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Land a Project Management Job

Questions From a Young Project Manager

I conducted an email Q and A recently with an up and coming project manager named Cybelle. I worked my answers – which got a little rambly at times – into the interview you see here.

Many thanks to Cybelle for contacting me – I appreciate her curiosity and drive to become a better project manager and I hope my answers help her – and you – secure the right project management job and build a successful career.

Cybelle: What sort of overall experience do you look for in a project manager?

Ray: When I look for a good project manager, I want to see two things: I want to see that they have worked in the trenches for a while doing the actual work, and that they have worked with upper management on customer problems. Because the project manager is the glue between those two groups of people, he is the one that makes everything happen for the customer.

Cybelle: What specific skill sets should a project manager have?

Ray: He should have time tracking and project scheduling skills. He should have used a time tracking product like Standard Time®, and a scheduling product like Microsoft Project®. If he hasn’t collected actual time in an employee timesheet against a project schedule, then he may not be good at time management. He also needs strong communications skills. After all, he will be motivating the troops.

Cybelle: Do successful project managers exert a certain attitude/attributes?

Ray: I’d say they do! They have a passion for details, and an unhealthy obsession with time management. They’ll wear a calculator watch, and look at it far too often. Maybe they don’t wear white tape on their glasses, but they’re definitely the geeks of projects, tasks, and managing time. They love it too much to be “normal” human beings! That’s the kind of guy I want on my team.

Cybelle: How can project managers prove they can deliver a positive ROI?

Ray: By knowing human nature, and by being able to see the critical path to a primary goal. Let me explain… Most people who work under a project manager do not have a strong sense of urgency of time when performing tasks. They do not fight with cost overruns and late projects like the project manager. The project manager is the one who should understand this and be able to motivate people to perform. Plus, he must be able to differentiate the primary goals from the secondary. Let him analyze a thorny problem and point out the two, and he will instantly prove he can deliver the ROI.

Cybelle: Do you look for business degrees?

Ray: Yes. That does matter to some extent. But a PMP certificate from pmi.org really lights me up. That says something. That means he has a track record. A degree does not.

Cybelle: What kind of questions do you think a prospective project manager should ask about the project?

Ray: Three things: Cost, quality, time. In other words, what is the budget? What level of quality is necessary? And, what is the timeframe for implementation? I wrote a whitepaper on this subject a while back, and I can say that most project management goals are held in tension by these three forces. Granted, these are high-level things, but almost everything project-related boils down to them.

Cybelle: Do you have any tips for creating a better project management resume?

Ray: Getting a PMP certificate from pmi.org is tops. That’s the best thing you can do. Push it for all its worth! That shows everyone you are very serious about project management. I’d also list the tools you’re proficient with. That helps because it sets the framework for the employer who is reading it. They know you’ve used industry standard tools.

Cybelle: What sort of managerial style do you look for?

Ray: No white shirts, no suit coats. (I only own one of each). No locking yourself in your office and “managing” from an ivory tower. Get your hands dirty. Do a little of the work yourself if necessary. Get involved! Be the go to guy for upper management.

Cybelle: What metrics do you expect project managers to use?

Ray: First, a good list of tasks with good sub-project breakdowns is necessary. Next, an actual employee time from a timesheet or timer against those tasks. And after that, I suppose an analysis of forecasts verses actuals. Until you know where your actuals are, you’re just guessing, not managing. A good project manager loves spreadsheets, time tracking, and project schedules. He should be able to show Earned Value on each project he is managing.

Cybelle: How proficient do you expect project managers to be in project management software?

Ray: Very proficient. This is the instrument he uses to “see” the project. Without it, it would be like a scientist without a microscope. I’ve seen companies guess at tasks and actuals, and it’s always a disaster.

About the Author:
Ray White is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Scoutwest, Inc., the developers of Standard Time® Project Management Software. Ray's involvement in software development and project management began over 26 years at Eastman Kodak company and since then he has worked with approximately 30 executives, 90 project managers, 300 engineers, and 10,000 customers. By project managers, for project managers - his project management products help thousands of international customers plan and track time for their mission critical projects.

Vacation Tracking Software

vacation tracking

 

HR Managers: witness the combination of a simple employee timesheet with vacation tracking software.

Complete employee time tracking!

 

Employees simply enter their work hours and vacation time into the timesheet.  Managers can approve them both.  The image below shows time off policies for vacation tracking and other reasons.

 

Click These Related Videos:

Time Off video and Time Off accruals

 

Vacation tracking software, time off tracking, employee vacation tracking
Vacation Tracking Software

 

Time Off Reasons
The program allows you to create your own reasons for time off, not just vacation.  As you can see from the image above, we have added several unique reasons for an example.  As you know, employee vacation tracking is really more than just that.  You must track Comp Time, Sick Time, Personal Time, Training, etc.  There are lots of reasons to track time off.

Time and Time Off
We display employee "project time" and "time off" in the same timesheet.  That means you can see your 40-hour week broken down by work time and vacation time.  In fact, you'll see all the time off reasons you have entered, and employees can choose to enter hours into any reason. Time Off Video.

Compensatory Time
The automatically accrual system tracks Compensatory Time, otherwise known as "Comp Time" just like other reasons for time off, like vacation.  You can choose to award comp time to employees for working more than their scheduled hours.  Choices are 1X, 1.5X, and 2X compensatory time.  And, just like other time off reasons, employees can see their available hours.

Time Off Policies
Each employee has their own time off policies.  In other words, you must keep track of how many hours they have available, how much they can earn, and when they earn it.  In fact, there are several other factors, like carrying hours over into the new year, etc.  All this time off tracking is available in one package.  Time Off Accruals Video.

Windows and Web-based Platforms
Our comp time policies run on both Windows and Web platforms.  That means you can administer employee vacation tracking from either platform, anywhere you might be - home, office, client site.  Just log in and check timesheets and time off policies for any employee.

We hope this has helped educate you on the Time Off system.  We hope you'll download a copy and give it a try.

Videos
Video: Accrue Hours for PTO
Time Off Request
Video: Accrue Hours for PTO
Time Off Accruals
Video: Employee Availability and Scheduling
Holidays and PTO

Project Postmortem Guidelines

Despite the fact that managers and executives are under an immense amount of pressure to make their businesses profitable, very few of them take the time to reflect and learn from past projects. A postmortem is a process in which you look at a project’s history and analyze its positive and negative aspects. The goal is to help you learn from your successes and mistakes. But don’t let the morbid name fool you—a postmortem is an extremely effective way to improve and establish best business practices.

Learn more project tracking strategies here

Download and Try it Yourself
This download is more than a project management app.
This is a full timesheet with projects and tasks.
Click Get Started to try it now!

Why Perform a Postmortem?

Statistics show that approximately 70% of all projects are “under bid.” Importantly, many businesses are not pricing projects for what they actually cost. For example, businesses are pricing out what they know about a project, but fail to account for the unforeseen details that may be involved. In addition, they are not including time for potential risks—that is, all the elements that could impact the goals of the project. And even worse—businesses are repeating these mistakes over and over again. The best way to avoid repeating bad business practices is through a postmortem.

     Try the Timesheet Here

 

Performing an Effective Postmortem

To perform an effective postmortem, it is essential to incorporate a powerful analytical tool, such as time and project tracking software, into your business process flow. As you complete one project and move on to the next, time and project tracking software will provide the information you need to analyze historical performance, plan more efficiently, improve implementation, and assess how your organization actually works. The combination of accurately recording time and powerful reporting capabilities, allows you to apply the knowledge you’ve gained from one project to the next, constantly improving your process with each project you do.

Be inclusive: It is wise to get others involved in the postmortem process. Arrange a review meeting and set aside time to reflect on the experience. Be sure to create an open environment and take note of all input and feedback, and ask targeted questions.

Record it: By accurately documenting your postmortem, you can allow everyone in the organization to access it and utilize it as a learning tool. Start with an overview of the project, including estimated budget, when the project began and when it ended. Detail the objectives and other big picture information.

Be specific: Discuss the details of the project, including phases, budget estimates, resource allocation, employee time, and so on.

Document what went right and what went wrong. Were the project outcomes better than expected? What problems were encountered? Did the project take longer or less time than expected?

Experimentation: How many risks did you take on this project? Did you try out new technology, business processes, or innovative ideas? 

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Why time tracking is necessary for survival

 

 

 

DCAA Compliant Timesheet

Many government agencies require contractors to comply with DCAA (Defense Contractor Audit Agency) rules and regulations. The timesheet makes this process easier by helping you regulate time entry with a DCAA Timesheet. You'll find numerous canned reports along with a built in report writer to customize specific reporting requirements for DCAA compliance from information obtained through our DCAA Timesheet. Scoutwest also provides employee training to satisfy another DCAA requirement. This training will help employees understand how to comply with a DCAA Timesheet. Let us help you track your labor in a simple, consistent, cost effective manner. Watch the DCAA Compliance video.

 

DCAA 7641.90- Information for Contractors:

2-302 Labor Charging System

Timekeeping procedures and controls on labor charges are areas of utmost concern. Unlike other costs, labor is not supported by external documentation or physical evidence to provide an independent check or balance. The key link in any sound labor time charging system is the individual employee. It is critical to labor charging internal control systems that management indoctrinates employees on their independent responsibility for accurately recording time charges.

2-302.1 Timecard Preparation

Detailed instructions for timecard preparation should be established through a timekeeping pamphlet and/or company procedure.

DCAA Clause

Basic Definition-Paraphrase

Feature

Description of Feature

2.302.1-1

Record time on Daily Basis

Employee login

Allows secure daily time entry for all users with unique Log-in and Password entry along with optional Active Directory Authentication.

2.302.1-3

The correct distribution of time by project numbers, contract number or name, or other identifiers for a particular assignment.

Project Names and Identifiers

Contractor can name projects and use multiple fields to uniquely identify projects and/or their assigned users.  Time Logs allow detailed notes and descriptions.

2.302.1-5

Recording all hours worked whether they are paid or not.

Tracks hours worked and time off/not worked hours.

Allows employees to put in actual hours worked along with any paid or unpaid additional time.  Email notifications can auto email employee if timesheet contains less than expected weekly hours.

2.302.2 Recommended Time Keeping Policy

 

DCAA Clause

Basic Definition-Paraphrase

Feature

Description of Feature

2-302.2-a

The supervisor should approve and cosign all timecards.

Time and Expense Submit, Approval, and Locking

Multiple levels of Time and Expense Approvals with audit trail in DCAA Timesheet.

2-301.2 Detailed Provisions of SF 1408-

The cost accounting system must identify what costs are considered direct, and what costs are considered indirect. Once these criteria are defined, they must be consistently applied.

DCAA Clause

Basic Definition-Paraphrase

Feature

Description of Feature

2-301.2-a

Proper segregation of direct costs from indirect costs.

Task Categories and Expense Types

Allows the creation of Task and Expense classifications which include the ability to use Direct and Indirect Costs.

       

 

See the guidance memos.

How to Avoid a DCAA Audit

How to setup for DCAA compliance

Video: DCAA Compliance

 

 

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