Management Tips: Manage With Few Resources

Project manager are a scarce resource on projects now. It does not easy have to manage the same project, with the same deadline, objectives and targets, but with two fewer people. How am I going to get everything done? Where are the extra hours of effort going to come from?

Nowadays project teams are being pressurized all the time, and it’s more common to be managing a project which is short on resource than one that has everything and everyone it needs in order to be a success. We complete projects on target despite not having all the resources we need. It’s not a good situation, but it’s the reality for many project managers.

If you find yourself having to cope without the project team members that you desperately need, here are a few tips on getting more done with fewer people.

Think Outside The Box


You are in a tight spot – first things first: let the project team know. They may be able to help you come up with some solutions. Convene an emergency meeting and ask them to help you work out some possible responses. You could look at training other people, increasing the hours worked (with overtime paid if you can), outsourcing bits of the project to other companies, cutting the scope, moving team members around, bringing in an intern or a work experience student or cancelling travel. Anything goes, so see what you can come up with that will increase productivity and perhaps squeeze a bit more time out of the people whom you do have.

Asking for help is a great way to start, as your project team members may well have access to a network of people whom you could never reach. For example, someone may have a child who is looking for a work placement for university and who would be prepared to help out with some of the more routine project tasks like admin, consolidating timesheets and preparing meeting minutes.

Take Time Out of the Schedule

Yes, that’s right. Take shortcuts! Try to reduce the overall project duration by crashing the schedule, cutting out superfluous tasks (you didn’t have many of them anyway, did you?) and fast-tracking as much of the work as possible.

Cut down on the project management tasks as well. Use your software to automate as much as possible, including project reports, which you can probably set up to run in real-time using dashboards and templates. Make sure that you are saving as much time on project admin as possible by not hunting for documents – store them all with your project files online.

Reiterate The Project Benefits

Your team all know why they are working on this project and why it is so important, don’t they? If you start to ask more of them, and they don’t understand the strategic importance of their work, then you’ll find that their motivation starts to drop. People like to feel as if they are doing work that is important and valued, so let your team knows how much their efforts are appreciated.

If you can, ask the project sponsor to come along to a couple of team meetings to share the vision and objectives from his or her point of view. Ask them also to talk about why resources on this project are so tight. This will help reiterate the reason why the team is working on the project and also show that senior management supports the work.

Motivating people and encouraging them like this isn’t going to save you weeks of effort or make up completely for someone being taken off the team. But it can help the people who are left feel as if they are not working on a project that is doomed and struggling.

 

Prioritize

You can’t do everything now. If you have fewer people than you need, you should start prioritizing what is really important. So you need to have a chat with your sponsor about the project scope.

There is nearly always a requirement that isn’t critical – something that has worked its way on to the schedule because someone thought it was a good idea. Spend some time with your project customers and the sponsor critically evaluating what you absolutely must deliver with this project. Then cut out everything else, or at least move it down the priority list. If you get time later, you can work on it then, but with fewer resources you can’t achieve everything that you originally thought you would be able to.

This can be a difficult conversation to have with your sponsor so you may find it useful to approach the meeting with your suggestions of what can be cut and what can still be achieved ready before you go to meet him or her.

Raise A Risk Or An Issue


If you feel that you might not be able to complete everything, put it on your risk log. If you categorically know now that you can’t achieve everything on the project, put it on your issue log. And tell your sponsor.

There’s no point trying to hide this from them – they will only find out anyway, when you deliver something that is late, over budget or short on a few requirements. Be honest now and say that without the resources you need, you can’t deliver everything that they asked for. They will either help you get more people seconded to the team or they will respond to the risk or issue by helping you with the mitigating actions (which are likely to include prioritizing, as in Tip #4).

Source : management Software Blog

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Retailers Keeping Tabs on Consumers’ Return Habits

Each year, consumers return about $264 billion worth of merchandise, or almost 9 percent of total sales. Many buyers aren’t aware that some returns, with and without receipts, are being monitored at stores that outsource that information to a third-party company, which creates a “return profile.” Consumer advocates don’t like it.


 

It’s not just the government that might be keeping tabs on you. Many retailers are tracking you, too or at least your merchandise returns.

The companies say it’s all in the name of security and fighting fraud. They want to be able to identify chronic returners or gangs of thieves trying to make off with high-end products that are returned later for store credit.

Consumer advocates are raising transparency issues about the practice of having companies collect information on consumers and create “return profiles” of customers at big-name stores such as Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot and Nike.

The practice led to a privacy lawsuit against Best Buy that eventually was tossed out.

Each year, consumers return about $264 billion worth of merchandise, or almost 9 percent of total sales, according to industry estimates.

Many buyers aren’t aware that some returns, with and without receipts, are being monitored at stores that outsource that information to a third-party company, which creates a “return profile” that catalogs and analyzes the customer‘s returns at the store.

“I had absolutely no idea they were doing that,” said Mari Torres of Springfield, Va., during a shopping trip with her daughter at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Va. “I honestly think it’s an invasion of privacy.”

Torres, 39, says she’s a responsible shopper and she’d like to know what kind of information retailers keep on her, with whom they may be sharing it, and how long they keep it.

One company that offers return tracking services, The Retail Equation (TRE) in Irvine, Calif., says it doesn’t share information in the profiles it creates with outside parties or with other stores.

For example, if TRE logs and analyzes returns from a Victoria’s Secret customer, TRE only reports back to Victoria’s Secret about the return activity. It does not then also share that information with J.C. Penney or other retailers that use TRE.

Even so, consumer advocates don’t like it.

“There should be no secret databases. That’s a basic rule of privacy practices,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The retail industry says it’s not about monitoring the majority of its shoppers, but fighting theft.

Lisa LaBruno, senior vice president of retail operations at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, says organized retail crime is costing retailers tens of billions of dollars each year.

LaBruno says the problem goes way beyond the small-time shoplifter and involves organized groups of criminals that make a living from the large-scale theft of merchandise. For example, they might switch the UPC code on a $600 faucet with a lower-cost code that rings up at $50. They buy the faucet, then replace the fake UPC tag with the original, higher-priced code, and return the faucet to the store without the receipt for a $600 store credit, which can later be sold online.

“It’s not to invade the privacy of legitimate customers at all,” LaBruno said in an interview. “It’s one of many, many, creative solutions out there to help combat a really big problem that affects retailers, honest customers, the entire industry and the public at-large.”

The problem, says government privacy experts, is disclosure, or lack of it in many cases.

People need to be aware when they make a purchase that if they return it, some information from the transaction may be stored, according to the experts.

“Most people think when they hand over a driver’s license that it’s just to confirm identity and not to be kept to be used for future transactions,” says the Federal Trade Commission’s Bob Schoshinski, assistant director at the agency’s division of privacy and identity protection. “It shouldn’t be that a third party is keeping a profile on someone without them being informed what’s going to happen when they hand over their driver’s license or some other information to a retailer.”

In some cases, the disclosure by retailers is conspicuous. In others, not so much.

At Best Buy, a sign at each cash register states the return policy, and it’s also on the back of the receipt, telling consumers that returns are tracked and an ID is required. The disclosure adds: “Based on return/exchange patterns, some customers will be warned that subsequent returns and exchanges will not be eligible for returns or exchanges for 90 days. Customers who are warned or have been denied an exchange/return may request a copy of their `Return Activity Report'” from The Retail Equation by contacting the company.

At Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works, disclosures at the cash register said nothing about The Retail Equation’s tracking returns.

Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes says the return tracking isn’t just about money.

“This isn’t only about protecting our bottom line,” Holmes said in an interview. “It’s about protecting our communities, too. We know from working with law enforcement at the state and federal levels that organized retail crime are feeding other crimes, such as drug trafficking and even terrorism, in some cases.”

The Retail Equation says more than 27,000 stores use its services. Best Buy, Home Depot, J.C. Penney, Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and Nike are among its clients. TRE would not say how long the profiles on consumers are kept in its database; it varies from retailer to retailer. But a recent “return activity report” obtained by one consumer turned up returns to The Sports Authority dating to 2004.

Here’s how the tracking works.

A consumer buys an item at Best Buy and later returns it. Even if the shopper has the original receipt and is within the time frame when returns are permitted, store policy requires that Smith provide a photo ID, such as a driver’s license. Other stores, such as Home Depot, only require the ID if there’s no receipt or if the item was purchased with a store credit.

The ID is swiped and then some information from the transaction is sent by the store to The Retail Equation. The company says the information captured from the ID typically includes the identification number, name, address, date of birth and expiration date.

The Retail Equation catalogues return activity by the shopper and creates a “return activity report” on him with his returns at the store. If TRE determines that there’s a pattern of questionable returns that suggests potential fraud, it would notify Best Buy, which could then deny returns by that shopper at the store for a period of time.

The threshold for too many returns is determined by each retailer. TRE says the vast majority of returns — about 99 percent — are accepted.

In a 2011 lawsuit in Florida against Best Buy, Steven Siegler complained after the magnetic strip on his driver’s license was swiped for a return. He wanted the manager to delete the information. His suit said Best Buy refused. He alleged that Best Buy violated privacy law when it swiped the license. But a federal appeals court agreed with a lower court ruling that the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act didn’t apply in the case.

How CRM Software Can Help You Grow Your Revenues

A lot of businesses today are starting to catch on to the benefits of using CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) software to grow their bottom line as it allows pinpoint precision in monitoring business performance and maintaining close customer relations. In a medium to large business things always work more smoothly and coherently when each department can communicate effectively and work in harmony with the other – which all adds to a satisfying customer experience. In short, with CRM software in place the left hand of a business will always know what the right hand of the business is doing.

Most CRM systems can be customized to operate within specific parameters and guidelines that the business maintains as part of its day to day operations. As customer relationships are a pinnacle aspect of any business not just surviving but thriving as well, the CRM software can accelerate a business’s growth and increase their revenue by helping them to maintain close relationships with their customers.

Every aspect of the sales funnel can be entered into the CRM and monitored by staff in order to make sure their customer base is being well looked after and no opportunities are missed. CRM software goes beyond the usual data that is kept on file about customers such as names and addresses, but can also monitor details about new leads, sales, complaints, resolutions to complaints, and opportunities for future sales and upgrades. The true power behind CRM software is that once a business notices a trend in what customers are looking for they can shift their focus in order to provide it.

CRM systems are a powerful tool for the sales force as they have accurate and pertinent information on the customer base right at their fingertips. With this information they can build profitable and meaningful relationships with their customers. When customers get a sense that a business is looking out for them then they are more likely to keep coming back despite constant enticements from any competitors.