Project Management Studies 23th and 24th of September

on Sunday, September 25, 2011
First two contact study days of Project Management course were interesting. Even though I have been involved in project management through my work at Humap and I have been studying it before, I learned how little I actually know about the subject in detail. First I want to share little bit how we are managing our software projects at Humap.

In Humap I have participated in managing projects among with other software developers and sales team members for roughly five years now. Our approach to project management is a result of lots of practical discussions and we have tried to remove all unnecessary parts from our project plans. We have had all kinds of iterations of our project management tool, but the current version in our intra is quite lightweight and has only few inputs.

Usually when we create a new project, we input only priority, roles (responsible, lead and project members) and start writing specifications for the project. If we know strict deadlines, then we also input end date and possibly start date too, but this is optional step. If there are no deadlines, we just do projects in prioritized order. Quite often we don't input explicit information about the project size, but usually we do input rought budget estimation to give us some picture whether we are talking about "rabbit" or "planet" size project. Because of the small size of people involved this has been working surprisingly well for us and us programmers have been able to do less worktime estimations and concentrate our focus more to implemention.

If needed, the project can be split into subprojects and for each subproject we input even less information. For subprojects we define a person who is responsible and write down some specifications for the subproject. In both project and potential subprojects we can have discussions via comments about who does what when, are there any issues to be solved or is there anything else we need to discuss about the project or subproject. Actually our subprojects contain such minimum amount of information that they could be seen more as tasks rather than subprojects.

Usually worktime is tracked only if the project isn't fixed price and in some rare occations when we want to know how profitable a project really was. Quite often in fixed budget projects we can skip this step too as we usually know quite accurately what needs to be done and how much time it's going to take. This way we are again able maximize our time used in implemention.

This model has been going back and forth between current light version and micro managing projects and tasks and using a lot of time to specifications, planning and reporting. I've learned along the way that project management can very well be adjusted according to such variables as project size, schedule and budget, amount of people working with the project, their background and expertise in required technologies.

What I realized during the first two days of Project Management course studies was that in Humap we have been privileged to work in such environment that enables us to skip parts that are commonly part of PMP. This is probably why so many terms and concepts, such as WBS, scope, change and communications management were completely new to me.

Learning about project management in detail has naturally been possible earlier too, but I didn't know what I don't know so I didn't have any need to learn more. What we are doing in Humap works for us. But now knowing how much there is to learn about project management and understanding that in bigger projects and in bigger organizations our PM model in Humap would probably not work very well, makes me want to learn more. Luckily now via this course we have a good list of resources where to start looking so it's easy to get started. In addition, through the oncoming lectures and dialogue with fellow students I'm sure I'll get quite quickly deeper into the theories and best practises in project management.

I'm really looking forward for the next contact studies in Project Management course. Until then I'll dig into the given resources and get into IPMA self assesment and planning my studies with MS Project. This is fun step too as I haven't used MS Project in many years and back then I used it only for couple of days for testing purposes. During Saturday's studies we already got into testing MS Project a bit. The first impression was bit chaotic and I felt bit lost, but once we got into few main features and basic usage, MS Project started feeling more and more natural. Once getting into few tricks such as defining dependencies using syntax like 4SS+3d (task starts three days after task 4) or defining work via 4eh (elapsed hours) the power of MS Project started to unveil. The amount of features does make MS Project bit heavy though, but I guess for defining comprehensive and detailed PM plans many of those features are really needed.


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