K programs could not be justified by the changes that were made. Every IT organization had some sort of Y2K program or other. Those organizations that were not large enough to afford an in-house program engaged consultants.Every line of code in every application and every data record in every database was reviewed for “compliancy”. This despite the fact that every commercially available system at that time recorded dates with a 4 character year format. Undoubtedly there were some applications and data tables which used a 2 digit field to hold year data. The original reason for using a 2 character field to record this information was the punch card and the cost of memory. 30 or 40 years prior to the year 2000 the extra effort to punch 2 more characters onto a data card and the cost of the extra memory the 4 character field would incur were a consideration. Anyone in the 80′s and 90′s creating new date fields should not have used a 2 character field and anyone upgrading an application or database should have converted the 2 character field to a 4 character field. Those applications and databases which failed to use the 4 character field were few and far between but large, expensive, Y2K programs were spawned nonetheless.The impact on the public was even more ridiculous. Millions of dollars were spent on stocking up on everything from cashews to cash because of a perception that come January 1, 2000 no cash register or ATM would work. People were so spooked they stocked their cellars with food and water on a scale not seen since the bomb shelters of the cold war.When corporations found out they had spent all that money on a program which found and corrected a handful of problems they began to ask pointed questions about the ROI of the program. The result was a more cynical approach to Information Technology, programs, and projects in general. This was compounded by the feeling among the general public that they had been bamboozled by technology and had spent all that money on emergency supplies only to become the butt of a giant joke. Project managers found themselves operating in an environment of a lot less trust as a result.The Recession/Economic DownturnAlthough we’re still not quite sure what to call it, everyone recognizes that the economy is in a slump and the money to perform projects is limited. Some very large businesses have failed completely and every business has felt the pinch in some way or another. The result of tighter markets and less revenue is that businesses dropped projects that weren’t mission critical and downsized those that weren’t axed. Projects which could not show an immediate ROI or didn’t solve a critical business problem were non-starters. Surviving projects were forced to do more with less.Project managers have been placed in an uncomfortable position by these events. The project manager of a project which was canned because it couldn’t satisfy its sponsors of its worth could find themselves looking for new projects elsewhere. The alternative was to stay with the project that didn’t improve the bottom line and ride the project and business into oblivion, then look for a new project elsewhere along with numerous colleagues.This atmosphere requires project managers to be astute money managers. They don’t necessarily get asked to handle the actual cash but are asked to estimate costs more accurately, report on performance to budget so that sponsors know when limits are exceeded, and deliver projects for less money than they would like. These demands are being met by increased sensitivity on the part of project managers to their organization’s vulnerability and, where project sponsors don’t expect to get their entire wish lists for 50% of the budgets, they also get what they need out of the project for what they can afford to spend. This is a good thing.The “Greening” of Project ManagementThere are 2 influences I include in the term “greening”, one is the demand to reduce our carbon footprint and the other is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). These 2 environmental elements are by no means mutually exclusive and an effort to reduce the organizations carbon footprint may be a part of a CSR initiative. Reducing the organization’s carbon footprint primarily affects project managers of construction and infrastructure projects. Those projects now have additional objectives that deal with a reduction of energy consumption. Build the building with less fuel consumption and make the building as energy efficient as possible. These objectives may or may not add costs to the project (see The Recession/Economic Downturn).CSR requires corporations to consult more closely with the communities they do business in and to consider the needs of those communities when planning projects. Reduction of the carbon footprint is a technical issue: for example, how do I organize work so that goods are delivered to the project from the shortest distance possible? CSR can be a much more complex issue. Some CSR issues may be straightforward, such as eliminating child labor in the manufacturing process. Others are much more complex, such as mining in an area where 2 separate and distinct communities are affected, and the two are already at war because of other issues. There is also a temptation to pay lip service to a CSR initiative. Saddle the project manager with CSR goals and objectives but give them no budget or authority to deliver on them. The classic example of this is the situation where the project manager is asked to deliver a project in a society where bribery is socially acceptable and expected but the CSR policy (and possibly domestic laws) prohibits bribery. The poor project manager is given the conflicting goals and told to figure it out.Project managers must analyze their situations and determine the feasibility of meeting all the goals and objectives of their CSR and carbon footprint reduction policies with the budgets they are given to work with. Project managers who determine that it is impossible to deliver have a dilemma. Project managers who determine delivery is possible must figure out how to deliver. This means being inventive in the approach and, sometimes, translating esoteric policy statements into planned project activities that can be executed by the team.Going ForwardProject managers will continue to be required to do more with less even after the economy recovers. The disciplines learned during the economic downturn will become standard practices. This is a good thing, especially in the software development area. For too long software development operated like the “wild west” with few of the rules and constraints that the rest of industry took for granted. Project managers should become skilled in Earned Value Management, if they haven’t already done so.Time is money in the software industry so performance to schedule is very tightly tied to performance to budget. Project managers in the software development business must learn to keep their teams on track and on schedule. This means a more disciplined approach to cost estimation.Tips:
Establish a knowledge base in your organization and capture the lessons from past projects. Record cost estimates for each software package – the original estimate and the actual. Examine why an estimate was blown, was the original estimate off base or did the developer encounter too many obstacles? Learn from your mistakes to hone the organization’s estimation skills. Look into acquiring a standard estimation methodology such as Function Point Analysis (FPA) by joining an FPUG (Functional Point User Group) and studying the technique.
The users and sponsors of software projects must bear their responsibility for inflating software costs and you can help them do that by helping them fit their demands into a reasonable budget. Get them to prioritize their requirements for new systems. What would the impact to your business be if you could not get this feature? Would it cause a failure or merely an inconvenience? Some functions simply cannot be done without. Look for alternative ways to deliver the function if the first choice proves expensive. Look to jettison the lower priority features from the project if it appears that your project cannot deliver the full list in the existing schedule and budget. Typically you will only proceed to development with the “high” priority requirements in your list. This will require you to further prioritize these requirements against one another so jettisoning lower priorities will not be contentious.
Corporations will continue to pursue off-shore or outsourcing as a means of cutting costs. The reason they do this is not to negatively impact the local economy, but to cut costs. Cost cutting is the primary goal here, not off-shoring or outsourcing. It is up to you as the project manager to help your organization achieve their goal.Tips:
Doing your due diligence as a Procurement Manager will help. The exercise becomes a “buy or make” decision that should be made as directed by the PMBOK®. Frequently the project managers are confronted with a decision to outsource. Don’t be put off by this. If the contract has not already been signed, analyze the situation and recommend alternatives when outsourcing or off-shoring is not cost effective. Be careful to avoid offering non-monetary reasons for not off-shoring work such as the work will be too difficult to manage. Managing the work is what you are hired to do. Valid reasons for not off-shoring or outsourcing are that the work can be done in-house cheaper.
Outsourcing work means that a Statement of Work (SOW) must be written. The way in which this document is written will go a long way in determining the success or failure of the outsourcing. The SOW must be written so that all work is clearly and concisely described and that any constraints required are included. An example of a constraint would be that the project manager for the sub-contractor be PMP®certified.
Off-shoring work has its own unique set of demands. To work successfully, work off-shored must be planned to accommodate differences in time zones and cultures. Be pro-active and learn as much as possible about the culture in the country the work is being done and then plan your communications around any cultural and time zone differences.
Project managing a group of workers in a country half-way around the world with a different clock and culture may add an impossible degree of effort to your work. In some cases it is reasonable to expect the sub-contractor to provide a project manager to oversee the work. You should have input into the choice of that project manager and should stipulate that certification as a PMP®be a criteria they must meet.
The PMI® (Project Management Institute) has made great strides in marketing their brand around the world. Look for that trend to continue. As PMI® becomes bigger their marketing campaign penetrates new markets. At one time they mainly depended on the software industry but now have penetrated the petro-chemical, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and banking industries. Look for the brand to penetrate the construction industry.PMI® and their key brand the PMP® certification began in North America but have expanded around the world. Look for expansion to happen in the Asia Pacific area in the next decade as the North American market becomes saturated. This should make it easier on North American project managers demanding a PMP®certified project manager on an off-shore project.PMI® have branched out into more certifications. There first attempt at this was the CAPM® which was not particularly successful. CAPM® is an intermediary step to the PMP certification. Since then they have also added certification in the areas of program management, risk management, and schedule management. Look for them to expand their certification program into the other knowledge areas such as cost management, scope management, procurement management, quality management, etc.
Spreadsheets are the king of project management support tools because they are the most convenient tool to use and the most frequently used tool. How do they compare to project management software? What are the benefits of each and when should you make the switch to project management software? While only you can make the determination as to when you should make the switch, this article will walk through the benefits of each and provide some guidelines.
Depending on which research you rely on, the market for project management software is between $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion. That is for software that is specifically designed to support project management. Most organizations that have made significant efforts towards effective project management have recognized that it is very difficult to manage a greater number of projects and people, or a larger project, without the support of technology.
Yet there is no tool for project management that is more popular or widespread than the spreadsheet, despite the fact that spreadsheets are not designed to be project support tools. Even in organizations with an established project management tool, spreadsheets are used. There are obvious reasons for this. A spreadsheet program is on almost every computer in every organization, people are familiar with spreadsheets and how to use them, and people are pre-disposed to use these “office” types of software tools to solve problems. And I am right there with them. I love using spreadsheets to track all kinds of data. It is easy, convenient, and I admit ego-boosting to show off what I can do in a spreadsheet.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the differences between these two different types of tools. For the purposes of this article, I selected six criteria by which to make the comparison. These were selected from the feedback of customers and prospects as well as learning what is important for the successful adoption and implementation of project tools within an organization.
Data mining is a huge part of project management tools. The whole reason for having a tool is to collect data, so that you can look intelligently at that data, make sure your processes are performing as advertised, and make good decisions. You need to know which projects and tasks are slipping through the cracks so that you again react. You need to know when you will not have enough resources to meet demand so that you can allocate them properly or manage the demand. You need to know which issues are lurking so that you can address them now before you lose the favor of a critical customer. And you need to see how your processes are working so that you can continuously improve your processes.
In today’s economy, competitive landscape, and accountability standards you must have the data. Managers are getting blindsided because they do not know what is coming and what is going on. This is where the right project management software tool shines and spreadsheets fade. A good project management tool will be database-oriented and should allow for different types of ad hoc reporting across multiple projects. This enables the mining of all kinds of data. You simply cannot do this in a spreadsheet at the same level. If you really, really know what you are doing it is possible to tie spreadsheets together and generate some integrated data. But that is not the same thing. You simply cannot, on a whim, mine into the data represented in your multiple spreadsheets. And in today’s environment, this is critically important. Gone are the days when not having the right data is acceptable.
Advantage: Project Management Software
Ease of Use
There are project management software systems that are easy to use. However, spreadsheets clearly have an advantage here. Most people are familiar with how to use spreadsheets; they are comfortable with them, and even like using them. A big reason is because spreadsheets have no structure. People are not usually “forced” into how to use them. They are free to use them however they want. Of course, there is a downside to this. It is very difficult to standardize a process or have any sort of standard data structure when there is no structure in the tool itself. However, from a strict ease of use standpoint, spreadsheets cannot be beat.
You can counter this in project management software by employing good, relevant, and periodic training, keeping your implementation simple, and using helps such as templates. But we’ll give the advantage of this one to spreadsheets.
One of the things that organizations are doing today to become more competitive and more efficient is to provide everyone access to the project information that they need. Marketing organizations are putting all of the information online about each client project. Engineering organizations are tracking all schedules and immediately identifying problems. Government agencies are putting all of the various required data online with their projects. And on it goes. The value of immediate access to information is profound. An engineer can look at one system and immediately find the specifications he needs. A client manager can track the status of his client’s projects and identify issues early. A professional services manager can look up the contract information and scope of work for a key project before answering a question.
Productivity means yielding results, bringing things about, or making things happen. This type of centralized access enables those on the front lines of yielding results to know which action to take when.
Project management software, especially online project management software, wins this one hands down. Spreadsheets are not designed for access by multiple people from multiple locations. They are designed with a single file / single user scenario in mind.
Advantage: Project Management Software
Maintenance and Administration
Time and again, I talk with organizations that are spending an amazing amount of time maintaining spreadsheets. There is so much time spent on activities attributable to spreadsheet usage:
Tracking down the right spreadsheet
Tracking down the right version of the right spreadsheet
Tracking down the email with the right version of the right spreadsheet
Emailing out the right spreadsheet to the people that don’t have it
Tracking down the people who have the information that is needed to update the spreadsheet
Actually updating the spreadsheet
Maintaining the formulas and formatting of the spreadsheet
Updating the standard format of all the spreadsheets to accommodate a “process enhancement”
Creating new spreadsheets
And the list goes on. The point is that while any tool will take time to maintain, spreadsheets take an inordinate amount of time because they are single-user focused. Only one person can update them at a time. They also take time because they are file-based, meaning that you have to maintain separate files. Unless an organization is really good with a process to manage these files (the exception not the rule), the files tend to be stored in a hodgepodge of locations with non-standardized file names and even non-standardized layouts. If you take the time to study the amount of time people take to maintain these spreadsheets, you will be amazed.
On the flip-side, project management software also takes time to maintain. I cannot say otherwise. It takes time to make sure the data is correct in the system, that processes are being followed properly, and to simply get information in the system. One of the flip sides of this is that many project management software systems enable the entry of information by everyone so that one person does not have to both find and enter the information. In this scenario, the maintenance is more truly maintenance than continual, non-stop data entry.
There are some ways to minimize the amount of maintenance and time spent on project management software systems, and these are focused on the initial setup. If you setup the system well, the maintenance time is reduced. Using items such as templates and pre-setup reports really help to minimize the amount of time spent in the tool.
While both types of tools require time, a well setup project management software system definitely has the edge over spreadsheets.
Advantage: Project Management Software
Flexibility in this context refers to the ability of the tool to adapt to your processes. In practicality, this refers to things such as being able to track any type of data peculiar to your company (i.e. adding fields), or implementing a new project template.
This is a harder attribute to measure, especially with the variation in project management software tools. Many tools are very rigid, meaning what you see is what you get. Some tools have become more flexible and allow a great deal of adaptability – such as being able to adapt screens and data structures. This has become increasingly important.
It is difficult to perform a direct comparison because it really depends on the project management software system that you are evaluating, but in reality many systems will not be as flexible as a spreadsheet. In a spreadsheet, you can create a new column or row on a whim or create a brand new spreadsheet to track new information. Obviously there is a downside to this flexibility, specifically the difficulty in standardizing a process. However, from a strict look at flexibility, we have to give spreadsheets the nod. But I caution you to test your project management software system for flexibility and do your own comparison.
Resource Allocation and Forecasting
This is similar to data mining, but it is so important that it gets its own billing. The management of which resources are assigned to which projects and tasks is a critical component of project management and one of the big differences between spreadsheets and project management software.
There are three critical pieces to ensure good resource management. These include:
A good work breakdown structure (breakout of the tasks in a project)
A good estimation of the effort (not duration) to be expended on each task (and thus project)
A composite view of this information across all projects
Because of the single-file focus of spreadsheets, a good project management software system should win this hands down. A good system will provide views and reports with insight into resource allocation so that you can view problems and do future forecasting. That isn’t to say that you cannot do this with spreadsheets but it is difficult at best and you need to have a very, very good setup.
Advantage: Project Management Software
Only you can decide the right tool for your organization. Certainly using spreadsheets is better than using absolutely nothing. They do have value, and they may be a good fit for some organizations. However, good, project management software (especially enterprise-level) clearly has the advantage for the following types of organizations:
Organizations with more than a handful of projects to manage
Organizations with more than a handful of people working on or managing projects
Organizations with large or complex projects
Spreadsheets are primarily used because of convenience. However, convenience is not a great reason to use a tool that supports your critical processes. Be sure that you select and use a tool that adds to the efficiency and productivity of your people and processes, and not the other way around. This will far outweigh the benefits of convenience.
While spreadsheets do have a couple of inherent advantages, such as a natural ease of use and flexibility, you can employ best practices to minimize any downside to project management software. For example, use templates as much as possible, simplify screens as much as possible, document clear processes, focus on those processes instead of features, provide good training, and create good, relevant reports. Combining this with the inherent advantages in project management software will help to create efficiencies, increase productivity and resource utilization, and to become more competitive.