Tag Archives: Conferences

Free, Exclusive Project Scheduling Virtual Event for PMI Members


PMI members are entitled to register and attend this member-only event on the 29th March (9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET) for free! It is the perfect way to learn what’s new in project scheduling and network with PMI members across the globe. This year we are talking about how to tackle project scheduling challenges in a changing profession.

My presentation is focused on Projects Controls Using Integrated Data – The Opportunities and Challenges.   The presentation is focused on the practical and ethical challenges posed by integrated information management tools such as BIM and ‘drones’ in the construction/engineering industries and how this affects the work of project controls professionals.

To register go to: https://www.projectmanagement.com/events/356123/PMI-Scheduling-Conference-2017

If you are not a PMI member (or cannot make the date) watch this space.


PGCS #2 – the importance of communication

A consistent theme running through many of the presentation at both the Project Zone Congress  in Germany and the Project Governance and Controls Symposium  in Canberra was the importance of effective communication. This is particularly so when dealing with complex projects involving ‘teams of teams’ many of which may be focused on ‘their objectives’ ahead of the overall project.

Reinventing CommunicationMark Phillips  a keynote speaker at  PGCS highlighted some of the concepts in his new book Reinventing Communication: How to Design, Lead and Manage High Performing Projects’.  Several of the concepts align closely with our views.

The first ‘reinvention’ we fully agree with is the importance of in-person communication – in-person allows energy top build within the communication and facilitates knowledge development by the parties to the communication!  Remote communication is limited to knowledge transfer (see more on communication theory).

More important is the need to design your project’s organisation to allow success to be created. The hierarchy of design is:

  • Setting the right governance systems, policy and regulations
  • Designing the organisation structured to facilitate communication
  • Developing the people and the networking environment
  • Encouraging open, effective and fearless communication (frightened people won’t communicate bad news)

With the right communication structure and attitudes in place, innovation can thrive leading to problem solving and the creation of the outputs needed for success.  Conway’s law (1968) states that ‘that organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations’.  A fractured communication landscape leads to disjointed project deliverables.

With communication central to success, one of the key strategic intents of the project design should be to engineer an effective communications environment and then to measure the effectiveness of the communications taking place.  However, when setting KPIs it is important to measure the effectiveness of the communication, not just the volume!

This is not easy, some of the challenges associated with creating an effective communication environment are discussed in this RSA Animate video – Re-Imagining Work!

PGCS 2014 Update – I’ve been proved wrong!!

G-C_SymposiumThe Project Governance and Controls Symposium 2014, Canberra, is in full swing with wall-to-wall interesting presentations!

The focus of this post is the presentation by Stephan Vandevoorde on the work he is involved in at Ghent University, Belgium focused on developing  processes for the validated testing of project control tools entitled ‘If Time is Money, then Accuracy is Important’.

The problems with studying the effect of project control processes in live projects are many, the most significant being:

  • The control function generates information that influences management action causing different outcomes.
  • The ‘Hawthorne Effect’ where people being ‘observed’ change behaviour because they are being observed.
  • The uniqueness of each project, its team dynamics, luck, and the overall operating environment making replication of an ‘experiment’ difficult.

As part of their on-going work to validate Earned Schedule (ES) the Ghent team have developed a set of project networks using different topologies to emulate schedules ranging from those that are largely sequential, through to those that have a high level of parallel working.  The models are updated with a range of 9 different progress options leading to a total of 2.8 million unique data sets. This resource provides a unique test bed for evaluating the effectiveness of various predictive and preventative tools and techniques.  For more on this valuable resource, which is available for research, see http://www.or-as.be/research/database

One of the earlier studies (on a smaller simulation) focused on testing the effectiveness of various techniques in predicting the final schedule outcome of a project. And this research has proved me wrong!  In a blog post following last year’s PGCS ‘Earned Schedule comes of Age’  I lamented the fact that a detailed study proving Earned Schedule (ES) was significantly better at predicting project completion than the traditional Earned Value SPI had not taken the extra step and also demonstrated its predictive effectiveness compared to traditional CPM.  My paper Why Critical Path Scheduling (CPM) is Wildly Optimistic highlights the issues but lacks statistical validation.  As it happens, the ‘missing’ studies had been done and the outcomes presented by Stephan showed the results of a 2008 study by Prof. M. Vanhoucke (also of Ghent University) that demonstrate the superiority of Earned Schedule as a predictive tool designed to complement the true focus of CPM which should be the optimisation of resources and workflow (rather than the projection of the overall project completion – for more on this read my paper).

ES Table

So the basic research has been done, the results are conclusive and based on the research the effective controlling of projects needs a combination of CPM, EV and ES for optimum results!  The research frontier is moving towards effective early indicators such as the ‘P factor’ and intervention and with the data tools now available, statistically  significant analysis becomes feasible.

With the steady stream of papers validating Earned Schedule, I hope the flow of misleading information from a few die-hard traditionalists in the USA is finally extinguished and comments from leading authors such as Quentin Fleming and Joel Koppelman in the  4th Edition of ‘Earned Value Project Management’ (2010), that ‘The authors do not endorse [earned schedule]. Nor have they ever read any scientific studies that support [it]’ disappear.  It really does not matter what Fleming and/or Koppelman have bothered to read, making misleading statement like this helps no one.

The challenge is developing tools and techniques that help manage projects in an environment of increasing complexity – and as one of the other presenters, Stephen Hayes from the International Centre for Complex Project Management (ICCPM), traditional tools such as CPM and EV are important, but simply not sufficient in the emerging domain of complex project management, or  as my paper to the PGCS suggests, Agile projects.

Project Zone Congress, Frankfurt #2


The Project Zone Congress is now over and the two conference days lived up to the standards set on pre-conference workshop day (see my first post)!

A few of the ideas picked up as vignettes:

Oliver Lehmann commenting on competency made the point that experience is a teacher, you need to be a good student to learn from your experiences (and the same applies to training courses), this requires taking the time for reflection and then implementing the insights. We are planning a blog on this a bit later.

Peter Taylor asked what’s the best way to develop solutions? ‘End-user’ involvement. or remove the hyphen and ‘end user involvement’?  The challenge is communication and understanding – what do the customers actually understand from your project documentation??

Peter again, project management has progressed from the ‘accidental project managers’ of 20 years ago, to the ‘non-accidental, qualified project managers’ of today and the emerging generation of ‘intentional project managers’ – where people are making specific career choices to become PMs.  Effective sponsorship is a crucial element for project success but no-one is training or supporting sponsors – we are still in the era of the ‘accidental sponsor’.

Organisations are changing and this affects project governance! The effect of the industrial revolution was to progressively isolate organisations from the natural environment with mechanical sources of power (starting with steam) and ‘factory walls’.  The knowledge revolution is increasingly forcing organisations to connect with the ‘virtual world’; connectivity and integration are becoming normal as are the pervasive social networks.  From both a governance and management perspective it in no longer possible to ‘hide’ behind the organisation’s walls.  Openness and accountability are the new normal.

Senior management attention is the key resource in any organisation and is in very short supply.  Maintaining access to this resource is the key to obtaining all of the other resources you need for your project.  This means Advising Upwards effectively to be seen and to be successful!

Change management and the difficulty of implementing change was a constant theme – probably the only person who really likes a change is a wet baby…..  change is generational within organisations – taking 4 years to fully bed down and one successful relapse that goes uncorrected needs 20 corrections to erase the memory of the ‘success’.

Agile was one of the three streams in the conference – my paper on the challenges of developing an effective governance regime ‘Governing Agile – the changing role of project controls in an ‘agile’ environment’ focused a lot of discussion from the more senior managers in the room, good questions and clearly identified issues but at the moment no generally accepted answers to the challenge of governance oversight and control.

Overall a great way to spend 3 days and recommended for anyone looking for a good reason to visit Frankfurt next year (or one of the other conferences organised by Stamford Global Ltd).

Project Zone Congress, Frankfurt #1


The opening day of the Project Zone Congress  included a full day track focused on Project Portfolio Management.  The quality of the presentations made it one of the most interesting day’s I’ve spent in a very long time!

The presentations linked the critical importance of a strategic PMO to effective portfolio management and PPP governance.  The importance of ‘doing the right projects’ was highlighted by a presentation from SAP; 20% of the world’s business involves one organisation delivering a ‘project’ to another organisation, and then there is the increasing tendency for organisations to achieve growth and change by commissioning internal project.

The first key message from the day was the vital importance of each organisation developing a realistic and achievable ‘strategic road map’, with specific milestones, that define how the organisations strategy will be achieved.  Most organisations have a high level strategy, very few have a pragmatic plan for the next 1 to 2 years describing exactly what will be done towards achieving the overall strategy in that timeframe.  Developing this practical implementation plan (still at a reasonably high level) is difficult work for the executives involved.  However, once the plan is agreed it becomes the key tool for implementing effective portfolio management decision making to select the projects and programs that contribute most strategic value.  Building this capability is a key governance issue!

The next key message is that developing the ‘road map’ and then accepting portfolio investment decisions based on the ‘road map’ requires discipline and cannot occur without strong executive level support.  Manager’s ‘pet projects’ are always an issue!

One very useful idea was using the ‘road map’ and portfolio management to assess projects at the ‘idea’ stage – a standard one-page outline of the concept being proposed.  If the concept fits into the ‘road map’ and looks feasible it is approved for developing a business case and planning, if it does not, it is rejected before much investment of time and effort has occurred. A much easier decision!! The process needs to be disciplined but not ridged – a degree of flexibility is essential to allow effective responses to market changes and regulatory changes.

The concept of value was also discussed – projects need to be assessed on their contribution to achieving strategic objectives as well as financial factors. Value is far more than just dollars!!

Probably the strongest message for me was the importance of concise information in modifying behaviours.  An effective strategic PMO can have a huge effect on executive decision making simply by informing the executive of the ‘road map’ and of the effect any decision will have on the organisations overall journey towards its strategic objectives – good information really does lead to good decisions (and makes defending a ‘pet project’ very difficult – no one like to look too disruptive).

The importance of the routine aspects of portfolio management were not ignored (see more on portfolio management), understanding capability and capacity, the effect of queuing theory slowing everything down if too much work is approved  was discussed, and the importance of effective surveillance of projects in progress were all covered.  And my presentation on Portfolio governance and risk – its all about the stakeholders was well received

A key closing thought is do not underestimate the time and effort needed to change organisational culture to facilitate effective strategic planning at the ‘road map’ level linked to portfolio management and the creation of an effective strategic PMO.  Most presenters had  spent 3 to 5 years building the capability within their organisations and were still working on the executive ‘culture’ to achieve the outcomes they were describing.  The good news is that it is worth the effort; the SAP presentation quoted data showing an increase in profit of between 2% and 5% of the organisations turnover associated with implementing effective portfolio governance.

Project Governance and Controls Symposium – Canberra

PCGS BackThe Project Governance and Controls Symposium (PGCS) is back bigger and better then ever! Returning to Canberra on May 6-7, 2014, PGCS is the only Australasian symposium dedicated to promoting Project Performance Management through the interlined disciplines of project controls and program, portfolio and project (PPP) governance.

Hosted by Platinum Sponsors, UNSW Canberra, the symposium will be held at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). This illustrious venue has given us the opportunity to expand and enhance the symposium to include both academic and industry streams in a two day program of symposium sessions and workshops.

Be Part of the Program!

Academic papers: We have introduced a peer reviewed stream for Academic Papers managed by UNSW, the opening date for Academic Paper submissions is 15 November 2013; the closing date for acceptance of submissions is 1st February 2014. For more information on the academic application process and key submission dates, please click here.

Industry Presentations Welcomed! The PGCS is also seeking a broad spectrum of practical presentations that look at tools, techniques, case studies and other aspects of governance and controls in an organisational setting. Formal papers are welcomed but not essential for this stream – share your knowledge and experience with your peers and colleagues. For more information on the industry submission process, please click here.

Registrations are now open! You cannot afford to miss the Web Hot Specials. Come and join an extensive line up of keynote speakers and industry specialist including:

  • Karen Richey, an Assistant Director for the Applied Research and Methods Team at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington. Karen will be talking on the Lessons Learned from GAO Reviews of Federal Agency Capital Acquisition Programs and the GAO Improvement Initiative is the USA.
  • Stephan Vandevoorde, head of the Airport Systems Division of Cofely Fabricom N.V./S.A. (Belgium) He is a founding member and Director of the EVM Europe Association (www.evm-europe.eu) and will discuss the proposition that If Time is Money, Accuracy Pays Dividends: An Overview of Past and Future Project Management Research.

PGCS is managed as a not-for-profit conference designed to bring together the many strands of project governance and controls thinking and development world-wide to enhance the knowledge and understanding of these important functions within the wider Australian community. Key supporters include the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the College of Performance Management and EVM Europe, plus our hosts, the UNSW.

To take advantage of the Web Hot Specials or simply to stay up to date with developments see: http://www.pgcsymposium.com/

Construction CPM Conference 2013

The Construction CPM conference is over for another year but will remain in our memories for a very long time to come! Combining a high quality conference – probably the best CPM / Scheduling conference in the world, with New Orleans during Mardi Gras was an inspired idea even if it means several weeks of exercise and dieting…..


Our thanks to Fred and Kim Plotnick for organising and hosting the conference and we look forward to coming back in the future. A few of our highlights were:

Seeing a real swamp with alligators and a top tour guide http://www.torresswamptours.net/ ….


The jazz, Preservation Hall, buskers and Bourbon Street…. Plus the food, the locals and the delegates at the conference. Not to mention papers and insights from many of the worlds leading practitioners and developers of CPM software,

Feeling jealous? Plans for the conference include:
2014: Disney World Florida.
2015: West Cost possibly San Diageo.
2016: New Orleans again.

Stay in touch and plan your attendance at: http://www.constructioncpm.com/

PS: We were there for work as well as fun, see: Our previous post