I.S.P.  

information
systems
planning corp.
5361 Malaspina Place
North Vancouver
B.C.V7R 4L9
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ISPangle.com or iSPANGLE.com.
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I.S.P. helps you finish projects faster

Plan to succeed with Project Management and Microsoft Project. I.S.P. information systems planning corp helps clients since 1979 in the areas of project planning, coaching teams, setting project management standards and guidelines which improve performance and shorten projects.

For a detailed description of how we help our clients and would be pleased to help you please click on one of the links above or scroll through the description below.

1. Microsoft Project training and coaching for project managers.

Plans communicate a clear vision of how project achieve client objectives. Plans define roles and responsibilities in the project. Project planning software such as Microsoft Project is essential to

  1. Prepare project plans with schedule, budgets and resource requirements.
  2. Track project progress against the baseline budget and schedule.
  3. Report project progress against project baselines. 
  4. Assign, communicate and manage resource assignments.
  5. Analyze workload analysis to identify resource requirements and balance workloads.
  6. Manage assignments and balance workloads while the project is in progress.
  7. Keep track of all the details to make a project successful.

Microsoft Project has become an industry standard. Microsoft Project has a steep learning curve but no more difficult than other planning packages. Many new users give up in frustration. They aren't sure how to recover when they hit unexpected results. 

What makes ISP Microsoft Project training better? Very comprehensive course material containing hundreds of tips and tricks to make your use of Microsoft Project more productive and reduce the frustration new users experience. For project managers who don't use planning software, ISP Microsoft Project courses allow them to upgrade their planning, resource management and tracking skills.

Training alone not enough. Follow training with coaching to rehearse skills. After finishing their first plan, their confidence soars. Coaching during early stages of plan preparation when major challenges occur help the novice planner move forward quickly with confidence. Rehearsal builds skills and confidence.

Brian Mullen has worked with Microsoft Project since 1991 when he taught Microsoft Project courses at UBC, University of Calgary, Langara college and University of Victoria. Clients include BC Hydro, BC Transit, Deas Pacific Marine, Dept. of Justice Canada, Eurocan Pulp & Paper, Telus, and TransGas.

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2. Creating project information systems with Microsoft Project.

Organization often want a high-level view across all their projects. This may include:

At the same time they don't have the information systems and project management experience to build the systems. We have build many such information systems and can help you build a systems to meet your requirements.

Microsoft Project supports the building Project Management information systems with a highly-customizable user interface, a pre-built database with hundreds of user customizable fields and significant built-in application logic. The customizable user interface includes views, tables, filters and fields which can be used to build both entry and reporting views. Benefits of creating a customized project information system include reduced training, more efficient procedures and consistent reporting across all projects. 

ISP works with clients to customize Microsoft Project to suit the way you work. We modify existing views, tables, filters and fields and create new ones as required. These custom objects can be added to menus to speed selection and view setup. We speed plan creation with custom templates that reflect your best practices. Microsoft Project has interfaces to Outlook, Excel, Access and ODBC databases. You can send task assignments to team member's Outlook where they show up in the task list. Project data can be exported to Excel Pivot tables for additional analysis and graphing.

You can use Microsoft Project Professional (and standard) to build a PMIS but your Project Administrator must manage the application. Microsoft Project Sever with web access offers a more secure environment and controlled access. Web Access views are more robust, include security and provide additional capabilities such sorting and extended grouping. Project Server includes a comprehensive timesheet system.

Brian Mullen has built several PMIS using Microsoft Project for clients including Canadian Wildlife, Henriquez Productions and Teligence communications.

At Canadian Wildlife Services (part of Environment Canada), ISP created an information and reporting system to manage one hundred recovery-strategy projects for endangered species at risk. Each project spanned multiple years and involved over twenty phases and milestones.

At Henriquez Productions, an architecture firm, ISP created a project costing system to provide a management overview to allocate forty resources over thirty projects.

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3. Deploying Microsoft Project Server and Web Access

Organizations with the following characteristics should consider installing Microsoft Project Server with Web Access to achieve the following goals.

  1. Large numbers of projects, resources and geographic locations. Project information establishes a road map and is worth protecting.
  2. More efficient resource management with cross-project workload analysis.
  3. Forecasting future resource requirements so resources are available to start projects on-time.
  4. Need to communicate with team members in geographically distributed projects and operations. Electronic communication reduce travel and simplifies communication overhead.
  5. Need to analyze workloads and forecast resource requirements to support allocation of resources to projects.
  6. Requirement to connect timesheets to projects for more accurate cost control.
  7. Wider, faster sharing of key project information which reduces communication effort on part of the project manager. This is especially applicable to geographically distributed projects.

Web Access provides

  1. Streamline communications with Web Access which provides access to authorized users to project data over the internet. This simplifies managing geographically distributed teams. Web access views embed tables, filters within views so views are easier to manage.
  2. Online access to team members over the internet to of key project information including to do lists, issues and change requests assigned to them. These users only need a much cheaper web Access license not a full Microsoft Project license.
  3. On-demand reports to clients and management reducing the overhead associated with preparing management reports.
  4. Timesheet capability to capture actual time worked on project tasks.

Microsoft Project Server overcomes the many limitations of Microsoft Project standalone.

  1. Sharing of custom objects such as calendars, views, tables, filters, fields and macros required considerable project administrator time. Microsoft Project Server provides an enterprise global stored in a central 
  2. Comprehensive views overcome the lack of row and column level security for project data. Often you want to share high level status information with clients but you don't want to share detailed cost information.
  3. Ability to create, share and protect customized calendars, views, tables, filters and fields using the enterprise global. The enterprise global simplifies sharing these custom objects, reducing effort on the part of the project administrator. Previously the local global was stored on each workstation. To share objects consistently across the organization required significant project administrator effort to synchronize these local globals.

You can establish a more flexible, secure and robust project management capabilities with Microsoft Project Server and web access. Resources can be stored in an Enterprise resource pool. Custom objects are stored in an Enterprise global speeding distribution of custom objects reducing administrative workload for project administrator.

Upgrading to Microsoft Project Server requires a much more sophisticated environment. You must be running Windows Server with SQL Server and IIS Server. You need a Windows specialist with security clearance to install the Server application. Once the application is installed, a Project experienced administrator must test the application and track down bugs with the Windows server specialist. This may take a couple of days. Then the project administrator must setup the users and security. 

Brian Mullen has installed Microsoft Project server for three organizations including Bunting Coady Architects, Teligence Communications and UBC.

Teligence communications had 20 projects and 50 resources. At Teligence Communications, we completed following steps to deploy Microsoft Project Server with Web Access.

  1. Define users and related security restrictions.
  2. Standardize global resource definitions. This is one area where you don't want to mess up. 
  3. Loaded existing projects and resources to Project Server, took about a week.
  4. Established resource breakdown structure to define what each class of user could view.
  5. Defined project-level custom fields such as sponsor, champion and status flags.
  6. Created management reports.
  7. Created a 200 page technical guide.
  8. Created a 100 page client procedures user guide. These user guides contained specific Teligence Communications procedures and examples which speeds training.
  9. Trained users in new project and resource analysis capabilities of web access and project server.

Installing project server simplifies procedures for the project manager and project administrator.

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9. Planning and managing client projects

You need practical experience and challenge of solving real problems to develop practical methods and solutions. With each project you manage, you develop winning strategies that can speed project execution while reducing cost and risk. Project plans motivate teams by giving them clear definition of roles and responsibilities.

ISP works with project teams to define projects and create plans in Microsoft Project. We run team planning sessions to brainstorm objectives, risks, deliverables, strategies and tasks. We create project templates to speed planning process. 

Brian Mullen has thirty years experience managing projects and coaching project teams. Types of project included business process reengineering, data warehouse, information technology, package selection, software development. Major projects included the following clients; the Bentall Group, CUE Datawest, Future Shop, Rogers Cablevision, Port of Vancouver , Teligence Communications, Telus and WebCT.

At a major cablevision company, we helped plan the laying of a fiber optic cable network in greater Vancouver. The projects included 800 splices with each splice involving twelve steps. We setup the 9,000 task plan in Microsoft Project and subcontracted a Project Assistant to maintain the plan for engineering. department.

See Project Manager's course for details

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5. Rescuing projects in trouble.

Taking over a project in mid-stream poses one of the toughest challenges a project manager can face especially if the previous project manager used up the budget and schedule without delivering expected results.

Symptoms that a project is in trouble include 

Steps ISP undertakes to rescue projects in trouble include:

  1. Conduct project audit
  2. Assess quality of work to date to determine whether additional investment would be throwing good money after bad.
  3. Plan project completion with the team. 
  4. Assess team's health.
  5. Review current documentation.
  6. Develop rescue strategy.
  7. Ensure adequate resources in place to complete the job.
  8. Regenerate shared vision. 

Brian Mullen has rescued many projects including a city payroll system, and several projects in a major telecommunications company.

 

6. Business process improvement and process mapping.

Business process engineering reduces cost and cycle time to deliver results to customers. For example, turbo brainstorming process reduces meeting time by 66% and produces better results. A turbo brainstorming session increases energy levels of participants.

Brian Mullen taught process improvement workshops since 1991. Brian presented re-engineering courses to UBC and the University of Calgary since 1991. We documents processes using Microsoft Project. By identifying average resource usage for each step in a process you can develop cost models for existing and proposed processes. By comparing existing and proposed costs you can develop a cost benefit model that highlights where benefits will be achieved.

Clients include Alberta Natural Gas, Computing Devices Canada, Correctional Services Canada, Mohawk Oil, Plexus, Spartan Controls, Trans Canada Pipelines, Teligence Communications and Telus.

At Correctional Services Canada, ISP trained and coached teams responsible for re-engineering multiple processes to improve the efficiency of Correctional Services operations in Abbotsford, BC.

At Mohawk Oil, we mapped numerous processes including service station development, year-end accounting procedures. Each process contained several hundred steps, developed in a couple days.

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8. Building high-performance project teams to fast track projects.

High-performance teams tackle tasks and finish projects faster. They take action to achieve results and create solutions where others see problems. They overcome challenges and never give up. They show initiative when confronted with unanticipated situations. If you have good raw material, a high-performance team can be built in a couple of days.

The coach provides the catalyst that revs the team up, opening up the channels of communication and collaboration. Challenges melt away as the team surges forward. 

Brian Mullen has facilitated high-performance teams since 1985. ISP facilitated team building sessions for clients including Blast Radius, ICBC, Mountain Equipment Coop, North Shore Health, Teligence Communications, and Telus Advanced Communications.

At Trans Canada Pipeline, ISP presented a Business Process Improvement course to a re-engineering team of fifteen people charged with identifying re-engineering opportunities with the annual capital budgeting system. The training turned into a team building session gave the project a dramatic kick start.

At Computing Devices Canada, we introduced Turbo brainstorming and process mapping to expedite a re-engineering team of senior executives charged with improving process involved in a multi-billion dollar contract. The team presented over a hundred opportunities over a six month period and credited turbo brainstorming with allowing them to move so quickly.

At North Shore Health, we trained sixty-five public health officials and nurses to use turbo brainstorming to mobilize teams and expedite project activities.

10. Facilitating Strategic Planning sessions.

Strategic planning sessions set the future course of the organization. At the same time, they consume costly executive time. ISP uses a combination of advanced planning, facilitation, turbo brainstorming and concurrent documentation with a scribe to develop power packed strategic planning session that maximizes your results.  

ISP strategic planning sessions cover eight topics per day. Sequencing these topics to achieve the maximum results requires advanced planning. The agenda changes as breakthroughs based on the synergy  of the group intensifies and opens new challenges and opportunities.

Turbo brainstorming improves communication and produces better results in one third the time. One organization covered more in two hours using turbo brainstorming than they had achieved in a two-day planning session with TWO facilitators. Careful selection of the concurrent topics and simultaneous generation of ideas by all the participants was the key.

Brian Mullen has organized several strategic planning sessions with clients including CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society), Digital Equipment, MCK Telecommunications,  Mountain Equipment Coop, North Shore Health, and Placer Dome.

At Placer Dome, we planned and facilitated a five-day, strategic-planning session with participants from mines around the world to develop technical computing requirements and strategy. The agenda consisted of a fifty page workbook and the results of the session included a 150 page write up of issues and action items. The goal of the session was to improve consistency of technical computer at different mines in Placer Dome.

ISP has organized numerous planning sessions at Whistler for companies. They start on Friday afternoon to minimize disruption to company operations. We leave Vancouver at Friday noon and spend Friday afternoon and evening sessions in workshops. Saturday is a full working day and wives join us for a Saturday evening dinner. Sunday morning is a wrap up day with people free to work their way back to Vancouver Sunday afternoon. Everyone has a memorable weekend and lots of company issues get resolved.

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4. Automating Microsoft Project tasks with Visual Basic for Applications.

ISP creates VBA programs (Visual Basic for Applications) to automate repetitive tasks and interface project data with Excel, Word, Access. You can automate repetitive reports that are beyond Microsoft capabilities.

Brian Mullen has  with Visual Basic for Microsoft Project, Excel and Word since 1997. Applications include generating project plans from Excel estimating worksheets and generating progress reports in Word from Project. By understanding the object model of Project, we get an inside-out understanding of Microsoft Project data.

Clients include Canadian Wildlife Services, Henriquez Productions Limited, Teligence Communications, TransGas. 

At TransGas ISP created a VBA (visual basic for applications) macro to generate a Microsoft Project plan from an estimating spreadsheet. We reduced two days manual data entry to less than two minutes with less chance of entry errors.

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7. Project Manager training and coaching

Creating a project management culture in an organization presents a major challenge with changing the way people think and act. Training reduces the resistance to change. Follow training with team coaching to retain and build skills. 

ISP training  in project management covers project initiation, cost/benefit analysis, risk management, strategies, estimating, team building, turbo brainstorming and Microsoft Project. Skills taught in this course expedite planning, improve communication to reduce schedule time and cost, and reduce wasted time in meetings. What makes ISP project management courses unique? We use turbo brainstorming to conduct  team exercises in the class to get everyone involved. Participants can apply turbo brainstorming immediately they return to their workplace to improve the effectiveness of their meetings. Within several months they can recoup the cost of this course.

Secondly, we use Microsoft Project to provide practical examples to Project Management theory such as work breakdown structures, scheduling, estimating, assigning resources to tasks and tracking progress which gives students a realistic samples to help their understanding. We focus on effective project management practices from a performance oriented perspective.

To effectively implement project management in your organization, follow training with coaching which includes deciding standards and guidelines. Coach each project manager to create their first plans. Provide tips for tracking projects. ISP helps hire project managers and set up the PMO (project management office).

Brian Mullen has thirty years experience managing projects and coaching project teams. Brian worked for three years as a consultant and regional manager at Boeing Computer Services, Canada where he learned the art of project management from a world-class company. Since 1985, he taught Project Management at University of BC and the University of Calgary.

ISP presented in-house project management courses to Canadian Occidental Petroleum, HRDC Canada,  Husky oil, ICBC, Phillips, Hager & North, Telus Advanced Communications and Westcoast Energy. In-house training courses allow you use your own projects as case studies. This kick starts your projects.

At Telus, ISP developed a team of six project managers, coached them in development of plans to improve operations supporting 10,000 workstations. Trouble calls were cut in half as a result of these projects and each of the project managers received promotions contributing additional value to the organization.

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Copyright October 14, 2007 Brian Mullen, I.S.P. information systems planning corp. Last updated: June 1, 2009

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