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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Enhancing Productivity

Today’s corporate world is characterized by increasing pressure to deliver more but of uncompromising quality at a better rate. Increasing efficiency of production using just in time production is not new followed by build-on-demand concepts where value add to a customer takes on the focus in agile software development.  Regardless of the industry and product built, how can today’s projects still deliver increasing value maintaining the strict adherence to quality?

The fundamentals of iron-triangle of quality by managing the levers of scope, schedule and cost is still present but timelines are requested sometimes without clear scope, schedule then is accelerated to meet customer’s demands, and still cost is allowed not to increase both in operational and capital expenses. Keeping the focus to operational expenses, the question often evolves: How to measure and enhance productivity?

I believe the basics of productivity are in clarity, duration, and customer management. For projects that have somewhat known scope, such as extending a product installation in a different client site that can leverage past lessons learned, the clarity is not an issue. But, for new initiatives, the product scope may be evolving and this is where delivering to what is known using agile concepts may be beneficial.

But, the basics of duration management are differentiating the type of hours that go into the project. Productivity losses come from two types of hours that derail the project because productive time is taken out of the duration because the “right” people are not on the “right” job at the “right” time.  These types of hours are as follows.
  1. Non-Project Hours – Delivering no value to project but time for internal process enhances, functional department meetings, training, company meetings
  2. Non-Productive Hours – Time lost due to ambiguous work, lost work requests, unnecessary meetings, doing other’s work, assumption about roles, lack of accountability, etc.

The basics of project management differentiates duration from estimate in addressing the first component which is often misunderstood. Agile concepts address these by using ideal time to ensure that the story points are properly incorporating enough time to develop value. But, the second part is the difficult one that the management needs to spend additional time in ensuring that properly motivated and trained people are present, tools are sufficient, and collaboration is cohesive.

In terms of the customer management (remember client is both internal and external), the productivity goal should be to maximize hours charged to a project, establish a baseline for products of similar nature and use appropriate time entry/approval methods to evaluate against the baseline, forecast and promote predictability of workload and hold everyone accountable. The principles of stakeholder management are no wonder a newly added separate dimension in the Project Management Book of Knowledge.

In summary, productivity measure are rooted in people, process, and tools that allow the job to be defined in adequate detail, breakdown accountability by increasing collocation, introduce distribution tools for effective collaboration, lead instead of manage the clients more effectively, and use process as a key vehicle to integrate the whole in a virtual distributed environment.


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