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Prince2 Configuration Management and Change Control

I remember, many years ago, attending my first training course on Quality. Management couldn’t get enough people to attend, so they bribed them with a free scientific calculator (back then worth about $200) – so I attended.

To be honest, I found it a whole lot more compelling than I expected.

After lunch on the second day, they had an expert talk about Configuration Management.

Well, she certainly knew her stuff – but I came away thinking that CM was a bit ‘academic’.

How Wrong Can I Be? Configuration Management is BUSINESS CRITICAL!

I’m serious. Would you buy another auto from your dealer if they weren’t set up with the right tools to service your car?

How about if they fitted the wrong replacement parts? Or if the Manual had errors in it?

There’s a famous story about the Space Shuttle incurring huge extra costs because European suppliers used the metric system and the USA used Imperial measurements. Tolerance errors built up and parts did not fit together properly.

Change Configuration Management would have stopped that from happening, and it would have helped to spot any such problems much earlier on.

Let’s talk about change control within Prince2

Changes usually come in three categories:

Request For Change (RFC). This is usually a request from the customer or users asking for a change from what was originally requested.

It may be a change to the requirements, specification, acceptance criteria, or scope – or all or any re-work – or accept some form of price reduction.

The final category is a general one. reserved for any general issues, observations or concerns (for example, my design engineer has resigned!).

All the above may be seen as just different categories of an Issue.

So what is Configuration Management? Well it’s basically an

internal service group with resources, tools, procedures and systems to control multiple versions of the products (deliverables) of projects.

Each product is termed an “Asset”. The name for the combined set of these assets is called a configuration.

And the configuration of a projects end product is the sum of its parts.

So why should we care about using CM?

Changes to your project WILL happen – so prepare for it. I was talking about Change Management, which by the way, should be under the wings of CM.

So when changes occur, your project will end up with multiple versions of a product.

If you don’t have appropriate tracking and knowledge of these versions, what was changed, and why it was changed, then your project is going to end up in turmoil.

Suppose you are a design engineer, and a colleague asked you for a copy of the specification document as they are about to design something from it.

What if you had changed the document in some way since it was agreed – maybe because you could see it was an improvement?

Your colleague now designs against this different spec to the spec that others are using – and his product doesn’t work or fit with other designs of the same system. Chaos Reigns.

How about this. A client rings up and says they’re using an old version of one of your products (because it’s compatible with the rest of their system), and can you build some more for them as a special custom order please?

You say ‘no problem’ – you go to your design shop only to find that they’ve lost the drawings – worse, the designer retired last year.

You’d have the same problem if customers said it had a design fault, and could you fix it, or if a customer wanted a modification based on an old design.

And the same problems could exist if you run a ‘service’ corporation.

Are your staff using the right tools, procedures and guidelines?

Are they trained to provide that service?

Let me ask – does senior management have a set of business plans based on a set of strategic directions? And do different parts of the corporation base their operational plans on these documents?

Sheesh! I sure hope they are all using the correct versions of these things…

Okay, let’s get back to your project, and how CM will help.

I hope I’ve convinced you that CM should be a permanent fixture in your organisation and not just set up by and during, a project (because the end products have got to be sustained during their whole life).

The person who provides the CM service is called the Configuration Librarian. Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of dated – but don’t let that put you off. This role can also be called the Configuration Administrator.

Here’s how they can help your project:

1. CM has a completed library of all items that have ever been produced in your organisation (including anything that has been ‘bought-in’ from a third party).

In modern times, these records will probably be held on a database of some sort. In the past they would have been held in hard copy form in a traditional filing system.

2. Each of these records will have information stating who has got what, where it is held, and why.

These records will also hold details of any changes made.

3. The library will also hold master copies of multiple baseline versions of products.

If you work for a small organisation and run small simple projects, then you would expect the way that CM is carried out to be small and simple too. As long as you have control of all versions of all of your products and services.

Next, I want to explain what services the CM Library can give to your project.

It is the project managers’ responsibility to ensure that CM is being properly used by the project.

To help ensure this happens a CM Plan can be created.

Note. For a small and simple project, the plan may just be a list of points to discuss and agree with CM.

The Plan may form part of any quality planning or be included within the Project Plan.

Do what is sensible – but here are the areas that should be covered:

A short narrative explaining what configuration method to be used (or a simple reference to the ‘usual’ system.

What corporate standards will be used (or why they will be varied in some way).

Linkages to any other configuration management systems (or any tools) that will be used. An example may be a third party who is contributing products to the project.

How and where the products will be stored. Are they just documents?

Or are they other physical items – in which case will they be installed on the customer site, or stored elsewhere, such as a bonded storehouse.

How will filing be carried out, and what is the process

for secure retrieval?

What form of version control be used – explain how they

will be identified.

Who within the project and external to it will be

responsible for implementing configuration management?

The Configuration Librarian will provide the FIVE

following services to any given project:

1. Planning. Working with the project manager, to establish what level of detail is required (this is dependent upon the complexity of the total end-product configuration).

2. Identification. Agreeing what products will be under configuration control (for example, the Project Plan may not be included, as long as the project manager has a simple ‘off-line’ system for keeping it under their own version control).

3. Control. Procedures to ‘freeze’ baselines of products and bring them under control of the CM library.

Freezing means no changes are allowed to the product without the right level of authority (for example the project sponsor).

There is another point to be brought out here.

Take the development of a new mountain bike.

One person is designing the wheels, another is developing the frame, yet another, the gearing system.

As each goes through the many design versions the others need to make sure the entire configuration of the bike remains ‘harmonized’.

The CM database will recognise such linkages and alert the team (via reports as described later in this article); of the relationships each product has to each other.

4. Status Accounting. This is the CM database for the recording and reporting of all products.

This goes back into history to the first version, and all the way up to the current version. This data can be given to the project manager at key points, such as an end stage review as accurate proof of the true status on all the projects products.

5. Verification. CM provides reviews and audits to ensure that the project team are using the correct versions of documents and other products during the project (and that they match the ‘master’ copies of such that are held in the library).

This should be seen as a service – not as ‘the management police’!

Finally, there are two important reports that the project manager will use from the CM Librarian:

1. The Configuration Record. This is a record of all the information required about each product’s status, and includes; the latest version number, who is creating the product, where the product is to be kept/stored, and what its status is.

2. Product Status Account. This is a report (usually requested by the project manager at key review points), and provides information about the state of all products within some defined time frame (for example “give me a report of all products and their status that have been created during the current project stage”

The PSA will, for each product within that time frame, contain data such as when each product was baseline and when any changes were approved.

Here is a short synopsis of key points within a Prince2 project when Configuration Management is used:

Planning Quality.

The Configuration Management Plan is created, prior to the

development of the Project Plan. The Project Manager to liaise with Configuration Librarian to discuss how the project will use/work with their Configuration Management (CM) System.

Setting Up Project Files

Takes information from the Project Plan, and adds project filing structure to the Configuration Management Plan. CM system may already have these facilities.

Authorising Work Package (WP)/giving work to the team

Update the Configuration Item Record to “under development” Configuration Librarian will do this.

Ensure the WP contains information regarding how version control will work for the developer, obtaining copies of products or product descriptions, submission the Configuration Librarian, and passing product status information.

Assessing Project Progress.

Capturing “actuals” and updating the status of products Configuration Item Record (CIR). Configuration Librarian can provide a Product Status Account (PSA) if needed.

Capturing and Examining Project Issues/Changes

Configuration Librarian could receive/document all Changes/Issues as well as maintain the Change/Issue Log.

Taking Corrective Action.

When any changes are to be made, the Configuration Librarian to make any products or their copies available, add new copies given out to the CIR, and update CIR for any status changes.

Receiving Completed Work Package (when the team have completed each product/deliverable)

Configuration Librarian to update the CIR to a status of ‘completed’.

Product is now baselined if not already done.

As products/deliverables are completed Specialist Team to advise Configuration Librarian to update

CIR status of each product.

Completing a Work Package.

Configuration Librarian to handle the return of completed products (if appropriate), and to assist Project Assurance in confirming customer/user acceptance of products.

Regular Management Reports

Configuration Librarian with assistance of Project Assurance to confirm the CIR is same as actual status of products by carrying out a Configuration Audit.

Also check that version numbers are correct/updated.

Replanning as a result of change.

Configuration Librarian will provide a Product Status Account of products to be replaced/incomplete.

New CIR’s created if needed.

Closing down a Project.

CIR checked for completeness, and used as an input to

Product Status Account – confirmation from customers configuration management records that all products are approved.

Refer to the Configuration Management Plan for how the products are to be handed over to those with support/operational responsibilities.

Carry out a Configuration Audit to check that all products are approved and complies with their CIR’s.

During Project Planning.

The Configuration Item Record is created with reference to the Configuration Management Plan.

A simple numbering system for each product could be structured as: project name/type of product/product name/source/status/version number

So for example, if a project exists to create a new notebook PC,and a unique numbering system as above is used for the hard drive bought in from a 3rd party:

New Notebook Project/hardware/hard drive/external/in development/vA.2

Here is a detailed guide of the information needed in the

documents referred to in this article:

Configuration Management Plan.

– CM method to be used

– Links to other CM systems or tools

– Where and how products are to be stored

– security arrangements for filing and retrieval

– Identification and numbering for

products/versions

– Who is responsible for CM

Configuration Item Record.

– Unique Project identifier

– The type of product (web, hardware, etc)

– Product Name

– The Latest version number

– A full Description of the product

– Life Cycle steps for product (ie.draft,

approved, in-service, etc)

– Who owns the product (User? Ops Manager? etc)

– Who created the product?

– The date allocated to them

– The library or location where it is kept

– product source (internal, external)

– links to related products (physical, electrical,

etc)

– status (where in the life-cycle is it?

– copy-holders and potential users

– references to issues (if any) that caused change

to this product

– any relevant correspondence

Product Status Account

– Project name

– Product type

– Product identifier

– Version number

– Product description – baseline date

– Product – baseline date

– List of related products

– Date copy of product was issued for a change

– Planned date for next baseline

– Planed date for next release

– Relevant notes (change pending/under review, etc)

Tips on Completing a Successful Business Credit Application

In order to establish your credit and keep your business attractive to lenders, you’ve got to make sure you build yourself a rock-solid credit application. There are few things to keep in mind when filing an application, so keep your head up and your spirits high.Business Plan: You’ve got to get any lender you’re considering stoked to invest in your company. The perfect plan will include a title page, company description, market analysis, products and services, operations, marketing plan, ownership, management and personnel, funds required to start your company, financial statements and projections, and any necessary appendices. The best plans are going to be able to explain in detail why the business is worth investment and what you can guarantee as its CEO.

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Financial Analysis and Projections: Any bank or personal investor lending you money is going to need to know what kind of finances you’ve already invested in the company and what kind of evidence you can provide to ensure your business’ financial success. You’ll need to provide your lender with a personal financial statement, a balance sheet, a profit and loss statement, and a statement of your business’ cash flow. You’ll also have to know exactly what kind of market you’re dealing with. Yearly projections take research and an understanding of your business’ industry patterns to make an accurate assessment of where your business will be as it continues to function.What the Lender will Review: Just as you know you like a song within the first 15 seconds, a lender is going to know if they want to give you money based on five specific factors: your ability to repay them, the capital you’ve invested in your company, the collateral you’re willing to put up, the reasons why you need the loan, and the overall appeal of the company and the borrower.

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When completing your application, keep in mind your business plan is only a written projection of your needs; what gets an investor interested is your business’ market appeal and your ability to sell it.

A Successful Business Financial Projection Can Be the Key to Securing Financing

A business seeking capital can’t afford to underestimate the importance of business financial projections. A business financial projection is simply forecasting your sales and revenue to the lender. This information is important because it is a key indicator to your ability to repay a loan.If you are unsure about financial forecasting and how it relates to your business it is best to hire someone who does know. Most lenders will want to see a three or five year projection. There are 14 different items to include and fully support in your financial projections. With these different items it is best to give a month-by-month breakdown for the first year, a quarterly breakdown for the next two years, and an annual breakdown for the final two years you are projecting.The different items to include in your projections are; sales revenue estimates, administrative costs, production costs, sales costs, capital expenditures, gross margin by product line, sales increase by product line, interest rates on debts, income tax rate, accounts receivable collection plan, accounts payable schedule, inventory turnover, depreciation schedules, and the usefulness or depreciation of assets.

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The income projection enables the owner/manager to develop a preview of the amount of income generated each month and for the business year, based on industry supportable predictions of monthly levels of sales, costs, and expenses. When determining the total net sales you will be finding out how many units of products and services you expect to sell at the prices you are projecting. Make sure to think of what returns, allowances, and markdowns can be expected. The sales costs needs to be calculated for all products and services used. Ensure that when determining the costs of sale that you don’t forget anything such as commission paid to sales representatives, transportation costs, or any direct labor costs.For the gross profit you would subtract the total cost of sale from the total net sales. To get your gross profit margin you will divide the gross profits from the total net sales. This will be expressed as a percentage of total sales or revenues.When formulating your business financial projections there are five items that will ruin the accuracy of your projections, and hurt your chances of being approved for business financing. The first one is wishful thinking or being over-optimistic about your sales potential. Ask yourself: “Is it possible to achieve the sales levels you’re forecasting?”. A good example is that a sales team can only visit a certain number of customers each week or a factory can only manufacture a given amount of products on each shift. Make sure to keep your projections realistic and even more important to be based on supportable evidence. It is imperative to also make sure that your sales assumptions are linked directly to your sales forecast or your information will contradict itself. Most lenders are “by the numbers”, so if your numbers don’t add up, you will get declined. A good example of this is to say that you expect increased sales in a market that is declining. That just does not add up.

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Another thing not to do when projecting your business finances is to spend a lot of time refining the forecast. Try to avoid tinkering with the target numbers once they are set. Many business owners neglect to ask the opinions of the sales people who know the buyer’s intentions about what they think the projected sales should be. It is important to make sure your sales team agrees on any sales targets that will be set. One other fatal mistake made by business owners when working on financial projections is not getting feedback on the projections from an accountant.

Business Plan – Key to a Successful Business

Understanding the structure of the business plan is essential to writing a successful business proposal. Every section of the business outline has a definite place and function, which needs to be maintained if the overall document is to be successful. Read through several business proposal samples and templates before starting to draft your own plan.Before Drafting Your Business PlanSpend some time examining your basic business vision from all angles before starting to draft your business proposal. Share your ideas with one or two industry insiders or colleagues and get their input as well. Look for potential negatives and hidden flaws that may affect your business success in the future.The Basic Structure of a Business PlanEvery business proposal follows a basic outline which is as follows:

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• The executive summary – the executive summary is where you sell your idea. It is always written at the end of the drafting process, so that it incorporates all the key points you wish to underline in your business outline, better. Pay special attention to this section of your business pitch while drafting. Use simple, ‘can-do’ language and dynamic, positive words that encourage readers to share in your business vision. Keep the executive summary short; it should never exceed more than two pages.The executive summary should address questions like, what is the need for such a business venture. Who will be the customers? What can the project offer them that pre-existing businesses cannot? It should focus on four or five core strengths that set your retail or service business plan apart.• The industry analysis – give a short introduction to your current industry environment. Talk a little bit about its growth potential and possible challenges. Include details of the kind of precautions and plans you have in place for coping with any tough times and making the most of high growth periods.• The market analysis – talk about your potential customers. What are their lifestyles and financial circumstances? Do they currently use the kind of products or services you are offering? If so, where are they getting them from and how can you compete with the current providers? If, on the other hand, they are not purchasing such products or services, how can you convince them of the need for the same?• The financial plan – include a comprehensive financial analysis and strategy. This includes a break-even analysis that takes into account the amount of sales you need to cover costs and the major startup expenses for your business, including rental charges, payroll expenses, advertising costs, overheads, insurance charges etc. Also include a detailed listing of your business assets and liabilities and the kind of funding you need and plan to get.

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These are just the core sections that need to be covered in every business proposal, regardless of whether it is a small service business plan or one for a large retail outlet. Fortunately there are several professional services that can help you in your project.Consult a professional business proposal writing service if you have any doubts about the structure of the business plan.

How to Outline Your Financial Goals

People save and invest to improve their quality of life. However, it is easy to make mistakes that can cause stress and cost you money. You can avoid those mistakes and keep your investment on track by outlining your financial goals.

It is a common investment mistake for investors to have no idea why they are investing. So, you should ask yourself…

Why are you investing?

Do you know why you are investing? What are you going to do with your money? What is most important in your life?

“Making money” is not a good enough reason to invest. How do you see yourself spending your money in a year? Five years? Ten years? If you can clearly explain your goals, you have taken the first step toward making your own investment plan.

With that in mind, write down your financial goal. One simple sentence is all you need. For example, you can write “buy a home”, “pay for college,” “start a business,” or “retire as a millionaire!”

Next, write down the amount of money you think you will need to accomplish your goals.

Don’t worry about trying to fit in every little cost. You can always revisit your target later when you check your performance. Focus on your goal, and try to write down a target number.

This number will be different depending on your goal. For example, maybe you’re buying a $100,000 home, you may want to save $10,000 for a down payment. Maybe you need $5,000 to start a business or $50,000 to pay for college. If you don’t have much money to invest, you can make up for it by investing over a long period of time.

Finally, consider the importance of your investment goals. How important is your retirement, your kid’s college tuition, or your down payment on a house? The importance of your investment will give you an idea of your risk level.

Every investment has risks.

You don’t want to take too many risks. However, you need to take some risks to earn a reasonable return. Also consider the amount of time you will be invested. If you have more time to invest, you may be able to take risks and still catch up if you run into trouble.

Ask yourself if you are ready to invest before you move on. Be honest with yourself.

You may not need to invest your money. Would you be better off paying off your debt? Can you afford to just save your money rather than invest it? Make sure you can commit enough money and time to investing.

It is important to stay motivated toward your goals and keep them in mind when you invest. Every investment decision you make should move you closer to your goals. You should be willing to learn, improve, and work toward your goals as you invest.

If you can stay committed and keep that motivation toward your investment goals, you are much more likely to succeed!

A. Michael Hayes, Jr

You can learn more about how to achieve your financial goals at my website, Great-Mutual-Funds.com.

Choose Your Own Best Home Business Opportunity

You are not the only one in your look for the ideal and the best household undertaking opportunity. Many individuals from around the globe are in an indistinguishable way from you are, and like them, you will find that there are unlimited chances to look over.

Keep in mind this note of alert, however, before you dive ahead into your little entrepreneurial enterprise – If you don’t prepare, these best household undertaking openings will stay simple open doors. Likewise, don’t expect that money will simply begin streaming overnight. The best organizations are never chance free, and are never strong to time and change.

Presently, for you to have the capacity to transform the best household undertaking opportunity into a win, you have to buckle down and work keen.

With every one of these useful tidbits said and done, here are a few proposals for the best household venture openings that you can attempt to get your hands on. These were exceedingly prescribed enterprises due to their productivity and prevalence among the purchasers comfortable minute. Here they are:

* Infant and baby items and administrations

Individuals will undoubtedly have babies at one point in their lives and this is one industry that you can attempt your endeavors on. There are a considerable measure of things that unseasoned parents would for the most part need for their infant – garments, encouraging jugs, toys, material; and need for themselves – for new mothers, stylish child sacks, garments, shoes, among different frill, would be awesome hits. Diaper-recovery administrations and obviously, keeping an eye on is an absolute necessity for unexperienced parents also. You can have a decision to offer items or administrations by different organizations, or to market them for pay, or you can concoct your own particular item or administration. This is certainly one of the best household venture openings.

* Catering administrations

Envision your normal working mother getting back home from work at half past six toward the evening. She’s dead drained and whatever she can consider is requesting Chinese and after that falling into bed. Be that as it may, at that point she has a spouse, four children, and going by in-laws to sustain at seven o’clock sharp, in light of the fact that there’s an essential event. So think, what number of homemakers would value it if there would somebody say somebody is who can cook for them on examples, for example, these? In case you’re extraordinary at cooking, a providing food administration can be the best domestic undertaking open door for you. Incredible arranging and overseeing aptitudes would likewise observe you through with this sort of business.

* Cleaning administrations

Still on the local side of things, aside from watching the children and cooking dinners, another family unit errand that the normal American family wouldn’t see any problems with paying some person for, and which can be one of the best domestic undertaking open doors for you, is tidy up and de-mess their homes. So on the off chance that you have a practically fanatical impulsive approach at tidying and arranging things up, this could be your reason for living.

* Home redesign administrations

Surges, fierce blazes, tornadoes, hail. There’s horrible that you can get from these, you’ll say. Be that as it may, for some neighborhood entrepreneurs in view of states where fiascos, for example, these are normal, their appearance and the destruction that they cause are viewed as the best household venture openings. In case you’re an architect or someone who has a solid foundation on building and development, and can deal with a group, this employment may be quite recently your motivation in life.

These are quite recently a portion of the many household undertaking thoughts that will unquestionably guarantee you an extraordinary market, and an incredible benefit. Each of these employments needs some level of preparing and like we’ve specified before, you have to buckle down and work keen on the off chance that you need to see your business develop.