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The Three Most Fundamental Aspects of Project Management

Over the years I have found that my most popular blog posts are those that speak to entry-level project managers. They value information which is clear and concise and which helps them understand what tools and techniques to use. Project management is a vast practice area and for somebody who has only recently started managing projects, it can seem overwhelming. It is my observation that there are more entry-level project managers coming into the field. And there is a good reason for that. With more and more changes taking place at a faster rate, we have a need for more people to manage those changes. This can be anything from integrating new technology to streamlining business processes or producing cheaper and better consumer goods. With that being said, let’s look at the three most fundamental project management tools and techniques that will help entry-level project managers get their project off the ground.Project DefinitionProjects need to be defined and scoped before they are planned and executed. That is true for all projects irrespective of the type of methodology they use. Defining the project helps us understand what it is meant to deliver, what the benefits are, what the costs might be and by when it is needed. This may sound like a plan to you, but it’s more like a high-level description of the project without the details having been fleshed out. The main question we ask during project definition is whether the project is worthwhile doing or not. There may be lots of ideas for new projects but not all of them have a good business rationale. Therefore they shouldn't be executed at this moment in time with this particular scope. In the company where you work, I’m sure there are many things you could improve on and many ways in which you could enhance your products or services. But not all of these enhancements will be viable business ideas, perhaps because there is a small market for some of those products or too low a margin.When we define the project, we’re essentially looking at the project’s business case and ascertaining if it provides a strong enough foundation for the project to go ahead. Defining the project can take as little as a couple of days for a very small project and several months for a larger one. You can capture the conclusion of this phase in a Project Definition Document, Project Charter, Terms of Reference or Business Case. Different companies use different terms for this document, but they may essentially contain the same information. What I recommend you to put in the document is: Aims and objectives of the project, high-level deliverables, expected benefits, high-level constraints, assumptions and risks, expected costs, future revenues, expected end date, name of project sponsor, project manager, and core team members.Milestone plan  Once the project has been approved, meaning that the Project Definition Document has been signed off, you can move to the next part of the project, which is to plan it. The way you plan a project and lay out its phases, stages, and milestones will look a bit different depending on the methodology your company prefers. If you’re in a more traditional waterfall environment you’d be planning the project in a sequential way, beginning with requirements gathering and detailed statements of scope. You’d then plan for the build or execution phase to take place followed by some testing and final delivery or implantation. And of course, you’d plan for a project review to take place at the end. In more agile environments you’d carry out the above activities (requirements gathering, build, test, deliver, and review) in much shorter intervals or iterations. In addition, you’d deliver something tangible after each phase or iteration instead of all products or features being delivered at the end, which is what we do with a waterfall methodology.No matter how you plan your project, it’s a good practice to plan it collaboratively with the team. Those days are over where the project manager was sitting in isolation behind their desk doing all the planning. That approach simply doesn't create buy-in from the team members. They want to be involved in planning the work that they are expected to carry out.There are several collaborative planning techniques out there that you can make use of. I favour an old-fashioned post-it note-approach where you get people together and brainstorm what the phases, work streams and milestones of the project might look like. You’ll need lots of post-its and a white board or a wall to stick the notes onto. You also need a good facilitator (perhaps your good self) who can guide the team through the process. At the end, you should have a rough idea of which milestones and outputs will be delivered by when. You should also assign ownership to each milestone or deliverable as otherwise, the project manager may end up owning most of the items. Ask the owners to carry out the detailed planning of their individual items and revert at the next meeting with a confirmation of exactly what will be delivered by when. If your team is remote you can make use of virtual post-it-note planning tools.The outcome of your collaborative meetings and planning activities can be captured in a milestone plan. This would be a simple Excel sheet listing the project’s top ten milestones, the owner of each milestone and the expected delivery date. Very simple! As a project moves forward you can also use the spreadsheet to record whether each milestone is on track for delivery and comment on their status. In that way, this simple one-pager overview of milestones becomes a high-level plan and a tracking tool in one. This is an ideal overview sheet to use as a communication tool to your stakeholders so that they can ascertain the status of the project. Your stakeholders don’t need a detailed plan. An overview of the top ten milestones will be sufficient. The detailed plan is reserved for the core team.Risks listBe warned that no matter the size, complexity or methodology of your project, I can assure you that it will be full of risks. That’s because all projects are about creating change, meaning that the project will result in something that hasn’t been done before in that exact setting. In other words, every project is unique and therefore contains a certain element of risk. Project management methodology is essentially there to control risk and to help us execute a project with some level of predictability in spite of its uncertain elements. Defining a project, identifying and analysing user needs and requirements, planning how these requirements will result in outputs and deliveries, clarifying roles and responsibilities and prototyping the solution are all examples of activities we undertake in project management with the aim of driving down risk.Managing risks is a dynamic process as the project’s environment changes on a daily basis. Identifying and mitigating risks is, therefore, something which shouldn’t just be done when the project starts up. It’s an essential project management activity that should be carried out on a regular basis to make sure that new risks are identified and managed and that the existing ones are reviewed. In essence, I suggest that you sit down with your team every couple of weeks to go through the risk list. The collaborative element is important, as the project manager cannot identify all the risks on her own. The team has the knowledge, not only of the things that could go wrong but also in terms of generating ideas for how to overcome potential roadblocks.The outcome of the collaborative risk management meetings is risk list. This is a simple Excel tool, which lists and describes all the risks, the date they were logged, what the potential impact of the risk is and how it can be mitigated. The risk list should also contain information about the probability and likelihood of each risk (high, medium, low) as well as an owner. In many projects, there is a tendency that the project manager ends up owning most of the mitigation strategies. But in many cases, a team member or a stakeholder is the best person to manage a specific risk because they are closer to the detail.In summaryProject management tools and techniques can be difficult to navigate for an entry-level project manager. Three of the most important tools for a project manager to make use of on any project are: a Project Definition Document, a Milestone Plan and a Risk List. Whereas the project manager owns all of these tools, it’s not sufficient to simply fill them in on their own. Irrespective of whether we are running an Agile, Waterfall or a hybrid project, it will be the collective effort of the people involved who will get the project delivered. For that reason, the tools we use must be as collaborative as possible so that we can make the most of our precious team.
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The Three Most Fundamental Aspects of Project Management

859
The Three Most Fundamental Aspects of Project Management

Over the years I have found that my most popular blog posts are those that speak to entry-level project managers. They value information which is clear and concise and which helps them understand what tools and techniques to use. Project management is a vast practice area and for somebody who has only recently started managing projects, it can seem overwhelming. It is my observation that there are more entry-level project managers coming into the field. And there is a good reason for that. With more and more changes taking place at a faster rate, we have a need for more people to manage those changes. This can be anything from integrating new technology to streamlining business processes or producing cheaper and better consumer goods. With that being said, let’s look at the three most fundamental project management tools and techniques that will help entry-level project managers get their project off the ground.

Project Definition

Projects need to be defined and scoped before they are planned and executed. That is true for all projects irrespective of the type of methodology they use. Defining the project helps us understand what it is meant to deliver, what the benefits are, what the costs might be and by when it is needed. This may sound like a plan to you, but it’s more like a high-level description of the project without the details having been fleshed out. The main question we ask during project definition is whether the project is worthwhile doing or not. There may be lots of ideas for new projects but not all of them have a good business rationale. Therefore they shouldn't be executed at this moment in time with this particular scope. In the company where you work, I’m sure there are many things you could improve on and many ways in which you could enhance your products or services. But not all of these enhancements will be viable business ideas, perhaps because there is a small market for some of those products or too low a margin.

When we define the project, we’re essentially looking at the project’s business case and ascertaining if it provides a strong enough foundation for the project to go ahead. Defining the project can take as little as a couple of days for a very small project and several months for a larger one. You can capture the conclusion of this phase in a Project Definition Document, Project Charter, Terms of Reference or Business Case. Different companies use different terms for this document, but they may essentially contain the same information. What I recommend you to put in the document is: Aims and objectives of the project, high-level deliverables, expected benefits, high-level constraints, assumptions and risks, expected costs, future revenues, expected end date, name of project sponsor, project manager, and core team members.

Milestone plan  

Once the project has been approved, meaning that the Project Definition Document has been signed off, you can move to the next part of the project, which is to plan it. The way you plan a project and lay out its phases, stages, and milestones will look a bit different depending on the methodology your company prefers. If you’re in a more traditional waterfall environment you’d be planning the project in a sequential way, beginning with requirements gathering and detailed statements of scope. You’d then plan for the build or execution phase to take place followed by some testing and final delivery or implantation. And of course, you’d plan for a project review to take place at the end. In more agile environments you’d carry out the above activities (requirements gathering, build, test, deliver, and review) in much shorter intervals or iterations. In addition, you’d deliver something tangible after each phase or iteration instead of all products or features being delivered at the end, which is what we do with a waterfall methodology.

No matter how you plan your project, it’s a good practice to plan it collaboratively with the team. Those days are over where the project manager was sitting in isolation behind their desk doing all the planning. That approach simply doesn't create buy-in from the team members. They want to be involved in planning the work that they are expected to carry out.

There are several collaborative planning techniques out there that you can make use of. I favour an old-fashioned post-it note-approach where you get people together and brainstorm what the phases, work streams and milestones of the project might look like. You’ll need lots of post-its and a white board or a wall to stick the notes onto. You also need a good facilitator (perhaps your good self) who can guide the team through the process. At the end, you should have a rough idea of which milestones and outputs will be delivered by when. You should also assign ownership to each milestone or deliverable as otherwise, the project manager may end up owning most of the items. Ask the owners to carry out the detailed planning of their individual items and revert at the next meeting with a confirmation of exactly what will be delivered by when. If your team is remote you can make use of virtual post-it-note planning tools.

The outcome of your collaborative meetings and planning activities can be captured in a milestone plan. This would be a simple Excel sheet listing the project’s top ten milestones, the owner of each milestone and the expected delivery date. Very simple! As a project moves forward you can also use the spreadsheet to record whether each milestone is on track for delivery and comment on their status. In that way, this simple one-pager overview of milestones becomes a high-level plan and a tracking tool in one. This is an ideal overview sheet to use as a communication tool to your stakeholders so that they can ascertain the status of the project. Your stakeholders don’t need a detailed plan. An overview of the top ten milestones will be sufficient. The detailed plan is reserved for the core team.

Risks list

Risk Management Lists


Be warned that no matter the size, complexity or methodology of your project, I can assure you that it will be full of risks. That’s because all projects are about creating change, meaning that the project will result in something that hasn’t been done before in that exact setting. In other words, every project is unique and therefore contains a certain element of risk. Project management methodology is essentially there to control risk and to help us execute a project with some level of predictability in spite of its uncertain elements. Defining a project, identifying and analysing user needs and requirements, planning how these requirements will result in outputs and deliveries, clarifying roles and responsibilities and prototyping the solution are all examples of activities we undertake in project management with the aim of driving down risk.

Managing risks is a dynamic process as the project’s environment changes on a daily basis. Identifying and mitigating risks is, therefore, something which shouldn’t just be done when the project starts up. It’s an essential project management activity that should be carried out on a regular basis to make sure that new risks are identified and managed and that the existing ones are reviewed. In essence, I suggest that you sit down with your team every couple of weeks to go through the risk list. The collaborative element is important, as the project manager cannot identify all the risks on her own. The team has the knowledge, not only of the things that could go wrong but also in terms of generating ideas for how to overcome potential roadblocks.

The outcome of the collaborative risk management meetings is risk list. This is a simple Excel tool, which lists and describes all the risks, the date they were logged, what the potential impact of the risk is and how it can be mitigated. The risk list should also contain information about the probability and likelihood of each risk (high, medium, low) as well as an owner. In many projects, there is a tendency that the project manager ends up owning most of the mitigation strategies. But in many cases, a team member or a stakeholder is the best person to manage a specific risk because they are closer to the detail.


In summary

Project management tools and techniques can be difficult to navigate for an entry-level project manager. Three of the most important tools for a project manager to make use of on any project are: a Project Definition Document, a Milestone Plan and a Risk List. Whereas the project manager owns all of these tools, it’s not sufficient to simply fill them in on their own. Irrespective of whether we are running an Agile, Waterfall or a hybrid project, it will be the collective effort of the people involved who will get the project delivered. For that reason, the tools we use must be as collaborative as possible so that we can make the most of our precious team.

Susanne

Susanne Madsen

Blog author

Susanne Madsen is an internationally recognised project leadership coach, trainer and consultant. She is the author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership. Working with organisations globally she helps project managers step up and become better leaders.

Prior to setting up her own business, Susanne worked for almost 20 years in the corporate sector leading high-profile programmes of up to $30 million for organisations such as Standard Bank, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase. She is a fully qualified Corporate and Executive coach, accredited by DISC and a regular contributor to the Association for Project Management (APM).

Susanne is also the co-founded The Project Leadership Institute, which is dedicated to building authentic project leaders by engaging the heart, the soul and the mind.

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Sukran 09 Jun 2018

Consulting is good for the fresher visiting this site .thanks m really interested in it program.

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Tips to Clearing the PRINCE2® Examination

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If you familiarise yourself with the same, then it will save time in the examination.Prepare your manualEven if you take the manual to the examination hall, you will not have the time to go through its pagesfor each question instead of using it only for the difficult ones.Write down the important details from the book in the form of written and post-it notes. Mark the book with a highlighter pen.Do write in the manual. It is absolutely fine. Doing so with a precise note in the form of text or a figure will make it easier for you to understand the concepts.It is forbidden to include pieces of paper with extra information to your book for the Practitioner examination. The invigilator will check anyway.Highlight the salient sections of the manual with a pen.It is very important to create post-it notes. Although you will be unable to utilise them for additional information, it is a good practice to mark each chapter with a tab, colour-coded to denote guiding principles, themes, processes and appendices.Although it is not easy to find spare time during the examination, try saving 5 minutes for answering some questions which you might have left behind.Keep the appendices in mind.These always provide quick information and definition.The manual is filled with essential appendices. Always be certain of where you need to look to get the appropriate information, especially:Appendix A: Product Description outlinesAppendix C: Roles and responsibilities.If you are well versed with the manual and know your way around it, then you will find it extremely useful when you sit for the Practitioner examination.Practice sample papersPractice makes perfect! Keep practising the sample question papers while timing yourself. This will help you in getting used to the question format and working at a speed required in the examination.The examination is 2.5 hours long (or 3 hours 8 minutes in case if you are a non-native English speaker). You will have to answer a minimum of 38 questions correctly (out of 68 available) to pass.If you get doubts while practising, then you can discuss with your trainers. Doing so will not only help you in eliminating the common mistakes done in the Practitioner examination but also give you confidence on the D-Day.Since the sizes of the classes are generally kept small, each student gets an equal scope on getting their doubts clarified both with their trainers and fellow classmates. This also results in building rapport amongst the students and trainers.Mind MapsGet used to the study material to learn the subject. When you think about the various factors, you start connecting them logically. This can be done by drawing mind-maps.You can create one for every theme and process.Mind-maps are provided in the pre-course material, but you should make your own too. This will help you in the long term and help you relate yours with the ones offered in the pre-course material.Answer as many you canThere is no negative marking in this examination. Just in case, during the examination, you fall short of time but still want to answer all the questions, you still can guess the answers on the remaining questions and mark them on the answer sheet. Who knows, some of your marked answers might become correct and might make a difference between failing and passing the examination.Things that will be provided in the examination:Scenario bookletYou will get a booklet which will have a hypothetical project scenario for you, usually presented as an A4 text sheet. 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Tips to Clearing the PRINCE2® Examination

It takes plenty of advanced planning and preparati... Read More

Why should I Study PRINCE2®?

What is PRINCE2®?PRINCE2® or Projects IN Controlled Environments is a process-based methodology for project management. It is used widely by the UK Government and is used and recognized in the private sector, in the UK and internationally. The domain is in the public domain and it provides non-proprietorial practice guidance on project management. It was established by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency or CCTA in 1989. It was primarily based on PROMPT, created in 1975 by Simpact Systems Ltd and adopted in 1979 by CCTA as a standard that can be used by Government information system projects.History of PRINCE2®When it was launched in 1989, it superseded PROMPT effectively within the Government projects. PRINCE® is in the public domain and its copyright is with the Crown. PRINCE2® came into existence in 1996 and it has contributed by a consortium of 150 European organizations. Since then, PRINCE2® has gained immense popularity and presently it is a de-facto standard in several UK Government departments for project management and across many United Nations systems too. After it was revised in 2009, this acronym was altered to Projects IN a Controlled Environment. After PRINCE2® was launched in 1996, it went through two major revisions as mentioned below:PRINCE2® 2009’ Refresh in 2009PRINCE2® 2017’ Update in the year 2017PRINCE2® is a project management method used frequently by people and organizations from different industries and sectors. It is flexible, practical, and innovative. Regardless of the project, whether it is constructing a flyover, an advertising campaign, or developing software, PRINCE2® can help you manage all these aspects. It belongs to the public domain and offers the best guidance to manage any project.Key features of PRINCE2®Following are the key features of PRINCE2®:It is a non-proprietary methodology.It offers the most widely used approaches to manage projects.As it is broad, it can be used in all kinds of assignments.This is accomplished via the management properties of project work.It is based on customer/supplier setting. It ensures that there is a client with a desired product/result who can also pay for its development along with a vendor who can offer the necessary resources along with skills.Benefits of PRINCE2®PRINCE2® is a common language used by dealers, consumers, and businesses. Even though it does not comprise of contract management, it provides all the essential boundaries and controls needed for all to work together within any relevant contract. More importantly, it allows your business to concentrate on the right projects, for the right people and at the right time; by creating the beginning of a project and its end depending on the continued existence of a business case. Certified PRINCE2® Training shall improve your skills as a Project Manager. Some of its top benefits are as follows:It is applicable to all projects.It recognizes project accountability.Its product clarifies what can a task provideIts plans are designed sensibly to meet the needs of various levels in an administrative team.It is grounded in ‘management by exception’ framework that ensures economic and efficient use of project management time.It makes sure that its takers concentrate on its ability based on its business objectives.It describes a cost-effective and precise report structure.It ensures that the shareholders are characterized adequately in decision-making and development.It ensures learning and constant improvement in organizations.It enhances steadiness in project work and its ability to reprocess assets.It simplifies the valuation and assurance of project work.Effective project management is a challenge in several organizations all across the globe. With proper training and certification in PRINCE2®, you can guarantee the smooth functioning of your projects that meet your business goals and objectives.Top reasons to study PRINCE2®PRINCE2®, Foundation and Practitioner Certifications are considered among the most popular Project Management Certifications all over the world. There are several reasons to do PRINCE2® certification. Some of the top reasons to do this course are as follows:Build and improve Project management SkillsThe main reason that gives the most obvious advantage: much-improved Project Management skills. With PRINCE2®, you will learn to deploy projects better with more efficient Management skills. You shall learn the terminology, methodology, common systems, framework, and process used by a wide number of project managers and know the skills required to successfully initiate, plan, manage, monitor, and execute projects.It is more of a methodologyUnlike other certifications on Project Management, PRINCE2® puts a wider emphasis on Project Management principles compared to its instruction book along with rigid rules. As a reference guide, it says about the stages and processes of a project along with responsibilities and roles associated with it. It may not mention directly the way to manage the subsequent job in the project, but can make you understand the processes and principles of a project vividly and also the manner to manage them. You will be able to tailor your PRINCE2® projects according to your requirements and oversee the projects that you manage closely.You can start smoothlyWhen you choose a certification, the time to prepare/study, costs involved and disruption that it imposes into your professional life is highly important. It provides a unique advantage, which you may begin by preparing for its Foundation exam. It means that you will be able to do an actual Project Management Foundation certification course without spending much time in training or spending lump sum training costs. While doing this certification course, you shall get a complete overview of what you can expect if you were to continue with PRINCE2® Practitioner Certification. This makes the beginning phase of a Project management certification prospect much easier.You shall receive the certificate soonerOnce you have finished the training, you just have to take an examination along with a training provider or take the public exam. There is no complicated registration process and no time-consuming matter audit process. The certificate gets delivered within a few days after clearing the exam.The certification possesses global recognitionThis certification is recognized globally. It was developed in the public IT sector under the UK government’s supervision. PRINCE2® is a de facto Project Management in several parts of the world. Private and public sector companies and governments all across the globe are using it and its popularity is growing all over the world including Asia, USA, and Africa. AXELOS Ltd is the owner of PRINCE2® certification to manage US Federal Government Projects to support the demand of US organizations. This certification allows you the opportunity to undertake project work on an international level.PRINCE2® certification enhances employment prospectsA PRINCE2® qualification is great for your employment opportunities. It is a world-class product and it is considered a standard methodology for project management. This is the reason why so many companies all over the world look for staff having PRINCE2® certification. According to the AXELOS PRINCE2® survey in 2016, most of the respondents, especially in the Netherlands and Germany consider PRINCE2® highly valuable to their career.You are not restricted to a single industryPRINCE2® is a Project Management and thus it is not limited to any particular organization or industry. You may use it in any kind of industry or organization, or projects of any scale. This will expand your project work areas immensely. You will be able to apply for a job in different industries.Proof of CertificationYou can easily show your proof of certification. PRINCE2® certification holders are entered in official PRINCE2® successful candidate list. You can check this register online. So, when you apply for a job, you do not have to send copies and documents of PRINCE2® certificates. The online register shall confirm that you have completed the examination successfully and shall mention the date too. It can be searched by putting the candidate’s name and number. If an employer or a potential employer desires to check PRINCE2® qualification, you just have to provide him your link and number. This gives you manifold chances of employabilityYou can easily get other certificationsPRINCE2® is a separate project management certification but enjoys global recognition. When you receive this certification, you may get exemptions from appearing in examinations in certain subjects when you study other certifications related to project management.Studying online or in classroomA question that may come to your mind that whether to study this certification course in the classroom or online mode will be suitable? One major consideration is the price of the online course. The cost to gain this certification through classroom training has reduced significantly over the previous few years. To make the classroom training process flexible and accessible, PRINCE2® experts with certification are given approval to coach a certain number of trainees every year.  Nowadays, there are hundreds of certified PRINCE2® practitioners who have passed the exams successfully and are providing classroom facilities.Online PRINCE2® course was once considered to be of lower quality as well as a cheaper study option; however, things have changed in a significant manner with the latest technological developments. Interactive multimedia and high-quality courses are available online that are designed to make your study with fun, engaging, and highly effective. Obvious benefits of studying online are being able to study anytime and from anywhere at your personal pace. Carefully developed online courses are segregated into smaller parts to help memory retention so that you will be able to rewind and go through study material as many times you want which is never possible in classroom mode. You can control the pace you want to learn and study and it shall help you to absorb the course content.With online training, you will not have to worry about your tutor’s presence or the pace at which he/she completes the lessons. Online courses go through quality editing and control measures and therefore they maintain great standards. Highly effective simulators completely prepare you for your examination with confidence. If you require any help, you can contact experienced tutors via email or phone.Employers look for employees who can implement PRINCE2® Project Management with skill and confidence. Classroom training is intensive and online training may help long-term memory retention. The online course is of high quality and costs lower than PRINCE2® classroom coaching. With studying at your own speed and your time, you will be confident when to take the exam and get certified.Why implement PRINCE2® in your company?PRINCE2® is Project Management of International Standard and it is recognized as an international product. Mainly it encompasses several years of best practice of project management and offers an adaptable and flexible approach related to all projects. Some of the reasons to implement it in your organization include the following:A consistent and common approachAn organized and controlled beginning, middle, and end.Constant progress reviews against the plan and also against the business.Assurance that a project shall have a business justification.Flexible decision points.Involvement of stakeholders and management at the right place and right time during the project.Good communication links between the project management, the project, and the remaining organization.A means to share and capture lessons learned.A route to enhance project management skills and the organization’s staff competencies at all levels.According to a survey, it was found that high-performance projects demand PRINCE2® certified project managers. This is indeed advantageous to the directors and managers of a project as well as the organization. as the resources will be used judiciously and business decisions made more effective. Hence, PRINCE2® has become a widely understood and recognized common language to all the project participants.
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Why should I Study PRINCE2®?

What is PRINCE2®?PRINCE2® or Projects IN Control... Read More

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