תפריט נגישות

תהליך ה-YJTJ: ראיון של MPA עם דן רנייר

לא מזמן, MPA ערכה ראיון עם דן רנייר, יועץ ראשי ב-Milestone Consulting Group, בנושא תהליך ה-YJTJ, תהליך ייעודי למשתמשי Microsoft Project. להלן תקציר בעברית וראיון מלא בשפה האנגלית.

 ש:  דן, מהו תהליך ה-YJTJ של חברת Milestone?

דן:בפשטות, YJTJ הוא דפוס חשיבה המאפשר למנהל הפרויקט לעבוד בצורה אפקטיבית עם Microsoft Project. הוא מוגדר כך שהוא יכול לעזור למנהלי פרויקטים להבין את האחריות שלהם על יוזמות, תכנונים, ביצוע, שליטה וסגירת הפרויקטים ואיך לעבוד עם המאפיינים השונים והמגוונים של Microsoft Project.

על מנת לעבוד בצורה יעילה עם Microsoft Project, אתה צריך להבין מה היא העבודה שלך (Your job-YJ) ומה העבודה של הכלי (Tool's job-TJ) בכל נקודה במהלך מחזור החיים של הפרויקט. ברגע שהבנת את התהליך יש לך את היכולת לעבוד בתאום עם ה –Project בניגוד לעבודה סותרת איתו. כלומר, הנך יודע בדיוק מה אתה צריך לעשות ומה אתה צריך לצפות מה-Project שיעשה.

בהטמעות MS Project Standard ו-MS Project Professional, אנחנו עובדים ביחד עם צוותי ניהול על מנת לקבוע מה שאנו קוראים לו ''גורמים קריטיים להצלחה''  של הטמעה מוצלחת. במהלך התהליך, לפחות חבר צוות אחד יבוא ויגיד: ''דן, אתה חייב להוביל את מנהלי הפרויקטים שלנו לנקודה בה הם ישתמשו במרב זמנם לניהול פרויקטים ופחות זמן בתפעול מתסכל של ה- Project. "האימרה הזו הינה גורם קריטי להצלחה ונאמרת לאורך כל תהליך ה-YJTJ."

ש: האם YJTJ מתאים רק לגרסה מסוימת של MS Project?

דן:לא. YJTJ מתאים לכל גרסה של MS Project, מהגרסה הראשונה עד ל-Microsoft Office Project 2007. הוא מתאים בין אם אתה עובד על פרויקטים גדולים עם משאבים מרובים בשימוש ב-Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 או ניהול פרויקטים קטנים בשימוש בגרסה ראשונית של הכלי.

ש: אם אני מנהל פרויקטים בעזרת MS Project, מה היא העבודה שלי ומה העבודה של הכלי?

דן:על מנת לענות על השאלה, בוא נתחיל עם ה-YJ של הנוטריקון. העבודה שלך בתור מנהל פרויקט מתחילה עם סיגול יכולת הבנת עקרונות מקובלים ומוסכמים של ניהול פרויקטים, הבנה מוצקה  של אופן יישום עקרונות אלה והפקת תועלת מהם לארגונך. ברגע שהבנת את העקרונות, אתה צריך להשתמש ב-MS Project באופן שיתמוך ויאפשר לך לדמיין את תהליך ניהול הפרויקטים בארגון שלך.

על פניו, מנקודת המבט של ה-MS Project, ה-YJ הוא בעצם מאד פשוט ואפשר לתאר אותו באופן הבא: התפקיד שלך הוא לספק ל-MS Project מידע הקשור ללוח הזמנים ושום דבר חוץ מזה. רק באמצעות הפעולה הזו אנו מאפשרים ל-Project MS להיות מה שהוא נועד להיות מלכתחילה: כלי תזמון. ה-YJ מביא לידי הבנה את תפקידו של הכלי שנובעת מהבנת תהליך ה-YJTJ, שמתייחס לכל שלבי הפרויקט הנתמך על ידי MS Project.

להלן, הראיון המלא בשפה האנגלית 

MPA is committed to serving the Microsoft Project user. Toward this end, we consistently strive to make strong, relevant information available to the Microsoft Project practitioner. Recently, MPA sat down with Dan Renier, Principal Consultant, Milestone Consulting Group, to address Milestone’s YJTJ™ Process as this process, as noted by Microsoft Project users, is strong, highly relevant information.

MPA: Dan, what is Milestone’s YJTJ™ Process?

Simply put, YJTJ is a mindset for working effectively as a project manager using Microsoft Project. The YJTJ process is designed to assist project managers with understanding their responsibilities with initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing projects, and how to work through the extremely rich features of Microsoft Project to support this process.

In order to work effectively with Microsoft Project, you must understand what Your Job (YJ) is and what the Tool’s Job (TJ) is at every point throughout a project lifecycle. Once you understand this process, you are provided with an ability to work in concert with Microsoft Project as opposed to in conflict. Simply stated, you know exactly what you need to do and what you should consistently expect Microsoft Project to do.

For Microsoft Project Standard and Professional implementations, we work very closely with management teams to determine what we call “critical success factors” for a successful deployment. During this process, at some point, at least one management team member will state the following: “Dan, you must get our project managers to a point of spending more time managing projects and less time working with and being frustrated by Microsoft Project.” This statement becomes a primary critical success factor, and is addressed through our YJTJ process.

MPA: Does YJTJ apply to a particular version of Microsoft Project?

No. YJTJ is applicable to every version of Microsoft Project from the very first release through Microsoft Office Project 2007. It is applicable whether you are working on large projects with multiple shared resources using Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 or managing a small project with a prior release of the desktop tool.

MPA: So, if I am a project manager using Microsoft Project, what is my job and what is the tool’s job?

To address this, let’s begin with the YJ part of the acronym. Your job as a project manager begins with possessing a good understanding of globally accepted project management principles and a solid understanding of your organization’s interpretation and utilization of such principles. Once understood, you should then use Microsoft Project in a manner that supports and allows you to visualize your organization’s project management process.

From a Microsoft Project perspective, on the surface, YJ is actually very simple and may be stated as follows: your job is to provide Microsoft Project with information related to the schedule, and nothing else. That in itself allows Microsoft Project to be exactly what it is primarily designed to be, a scheduling tool. YJ entails a good understanding of Microsoft Project which may gained through understanding the YJTJ process as it applies to all phases of a project Microsoft Project supports.

MPA: So what type of information do you categorize as YJ?

Microsoft Project knows nothing about your company, the business you are in, the unique product or service you are trying to introduce, who is working on your project, the deliverables you must produce, or the activities you must perform in order to close your project. You do. You bought Microsoft Project as a trusted advisor to help you figure out, document, and communicate when your project’s activities, deliverables, phases, and the overall project are going to start and finish.

Therefore, based on this information, YJ is to feed Microsoft Project the information it knows nothing about. This includes, but is definitely not limited to: what phases are appropriate for this project? What deliverables need to be produced? What activities need to be performed? What are the dependencies between deliverables and activities that must be honored by nature or by defined process? Who has the requisite knowledge to complete each of the tasks? How much effort (work) your experts believe is required to complete tasks? etc.

Once you provide Microsoft Project with this basic information, it will do exactly what you bought it to do - produce an accurate schedule. Microsoft Project will tell you when tasks, deliverables, phases, and the overall project start and finish. And, if desired, you can bring the availability of your experts into the equation and have the schedule account for resource availability. From a scheduling perspective, at all times, the “task” start and finish fields are Microsoft Project’s job. We never touch task start or finish as that is the tool’s job! And, throughout the life of a project, there are many other fields that fall into the YJ or TJ category depending on a number of factors. The YJTJ process goes much deeper than just task start and finish.

MPA: Wait a minute here, Dan. You’re telling me you never touch the start or finish fields in Microsoft Project. We live in the real world and there are deadlines to meet. Naturally, I have to tell Microsoft Project when certain tasks are going to end.

To address your first statement, we never enter values in the task start and finish fields. There are other start, finish, and date fields in Microsoft Project that are perfectly acceptable to enter values into, and at times very important to do so.

To your second statement, it is true that we all have deadlines to meet. Have you ever been handed a date you need to complete an activity by, and then manually entered the date in the task finish date field? When you do so, it is very important to know that Microsoft Project is programmatically designed to think finish-no-earlier-than when you are thinking finish-no-later-than.

For example, let’s assume you have been instructed to finish the “Develop” task no later than November 16, 2007. When you enter 11/16/07 into the task finish field, Microsoft Project has now instructed the task to finish no earlier than 11/16/07 as evidenced by the constraint indicator as shown in Figure 1:

 Figure 1: Finish No Earlier Than constraint indicator

And, as evidenced by the Smart Tag text that may be displayed when you edit the task finish field, even the engineers at Microsoft will agree that entering a value into the task finish field is not a best practice as shown in Figure 2:

Figure 2: Smart Tag text                       

In this example, YJ is to enter a Constraint Type, a Constraint Date, and a Task Note describing the reason for constraining the schedule. Microsoft Project’s job, according to YJTJ, is to manage task start and finish dates at all times (TJ).

MPA: OK.  I’m not sure I quite understand, I think you better tell me a little more about this then.

Basically, you start with a good planning process beginning with task planning. The task planning process includes building out your Work Breakdown Structure, adding dependencies between tasks observed by nature or defined process, and by adding known constraint and/or deadline date information. Next, you build a team of experts to be assigned to tasks to complete the resource planning process. And finally, you assign resources to tasks based on each resource’s availability and expert judgment work and/or duration estimates to complete the assignment planning process. If you do not input resources into your schedule, you still need to solicit expert judgment work and/or duration estimates and input that information into Microsoft Project. Based on this task, resource, and assignment information, Microsoft Project will build the schedule and tell you when tasks, deliverables, phases, and the overall project will start and finish (TJ).

If you don’t like the answer Microsoft Project gives you, you need to do your job as a project manager which includes but is not limited to: negotiating with resource managers for additional resources and/or availability of currently assigned resources, negotiating an extension on a deadline date and/or the scope of the project with the project sponsor, etc. If you must ask for an extension, you will then have documented in your schedule all of the information about the current scope of the project, the natural progression of activities, and the resources allocated to you, etc. You can then use Microsoft Project as a powerful tool to illustrate your position during negotiations.

MPA: OK.  I think I am beginning to understand. What’s happening is that I am really using Microsoft Project as a model to help me calculate a very complex problem. Then I can try out the impact on dates by adding resources, removing or simplifying deliverables, starting design before requirements are completely done, and so on.

Exactly!                                        

MPA: There are so many other features in Microsoft Project, especially when we start talking about resource management and a resource pool in the Microsoft Project Server tool. Aren’t you really missing a lot of what Microsoft Project really does?

That’s a very good question. Particularly when managing complex projects in the enterprise tool, you need Microsoft Project to calculate dates for you. Based on these dates and when tasks start and finish, Microsoft Project can tell you when the resources will be needed for work. It is this basic information that gives you a graph of overall resource commitment. Along with your schedule and resource allocation, Microsoft Project is also calculating costs, variances from baseline, and a host of other related information.

MPA: That makes sense. Now how about those dates I have to meet?

The key is in knowing how to tell Microsoft Project the information you have gained from doing your job. As stated in the earlier example, YJ is to enter a Constraint Type (Finish No Later Than), a Constraint Date (November 16th, 2007), and a Task Note describing the reason for constraining the schedule (good project management communication principles).

If you input information into Microsoft Project in this manner (YJ), Microsoft Project will communicate with you through the Planning Wizard and the Gantt Chart when a conflict arises (TJ) as shown in Figures 3 and 4: 

Figure 4: Gantt Chart view displaying a scheduling conflict

Your schedule is free to adjust as necessary, but Microsoft Project will let you know through the Planning Wizard if you have a problem meeting a commitment. At this point, it is time to do your job as a project manager by negotiating for items such as additional resources, deadline extensions, and/or a reduction in scope all in an effort to bring the schedule back in line with client commitments.

To reemphasize, the tool’s job is to inform you as to what will happen to the schedule, i.e. task start and finish dates, based on the information you have provided. Your job is to stay focused on good project management and communications principles in an effort to resolve schedule conflicts, and to allow Microsoft Project to manage task start and finish dates at all times! 

MPA: What do I need to know about Microsoft Project to get started with YJTJ?

YJTJ is a mindset. There are numerous best practices we have developed for different scheduling/management scenarios that discuss which fields are YJ and which are TJ in each scenario. It is helpful to remind yourself that it is the Tool’s Job to schedule tasks and think carefully about that as you work. If Microsoft Project doesn’t do what you expected, the first question you should ask yourself is, “Did I just try to do the Tool’s Job?” Your next question should be, “Did I give Microsoft Project all of the information it needs to reasonably do its job?”

The mindset is fairly simple, and is enough to get started. As you develop your skills and you work with more complicated projects, you will want to acquire additional modeling tools. You can do this through training, consulting, discussion with your fellow project managers, or by trial and error. The YJTJ process goes much deeper, however, than what is required to simply get started.

MPA: What feedback have you received from people that have adopted this mindset?

Our number one point of feedback has been nearly universal. Regardless of whether people like or dislike Microsoft Project, they understand what to expect from it. Every level of management has been satisfied with the results from their unique perspective. We have numerous senior managers, resource managers, and project managers available for comment if desired.

We do admit, however, that for some people the first time they sit through the introductory YJTJ presentation they have trouble understanding how you could possibly use Microsoft Project without ever touching the task start and finish fields. We know, however, if they put the YJTJ principles into action, and even attend the introductory YJTJ session a second time, that they become believers. It is this belief and day-to-day practice that greatly assists organizations with achieving the primary critical success I hear so often: “Dan, you must get our project managers to a point of spending more time managing projects and less time working with and being frustrated by Microsoft Project.”

Simply stated, YJTJ is a process that greatly assists organizations with realizing a positive ROI on their Microsoft Project investment!

MPA: Where can I go to get more information on applying YJTJ™?

YJTJ is a little bit difficult to explain in text; therefore, it is better to see it in action. If you are fortunate enough to have a DVD from the Microsoft Office Project Conference in 2006, you can watch the full introductory YJTJ presentation. If not, you can get a copy of a YJTJ presentation slide deck from the National Association of Technology Professionals (www.nwaitp.org). You can also send an email to YJTJinfo@MilestoneConsultingGroup.com to request information.

Please note that the introductory YJTJ presentation was initially created for what was known as the Microsoft Project Global Customer Advisory Council. Through four days of presentations, it was the top-rated session. This presentation has been received extremely well at MPA and PMI chapters in the United States, at Microsoft offices in the United States, and most recently at Microsoft in Israel. We highly recommend this presentation for MPA and PMI chapters around the world! Please note that the introductory YJTJ presentation will be delivered at the Microsoft Office Project Conference scheduled October 29 – 31, 2007, in Seattle, Washington. Any organization wishing to schedule the introductory YJTJ presentation may do so by sending an email to YJTJinfo@MilestoneConsultingGroup.com.

MPA: Thank You, Dan.

You’re very welcome!