Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Project Management Plays an Important Role in Six Sigma

Project Management, Six Sigma Certifications, Six Sigma Learning

The title Black Belt implies that a person carries the knowledge and experience of Six Sigma methodologies, tools and processes. These are the skills necessary for supporting an organization in implementing solutions that help streamline processes, eliminate waste or provide cost savings, to name a few.

While Black Belts are technically advanced in the Six Sigma methodology, this does not automatically translate to good project management skills. Black Belts often are not ready to fill the shoes of project manager. Depending on someone without the right skills to coordinate and manage a project may be detrimental to an improvement effort – in terms of time, budget, risk and metrics needed to show business results.

Black Belts and Project Managers: Different Roles

It is a common assumption that Black Belts possess the right project management skills and experience, and should also fulfill that role on a team. When Black Belts are assigned this role, they often use project tracking software to handle project management (track daily activities, post deliverables, etc.). These tools may provide the templates for completing project management activities, but they do not provide the overall insight, expertise and skill-sets necessary to truly manage a project.

What exactly does a project manager do that qualifies for a dedicated role within a project and is different than a Black Belt’s responsibilities? The following is a high-level checklist of included and excluded activities for both a Black Belt and a project manager.

Table 1: Black Belt Activities

A Black Belt Does: A Black Belt Does Not Focus On: 
– Lead projects.
– Support team members in DMAIC process.
– Create energy around project.
– Ensure the team is on the right track of implementation.
– Dedicate themself to project execution.
– Strategic alignment.
– Change management.
– Resource allocation and management.

Table 2: Project Manager Activities

A Project Manager Does: A Project Manager Does Not:
– Manage projects.
– Support the Black Belt in risk management.
– Think of the big-picture perspective.
– Manage timelines, milestones, budgets and overall success criteria in meeting business objectives.
– Ensure strategic alignment in organization.
– Conduct daily tasks.
– Play an active role in the problem solving team.
– Participate in execution of project.

The question, therefore, is not one or the other (project manager or Black Belt), but how to leverage the roles so they complement each other to ensure the desired outcome. A Black Belt is important in Six Sigma execution and a project manager ensures a well-run project and a high-level view of how the project fits with the strategic vision of the organization. The integration of Six Sigma methodologies and the tools and processes of project management create the right synergy of the two skill sets.

A Closer Look at Project Management

Generally, a project manager uses best practices and other methodologies and tools for ensuring the project goals are met. A project manager should encourage using templates and leveraging as much existing data as possible. At a high-level, however, the following key activities must be accomplished by a project manager:

◈ Define and review the business case and requirements of a project. Clearly state the scope and ensure it is in line with the strategic vision of the organization, ensure a cost-benefit analysis is conducted to create a baseline and determine expected savings, and track this throughout the process to make certain results are met.

◈ Develop and initiate the project plan. Identify specific tasks and activities to be completed and the responsible party, ensure realistic milestones are set and the timeline and approach is tracked throughout the project.

◈ Identify the stakeholders with interest in the project. Partner with users and sponsors to ensure everyone is on board.

◈ Develop a change management plan. Manage technology, people and change throughout the process to ensure buy-in from key users and those affected by the change.

◈ Be able to identify and manage risk. A risk management plan allows for the early identification of potential risks and the ability to assess and mitigate.

◈ Develop and maintain a communication plan. Manage client/customer relationships by clearly and frequently communicating the information that affects them the most. This also should include status updates if they have a large impact on the project or organization.

When Managers Can Contribute

Project management tools can support the process at any level, but it is important to use them effectively. Think of project management as a role with Six Sigma as a methodology. Using these tools can support the outcome if the role of the project manager is truly used to manage the project and not to implement the methodology. A project manager can play a role within two distinct phases of a project:

1. During the DMAIC phases by supporting start-up activities using the tools identified above.
2. During the implementation phase by completing high-level tracking, issue resolution and giving a big-picture perspective, such as the relationship of the project to the organization, stakeholders and other ongoing implementation efforts.

Sample Client Situation

A recent client in the consumer goods industry who had no true Six Sigma experience and infrastructure in place was undergoing an improvement effort in streamlining their end-to-end process and eliminating duplicative and manual activities. Following the DMAIC approach, the team developed current state and future state process maps while identifying improvement opportunities in filling the gaps. On completion of a thorough analysis of their current state and the outcome Y, the team identified potential Xs and evaluated short-term and long-term opportunities in meeting their improvement desires.

The Black Belt of the project decided to implement and manage the improvement opportunities with internal resources (a supported recommendation if the team is well prepared and managed). The implementation proved challenging for the team because the team leads that were trained in Six Sigma were not trained project managers and were unable to develop standard management and tracking templates. Without a project plan and a bigger-picture view, the team found it difficult to implement a solution and the project fell behind schedule. The resources started dedicating less time to the project as there was no clear goal or plan developed.

The Black Belt realized that he did not have the time or expertise to play a project management role, and that a trained project manager was essential in managing the project and providing oversight. It was important to have a project manager that was external to the process, someone who did not have a personal stake in any particular functional group or process step. This allowed an independent assessment of resources and risks throughout the effort. The project manager had close interaction with the Black Belt to ensure that weekly updates were provided and all risks were identified and mitigated to avoid a delay in the schedule or unannounced cost increases in the overall budget.

A Project Management Perspective for Belts

A few additional things Belts should consider when developing a project management plan are:

1. Be realistic in providing status updates – avoid the all-green traffic light chart if it does not truly reflect the state of the effort. If it is hard to create consistency in status selection, develop a standard scoring legend defining what green, yellow and red mean to the team.

2. Don’t lose sight of the soft skills needed for project management – the tools and methodologies make the tracking and work more efficient, but the skills needed for managing people and expectations are harder to learn and exhibit.

3. If the effort requires long-term implementation and organization-wide support, bring on a project manager as soon as possible (during the problem solving phase). The more involved they are up front, the easier they can adjust in the back-end of a project.

4. Ensuring a dedicated project management source is on board also can speed up a process by guaranteeing tasks are being accomplished in a timely manner.

Improvement Teams Need Managers and Belts

An improvement team should not decide between using a project manager or Black Belt in their projects. The roles, skill sets and expertise differ, and should complement each other in the effort. A project manager does not have to be a Black Belt, but should understand the basic Six Sigma methodology to leverage through their management responsibilities. Understanding and using the basic project management methodologies is necessary to staying within budget and schedule, mitigating risks before they truly become a risk to the project, and successfully implementing such projects.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

An Overview of Digital Project Management

Digital Project Management, Project Management

Digital project management can be defined as the planning, organizing and motivating of project teams while managing resources, procedures and processes to reach an Internet related or online marketing goal on time and on budget.

By 2017, global business-to-customer (B2C) eCommerce sales are expected to reach $2.3 trillion. Given the amazing growth of online marketing and eCommerce, any conversation about project management will likely include digital project management to meet the demands of this vast, evolving market.

Digital marketing is not just for high-tech and software companies. Any company should strive to produce and maintain an optimal online presence. In today’s global marketplace, companies need to employ digital project management if they rely on any of these elements to increase sales:

◈ Company website
◈ Search engine optimization
◈ Mobile technologies
◈ E-mail newsletter marketing
◈ Social media creative marketing
◈ Copywriting

Digital Project Management Basics

Digital project management, used most often to build or optimize websites and cell phone apps, is subtly different than traditional project management used in the manufacturing or service sectors. Digital project management unfolds in five steps:

Discovery – Generating ideas, exploring new concepts and identifying potential solutions

Planning – Determining project scope and completing a wireframe

Production – Beta development and front-end coding

Deployment – Evaluating the site’s or app’s performance after it goes live

Maintenance – Support for the project throughout its useful life

What Does a Digital Project Manager Do?

The traditional tasks of a project manager include assessing risk, planning work, coordinating tasks, motivating team members and keeping the project on time and on budget. The role of a digital project manager might include additional responsibilities, such as:

Business Development – Project management requires an understanding of the client’s needs and a strong development of client trust. Your rapport with the client may give you even greater influence on the client’s purchasing decisions than your sales team has.

Digital Strategist – Often clients don’t have a clear vision of the project. This can work in your favor to gently guide clients through the discovery and design process with your knowledge of web architecture, user experience, design, content, search engine optimization, social media and analytics.

Account Manager – As someone who works closely with clients, you will practice the art of setting and adjusting client expectations. This could involve knowing which issues your team can handle and which need to be delegated. The true test of your account management skill is the ability to deliver news that the client may not want to hear.

Quality Assurance Specialist – It is your responsibility to set the standards for quality testing. By working closely with the client, you understand the nuances of the project. You also know that client satisfaction is about more than just meeting requirements on a spec sheet. As project manager, you have the last word on meeting the client’s quality needs.

Necessary Skills for a Digital Project Manager

Digital project managers require a slightly different set of skills than traditional project managers. In addition to traditional project management tool sets, the digital project manager should be adept at:

Using Content Management Systems (CMS) – The CMS is a user-friendly platform for a website and makes it easy for personnel to make changes to the site. The more the project manager can do, the more time developers will have for other tasks.

Understanding Information Architecture – Project managers who know how to structure and categorize information can help their teams run much more efficiently.

Interpreting Analytics – A Google Analytics (or similar) certification can help project managers understand exactly how the site is performing, and use knowledge gained from the analytics to make changes to items where necessary.

Writing in HTML – The ability to write HTML code allows the PM to help developers with the more fundamental coding when help is needed or if the project is falling behind.

Employing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Search engine page ranking is critical for a website’s success, but programmers don’t always design a site with SEO in mind. Your ability to use SEO to optimize the pages on the site can be critical.

Managing Social Media – When you understand how to create a strong presence on social media, you have an advantage when it is time to send out teasers or when you’re ready to promote the completed project to the world.

The rapidly expanding world of eCommerce is offering vast opportunity for project managers who are willing to expand their skill sets. Take the first step today on your path toward becoming a Project Management Professional.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

PMP Vs PRINCE2 – Which Certification suits your Career?

PMP vs Prince2, PMP Certifications, Prince2 Certifications

After having certain years of experience in handling a project or being a part of the project team, there comes a time when you have to move ahead in your career. Today, certification seems to be the right way to move up to the higher echelons of management in an enterprise.  But there is a certain dilemma among project practitioners across the globe with regards to which project management certification is right for them.

As there are various project management approaches in PMP, PRINCE2, Agile Project Management and others. Project Management Professional (PMP)® and PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE2)® are the two most in-demand project management credentials by both professionals and employers around the world. PRINCE2 credential is more popular across the UK and European countries, whereas PMP is popular across the US, Asia-Pacific and MENA regions. The governing body for PRINCE2 certifications is AXELOS and Project Management Institute Inc. is the governing body for providing PMP certification.

Both PMP and PRINCE2 certification make up two different project management frameworks, where each methodology has its own best practices and making a tough choice between them depends on various factors. The choice of certification should be based on the organization, type of industry, and the project one is being involved in.

Why go for PMP Certification?

PMP stands for Project Management Professional and is one of the most widely-recognized project management certification in the world. This PMP course is governed by Project Management Institute (PMI). Enterprises across the globe use PMP credential as a benchmark while hiring project managers to handle or be part of business critical projects. Professionals with PMP credential can work across industry verticals, with any methodology and in any location. Having PMP certification also increases your earning potential.  According to PMI’s “Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey, 9th Edition”, PMP certification holders earn nearly 20% more than their uncertified peers and is among the best in the industry. The PMP certification has to be renewed every 3 years by collecting 60 PDUs.

Why go for PRINCE2 Certification?

PRINCE2 which stands for ‘Projects IN Controlled Environments’ is a highly-rated project management methodology that offers a robust structure for delivering a successful project with clear templates, processes, and steps.  The governing body for PRINCE2 certifications is AXELOS. PRINCE 2 certifications is divided into two certifications: PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner. PRINCE2 Foundation certification is valid for life, whereas PRINCE2 Practitioner certification needs to be renewed every 3-5 years by giving exam.

Benefits of Having PMP Certification

1. With PMP make your Resume to Stand Out:

Hiring managers across the globe usually consider widely-recognized certifications such as PMP more than anything else. A PMP credential demonstrates that you have the required skills to take on project challenges and have the knowledge to successfully finish the project from start to end, and one who is committed towards his/her development.

2. Improved Salary Prospects with Global Opportunities:

The immediate change that you can see with PMP credential is a better salary package than your non-certified peers. According to,  PMP certified professionals is can earn up to ~USD 125,000 with global opportunities.

3. Provides better networking opportunities:

PMP is not like other certifications, it has a validity up to 3 years, then you have to earn 60 PDUs to maintain your PMP certification. This results in attending PMI conferences and seminars, where you meet professionals from similar background  where you share your experiences and ideate on the same.

4. Benchmarks your project execution skills:

When it comes to PMP, the comprehensive knowledge gained will help you to benchmark your project execution skills and improve the overall productivity of your project team. PMP is based on the PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition, which validates your knowledge of best practices and principles of project management.

5. PMP is acknowledged across various industries:

PMP certification is acknowledged across industry verticals when it comes to practical application. PMP is not restricted to any methodology or standard and is widely accepted across industries such as Banking, IT, Telecommunication, Construction, Aerospace & Defense,  Utilities, and more.

Benefits of Having PRINCE2 Certification

1. Comprehensive methodology to manage projects:

Unlike PMI’s PMP, PRINCE2 is an effective Project Management methodology. The difference lies in “process” and “Body of Knowledge”. PMP is all about providing best practices of managing projects across the globe in a standardized format. In fact, it stays away from recommending what processes to follow while managing projects and that is where PRINCE2 comes into the picture, it fills the void left behind by PMP.

2. Justifies the entire project even before it starts:

PRINCE2 methodology requires complete business justification at every level.  The project should provide regular updates on business cases at various junctures of the project lifecycle to ensure the intended value will be delivered to the enterprise and its clients. Failure to do so will result in terminating the justification to continue with the project.

3. PRINCE2 can be tailored to suit any project in size and complexity:

The best part of PRINCE2 is that it can be tailored to any project size and complexity. In PRINCE2 you can never remove a process. The process activity must be completed, but you can tailor the process to suit the appropriate environment. Moreover,  a lot of resource and time is saved as PRINCE2 is an embedded methodology, which means, PRINCE2 will be applied to all aspects of the organization.

4. Improved salary prospects with global opportunities:

Professionals with PRINCE2 credential have a higher chance of landing their dream job and one that pays well. Especially in countries likes the UK, Europe, Australia, and Asia, your employer has all the required justification of your skills to give you an improved pay rise. According to, the highest average annual salary for professionals with PRINCE2 certification is in the range of ~USD 60,000 to ~USD 123,000.

The below table should be able to give you a fair idea on subtle differences between the two of the widely-recognized project management certifications.

PMP® PRINCE2 Foundation  PRINCE2 Practitioner 
Subject Project Management Knowledge   Project Management Methodology 
Deals with Project’s How? What? When? Whom? 
Popular in US, Canada, Australia, Middle East and Asia UK, Europe and Australia
Reference Material  PMBOK® Guide – Fifth Edition, but not limited to PRINCE2 Official Manual, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2
No. of Exam Questions  200 75 8×10
Exam Type  Multiple choice Multiple choice Scenario based paper (
Exam Result  Through psychometric analysis 50% 55% 
Exam Duration  240 minutes 60 minutes  150 minutes 
Extra time for second language  None 15 minutes   30 minutes
Open Book  No No  Yes 
Exam Venue  Prometric center Training provider approved place / online 
Pre-requisites 3 yrs of experience in the project management field
(5 years if you don’t have a four-year degree)At least 4,500 hours of experience in leading and directing projects (7,500 hours if you don’t have a four-year degree)35 hours of formal project management education (35 PDUs)
No prerequisitesFormal training by PEOPLECERT accredited training provider  PRINCE2 Foundation CertifiedFormal training by PEOPLECERT accredited training provider 
How to Register?  You have to register at the by submitting an application form of your work experience and take the exam at a Prometric center nearby to your location  By registering through PEOPLECERT accredited training organization for the examination through paper-based / online exam 
Validity of certification  One has to renew PMP certification every 3 years by acquiring 60 PDUs  Valid for life  One has to renew PRINCE2 Practitioner certification every 3-5 yrs by taking an exam
Cost of the Exam  $555 $365 (depends on training organization) $485 (depends on training organization) 

Employers around the world have great demand for project practitioners. The demand for PRINCE2 credential holders is more in the UK and in Europe. Whereas the demand for PMP certified professionals is more in the USA and rest of the world.  At the end of the day, it completely depends on the organization and the project type that you are handling to choose the right certification that suits your career. PMP certification is helpful for gaining a holistic view of project management and PRINCE2 mainly helps to understand the processes and people in a project.

For project practitioners to take their project management skills to the next level, it would be great to undergo certification training in both PMP and PRINCE2. It will help you to gain in-depth understanding of project management approaches and implement PM techniques which suit the best to successfully complete the project.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

DMAIC Case Study: Improving System Availability

A leading environmental services company applied the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology to improve the availability of an internal software system. The goal was to reduce system downtime (the time that the software application is not available for users) and reduce defect resolution time (the time it takes to fix a software defect once it is reported), thereby increasing return on investment (ROI) and user satisfaction.

Business Background

The environmental services company provides collection, processing, recycling, and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials for industrial and automotive customers. The company has branches all over the United States. The branches carry out services for customers in their respective territories; each branch completes several services for different customers on a single day.

For a given day, the branch determines the order in which the services are to be executed. This order of execution is based on customer preferences, pre-determined time windows and the availability of resources (e.g., drum capacity) for services to be performed.

The Route Management team uses a transport management system (TMS) to optimize routing services between customers in a territory. The TMS determines the most efficient route between customers based on factors such as distances between locations and time taken for services to be performed, in addition to the pre-determined parameters mentioned above. The service representatives obtain service routes from the TMS, complete their assigned services and update the TMS. This update process is critical in ensuring that the “completed services” data is in sync with the “planned services” data in the system.

The branch personnel and service representatives are the principal users of the system. The Branch Operations Support Team (Branch Ops) provides functional expertise and business rules. The Branch Ops team is the liaison between the branch personnel and the Route Management Information Technology (IT) Group, which is responsible for system maintenance and technical support.

If the branch personnel encounter an issue with the TMS software application, they submit a defect report through the defect-tracking system. Defects can be:

1. Software application related (e.g., system downtime – cannot access system, cannot optimize routes, user-interface screen is locked).

2. Data related (e.g., branch addresses incorrect, service orders not correctly loaded for a given branch, service group has incorrect volume).

3. An enhancement request.

Concerns About the TMS

The branch employees and field personnel had concerns about the TMS. The TMS seemed to slow down and stall at random times throughout the day; the system then experienced downtime before it was available again for the field personnel to complete their tasks. The users expected – and needed – the system to be responsive and nimble since it managed real-time data. The users also needed quicker resolution times for reported defects.

A process improvement team was deployed to increase user satisfaction and ROI by improving the availability of the TMS by:

1. Minimizing system downtime of software application.
2. Reducing the resolution time of reported software defects.


As primary users of the system, the service representatives and the field forces are most affected by system unavailability and downtime. The Branch Ops team plays an important role in resolving functional issues quickly and informing IT about technical defects. They communicate with the field personnel regularly so are aware of commonly occurring issues and required enhancements. Together, IT, Branch Ops and service representatives defined the problem areas as the slowness of the TMS and poor system availability, and the length of time to fix reported issues.

The goal of this project was to aim for 99 percent system availability and to reduce resolution time by at least 50 percent.


Process mapping was used to characterize the “current” process as shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Process Map of Current System

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Branch personnel report defects in a defect-tracking system, which then are routed through Branch Ops to IT. Sometimes, the defect requests are routed directly to IT, bypassing the Branch Ops group. This is a problem because:

1. In some cases, the issue is the result of incomplete user training or missing functional knowledge. The Branch Ops team has excellent functional and business knowledge and can easily resolve many issues, greatly reducing resolution time. In such cases, IT does not need to be involved.
2. Some of the tickets coming directly from the end users are ambiguous or do not contain all the information that IT requires to resolve the issue. Time is wasted as IT contacts the user and gathers more information, before being able to process the request and resolve the issue. The Branch Ops team includes subject matter experts who ensure that defect reports contain all the information required for resolution.


Metrics were selected for tracking process improvement.

Issue Metric 
Poor system availability Poor system availability
Resolution time of defects The time between the initial reporting of a defect and the resolution of the defect. 

To narrow the project’s focus area, the defects reported in the previous year were analyzed and categorized, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Defects Reported in the TMS

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Poor system availability, or downtime, accounted for approximately 34 percent of all reported defects, making it the primary issue facing field personnel.


Poor System Availability

The system slowed down or stalled at random times throughout the workweek. Field personnel were unable to update their tasks or sync data with the host system.

In order to trace the root cause of these slow and stopped periods, message queues and server logs were analyzed. SQL traces (a way to record information about a software program’s execution) were run to see if there were conflicting queries or deadlocks, which could cause the incoming user requests to queue up. No pattern was uncovered.

The field personnel performed their work throughout the work day, nationwide. Due to the different time zones across the country, server downtime initially seemed to fluctuate randomly throughout the day. However, quantitative analysis of the reporting times of the defects seemed to suggest that the system availability was poor during the early half of the week and also toward the end of the work day, when a large number of users logged in to update their records. Nearly 75 percent of reports of system downtime came within the first three days of the week. Of these, more than 50 percent were reported in the mornings, at the start of the work day in the respective time zones.

Resolution Time of Defects

The time elapsed between reporting a defect and resolving it was measured. The average resolution time of incidents was approximately 20 minutes. Since the system managed real-time data, this length of time was unacceptably long for field personnel. The elapsed time needed to be halved – the desired time for defect resolution was 10 minutes.

The input-process-output (IPO) tool was used to winnow down the factors that affect the resolution time of defects. That resulting list is the Inputs in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: IPO of Response Time for Reported Defects

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Poor System Availability

Poor system availability during peak times suggested that the TMS was not able to balance the large volume of transactions occurring at that time. The simplistic round-robin domain name system load balancing that was already in use was not sufficient to ensure that the system was available at all times.

It was suggested that implementing a more sophisticated load-balancing technique between the servers may help to reduce the load on the existing servers, improve system stability and prevent user requests from getting bottlenecked. This more capable system, however, was complicated to set up, required external vendor support, was more expensive, required a license and more. Making the change was a significant expense, requiring time to install the software and train its employees to keep it running.

Several rounds of discussion were held between Branch Ops, infrastructure and the IT teams. Detailed documentation and quantitative analysis of system downtimes ensured that the decision to implement load-balancing for the TMS was escalated and prioritized.

Resolution Time of Defects

Slow response times were addressed with a 5 Whys analysis, which revealed the following issues as causes for delays:

◈ The go-between Branch Ops group had functional expertise but did not have technical knowledge or access rights to resolve issues in the TMS.
◈ Some incidents were routed directly to IT without being vetted by the Branch Ops group. These defects often had incomplete information. There were delays as the missing information was collected and IT was in a position to resolve the issue.
◈ The wording and input formats (e.g., screen shots) of the defects were not reported in a standard manner. Time was wasted as IT team members had to understand the issue before gathering relevant information and resolving the problem.


Poor System Availability

The more robust load balancing system was implemented among the TMS servers. The recovery process of servers was automated so that response time was almost instantaneous. This was an enormous improvement over the current situation for defect resolution times.

The requests to the servers could be processed in the order in which they were received. The stability and availability of the system improved tremendously and downtime was reduced from an average of 20 minutes to less than one minute.

Figure 4: Defect Reports of System Restart Requests

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Resolution Time of Defects

Several steps were taken to reduce the resolution time of reported software issues.

◈ Defect categorization: The issues reported by Branch Ops and field personnel were analyzed and categorized. Commonly occurring issues in the TMS were identified. User training was provided where needed.

◈ Branch Ops empowerment:
    ◈ Technical knowledge and documentation. Solutions to commonly occurring issues (such as geocoding issues or time lapses in updates) were documented; the documentation was provided to the Branch Ops group. Branch Ops is no longer dependent on IT to resolve common TMS issues. Most issues involving user training and user errors are now quickly resolved by Branch Ops.
    ◈ Increased system access. Key personnel of the Branch Ops group were given increased privileges in the TMS environment. Branch Ops personnel could explore the system at their convenience and suggest enhancements.
    ◈ Vetting of defect reports. All defects reports were routed exclusively through Branch Ops and common issues were quickly resolved. Defects involving technical issues were assigned to IT, but all reports were first vetted by Branch Ops; care was taken to ensure that reports contained all relevant information that would be required by IT to resolve the issues.

◈ Input and verbiage: Verbiage and input format was standardized. The level of ambiguity in the defect reports reduced drastically. IT could identify and isolate the issues quickly and move to resolve them promptly.

These simple procedures expedited the speed of defect resolution.

◈ Load balancing and automatic server restart reduced the resolution time for server downtime issues, from 20 minute to under a minute.
◈ The new load balancing software greatly improved the stability of the transport management system. Defects reporting data inconsistency reduced by 80 percent.
◈ Knowledge base documents were developed for commonly occurring issues and user training was provided where required. Resolution time for such issues was reduced by more than 50 percent.
◈ All tickets coming to IT had all the required information on them, and were accompanied by screen shots. There was no time wasted in contacting the user and gathering important information. This expedited the resolution process by 20 percent.

The Branch Ops group was empowered and readily took ownership of the routing data and the TMS. IT could focus time and resources on resolving technical issues and implementing enhancements.


Poor System Availability

After implementing the new load balancing technique, the number of reports of system downtime was carefully monitored. Server-scheduled tasks were executed on a timely basis to proactively prevent the occurrence of server downtime.

Resolution Time of Defects

The resolution time of defects was monitored. The nature of reported issues assigned to IT and the verbiage of the issue was monitored. Issues within the realm of Branch Ops were reassigned to them allowing IT to focus solely on the more challenging and less routine technical issues.


These simple steps increased the availability and reliability of the TMS. Productivity of the system greatly increased. There was a 98 percent decrease in reports of system downtime. User satisfaction and acceptance of the TMS increased tremendously.

As a result of this project, branch and field personnel no longer worry about system availability and data inconsistency; instead, they can focus on their jobs. The Branch Ops team is eager to exercise its new-found access rights and further explore, and help enhance, the TMS.

With these successes, the morale of the entire Route Management team has improved. Company personnel are energized to find ways to leverage the TMS and to further improve truck route optimization and efficiency.

Monday, 19 February 2018

DMAIC Case Study: Accuracy of System-generated Service Routes

A leading environmental services company provides collection, processing, recycling and disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous materials for industrial and automotive customers. The company has branches all over the United States. The service representatives in these branches carry out services for geographically dispersed customers in their respective territories.

This case study describes how DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) was used to enhance the feasibility and quality of service routes, thus increasing user satisfaction and return on investment (ROI) on the routing software.

As-is Process

For a given day, the branch manager (also referred to here as the dispatcher) determines the order in which the services are to be completed by generating a document called a route sheet. This order of execution is based on customer preferences, pre-determined time windows and the availability of resources (e.g., drum capacity) for services to be performed. Using the route sheet, the branch service representatives drive their trucks to customer locations and complete the service order.

The volume of service orders per week is large – approximately 45,000 service orders each week across all branches. In order to maximize time and fuel efficiency, reduce freight spend and optimize routing, the company uses a third-party transportation management system (TMS) to assist with generating the route sheets. Routing is outbound and multi-stop, with about 12 stops per route (depending upon the line of business).

Service orders, service durations and customer addresses for each line of business are loaded into the TMS as shown in Figure 1. Using internal algorithms and the pre-determined factors mentioned above, the TMS determines the most efficient route between customers and generates the route sheet.

These route sheets are finalized and approved by branch managers and are then given to the service representatives. The service representatives perform the services and update the system.

Figure 1: Process Flow for Generating Service Route

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By definition, the TMS is expected to lower freight spend by proposing feasible service routes and by generating reliable estimates of travel time and distance. (Note: In the context of this article, the route is feasible if the service representative is able to complete all planned services on the route in the order and within the timeframe suggested by the TMS.)


The TMS efficiently optimizes the routing of approximately 45,000 service orders across 154 branches each week. Previously, system stability and user satisfaction had been improved and increased. There was, however, still room for improvement.

The branch personnel had two main issues that they wished to resolve: improve the route review process and improve route quality.

Improve Route Review Process

The routes suggested by the TMS were not always feasible. The service representatives sometimes found it difficult to complete all the planned services on the route in the order, and within the time window, suggested by the TMS.

For example: The TMS may suggest that a service route has six stops, starting at Site A. Site A needs Service XYZ. Using pre-loaded information such as the number of pieces of equipment to be serviced and the service time, the TMS may determine that Service XYZ at Site A will take two hours. Using this information, the TMS calculates the expected arrival time and service time window for the next stop and for the remaining stops on the route.

In reality, however, variations in the physical size of customer sites and the location of equipment on the customer site affect service time. These parameters are customer-specific and cannot be accounted for directly in the TMS system. If Site A has four pieces of equipment in different locations, the service time at this customer may be more than what was initially calculated by the TMS. The extended service time at this customer site will affect the service time estimates for the entire route. Adjustments such as reducing the number of stops on the route or postponing some scheduled services will be needed to accommodate for the extra time required at this customer location.

The route generated by the TMS had to be reviewed before it was finalized to ensure that the route was, indeed, feasible.

Improve Route Quality

In some cases, there were incorrect estimates of distances between locations on the route. For example, the TMS reported the distance between Site A and Site B as 20 miles, when in fact the distance was approximately 45 miles. Estimates of travel time and distance were directly affected. This was perceived as a serious technical drawback and it reduced user confidence and trust in the TMS. Further, these shortcomings adversely affected the performance metrics of the field workforce.

It was important to address these issues to improve routing efficiency and to increase user trust in the TMS with two goals:

1. Improve the process of estimating route feasibility by reducing the number of changes to the finalized route by at least 20 percent.
2. Improve estimates of speed and distance for the service route by at least 20 percent.

The in-frame/out-of-frame tool was used to manage the scope of this project from the route management information technology (IT) and branch operations perspective – showing what was within direct control of the team and what was not. Internal algorithms and the optimization logic of the TMS were considered out of frame as was the weather (Figure 2).

Figure 2: In-Frame and Out-of-Frame Analysis

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Improve Route Review Process

The process that was used to review service routes is shown in Figure 3 below. The software system generated the optimized service route in the form of a route sheet. This route sheet was reviewed and finalized by the branch managers. The finalized route sheet was handed over to the service representatives for review and execution.

Figure 3: Process Flow of Route Review Process

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Sometimes, the service representatives suggested changes to the finalized route, but this was inconvenient and time-consuming. The service representatives needed to be involved earlier in the service route review process to both improve route feasibility and reduce expensive last-minute changes.

Improve Route Quality

At a high level, Figure 4 characterizes how a service route is generated within the TMS. Branch and customer addresses as well as service-order information is fed into the TMS. By using internal algorithms and calculating distances between customer locations, the TMS places customer stops on a service route, ending with the creation of a route sheet.

Figure 4: Process Flow for Generating Service Route in TMS

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It was odd that some routes had incorrect estimates of time and distance while most were calculated correctly. Clearly, this was not a technical deficiency of the TMS but could be attributed to the location addresses on the sub-optimal routes. Discussions with the third-party vendor that developed the TMS revealed that the TMS parses each address fed into the system and converts it into a geocode; the geocode was then used to determine distances between locations. If the TMS could correctly decipher the entire address, the location was assigned a high geocode score. If not, the geocode score was low.

Therefore, the geocode score was a good metric to use to determine if the location address was standardized and could be correctly interpreted by the TMS. This geocode score is accessible to the branch operations and IT teams, but was not readily visible to the branch personnel.

Next, the input-process-output tool was used to determine the most relevant inputs to getting good estimates of time and distance between locations. These are summarized in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Input-process-output Analysis

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The cause-and-effect matrix was used to further narrow down relevant inputs to the process of service route generation. Of these, standardizing addresses, correct geocoding and branch personnel training were considered the most important.


Improve Route Review Process

The most common factors affecting route feasibility were analyzed. Feedback from the field workforce revealed that factors such as customer site size and layout, road conditions such as traffic by time-of-day and construction work, seasonal variations, and weather conditions all had a large impact on travel and service time and, consequently, on route feasibility.

Figure 6: Issues Affecting Route Feasibility

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The service representatives are the ones who build rapport with the customers and perform the services at the customer sites. They are familiar with service route variables such as service site size and layout; customers’ preferred days and times of service; and traffic conditions such as congestion, road closures and detours along the routes. Using this combined knowledge of the TMS and the service representatives, the team could develop better estimates of route feasibility.

It was important that this valuable tribal knowledge was utilized in the service-route generation process. It was decided to develop a process that would allow the service representatives to review the software-generated service route and help modify it if needed – before service routes were finalized.

Improve Route Quality

The 5 Whys tool (only four were required in this case) was used to determine the root cause of this issue.

◈ Routing is inefficient and the TMS is unreliable.
◈ Why? Some time and distance estimates are incorrect and routes are not optimal.
◈ Why? TMS has assigned low geocode scores to locations on “incorrect” routes.
◈ Why? The TMS probably cannot locate such addresses on the map.
◈ Why? These addresses are incorrect/nonstandardized.

As previously noted, when the TMS could not decipher some addresses, the system assigned those locations low geocode scores. Consequently, the time and distance estimates to and from such locations were incorrect. Across all branches, it was found that:

◈ Approximately 14 percent of route locations had low geocode scores. Quantitative analysis of the addresses with a low geocode score showed that 50 percent of the nonstandardized addresses used abbreviations (e.g., Ave. instead of Avenue and Cir. instead of Circle), which the TMS could not recognize.
◈ Thirty percent of low-geocode addresses were so marked due to minor spelling errors made during location setup in the TMS entry.
◈ Fifteen percent had incorrect street names (e.g., using Street rather than Road).
◈ Five percent were addresses that TMS could not interpret or could not locate on the map (e.g., rural roads not available on existing maps).

It became apparent that geocoding accuracy and routing could be greatly improved by using address validation and verification practices before data was fed into the TMS.


Improve Route Review Process

A detailed cross-system report was generated combining service order data, customer data, service information and the routing order in which services would need to be completed. The service representatives were able to review this report in advance and make suggestions and/or changes to improve route feasibility. After review, the routes were finalized and published.

Improve Route Quality

Geocodes for locations on inefficient routes were analyzed, and addresses were verified, corrected and reconverted into a geocode. The new geocode scores were higher and, consequently, time and distance were estimated correctly. Steps were taken to further improve service order route quality included the following:

◈ Geocode scores were made visible to branch personnel so that they can check sub-optimal routes and verify the location addresses.
◈ Documentation and training was provided to geocode a location correctly.


Improve Route Review Process

Service reps can now provide feedback on route feasibility. This has reduced expensive and time-consuming changes to the finalized route by 20 percent.

Improve Route Quality

Location geocode scores are now displayed in the route detail window. Branch managers can quickly spot a low geocode score, and verify and correct the addresses as needed, thus improving overall route quality. All known incorrect locations with a poor geocode score were corrected and geocoded. The number of addresses with a low geocode score decreased by 20 percent. The start and stop routes from these locations now show an accurate estimate of time and distance.

Given the enormous number of customer locations, address correction is an ongoing effort. As locations with a low geocode score appear on the route, they are verified and corrected by branch personnel.


The company is now able to leverage data obtained from the TMS to improve the processes related to service order routing. Route feasibility estimation and route quality has improved. User satisfaction and ROI on the TMS has increased by ensuring more efficient routing. A rousing success all the way around!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Comparing and Contrasting IDEAL and DMAIC

Comparing and contrasting the way different disciplines and tools map to one another can help lead to a better understanding of each of the things being compared. This paper reviews a methodology called IDEALSM, which was developed and evolved by members of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI), and compares it with the Six Sigma DMAIC roadmap and thought process. After a brief review of IDEAL and DMAIC individually, this article examines ways they are similar and ways that they might challenge and inform one another.

The Software Engineering Institute and IDEAL

The SEI has long fostered work in software process improvement (SPI). In response to requests for more guidance selecting among improvement alternatives and getting improvements readily adopted, a team developed the first incarnation of IDEAL in about 1993. The roadmap and substantially current model of the process took shape in about 1996 (Figure 1).

Figure 1: IDEAL Model

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In a nutshell, the IDEAL acronym and key activities at each stage can be summarized as follows:
  • Initiating
    • Understand the improvement opportunity and its context and potential business value.
    • Identify stakeholders and the first view of the infrastructure scope and risks that would be required for successful transition of the improvement.
  • Diagnosing
    • Describe the current and desired states.
    • Explore the opportunities and solution alternatives.
    • Develop recommendations.
  • Establishing
    • Identify tasks and responsibilities.
    • Set priorities.
  • Acting
    • Pilot the improvement.
    • Learn from the pilot and refine the plans.
    • Implement the refined improvement.
  • Learning
    • Monitor and control the ongoing inputs and outputs.
    • Diagnose early warning signals and adjust and control as needed.
    • Learn from the ongoing process and make next recommendations.
One can see at a glance that IDEAL is constructed in a way that presumes at least an initial sense of a solution at the outset. That is likely one reason that IDEAL is often referred to as a transition process (more than a problem-solving process).

DMAIC – Quick History

For Six Sigma Belts, depending when they were trained in Six Sigma, they may or may not see DMAIC as having been a core element from the beginning. In the early days, there were the Six Steps to Six Sigma and then an evolution to MAIC as the core roadmap and methodology. As teams underlined the importance of understanding the problem and related goals and scope, a Define stage (D) was added to make DMAIC for many companies. An outline view of DMAIC is provided in Figure 2.

Figure 2: DMAIC Overview

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Strength vs. Weakness Orientation

IDEAL is strength based, meaning that it focuses on improvement ideas and an ideal state, driving the planning, piloting and ongoing control connected with bringing that improvement to reality. DMAIC, in contrast, is inherently weakness based, meaning that it focuses on reducing costs or cycle time, driving the use of facts and data to uncover causes, and only then does the focus swing to solutions and implementation.

At first, this distinction may seem a little arbitrary. After all, a strength-based project goal like “improve customer satisfaction” and a weakness-based one like “reduce complaints” are just two ways of saying the same thing. While that may be true on the surface, there are implications that the choice of one over the other can have on the way a team thinks about data and learning.

Increasing yield, which is listed in Table 1, is a good example of a strength-based goal that was popular at Motorola before Six Sigma. Since yield is the proportion of units that survive a manufacturing process ready to ship, it summarizes performance. If yields suddenly dropped from 90 percent to 70 percent, the numbers do not provide much diagnostic help to see where the problem is or what to fix. Strength-based goals encourage a team to lean toward ideas (about how to improve the strength) and the future state.

How might things be different for a team setting out to reduce defects? First, their view is more detailed. They are looking at the defects within the units. This was the most fundamental shift that Six Sigma brought to Motorola. This team would tend toward facts and data (What are the defects? Where are they happening?) instead of improvement ideas. Their metrics would be more diagnostic. When defects of a certain type move from one per week to three per week, there is some information about what is wrong and what to fix.

A last contrast to make involves the reporting climate in an environment. People know when their bosses want to hear good (strength-based) news, and they tend to put the “best face” on data being reported at all levels. This can submerge and subdue details, sometimes to the point where leaders don’t see details that could have previewed or mitigated trouble that surfaces larger and later. On the other hand, companies that see the value in weakness orientation invite the details and the gritty dirty laundry in order to get down to fundamental causes and drivers at every opportunity.

See how that distinction plays out as the discussion of IDEAL and DMAIC continues.

Table 1: Weakness vs. Strength Orientation in Problem Solving

Weakness Strength 
Example Reducing defects
Reducing complaints
Reducing delays
Increasing capability, yield
Increasing % satisfied customers
Increasing throughput
Use of Metrics  Diagnostic metrics
More detail: Defects within units
Details support root cause analysis
Performance metrics
Less detail: Defective units
Rollups that summarize performance
Focus of Team Facts, the past and present
What are the defects?
Where are they being found?
Ideas, the future
What can we do to improve customer satisfaction? 
Impact on Reporting Surfaces real issues
(Dirty laundry okay)
Focuses on improvement
Good news tends to filter out detail, favors the best spin 

Table 2: Summarization of IDEAL and DMAIC Similarities and Differences

IDEAL   Comparisons and Contrasts DMAIC
Initiating Set context

Build sponsorship

Charter infrastructure
IDEAL begins with a stimulus for change. While IDEAL and DMAIC seek to quantify business impact and align sponsors, IDEAL may focus more on the benefits of implementing an improvement that is at least partly in view at the outset.

DMAIC discipline focuses first on understanding the problem (to avoid jumping to a solution).

DMAIC emphasizes the importance of results measures and targets.
Charter – goal statement; business case

Survey the problem and its context – processes; requirements 
Diagnosing Characterize current and desired states

Develop recommendations 
While nothing would stop and IDEAL team from applying some of the DMAIC rigor to identifying prospective causal factors, building trustworthy measurement systems and gathering facts and data shed light on what is going on. There is not a lot of specific guidance about that.

DMAIC brings graphical, statistical and logical tools and infrastructure for guidance in their proper use (with the Belts system).

DMAIC pays strong attention to holding off on solution thinking and recommendations until there has been some real fact-based learning about the causes or drivers that can be verified to influence the project results measures.
Identify factors and causes that may be influential.

Challenge the measurement systems that will be needed to convert raw events into useful facts and data.

Gather facts and data to shed light on root causes and drivers.

Use (patterns and contrasts in) the data to learn what is driving the project Ys – the critical results measures.

Verify key causes and drivers.
Establishing Set priorities

Develop approach

Plan actions
DMAIC brings discipline about not jumping to a solution or even into the solution selection process by paying attention to the breadth of alternatives and the rationale used to select among them. General solution

Acting Create solution

Pilot/test solution

Refine solution

Implement solution
Considerable common ground here.

DMAIC brings some useful discipline and guidance about creating an effective transfer plan.
Select best solution

Pilot the solution

Refine the solution

Plan to transfer control
Learning  Analyze and validate

Propose future actions
IDEAL pays considerable attention to the ongoing learning that is possible – and necessary – during the implementation and ongoing monitor/control of a particular improvement. That broad view of learning could be helpful to supplement the DMAIC view, which is often more narrowly focused on measures-based, statistical views of control. Track the ongoing stability and success of the transferred process.

Learn from the process – to do DMAIC better next time.

Summing Up

IDEAL is a strength-based transition model because it focuses early on desired state and developing recommendations. From there it devotes much attention to the solution planning, piloting and learning from results.

DMAIC is more weakness based, focusing on the problem (defects, delays, etc.) and the facts connected with it. More visible emphasis is placed on using measures to really get to the bottom of the problem (root cause and Y = f(x) dynamics). Nothing would stop a team from doing this under the Diagnosing stage in the IDEAL model, but the model doesn’t draw out and enforce that data-driven problem solving as rigorously as DMAIC.

IDEAL places more emphasis on ongoing monitoring and learning, after the solution is in place. DMAIC allows for this and encourages it in the Control phase, but with a focus on transfer of control back to process owners, it leaves the ongoing monitoring problem somewhat up to the reader.

In short, DMAIC could teach IDEAL a few things about front-end/problem-solving rigor and IDEAL could teach DMAIC about ongoing monitoring and learning.

Note: Some guidance on the IDEAL model was taken from The IDEAL Transition Framework – Speeding Managed Change by Tom Kimbrough and Linda Levine.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Key Principles of Resource Management

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Project management as we know has evolved as an important part in most of the organizations. Starting from research and development to big transformations, project management finds its application. But the hard truth is that not all projects become successful as others. If project deliverables and benefits are realized as budgeted and scheduled, the project is entitled as successful. But it’s not as simple as it seems to be.

Unlike the traditional approach, project management is not only about scheduling the project tasks. It also depends upon, how you manage resources well suited to organizational maturity at Project portfolio management (PPM) scale. Resources are very significant, if not primary, components of project management. And if these resources are not properly assigned to the projects, they may lead to project failure being counterproductive. So resource management is essential for an organization practicing project management approaches.

In this article, you’ll learn to define:

◈ resource management,
◈ resource management methods and
◈ resource management importance.

What are management resources required for a project?

Type of resources in the project: 

Resources in a project can be -

◈ work resources,
◈ material resources and
◈ cost resources

These resources comprise the people, equipment, facility, knowledge, information (IT), funding or others. They are the key factors for the completion of any project activity. People resources are very important element of any project and not easy to manage. Thus people need some additional ways of dealing when it comes to resource management. They can be made more productive by following some key management principles (discussed later in this article). Now, let’s understand, what Resource management is.

What is Resource management?

The purpose of project management is to collaborate processes, resources and PM tools to achieve a common goal and produce intended deliverables. Hence, apart from project management tools, resources play a vital role for any project success.

Let’s uncover the question - what is resource management? – Its about, how do you manage resources. Hence, resource management is to maximize the resource productivity towards desired outcomes by managing them effectively.

What is project resource management?

“Project Resource management is to effectively use right type of resource for right time during a project execution to produce expected deliverables.” In order to achieve strategic business goals and financial goals, it is desired to maximize the return on investment in resources. Especially with people, because human resources are significant cost element in any project. All projects need people resources with some specific set of skills to accomplish project tasks.

Lets define resource manager role in a project:

Project resource manager is responsible to divide right skills for right project tasks at right time.

Usually, a project manager and resource manager have specific responsibility to carry out any project. Project manager is responsible to plan and execute the project. Resource manager manages between resource demand and supply. He evaluates the resource requirement for a project and assign appropriate resources to project tasks. He or she also manages resource utilization to maximize its productivity. They also analyze necessary metrics related to resource assignment and capacity planning. Below figure 1, well describes the roles of these two.

Figure 1: Roles & responsibilities of project manager and resource manager

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Project resource manager uses tools to plan for resource allocation – known as resource planning tools and to assign the resources – known as resource assignment matrix (RAM or RACI).

Refer below figure to understand, how to create a resource plan:

Figure 2: How to create a resource plan

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Image source:

In the above resource plan template, first column identifies different resources as A, B and C.

Second column tells the association of particular resource with related team.

Third column relates resource to different projects followed by specific project tasks in fourth column.

In subsequent column, resource assignment to various tasks for specific hours in a day is maintained. For an example, resource A, in team A is allocated for task 1 of project A on 16- February for 5 hours.

Refer below table 01 to know about resource assignment matrix:

RACI Matrix:

Table 01: Resource assignment matrix or RACI matrix

RACI matrix finds its name from the acronym – R (Responsible), A (Accountable), C (Consulted) and I (Informed).

◈ R: defines the person who is assigned to do the work

◈ A: defines the person who makes the final decision and has the ultimate ownership

◈ C: defines the person who must be consulted before a decision or action is taken

◈ I: defines the person who must be informed that a decision or action has been taken

Many organizations have seen project failure even after implementing the best resources management software why?

The reason is, organizations have their processes at different maturity level. And if the resources are not aligned to the process maturity, then it is very likely to meet project failures at initial or later stages.

Many organizations struggle to answer the following set of questions:
  1. What are our resources working upon?
  2. Are all required resources available for the project with right skills?
  3. Are all resources engaged in one or another project?
  4. Do we have resources to assign to any urgent project demand?
  5. Do we have proper control of assigning resources to different projects?
  6. What is the cost variable associated with the resources in a particular month?
  7. Can a critical resource be spared for any urgent project needs?
Project Resource management is very helpful to answer above questions and to address the question – 
“What is resource management?”.

What makes a good resource?

There are some key principles of resource management. These principles are useful for any organization to manage their resources in projects.

Principles of resource management:

Let’s discuss these key management principles:

1. Resources are usually people:

Project resources are managed with the help of resource assignment matrix such as RACI chart and capacity utilization calculation for different resources. But we can’t ignore the fact that resources are people too, who can’t only be measured by hard data set for their efficiency and effectiveness.

They require some soft skills to manage them efficiently. Skills include communication, leadership, and guidance to be motivated and inspired while working. The data can only tell about resource utilization and resource availability, but cannot increase resource productivity. Hence, a metric can be used to identify the areas of concern. But they can be well addressed by the people themselves. Talk to the relevant resources or team regarding concerns and help them to resolve the same.

2. Key people management:

Involve the resources to achieve common project objectives. Ensure to align all the resources and set expectations. Resources should be clear about, what is expected out of them. They should understand the priority & importance of assigned tasks. They should be involved in project risk identification by encouraging them for open discussion. They should be given the liberty to set and estimate task schedules depending on their priorities. This will increase the resource commitment towards schedules.

3. Principles of team management:

Bring the sense of collaboration among team members. So that all the resources come to the common platform of understanding. This will foster productivity & creativity and eventually decreases the chances of errors. Real time feedback to the team will enhance their confidence and commitment.

4. Principle of allocation:

Always try to allocate the right resources for right tasks. Don’t just assign the tasks to the resources. Always match the resource capability and interest with the task and then do an assignment. Know your resource and his or her interest, Then figure out which task motivates him or her the most. Assign that task only to him or her to keep your resource production.

5. Rewards & recognition:

Also, the efforts of your resources should not go unrewarded. Ensure to make your resources knew about, how important their contribution to assigned tasks was. Recognize their effort and time.

Resource allocation best practices to manage resources effectively:

There are some best practices followed by organizations to allocate their resources efficiently and manage them effectively. Lets discuss them in following heads:

1. Centralized resource pool:

Set up a centralized resource pool for project assignments. Use two important management tools to govern the resource pool – the cost associated with each resource in pool and availability of each resource. Based on these two criteria, manage the allocation of resources to different project tasks.

2. Leveling resource:

Balance the workload of resources, so that no resource is overloaded. Resource leveling needs to be done on a continuous basis to ensure resources are being used effectively and aligned as per the need of task prioritization.

3. Know who is doing what:

Keep the track of resources allocation in real time to know which resource is engaged in whatever activity at a particular moment. This will certainly help to keep all the resources productive and maximize their effective utilization.

4. Track the progress:

One should not neglect the importance of information resource management. Track the progress of ongoing projects in real time to obtain maximum information, to understand the challenges and to anticipate any potential risk. So that there is course correction, if needed and can be executed in advance. Take the help of IT support and IT infrastructure to get real time information pertaining to project status.

5. Future forecasting:

Taking all above points into account, you may come up with future forecasting on resource planning and management.  Analyze what went well & what went wrong and accordingly take actions to forecast future demands and capacity planning.

6. Use appropriate RM software:

Some appropriate software can also be used to manage resources effectively. They can provide a user-friendly interface to manage resources in real time. But, my advice is to choose appropriate software for your organization based on the organizational maturity level so that you can utilize these softwares in right perspective.

PMP - Resource Management Model:

Let’s understand, why PMP - Resource Management Model?

After assessing your organizational processes based on program management maturity model for complex large organizations (involved in multiple related projects) or project management maturity models for other organizations, a proper resource management maturity model (RMMM) can be assigned to project phases or activities. This is done to maximize the ROI of resource components.

PMI (Project Management Institute) Resource Management Maturity Model provides a framework. This framework helps to assign adequate resources during the life of the projects based on organizational capabilities for realizing following benefits:

1. Common understanding:

It provides a common understanding among project resource manager, project portfolio manager and business executives. This develops the common language of communicating project deliverables, objectives, issues etc.

2. Self-Assessment:

This framework helps stakeholders & organizations to assess their present and optimal levels of maturity.

3. Decision- making for resources management:

It helps to match the organizational capabilities and maturity with resource management model for projects. Every organization doesn’t require a higher level of resource management maturity.

4. Selection of suitable software:

According to PPM maturity, an organization can select suitable PPM software to manage its resources and to address current and potential needs.

For effective resource management in organizations, there are typically 1 - 5 levels of Resource Management Maturity Model. They are listed below along with an additional level 0 describing “No formal process level”. These RMMM levels are based on PMI defined program or project management maturity models for organizations:

LEVEL 0 – No Formal Process

LEVEL 1 – Work Visibility

LEVEL 2 - Controlled Assignment

LEVEL 3 – Governed Capacity

LEVEL 4 – Schedule Driven Assignment

LEVEL 5 – Granular Management

Now, lets understand these RMMM levels in detail:

LEVEL 0: No Formal Process:

Resources used by managers are allocated on ad hoc basis to the projects at this level. There is no formal process on resource allocation. Hence resources are not effectively utilized under this maturity level and this leads to risky & counterproductive outcomes.

LEVEL 1: Work Visibility:

This level gives organizations an opportunity to know, “which resource is working on what”, But resources are not allocated and assigned to work in controlled way or with oversight.

LEVEL 2: Controlled assignment:

Under this maturity level, there is a formal resource assignment approval process known as “Resource approval workflow or RAW”. However, the resource manager performs approvals by consulting a heat map indicating the availability of each resource and providing approvals only when availability exceeds demand.

LEVEL 3: Governed Capacity:

This level introduces the concept of capacity management. It provides a governance structure, which prioritizes projects over new resource demands.

Under this maturity level, a resource or portfolio governance committee is typically formed. The committee comprises of stakeholders from demand side (Project ideas, proposals, requests etc), supply side (i.e. resources) and business executives. Based on different criteria such as financial impacts, tangible & non-tangible benefits, associated risks etc, project prioritization takes place. If enough resources are not available for all proposed projects, committee can decline to approve some of the projects after project prioritization and approve only prioritized projects to assign scarce resources in the best possible way.

LEVEL 4: Schedule Driven Assignment:

Not all the resources equally participate in all the phases of a project. Thus in this resource maturity level, resource assignment approval and capacity management are triggered by project schedule at phase level. Project resources are assigned according to phase level activity information delineated in the project work breakdown structure.

LEVEL 5: Granular Management:

Under this maturity level, resource assignment approval and capacity management processes are driven by complete and full task level project schedule. This maturity level considers resource assignment at very granular level ie full task levels of work breakdown structure. This level of maturity may be necessary when the phase-level information about resource utilization is too coarse and full project schedule detail is necessary and meaningful to the business.

The appropriate level of RMM Model should be used with related PM maturity of an organization to ensure project success.

Final Takeaways:

In a nutshell, resources indeed are indispensable components of any project and they require to be managed effectively and efficiently. This is done to justify the resource - return on investment for any project. Resources, if not managed well, can result in counterproductive outcomes that leads to project failures. There are some program management principles and practices to follow while managing resources. Also, resource allocation best practices are used to allocate project resources for their best possible outcomes.

The best way is to identify Project portfolio maturity of your organization and take the help of explained Resource Management Maturity model to assign resources properly to different projects in hand. Effective resource management in organizations is a key to successful project orientation.