Author Archives: Dawn Holmes

About Dawn Holmes

Senior Project/Programme Manager in Project Services

Making project management more digestible

1 Laying the foundations

The Project Management Office (PMO) in Project Services offers full-day project management training courses, but many of our staff find it difficult to free-up that amount of time in their busy diaries.  So the PMO has developed a series of ‘bite-size’ lunchtime sessions that staff are able to more easily incorporate into their working day.

The bite-size sessions break down the content of the full day course into four easily-digestible  one hour sessions.  The sessions are free to attend and are advertised via the Events channel on our University portal, MyEd.  Staff can choose to attend one or all of the 4 sessions, which include: –

  1. Laying the foundations – Understanding how clearly defining your project with a Project Brief will help to give your project a firm foundation for success
  2. Planning the journey – How to put together a realistic project plan, including the 3-point estimation technique
  3. Adapt & survive – Understanding the importance of risk management and what to do when things change or go wrong
  4. Right people, right message – Engaging people in your project and getting the right support

The next set of bite-size sessions is scheduled for October 2016 so if you’re interested in attending please keep an eye on MyEd.


When is a project not a project?

Not a project

One of the questions that we’re often asked here in Project Services is “when is a project not a project?” or to be more specific “when is it worth treating a piece of work as a project & when isn’t it?”.

Sometimes the answer is fairly obvious – if it’s a small and simple piece of work, taking just a few days, and involving just one or two people, then it probably makes sense to just treat this as a routine task.

But not all answers are as clear as that: –

  • What if it’s a bigger piece of work?  At what size should it become a Project? 10 days? 25 days? 100 days?
  • What if it’s a small project but is more complex and affects multiple areas of the University?  Or has inter-dependencies with other work?
  • What if it has financial or timeline implications that need to be managed?

Any of these factors could potentially mean that it would benefit from having the control and rigour that project management processes bring.

So in reality there’s no one single measure that clearly differentiates between what could be simply treated as a routine task and what is worth treating as a project.  The simple answer is “it depends”.

So how can you decide?  We recently undertook an exercise with colleagues from MVM to help them answer this question.  Together we created a decision tree (shown below) that helps them to quickly and easily evaluate each new piece of work and to determine whether to treat is at a project or not.

What do you think would be the key factors for a decision tree in your area?

CMVM project decision tree - image


New shared Agile resources

Why did we develop these resources?

We saw the advantages of using Agile techniques, but the established frameworks didn’t sit well with our existing project processes. We cherry-picked the elements of Agile that we felt would work for us and pulled them together into our own take on Agile.  We’ve learned from our experiences over the last  years and we are now keen to share our experiences with others.

These resources were developed by Dawn Holmes from Project Services and Bill Lee from Software Development.

“This framework is a valuable resource for anyone starting out with Agile. Based on Scrum and developed by IS Apps over many years to fit into University practices” – Bill Lee

What is Agile?

Agile is a framework based on iterative and incremental software development where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change

Why use it?

There are times when a more traditional approach to developing services isn’t efficient. Perhaps it’s a new service where detailed requirements aren’t yet clear, or there’s a need to get a simple service up & working quickly whilst the more advanced features can be delivered over time.  Under these circumstances a more iterative & incremental approach to developing the software would be more appropriate. This helps to deliver a quicker return on investment.

Agile ROI

Framework for Agile

In IS Applications, we have developed our own Agile framework, taking elements of best practise from several recognised frameworks such as Scrum, XP and DSDM (Atern).  it is a collection of Agile techniques and practices which abide by the Agile Manifesto and the 12 principles of Agile.


Which projects work best with Agile?

It works best on software development projects where there is a discreet new solution required. Agile techniques can be used on other types of projects but it lends itself more readily where you’re developing something from scratch.

A second key condition for success relates to the iterative nature of Agile. This approach allows the business partners to see the solution evolve and mould the outcome through close collaboration with the project team. A close working relationship is particularly important on an Agile project where the software is developed incrementally and needs frequent decisions and input from the business..

Agile decision tree

How do I find out more?

By accessing our free Agile resources page here