Thursday, May 31, 2012

Project Estimating

Estimating a project’s budget involves a number of variable including the project size and scope. At times a project may simply last a few days or weeks, or, other times, they can extend for years. Using available resources can greatly aide in the process of developing and estimating an accurate budget. Below are two resources that can be useful in preparing a project budget.

The Project Management Guru website describes several estimating techniques and procedures.  Additionally, a number of analysis techniques are defined, providing useful information for gauging the most appropriate method for estimating a project’s cost. Most helpful is simply the wide range of techniques used for estimating along with simple scenarios in which the method is most appropriate.

The website is a site related to small business activities. Within the site is a number of useful articles related to project management. The related article contains a variety of techniques useful for estimating project times and cost. The article suggests common sense approaches and offers simple examples to illustrate the techniques. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the site is the number of related articles linked immediately atop the article. Here you will find additional techniques for effective project estimating.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Communication Breakdown

For this week’s assignment in my project management course, we were asked to view the multimedia program "The Art of Effective Communication." In the program, the same piece of information is delivered from Jane to Mark by three different types of communication: email, voicemail, and face-to-face. Each of these forms of communication has strengths and weaknesses.

The email was written rather casually but it conveyed its intended message well and with diplomacy. The message is “clear, concise, and focused” which Stolovich (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) says is important to get things done. Jane began the email with an understanding tone and wrapped up the email very considerately even though she was the person that potentially had a reason to be frustrated as her deadline could be affected. I get a sense that the two parties have a good, casual, effective business relationship. The email also contained a necessary sense of urgency. The email is effective in that it documents her attempt at communicating with Mark and places accountability on him. I would have liked for Jane to have included more specific information on the deadline date as well as adding that she would like for Mark to contact her to confirm that the message has been received. Another weakness of email communication is that it does not allow the sender to be certain that there message is being received.

The voicemail essentially echoes the strengths and weakness that the email provides. They are both documented forms of communication that deliver a diplomatic message without being certain that the recipient receives the message. The voicemail, however, adds a more personal touch and more clearly conveys her urgency.

The face-to-face interaction is effective for a number of reasons. The message deliver knows that the message is being received. Feedback can be gained immediately and, in this case, that is important. One of the most important aspects of the face-to-face communication is that it incorporates a social, personal, and interactive means of connecting. Kupritz and Cowell (2011) suggest that interactive conversation is superior to other computer-mediated methods of communicating, like email, due to their potential to de-humanize workplace interaction.

I believe it is crucial to deliver a piece of information in the most effective means available. In some cases an email may be the most effective, while a face-to-face conversation may be more appropriate at other times. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) state that  “both written and verbal¬ communications-as well as formal and informal communications- are useful, meaningful ways to share and collect important project information” (Portny et al, 2008, p.357). I believe that face-to-face communication, however, best displays the true meaning and intent of the message given its personal, interactive nature. I believe that communicating with a project team includes a number of variants within each scenario. Written communication is documented and can provide easily accessed detailed information and face-to-face integrates a personal touch. The best approach requires an understanding of the given situation and acting accordingly and with diplomacy.


Kupritz, V. W., & Cowell, E. (2011). Productive Management Communication. Journal Of Business Communication, 48(1), 54-82. doi:10.1177/0021943610385656

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with Stakeholders. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Best Laid Plans

It is possible to apply project management techniques to virtual any scenario in which work is put forth to achieve an objective. Whether making a sandwich or developing a software application, a project is made up of a series of processes and when one of the steps in the process is negatively impacted, it can greatly affect the remainder of the project. This is exactly what happened to me last summer, making the move from Georgia to Florida. Using a project “post mortem” we can discover where the project went right and what things could have been done to make the project more successful.

Looking back, the plan was quite rudimentary with nothing in writing expect a couple of phone numbers and addresses. The objective was to move nearly 500 miles from Atlanta, Ga. to Orlando, Fla. into an apartment that had been secured over the phone from Ga. , offload the contents of the moving trailer into the new residence by 4 p.m. in order to make it to a at 5 p.m. birthday party. Five friends had volunteered to help at varying times between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and, with a summer of experience working for a moving company under my belt, I felt that was a good estimate of the amount of work needed to accomplish my task.

I set out on the journey just before midnight anticipating an eight to nine hour drive in order to be at the apartment complex with keys in hand by 9 a.m. All went well in the late night travel as I arrived before 8:30 when the office would actually open. I acquired my keys and headed toward my new life. The first look at the entrance into my new place was one of surprise and dismay. The project is about to hit a major bump in the road! I had visited the apartment complex during a housing search and liked the general area, grounds, layout, etc., but didn’t decide on it until I was a state away where I secured the residence over the phone. I was not aware that the apartment I had accepted was not on the ground floor so all of my contents would need to go up an extra flight of stairs. This was definitely the primary process of the project that most affected the success of my plan.

After a quick inspection of the residence I began what would become a day filled with frustrations but ultimately overall success. I began hauling box after box from the trailer to apartment. The staircase was tremendously slowing things but I knew that I still had quite a bit of time and just continued the routine. This unloading continued for well over an hour before hearing from anyone that had volunteered to help. At the end of the day, four friends helped; each between an hour and two hours which was less than I was hoping for.

Many aspects of the project went as I had planned in my head. The initial packing and travel time were accurate and the budget was kept within range. When it was all said and done, the trailer got unloaded and I even made it to the birthday party. Since my objective had varying degrees of success I was never got overly concerned. As long as the trailer was unloaded, boxes could be opened and the job of unpacking and setting up would just happen when they happened. That was a huge advantage, but I knew going in that there was a best-case scenario and worst-case scenario. I think I fell somewhere in between. The most obvious lesson learned in my situation was to never, ever get involved in a project without being absolutely certain that the basics of the project are as you had envisioned. Additionally, it is important to understand that any help is just that; help. If someone is not fully committed to a project in writing then any assumptions of work must be considered closely. Had I not overestimated the amount of work that I thought I would receive, I would have hired additional help. Although it would have potentially pushed me over-budget, the fact the apartment was not ground level was overlooked, and could not have been anticipated, affecting a number of other factors related to the project.