Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Entrepreneurship and Ruling the World

Posted by iammarchhare on 4 September 2009

I came across Kate Phillips article on “Why Entrepreneurs Rule the World”, and I wanted to share it with you in parting.  It’s a little long (but not any longer than some of mine :) ), but well worth a read.  An excerpt:

Once upon a time… the world was full of small business people and independent entrepreneurs. Every town had a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker.  A blacksmith, a barber, and a farmer (or two).  A shepherd, a weaver, and a preacher.  There were no factories, no corporations, and… no employees.

One thing is clear to me: no matter what rung of the ladder you are on, jobs are going out of style.  Fast.

For years now, the trend has been away from hiring employees and towards hiring independent contractors.  Why?  Huge savings in benefits, also huge savings in waste.  Rather than paying for people’s time, contracts allow employers to pay for the *result* they want.  Deliver this, we’ll pay you “X.”

We’ve put our faith and trust in the wrong places, counting on an employer or a company to sustain us, when we should have been developing our own value in the market place.  We can no longer count on jobs to sustain us, rescue us, or bail us out.  Employers are doing their best to keep their own head above water, do not count on them to rescue you.

In case you didn’t get the memo: Jobs are Dead.

…Two years ago I attended an orientation at my daughter’s high school.  One teacher spoke about “how we’re going to help your children prepare for the job market.”  They would learn to write resumes and cover letters, fill out applications and interview for jobs.

I inquired afterwards what was being done to prepare kids for a world in which jobs are going away.  What do the kids learn about businesses?  About self-employment options?  Is there a class teaching entrepreneurial skills?  Could I volunteer in such a class?

You could well imagine the response from the teachers.  Of course, no one has trained them to think this way either.  We’ve all been brainwashed into believing that there is a job “out there”.  There are opportunities “out there”.  However, it is up to each of us to take ahold of our destinies and our lives and move on in a new economy.

It is not an economy of our own making.  However, opportunities rarely are of one’s own making.  Rather, opportunities present themselves and we either jump on them or let them pass on by.

Me?  I’m moving!

Posted in Consulting, Economy, Employment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Social Media Here, Social Media There, Social Media Everywhere

Posted by iammarchhare on 4 September 2009

Not long ago, I posted “Mixing Social Networking & Business”.  In that article, I drive into the ground (or, did I beat a dead horse?) the point that social networking without a strategy will probably mean another failed IT initiative for that company.  Maybe it wasn’t IT that truly failed even, but IT will get the blame anyhow.

I also made a smaller point that much of it would apply if you are doing social networking as an individual but for business reasons.  Perhaps you are building your network, establishing your expertise or some other objective.

The experts all seem to agree.  “You need to network.”  “You should be running a blog.”  “You need to get on Twitter.”

Pawel Brodzinski at ICPM asks a rather interesting question in “Social Media versus Project Management and Software Development”:

Let me ask one question: while exercising all these activities how do you find time to actually manage projects or to develop some code from time to time? “I don’t have private life” counts for the answer if you ask me, but I wouldn’t advise you to go that way.

I understand a trend to incorporate every new cool service which is out there to our professional lives but sometimes it starts to be counterproductive. People focus on “socializing” instead of getting things done. Mixing software development or project management with social media doesn’t have to be win-win because some guru said so.

I have to admit that the same thought has occurred to me from time to time.  On the one hand, is hanging out at the virtual water cooler really any different than what goes on in many companies anyhow?  And, yet his point that it really doesn’t normally help out his project is well taken.  His point that a person needs time away from work is well taken also.  And, it doesn’t really make his day go any better, at least on a regular basis.

So, again, are you focused?  Are you truly using social networking to work towards your stated objective or are you off-track?

I want to leave you with this thought because my life has certainly had some unexpected turns.  I’ve enjoyed this immensely, and I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve honestly been surprised at the number of hits I started getting just a couple of months into this blog.

However, I too need to strategize and concentrate on what’s important.  I’ve come to the decision to end this blog.  I am starting a new one up for more general tech interest that is more in line with a new business strategy.

So, if you want to drop by and say, “Hi” at the blog for John D’s Computer & Network Services, I’d appreciate the favor.  I promise to blog about projects from time to time. :)

Posted in Admin, Business Strategy, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Railing Against Project Bureaucrats

Posted by iammarchhare on 3 September 2009

Being a project manager is walking a fine line.  Many mistake project management for doing EVM, making a schedule, filling out a charter, and so on.  These are functions of a PM, but they are not the most important.

TechRepublic posted “Managing innovative projects: Don’t mistake the map for the journey” by Rick Freedman.  Freeman writes about these paper pushers who “manage” projects:

When I teach project management, I often draw a distinction between project managers and project bureaucrats. We’ve all had encounters with project managers who turned into bureaucrats. Project bureaucrats are more interested in ensuring that every step of the methodology is applied and every line of every form is filled in than in what’s actually happening on the ground. On the other hand, it’s common to meet project managers who apply minimal project methodology, yet, through their expert use of relationships and personal interactions, always seem to know exactly where the project stands.

He goes on to give an excellent example of a project failure.  That is, it was a bureaucratic failure.  Yet, the product was an ultimate success.  The product was the film Titanic.

So, how does he view being innovative while still maintaining project discipline?  You’ll need to read his article to find out.

Posted in Agile, Leadership, PM Basics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cloud Computing Risks

Posted by iammarchhare on 2 September 2009

I have posted an article about yesterday’s “Gmail Outage & Cloud Computing” on my new blog.  You certainly need to consider outages as an identified risk for cloud computing and develop appropriate service level agreements (SLAs).

Posted in Risk Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

What Is Agile Software Development?

Posted by iammarchhare on 2 September 2009

One of the best explanations I’ve seen yet of Agile is the article “10 Key Principles of Agile Software Development” over all All About Agile.  Not only does the author give a good summary of some key concepts, but also some of the variations, including the original DSDM.

Enjoy!

Posted in Agile, Software | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

“We Found a Bug!” How Should Support Be Handled?

Posted by iammarchhare on 1 September 2009

Over at Agile Chronicles, Mike Cottmeyer posted “Handling Support on Agile Teams”, but as even he himself says, “This is a problem not unique to agile teams. Software organizations have been struggling with this one for years.”

Indeed, he is most correct.  How to account for time dedicated to support once the code is out in the open?  I have noticed, though, that the more seasoned the team, both as individuals and as a unit, the less defects are likely to be produced.  Yes, experience is the best teacher, but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient one.

Cottmeyer lists 3 options for dealing with defects.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.  Personally, I think a lot on the exact method you pick is going to have a lot to do with the overall environment, the types and number of current projects and the overall effectiveness of the developers.  I use “effectiveness” as not only productivity, but experience level and ability to task switch.

That last point should not be underrated.  The ability of any individual to multitask is going to have a profound effect upon the duration and quality of their work.

However, here are some other factors to keep in mind:

  • Responsibility.  How often is Jane going to fix John’s code without resentment building up?  Is John mature enough to at least accept responsibility for his mistake and learn from it?
  • Amount and severity of defects.  Some defects can wait.  Are you getting an abnormal number of defects?  Of course, you’ll need some type of historical data to go on, but if there are an abnormal number, it might be time to do a triage or at least a special after action review.
  • Corrective to preventative measures.  It isn’t enough to just fix the immediate problem, but for the team to learn how to avoid it next time.
  • Seniority mix of the team.  I have long argued that you want to avoid all junior developers for a team.  However, you also want to avoid all senior developers on a team.  You want a mix, but no more than 50% new developers and no less than 50% experienced ones.  Why?  Because you need mentoring, coaching and the examples of the senior developers to grow the junior ones.  However, an injection of new ideas is not a bad thing, either.  Not only that, but a team of all senior developers can become an ego party.  Frankly, it is not the most efficient way to get work done, and neither is it all that entertaining.

One of the key requirements of being a manager, but especially a project manager, is flexibility.  How you deal with defects will test your skills and bend you out of shape if you allow it.

Posted in Software | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

More Web Sites Hacked

Posted by iammarchhare on 31 August 2009

ZD Net reported on 24 August that “55,000 Web sites hacked to serve up malware cocktail”.  Many of these were legitimate web sites that had been hacked.

Individuals and organizations alike cannot afford the exposure being risked by not doing proper security updates.  Also, proper protection by a reliable (which does not necessarily mean name brand or expensive) antivirus program is a real necessity.  The types of attacks seem to be on a steady increase, and it is not likely to become a safer cyberworld very soon.

ZDNet only confirms what I’ve seen myself:

The most common programs under attack include Adobe Flash, Adobe PDF Reader, Apple’s QuickTime, WinZip and RealPlayer.  In addition to Microsoft Windows patches, these desktop applications should be updated to the newest version immediately.

Posted in Mostly off-topic rambling rabbit holes | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off

Mixing Social Networking & Business

Posted by iammarchhare on 28 August 2009

I’ve noticed that some organizations are on the bleeding edge of the social media realm.  There are some really cool things going on in various sectors.  However, is there really a strategy or are many of them just jumping on the social networking bandwagon?

Well, truth be told, I would suppose there’s a little of both of these going on.  Some probably have a strategy, but there are a lot of “ifs”, “ands” and “buts” in it.  Some are just out there so they can say they are doing it, but they have no clear idea of how to leverage it or even why.

It is this last group that concerns me.  It will be these guys that will say IT failed.  It will be these guys who will trivialize the successes in social networking.

When it comes to strategy, you know you are in for a ride when whenever the topic of strategy comes up, they get out the top hat and cane.  It is remarkable how some even stay in business.

Your business may be considering social networking.  Perhaps you are as a means of networking yourself.  If it is business related, there are similar concerns you will have as will a company venturing into ti.  Things to consider:

Does the company have a strategy?  A strategy is a business statement.  Keep the IT and tech talk out of it unless you are a technical company (even then, be very, very careful, as these are usually the worst at strategy).  A company with a strategy will be able to articulate its mission, its vision and its goals.  Even if they are all jumbled up together, they need to have a direction and know they have a direction.

  1. Does the IT solution support the strategy and goals of the company?  If so, how?
  2. How do you identify the inevitable distractions that will occur?  Remember, if it is supporting the strategy and goals of the company, it is not a distraction, even though on the surface it might appear that way.  Conversely, it is way too easy for what begins as a legitimate use to begin to trail off into various rabbit holes.
  3. What can be done to diminish the inevitable distractions that occur with social networking?
  4. Will your efforts to reduce distractions or enhance security also reduce the flow of innovation in the company?  Will it impede users from getting work done, or will it make it so difficult that they go out of their way to find another way to do it?
  5. Are the solutions dictated by the strategy, or are the solutions provided as a grassroots effort to support the strategy?  While decisions often have to be made, efforts have to be streamlined and approvals set, the sets of options for solutions should be done at the lowest possible level.  They will be the ones to carry out the solutions.

Are there any you want to add?

Posted in Business Strategy, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Taking Over the Loser Project

Posted by iammarchhare on 27 August 2009

In case you missed the comment, The Corporate Sleuth over at the Survive and Thrive in the Corporate World blog posted “Myth: Loser Projects are for Losers“.  The author makes a decent case that the “black hole” projects give you a chance to showcase your PM skills.

Yet, the main issue I see is that you usually don’t get a whole lot of choice in the matter.  It tends to be do or die, and sometimes you just pull the short straw.  What I recommend in any event, on any project, good or bad, is to do your best.  Like my father used to say, “If you did your best, then no one can claim you didn’t try.”

Posted in Troubled Projects | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

Goodbye, Mr Kennedy

Posted by iammarchhare on 26 August 2009

Well, “Senator Edward Kennedy dies at age 77” reported Reuters via Yahoo! News this morning.  Without a doubt, he was the most influential of the clan after the deaths of John and Robert and up until his own death.  He had been suffering from brain cancer, diagnosed just a little over a year ago, May 2008.

Please forgive me for speaking in generalities.  I’m posting the same article in both blogs today.  Maybe it’s just because I feel a little older myself today, with the realization that even with the best of fortunes and the best of health, old age and death overcome us all at least once.  However, as one door shuts, another one opens, and I believe that death is just the closing of a single door.  Afterwards, another door opens.  Some will have the door to eternal life opened and others will have their first real chance in a physical life in a much better world.

To a certain extent, you had to admire him.  He became the leader of one the most well-known and influential families that ever existed.  Many did not believe he was up to the task, and some did not even believe he deserved it.  However, he was able to overcome many obstacles along the way.

I definitely did not agree with many of Mr Kennedy’s ideas.  As the Reuters article wrote:

Yet during his nearly half century in the chamber, Kennedy became known as one of Washington’s most effective senators, crafting legislation by working with lawmakers and presidents of both parties, and finding unlikely allies.

At the same time, he held fast to liberal causes deemed anachronistic by the centrist “New Democrats,” and was a lightning rod for conservative ire.

Of course, his life was not without its own share of controversy, especially the Chappaquiddick incident.  Even more controversial might have been the slap on the wrist treatment for what these days would amount to a felony.

Be that as it may, it remains to be seen what the new generation of Democrats will do from here.  There are signs that President Obama has lost his luster, but that was inevitable given the expectations many, not a few but many, had of him.  He is still popular and could well remain so.  However, the results of some of his policies have a potentially crippling effect, and neither party really seems to have the ability to come up with real long-term solutions.

There were odd statements and many jokes about who was running the Republican party a few months ago.  Well, as of today, the Democratic party has one less leader, and it is one less leader in a branch that Mr Obama really needs right now.  Who will emerge to be take Mr Kennedy’s place in the Senate?  Can anyone really fill his shoes?

Posted in Mostly off-topic rambling rabbit holes | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

 
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